Letter from John: September 2011

In preparation for a five-month leadership program we're designing and facilitating for a diverse group of 35 leaders, managers and influencers at the Library of Virginia, I've been re-reading a slim, yellow book -- "The Art of Possibility".

Written by husband-wife team Benjamin and Rosamund Zander, it is an affirming read that inevitably triggers debates between the optimists and pessimists in any given room. Ben Zander is the conductor of the Boston Philharmonic, and his perspectives are deeply rooted in the world of music. They resonate with me. They're also deeply optimistic.

Among his lessons: Leading from any chair. Being a contribution. Giving yourself an A.

The notion of giving yourself an A is what has triggered the most debate among previous groups I've facilitated. The idea is simple -- as you begin an effort, step into the future and imagine "giving yourself an A" at the end of the project or activity. Then map out what you did (will do) to earn it; write yourself a letter from the future describing it. Take it a step further and give an A to people around you -- assume the best, set aside your judgments, ask deeper questions about what might really be going on, provide encouragement and direction.

One of the hardest things to do over the past three years of running my own business has been to give myself an A. There have been big moments in my Floricane life where an A just seemed too hard to achieve. Moments when my confidence flagged, when I wasn't hitting on all cylinders, when money was not just tight but the meter was running in reverse, fast.

Fortunately, I'm surrounded by a lot of people who are willing to give me an A -- my wife, the Floricane team, friends, clients, and a plethora of smart mentors. In moments of self-doubt, nothing beats having a handful of good graders surrounding you. Finding ways to give yourself an A, and looking for opportunities to give others a solid grade, can have a huge impact.

It's powerful stuff, and its surprisingly simple. Aren't most things that make a difference?