The Best Leaders Know That December Isn’t Always Winter

by Alli Polin on December 20, 2016

December is the heart of the winter; cold and blustery. It means winter coats, and school cancellations and navigating the treacherous black ice. But not for everyone. In Florida and California, it’s probably still warm-ish and in Hawaii downright warm. However, in the Northern Hemisphere in December, there’s one thing for certain, it’s winter no matter where you live and how high the daytime highs top out.

Four years ago, I moved from Washington DC to Australia and December is the month that challenges the way my brain is wired more than any other. There are Christmas decorations everywhere, good cheer, it’s crazy hot and the schools are out for summer break. Even Santa Claus wears short sleeves as he hands out popsicles to the good boys and girls.

I will forever think of December as the winter, and all of my new Australian friends will never think of it as anything other than the summer. So, is one of us right and one of us wrong? (Trick question. The answer is clearly not.)

As I talk to people back home in the USA this holiday season, it’s hard for them to picture my life. Warm? Green? Fireworks? It doesn’t fit their holiday picture.

There are other things I’ll bet that you hold as absolute truths that do not generalize across the board as much as you think.

“This is the way it has to be done. I know because I’ve done it before.”

“We have to go this direction. There is no other way forward.”

“First you do this, than that. It can’t work the other way around.”

“Eat your vegetables, or you’ll never grow big and strong.”

Let’s be real.

All of these statements and every variation in-between are pictures that you’ve painted, but there are other colors, other dimensions, that you didn’t choose to include because you’ve never seen them first hand (or are actively ignoring them).

The Best Leaders Know That…

Leaders are like artists with vision – Not only the power to draw what they’ve already seen but also what they can imagine. 

Growing up on the East Coast of the USA my family and I went to the beach on Cape Cod every summer. The water was dark and filled with globs of seaweed masking the sand below my feet when I was only in up to my ankles. When I pictured the ocean, that’s what I saw in my mind’s eye… until I went somewhere with clear blue water. There, I could see my feet even as I waded in up to my waist. It wasn’t cold and didn’t take getting used to either; it was like bath water and something I only thought existed in the movies.

My mental picture of the ocean changed. The movies didn’t do it, life experience did.

The best leaders pass the paintbrush and let others create with them. 

Don’t be so sure what’s possible just because it was what happened to you.
Don’t be so sure what’s true for someone else is wrong just because it doesn’t match your truth.

It’s the Silly Season around the world – hot, cold, rain, snow and sun. Everyone has experiences that are different based on where they live, but more importantly, there’s a shared truth in the mix.

This season and in the new year, be someone who remembers that our experiences are not identical, but that does not define right and wrong. Instead, it confirms that there is always more than one way to see a problem and, of course, a solution.

BREAK THE FRAME ACTION

The next time you’re stuck, remember us Down Under. Turn your way of seeing intentionally upside down.

Ask yourself:

What else is true?

What if the opposite were true?

What if I’m wrong?

What’s possible if I let go of this path?

What’s the craziest thing that I could do?

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Lori Gosselin December 20, 2016 at 9:11 am

Hi Alli!
I struggle with geography when I communicate with customers, trying to remember what time it is where they are (do I say, Have a good day, or Have a nice evening?) and the seasons are a part of that. I think we have all been influenced by traditional Christmas movies, which always begin with a snowy scene before the title has even been shown on the screen.

As for who’s right and who’s wrong – what a topic! Personally, I use the paradox for my gauge. If there is no paradox, can there be truth? But my succinct answer is this: we’re all right. In my reality (world, climate) certain things are so and in yours, they are “so” for you. We can argue all day but both of us can prove that our truth is right. (I tend to keep the paradox gauge in my pocket and that thought to myself, except with people who really enjoy a good discussion!)

I do like learning that I’m wrong, for instance, when I feel something is a bad thing and someone can convince me it’s not bad but actually good. That’s another long story, though, isn’t it?

Lori

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zafarmanzoor December 20, 2016 at 10:55 pm

Excellent thoughts.
Yes, with good health, lot of time, a positive attitude / behavior, good communication, problem solving attitude, skills, motivation ….. A leader can do enormous things / jobs regardless of Christmases / seasons.
This life + family + health + friends are gifts from God.
Zafarmanzoor, Sr.Staff Engr, Pakistan.

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Karin hurt December 21, 2016 at 2:20 pm

Great post. It’s so important to surround ourselves with people who see the world differently– that’s been vital for me in my professional partnerships and teams. Yes, it can be annoying at first ;-)– but well worth it. Enjoy your warm holiday 😉

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Sam December 22, 2016 at 4:41 pm

Alli,
As someone living in the North East US I would love to have a warm December! I think it’s a great idea to look at something as an “opposite” like you said. It never hurts to learn a new perspective.

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Chery Gegelman December 28, 2016 at 5:08 am

Oh my! I love the point of this post and the stories behind it.

So many expat memories flooded my mind as I read about your idea of Christmas and what you now experience. My first Christmas here, we got our hands on a Santa Suit that was ok – but far too short for our chosen Santa. He was from Oz so we decided to have him come in flip flops. Some people loved our creativity, some were just happy to have Santa visit, others thought it was awful because it was not what they were used to. Each interpretation determined how each family experienced the event. Some were thrilled, some were pleased and some were so frustrated they were almost angry.

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Karun Kartik December 30, 2016 at 6:08 am

Fabulous post!

A timely reminder to consider other perspectives and opinions and courses of action instead of always imposing ‘my way or no way.’

Happy holidays!

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Alli Polin January 5, 2017 at 4:50 am

Hi, Karun!

Thanks for taking the time to read and comment. “My way or no way” is a way of leading and living I’m all too familiar with. Wishing you all the best in the new year!

Alli

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