Do our boards act as if they believe this? Can they identify their - and your - strengths? Or do they choose to focus instead on all of the challenges standing in their way? Do they use those challenges as excuses to sit back, complain, and justify their lack of action?
This weekend, I rediscovered this gem from my friend, Hildy Gottlieb. It's part of a series introducing her Pollyanna Principles, a transformative paradigm for viewing, and acting in, the world.
While the principles carry great collective power, this one always resonates deeply for me - and reminds me of too many conversations I have in the sector. Frequently, it's an executive director of other senior staff member. Too often, it's a board member. Sometimes my own board peers. Sometimes me.
It's certainly easy to fall into the "but it's so haaaaaard..." frame of mind that Hildy describes - because it is hard. Leadership, especially leadership that transforms communities, is hard. It's also what makes board service worthwhile and what ultimately leads to successful fulfillment of our vision and mission.
A strengths-based way of acting and being in the world must start with our boards. They define and hold ultimate accountability for our mission and all of the resources gathered to advance it. How do we harness their individual and collective strengths in service to our mission? As board members, how do we hold ourselves accountable and focused on the future? What would happen if that focus began with what we do have (even if it's not a lot), rather than what we desperately need and will "never" get?
When we're in the midst of the troubles of today, it can be hard to "see" the assets that may be right in front of us. What exactly are our assets? Hildy offers four types to help us begin the conversation:
- Mission assets: "What you do"
- Human assets: "Who you know"
- Physical assets: "What you have"
- Community assets: "The mission assets, human assets and physical assets of everyone else"
It's a fantastic and energizing way to spend part of a retreat. But if we reserve our asset-based discussions and work for special events, we're missing the point. We're also doomed to fall short of our potential as a governing body and as community leaders.
I'm interested in sparking a conversation about how our boards resist the urge to wallow in what we don't have. How do we keep a strengths-based, asset-based focus in the boardroom? How do we govern from a position of power and pride, confident in our assets and our ability to build upon them? How can we lead from that strength and draw other community assets to our vision?
How will our communities be better because we've succeeded at doing so?