Communication Breakdown

November 26, 2008 at 8:27 am (change, Introspection, Leadership, Musings, Social Networking) (, , , , , , , , , , )

One of the challenges of working in isolation is the lack of accountability one can experience.  It isn’t that I need accountability to keep me from doing what I shouldn’t do, or to keep me on task, or to police my quality.  No, instead, what I need is crowd-sourcing.  

It has taken me awhile to discover that I thrive on the exchange of ideas and insights.  I am naturally inclined to process life in isolation.  It is when I seperate myself from the throngs that I begin to see insights more clearly.  However, I recognize that I don’t have all the answers, nor do I understand every conundrum.  There are veritable quandaries that require outside intervention.

Introverts only comprise about 25% of the general population, and thus are frequently misunderstood.  Most people are confused when they meet an outgoing introvert – it doesn’t fit their paradigm.  However, if they understood the true definition of introversion, as one who recharges alone; and the true definition of extroversion, as one who recharges with people; there would most likely be a better acceptance of those of us who need a little more alone time than the majority.

Having grown up on the slopes of Mt. Tabor, I came to appreciate this city park as one of the best in the City of Portland.  As I matured, from adolescence to adulthood, I frequently found solace in the vistas of this dormant volcano.  Whether parked in my pickup near the west side reservoirs, or wandering the summit on a cold, windy Fall night, I’ve come to appreciate the solitude of this place.  

Mountaintops have been places of solitude, meditation, and insight for millenia.  I wonder how many people share my refuge?  I wonder how many soulmates I have acquired throughout the existence of this butte?  So, though I may be alone, I am not.

Processing is only half the battle though.  It is one thing to have clarity in one’s soul, but it is quite another thing to be right.  Being right isn’t always an absolute, sometimes it can be relative.  For instance, were I the only person in a situation, my options are unlimited and personal.  Yet, for every person added to the equation, the “right” solution becomes less clear – for everyone is affected differently.  And this is precisely where I need the exchange of ideas.

Due to my lack of compassion, and dogmatic focus on logic, I almost always miss the relational impacts of my choices.  I always try to find mentors, coaches, and true peers to offer me guidance and insight.  I tell them that I value their criticisms and insights.  Most are afraid to be too direct however.  Most of those that I self select will choose to agree with me, for they are similar to me in thought, deed, and values.

In my heart of hearts, intellectually if it were, I know that it is important to have people in our lives who disagree with us.  Great leaders have always sought advice from their detractors and critics.  Much has been written about Abraham Lincoln’s ability to fill his cabinet with people who were not necessarily his supporters.

Throughout my undergrad education, the leadership books, business case studies, and discussions, I was repeatedly struck by the success of those who know how to take advice from those with whom they disagree.  Except for this past year, I usually read 20+ books a year.  I prefer non-fiction, or occasionally an insightful novel.  Biographies are a favorite.  Again, these books have impressed me with the value of listening to one’s critics.

Putting this into practice is another matter alltogether.  There are many distractions that can keep one from hearing from those who disagree.  Often, the critics will approach with a critical spirit and tone – this causes us to recoil in a self-protective posture.  Sometimes those who disagree with us will be so afraid of our reaction that they tend to “beat around the bush,” and this can make it difficult to discern what they may be trying to tell us.  The worst scenario though is that we let our egos get in the way of hearing those who are trying to help us.

Currently, I am in a “power struggle” with my key leaders.  On the one hand we are trying to revamp the leadership structure of our organization.  On the other, I have made some communicative mistakes.  I want to uphold the integrity of the team; yet they want to make sure I’m not a loose cannon.  It boils down to trust in many ways.

I am not afraid to meet with these leaders whom I consider to be my friends, but I will only meet with them if it preserves the purity and integrity of the leadership team.  I’m not interested in dis-empowering the majority of the team, for the sake of the minority’s need to bring criticism to my attention.  Balancing these two separate needs can be an interesting social experiment.

Were I a social genius, I would care much less about the organizational integrity.  But I’m not.  I’m a systems guy.  I specialize in turning chaos into order.  I can clearly see the current situation and I’ve crafted a vision of the future in my head.  We are on track, it will take patience, transition is always difficult, and we’ll get through this.

Unfortunately, those that want to meet with me are more relational than I.  The organizational systems are trumped by the fears and criticisms of their peer group.

Now, all I have to do is figure out how to break the barriers and move into the future.

Any ideas from the crowd?



  1. kmcdade said,

    It’s difficult – but I eventually admitted that I have to be more relational in order to work with others who are strongly relational. I think the key is to find ways to be positively relational, like getting to know people one on one (surprise! We have things in common), and finding ways to show appreciation. And just plain talking to people (hard for us introverts).

    As far as the minority/majority thing — I would agree with keeping all working together rather than excluding some. But I wonder, would the critical minority be satisfied with being heard? Give them an opportunity to get it all out and be done with it? Or are they unlikely to let it go?

  2. Steve McDade said,

    I had the same thing happening where I was at. I finally “gave up” and let God do what He is going to to with the group.
    For three years I had a message and it fell on deaf ears. Taking time to discover what it means to live communally, more than one family in a house.
    I think that we preach Paul’s gospel too much and not enough of Jesus’ Gospel, which is not the same.

    Reading the book “The Gospel of Jesus” by James M. Robinson. It is confirming what I’ve believe for a long time.
    I suggest getting a copy.

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