Values

Done But Not Over

Imagine announcing ‘this is a wrap’ to a sold-out, best-in-class gathering that consistently improved over ten versions (thirteen years due to pandemic disruptions). An event attended by super fans, individuals so inspired they broke numerous world records for fun, including this year’s iteration with the most individuals dressed in T-Rex costumes.

When we build something magical, authentic, memorable, and one of a kind, we might consider adopting a river mindset. We are visitors to the confluence point between individuals and events. The main channel moves forward at some point, and the merge is complete. We cannot stay forever at this liminal boundary where two things combine, but we might capture the spirit and retell the stories. These imprints will serve us well as we encounter what is around the bend as we navigate the next section of the canyon.

As Barry Lopez reminded us, “Everything is held together with stories. That is all that is holding us together, stories and compassion.”

Thank you, World Domination Summit, for a transformational journey and living the values of community, adventure, and service. It was remarkable and shall live on.

Is Your Purpose A Lottery Number

If we are committed to what we believe, we are willing to restate our purpose repeatedly. We are OK with the quick pick option if we consider it a game of chance.

Which core values are you not willing to sacrifice because they are fundamental to your quest? Which tactics are considered a roll of the dice? If we are not playing the same numbers in every drawing, then we should recognize the outcome does not matter. We have signed up for the adventure, but the work that matters comes with dedicated effort.

Hold On

When racing in a mass start event, should our primary focus be to hold onto the fastest possible competitors or be a contributor to the a pack’s success? Is it more rewarding to struggle and suffer to be the final member of a group to reach the finish. Or, is it more rewarding to have raced as an active leader, contributing at the front when possible?

I have spent numerous kilometers suffering to hold the wheel, skis, shoes, and draft of far superior athletes. They have dragged me to better performances than I might have managed during a solo effort. However, I feel a bit unfulfilled at the end. If I simply hung on at the back of the pack, I contributed little our collective success.

I have spent more time actively pace-making up front. I feel more of a reward at the finish and it aligns with my personal values. Even if a ‘hold on’ member of the group out-sprints us all at the line in a sudden burst of energy, I helped set-up our group for success.

If I measure results, the hold on method probably yields higher placings. If I reflect on personal satisfaction, the active leader yields better stories and deeper connections with those I supported.

No right or wrong. Just a reminder that individual choices and talents are not always visible on the result sheet.

Navigating from the Past

When we navigate using the constellations and stars in the night sky, we rely on light generated in the past. A few stars might not exist in real-time, their fate unknown to us since it may take hundreds of light years for current illuminations to reach us. So, we proceed confident the past will secure our coordinates.

When we plan, we review. We take what we know now and attempt to rationalize and transpose it onto the blank canvass that is the future. We make broad assumptions and overlay current conditions. If we want a tropical vacation in 2023, we believe that historical weather patterns will hold and we can rely on Hawaii to meet certain atmospheric parameters.

There is no fault in this approach, it has served us faithfully in many examples. Mondays have a familiar routine compared to Saturday and we can account for trends. Except when the past does not equal the future.

Where do we turn in these moments that break the blockchain? We navigate from our values and training. Our values are behaviors that are foundational and we will not sacrifice except under extreme duress and our training is what we practice (intentionally or not) on a regular basis.

Fire departments hold drills to reinforce training and values. Laddering a building is not the most complicated task. However, footing a ladder on uneven snowy ground in thick smoke, while flames roll out of a second story window, and rumors of entrapped occupants circulate; that is when the stars are obscure and we cannot easily consult the plan. We adapt, get creative, deploy our resources to maximize our talents, and rely on our training and values.

Many fire departments share a motto that is paraphrased as follows: we take reasonable risks to save property, we take a lot of risks to save a life. Values matter and they are often most visible when the conditions are extreme.

When we plan, do not forget to confirm the values of the people on the expedition. If everything goes as predicted the plan may succeed as scripted. However, when the conditions change to challenging, our values will override the plan and new options and decisions must be considered.

How might we make time during our planning to confirm our values? It might be the best planning decision we make.

People Before Buildings

Recreational Equipment Inc. (REI) is selling their brand new custom built headquarter building. They never moved in despite designing a facility that captured the essence of outdoor lifestyle and embraced nature. Rumored reasons for abandoning the HQ include, raising cash for the balance sheet, changes to workplace requirements, and pivoting to a new business model. Five years ago, REI was a leader in closing stores on Black Friday. Instead it started the #optoutside movement, encouraging people to engage in an outside activity over chasing retail sales. REI chose people over buildings.

It is easy to think that our facilities as the essence of our being. Where we do what we do defines our stories. We have been encouraged to choose our travel lodging based on the ammenties of a hotel or airbnb. Ice machine of every floor, pet friendly, workout facility with new machines, and 24-hour room service might make the difference in selecting our overnight lodging. But if the people who work within the building do not care, it cannot overcome the luxury.

If we lead with our core values then we can see how REI decided to forego their dream HQ. In the first half of 2020, they laid-off employees and closed stores. The optics of moving into the headquarters would amplified the misguided ethos of managing image over leading people. Instead, they were willing to put the moving trucks on hold and revisit their decisions. REI asked “how might we” and the resulting choice was a different path. A journey which may create more loyalty, greater trust, and a better future.

Blind Corners

When our line of sight is limited, we have choices. Speed up, maintain pace, or proceed with caution. Our sense of place and mindset impact our ultimate decision. Driving on the interstate, we can expect the road is engineered to support the speed limit. So a curve should not result in radical deviation. Mountain biking down a flow trail, we can expect banked corners to accommodate the speed we might be carrying from above. In a high alpine backcountry setting we might anticipate some thoughtfulness in trail design but if the vertical exposure is sufficient, we might decide to decrease our pace.

We encounter blind corners all the time. We can not see into the future far enough to anticipate the terrain. If we previously traveled a path it is easier to approach with a sustainable pace. If the trail is new to us, we might settle for a cautionary approach, allowing us time to adjust our course.

The recent months have presented a series of blind corners. COVID, financial recessions, virtual workplaces, Black Lives Matter, and masks. Some enterprises saw a chance to accelerate into open space. Others pulled to the shoulder of the road with their hazard lights ablaze. Each organizations saw their approach as best. Blind corners tend to amplify our beliefs and values. If we see each opportunity as a challenge to maximize our talents, then we might proceed in sports mode. If we believe we are playing the infinite game, then we might downshift and cover the brakes, confident we will be able to continue to journey.

How do our choices amplify (or derail) our core values? Have we built trust and loyalty because we acted in concert with our beliefs or have we created factions in our team due to misalignment? Are we still on the road or have we spun out into the ditch?

Pay for Performance

p4pHere is a conversation that may find its way to your boardroom in the next year.  Do nonprofits need to pay nonprofit board members?  The National Association of Nonprofit Organizations and Executives (NANOE) is advocating a change to the role of a board member and nonprofit executive.  The headline grabber is NANOE’s belief that nonprofit board members should receive an honorarium for their service, and a strong CEO focus on money over mission.  The Chronicle of Philanthropy provides a in-depth look at the movement.

The ascension of this discussion brings a conversation opportunity to the board room.  What does your organization stand for?  How does its behaviors match the stated values?  What actions would constitute a breach?  What is essential to the serving the board?

Would your organization pay for performance?