Awesomeness & Reflection

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What is the path of your life, that has brought you to the work you do?  And what are your dreams for the future of your community?

Every time I begin a training or facilitation or even sometimes a keynote address, I ask people to turn to their neighbor and spend a few moments asking and answering those two questions. Every time, the room comes alive with chatter and laughter and gesticulating hands.

Later in the session, I often ask, “How many of you know the person you just introduced yourself to better than you know the people on your board?” Uneasy chuckles and sighs are typically the response.  And at the end of the session, when I ask folks to reflect on what stood out for them during our time together, I can always count on several people commenting on the impact that realization has had on them.

Boards are expected to work together as a team, working and playing well with others, wrestling through huge issues on behalf of the organization and the community.

How can we expect them to do that well if they don’t know each other?

Awesomeness & Reflection
Creating the Future’s board is flung across the breadth and depth of two countries (with two whole ‘nother continents in our coming-up-next sights!). We meet by phone and video, with lots of email between meetings. Those logistics make it even more important that we get to know each other in the time we do have together.

And so we have instituted two rituals to help with that – one as the first item on every agenda, and the other as the last item.  (Click over to the minutes of our meetings, to see that these two items are important enough to this board that they are included in both the agenda and the minutes!)

The first item on the agenda of every meeting is Awesomeness. It is named after a grand diatribe in a YouTube video about the James Webb space telescope, wherein Hank Green declares,

“There are two ways to make the world a better place. You can decrease the suck, and you can increase the awesome… And I do not want to live in a world where we only focus on suck and never think about awesome.”

During the first 15 minutes or so of Creating the Future’s board meetings, each board member shares something awesome that happened in his/her life in the past few days. 

This has several awesome effects that I’ve observed – and I hope other board members will dive in to share their experience. First, sharing what is important in our lives gives the rest of the board a monthly glimpse into each other’s true spirit. We talk about family and we talk about accomplishments and we laugh together and celebrate together. That makes it a lot easier to understand where each other is coming from as we plan for the future of this movement we are building! 

Just as important, though, this moment allows us all to stop and leave life’s hecticness behind. We become very present to each other and to the cause we are all there to support.

Which brings me to the last item on our agenda – Reflection.

If there is one thing we citizens of the 21st century do not take enough time to do it is stop and think. And even those who do take such time rarely do so with other people, where we get to riff off each other’s thinking.

And so the last item on every one of our agendas is Reflection. We ask folks to look over the notes they may have jotted down during the meeting, and to share what in particular stood out for them about the meeting.  

It is again very grounding to learn about each other in this way. And it is also a great seque to ongoing email conversations that can carry us through to the next board meeting.

What Are Your Board’s Rituals?
We hope these two items encourage you to implement your own board rituals – traditions that create a culture of wisdom and grace for your work.  

And if your board already has such rituals in place, please share that awesomeness right here!

What board rituals have you experienced, that help board members get to know each other at every single meeting?

And what rituals have you experienced that encourage board members to reflect and think together?

And when you share – please share the impact of those rituals as well. Thanks, gang – can’t wait to see what great stuff is being done!

Photo Credit: “Reflected Awesomeness” (Douglas Spring Trail, Saguaro National Park, Tucson, Arizona) 2012 Hildy Gottlieb

5 thoughts on “Awesomeness & Reflection”

  1. This is awesome! 🙂 The opening ritual would truly bring a spirit of positive thinking and energy. I imagine the final closing reflection would most likely be one that mirrors that opening energy. A concept that can be used not only on our boards but in our businesses and even in our everyday family life.

  2. Jan and Karen:
    One benefit I’ve just come to realize is that by being very human with each other to start, we are making it easier to understand where people are coming from once we DO get down to business.

    Let’s say Board Member A’s style is to be a wise-acre, and we see that in the way she describes even the awesome things that happen to her personally.

    Later in the meeting, A will likely have some wisecrack about more serious matters. And without having seen that that is just who she is, we jump to all kinds of conclusions, either about A herself, or about the issue, or etc.

    But knowing A just likes to insert humor, we move beyond speculation and even beyond “knowing how to deal with it” – we get to actually APPRECIATE and laugh with A!

    That realization was huge for me – to see how much we change the dynamic of the whole meeting, just with that one small piece.

    Which is a long way of saying that I hope you will share the results when you guys try this!!

  3. There is another very important thing that starting with Awesomeness does, that sets the tone for the rest of the meeting at the physiological level: it opens up our brains for positivity and creativity, and shuts the door on fear.

    Combined with another common opening exercise, where we ask “what is the highest potential for this meeting today, for the community that we serve?”, members recognize that they are in the presence of possibility. It’s a reminder that we have an accountability for creating change, and for making it practical. Two very powerful approaches.


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