Leadership Montana recently brought together two groups on opposite sides of a polarizing issue for a robust discussion. The American Prairie Reserve and United Property Owners of Montana sat down together for the very first time in Lewistown as part of our flagship session in February.
I have observed this issue for several years and recognized early the power for deep divides to form around it. As I watched more and more Montanans become aware of the growing controversy, those deep divisions became more and more evident. I hoped for a day when we would welcome both sides into a civil dialogue.
The dream that seemed impossible became a reality when the two groups engaged in a conversation for the very first time and with an audience, to boot! We spent several weeks building trust with both sides – not of each other, but trust with Leadership Montana was critical to a successful conversation where all felt safe and heard. A conversation that lasted an hour and a half required several weeks of preparation and diligence. We did the work because that conversation mattered to UPOM and APR. It mattered to Leadership Montana, the class, and to me.
We face no shortage of challenges creating division in our organizations, communities, and with each other. While we may not discover solutions on many issues, it is important to remember that conversation matters.
As Leadership Montana, we are all given tools to engage in hard, yet meaningful conversation. We find comfort in our silos, ignoring the invitation to engage. Talking to those who disagree with us is uncomfortable, to be sure. Yet it is in that discomfort that we experience personal and professional growth. It is how we grow as a society.
Here is my challenge to all of us…seek an opportunity to engage someone in conversation on a topic where you find disagreement. Dig deep into the skills LMT has given you to create a safe container for conflict and engage in a respectful, meaningful dialogue. If APR and UPOM can do it, so can we.
My very best,
Chantel McCormick Schieffer
President & CEO
Class of 2010, Masters 2019