I’ve been thinking more about building a common agenda amongst a diverse group of people. So how do we find a common agenda, when there are so many agendas at play? In addition to finding a common cause or root problem, we have to follow one of the steps found in Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People; seek first to understand and then be understood. It is important to start by listening before we promote our own agendas as we build a common agenda. Listening to diverse opinions, thoughts, and experiences is a key step in getting the important information onto the table; it is the place to start. That said, active listening is not easy and requires some skills which you can read about in other places.
Building trust among those of us with diverse opinions is, hopefully, an outcome of the listening that occurs. From where I sit building a common agenda requires the ability to relax into the trust of a group I’m working with and that the group will hold my interests, even if my personal/professional agenda is not at the forefront of the conversation. If I don’t feel that I’m being supported, then likely, I’m not going to be able to come to a common agreement about what happens next. If I feel that you have disrespected my experience or do not value what I bring to the table, in all likelihood, I’ll walk away from the table.
Over the years, in working with various organizations and various groups of people. I have heard, “We have got to focus on the outcome, we can’t afford the time it takes to focus on the process. We simply need to get over these issues and move on.” It seems the drive for productivity supercedes the need for understanding. Lacking understanding can be a real mistake. Groups run the risk of losing vital information that can shape the common agenda. It can eliminate some of the essential energy used to create the long term sustainability needed in order to actually achieve the common agenda.
As we continue to build and work towards solving issues connected to poverty, these lessons will be valuable. I will try and remember these along the way. I hope others can too.
Artwork courtesy of spring-blend.blogspot.com