Thursday, September 4, 2014

"Make It Work!"

The immortal words of Tim Gunn on Bravo's PROJECT RUNWAY resonate in my head after reading a comment or two on a recent post in The Way FORWARD > > > >.  Whenever the dapper host is looking over the work-in-progress of a fashion design wannabe whose output comes up short, his brow furrows and eyes intensify as he delivers sage advice, "Make it work!".  Unfortunately, "Make it work!" is usually just a precursor to hostess Heidi Klum delivering HER signature line, "I'm sorry.  You're aussed!"

In my little world, a co-Admin colleague on our social media group nominated a group of co-workers at one of my airline-employer's larger hubs to receive our group's peer award.  It seems that an operational upset threatened several departing flights with lengthy delays and/or cancellations, which would have impacted a significant number of our customers.  The colleagues being nominated "stepped outside" their normally prescribed roles to accomplish the feat of saving the flights from disaster and promoting customer goodwill.  To at least half of our group's membership, these were laudable accomplishments, deserving of praise and recognition, regardless of means.  To the other half, it represented egregious threats to the "scope" clauses of several work groups' collective bargaining agreements (contracts), clauses that were won at a cost and are to be protected, as they protect the jobs of the workers who won them.  While laudable, their efforts threatened the hard-won concepts of scope.

This episode is prime evidence of the CULTURE CLASH that has been and will continue to be one of the primary impediments to the successful, harmonious integration of two great, yet very divergent, airlines.  Values conflict is the basis of so much of the acrimony lobbed by one group at the other, often with great gusto.  Values are fundamental to who and what we are.  They define us.  They are how WE define right vs. wrong.  So how can two groups, performing the same job at two different aviation companies who've recently merged, settle on a new set of group values when the ones they each bring to the merger are as different as black and white?  Who is RIGHT and who is WRONG?  It's not nearly that easy!  (With apologies to Tim Gunn.  What makes for good TV, often doesn't work in the real world.)

Each of us has his/her own values system by which we make choices:  our RIGHT and WRONG.  We reduce and distill every situation as much as we can so that we can determine whether that situation fits our definition of being right or wrong.  It starts early with a slap of the hand or a swat to the rear and continues through elementary education and on into adulthood.  Eventually, our individual values system is set and we see the world through it.  Unfortunately, reality does not conform to our way of seeing it.  So it's possible for two individuals who are both prescient and concerned to reach conflicting conclusions about what is right or wrong in pretty much ANY given situation.  The key is to see the "shades of gray" in a world made artificially "black and white".  So, how do we try to follow Tim Gunn's advice and make it work?

This requires finesse and self-control.  It requires "quieting" our inherent values system when a potentially volatile scenario arises.  It requires CONTROLLED RESPONSE when the "hot potato" is thrown your way, even if that response means stepping out of the way and letting the potato hit the ground.  When you have no good play to make, don't make one!  This is the first step, because in the game of "hot potato", the premise is that you will keep the potato in play, right?  So what happens when you've committed to play and purposefully let the potato drop?  You cause the other player to ask, "why did s/he do that?"  

The ONLY way to resolve such fundamental differences in how we perceive things so differently is to pay each other respect, to understand that we see things differently for very important reasons.  Since I came from the sCO culture, I'm much more likely to value "working together" over any other approach, including scope.  Since you come from the sUA culture, you're much more likely to value scope over any other approach, including "working together".  The fact that one of those two approaches seems to have prevailed in management at our merged company further complicates things.  "Will I be forced to abandon my long-held values system on this issue just because 'the other side' is in power now?"  "How can I make sure that my perfectly valid point-of-view is heeded and valued in the future merged company?"

The key is respect.  We can demonstrate our respect for each other and one another's culture by listening thoughtfully and patiently and by responding with care.  An active listener actually HEARS what's being said rather than using the other side's time to talk as an opportunity to form a rebuttal and reinforce his/her own point.  An active listener may not always respond immediately.  And when s/he does, that response will come from the heart, not the mouth.

"I value you and respect your history.  Your here and now are just as valid as mine and I want to understand why you see things differently than I do."

Is that so hard?

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