April 17, 2023

Capturing What Works

“If we want things to stay as they are, things will have to change.”

– Guiseppe di Lampedusa, Italian novelist (1896-1957) 

Sometimes we need to take time to capture what is working. 

I once worked with a leader who was passionate about capturing the essence of what had been going so well for the last few years. He wanted to find a way to articulate what it was about their organizational culture that was going well, and what to lean into. We went through a planning process that engaged their full team in capturing the essence of their culture that excited folks.  

The result was a beautiful “Guiding Philosophy” document. Critically, they captured both the why and the how of that behavior: 

 We Are A Team 

Why? We believe that, “your problem is my problem.”

How? We support the success of all our missions and tackle issues together.

We Promote Transparency 

Why? We understand that openness is crucial for cultivating trust.

How? We share our successes, lessons learned, and our process with others.

We Are Bold 

Why? We know that taking risks and trying new approaches leads to innovative solutions.

How? We reach for the leading edge and act as a crucible and multiplier for new ideas.

We Are Tenacious 

Why? We take a long term view of success.

How? We keep our sights on the horizon and are perseverant in achieving our vision.

We Listen 

Why? We value and rely on collective input when making decisions.

How? We actively seek input and are responsive to our community.

We Advocate & Serve

Why? We prioritize the success of those we serve.

How? We create and support opportunities for our faculty and learners

Unfortunately, just before our final meeting to celebrate the work completed, this visionary leader passed away. What had seemed to be a nice exercise became profoundly meaningful. The description of what grounded this team became an indispensable guide for continuing the work in the absence of this beloved leader. Our next steps were to dive into each philosophy and explore how the team could “take it up a notch.” The process of grieving was merged with the desire to celebrate and carry on.

This was such an important lesson in taking the time to look around ourselves and notice what is going well and what we want to fight for. 

Knowing what strengths we can lean into will help support us when things change. 

As they always will.


grief, meaning, philosophy

Create Space for Fierce Transformation

A weekly email for current and future mission-driven leaders wanting real conversations on how to show up and lead with joy and purpose.