This is an old engineering saying. It’s also good advice in every other walk of life; whether you’re leading an engineering team, a hockey team, or a wealth management team. Author David Salter, who interviewed me for his Patriot-News article on incivility in sports got me thinking long and hard about the topic. (Great writers get you to do that) Since today marks the 11th anniversary of the 9-11 tragedy, I’ve composed some thoughts on incivility.
I do not believe our country is just experiencing a lack of civility; we are really experiencing a lack of leadership. Alot of fixing blame rather than fixing problems. We are leading the youth of America by example and when there is a lack of positive role models for them to look to there is a trickle-down effect and we see incivility in youth. Every day we witness (and some participate in) incivility and bullying in politics, in the workplace, and even on the roads. Why then are we surprised to see it in our schools and on the playing fields?
I believe we’ve lost a common sense of purpose in this country. I see this in my consulting work; the number one problem plaguing most client’s organizations and teams is a lack of a collective sense of purpose. It kills employee engagement and job satisfaction and those two areas have a massive effect on results. Remember how civil people were to each other, not just in New York City and Washington D.C. but all over America in the weeks and months after 9-11? The further we got away from this tragedy the more that civility faded like a sunburn.
We are experiencing turbulent times and there is a tremendous amount of research indicating that when the national stress level increases so does incivility. Stressors like: unemployment, recession, the political environment, and the war on terror all cause people to be less civil less tolerant and more apt to respond with anger. How do you counter this? To quote Ghandi, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” Don’t just plant a flag in the ground tomorrow for the 9-11 anniversary, plant seeds of civility tomorrow and every day. Civility is about leadership and a personal responsibility in daily excellence.
You alone can’t change the world but you CAN make your small part of it a better place and that is contagious.
So I encourage you to honor those who gave their life in the war on terror thank every service man and woman you meet and practice civility like we did the weeks after 9-11. Most importantly don’t just do it today on the anniversary of 9-11 , do it every day. Don’t let civility fade like a sunburn.