Exhibiting Responsibility

The other day, I sent the above photo to Rebecca’s Private Idaho (RPI) Race Leadership Team. RPI is an Idaho-based gravel cycling event consisting of three major races. The photo captured a snapshot of trash I encountered on a popular trail the day after RPI’s first day of competition. As I stuffed used gels and discarded wrappers into my jersey pocket, I realized race participants had adopted a mindset that littering was acceptable (despite being asked to keep the trails pristine at the pre-race briefings). I sent off a quick email with three suggestions in hopes it might curtail racers from depositing trash on the course during the events.

What followed was a master class in responsibility. Rebecca (of local and national cycling fame) responded quickly, despite being in total demand as leader of the weekend, acknowledged there had been a volunteer breakdown. The trail was not swept (ridden afterward) with a crew specifically assigned to collecting trash. Further, she was sending out a team that day to take another pass and collect remaining items. Most importantly, she was committed to making an emphatic announcement about rider expectations at the next rider briefing before the largest part of the event. Lastly, I received an email with a photo showing a few additional pieces of trash collected by the follow-up team who had checked the trail by that evening.

I share this story because at no time did anyone try to dismiss the issue as unimportant. There was no way to confirm all the trail litter was from the race. The RPI event used the trail system and took responsibility for returning it for public use in good shape.

How might we take responsibility like RPI, even when the actions that cause friction are outside our control? If our name is on the banner, how do we live our organizational values to provide uninterrupted accountability? When we seek to create trust and authenticity, we say what we believe and then act in a manner that reinforces our beliefs. There are no shortcuts to integrity (or hosting a large cycling event).

Open or Closed?

In attempt to appear frugal and lean with our resources, we quickly fill a liminal space. Our fans and interested parties cannot tell if we are open for business and functioning with remarkable impact, or if we have shuttered our services as a victims of thriving inspiration blocked by insufficient fuel for the journey. How might we balance stewardship with responsible investment in the people and tools that matter? How might we work effectively without appearing to putting our own needs before those we serve?


Not your confidence. The confidence of those who believe in you. The people who believe you are worth their loyalty and support. Those that cheer for you and risk their social capitol to recommend your services to others.

What if confidence is broken? What if it falls apart? This is not about disappointment but a break in trust. If we are designing what is essential to our work, the confidence of those we intend to serve is at the very center.

Having a Moment


We know not when we are going to ‘have a moment.’ An unexpected encounter. A surge in demand for our services. Being in the spotlight, facing an exponentially larger audience. The tailwind of a lifetime to push us towards a personal record.

If we are uncertain of where we stand and our desired destination, we will not adapt quickly enough to meet the moment. The forces will outrun us, and we will be swept by the current of the audiences’ intention.

However, if we state what we believe, remain authentic, then we are assured of developing connections built on trust and a shared vision. The moment of first contact starts with a sustainable foundation.


Roughing-Up Humanity


When an airline drags a passengers off a plane and bloodies them because it wants to put employees on a flight, humanity is lost.  The hard work is recognizing the human element to every interaction.  It takes empathy and curiosity to negotiate challenging moments.  The easy work is enforcing policies.  The work that matters is seeing each individual in the crowd. When we ask better questions, we get remarkable results.  When we look at people as a way to manage the numbers we settle for the lowest common denominator.  Be brave, state your vision.  Show how humanity is being served.  Sometimes is just means keeping your promise.

Growing Trust from Broken Promises

John Oliver’s, Last Week Tonight on HBO produced a piece on the Miss America Pageant and Miss America Foundation that could carry ramifications and opportunities for the social sector.  His team investigated and revealed that the actual value of the scholarships awarded compared to the stated ‘provided’ value of the scholarships represent during the pageant’s telecast equate to an eye-opening difference.  John stated the pageant “gives out way less than the 45 million dollars in scholarships (he claims less than $4-million) and yet two, whatever the number is one thing does still seem to be troubling true…because even their lowest number is more than any other woman-only scholarship we could find.”  Instead shining the spotlight completely on the semantics and mathematical formulas employed by the Miss America Pageant and Miss America Foundation he challenged the audience to consider support woman-only scholarship organizations, such as: 

Society of Woman Engineers                              Patsy Mink Foundation                                    Rankin Foundation

I am not sure of the impact of this news story for the Miss America Pageant and Miss America Foundation.  It does not appear to immediately enhance the public’s trust in the social sector.   Perhaps the greatest opportunity for growth is that woman-only scholarship funds can use the conversation to share their purpose and offer a call to action.  When others break loyalty and trust, there is an opportunity to re-enforce the relationship each of us fosters with our own tribes.