My experience told me that unless someone put a specific plan together to sustain this teamwork, a sense of normalcy would set in and people would go right back to acting the way they had in the past. Without a sustaining strategy, leaders would reclaim their turf, the bureaucracies would reclaim their control over innovation, and the grief of a nation would turn to anger and resentment, killing the spirit of teamwork we so desperately needed. I felt so strongly about it, that I began to try contacting leaders to recommend new approaches to sustaining the best practices I had seen. But, the momentum was beginning to reverse and go downhill too fast. Most leaders were busy getting back to normal. No one had time to read or respond to new ideas. The silos of self-interest were beginning to re-establish themselves and take over the teamwork and leadership that had evolved so naturally in the face of disaster. The dysfunction seemed to reemerge like mushrooms springing up as naturally as the spirit of good will that preceded them. It was counted as success to be able to get back to business-as-usual.
Within a couple of weeks, before all the memorial songs had been sung, stories of labor disputes at ground zero and blame games and law suits had begun.
Soon conflicts erupted over what to do with ground zero, how to deal with Al-Qaeda and countries that harbored terrorists, or how to recover from the financial disasters that came with 9/11. Within days and a good 14 months before the decision to go into Iraq, our national leaders were again role models of division and disrespect. No longer did they rally around any united vision or person. I wanted to scream at televised reports and say, “Hay wait, hold up, we can do this together. We can all team up and find these answers. All you need is a facilitator!” But no facilitator came along, nor would one have been accepted. Folks became more vitriolic and entrenched in their turf than ever before. Hollywood notables began stoking the fires of discord. As if there wasn’t enough conflict, we began to find ourselves pummeled daily by celebrities asserting their views, as though someone had elected them to their high positions and needed their personal opinions.
Over the next few years we became a nation and a culture crippled by division and apparent hatred for our fellow Americans, whom we loved regardless of their politics on September 12, 2001. Congress and the Senate became our role models for hate speech, while they implored the states to pass laws against it. Al-Qaeda is still a controversy, ground zero is still a gaping hole in the ground, and our economy has begun an unprecedented meltdown. If we could have sustained the teamwork spirit that existed at the time of the tragedy, the hole in the ground would have surely been healed by now, our soldiers would not have to wonder about their support and respect at home, and our companies and government organizations would surely be better poised for economic recovery.
So now we are faced with The Audacity of Hope from our first African-American President. We have just experienced and incredible love-in on Capital Mall as Americans cheered the healing of our Land during the Presidential Inauguration. How long can we expect all the good will last? We are facing crises on many fronts, and Americans love a crisis. Can President Obama be a Trainer-in- Chief and teach Americans how to grab onto the excellence we know intuitively when we do our best work? He campaigned on a theme of change. Could that be the thing that might finally get us away from the reverence of routine and normalcy? These are the questions of the day and were being asked by news reporters, even before the inaugural balls had turned out the lights.
Throughout the inauguration festivities, reporters everywhere were heard asking how long His honeymoon with the American people might be. While we are dependant upon the right stuff from our President in leadership, he must count on all of us as well to do our BEST Work, which we do know how to do if we can get the barriers our of the way.