If Time's Up - What Now?
For many people, and I am one of them, the #timesup campaign has been the moment when we spoke up on an inherently political issue – on an inherently social and ethical issue – on platforms that had large audiences. These audiences would be larger than just the relatively safe environment around the dinner table or having a glass of wine with friends.
At one point, I previously pointed out to one questioner that each person who has dealt with trauma has the right to determine how he or she will deal with it. The decision to publicly discuss it is one that I feel strongly belongs to the individual central to the trauma.
As more and more people participated in the discussion I watched from the sidelines, taking in mountains of data before coming to information that would inform my final decision to weigh in.
One of my newly favourite authors, Dr. Sarah Churchwell, wrote about the impact of misogyny in literature and the social influence that can result from that sorry state of affairs. She made a powerful case for how deeply the ‘boys-will-be-boys’ attitude is ingrained in how society is depicted; which depictions are considered more acceptable or normal. She argues that this is a key reason women need to rewrite the story. Using the powerful tool of compare and contrast, Dr. Churchwell demonstrated how differently authors and stories are treated depending on the gender of the most powerful characters in literature. She ties it all to a common manipulative device – gas lighting. If you are told something often enough, can it become real? Yes – even if it is never actually true.
Her work reminded me of a TedX talk by Kristen Pressner entitled “Are You Biased? I am”. Ms. Pressner, an HR executive (yes, she sees and addresses the strength of that particular irony), does more than discuss bias. She suggests a self-test for it. Flip it. If you think you are not being biased in your considerations flip the gender, race, or generation of the person central to your judgement or decision.
Deliberating a decision that will affect a man? Would you come to the same conclusion if – all other things being equal – it was a woman?
Assessing a judgement call regarding a younger colleague’s request? How would you consider the same request if it came from a more seasoned colleague?
Is the request coming from a member of the dominant society? How does it affect your thought process if it comes from a minority member of society?
And, of course, each of the questions I posed could be reasonably considered in reverse as well.
Keeping in mind Dr. Churchwell’s points, it seems reasonable to use Ms. Pressner’s suggestion. It is particularly important where you don’t think you are biased. That is the heart of the power of unconscious bias, of bias that has become the norm, bias that is practically built into the social DNA of our lives.
You may ask, what on earth does this have to do with team leadership?
One of the Key Success Parameters central to culture’s impact on productivity is Collaborative Spirit. Collaborative Spirit is built on the trust and respect that Clear Definition and true Ownership can foster. There is no room in an environment of mutual trust and respect for privilege due to anything other than merit and collaboration. Privilege or consideration based on anything else – gender, generation, faith or ethnicity – undermines the very strength of how and why true Collaborative Spirit is so powerful.
It sets a dreadful example of maladjusted leadership. It condones marginalization. It depresses creativity, cooperation, collaboration, and collective productivity.
How profitable can teams be when they are freed from those depressive and oppressive pressures?
I don’t know.
I’d sure like to find out.
What about you? Do you think your teams might be ready to evolve to that level? If so, let’s talk – let’s start.