The Sum: Thank You Edition
Issue 102— July 29, 2019
I started last week heavy with worries.
About a long-planned program that once again would have to be postponed for lack of full sponsorship. A new website, that had taken three times as long and cost much more than planned, was about to be released with a number of issues still unresolved. A looming event, Take The Lead’s 5th Anniversary fundraiser, though a great idea on its face and turned out to be a lot of fun, was clearly not going to rise to the level we intended.
Then there was the new podcast that I love doing but that I belatedly realized will take a big chunk of time out of my already overstretched week and require way more technical skills than I ever wanted to learn.
Now, I’m a lot like Pollyanna.
Since I read the Pollyanna books as a child, I’ve been intrigued with choices people make about reacting to life events, good and bad. The term “Pollyanna” has entered the lexicon meaning someone who is always positive; even when the girl was sent crutches instead of the doll she longed for, she saw the bright side. After all, she didn’t need those crutches to be able to walk.
The physical and emotional benefits of gratitude have been lauded by psychologists and spiritualists alike. But there’s also a practical side. The most effective leaders are known to be optimistic. And though the Monty Python song “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” is a parody, it holds within it an important lesson I teach in my Leadership Power Tool 5 “Carpe the Chaos.” Because truly, in chaos is always opportunity if we can think expansively, take advantage of disruption to develop new ideas, and keep our eyes on our big intentions.
The setbacks, the bumps in the road, the things that seem like failures, can become the energy that propels us forward, sometimes in the most unexpected ways.
And so, I got up last Monday morning, put on my most elegant suit, gathered my courage, and went to a lunch meeting with a sponsor, knowing I would be transparent about the program’s lack of full funding but visualizing that we would have an outcome that would take us forward. I do not spin the facts with valued partners because trust in my honesty is the most valuable asset that I bring to the many asks I have to make in service of Take The Lead’s bold vision of leadership gender parity by 2025.
And that’s when everything started to shift.
People want to help when you share a worthwhile mission.
I shared the unvarnished facts of the situation at that lunch. I suggested we might want to pivot to another project with greater potential for immediate sponsorship. And the instant response was: “Let’s do both.”
Before I knew it, we had created a strategy to accomplish exactly that. Not within the original timeframe but ultimately with a higher impact and serving more people. There’s much work to do, and I know it will be done because of what happened next.
The resources you need are always there if you have an open and thankful mind.
In the two days after that lunch, I met the women who can provide the resources to scale our work, and in the immediate future, deliver that program that has been languishing for a year.
First, the dinner that I almost said “no” to because I was so busy with preparations for our event was filled with the kind of women who fill me with hope for the world. The room was the embodiment of the transformed power paradigm I teach women to embrace: the positive power TO create, innovate, make life better for everyone, and the realization that there is no finite pie. I was practically levitating as I headed home and am still buoyed by their example of generosity and mutual support.
The next night, at another event I seriously had no time to attend but went to anyway, I met up with two women I’d been wanting to speak with about our work and both invited me to set up meetings. That morning, as a result of invitations to the Take The Lead event, a phone call had brought yet more possibilities for collaboration and program expansion. My head was spinning in a very good way.
And then the event was a blast. The photos tell the tale best.
So I ended the week in full-out gratitude.
To the hardworking team that made the event happen. To the board members, volunteers, and the donors who contributed to the silent auction and who bid on the “prizes.” To the supporters who said we can do this in spite of setbacks. To the new friends who have filled my heart with appreciation for the incredible advances they are making and that they exemplify for women. Together, I am confident we will reach the goal of leadership parity by 2025.
Simply and sincerely, thank you.
GLORIA FELDT is the Cofounder and President of Take The Lead, a motivational speaker and expert women’s leadership developer for companies that want to build gender balance, and a bestselling author of four books, most recently No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power. Former President of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, she teaches “Women, Power, and Leadership” at Arizona State University and is a frequent media commentator. Learn more at www.gloriafeldt.com and www.taketheleadwomen.com. Tweet @GloriaFeldt.