Going Back to School

17 Jul

photoI’m at Harvard Business School this week as part of the Strategic Perspectives of Nonprofit Management week-long seminar. It was an honor to be selected to be among the 150 non-profit leaders from all over the world to be a part of this class as we all gather in Boston this week.

The make-up of our class is diverse – women and men from all corners of the globe. For some of my classmates English is not their first language. Some are CEOs of small non-profits, and some of us lead large revenue non-profits like Feed The Children. But there’s one thing we have in common: we are passionate about innovation and leading change. We all want to be inspired by others who have big dreams for our organizations and the world. We don’t want to be known for status quo.

At, what I’m affectionately calling, “CEO camp” we’re all staying on campus in dorm rooms. I’m sleeping in a twin bed this week (if photo copy 2you know me well, you know how excited this does NOT makes me). But I digress . . .

Experiences like this of “going back to school” are all about being saturated in the new. Each daylight hour some new information is being poured into me. Whether it be a lecture, a class discussion, or just a conversation in the hallway with a CEO classmate on the way to bed, my mind is being challenged to reconsider my own leadership in more effective ways.

It’s hard to sort out all that I’m absorbing. But for now, I know such is true: leaders need time to think. And normally, we get (or take) such little time to do it.

A typical day in the life at Feed The Children for me is action packed. Meeting after meeting. Phone call after phone call. Email after email. Thank goodness for my assistant who keeps (or tries to keep) me moving in the right direction. And while all of this is well and good– for I’m glad to use the moments of my day in ways that help Feed The Children further our mission– it can at times be exhausting. There are days when I’m so busy that I don’t get to leave the building for lunch or get my multiple trips to Starbucks (which in my book is not a complete day!).

As I move at this accelerated pace, I often don’t get the time I need in a day to think and reflect, to examine the big picture at the level at which it needs to be examined. Sure, there are moments on the drive to and from work in the mornings or while I eat my breakfast in the mornings that I think a lot, but not the large chunks of time that my role at this organization needs most from me.

For this reason and many more, I’m grateful for this week away and for the amazing team in Oklahoma holding down the fort. A big thanks to all of them! I’m grateful for the encouragement I’ve received from my Harvard professors and classmates (Feed The Children family, I’m happy to report based on what I’ve learned so far, we are doing great work and are on the right track!). I’m grateful for the fact that I know when I pick up my daily tasks again next week, I’ll do so with the kind of fresh eyes that only a week like this could give me. Thanks Harvard, even if you made me sleep on a twin bed!

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