The #MeToo Movement and other current events reveal that society and human beings are experiencing a tidal wave of change. While there have certainly always been a multitude of global issues across the spectrum to deal with, many senior leaders and others I speak with agree that these new complexities are causing a level of uncertainty that has been heretofore unseen.
One result of all of this tumult has been the emergence of a new ROI for inclusion, belongingness, and collective intelligence, which I call the “Power of One.” At its essence, the Power of One is simply the belief that each of us can be more inclusive and connected, while also effectively promoting change individually and collectively. As the national narrative continues to rapidly escalate demand for leaders who can create a sense of trust in our organizations, it’s critical to begin valuing Power of One principles and understanding how they can help move us together in the direction of unification, and away from the proliferation of fragmentation.
At its essence, the Power of One is simply the belief that each of us can be more inclusive and connected, while also effectively promoting change individually and collectively
Here are some guidelines for learning how to use the Power of One to forge bonds of human connection that can create cultures of collaboration where everyone embraces diversity and differences:
Step 1: Understand the Value
At the root of the Power of One are basic principles that human beings at every level have a primal need to:
- Connect with others
- Feel a sense of belonging
- Create something bigger and greater than themselves
- Work toward a common purpose
Striving toward these goals gives each of us a reason for being, and answers the “why” behind our collective existence, whether as a team, organization, community, and/or society.
Step 2: Recognize What Gets in the Way
Despite the fact that we all share these common desires, it isn’t always easy to put the Power of One into action. There are several reasons for this:
- Our world has been defined by 24-hour news, which emphasizes divisiveness.
- Politics and social media inflame each of our own biases, which can create a frame of reference based on fear, lack of trust, and conflicting views.
- As such, we can easily become polarized by title, industry, and/or association by race, gender, age, ethnicity, etc.
Step 3: Know Your Frame of Reference
The result of the above factors is that we each have our own mental “movie,” which becomes our internal frame of reference. This individual filter colors how we see the world, affecting how we interpret situations and determining the people we interact with or avoid. It also influences how emotionally and psychologically safe we feel in different environments, and whether or not we do things that help others to feel safe and secure.
It’s important to identify your own frame of reference when it comes to inclusion and belongingness. Start to notice if there are times when you feel that you don’t have to—or will not—listen to someone with a conflicting viewpoint, or someone who has a different title or approach when it comes to decision-making or problem-solving. It’s our own frame of reference that inhibits us from truly connecting to others, particularly those who are different from us. So it’s critical to become cognizant of whether your frame of reference has been influenced by external noise, incomplete data, and/or social pressures that you are not even conscious of in your day-to-day interactions and decisions.
You’ve Got the Power
The Power of One calls for all of us to use the three steps above to help collectively realize the strength of human connection. We need to hijack the frequent mental fallback of snap judgments that lead us to see people who are different from us as “other.” We can facilitate this process by keeping in mind that the human brain is trained to take shortcuts based on false evidence appearing real—in other words, fear. This limited, fear-based “evidence” can lead to one person dehumanizing another person or group based on a hardwired—but nevertheless incorrect— association or assumption.
By tapping into the Power of One, you can recognize the value in two people having a meaningful conversation even when they completely disagree with each other. The Power of One shows us that despite differing opinions and viewpoints, it’s the interaction itself that increases mutual understanding and forges a stronger human connection. Unlike the rift that occurs by avoiding a difficult conversation or being unwilling to learn more about another person, the Power of One has the opposite effect, binding rather than dividing.
Many forward-thinking leaders already recognize the cultural shift that needs to take place across the board—regardless of gender, rank, association, or title—in order to realize the vision of the Power of One. I recently met with a CEO and his team, and the group shared with me that there was a lack of women in their senior ranks. While the leadership team noted that growing and advancing more women was a corporate priority, the CEO emphasized that the issue was less about diversity or gender and more about proving the business case around human connection. In other words, it’s about using the Power of One to change organizational mindset.
I couldn’t agree more. We can continue to work toward developing women at the leadership level and we should—but at the same time, we also need to connect women with men in meaningful ways to create a culture of trust and collaboration where everyone understands and values differences.
If we focus solely on one gender as the source of the problem that needs fixing, then we only create more exclusion and segregation between men and women. Instead of targeting change toward women only or focusing on social labels that reinforce our beliefs that we are different, we instead must place our attention on what we have in common as humans. It takes courage to disrupt traditional mindsets and narratives, shifting from a focus on “just me” to “all of us.” But it is only by internalizing this new way of thinking that we can begin together to point the way toward unifying our collective voice, strengths, and experiences to create something that—in aggregate—is much bigger than we could ever achieve alone.
Rebecca Shambaugh is an internationally recognized leadership expert, author, keynote speaker, and a regular contributor for Harvard Business Review and blogger for the Huffington Post. She is author of the best-selling books It’s Not a Glass Ceiling, It’s a Sticky Floor and Make Room for Her: Why Companies Need an Integrated Leadership Model to Achieve Extraordinary Results.