faith based

Leadership Best Practices: Respecting Multiple Perspectives

Leadership Best Practices:  Respecting Multiple Perspectives
January 2015
by Jonathan Roth Magidovitch

The best leaders do more listening and less telling.

But to what do they listen?

We all are accustomed to hearing multiple accounts of the same events.  What parent hasn’t heard, “But, Mommy, he started it.” What CEO hasn’t heard that the problem comes from another department.

To deal with multiple accounts of the same event, there are tools to guide parents, CEO’s and all leaders.

One such guide is probably already in your house.  Open the family Bible.  Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, the four Gospels, are each telling the same story.  They are each biographies of the life of Jesus and they are not the same. Each disciple has his own take.

You might expect that we would be hearing a lot of sermons about which Gospel gets it right, but that doesn’t happen.  Instead all four perspectives stand as authoritative and worthy of respect.

From a Jewish perspective, we have the adage “two Jews, three opinions.”  It is part of the culture to disagree, often vociferously, on everything, and at the end of the day, everyone is still part of the family.

As leaders, it is our job to hear out various perspectives and process the entirety into an overall understanding.

There is a caveat:  this processing is not just about facts.  The leader’s job is not as simple as determining who is correct.  Perceptions and feelings and agenda are significant parts of the picture.  As leaders we understand that each perspective represents some element of the target population for whatever product or service our business is offering.  As parents we understand that each perspective is part of the unified vision for our family.  We may personally differ with what we hear, but choosing to hear it anyway makes our decisions robust.

The leader’s job is to hear multiple perspectives and understand from them how to proceed with real actions in the real world.

The leader responds to each voice with respect and gratitude.  Having been part of the conversation is what matters about the team members.  The leader is ultimately responsible for making the decision.  That decision being correct or not accrues to the leader having properly understood the various inputs.

Furthermore, it is the work of a good leader to make sure that the voices around the table do actually represent crucial aspects of the target population.  Ten voices saying one thing could signal unanimity in the target population. However it could also mean that there is something wrong with the team or the management processes. That is, “Is dissension allowed?  Have people with various perspectives been brought to the table?”

Going back to Scripture, there are actually more than four Gospels.  The others did not make it into the Bible. Instead they are found elsewhere in New Testament as apocrypha or pseudepigrapha.

These other Gospels did not pass whatever review.  And, perhaps there are yet other gospels that did not pass muster even to the level of being preserved at all.

Not all voices get heard and that is an issue.  It may be a moral issue or a validity issue.  And, there are procedural issues here as well.

Who gets to speak at our table?  That is the question. A fact of human capacity is that we don’t have time or treasure enough to hear all the possible voices.  How we determine who gets to our table matters.

Here are some considerations:

  1. Is someone knocking on our door?  If someone has expressed a desire to speak in our group why have we declined them?  If it’s racism or sexism or any other “ism” this is a moral failure which will lead to a business failure.
  2. Have we searched for team members broadly enough?  In business we have a sense of our target audience.  It is important that audience is represented in the thought process of our business.  To assume we know people’s thoughts and preferences especially across cultural lines is taking on unnecessary risk.   ***   Furthermore, have we understood our target audience?  Maybe people in addition to those we’ve already identified could be in our target population.  Find ways to discover new segments.  For example, look at your sales records for outliers and find out who they are.  Or, talk with other leaders or experts.
  3.  Are we listening only at certain times and in certain places?  Being a leader is 24/7 work.  Listening at meetings matters but it also matters that off chance of hearing something in a song lyric or in a phrase caught from the conversation of passers-by.

Wherever we stand as leader, be it home or office, a key part of our role is processing correctly multiple understandings of events.  Each input represents some part of the picture.  The points presented here will increase your clarity in deciding the right thing to do.

Jonathan Roth Magidovitch works in the US and Israel as a coach/consultant for individuals, families and family businesses. He is the principal of Yosef Meged Consulting.

The Second Hatching of Children: A Metaphor for Parents and Values Educators

The Second Hatching of Children: A Metaphor for Parents and Values Educators
By Jonathan Roth Magidovitch and Gadi Raviv
December 23, 2014

Many years ago during a lunch meeting of our Interfaith Clergy Association, we were bemoaning the disappearance of our youth immediately after their Bnai Mitzvah/Confirmation.

