When in the course of organizational events, it becomes necessary for all people to fortify the individual, organizational, and societal bands which connect them with others and to assume their position as industry leaders and employers of choice, The Kaleidoscope Group must step forward to articulate the challenges that impel those organizations to, and the means by which those organizations may, separate forever from the cozy constriction of “Midwest Nice.”
While “Midwest Nice,” with its promise of peace, is not the exclusive domain of the residents of the midwestern United States, it is in this region that the thoughts, beliefs, and behaviors that are its hallmarks have been elevated, over time, beyond a way of being to a way of life. A culture has been constructed, borne of the best intentions, wherein politeness in the name of peace has unwittingly ushered in a culture defined by trepidation instead of trust.
When we conceal our truths in order to be polite, to avoid offense at all costs, to be Midwest Nice, we prevent the attainment of inclusion. None among us can be inclusive if we are excluding, by definition, ourselves and others. Trust is a virtual impossibility when every communication, every interaction is unscored by suspected secrecy. To be sure, though, an inclusive culture can neither be one where we include ourselves so thoughtlessly, so carelessly, where we share our truths so brutally, that we exclude those around us by injuring them with our words and actions.
Whenever cultural norms become destructive to the mission of an organization, it is the right, if not the responsibility, of the people to shift that culture. And the time has come for many organizations to shift from “Midwest Nice” to “Respectful Truth.”
When we practice Respectful Truth, we neither conceal our truths nor clobber our colleagues with them. We speak our truth(s), all the time respecting the recipient, their truth, and the most effective ways in which to communicate both the respect and the truth. Our communication, then, is defined neither by concealment nor catharsis, but by clarity.
We hold this truth to be self-evident, as well as supported by a growing mountain of research and anecdotal evidence, that all organizational cultures are not created equal, that organizations which exhibit inclusive behaviors are most likely to flourish, in revenue and reputation, on a field of business foes that seemingly grows more competitive with each passing year.
Standing on a foundation of Respectful Truth, the people can engage in those specific inclusive behaviors that will move organizations past tolerance to interdependence, leveraging each individual’s talents, knowledge, and abilities to create an organizational whole greater than the sum of its individual parts.
Recognizing that a purely theoretical declaration of interdependence could lead to inaction, we share this declaration of what interdependence looks like in action:
Freedom of Feedback
In a “Midwest Nice” culture, too often, valuable feedback is withheld. In addition to fostering a generally exclusive environment, this practice makes it most likely that individuals who are unfamiliar with certain specifics of the dominant culture may never learn them. Rather than follow this path to disengagement and, likely, departure, we must stand firmly on “Respectful Truth.”
We declare that we must be willing to give and receive feedback, building trust by being trustworthy, communicating in ways intended to support the individual and the organization, by extension.
Full Contact Inclusion
In a “Midwest Nice” culture, in order to avoid offense, in order to avoid being offended, in order to avoid the unknown, we avoid each other. Rather than wallow in silos of our own construction, we must choose the freedom of “Respectful Truth.”
We declare that we must make mutual contact with our colleagues. We understand that there may be mistakes, metaphorical bruising, but the cost-gain analysis demands that we accept that risk. Each time we reach out across lines of difference, each time we shake a hand as it reaches across to us, we recognize and welcome the best of those around us and position our organizations to operate at their best, in turn.
No More “Blame Game”
In a “Midwest Nice” culture, forced smiles and silence underscore an insidious blame game. Any conflicts or challenges created or exacerbated by cultural differences are blamed on the organization by those in “outsider” groups. Simultaneously, “insider” groups blame the individuals who fail to “fit in” or “get it.” There is neither a need nor a place for blame when we embrace “Respectful Truth.”
We declare that we must move from blame to responsibility. When we focus on what we can do to improve communication, relationships, and engagement, we empower ourselves to drive an inclusive culture rather than be driven by an exclusive one.
Therefore, we, the people of The Kaleidoscope Group, declare the following:
- We declare that we are “better together.”
- We declare that, while “Midwest Nice” may give us temporary peace, “Respectful Truth” grants us transformative power.
- We declare the best of who we can be collectively will only be realized when we value who we are individually.
- Research is on our side. History is on our side. Experience is on our side.
E pluribus unum. Out of many, one.
We declare our interdependence.