Embracing Change and Fostering Creativity: A Leadership Retreat Tale

Embracing Change and Fostering Creativity: A Leadership Retreat Tale

Lori Goodman, Executive Director or LEAP

January 2023 | Lori Goodman

I’m one of those crazy people who likes change. I’m energized by the prospect of what could be. But, I know this quirk is not the norm. Most people approach change tentatively, and with skepticism.  I’m also someone who believes work should be fun. I believe in building teams where the members trust one another, respect one another, and appreciate one another’s differences and unique contributions.

As I set out to plan LEAP’s Leadership Team retreat, I was eager to create an experience where we could break out of our comfort zones, where we could think together about how we would manage and celebrate the changes in our organization, and, most importantly, have fun together.

LEAP has been working with Strengths Coach, Polly Chandler, for several years now. During the pandemic, we began our work with Polly to learn about and appreciate our own individual strengths, recognize the diverse strengths that exist in our team, and, I hoped, do less judging of one another and come to appreciate what each team member brought to the whole. Like many organizations, LEAP (then IVYP) struggled with silos. Our Children’s Center, our Family Resource Center, and our After School Programs were each excellent individually, but the leaders didn’t trust one another. As a result, our efforts weren’t coordinated. We were doing good work, but as an organization we weren’t reaching our full potential.

Ana Maya, Family Resource Director; Diana Rosales, Payroll & HR Manager; and Kara Shoemaker, Director of Development

Each member of our team received a full 34 strengths profile as well as individual coaching with Polly. I’ve found the strengths work to be incredibly validating and insightful. As a leader, I am able to articulate exactly what super power each person brings to our team. I’m able to create opportunities for each member of my team to shine. When I am working in my strength zone, the work feels effortless and smooth. I know I’m doing my best work when it doesn’t feel like work at all. When each team member is working in their strengths, we are all operating at our highest capacity, feeling satisfied, and effective.

Our strengths work with Polly has paid off. We have lean, mean, high-performing Leadership Team. As we anticipate our growth into Lompoc, and imagine what else might be in store over the next five years, I wanted to engage everyone in something new, something joyful, and something a little different. Change can be hard and uncomfortable. For our Leadership Retreat, I wanted each of us to feel just a little bit uncomfortable and then to find ways to be creative within that discomfort. So, we went to the beach.

While happy to be at the beach, our team was a little unsure how to get started with the group mandala. After deciding on a heart, the rest of the design began to flow as each team member added their part.

With a little trepidation, and a lot of anticipation, we journeyed down to Haskell’s beach to make mandalas. Polly brought rakes and encouraged each of us to start by playing with the rake in the sand. We should notice what different movements and pressures created. Then she explained that we would be making a mandala together. We started with a heart in the center. As the mandala grew, one person, then another would make suggestions. We took turns following and leading seamlessly. As I often do in facilitating our teamwork, I noticed if someone wanted to speak, who hadn’t yet added a layer, and made sure to create space for each person to contribute. Eventually, we felt done. We had made a beautiful mandala. We then split into smaller teams and made two additional mandalas. Finally, we each made our own.

Juan Pimentel, Assistant Executive Director; Serineh Vartani, Children’s Center Program Director; and Lori Goodman, Executive Director

My favorite part of the activity was when we did it all together. I loved watching how we amplified one another’s visions, how we listened, adapted, accepted, adjusted. Polly asked us to reflect on the process of creating the mandalas. What did it feel like? In different ways, each person shared that they didn’t know how this would work. It felt scary, and different. Some of us acknowledged that sometimes it was hard when our idea was changed or adapted, but then, when we saw how it worked out, it was OK. We talked about how our organizational growth is similar to creating our mandala. We have a beautiful, clear heart in the center. And, we don’t know exactly what the end result will look, but we know that we can create something beautiful, meaningful, and impactful together.

When the tide started to come in, we left the beach, knowing that our beautiful creations would be washed away, but the work we do together, our vision for a growing community in which every child is loved, valued and respected, and every family is supported to achieve their full potential will continue.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *