Grace or a Disgrace at the Holiday Party

Gratitude Organizational culture Respect


Key Point: What would you do? Your company is having a holiday party and you have been asked to say “grace” five minutes before dinner in front of several hundred people. You step up to the microphone and…

Dr. Peter Adler is quoted saying, “the multi-cultural person is someone who is intellectually and emotionally committed to the fundamental unity of all human beings while at the same time recognizes, legitimizes, accepts and appreciates the fundamental differences that lie between people of different cultures.”

A great piece of well-researched work on multiculturalism, The Intercultural Development Continuum, identifies one’s capability to accurately understand and adapt to cultural difference and commonality. The Continuum shows progression from a mono-cultural mind set to an inter-cultural mindset. The journey along The Continuum includes denial, polarization, minimization, acceptance and adaption. After hundreds of thousands of survey results, Canadians and Americans are on average at the minimization stage. In this stage, there is somewhat of a declared orientation that highlights cultural commonality and universal values, but it also masks the ability to achieve deeper recognition and appreciation of cultural differences. In some ways, this is a limitation to the thought that, “people are just people,” and essentially the same.

Adaptation, the highest level of orientation, is the capability to shift perspective and change behavior in culturally appropriate and authentic ways. This does not mean giving up on one’s heritage or beliefs, but having the authentic ability to adapt, bridge, and really see matters through the eyes of others versus accepting the differences of others through your own eyes. It takes INTENTION and PRACTICE to develop into the adaptive orientation. Most people think they are further along The Continuum than they really are.

Back to the “grace” request above… A lot of people, not very far along the cultural competence journey, might think or say… “This is a Christian country. Instead of a Holiday Party, lets call it a Christmas party… The Lord’s Prayer would the appropriate ‘grace.’” I wonder how the employees who are Jews, Muslim, Hindu, etc. in attendance might feel about this perspective?

Character Moves:

  1. Emotional Intelligence is based on excellent self-awareness of oneself and compassion towards others. Spiritual Intelligence, based on the wonderful work of Cindy Wigglesworth and others, involves deep self-awareness and the ability to authentically bridge and adapt to the varied views. Know where you are on your Intercultural development. Learn more here.
  2. Once you know where you stand on The Continuum, go on an Intercultural “study trip” by participating in the everyday encounters with people from other cultures in more authentic adaptive ways. Put yourself inter-culturally out there and enjoy the growth that travels with you. Go to that ethnic restaurant, view that foreign film and find out what you can learn through the eyes of others.
  3. Remember that being inter-culturally authentic also means applying moral, or ethical judgments of others by better understanding what a cultural practice represents in a different community. The ability to be inter-culturally component is another important step in the respect continuum of The Character Triangle.

Inter-culturally competent in The Triangle,



A Public ‘Hanging’ at Work

Authenticity Management Respect


Key Point: Tim Armstrong, the CEO of AOL and one of their subsidiaries called Patch, recently and very publicly fired his Creative Director, with about 1,000 associates on a conference call witnessing the dismissal (listen here). Without fully understanding the details, one fact is clear: Armstrong lost his “cool,” emotions took over and he reacted. Someone recorded the conversation, and social media juiced up the story from there. Armstrong, who was widely thrashed for this outburst and the phone firing, has since apologized but everyone involved would have liked a “re-do.”

I was the CEO of a company and was invited to join a conference call involving executives from several partners and a couple of our sales associates. We were preparing for an important customer meeting. My crazy schedule that day had me dial in late and the participants were in full debate when I jumped on the call, so I didn’t want to interrupt the conversation by announcing myself. No one noticed that I had joined. During the ensuing conversation they suggested that time was going to be a premium with the customer during this upcoming meeting, and each partner CEO would ideally make only a one or two minute introduction.

At that point, one of my team members went on to assert his “leadership” on the phone by describing how this brevity might be a problem for HIS long-winded CEO (which of course was ME). I was so tempted to let him continue but decided to stop him before he went too far and I had no choice but to fire him on the phone. So I quickly interrupted: “Excuse me, Dale (not his real name)… I am on the line. You may want to stop before you compliment me on my oratory skills much further.”

Well, the following silence was so audible you could hear the fizz on the phone line. After an awkward moment, we moved the conversation to next steps and the meeting concluded with a constructive game plan. At the conclusion of the call, I asked if my team would stay on while the partners excused themselves (They soooo wanted to listen in though, haha).

My comment, after a moment of anticipation: “Dale… I am not sure what your motive was in front of partners and other associates to criticize my ability to be concise, but I am going to give you the benefit of the doubt that you got caught up in the moment. However, if I ever hear you being publicly or privately disrespectful instead having the integrity to address the matter face-to-face with me, or the person you are criticizing, I am going to unceremoniously fire you. Do you understand me?” He of course apologized and the call adjourned with a constructive game plan: Did I do the right thing? (I did follow up with this person face to face to discuss the consequences of his behavior). Btw… I CAN be long winded sometimes :).

Character Moves:

  1. Acting purely in our emotional state (except when facing immediate physical danger) often involves behavior we regret.
  2. When our EQ (Emotional Quotient) or SQ (Spiritual Quotient) is at its best, the following nine-step process as described by my brilliant friend, Cindy Wigglesworth, is a wise operating model to follow: “Step A: STOP. Step B: BREATHE. Step C: ASK for help. Step D: OBSERVE yourself. Step E: IDENTIFY and embrace ego-concerns. Step F: LOOK DEEPLY for root causes of ego-concerns. Step G: REFRAME the situation—see with new eyes. Step H: FOCUS on something to be grateful for. Step I: CHOOSE a spiritually intelligent response.”
  3. I am not sure my response in the above situation meets the test of all nine steps, but I’m glad I did not let my ego and emotion rule the moment. This nine-step process takes exceptional self-awareness and practice, practice, practice.

High SQ in The Triangle,



Our Ego and Drama in Life and Work

Accountability Growth mindset Personal leadership


Key Point: I can tell you that most times, when I have been in relationship difficulty, my immature ego has been a big part of the “drama.” Ego has an important role to play but it’s best when we are in control of it and not vice versa. The ego acts as a filter that provides us an interpretation of events and situations that we are involved in. Cindy Wigglesworth, author of SQ 21: The Twenty-One Skills of Spiritual Intelligence (I’ve blogged about her before) makes the following point about our ego and its role in interpretation:

“The ego over-simplifies, over-dramatizes, and interprets things in order to keep us “safe” (i.e., without blame). The problem is that when we assign blame, not only are we potentially inaccurate, but we are also giving away our power. If it is “his fault” that the kids are sad, then the implied solution is for him to “come home, change who he is, be the kind of person I want him to be and the kind of dad I want him to be, and then the kids will be happy.

These are the kinds of interpretations I am making, you are making, we all are making. Why does that matter? Because once we OWN that we are making the interpretations, we can choose a new interpretation: We can reframe the situation through new eyes. And in that CHOICE lays tremendous power.”

Character Moves:

  1. When assessing a situation, behavior or event, give yourself the time to explore the possibilities and facts before allowing a knee jerk interpretation. If you assign blame to others you are likely going down a path where you are not in control of the interpretation. You will be looking for someone else to do all the changing in order to improve the situation.
  2. Determine your role in contributing to or participating in the problem or situation. Avoid making it all about other people and the “unfair” world. Put yourself in the position of being the key interpreter of the outcome and how the story or drama unfolds.
  3. Be aware of confirmation bias. When you interpret things to suit your assumptions or seek facts to prove only what you believe. Challenge your assumptions. Be open to all possibilities. Understand the balance of applying both wisdom AND compassion in interpretation.
  4. Learn how to reframe. This skill of opening or widening the “picture” frame through which you view events or situations allows us to see things through the eyes of others, create alternative interpretations and find gratitude in the most difficult circumstances. More importantly it gives us the power of choice and control of the drama being played out.

No drama in The Triangle,



We Should All Ask For a Mind Extension

Abundance Empathy Kindness


Key Point: We know having a lack of compassion and prejudging others can be very harmful, mostly to ourselves. If we think like this, it diminishes us. It makes us smaller. Why do we do it? How do we minimize behaving that way?

I was boarding a plane the other day and across from me I heard a sweet voice meekly ask the flight attendant for a seat belt extension. The young woman was obese and required more length so she could get the seatbelt around her. She sounded humiliated and immediately you could feel the “tsk-tsk” from other passengers float through the air. “How could she allow herself to get like that?” Etc. But imagine if we were on that same plane, each of us TOTALLY exposed? What if all our personal shortcomings, mistakes, and total humanity was as visible as our weight? The flight attendant would come by and we would ask, “could I have an extension for my hubris behavior? I just can’t tighten my seat belt being this narcissistic. With all the jealously driven, mean spirited behavior I’ve demonstrated over the past week, it just makes the seat belt too short. Could I have a belt extension please?” And so on. Somehow I think the rest of us would need “extensions” too.

Character Moves:

  1. Remember to fix yourself first. When you get that perfect, please make yourself available to fix everyone else. Also, let me know when you achieve perfection because you will have developed a very marketable product.
  2. Reinforce the principle of being compassionate as a strength versus a weakness. We often have little or no idea of the complexity that causes people to act or not act in certain ways. Seeking to understand and support is important to each of us because it is a reflection of how we treat ourselves first.
  3. When we are prone to discriminate or prejudge, ask for a mind extension to expand your thinking. Ask what it would be like to be in the other person’s shoes. What would it feel like? How would we want to be treated if we were in that seat? Could it be possible that it under certain circumstances it could be us one day? The wise saying, “But for the grace of God,” has a powerful reason to it.
  4. Sharpen your observation and understanding to learn about the entire person. Of course it includes the way they look, but more importantly, how they think, what they believe in, how they treat themselves and others. Get a complete picture and then ask for that mind extension to understand with even more compassion. (This also means being able to set healthy boundaries between others who could cause us personal harm).
  5. One of the great skills in developing a higher order of compassion is learning how to reframe. This is the ability to put a different “perspective” around a picture. When we learn how to constructively do that, the landscape and story changes. See Cindy Wigglesworth‘s exceptional book SQ21 and learn more about the power of reframing. You likely can’t become spiritually awesome until you learn how to do it.

A mind extension in the Triangle,



Two Great Ways to Overcome Negativity

Abundance Empathy Gratitude


Key Point: Learning how to “reframe” is a very powerful skill. Reframing is a term from psychology that is a metaphor for how we put a frame around a situation or tell a story about the things that happen to us. We apply interpretations to every situation we are in. The benefit from learning and practicing reframing is that we begin to realize that we have a choice in such interpretations and this gives us tremendous personal power. When we are negative and assign blame, we give much of that power away. Reframing is NOT about ignoring facts but it is about framing those facts in a way that puts your higher self in charge.

Two techniques to practice reframing that Cindy Wigglesworth, author of SQ 21, suggests are: A, Create an alternative story. B, Put yourself in the role of the “bad guy.” 

When you create an alternative story, it involves looking at something that one might normally view negatively through a different lense. A simple example could be when someone who causes an accident results in your being late for an important appointment. Instead of fuming at the incompetence of the driver ahead, you could reframe it by being relieved you’re safe and not in an accident yourself. By establishing an alternative story you can change your outlook. 

When putting yourself in the role of the “bad guy,” you explore what it could be like in their spot. For example, you could be standing behind someone who cut in line for a taxi. What a jerk, right? But imagine you’re this “bad guy”, and really your wife is about to give birth to your first child and you need to get there. When we do that, we think about the other person and situation differently. And more importantly, we put our higher self completely in charge of interpretation. 

Character Move:

  1. Learn to reframe and be in charge of your own interpretation.
  2. Practice the techniques of applying alternative stories and putting yourself in the shoes of the “bad guy.” You will benefit from engaging with increased compassion, and you will put that negative emoting and over dramatic ego, back in line. 
  3. Take a moment each day to think about just one or two things you are grateful for, (just before you close your eyes at night or when your brushing your teeth in the morning may work). Pretty soon you will pile up an impressive gratitude list.
  4. Do the above and people will notice how you have rebalanced negativity in your life, daily attitude and behavior.

P.S. Read chapter 11 in SQ 21 for a more complete explanation of reframing along with exercises you can practice.

Reframing in the Triangle,