Community Matters: Critical Fork in the Road

Community Matters is a biweekly opinion column. The views expressed are solely the author’s.

As the U.S. withdraws troops from Afghanistan, there are discussions around the world about whether it’s the right course of action. It is a complicated decision, and it’s natural to think about the factors that went into the decision and what could have been done to produce a different outcome.

Recently, I have thought a lot about that moment in time when you decide to do the easier process instead of using all of the training you have received, all of the articles you have read and conversations you have taken part in, and go with the decision that is out of your comfort zone. When we think about what will make Arlington stronger, in all spaces, we have to be ready to push through the gray area of discomfort and come out stronger on the other side.

For example, I have observed teams thinking through the process of choosing a path related to diversity issues. Sometimes one person will bring up what they have heard or learned and apply that to the situation and another will bring up the traditional wisdom or the current process. Others may chime in to say that they see both points of view. Then the group has to make a decision.

Let’s say, for example, your team or organization has little diversity of any type, but someone suggests that there is a need to diversify. You may have a conversation about the true reason that you want to diversify, i.e. is it for appearances, is it because you want to change the quality of your product or service, is it because you want to do your part in ending structural racism or simply doing your part to create a more inclusive society?

Next you decide what you will do — will you essentially continue on the same course (which may be easier, less work, less expensive and less vulnerable) or take a step in the other direction. These are a few proactive steps which may make the decision easier:

Ensure diverse voices around the table. So many of our organizations struggle with not only recruiting diverse people in the organization but finding ways to retain them and make them feel like they belong and have a voice at the table. When you are at critical decision making points, your discussions will be richer if you have the right people at the table. Until then, start from a place of wanting to grow and do the best for your organization and society based on your organizational values.

Test people’s true intentions. This may be a little more controversial, but whether it’s through your recruitment or one-on-one conversations, I believe you need to know where people stand before it gets to a vote and discussion and you realize that their values are not aligned with the direction of the organization.

Make sure your training and conversations (diversity or in general) address potential challenges to different ideologies. A lot of groups are taking the right step by training and having important discussions on different topics. During the training, make sure you discuss potential challenges and be prepared to address the more difficult parts of organizational growth.

As we all make progress in growing as individuals and organizations, let’s be prepared to make the small and large decisions that will truly make Arlington a world-class community.

Krysta Jones has lived in Arlington since 2004 and is active in local politics and civic life. This column is in no way associated with or represents any person, government, organization or body — except Krysta herself.