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6.6.2022 A Different D Day

Posted by griffithd@ecsphilly.org on June 6, 2022 at 4:15 PM Comments comments (0)

I have not posted for a while.

I suspect because the issues in front of all of us have plenty of press.

What strikes me on the sixth day of June is how divided we are as a people, both here and across the globe. Not exactly a news flash. But some thoughts.

There is a reason the military oath of office is to the Constitution of the United States and not an individual. There is a reason the founder’s crafted three branches of government. There is a reason they provided for an amendment process and the rule of law. They recognized we were imperfect as individuals, but understood the checks and balances backed by the right to vote of the citizens of the United States, a group that has evolved to include many more than at the time of the founding, would be able to govern from the middle and while not pleasing everyone would offer a process of debate and discussion with a solution evolved from compromise. That concept has been tested many time, but over the course of our history has provided opportunity and direction on many issues. I am reminded of the quote by Churchill that “Indeed it has been said that democracy is the worst form of Government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.…”

It has been my experience that when you sit and walk in another’s footsteps and find common ground, differences tend to fade and solutions emerge that on balance work for both parties and you keep moving forward. My observation and of many others is that that practice is being replaced with confrontation, authoritarianism, and an unwillingness to find common ground with deadly consequences. Time is not our friend here. For example, guns, the climate, medical coverage, access to opportunity, choice, gender and racial equity, the right to vote, are all issues that left unaddressed will bring the nation to a boil and perhaps cross a tipping point if we have not already. We lived in Newtown, I would argue we have already.

Today is D-day. I point that out as we had a common enemy, thousands if not millions made sacrifices to meet the challenge and democracy prevailed, imperfect as it is.

Perhaps we need the same sense of urgency. Leadership matters, but so does the will of the people. Time to respect both and recognize that we are many people and we need each other to meet the challenges ahead. We will never be one America, but let us recognize that fact as our great strength if we can find our middle ground. Take a breath and let us find that common middle ground. What we are doing now does not work long term. Just look at the news.

Grandchildren over greed, if for no other reason.

 

Freedom is not Free

Posted by griffithd@ecsphilly.org on March 6, 2022 at 4:30 PM Comments comments (0)

If nothing else, the events in Ukraine remind us, and I quote, that "Freedom is not free."

Historically, the cost has been one of vigilance and, when necessary, sacrifice. The battle for freedom has many forms and scales, from epic battles etched in a nation's ethos to the individual act of courage as simple as seeking equality in where one sits on the bus. If one looks at the arc of history, the battle has always been with us and scales both large and small.

Bruce Springsteen, in his classic song "The Ghost of Tom Joad" based on the Steinbeck character of the same name, hauntingly writes: 


Shelter line stretching around the corner

Welcome to the new world order

Families sleeping in the cars in the southwest

No home, no job, no peace, no rest ……


Now Tom said, "Mom, wherever there's a cop beating a guy

Wherever a hungry newborn baby cries

Where there's a fight against the blood and hatred in the air

Look for me, Mom, I'll be there

 

Wherever somebody's fighting for a place to stand

Or a decent job or a helping hand

Wherever somebody's struggling to be free

Look in their eyes, Ma, and you'll see me"

 

Well the highway is alive tonight

But nobody's kidding nobody about where it goes

I'm sitting down here in the campfire light

With the ghost of old Tom Joad


As millions flee an advancing army in the Ukraine and countrymen and women stand to face that army or as individuals in the grips of poverty battle the lack of opportunity and discrimination in our own cities, one has to acknowledge where the "highway" leads. Freedom is not free.

Freedom on a national or individual scale, be it on the plains of Ukraine or the street of Philadelphia demand a similar response. There is "no home, no job, no peace, and no rest" without freedom.

It is a response that comes at a cost, but more importantly, it acknowledges that a free and just society requires individual and collective investment, commitment, sacrifice, and vigilance. That we must recognize that our self-interest starts with our neighbors, all our neighbors, be they in Philadelphia, Moscow, Kyiv, or thousand other towns around the world.

Freedom is about access to opportunity, equality, a vote in the process of governance, and justice for all of us, not just a few. It is a universal challenge.

