An idea comes to life
For I don’t know quite how long I’ve been chasing a concept that was both intriguing and elusive. The journey began incidentally enough that I don’t know what started it or when it began but one of the “stinging” moments I remember calling me viscerally to it was when I first heard the poet David Whyte talk about how he had come to work in corporate America. A CEO approached him at a conference and said, “the language we use inside of our business is not ‘large enough’ for what we’re trying to accomplish”. The CEO went on to say he needed to inspire his people to push farther and dream bigger and traditional “business speak” just didn’t do it but perhaps through poetry and deep conversations they might. I remember feeling so called by that statement. “Yes! Why aren’t more workplaces inspiring?!" While for some of us the desire to enjoy more is a greater motivator than others what I do imagine being true is if we were to poll 100 people asking, “would you rather work for a company you were proud of and inspired by, indifferent to or disliked”, something tells me 100 people would respond "inspired”. It doesn’t have to be our life’s work per se but if we’re going to spend that many hours at work why not find some level of joy in it?
This lead me down a couple roads that initially centered around, “how might our company inspire our clients?” But over time it dawned on me that in order for an organization to be inspirational to clients in the long-term, one’s ability to feasibly do that hinges on whether or not the employees who work their are inspired first since they help make the company possible.
Fast forward who knows how long to some six or eight months ago and I was really starting to feel some progress and clarity around this even thought it was still a bit obscured. I was having trouble nailing it down and getting clear on what I was trying to do. Just over 5 weeks ago, as things were continuing to crystalize but not in a structured way I met with a friend and former nonprofit board collaborator, Jon Keating. I was pitching him on my concept to get his feedback and when I wrapped it up rather than launch into feedback he asked if I’d like his help bringing this to life. I have a great amount of respect for Jon’s mind and passion but I was so caught off guard I told him I needed a day or two to process his ask. As I reflected on it, I was almost overcome by how desperate I was for the kind of help Jon could bring to this without having even realized it. I am a big picture, idea generating, capable public speaker who is all-too-often woefully disorganized. I have often described myself as “more of a starting line and less of a finish line person”. I love launching forward but wrapping up a project, dotting the i’s and crossing the t's has never been a strength or interest of mine.
Jon is a detail-oriented, operations guy who just also happens to resonate heavily with what I’d been thinking about. Over the summer when I arrived home from the hospital after jaw
surgery, a care package arrived in the mail from Jon and his wife Chrissy and with several thoughtful things including the book Heroic Leadership. This book in many ways launched Jon down his own path, which he refers to as “love-based leadership”. We both dream of and believe in the ability of companies to respect their people, while giving them the freedom and responsibility to own their roles.
One week after our meeting we had a business arrangement drawn up and signed that gave both of us easy outs for the first couple months, requiring us to come back and revisit the terms after things got out of the gate. In the days since then, which included the frantic holiday season, I witnessed Jon stress test my ideas, set up guard rails for them and create
common sense process flow patterns that just don’t readily emanate from my brain. Jon has sweated the small stuff and has given me space to unload my brain of a ridiculous amount of stats and sources, helping to catalogue them while also beginning to add items based on his own business and texts that have shaped him.
A couple days post the launch of the website I am excited about where this might go but also have my eyes wide open the often humbling path of business and the number of organizations that ultimately don’t make it. That said the outpouring of support from people has been energizing while intriguing meetings begin to fill our calendar. Where this all goes and ends up is a mystery but I feel ready for this adventure and am lucky to have a strong partner in it.
Here’s to a new bold chapter
"Our human essence lies not in arrival but in being almost there: we are creatures who are on the way, our journey a series of impending anticipated arrivals"
Excerpt from "Close" by David Whyte