We of each faith group had somehow thought it was only our kids who left. We shared surprise and then shared this joke: “We had a rat problem at our church. Expert after expert would rid of us rats but they always came back. Finally, a professional came who rounded up every rat they could and Confirmed them. We never saw those rats again.”

This essay is to suggest a new metaphor, a new way of looking at how we work with our youth in their transition to adulthood.

Yesterday, a colleague got my attention. He said, “Children are little chicks. They hatch. They come out of their shell open and playful. “By first grade they start to build a new shell, and in their early teens they begin to break out of this shell.”

Why do those pre-first-graders build themselves a shell? As with Adam and Eve, shame and embarrassment are factors, perhaps generated or enhanced by elementary school or socialization in general. In particular, “children have begun to feel that peers are watching them.” They retreat behind a barrier of their own creation. Fear is not the major motivator for children building their second shell.

We believe children instinctively understand that they have a lot to learn about being with their peers. Observation, seeing, is by far the strongest learning tool we have. Intuitively, children understand that an unseen observer gets cleaner information than a participant observer does. The presence of the observer alters the thing being observed. This is the reason children build their own shell. It’s their duck blind. It’s their one-way mirror.

And, why do they as pre-adolescents begin to peck apart their shell? Their need to connect with peers overpowers their need to hide. Its biology; preservation of the species. The clock has ticked. Time has arrived to put knowledge into practice.

As their adults, it is our goal to provide them tools for breaking out, and this is where faith educators come in heavy with tools, conceptions and expectations for specific outcomes.

My colleague asserted that these kids are not interested in Bible, or Judaism (Christianity) or in performing, but they put huge effort into their Bnai Mitzvah studies because “They are proving themselves as adults.”

At this point, we add that so much of religious education feels like an imposition. Educators and parents feel pressure to inject stuff into our kids. It’s invasive.

Could we instead “go with” the urge to adulthood of our children?

With peers as witness, our kids need to prove themselves as adults. We want them to be adults and independent, but we want them to have the tools by which to live that life in the best way possible.

We are not neutral in what is “best.” And, broadly speaking, our children have already accepted the values we are trying to convey. That is, the vast majority of our children believe that the world is a better place if we all respect each other’s property and lives. Simply put, somehow our kids have already gotten the values. Now it’s about implementation.

What we have is a methodological problem. We tend to impose, restrict, manage and boss our children at the exact moment when they need to be self-directing.

We present them with tools and with myriad directions for how to use these tools.

Maybe when you were a kid, your dad put you on his lap as he drove the car. That was great and empowering when you were five. As a teen, it would be both creepy and dangerous.

Similarly, we need to put tools into our kids’ hands, the tools they need to live by their values. Further, we need to allow that our children might find tools of their own.

An example of that is social media. Values are developed and refined in their online communities. Those communities are generally pleasant places to be. They do have bad actors in them, trolls, and adult presence is important but best as supportive and background. Like driving the car, it’s unhelpful when adults take control in the spaces where kids need to be exercising their adulthood.

As for that joke about Confirming the rats, clearly our children are not rats. Also clearly, we do not really want them hanging around our houses as adults. We want them to go out into the world and find their life and build their home.

The home we built and raised them in was their “first shell.” They must hatch from it, be free of it.
Speaking of spiritual homes, Temple, Church or Synagogue, those were for our children “first shells.” We cannot expect them to take up residence in those spaces. In fact such expectation they will read as overbearing.

At the very least, if we want our children to inhabit the places of spirit and of values that we built, we have to give over our tools to them and the deeds to our buildings and give them our blessing to remodel the places to their needs.

Good if they choose to remodel, but just as good if they choose a complete rebuild. It’s their world, their life, and we do best if we trust them.

We are part of the shell they broke free of. There was a moment when we could see ourselves as their leaders. While they are still very young, it is best if we become their cheerleaders.

Performing rites of passage at the time of their transition to adulthood is instrumental in providing children and their adults with a textual and ceremonial platform to celebrate and exercise their “second hatching. The ritual here is vital because it acknowledges what is already happening.

Gadi Raviv is a Reform Rabbi in Karmiel, Israel and a 3rd generation kibbutz member. He creates life-cycle and holy day ceremonies for secular Israelis by mixing traditional and modern Judaism with Israeli popular culture, kibbutz heritage and humanistic psychology.

Jonathan Roth Magidovitch works in the US and Israel as a coach/consultant for individuals, families and family businesses. He is the principal of Yosef Meged Consulting and the Rabbi of Kehillat Ohel Moed.