We honor the men and women of our armed services who defend the constitution. But the clarion call of freedom requires that "whenever somebody is struggling to be free," we all respond.

Freedom is not free. And the alternative comes at an unacceptable cost and consequence, but know it will come.

So when are we going to pay up?

 

 

 

Time to Astound Ourselves

Posted by griffithd@ecsphilly.org on February 3, 2022 at 3:30 PM Comments comments (0)

The principle of Muddy Boots is straightforward. You put on your boots, go into the world, ask questions, listen, learn, and act on that knowledge. The asking is easy. It is listening that is hard. So too is the acting on the knowledge part. That thought is brought into focus from a quote from Thomas Edison I recently reread.

“If we did the things we are capable of, we would astound ourselves.” - Thomas Edison

Hold that thought and do a little bit of self-reflection.

How many times have you gone into an effort and doubted your ability to pull it off? As you look back and are honest with yourself, you have some examples. In my own experience and observations as a manager over 40 plus years, I have seen individuals exceed their own expectations time and time again. 

The opportunity is how we inspire the leap, the stretch, to make an attempt and discount the fear of failure. In there lies the art of management both of ourselves and the individuals we lead. 

If you create a safe space, support risk, challenge getting out of your comfort zone, your team will not only astound themselves, they will delight your customers and stakeholders. Do not miss the opportunity that even in falling short is the opportunity to learn and grow as scar tissue from such an event is often the best teacher and sets the stage for future success. 

It is also the opportunity to coach. To be clear, coaching is not telling an individual what to do. It is often the questions you ask, testing the data, understanding the why of an approach, and the support and space to try. To be clear, there is a place and time to say no, but use that as a coaching moment by explaining the why. 

History tells us that performance breakthroughs come from pushing the limits and often doing the uncomfortable. As I have said here, doing the uncomfortable is where I have learned the most. It is rarely fatal—granted, there are many ways to improve the odds of success, like collaboration, being open to a range of thoughts and experiences, data, pilots, etc.. All that, but in the end, you still need to take the leap: both yourself and your team. 

As we come out of Covid and take on all of the challenges we face, we would do well to listen to Edison’s advice. We are capable of more in so many places and opportunities. Not just ourselves, but the people we lead and the customers we serve.

 Time to astound ourselves.

 

Advent

Posted by griffithd@ecsphilly.org on December 2, 2021 at 10:00 PM Comments comments (0)

We are in the season of Advent. Advent from the Latin, "adventus," means "coming," and during this season, Christians prepare for Jesus' coming. The four Sundays preceding Christmas are recognized for four virtues. The candles on the Advent wreath symbolize hope, love, joy, and peace.

As I get ready for my 9th Christmas working at ECS, I find the season of Advent a time of contrasts and reflections.

How do we experience hope, love, joy, and peace in this time and place? Are we prepared to acknowledge that our experiences are significantly different for many? Are we ready to realize why? Are we prepared to level the playing field in a meaningful and sustainable way? Are we prepared to create equal access to opportunity for all of us?

If nothing else, what I have learned in my nine years at ECS is that individuals experiencing poverty are some of the most resilient people I know. We have learned that given access to opportunity, they can overcome circumstances that would break many of us. Such access is at the heart of our work and advocacy at ECS, and we see it working every day.

If we are to be indeed Advent people, where we wish the blessings of hope, love, joy, and peace to our family, friends, and neighbors, we need to include all of us.

We are a diverse and divided nation this Advent season. We are on the brink in so many ways, and poverty is but one marker of the divide.

So we have a choice and a challenge. Can we make it real through our actions, deeds, investments, the gift of hope, love, joy, and peace for all of us, not just some?

Can we be Advent people year-round?

 

Once more to the Arena

Posted by griffithd@ecsphilly.org on August 21, 2021 at 10:40 AM Comments comments (0)

It is early Saturday morning. I am sitting on the couch in my study, my laptop on my lap, and the dog asleep next to me. I have hit a wall, and so have many of the people I work with, and what I note is that wall is vastly bigger and taller for the people we serve at my agency in Philadelphia.

