I am so pleased to offer this second edition of Mac. We were heartened by the response we received to our inaugural issue last month, and are always grateful to connect with our community. It’s powerful to create for people who share one’s passions. It goes without saying that in the month that has passed, one event eclipsed all others: the U.S. presidential election.
For the business leaders we work with – and as a business owner myself – the election’s creeping arrival has been anxiety-inducing. The idea of political vitriol spilling into the workplace has been a simmering source of worry.
Sensing that people in isolation would need a community to help exhale, process, and vent, I scheduled a Zoom meeting for our staff for Thursday, November 5th (two days after the election). The meeting was totally voluntary and lacked an agenda. It was just an opportunity for connection and a chance to be present for each other.
Dialogues like these can easily go south, and I knew that convening this conversation came with risks. But my gut told me I owed it to our team to create a forum to express their feelings during a stressful period of time, and that our culture could handle this exchange in a respectful and dignified way. I left it up to our team members to decide if they wanted to be a part of this dialogue, and to determine if they could do so in a manner reflecting our values. Many chose to attend, and they did so in a spirit of tremendous support. Over the course of an hour, we talked less about politics per se than our respective experiences as Americans in an election season. We talked candidly, but vulnerably and respectfully. We discussed topics like the role social media plays in our lives and the nature of the ideological bubbles in which many of us reside. Most memorably, many parents of voting-age children shared their joy in watching their kids become so politically engaged and motivated as citizens. As contentious as the election has been, I think this conversation brought us closer.
Ultimately, this experience reinforced two leadership lessons for me. First, it was a stark reminder that when faced with a choice between action and inaction, more often than not, the right choice is to act. I could have easily talked myself out of hosting this call for a million valid reasons. But I felt strongly that our team needed this forum, and I am glad I stuck to my gut.
Second, if you have faith in your culture, let it operate. At Gagen MacDonald, our culture has always thrived when it comes to respectfulness, thoughtfulness, and consideration. As a leader, I needed to trust that these qualities would shine through when called upon in our post-election conversation. They did.
Your culture can only take you as far as you’ll let it. I am glad I put ours to work that day.
I hope you all stay safe and enjoy the beginning of the holiday season.