The way my brain is wired is that I tend to not live in the moment. In fact, I tend to live in a moment yet to have happened. I live in the future, always leaning into what is about to happen and seldom reflecting (or at least to the degree that it might be healthy for me to) on the places I have traversed, the experiences I have made or, more importantly, made me. I especially don’t naturally take in the moment. It’s not that I don’t care. I care, deeply. I guess I’m just wired such that what I see vividly coming in the future is so vivid it steals my attention.
It’s not that I can’t reflect, or appreciate the moment; it just takes a little more discipline. It doesn’t come naturally to me; I have to be intentional about it. This past week, I seized a moment to live in the moment. The moment kind of forced me to because it was a celebration of what has happened, not casting what can or will happen. I had the privilege of returning back to an organization I worked at 15 years ago. Many old friends, many people that shaped me as the leader I am today.
When I first arrived at the organization I was young, more foolish than I’d like to admit, thought I knew more than I did, but excited for possibilities and potential. I was brought in to initiate new programs and initiatives that would add to the growing base of the organization. Here’s the fun part. What I was privileged to help initiate, others grew and built upon. I love that. I have a lot of ideas, a lot of thoughts, dreams and what ifs. I’m really good at having the vision and beginning the implementation of it. I’m not really that good at the maintenance piece, nor am I all that interested in it either. I love visioning, beginning, casting, launching, transitioning and creating. It fuels me! But, keeping that going once we arrive or achieve early successes at arriving at the desired outcome isn’t something that fuels me. Oh, I can do it, and have done it, but it’s just not in my 5 percent.
During my visit, I heard two comments that stuck with me. One person, whom I had never met, came up to me and introduced herself and said, “Thank you for your vision!” I was floored; totally caught off guard and humbled all in the same moment. Why? It was honoring. Not only to me, but also, more importantly, to the organization for taking hold of what, back 15 years ago, was just a dream, and now more than I could have imagined. It was an honor to the team that invested blood, sweat and tears. It was an honor to the people that contributed their best, their skills, talents, knowledge, ingenuity and belief. This lady, she didn’t know me, but she gave me the gift of gratitude. Gratitude for honoring what was crystal clear to me, what a few others caught a spark in understanding, and what a multitude of individuals connected together in collaborative ingenuity to execute and achieve.
The other gift I received was from a young man whom I used to spend a lot of time mentoring. I intentionally took him under my wing as best I could to try to show him what he had to offer the world. At the time, 15 years ago, he was going through some rocky patches in life. He was young, searching, questioning and, well, like any young man, probably having more fun than is healthy. He sought me out through the crowd and gave me a hug and said, “Thank you!” I could literally feel the authenticity of his words in the strength of his embrace. He continued, “You and one other person made such a difference in my life, believed in me and made me believe in myself in a time when my life was pretty messed up. So, thank you. I owe a lot to you for who I am today.” Wow! What a gift. Again, blown away. Humbled by his words, blown away by his gratitude and fulfilled by who he has become.
Two encounters, two individuals, two intersections of impact. As I was pulling back to take it all in, this thought kept crossing my mind. It’s an old Plato quote that we use in our work with forging organizational cultures: “Whatever is honored will be cultivated.” Never more true than in the moment of reflection and celebration. Never more true in the vision that was cast, the connections that were made and the collaborative efforts to make it happen, some 15 years ago. This organization honored the contributions of its people in such a way as to cultivate the outcomes which led to growth, expansion and ultimately making a difference that had lasting impact.
In our work with organizational cultures, we approach the ethos of the organization through The 5 C Approach: Clarity, Congruence, Connection, Creativity and Collaboration. My encounter with my past, experiences that shaped me, served as a perfect reminder of the five C’s. Creativity—it all started with the permission and ability to think outside the box and imagine a new future. Clarity of vision and mission—launching new initiatives that would propel the organization forward toward a new trajectory of growth. Congruence—aligning the values, people and strategies of the organization with the program. Connections—built through the connections intentionally forged through innovative initiatives with a Collaborative focus on how to leverage the best of who we are to accomplish more than any one person could take credit for.
I might have cast the vision and begun the movement, but I can only show my own gratitude for the people who have taken the seeds of possibility and transformed them into realized fruition. I gave my best, others gave their best and the organization is poised to experience the best because it honored an intentional culture.
Isn’t that the best part of collaboration? Each giving their best, never seeing one contribution as being greater than another, each offering input, each willing to sacrifice and no one taking the credit for something only a group of talented people could accomplish. There are examples of this all over the place, everyday, common, ordinary people contributing to the extraordinary accomplishments of endeavors that have been built on the clarity of vision, the honoring of purpose, mission and values, the intentional connections of people who leverage the best of what each offers to accomplish what no one person can take credit for alone!
Today: live, honor, cultivate and imagine!