Seeking Common Ground and Providing Light

August Soar to Success: Seeking Common Ground and Providing Light by Janet Kendall White

“We can hug!” Those were the words that my 93-year-old Korean War Vet friend said upon opening the door when I stopped by to drop something off. We had seen each other while maintaining our distance over the past year but had not hugged. I am not sure what touched me more, the first words out of his mouth, the fact that he was so excited or the hug itself. That was a few weeks ago and it is still with me and will be for quite some time.

We are so different and yet so the same because we share a common bond of values, faith and experiences over a 30-year period. He is more than 30 years older than me, a Korean war Vet, black and has served prison time. We have never concerned ourselves with our difference in age, color or anything else because we have focused on who we are, what we believe and loving kindness. We have focused on Common Ground.

While I do think it is important for us to respect, acknowledge and understand our differences, I also think it is important for us to seek out and understand common ground. That common ground can serve as a foundation for generating ideas, seeking new plans, new commitments versus working old problems. To learn more about using this type of approach for planning and innovation see Marvin Weisbord’s book Discovering Common Ground.

In organizations, the mission, vision, and values can serve as some of the foundation for common ground. When employees are focused on why the organization exists, where it is headed, and if the values are embedded in the tapestry of policies, procedures, and processes there is less tendency to focus on the negative of each other or the organization. The purpose and values can serve as a beacon for all. Bringing things back to the purpose or mission provides the “why” for collaboration and synergy and tends to shed light on otherwise dark or dysfunctional situations.

Focusing on darkness does not dispel it. I encourage you to seek out opportunities to introduce light and find common ground. As you consider how to lead transitions your organization is going through, how can you make it light? Simple? Easy for those involved? All of us have struggled over the past 14-16 months regardless of the situation we were in. As leaders it is on us to find or provide common ground, bring our own light and encourage others to do the same.

Magnify the many things’ we have for which to be thankful. Look for small things to compliment people on. Let the people you are leading and, in your life, know, specifically, how much you appreciate them. Spend more time listening than talking. When you do talk, introduce light. Challenge others to do the same rather than just tolerating their darkness. We will not be fondly remembered for our negative opinions, but for our acts and words of kindness. People never remember what you say but they do remember how you made them feel.

For more on planning and building common ground –

For the August issue of Soar to Success –