Friday, November 20, 2009

two sides to everything

As I write this, I am sitting in a hotel room in Eagle Pass, Texas less than 1/2 mile from the border with Mexico. I am here on a trip with a group of our students sudying international business management. This is the fourth year in a row we have come to this place, and each time I learn a little bit more about what life is like "on the other side." I have come to love and embrace the "border" mentality, where there is really not two distinct towns but one fused community, with a river running between them. As I listen to the people and watch the interactions, I am reminded how two very different cultures can work together to support each other economically and socially...and the stuggles that also go with those differences.
So what might that mean for organizations - and individual relationships? How can we as leaders embrace the "two sides" mentality toward greater organizational performance? Here are a few thoughts that cross my mind on an early Friday morning:
  1. when people are on two different sides, there views are going to be different. Listening to what the person on the opposite side sees helps you better understand the area in which you are standing (remember, they see it different from you). Appreciate what the other person sees (and says) and learn frm what they are saying (and seeing).
  2. here on the border, each side carries a different world view...not only do they see something different, they interpret what they see thorugh a different lense than the other person. Appreciating the history, culture, and lifestyle of each side helps to interpret what that person is seeing (and saying). Keep that in mind as you listen and respond.
  3. remember that history is often written from the view of the people who win. If I view Mexican life through a lens that says "we won" then I will see things different than if I view Mexican life as a culture and tradition that was present in this part of the country centuries before America even existed. Putting "the other side" in perspective helps me understand the other perspective and keeps me from seeing everything though a win/lose proposition.
  4. I really like Mexican food, and nobody makes Mexican food better than Mexicans. What is it about the other side without which I would find it difficult to live ? Seeing the positive in others and their ideas helps to bring people (and groups) together.
  5. putting up walls only makes people angry - while there are those who think that walls can be used for protection, no one close to the wall ever benefits from them. Walls say "stay away" and "we do not want you." Are you a person who tears down walls - or puts more of them up?
  6. as I travel over to Piedras Negras, I come into contact with the unfamiliar, and for me, that is very exciting. What is it about "the other side" that might be exciting to you? Where can you find joy in the unfamiliar and perhaps even a little scary? What are you willing to risk in order to discover something new? Embracing the unfamiliar enriches one's leadership and enhances an organization

I would invite you to discover this wonderful pair of towns on the Texas border known as Eagle Pass and Piedras Negras. I love the people here - and I love coming to a place where I can learn more about others - and I can learn more about myself. And isn't that what leadership is all about?

1 comment:

gmoore said...

When I saw the title of today's post - I immediately had my response ready. I was going to point out that not everything has two sides.

But then I read the article :)

And I don't think that's really what you meant. Your description of everyday life in those two towns is indeed, an apt metaphor for improving the way we approach daily conflict with those around us.