A few weeks ago, I released my third book, titled Peernovation: What Peer Advisory Groups Can Teach Us About Building High-Performing Teams. Peer•no•va•tion (pir-nə-ˈvā-shən) combines the words peer (people like me) and innovation (creativity realized). It’s what happens when a group of people share common values, and offer different perspectives and skills, bring ideas to life.
I didn’t write the book to offer a framework for healing a nation torn apart. But when I woke up on Wednesday morning after the election, and it was apparent that a new administration would be leading this country starting on January 20th, I couldn’t help see its relevance. To that end, I’d like to share three fundamental ideas that Peernovation offers for our country.
America will heal, but it will take time.
Bringing this country together won’t be easy, but how we need to go about it is fairly simple. The common denominator for high-performing groups and teams is they have a robust learning-achieving cycle. People learn better when they learn together. They also give one another the courage (and the encouragement) to act on what they learn, and when it helps them achieve great results, they are further inspired to repeat the process. It’s how the best teams learn, grow, and constantly improve. We can do this, too. Excellence is a process. Healing a politically divided America will require us to learn and grow together. When we do, and when we start to achieve positive outcomes more frequently, we’ll repeat the cycle more often.
Healing will require Americans to embrace five factors.
A key finding from my research with high-performing groups and teams is that the learning-achieving cycle doesn’t happen by just putting a bunch of people in a room (or on the Zoom) and hoping for the best. There are five factors necessary to making that cycle possible. Here’s what the five factors (also a cycle) would look like for Team America.
- The Right People – In our case, the right people involves those who appreciate the beauty of our diversity and who stop seeing themselves as liberal/conservative, or democrat/republican, but as Americans first. It’s trusting that cooperation beats competition every day and that building upon what we can agree will be done for the good of the nation – accepting that each of us will not get our way every time.
- Psychological Safety – Americans will have honest, well-intended disagreements about policy, but we’ll never stop the grid-lock until we can feel safe to have conversations about our beliefs – no matter the forum and without ad hominem attacks and personal vilification. If we can start listening for understanding and stop judging, we might discover that we agree on more than we think.
- Productivity – By turning down the temperature and working together, we would undoubtedly start getting more done. Imagine a country where would celebrate accomplishments – not who won, who lost, or who caved. Why? Because everyone who participated in reaching a compromise that was for the good of the country would be applauded. As citizens, we would demand it of our media and our leaders.
- Accountability – If we’re more productive and getting more done, the expectations of the American people would extend beyond leaders giving partisan speeches and taking hardline positions; they would actually be held accountable for doing something – in much the same way you are required to do at your job every day. The more we hold our leaders accountable, the more confidence we’ll have in the process, and the more likely we’ll continue what we started in 2020 by standing up and being counted at the voting booth in record numbers.
- Servant Leadership – Having a president and other leaders across every state who believe they are here to serve the American people, not the other way around. That leadership is not about one’s own self-aggrandizement, but it’s measured in terms of an improved quality of life for their constituents. The completion of this cycle will inspire trust that appreciating our diversity and believing in one another actually makes a difference
The power of WE begins with ME.
The next four years and beyond will require us as citizens to accept responsibility for how much we matter. This is no time to wait for others to act. We need to set the example at home, at work, and in our communities. Civil rights, a woman’s right to vote, etc. were grassroots movements first. If we lead, our leaders will follow.
We get to choose. We can decide to set an example for other Americans and citizens all over the world. Together, we can do anything. We always have.