I have been through tough times before, and the lesson is always you come through, and the sun comes up on another day. Different than the one before, but the light and the warmth return. I reflect that each time I have learned, grown, acquired new scar tissue, and can move on. I have grown as a leader, and my biggest takeaway is what we all know as the "arena" lesson.

It comes from Teddy Roosevelt's famous quote, now again popular with the current class of coaches and leadership consultants. You have seen it in Muddy Boots on other occasions.

"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat."

The credit belongs to the "person" in the arena. Ponder that thought as we hit our current walls brought on by pandemics, climate change, political culture wars, racial inequity, corruption, and greed. One can face the wall and slip into the darkness of the cold and timid souls of the sideline, or one can get into the arena and fight the good fight, whatever worthy cause that may be for you.

Leadership only happens in the arena. Magic happens when you are there with your team and focused on them and the mission. In times such as these, the danger is to sit on the sideline and rant on an internet chat site or, worse, do nothing. Remember, coasting is a downhill event.

We need to embrace being in the arena, where and whatever the arena is for you, and get back in the game. No one wants to be a cold and timid soul.

So, recharge, reload, put on your spikes, and get back to work. Vaccinated and with your mask, as that's what it takes right now. We have too much to do and it does not happen on the sidelines.

So, recharge, reload, put on your spikes, and get back to work. Vaccinated and with your mask, as that's what it takes right now. We have too much to do and it does not happen on the sidelines.

To paraphrase Jack Nicholson, “You need me in that Arena!”

Yes we do. All of us.

 


 

Sunday Morning

Posted by griffithd@ecsphilly.org on May 16, 2021 at 4:15 PM Comments comments (0)

May 15, 2021 is a Sunday. For the first time in 14 months we went to an indoor worship service with fellow parish members. Yes we are vaccinated and yes we wore masks and yes communion was bread only. But it was a gathering of fellow souls for whom in service worship is the bedrock and foundation of the rhythm of our lives. While we have a ways to go and much of the world will not be the same, it was good to return to the simple rituals of faith and to reflect that that same faith is what has carried us through these times. That lesson is not to be taken lightly as the tasks ahead are significant and daunting.

 

Much of the nation remains divided politically. Racial unrest and the root causes of that unrest demand responses that bring much desired change. Poverty remains pervasive. The climate, either man made or natural, is clearly changing and the science points to a tipping point ever nearer. The economy is both surging and elusive depending on where one sits on life’s continuum.

 

If nothing else the pandemic serves as a wake up call and a magnifier of all of the above. A vaccine in under 14 months, but based on years of research, tells us we have the ability to face extraordinary circumstances and change the trajectory of a crisis. Will we waste that lesson or turn as a nation to find common ground in our differences, will we look at the inequalities across our society and seek solutions and changes with the same intensity and urgency as we are with Covid 19, acknowledging we have far to go? Can we seize the opportunity of a sustainable environmental and economic policy and create employment opportunities that in turn reduce poverty and lower the need for a social safety net long term? And in doing so acknowledge that our self interest starts with our neighbor’s.

 

Faith as a bedrock sustains us. But faith in action is what drives real change. As the masks come off, the challenges are clear. Rather than long for a return to the old normal, let us take the faith that has carried us and with courage and conviction acknowledge what we face in the days ahead. Old problems demand new solutions, new responses, new partnerships, new commitments. The good news is they are out there.

 

Are we that brave?

 

As Lincoln reminds us, a house divided, cannot stand. Be that house, local, national or global. Our faith tells us we can prevail. The status quo cannot continue. The common ground on which we build needs to acknowledge and include all of us. Hard it may be, but not impossible.

 

We have to be that brave.

 

 

 

Verdict

Posted by griffithd@ecsphilly.org on April 23, 2021 at 10:10 AM Comments comments (0)

The following message went to the ECS community last night.

The longest day must have its close—the gloomiest night will wear on to a morning.

An eternal, inexorable lapse of moments is ever hurrying the day of the evil to an eternal night,

and the night of the just to an eternal day.

-Harriet Beecher Stowe

The verdict for Derek Chauvin reminds us how often the system has failed Black Americans, how many times the oppressor has gone Scot free. Tamir Rice, Freddie Gray, Alton Sterling, Eric Garner, Breonna Taylor. That seemingly endless list can never leave our minds, their names must not be forgotten.

