Turn Off the Shouters

Posted 03.04.2009

Toronto I’m back today from a quick trip to Toronto, Canada where I gave a speech on supporting next level leaders to the Strategic Capability Network.  While the trip was brief, I learned a lot on a couple of fronts.  First, it really helps broaden your perspective to get out of your normal environment.  Second, we are subjected to way too much shouting here in the States.

The first thing I noticed upon arriving in Toronto was how quiet and serene the airport is.  Those are not normally words I associate with an airport especially as someone who has been spending a lot of time at Dulles and O’Hare lately.  Before catching a cab, I stopped to buy a copy of the Canadian national newspaper, The Globe and Mail and the country’s top weekly news magazine, MacLean’s.  Looking them over in the cab, I immediately noticed the lack of sensational coverage in either of them – especially the Globe and Mail.

While unpacking in the hotel, I flipped through the TV channels for something to listen to.  Most of the channels were Canadian (go figure) and I landed on a Canadian version of CNN and then a little while later flipped over to the CBC.   Among other segments I watched was a 10 minute conversation on the prospects of environmental cooperation between Canada and the U.S.   I couldn’t recall seeing anything on that topic on TV in the States at all, let alone 10 minutes of it.

By this point, I was starting to realize how relaxed I was feeling.  I went out to dinner with some new Canadian friends and really enjoyed the conversation.  When I got back to the hotel, I decided since the Dow had dropped 4.5% during the day that I should probably check in with CNBC.  That’s when it hit me – literally.  The shouting and the panic were unbelievable.  They had a panel of six people on TV and they were all freaking out.  It was all “Why aren’t they doing this?” and “If they don’t do that, the world as we once knew it will never come back.”  It was more or less a group version of the on-air rant that their new poster boy, Rick Santelli delivered last week.

So, when I woke up the next morning, you can imagine how relieved I was to find this copy of the Globe and Mail outside the door of my room.  As you can see, their take is a little different than CNBC’s.  Maybe, just maybe, there’s another way of looking at this whole thing.

Globandmail Of course, if you’re subjected to a steady diet of talking heads shouting that the world is ending, it’s kind of hard to remember that.  To the degree that we look to the media to lead or shape our thinking in this country, I would say that, by and large, we are the victims of malpractice.  

One of the great truisms about leadership is that presence begets presence.  The people who rely on us as leaders are taking their cues from us.  How we show up determines how they show up.  If we’re subjecting ourselves to a steady diet of Cassandra like shouting, it makes it pretty damn hard to show up in a centered and reasonable way as leaders.  If your nerves are feeling a little jangly lately, I’d encourage you to step back and assess what your media diet has been of late.  If it’s consisted of a lot of shouters, turn them off.  

Or, take a trip to Canada.  They’re really nice people and they don’t shout at you.