What’s In a Name?: More Than Intended

November 29, 2009

I was born a Smith (along with all the originally pure people). However, at 28 years and as a newly minted attorney in Detroit, I discovered there were four other Larry Smith attorneys in the neighborhood. The day I received a confidential psychiatric report intended for another Larry Smith attorney’s client, I realized this problem could become more than a mere inconvenience.

After conferring with family and friends, along with my wife and two young children we all marched off to court and became Bridgesmith’s. That was the name we chose because Linda was born a Bridges and we honored both families in combining our two birth surnames. Neither of us can agree to this day whose “s” was lost in the transaction. I argue that it was mine, because the missing “S” is a capital letter. Linda won’t agree.

We’ve noted that the name we created is unique out there because we have found no other Bridgesmiths. Not even with the Internet. Although most assume I am the descendant of English masons who specialized in building bridges, I’m really of Scotish descent. We all know what the Scotch are famous for: whiskey and fighting (that’s because golf came first). There’s plenty of evidence that the genetic strain is strong in my ancestry (except for the golf part).

Who knew a name change 30 years ago could foreshadow the work I enjoy most? Building bridges between people and the organizations in which they find themselves is the most gratifying work I can imagine. I don’t anticipate retirement as an option because the work I get to be involved in is so satisfying.

And then, this guy named Steve Joiner became a colleague. Is that irony or something more intentional?

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H1N1: The Path to Health

November 14, 2009

My granddaughter recently had a bout with the dreaded “swine flu”. She’s fine, has recovered fully and loves the attention she received during her “recent distress”.

However, a moment at the doctor’s office when she was tested and H1N1 was confirmed reminds me of a truth our culture is loathe to embrace. The doctor announced the test results and added, “Now, you don’t have to get the shot.” She found great comfort in that reality. She believes the illness is more welcome than the inoculation. “From the mouths of babes!”

Our culture’s worship of comfort masks the value of embracing conflict. Young trees are made stronger by the winds which stress the root system and create a healthy support network. Children kept safe from germs in a sterile environment are far more likely to contract disease.  People who are willing to deal with the conflict before them are far more successful and emotionally centered than those who escape it at all costs.

Our aversion to discomfort makes us weak. Our avoidance of conflict renders us susceptible to the trauma of unresolved turmoil.

What if like the corporate culture at Johnson & Johnson, “We welcome conflict”? Might we become more resilient, more innovative, more personally and organizationally healthy?

Conflict competence comes from embracing the inevitability of difficult moments, acquiring the skills to negotiate these shoals and anticipating the opportunities seized by going there with confidence.

Who needs the inoculation when the real thing might be better for us?


How 3M Encourages Collaboration

November 2, 2009

In today’s business environment, it is always encouraging to see companies that encourage collaboration.  Here’s an article that appeared in Business Week that explains how 3M Encourages Collaboration.


Taking a Different Approach

November 2, 2009

Last week, the Institute for Conflict Management hosted 29 middle school students to discuss a different approach to conflict.  This is the first of six sessions for the 2009-2010 school.  Take a look at, Students Take Class Aimed at Resolving Conflict, which appeared on News Channel 5.