Jendi Coursey Communications
In 1976, I was five years old. We lived in a neighborhood with long, straight sidewalks–perfect for riding bikes, so I was overjoyed when my parents bought me an electric blue Schwinn bike with a white banana seat covered in pink flowers. The bike had a white basket and streamers on the hand grips that fluttered metallic blue and silver when I went fast. My dad added a bell so I could let people know I was coming.
Like most kids, I started with training wheels. They wobbled, but I quickly learned they would catch me if I lost my balance. As I improved, my dad adjusted them so they took longer and longer to catch. Eventually, it was time to ride without them. I was scared, but my dad promised to get me started and hold onto the seat until I was ready to go solo.
As I pedaled my little heart out, I kept saying, “Don’t let go. Don’t let go.” His voice came close behind, “I’m right here.” I pedaled faster and faster. “Don’t let go,” I repeated. That’s when I heard him from a distance. “I already did. You’re doing it!” I couldn’t believe it! I immediately lost my concentration and crashed, but I got right back on and by the end of the afternoon, it was as if I’d been riding my whole life.
As we age, many of us are less willing to take risks, to try new things, to change our minds, or heaven forbid, to fail. In my work as a communications professional, I’ve been thinking about how to help people let go of their self-imposed limitations, to be open to new possibilities–to build relationships in new and better ways.
When was the last time you changed your mind about a person or idea? Do you remember what made you rethink your position?
I just finished a book by Adam Grant titled, Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don’t Know, in which he explores the idea of open-mindedness and how people can inspire others to change their minds. Oddly enough, sharing our own views repeatedly and then plugging our ears while singing, “La, la, la, la, la” to avoid hearing a response isn’t the most effective way to communicate. Yet, isn’t this what we so often do, albeit with a little more subtlety?
I want to help clients build company cultures that bring out the best in each employee, to encourage shifts that begin in individuals and ripple out in all directions to create systemic change. Ultimately, I want to help mend the ever-deepening social and political rifts in our country and in our world.
I’m part of a group led by Carol Sanford (seed-communities.com) that seeks to build people’s capacity to live and work in a more regenerative way and this group has helped me start to coalesce my ideas. However, even as I write this, I imagine some of my clients getting curious and excited, while others sit back in their chairs smiling and shaking their heads. “There she goes again, trying to save the world,” they say.
Clearly, I work with people of widely differing social and political views. Yet, for me to accept a new client, they must align with my values of treating people fairly and offering a product or service that benefits the community they serve. My clients’ rhetoric and methods may differ, but they often share goals and values.
As a Certified B Corp, my company has already committed to being part of a movement that makes business a force for good, to consider all stakeholders as we make decisions about what we do and how we do it. How can I inspire others to join in?
The key, I believe, is taking the time to listen attentively, to seek common ground, to let go of being right, and to develop the capacity for introspection in ourselves and everyone we meet. Spewing facts doesn’t work, but helping someone realize a truth for themselves can allow new knowledge to take root.
As with any sustainable change, it starts with each of us. We can begin by better understanding our own motivations and capabilities, by bringing conscious attention to the choices we make. We can approach each situation with a clear aim, one that includes helping each person contribute at their highest level. We can create developmental processes that allow people to embody new knowledge. This is some of the work of the Seed Communities I mentioned earlier.
Do you remember how it felt to learn to ride a bike? You just had to find your balance–to feel it, and once you did, no one could take that ability away from you. No book or video could have imparted that embodied experience. My question is this: How do we create business practices that allow for those sorts of embodied experiences? How do we help people discover their own truths and find their own solutions?
I think we start by supporting work cultures that embed processes that reward innovation and encourage self-discovery.