Update as of August 12, 2013: The statement of our Values in Action that the board adopted is at this link.
So much meaty stuff to discuss and decide, so little time…
That was what it felt like when board members arrived at Creating the Future’s May 2013 board meeting with a huge list of issues to discuss. It quickly became apparent that the reason this was difficult was because the board had not yet created consistent parameters for making any of its decision, including the decision of what to discuss!
And as we teach in our classes, parameters are about putting a group's values into action.
While board members were quick to note that the Pollyanna Principles are the guiding principles for the organization, they also realized we had not yet had the practical discussion about what those principles would look like in action as the board makes its decisions. As we have decisions to make, how will we know what the right one is?
This is not unusual for a new organization. Values are discussed early on with the founding few who put everything in motion. Then the board gets down to the business of building the organization.
As new board members come on, it becomes more and more important to have a statement that defines not just the group’s values, but specifically what those values will look like in action – a statement that tells the world (as well as fellow board members), “This is who we are at the core, and what is most important to us. This is what we expect from each other, and what we encourage each other to aspire to. And most importantly, this is what all that will look like in the day-to-day.”
The questions that guided our discussion, therefore, were easy: What will each of the Pollyanna Principles look like in action when we have decisions to make? You can read the full discussion in the minutes and watch the board meeting itself (to see the discussion unfold in real time) all at this link.
First the board committed that yes, we will absolutely walk the talk of our values, to root all our decisions in those values. That affirmation is a powerful commitment in and of itself – a commitment not just to the organization and to each other as board members, but to the world we hope to impact. As Mark Riffey noted, “If we don’t root our decisions in our values, I would question why I’m here!”
Discussion also focused on the need for not just the board, but everyone involved with the organization, to walk the talk of those values. From staff and volunteers to any partnership we create with others – anyone who encounters Creating the Future must be able to count on how we will be in that interaction.
There was a powerful discussion of the need for systems to reinforce values, rather than reliance on individuals. The board vowed to operate as consciously as possible from the knowledge that individual failure is more often than not a sign of a systems failure.
And lastly, the board discussed the fact that we are all only human, with our brains that are hard-wired for fear. That means we must go beyond reliance upon the approaches we teach that, for the most part, render those fears unnecessary. It is about realizing that despite our best attempts to create those affirmative systems, there will be times when members of our team are feeling discomfort – and that in those times, we will vow to show compassion.
Before sharing the conclusion the board arrived at, it feels only right to share the words of our newest board member, Mark Eckhardt, who looked up at one point and said, “It’s gotten really quiet.” Then he breathed in and smiled, saying, “We’re in a really good place right now.”
What We Did NOT Discuss (and the LOUD Statement Made by that Omission)
As you’ll see in the minutes, this meeting was open for anyone to participate via Twitter, and you’ll see that Kent Schell was doing just that via Twitter. The amazing thing to note is that in over an hour of discussion, the fact that our meetings would always be open and participatory never came up – not once, by anyone. This is a board that just assumes “open and participatory” is how we “be,” that we don’t have to discuss it, because we walk that talk naturally by simply being it right here now.
That said, in the spirit of creating systems that outlive individuals, that core value is added to the list below – much of it taken from the board’s existing policy on just that issue.
Creating the Future’s Values in Action
- In every decision we make and every action we take, we will be mindful that we are creating the future with everything we do. We will therefore see every decision within that context, seeing means within ends and not as ends themselves.
- In every decision we make and every action we take, we will commit to walking the talk of our values – the Pollyanna Principles – and walking the talk of the practices and approaches we teach.
- In every decision we make and every action we take, we will honor each other, assuming that systems fail before individuals fail, and vowing to create systems that prevent bad things from happening by reaching for what is possible and calling upon ourselves to reach for that high potential.
- In every decision we make and every action we take, we will create systems that are compassionate and that zoom in on the “real” reality of the situation, being explicit of our assumptions and judgements so that our decisions are rooted in reality that is, to the best of our ability, empty of (or at least cognizant of) those assumptions.
- In every decision we make and every action we take, whatever we decide as the basis for the board’s decisions will be the basis for decisions throughout the organization and the basis of how we relate to others.
- In every decision we make and every action we take, we will hold dear the value of creative conversation and exploration, inviting open participation in every discussion unless there are legal reasons for keeping that discussion closed, or unless it would go counter to our other values (for example, treating others with compassion re: their own privacy) to have that discussion be held openly.
Inviting Your Help
For those who weren’t able to be present during the meeting – and to those who were – first, do these resonate for you? What stands out for you in this list of what we want to hold ourselves accountable for? And second, we invite your word-smithing. As you can see in the video of the meeting, these condensed statements were drafted during a 5 minute break in the meeting. Which means they could use some finishing touches.
Looking forward to your thoughts, observations – and your help with editing!!!