Newsletter - Q2, 2021
Updated: Jun 1, 2021
Reflections from Red Maple's Owner By Raechel Pefanis
So, fair warning. This story is a bit of a trip. There just isn't any way to tell it delicately and so…strap in. Maybe I’ll throw a “yo diggity” in there every so often to lighten the mood. A few days ago, my family and I found a dead bird on our deck. With a passing glance, one of my kids did a ceremonial “awwww, that’s so sad – should we bury it?” But, I was busy doing whatever I was doing that particular night, and so I all but ignored it. Cue the foreshadowing, of course. The next morning, I was doing the breakfast dishes when, typical for me, my mind had floated off to what I’d be working on that day, who I'd see, etc. etc. Well, actually. wait. Hold up a second. Red Maple, together with our colleagues at New Vantage, is launching a big new product this month, which we’re calling “Post-Pandemic Leadership.” It's an offering of keynotes and leadership coaching that we think it just downright inspired (more on the brass tacks of that in a minute). What matters right in THIS moment is that, in the week before the bird incident, we had decided to enlist a braintrust to give us feedback on this new product. If you’re new to that phrase, a "braintrust" simply means the intentional use of a group of people to lend their criticism, expertise and feedback to you when you’re about to make a big move. Did we get the product just right? Does it have legs? What did we miss? We really want to get this one right, and so the braintrust was enlisted. At its core, the braintrust is really a discernment process. New ideas must be tested for their mettle, and to get there, the haver-of-the-idea must open their beloved little inventions to shots of every kind. I know this, because I am an Inventor of epic proportions, and after many falls on this front, I have learned that only a few are good ones. I can either face the braintrust, or I can make epic errors while I run my business into the ground, and so I've learned to trust the discernment process. There are people out there that are spectacularly gifted at sifting good ideas, practices and possibilities from bad ones, and we all need these types to help us negotiate critical junctures sometimes. I've radically accepted it, blah blah blah. One of the things braintrusts do is to increase tensions that need increasing. If all is going as it should, leaders will live with tensions that create nearly irresistible inclinations to simplify things that shouldn't be simplified. Mature leaders are usually marked by a clear muscle for holding two opposing things at once, such as the tension between performance management and people development. It is real, and it is uncomfortable, and there is nothing to be done about it, except to grow tolerance for it. The tension of being both tough and kind is another such example, as is the tension of pressing forward while also leaning back. Well, if I were to name one of the toughest tensions that I have personally had to learn to live with, I would say that it has been the tension between humility and confidence. I feel the deep importance of, as Adam Grant puts it, the importance of "knowing what we don’t know," and keeping ego at bay because -I've seen it a thousand times- it is a kiss of death to our marriages, our leadership, or our organizations when we fill up with pride and arrogance. But, on the other hand, we need to own our own uniquely connected ideas. We need to proceed feeling like we know what we’re doing and where we’re going, or else we’ll become weathervanes that blow whichever way the wind goes. We need our own ideas to be clear-eyed and unapologetic. It's a heck of a tension, as they all are. Back to the dishes. I was, in that moment, a million miles away, making up a story in my head that went like this: “Screw the braintrust! I KNOW where this needs to go! I don’t need any input, I'm sick of dithering about this and I JUST WANT TO GET THIS THING TO MARKET!” I have a hasty streak, you see. I get sick and tired of things moving too slow, and I was bent and determined that the thing I needed to do was to abort the braintrust (thereby lowering the tension) and get on with things. And right at that moment, I looked out my window. Consider me straight-up dumbfounded. As though fossilized somehow, that freaking dead bird had left a near perfect impression of itself splat against our window. There it was, like a ghost bird, with its eyes, beak, and little legs in perfect, distinct form, glittering in the sunlight, while the REAL bird was -I assure you- very much dead on my deck. Look at this thing (this is a picture of the window itself, over my backyard)!:
I mean...can you feel me? Wings raised, mid-flight, without question. Gaze straight forward, full of intention. Body, full of momentum, accelerating forward. In just one second, that poor bird went from a confident, untethered little soul...to dead as a doorknob and, adding insult to mortal injury, lying in a pile of the family dog's shit! And you BET I'm posting THAT picture too, because it's worth a thousand words!
Seriously, people. You can't make stuff like this up. Yo diggity. I'll get to the point. The braintrust had some things to say to me that made me feel uncertain, and that made me want to plunge forward, up my momentum, accelerate my confidence, and bloody hell, make this simpler! And I almost did, which could have very well landed me facedown in a pile of poo poo. But, the process worked. The braintrust made the whole product better, and Post-Pandemic Leadership is now fully baked, no shortcuts. Oh, and I've got to tell you. For the past few days, whenever one of us here at the office starts talking with a leeeeetle bit to much confidence, another one of us will pretend to flap these giant pretend wings and "CA CAWWW," just like Moira when she was filming the mother crow scene in Schitt's Creek. It's got me in total hysterics and, mark my words, it's going to be the next TicToc sensation. Post-Pandemic Leadership: For a New Frontier of Productivity has made it past the discernment process, and so I will end on a humbly confident high note. We have a new product, and I think it's going to be a game changer for organizations. We've paired up with our MBA friends to address how good people leadership is THE path to productivity, given the toll on wellbeing that the pandemic has created. We're offering it to intact teams starting in May, and are offering an open community enrolment for individuals too, which you can check out on the websites listed below. If you'd like to receive more information about PPL for your organization, send us an email! We're ready to roll up our sleeves and get to work.