Curiosity is Judgment’s Antibiotic… from Barbara Wichman
Recently I was asked to present a keynote on leadership, based on the lessons I shared in my recent book, “The Leadership Tinderbox – Coaching to Kindle the Passion for Success.” The audience was comprised of women who were part of a development group targeted at supporting the specific needs of women in the workplace.
The room was alive with energy and chatter as it filled with women from all parts of the organization, all levels of responsibility, and representing a variety of generations. As I listened to their conversations before I began, I realized that my keynote had the messages they would need to hear.
As I worked my way through the stories and lessons, I came upon one of my favorite topics, the generations, and the current workplace environment. If you have not noticed, we live in a world where we have the greatest number of generations working and living together than ever before. The different influences each generation has had in key experiences of technology, the gender of leadership, and how we live each day, has had a tremendous impact on how we build relationships and judge each other. And let’s not forget that each generation populated with individuals, and today, there is greater desire and leniency for representing who you are on the inside, on your outside.
These generational differences, the desire to show individuality, and the mantra of “just do you” has created a world of judgment.
After the leadership keynote and book signing, I was walking out with some folks from the audience. I made a remark about the look of the building. It was recently renovated with bright colors and modern/retro furniture that could have been right out of the ‘70s. It had a great vibe. I liked it!
One of the participants made a remark that caused this brief exchange.
“The new offices were designed to look more like millennials would like. The ‘finely aged’ don’t like it.”
“I like it. I am finely aged.”
“We have complaints. They don’t like it.”
Immediately I recognized the unconscious bias and the implications it has for judgment and relationships.
The person making this judgement filled comment was kind, smart, successful – and human. And in a moment of being human, she exposed her bias and judgment against an entire generation. The words flowed so easily. This was a person who had attended top-notch leadership training, yet she was still judgmental.
We talk all the time about leaders needing to lead the charge for inclusion and acceptance of others. It is not a leader’s responsibility; it is everyone’s responsibility.
Within our own sister community, we have all the generations represented, we have women who express their individuality to us all, and we have a vast array of experiences and opinions on life, friendship, and business.
How do we tackle judgment? With a whole bucket full of curiosity. It is much more challenging to develop negative opinions when we are open to exploring the possibilities of who they are and why they are who they are.
This is not a 5 Why’s exercise. This is an exercise in being interested enough to learn about the other person. It is the courage to challenge oneself and others when judgment statements are apparent. To say the same things in front of the door, that we say behind the door.
This is not women’s challenge, nor a WESOS challenge, this is a challenge of our world today. Social media presents a forum for sputtering opinions and hate, but also for showing love and acceptance.
So, for today, and tomorrow, and the next day, let’s all commit to being aware of our words, our judgment, and remember that just because we say it behind closed doors, it does not mean it does not travel into the universe and impact those being judged. Take your antibiotic, curiosity, and let’s build a community and world where acceptance, grace, and respect are the norm. Not wishful thinking.