Recently I posted a sort-of attack on Jim Pensyl, who had posted a sort-of attack on my community. Then an interesting thing happened. He withdrew his blog post and called me on the phone. That was unexpected. Almost nobody de-escalates that way. The two normal responses are A) abandon the debate, or B) continue the debate until everyone is exhausted or a stable point of agreement or disagreement is achieved. Jim chose a third way C) transcend the debate by bidding for a better relationship with his opponent. I want to try C more often. C takes special skill and guts.
Jim and I talked on the phone for two hours about testing and context, and in that conversation I think we forged a collegial bond. I think I know what he’s trying to do, now, and I suspect I can be more a service to him than a hindrance; and he to me. Considering how I felt before the phone call, it’s a spectacular result.
Collegiality is much needed in our industry. And I’m not talking about mere politeness or live-and-let-live passive rivalry. I’m talking about people who do the hard work of creating connections with each other that allow for differences while also constructively questioning differences. This is a matter of chemistry, sometimes. There are people whom I have been completely unable to connect with, despite my best efforts. It’s also a matter of motivation, because best efforts take a lot of energy.
My favorite colleagues are the ones that know how to criticize me and aren’t afraid to do it. Steve Smith provides a great example. I’ve known Steve for 10 years.
This has been a pretty good year for me, in colleague recruiting terms. I’ve gotten to know two new systems thinkers, Ben Simo and Matthew Heusser. And two people I knew before, Karen Johnson and Antony Marcano, have revealed depths of wisdom and talent I had not expected.
One colleague whose ideas are beginning to command my attention is John McConda, who just wrote this wonderful post about collegiality. Check it out.