Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Wisdom Wednesday: Thinking & becoming


Years ago, at a time when I felt desperately stuck in what seemed like an impossible situation, I popped a tape from an Earl Nightingale audio book into the cassette player on my desk. As was my routine, I listened with one ear while I worked, letting the vast majority of his wisdom pass me by.

Except for this sentence: "We become what we think about."

I have no idea what prompted me to catch this particular statement, amidst all that I had ignored to that point. I have no idea why such a simple idea resonated as deeply as it did that day, and in the decades since. But it connected to what I desperately needed at that point in my life. It reminded me that we have the power to shape our own journey and, to a large extent, our ultimate impact on the world.  It, frankly, changed my life. It continues to shape virtually everything I do.

Recently, as I found myself needing a brief "Nightingale" reminder, I couldn't help thinking that this wisdom applies as well to our boards and where they spend their time and energy. I was developing a new talk on Governance as Leadership,  preparing to make my best case for devoting more space for generative thinking, and for embedding that work in our governance routines.

I asked myself: How are we helping our boards become generative governing bodies?

Where are we directing our boards' focus? Are we asking them to devote, not just equal time, but the best of their time on future-focused, high-impact questions and deliberations?

Are they reading and reflecting on the best possible pool of resources that inform their thinking about their work and our mission areas? Are their meetings centered on those generative and strategic questions that move us forward, into a future that we are designing, rather than letting it happen to us?

Are we supporting them in their leadership development? Are we respecting their wisdom and their capacity to build a powerful vision of the future around which we all can rally?

Perhaps most important to this topic: Do we encourage them to set a high bar for themselves and support their individual and collaborative efforts to reach it?

Are our boards thinking about the future and things that matter? If not, what are we going to do - today - to change that?

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