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Diversity, Leadership, Uncategorized

The Human Spirit at Work

April 21, 2013

I received an incredible email this past week that showed me the power of the human spirit. I have been doing some work at a local high school to help student leaders create change and bring unity to the student body. Below is an email I got from one of them about the actions she is taking to cause this to happen.  Sometimes it just takes intentional actions like this to create a ripple effect of compassion. I was completely blown away by #2 and names are changed to keep their information confidential.

1) I want to give a compliment to someone everyday, because its important for a person to feel great about themselves so that they are able to have a positive mind throughout the day! It builds someones confidence and its just a caring detail!

 
2) My second goal is to call Sammie! He is someone that I have reached out to because I felt that he had no friends! He is blind and I felt that he is missing out on having a friendship in high school! He may have people around him sometimes but I want to be a person that he can call a friend and connect with! I have been so busy that I have not had the chance to contact him! 

Absolutely amazing.  Have a great week.

Diversity, Leadership, Running, Uncategorized

We do this together

September 23, 2012

Today I had an amazing day helping with the Let Me Run Coaches Training at our office. I put together the below video to show the incredible story of my boys this past spring. It reminded me of the the importance of allowing people to experience each other for who they are. And the video reconnected me with how much I loved coaching those kids. I have never seen anything like what happened that afternoon on race day. Hope you enjoy!

Culture, Diversity, Leadership, Running, Uncategorized, Volunteering

How they let me be me

June 14, 2012

I recently finished coaching my spring Let Me Run team when my boys all ran a 5K together. They sure are incredible kids, and I learned so much from them over the last seven weeks. It was really one the greatest experiences in my life. So what did I learn from them?

I learned the importance of having some fun. At our last practice, we had a competition to see who could do the best soccer goal celebration.  Ja’Wan clearly won this contest below. It was a “laughcry” for me. That is my term for when you laugh so hard you cry.

I learned about the excitement of a big race through the eyes of a group of young people. It was a great reminder to me about keeping life simple and treasuring each precious moment.

I learned the real meaning of unity and doing something together. After most of the boys finished on Saturday, we realized our last runner, Ja’Wan, was still out on the course. The boys wanted to find Ja’Wan and finish with him so we could all do it together. Several people at the race noticed what was happening including the Charlotte Observer. They wrote a really nice article about the story in Sunday’s paper. Most importantly, what do you think it meant to Ja’Wan to have his teammates come back and support him in such a positive way? And it clearly impacted all the people watching.

I learned the importance of giving people the space to open up. At some of our practices, many of our boys shared stories of losing loved ones and other difficult events that no person should have to deal with. After some of these conversations, you could see the boys feeling lighter after having the space to express their emotions. The great thing is now they have some tools to continue this practice. And they created some wonderful friendships to keep this going.

I learned what it feels like to have someone run up and hug you for no other reason than to just say hello. Many of the kids did this before each practice and it always re-centered me on the real purpose of being with these kids.

I learned that young kids can completely energize you. They run around without a care in the world and many times only care about when they can “play” again. I was reminded how it important it is to have plenty of time to “play” in my own life.

I learned that friendships can happen between two people at any age. My other coach was a 64 year old man, and we couldn’t have connected more as friends. He was a major part of making this such a great experience. Joe is also incredibly passionate about giving back and being with our youth.

I learned what it means to be a team and achieve goals together. It sure was special to see all of our runners complete the race. Seven weeks ago they all set a goal to finish the race, and they all did it together. I am very excited to stay connected with these kids and watch them grow over the years.

I learned how enjoyable it can be to surprise someone with a little gift. I surprised my boys on their last day of school with framed pictures of them at the race. Thanks to my friend Caitlin for the idea! However, most of them just wanted to know if I had any extra medals. It was amazing to hear that “Coach Jon is here” and see them come running.

Most importantly, I learned that when you find the courage to just be yourself, many times you invite others to do the same. I know my boys sure did this for me, and it really allowed me to open up and be authentic with them.

What extraordinary lessons from an amazing group of nine and ten year old boys. My Nations Ford team sure personifies the meaning of co-creating a culture where one plus one is more than two. And they let me be me.  Have a great week.

 

Culture, Diversity, Leadership

Leveraging Difference

February 14, 2012

I am currently reading a fantastic book called Immunity to Change by Robert Kegan and Lisa Lahey. One particular quote in the book really struck me about why Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s leadership created a movement. Since we are all reminded of his incredible legacy every January, it is interesting how I came across this quote right around his birthday.

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Kegan and Lahey discuss how “Ron Heifetz once wrote that Martin Luther King Jr.’s leadership brilliance was his ability to reconstruct the civil rights movement from a struggle between white people and black people (which divided the nation) to a struggle between America’s national ideals as represented in the Constitution and her then-current realization of those ideals-a struggle in which, at least potentially, all could join together.” It is extraordinary to me how Dr. King re-framed a very difficult issue into something that could unite us. I think I read this quote five times in a row and couldn’t stop sending it to friends.

I could certainly spend a lifetime discussing Dr. King’s amazing accomplishments, but I want to just focus on what I learned from this particular concept. The idea that we could spend more time finding common ground with each other instead of engaging in conflict.  We are all different by race, age, gender, job, background, education, etc., so what if we used these differences as learning opportunities to make better decisions?

It’s like this little puzzle picture below. If I am the little red guy, look how much larger my world is when I am connected to others who are different from me. Without this connection, I am just a lonely puzzle piece…

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A professor up at the Darden School of Business named Dr. Martin Davidson talks about a similar concept about why “diversity efforts fail and how leveraging difference can succeed.” I just love this concept of re-framing the idea of diversity to one of “leveraging difference.” Dr. Davidson talks about how too many companies and individuals just want to “look diverse” which is completely missing the point. On the flip side, if we started being intentional about leveraging our differences we may just create deeper relationships, more understanding and greater success in our lives and organizations.  It’s like what Dr. King did. He created a shared vision that all kinds of people could get behind. Then he leveraged difference to achieve transformational change.

Dr. Davidson’s ideas made me re-assess several organizations I work with to start figuring out ways we could make diversity building efforts more productive and meaningful. It has drastically improved our decision making, and people have appreciated talking openly about diversity in a really thoughtful way. I am also trying to spend more time connecting and reaching out to people with different backgrounds and perspectives in my community. This way I can continue to create learning opportunities for myself and not just talk about these ideas, but be an example of them. As Gandhi says, “you must be the change you want to see in the world.”

So, how could you start leveraging difference more in your personal and professional life? Sure, we want to spend time around like minded people who have similar interests, but connecting with a wealth of cultures and backgrounds may open us up to ideas we never thought possible. A world in which our differences actually make us more connected. I bet Dr. King would like this world.