Monday, February 06, 2012

A Catalyst for Learning

Caring Doesn't Cost Anything. Not caring does. Caring continues to grow a community and that was tangible at Catalyst University in Kalamazoo, Michigan.
Speaking at Catalyst University was an eye opener for me in many respects. Hopefully you'll excuse the pun once I share my own learning because of this powerful event. 

Caring for community and the people within it is a driving force behind the leaders in Kalamazoo. What Southwest Michigan First does in bringing Catalyst University to the community is create an extraordinary 'container' within which one can shift their thinking, percolate on possibilities, benefit from the great minds and huge hearts in the room and, in turn, start "doing differently".

As a Coach, my job is to help people think differently, and view themselves differently. Asking the questions like "What don't you know that you need to know? Who don't you know who you need to know?"seemed to really resonate as I had quite a few conversations around the edges of Catalyst (breaks, lunch and post). People were sharing their interpretations of that and how they were going to integrate what I shared with them into their worlds.

Many picked my brain to see how they could integrate the models I use in my group and team work into their organizations and teams. And many thanked me for sticking around to have these conversations and to honor them by doing so. For me that's a given as in all the years I've been speaking and guest lecturing I will always stay around so the people in the room can connect the dots and have their questions answered. I never want to be so busy as to be able to stick around and get to talk with the people who take their precious time to hear me speak. My learning continues to be about talking with people as opposed to at them.

I love connecting with people through their stories; through conversations. Even when I'm on stage I want to see their responses, what's engaging them, exciting them and what might push their buttons. All creates shifts. My learning this particular time was difficult to say the least. I walked on stage, turned to the almost 600 people in the room and couldn't see a thing. Not only couldn't I connect with the people in the room, even visually, I couldn't see the monitors, timer, the video when it showed… I could hear it but couldn't see it. I was completely blinded by the lights. Because of the eye glasses I wear, my height and the positioning of the lights, I couldn't see anything. My first reaction was almost one of panic. My second was being grateful that I decided not to use the slides as I wouldn't have been able to see and speak to them. I spoke from the heart and shared some reality check questions with the people in the room. I learned that one can operate as much on instinct as preparation. What I do is as much who I am as a profession. That served me well. 

My second lesson was if I am completely focused on the people and not myself, then I could stay centered. That worked until towards the end when I asked myself how I was going to walk off stage without being able to see. Thankfully, once I turned away from the lights I could see enough to navigate the stairs. Once I was back stage in dim lights, my sight came back and off I went into a great conversation / interview. There would be time to process what just happened when I got home. I didn't want my personal experience to interfere with the people coming over to talk with me and the fabulous conversation I had about what I'll be doing with the future leaders when I return to Kalamazoo next month. My biggest lesson was how I will never again assume that the setup for a speaking engagement will work for me. That was something I took for granted at every talk. Now I'll check out the stage and position of the lights so this never happens again. The lights I want to see are in the eyes of those I'm talking to.
Someone asked me how they can pay their leadership forward. My answer is to open your minds to truly listening to what others bring to the table no matter what their age, title or position. Let them know what you plan to do to honor them in sharing their ideas with you. Help them make their ideas a reality.

Speak to them based on their story, not yours. Share possibilities with them, connect them to people who will help make their dreams happen and the ripple effect of your leadership will go well beyond your knowing.

We are the center of a circle, the circumference determined by our circle of influence. Join with other people and the circles and possibilities are endless.

At the end of Catalyst, Ron Kitchen, CEO of Southwest Michigan First (Leaders, Their Stories, Their Words, Chapter 2) asked everyone to answer the following questions. I'm sharing them with you (and my own answers) so you can answer them and positively impact your world.

1.    What am I personally passionate about?
Supporting people to achieve their level of excellence and to positively impact the world, even one person at a time.

2.    What needs to happen to bring results to my passion?

Teaching more, speaking more….working with students to help them see their leadership. Supporting other 'game changers' in their worlds. When we partner with others who have their own broad circles the impact is exponentially larger than our own no matter what our global footprint is.

When my book was formally launched end of November, 100 copies came in with damaged covers. I had to rip them off and send them back to the publisher for them to figure out what went wrong in the printing. They told me to do whatever I wanted with the books and that I could dispose them. I refused. Even though they were "naked" books they had value.

I sent a broadcast out through Twitter and my FaceBook asking locals for names of people who ran leadership programs in the high schools. I contacted them and because of the great responses, starting this month, I will be going into some of the local high schools with my "naked" books. I will be giving them to the students, doing personality profiling with them, and asking them to choose one story they will work on in triads and come back with their learning and action because of them. I'll spend a day with them up front, then go back towards the end of the program to see where the shifts have occurred. I will be donating my time and giving back to my own community.

I will continue to support the TED Fellows (which, by the way we do pro bono) and the Ronald McDonald Houses as we lived in one on and off for 18 years. I will also mentor 2 rising stars to help them evolve and continue implementing reverse mentoring programs in my clients' organizations.

3.    What can I commit to do today to make my passion a reality?
To remember to do what matters.

I commit to keeping the spirit of Kalamazoo and love of community and the people within it as a driving force in all I do, whether within Kalamazoo or elsewhere in the world, to always remember that people are behind everything we do and as someone who goes into communities, organizations, companies,  governments, and political offices, to be a steward and remember the basic tenet of stewardship which is "To do no harm".

And to always remember….no ceiling just sky.

I'd love to hear your ideas and action as to how you're going to dive into the deep end of what you're passionate about and make it happen.

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