4/4/11 “Civility via Modesty”

Good day, team.
This week, I’m happy to send the second part of what I wanted to share about the subject of civility. The following comes from John Limb, the publisher at Oregon Catholic Press (OCP) here in Portland. After reading an editorial written by David Brooks in our local newspaper, John was quite impressed with how Brooks wrote about civility via modesty. Here are John’s comments and an excerpt from the editorial:

“The following is an excerpt from an editorial written by David Brooks as it appeared in a Saturday issue of The Oregonian a few months ago. It is excellent — perhaps the best editorial Brooks has ever written. Its subject is civility via modesty. While directed primarily at politicians, I think Brooks’ advice is good counsel for anyone in a leadership position. I recommend you read the whole editorial, but I especially like the following excerpt:

‘Every sensible person involved in politics and public life knows that his or her work is laced with failure. Every column, every speech, every piece of legislation and every executive decision has its own humiliating shortcomings. There are always arguments you should have made better, implications you should have anticipated, other points of view you should have taken on board. Moreover, even if you are at your best, your efforts will still be laced with failure. The truth is fragmentary, and it’s impossible to capture all of it. There are competing goods that can never be fully reconciled. The world is more complicated than any human intelligence can comprehend. But every sensible person in public life also feels redeemed by others. You may write a mediocre column or make a mediocre speech or propose a mediocre piece of legislation, but others argue with you, correct you and introduce elements you never thought of. Each of these efforts may also be flawed, but together, if the system is working well, they move things gradually forward. Each individual step may be imbalanced, but in succession, they make the social organism better. As a result, every sensible person feels a sense of gratitude for this process. We all get to live lives better than we deserve because our individual shortcomings are transmuted into communal improvement. We find meaning — and can only find meaning — in the role we play in that larger social enterprise.’

“I particularly like Brooks’ comment that ‘even if you are at your best, your efforts will still be laced with failure.’ That’s why we need one another to do our best work. That’s why we have co-workers to help us be the best we can be, both as individuals and as a company. I have been publisher at OCP for more than 18 years now. As OCP’s chief executive, I can certainly attest to this — both professionally and personally. These are good words to consider whenever we think we have all the answers or have the best answer or can’t possibly be wrong. As Brooks says, we are all ‘redeemed by others …We all get to live lives better than we deserve because our individual shortcomings are transmuted into communal improvement.’ May we all have the modesty to realize and accept this truth.”

Your challenge this week is to think about how important your co-workers are and show them your gratitude. Consider how often they help you become a better manager or offer you a suggestion that makes your life easier or create a new process that lightens your load. Realize how often your thoughts and ideas are only one piece of a much larger puzzle that could never be solved without the help of others. Be grateful for all the times you’ve made a mistake and there’s someone right by your side willing to help you out of the mess you’ve created. Thank your teammates for being there to support you and forgive your failures.

Understand that civility comes from the modesty to know that we cannot do any of this alone. Let yourself be “redeemed” by the people around you.

My special thanks to John Limb for allowing me to publish his thoughts about the editorial. He inspires many of us who are fortunate enough to work with him with his wisdom and dedication to servant leadership.

Have a good week!


Kathleen Doyle-White

Pathfinders Coaching

(503) 296-9249

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