With election season upon us, the deep political and ideological divisions in our country are especially palpable. Passions run strong on all sides. Is it possible to debate and disagree in today’s climate without “going tribal” and putting one’s tribe ahead of our nation as a whole? As we’re bombarded by inflammatory rhetoric in the weeks and months ahead, let us remember the words contained in the Seal of the United States – E pluribus unum, or “Out of many, one.” Lively political discourse is essential for a healthy nation, of course. Yet even as we debate, we are still one. It’s easy to forget this crucial fact. The more mindful we are of our national unity, the more peaceful we will be toward each other, despite our ideological differences. And who knows? If we can see beyond our political divisions, what’s to prevent us from defining our loyalties even more broadly? As Martin Luther King said so famously: “If we are to have peace on earth, our loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional. Our loyalties must transcend our race, our tribe, our class, and our nation; and this means we must develop a world perspective.” Here’s wishing us all some perspective this electoral season.
These words from William P. Johnson, Dean of the Law School at Saint Louis University, exactly capture our sentiments at PMC:
“By now it should be clear that the story of racial injustice in America is not a story of a few bad apples; racial injustice in America is a horror story that began to be written 400 years ago. It is a horror story that includes the enslavement of Black bodies, a civil war fought to preserve the right to enslave Black bodies, the lynching by angry, racist mobs of thousands of Black bodies, Jim Crow laws and legally enforced segregation, Dred Scott, Plessy v. Ferguson, redlining, mass incarceration and the school-to-prison pipeline. For too long, white America has simply taken for granted aspirational notions of equality and of justice for all, while not paying heed to the Black voices that have been trying to tell us all along about the brutal reality of the Black experience in America.”
As white Americans, we at PMC commit to listening better, learning more from Black Americans, and amplifying their voices. We commit to taking action, each in our own way, to contribute to the urgent need for societal change.
For the past several weeks Paul Paese, of PMC, has been working on converting to online delivery one of the executive courses he teaches at the Brookings Institution. Thanks to the innovative partnership between Brookings and Olin Business School at Washington University, Paul has had the amazing good fortune of working under the tutelage of Ray Irving, Director of Olin’s Center for Digital Education. The CDE got a big shout-out this month, and deservedly so, from business school Dean, Mark Taylor, in the Olin blog. The course Paul and Ray are converting, Strategies for Conflict Resolution, is coming together nicely and will officially launch in the Brookings Executive Fellowship program early this month.
We’ve noticed a consistent gap in workplace conversations. To convey understanding, most people use easy phrases like “I understand,” “I appreciate that,” or “I get it,” and often say these phrases repeatedly in an effort to show that they indeed understand. Few go so far as to offer a brief re-cap by saying something like, “Okay, if I’m tracking, you’re saying…”, and then asking if their re-cap is on target. Why bother with the extra effort? Well, maybe you think you understand, but in reality you don’t fully grasp what the other is saying. Or maybe the other person can’t find the right words and could use your help finding them. By 1) re-capping what you think the other person is saying, 2) asking him or her if you’ve got it right, 3) repeating these first two steps if necessary, and 4) ultimately getting an affirmative response, you’re showing that you understand. This practice is particularly important when others have been talking for a while, and especially if they’ve been repeating themselves. While it may seem unnecessary to check your understanding when others have been repeating themselves (“Hey, dude, I get it!”), this is exactly when checking may be the most helpful. Why? Because repetition is often a signal that the other person doesn’t feel heard, or believes you’re missing their point. Paraphrasing and getting confirmation usually ends the repetition because now you’ve shown that you understand, and the other person sees that further repetition isn’t needed. So our recommendation is simple: If the conversation is important and your goal is to understand others and have them feel understood, show that you understand first. Don’t just say you do.
Executive education has thrived at Olin Business School for decades. But now, under Dean Mark Taylor, Olin exec ed is attaining new heights through a stronger partnership with The Brookings Institution in Washington, DC. As Dean Taylor writes in the Olin Blog, “Leveraging our unique partnership with Brookings, we’ve created a joint organization that deeply entwines Olin’s research-based leadership in executive education with the global policy and economic expertise at the world’s premier think-tank. We’ve already rebranded the existing program as WashU at Brookings.” Paul Paese, of PMC, is proud to be an active contributor to this growing partnership, regularly teaching executive courses at both Olin and Brookings,