The meeting is wrapping up. Agendas and handouts are re-organized, laptops shut, bags and coats grabbed. The Board Chair states, ‘I want to go around the room and check-in with each person.’ She looks to her left and makes eye contact with the board member seated next to her. The board member replies, ‘good meeting.’ The next board member nods and then adds, ‘I would like to know more about how we select the firm that performs our audit.’ The third person to the left of the Board Chair states, ‘I still have questions about the draft contract we reviewed to engage the marketing firm.’ A few heads nod. The Executive Director starts to respond but the Board Chair assures everyone more details will be forthcoming. And the process continues as each attendee is given the opportunity to share. Some provide a thumbs up to signal all is well. Others reflect on the momentum of the organization’s growth. One individual alerts the group that they will be traveling next month an unable to attend the next meeting. The check-in takes just a few minutes. The meeting is adjourned and everyone scatters to their next commitment.
The act of the check-in, a moment of reflection, community catch-up or whichever term you choose is powerful. It provides a platform for each individual to share that which is most pressing, concerning, or might be helpful for the good of the order. Facilitators often use this technique when working with groups. What would it look like if a check-in was the final act of your next board or committee meeting? What would it feel like as a board member to share a final reflection or acknowledge an uncertainty?
Bold endeavors involve degrees of uncertainty. Athletic competitions are on my list. Viewing in-race photos afterward is always surreal. I know how the event turned out and yet at the moment of the picture (unless it is at the finish line) there is often uncertainty swirling in my mind. Uncertain thoughts include:
- Can I sustain this pace?
- Have I taken enough feeds at the aid station to avoid ‘bonking’?
- How can I overcome ______ (mechanical issue) and still finish?
- I should have worn a different layer.
- Will I make it?
- Am I still on-course?
The more ambitious the challenge, the deeper the uncertainty dip or, the longer it endures. Formidable quests are similar to swimming in breaking waves. The deepest troughs offer no visibility of the horizon and the anxiety of an approaching swell. The highest crests provide the sensation of weightlessness and a crow’s nest scan of the surrounding landscape but the reality that we will recede into the next trough. The constant ebb and flow create a dynamic environment. If we become complacent, the waves will wash us ashore or drag us out-to-sea.
The signature moments for many individuals is when we overcome the moments of uncertainty. When we sign-up for a heroic journey and intently venture into the uncertain world, only to return with a new perspective about the world we inhabit and ourselves, we have achieved the remarkable.
Sometimes we have to encounter moments that remind us why we do what we do. Occasionally, we stumble across a memory, place, or event. Other times the moment is created. Return to the summer camp of your youth and recognize the campfire songs and traditions. Immediately, you reclaim a formative experience.
How often do we query why people lack engagement with us? Why do only a few maintain the energy and passion of their first involvement? Perhaps we realize that our interactions are limited to a few unremarkable places at set intervals. What if we put them back on the ski trail and encouraged them to make another joyous run? What if more of our engagements started with anticipation and excitement? What if we thought of ourselves as storytellers who customize remarkable moments?
Full moons are not unexpected. However, they can be noteworthy. When two occur in the same month, the second one becomes a Blue Moon. The second full moon is the same as the first, but the sequence makes it unique.
Sometimes it is not what you do but when you do it. People donate goods and services every day. Often the impact is not evident because the effect is not visible. One can offer simple acts of kindness to their neighbor, taking out the trash, picking up a newspaper, holding a package until they return from a trip. However, if a neighbor suffers a catastrophe, the outreach from the neighborhood is palpable. Time of great need equates to more impact. Being prepared to act stands out. Sequence matters.
Johnny Carson’s gift to guests on The Tonight Show was his ability to be generous with his questions. He rarely told a cheap joke at the guest’s expense or attempted to tell a better story. His questions were strategically curious, drawing out the best from the person sitting in the chair next to him. Jonny was willing to ask for more. He calculated that his guest’s success would benefit the show for the years to follow.
How can we emulate Johnny and be less insistent about inserting our stories into a conversation? Ever stand next to a stranger at a party and have a remarkable interaction, later to realize that they asked insightful questions such that you spent the majority of the time talking about what makes you unique. Set people up for success and both of you will be rewarded.
Ultimatums are for your benefit. Promises are for the benefit of others. If we only focus on creating value, then either an ultimatum or promise works. If we aspire to be of service and create value, then a promise is ideal.
How do you measure progress? By the value created? By doing what is best for those you serve? Do you provide what is easiest or do you combine the unconventional and produce the remarkable? A promise reinforces your core values, which may be more important than any scorecard.
Seth Godin is the master of keeping it simple. I borrow his expression ‘doing the work that matters’ frequently. Seth’s blog post simplifies the difference between choices and decisions and our confusing of the two. We encounter choices in our real-time wayfinding process. What if we streamlined our efforts by making quick choices, so we open bandwidth to focus on the decisions that matter. Make a game of choosing by spinning a wheel, asking the opinion of the next person we encounter, selecting the adventurous route, or going left. Decisions impact the work that matters and requires time and information. Which TSA security lane to stand in at the airport is a choice. Which person to join you for a month-long expedition is a decision. Make time for the decisions that matter, few remember how quickly you navigated TSA, but many benefit from your decision to commit to the mission.
A template for a spinning wheel if you are game to choose differently.