Looking before you leap is the message of the world.
We tell our children to “be careful.” We reprimand and lecture people on “their tone.” And we subtly and nonverbally sanction those who get out of line, get off the train, or go in a different direction.
This tendency to caution people before they act on a different choice, shows the power of social proofing—we do what other people do because they do it—and it reinforces the negative tendency of bystander behavior—standing around when something goes wrong—and being unable to innovate when external factors demand a change. Stagnation, bystander behavior, and social proofing work in all organizations, whether they are small (four or fewer people) or large (nation-states).
Look before you leap.
The question on Leap Day is not: “What happens if I do leap?”
The question isn’t even: “What happens if I don’t leap?”
The question is: “Do I have the courage to leap?”
Having the courage to make a change, take an action, do something generous, collaborative, or outrageous, and to do in spite of the dominant culture of your organization is the essence of Leap Day. This courage has nothing to do with looking (you’ve already spent an inordinate amount of time looking already) and has everything to do with stepping out and saying: “I made this.”
There are always two objections to leaping:
What will happen if I am rejected? The answer to that question is: “So what.” Rejection—emotionally, psychologically, socially, or even materially—hurts, and human beings go out of their way to avoid it. Rejection comes in the form of refusing to acknowledge the difficulty of the action, criticizing the process and the outcome, and reacting rather than responding. The power in taking a “so what” stance, comes from knowing that the leap is the correct thing to do, and then doing it while saying to the people who reject the leap: “It’s ok. It’s not for you.”
What will happen if I am accepted? The answer to that question is: “Leap again.” Acceptance—emotionally, psychologically, socially, or even materially—feels safe, and human beings are driven to seek and establish safety at all costs. Safety comes in the form of acceptance, relief that the response to the process, or choice, wasn’t “that bad,” and with a feeling of calm. The power in “leaping again” comes from looking ahead, rather than resting, and in agitating to go deeper into relationship, rather than reaction.
This Leap Day, you’ve hid long enough, looking for a way past, a way over, or a way out.
-Peace Be With You All-
Jesan Sorrells, MA
Principal Conflict Engagement Consultant
Human Services Consulting and Training (HSCT)
Email HSCT: firstname.lastname@example.org