Take 180 Years of History, Shake Well

It's hard not to feel the weight of history when you're facilitating a conversation with the Board of Trustees of an organization founded by Chief Justice John Marshall in 1831. It's even more weighty when the collective brainpower of the board represents a bit of Who's Who of Virginia business, politics and education – folks like the presidents of the College of William & Mary and the University of Richmond; business leaders like Brent Halsey of the former James River Corporation and Hiter Harris of investment banking firm Harris Williams; and strong civic voices like Bill Thalhimer. For good measure, why not hold the meeting at the historic Williamsburg Lodge?

That's a bit of an aerial view of a two-day facilitation I just completed with the Virginia Historical Society, as it works to set a strong course toward it's third century as a collector, interpreter, educator and advocate of Virginia's history.

One of the great things about the VHS is that they have a strong staff that thinks hard about the organization's role, and a strong board that brings a strong commitment to its fiduciary and strategic roles. Their President and CEO, Dr. Paul Levengood, is a bit more than a year into his role. A recent recipient of Style Weekly's "40 Under 40" Award, he brings a new perspective to an old organization. Likewise, the board has had its share of change, and there were many new voices at the table discussing changing demographics, evolving technologies and the organization's future role.

My job during the two days was to kick-start dialogue, ask good questions, connect the dots between the perspectives in the room, capture notes and be as in-the-moment as a fast-paced, wide-ranging discussion allowed. In a few weeks, we'll pick the conversation back up in a series of discussions with the staff of the Virginia Historical Society; I expect they're going to bring as much energy and a lot more context to our conversation!