Saturday, October 6, 2012

In all sincerity...

flickr image via Sam Howzit
I believe that sincerity is paramount to nurturing trust and commitment in people, and critical to effective communication.
In Patrick Lencioni's Five Dysfunctions of a Team, the absence of trust is listed as dysfunction number one for good reason. Trust is obviously critical to team function and team success. Without it we can't be truly committed (lack of commitment is the number three dysfunction) to anyone but ourselves; that is to say if we even trust ourselves... I'm not sure we all do. Trust requires sincerity. We have to be honest with ourselves, and honest with others before we can trust, otherwise our function and purpose is a facade based on insincere and false (or perhaps not entirely true,) premises.

Commitment is not a half-way thing. It's what makes us accountable in the truest sense of the word. To be truly committed to another person, a process or an organization is a selfless act that makes us accountable and requires a sincere and unwavering honesty... even if the act of being committed isn't associated with any form of personal gain or enrichment. In reference to Peter Block's work, my friend Paul Shamlet articulated this very well in a recent post at the #ECOSYS blog...
In his book Community: The Structure of Belonging, Peter Block defines accountability in a novel and compelling way:  “Accountability is the willingness to care for the whole, and it flows out of the kind of conversations we have about the new story we want to take our identity from.  It means we have conversations of what we can do to create the future.  Entitlement is a conversation about what others can or need to do to create the future for us.  Restoration begins when we think of community as a possibility, a declaration of the future that we choose to live into.” (48)  
 Peter Block talks about the new story... but I don't think it's new at all. Our story has always been there waiting to be told in different contexts for different purposes. Perhaps the new story Block refers to really means the new way to tell our story; to give it purpose and authenticity. Through stories it is often said that we can learn from our mistakes, and from our successes. When we tell our stories of failure and success, we are creating vessels for these teachings that benefit all who have an ear for them. This is what makes stories so powerful and important. If we could just get better at telling stories, and in turn listening to them, infinite possibilities emerge.

Our stories are the basis of all the good, and bad, that have befallen humankind since the beginning of time. We all have stories to tell; stories already written (past), stories we're writing now (present) and stories we have yet to write (future.) We obviously have the most control over the story we're writing in the present, but how long is the present? Is it a fleeting moment, an hour, a week, a year or even longer?  I think the point of the long-now present is that we should try to make it as long as possible. In order to connect our past and future to each end of our present, the present has to have a length... this is the long-now, but I think how we determine that length is entirely up to us. Our long-now history extends toward our past and our future. We need to connect with our long-now history in a more meaningful and purposeful way. The longer we can make our long-now history, the more we are able to connect with stories already written, and the stories we have yet to write. Our past helps to show us the way to our future.

Sadly, in the midst of our fast paced lives these days, our long-now histories have become much shorter. Our hectic lives are spent scrambling to 'get ahead' and we've lost our connection with the powerful stories already written; our own and those of others. We are living in very short long-now's, and when this happens our ability to connect in useful and purposeful ways is hindered. We have lost a sincere connection to the teachings of our past, and we've lost a sincere connection to our goals for the future. We are alas, living in the moment... not necessarily a bad thing if we could just make that moment a much longer one. We have to be more accountable for our stories; we need to be committed to sharing them in purposeful ways, and we have to listen to the stories of others trusting that there is always something to learn from them.

Using our long-now stories like this will draw us closer to each other as we seek interdependent networks of support in others, our processes and our organizations. The long-now narratives we share with each other illuminate the imperative that we be committed to our collective well-being; they expose our individual vulnerability, but they make us stronger as a team or group at the same time when we realize we are not alone in our story. Being sincere and honest with each other allows trust to grow and all of a sudden our long-now histories start to overlap and we communicate more effectively; we move from independence to interdependence. Not a bad place to be.
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