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The next biggest and best idea (probably won’t come from me)

December 16, 2015 Matt Norquist

More oftentimes than not, it’s the everyday experiences that inspire (and re-inspire) me to think about my responsibility as a leader. The other day, I attended a good friend’s wedding. Watching Dave and Ally proclaim their vows to one another really got me thinking about commitment.

Dave, ever sarcastic, posted a relationship status on Facebook the next day: “It’s complicated.”

After a laugh (and a promise to my fiancé to never post something like that on Facebook), I got to thinking: Love is complicated. It certainly isn’t easy. It takes a lot of time, work and energy. It is recognizing and addressing our own flaws, practicing forgiveness, and helping others around us do the same. Love is a commitment to acknowledge the unique gifts that each of us bring to the table.

Inherent in Dave and Ally’s commitment to one another is an unspoken truth: The willingness to believe in the other person—wholeheartedly—and appreciate what makes them unique as an individual. Valuing differences is something that I started to think about while I was reflecting on my recent experience at our Women in Leadership Institute. It inspired me to make my commitment to look at the world a little bit differently.

My “do different” is to recognize my own unconscious bias. Bias happens when we fail to see the worthiness of another. I often brush aside (accidentally in the moment) opinions around me. It’s not malicious. It’s not intentional. It is born out of my own experience and is inherent in how I interact with my environment every day.

Sometimes my need for winning can lead to a bias toward seeking agreement—in winning a debate—rather than appreciating a perspective I might never find in my own. We all do it in different ways, and it can be dangerous. It can lead to bad leadership decisions. It can contribute to divorce or separation for spouses or partners. It keeps women from getting paid and promoted at the same levels that men do. It makes us hire and promote people who look, act, and think like us, and makes it possible to miss out on the ideas and perspectives from others who could help our companies change the world.

The first step that I’ve taken toward living my commitment is to search for worth by looking for, and celebrating diversity in opinion. This doesn’t mean acquiescing to someone else’s point of view—it does mean being open to it. More importantly, it means looking for the best idea, the strongest approach, the thing that will make the biggest difference—and realizing that it often won’t come from me.

My challenge to you? Welcome diversity. Celebrate difference. Embrace new points of view. And, look for those situations and occurrences that allow you to value large and small differences each day.

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