Getting to the Heart of It

A Walk in the Countryside
Last year, visiting a friend, we walked with respective kiddos. The only issue we had to solve was wrangling the dog, the kids, and picking up trash.

Have you ever looked at a process and an outcome and wondered, “Why did that go wrong? We did everything right?” You were with a group, and you looked at all sides, you collected examples to back up your decision and chart the right path – but when all was said and done – the outcome was not one you wanted nor one you anticipated nor one you planned for.

Think about abortion – pro-lifers can’t understand why pro-choicers fail to see the life factor. Pro-choicers can’t understand why pro-lifers can’t put their bible beliefs at the door and accept wider viewpoints.

But what is the real issue?

  • Is it about the health of the mother?
  • Is it about choosing life over death?
  • Is it about the well-being of the baby after birth?
  • Is it about the well-being of the entire family?

Arguing about the sanctity of life doesn’t solve the issue of what’s going to happen to that baby if born into a family that doesn’t have the resources or wish to take care of him.

Another politically charged example might be around how we spend governmental monies. It’s our tax dollars that have funded the system – so how should we spend those dollars?

Some say, “We should be fiscally conservative.”

Some say, “We should boost the social safety net.”

But, here, what is the real issue?

  • Is it spending beyond our means?
  • Is it focusing on the wrong issues?
  • Is it not placing our dollars where we find our values?

Here, I find that arguing about how we should approach something doesn’t solve how we will approach it. We think we should be fiscally conservative instead of thinking – are we taking care of people? We focus on military as security strategies instead of asking, “Where, when, and why do people feel safe?”

Recently, I was a part of a group that grew organically. Some of us came together through want ads. Some of us came together because we had another group in common. Underlying, we had similar issues, and we agreed to be together to carry out a goal. After some time, a small group within decided they wanted to take the model we created together and start something new. Instead of simply saying, “Hey, we want to do this thing over here. Is that okay?” the waters were muddied. Members were asked to take sides. Members were asked to grant permission where none was needed. Collectively, we failed to get to the heart of the issue.

What happened was a lot of hurt feelings. A lot of hurt over something that was really simple. The group we started wasn’t meeting the needs of the smaller group, and they wanted to refocus their efforts. They didn’t ned to try to split the ball, which is how we ended up doing it, they just needed to say we’re leaving, OK?

I’m involved with a lot of groups, and a consistent struggle we have is taking the time to name the issue. When my husband and I were first married, I complained that we couldn’t talk. We couldn’t just talk about what was bothering us or simply what was on our minds. I was asked why I thought we couldn’t talk, and I pondered a typical scenario. He’d come home from work, Levi, then a small child, would need something as soon as we started a discussion on anything. We didn’t carve out intentional time to talk about those issues, instead we let life work its way around us. That wasn’t productive for either of us.

I find that we do the same thing in our professional groups – work, volunteering, civic clubs. We don’t carve out time to talk about the meaty issues. We have agendas that talk about little things here and there, but it’s without the big picture in mind. And, when we do carve out big issues, we skate around the meaningful parts. We fail to look at the end. (Remember, begin with the end in mind.) We don’t look at where we want to be, and we end up tackling issues as they come. Suddenly everything becomes important. And, if everything is important – then nothing is. Because we are tackling issues as they come up, we don’t give ourselves enough time to celebrate our victories, debrief on things to change, and brainstorm ways to solve the problems that arise. And, that problem solving is one reason that we’re all together doing the thing we love.

So, how can we manage up when we’re collectively not focusing on the issues? How can we guerrilla facilitate to get ourselves and our colleagues on track? How can we be more transparent with our agendas so that we can move the organizations we love forward?