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Tight Lines

Posted by Dave Griffith on June 8, 2019 at 5:05 PM



As many of you know in recent years, I have rediscovered fly fishing. Much is written about the Zen of fly fishing, so I am not going to go there. I have written some on that subject in the past. https/www.wearmuddyboots.com/apps/blog/show/45693167-on-the-water

Instead, I have been looking for connections and insights from being on the water, my work at Episcopal Community Services, my work with the Academy of Natural Sciences, and my other board work.

I find that problem solving dramatically improves after fishing. I suspect that we all benefit from downtime where the brain clears and focus is redirected for a few hours. After such periods I find insights and direction take new form and often new doors open to a solution.

Such is the case after a recent two-day trip where the fishing was hard and tiring. Hard that these fishes were not biting and tiring that we kept trying. The fish won.

On the ride back the parable of the fishes came to mind as the link I have been trying to articulate to folks about our common work with poverty and the environment, and I would make the case leadership in general. You know the quote:

“you can give a man a fish, and he eats for a day, you can teach him to fish, and he never goes hungry.”

At ECS we are in the midst of shifting our work from traditional case management that in general saves and improves lives, but maintains individuals in poverty, to a coaching model based on the most current brain science that challenges individuals to set goals, support them, and they, in turn, achieve their goals, which in turn, drives fundamental change in their life. You were in poverty, and now, all be it over time, you are not. We move from people being given fish, to people learning to fish. In doing so, the people we work with become independent.

At the Academy, we are at the beginning of launching our strategic plan, which has as its North Star the challenge for individuals to be a force for nature. We are undertaking the presentation of our fact-based environmental science, research, and collections in new and innovative ways that ask people to think uniquely and thoughtfully about the environment and nature. To challenge the partisan noise on the subject of the environment and look at the fact-based science and draw their conclusions and in turn, act on that new knowledge. People can eat served fish, or they can learn to fish and find their unique meal.

Board leadership is no different. The most effective work we do is not telling management what to do, but instead asking the hard questions and asking management to respond. What is the market, who is your customer, what is their pain, how do you address their pain, what is the competitive and sustaining advantage you bring to your customers? What does the data tell you? What do the people closest to the customer know? By asking management to do the work, over time, the skills to be curious and problem solve become embedded. Management learns to fish.

I can make the case that we risk much in a society where solutions are given in the absence of understood research, data, core skills, and rigorous debate. I love Google, but I still know how to go to the library and do research. Fake news, filtered news, and the like have the potential to dull the debate in society and allow solutions and policy driven by self-interest rather than the common good to prevail. Be it the issues of poverty, climate, or making a living.

We all, and I mean all, need to learn to fish — tight lines.


Categories: Muddy Boots, Leadership, Griffith Thoughts

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