As many voices have reminded us, this verdict delivers accountability for Derek Chauvin, but not justice for George Floyd. For real justice to prevail for Floyd and too many others, we must fashion a world in which the basic dignity of every human being is respected.

That justice is the long and hard work of naming the cancer of systemic racism and banding together to root it out so that all Americans can live without fear of violent oppression. ECS is committed to that demanding task. We know that we cannot truly serve people in poverty, we cannot hold out the hope of economic independence without acknowledging that for Black people the system right now is not fair, not just. Has not been for 400 years.

Nevertheless, we believe that right will prevail—not without our prayers and tears and courageous work, but it will prevail. That hope is what powered Harriet Beecher Stowe to trust that “the gloomiest night will wear on to a morning.”

In that spirit, ECS has just added Racial Equity to the top tier of its advocacy objectives. Now in addition to fighting for a Living Wage, and for an end to the Benefits Cliff, we will be naming that cancer of systemic racism and advocating at every level of society for real and lasting change. Further, ECS has begun implementing a plan for inclusion and equity within our agency, knowing that we cannot demand justice out there when we have not fully demanded it in here.

“Today, we are able to breathe again,” one of George Floyd’s younger brothers, Philonise, said during a news conference in Minneapolis after the verdict was released. “Justice for George means freedom for all.”

This moment affords us an opportunity to push for further change. At ECS we will do that both by coaching one promising person at a time, helping to light the path out of poverty for good, and by advocating for real and lasting change.

Yours in this good work,

Rev.David R. Anderson

Chief Communications Officer

Victoria Bennett

Chief Inclusion and Advocacy Officer

David E. Griffith

Executive Director & Head Coach

 

March 2021 Punch List

Posted by griffithd@ecsphilly.org on March 21, 2021 at 3:10 PM Comments comments (0)

As we make the turn to a time post-Covid, some things I suggest we think about and a call to action.

 

1.Organizational North Star. What is it, and does everyone in your organization know it and where they fit?

2. Talent. New rules, new challenges, the hybrid experience makes communications, travel, and interaction different. You need to adapt.

3. How good is the team at giving and getting feedback, crucial conversations, and being able to name the elephant in the room safely?

4. Cash, Investment, ROI, Operation Expense. You have a chance to reengineer your financial model post covid. Operating margins can significantly improve if you don't go back to pre covid levels of spend. Don't waste a crisis.

5. Professional Services, how did they do with you the last 12 months? Partnerships tool on a whole new level and meaning over the previous 12 months.

6. Data. Is it good, is it valid, are you measuring the right things?

7. Call your customers, reconnect, to quote Mike Marks, "find the pain and fix it."

8. Muddy Boots rule one and two. Get out in the field and ask how we are doing and what we can do better. See #7

9. We are not out of the Pandemic, people need support, and they also need clarity. Listen with an open heart.

10. Be part of the movement to redefine our nation's relationship with essential workers on pay, benefits, working conditions. Living wage creates consumers and lowers the cost of the social safety net.

11. Let us finally make the founder's vision real, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." Men being defined as all men and women in the USA. We are a nation on edge, and it will take all of us to make equity, opportunity, and safety fundamental rights. Diversity is our greatest strength. Let us make it more than a word spoken after yet another bias crime.

12. Put Grandkids over Greed. Social Impact Investing, doing well while doing good, the time has come. Climate change is real, and so should our correlated investing and public policy.

13. Demand accountable and responsible government and vote. Don't sit on the sidelines—every election matters. Protect the right to vote for all Americans.

We live in unprecedented times. It calls for unprecedented leadership.

What's your list?

 

 

Managing in a time of Covid, Economic Chaos, and Racial Inequity

Posted by griffithd@ecsphilly.org on February 19, 2021 at 9:00 PM Comments comments (0)


 

This week as I attended virtually staff meetings, board meetings, committee meetings, check-ins, and zoom with friends and family, I heard a common comment. “Our people are exhausted!”

