Thursday, February 23, 2012

Training Rides...

This week I was finally able to get out into the sunshine and ride along with Chris on his training runs, and I could see right away why our proxy riders, Maddie and Amber, were enjoying the experience. Wow, fresh air, sunshine, and someone to push while I just sit back and savor the thrill of the ride, this is delightful!

First I thought... I'd very selfishly claim the blessing of the mildest winter weather I can recall in my experience in Chicagoland, as Gods favor on our quest...and why not? After all on a beautiful June day in 2010, our beach wedding, got rained out, as a severe thunder storm passed through the area at the exact time it was to commence. Four months later, a very large deer ran into our brand new CRV, nearly totaling it. Did I mention, this happened while we were on our way to church? And...two months later, we got the news that I had ALS!

Through it all my faith and my sense of humor, have stayed remarkably in tact, so I say sunny 40 degree weather in Chicagoland in February is gift intended just for us, and I dare you to argue the point, no matter how crazy or delusional it sounds to you. Stake your own claims...I won't stand in your way.

I was elated that Chris chose to run my old rollerblade route, a three mile loop I would repeatedly race around to the point of exhaustion, at any opportunity during the warmer months. personal best at seven laps or 21 miles, would be shy of Chris' challenge to push me 26.2 in May.  I've been joking about needing a blindfold for the marathon knowing how fast Chris can run, but I really wouldn't want to miss one moment of the experience.

Chris shares the excitement of his riders, so it seems that he likes to have a chatty passenger, but for me, the relationship with the course was much too intimate to divert my focus with conversation.
You see... it had been two summers since I'd felt the vibrations from the wheels against the pavement, and as they were emanating from the footboard where my feet were tethered, they were pulling me back into the memory. I closed my eyes, focused on the movement of the jogger, and slipped back into my skates to savor the run.

I didn't have to open my eyes to know that we were winding down Saddleridge, or headed downhill on Bridle. I could still feel the burn in my quads as we pushed up Old Forge and Appaloosa, and I giggled when he took the steep winding path by the park at full speed.

This was more than a training run for me; it was a chance to feel a little bit of the joy I used to feel under my feet; it was a wonderful gift, and I can't wait to get back out there.
Thank you Chris...

Saturday, February 4, 2012

The Art of Possibilities...

I have always enjoyed learning as an adult, and in particular I enjoy any form of learning related to leadership. I've been fortunate to have had the opportunity to attend business conferences and leadership conferences, to hear many of my favorite authors, motivational speakers, and leaders from a vast array of industries and professions teach. I'm sure my former co-workers are chuckling at the idea that I may have read yet another book that I'm all excited about sharing with them...

In the summer of 2009, I invited my husband Chris to attend one such leadership conference and I was surprised by his response that went something like this "I'm not a leader, I'm a follower.".  Wow! I thought, you get up in front of groups of children all day long and teach, and you don't see yourself as a leader? This boggled my mind, and I still wonder if there are others like him, who feel the same way.

More than a decade ago, I read a book titled The Art of Possibilities written by Rosamund Stone Zander, family therapist, and her husband, Benjamin Zander, conductor of the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra and teacher at the New England Conservatory of Music.  Their diverse experiences gave shape to interesting perspectives on leadership and it remains one of my favorite books to this day.

Benjamin talked about a few ideas that helped to shape my thinking as a leader over the years. One was Giving an A in the Workplace, this idea reminded me that everyone has something to contribute, and my job as a leader was to create an environment in which people were appropriately tasked with responsibilities that allowed them to feel valued for what they had to offer. It also meant I had to give them the benefit of believing that they wanted earn an A, and examine the situation if the individual was not appropriately placed and needed reassignment.

The second was his practice of giving his students an A at the beginning of a class but asking then to define in writing exactly how they were going to earn it. This idea was simple to apply in the business environment by getting people involved in their goal setting, shaping their roles in the organization, asking them what they enjoyed doing, and what they wanted to achieve. This approach increased  ownership and helped to open our minds to tackling more challenging business issues.

The third idea that really resonated with me was Leading from Any Chair. This in short means you don't have to be the Conductor to lead the orchestra, or in the business environment, you don't have to be the CEO, the owner, or even the boss to lead change, something I always felt passionate about. If what you want to do makes sense, no one will stop you from taking it on, and they may even decide to jump in and help you get it done!

How does this apply to my "Adventures in Losing Stability"? When I think about how Taylor and Delaney approached the idea of devoting their community service project to create an event that would help raise awareness and funds, to support research and patient care for those suffering from ALS, I could not help but see these young women as future leaders.

The written outline of their plan detailed each activity, expense, and expected proceeds to reach their goal of $5000, and they thought of everything!  No one told these girls they couldn't do it and they took off with a running start.  They recruited family, friends, parents, teachers and even secured business sponsors to participate; it was truly a successful community event, and they have already started talking about how to make it even better next year!

Near the end of the event, I had the pleasure of meeting the girl's Social Studies teacher and mentor Mr. Bakke, shortly after, another teacher pointed him out and whispered in my ear "That's their teacher, I've heard him speak and he's a really awesome teacher!". I don't doubt that...

I also met the girls' families: Lisa Gibbons and Jennifer Morrissey, siblings, aunts, and grandparents who were all fully engaged in making the event a huge success.

So as I sit here writing this I wonder...does Mr. Bakke think of himself as a leader?
Do these parents see themselves as leaders? And do they see, these two bright young women, as examples of the leaders that will emerge from their generation?

And finally does Chris see himself as a leader, recognizing that this all started because he took the lead, setting a challenging goal to push me for 26.2 miles, and inspired two young women, and a community he served for 23 years, to get behind him in support of reaching it?

From where I'm sitting... I surely do.