The next question is, “ What action can we take?” I have heard a range of suggestions. No meeting days, shut the business for a day, listening sessions, send snacks, put off non-essential tasks, set hours for email and work, lower expectations. You could see tempers flare and accountability waiver.

How about we do our job as managers and get back to the basics?

Does your team have a work plan? Do they know where the firm is going? Do they know their role? Are they rolling that plan throughout the organization? Do they know their talent, really know their people? Do they understand the guardrails and what they can and cannot do to provide flexibility and options with the responsibilities and results they own along with their team? Do you empower them to act?

Does your team bicker, or do they problem-solve? Do they acknowledge challenges and share the impacts of decisions? Will they name elephants and admit they are challenged? Are they quiet in the tough crucial conversations? Will they ask for help? A focused and empowered team can move mountains and, in their own way, deal with Covid, economic chaos, and racial inequality on both an individual and larger scale. Your team can be exhausted and helpless, or focused, empowered, and moving the needle.

But, do you set the tone?

We can live in the doom and gloom of 2020 or choose to thrive and drive change. You can lower expectations, or you can set them. You can drift, or you can set direction. You can tell people what to do, or you can lead them. Lead by spending time listening, getting their recommendations, and jointly problem-solving. Giving permission to be balanced and show flexibility in these times and still meet expectations. Clearly communicate and be clear-eyed to the challenges and open to listening. What is the plan, what are our goals, and how do you see your role? Be a leader by being a solid manager. Talent is what drives an organization, and leadership and management are what curates and enables talent.

The essence of Muddy Boot is to be in the field and to ask two questions, how are we doing, and what can we do better? In these times, I would add, how are you doing and how can I help?

Covid, economic chaos, and racial inequity are huge issues, and they can suck the life out of an organization, let alone a nation. Still, there is only one way to meet and address these historic challenges. Yes, people are exhausted and overwhelmed. Rather than seeking one-off silver bullets that feel good but don’t deliver long-term impacts, let us look in the mirror. And see the work of basics leadership and solid management, by defining and communicating a North Star, creating a plan, setting expectations, supporting the team, and creating joint accountability for performance and balance. Focus drives performance, and performance drives and enables change.

A rising tide lifts all boats. We can drift, or we can steer.

 

Human Services

Posted by griffithd@ecsphilly.org on December 17, 2020 at 9:20 PM Comments comments (0)

 

“We stand on the shoulders of those who have gone before, and others will stand on ours. Let our shared legacy be that even in the darkest of days, ECS gave light to the darkness and answered with our full measure the call to service. There will always be fires, and we will always respond.” (150th remarks)

 

One of my favorite quotes with attribution to St Francis is “Preach the gospel and sometimes use words.” As I reflect on the year that has been 2020, my thoughts are very much with the people we serve at ECS and my colleagues that I have the privilege of working with as together we challenge poverty. Without fanfare, they answer the call every day. They run to the fire, and with few words but deep and resilient actions, they work to positively move the lives of individuals, families, and communities.

 

The call to service runs deep. I am humbled that individuals who could be doing almost any profession choose this field, moreover, not just at ECS, but throughout our City, Region and Country, answering the call to service at agencies and institutions, all dedicated to lifting the human spirit. I am humbled and grateful for their service. I can honestly say that I had no idea of the challenges and the issues before I took on this work. Now almost eight years in, I understand what one means when one speaks to an individual’s full measure. You know who you are and have my admiration, respect, and commitment to do all I can to help answer the call.

 

We are stronger together. If nothing else, history tells us that we do not win battles on the edges, but in the middle ground where the work is deep and messy. To do the job well, we need to collaborate and not compete, and we need to expect and drive real impacts; we need to adapt as the field changes. Above all, we need to look with clear eyes and an honest heart and acknowledge we can do better. If we measure progress, one individual, one family, and one community at a time, and we hold leadership and ourselves accountable for real and sustainable impacts, real change is possible.

 

Besides, if we are smart, we will listen to the folks on the front line and the people they serve, close to the action, doing the work, and moving the needle. They understand the roadmap for change.

 

You can “do,” or you can talk. I respect the folks who “do.”

 

Thank you for your service.

 

Dave Griffith is the executive director and head coach at Episcopal Community Services in Philadelphia.