Self-Labeled Pragmatic People

A common self-label I hear in conversations is “I’m pragmatic.” This is the response served up when I’m asking questions about a shared vision, or what the community would look and feel like if there was an abundance of resources and the individual/organization was 100% successful in everything they were setting out to achieve. Words mean things, and that means words mean different things to different people.

PRAGMATIC – def: When we deal with things sensibly and realistically in a way that is based on practical rather than theoretical considerations.
PRACTICAL—def: Concerned with the actual doing of something rather than with theory and ideas.

Yet is it not sensible and realistic to start with what we are aiming to achieve before we actually do something?

In preparing for a community benefit organization’s endowment meeting last week, I asked the Executive Director if we could start by asking committee members what excites them about the community, and what would be possible, and for whom, as a result of being 100% successful in raising $10 million. We discussed how raising any amount of money for any organization is the MEANS to an ENDS. Money is not the ends. When we take the time to discuss what the money will make possible, and for whom, we are clarifying our shared vision and responsibility for the future. The ED agreed to start the meeting with a different thought framework.

As we went around the table, one committee member stated that “This vision stuff confuses me. I’m ready to ensure that the back-end is in place for whatever you decide about all of that.” He passed on adding any further thoughts on this question. Note to self, change the words I use to frame these conversations as there will always be individuals who feel that vision is dreamy stuff and fluff, fanciful musings and certainly no doing. I know a SHARED VISION is not vaporware. It is so very real and provides the clarity around what we are aiming for together. I also know that we must meet people, including ourselves, wherever we are at that moment in time, and on that topic in that moment in time.

So let’s be as PRACTICIAL as possible, and use more inviting and inclusive language for everyone at the table.
First we need to clarify: What are we aiming for as our goal?
Then we can explore and identify: What conditions need to be in place to get to that goal?
After steps one and two, then we can get to the doing with a clear sense of what direction we are facing, and how this action maps to the goal: What actions can we take right now to lead to those conditions?

Back at the endowment discussion the ED noted that the goal is not that the organization is no longer needed in our community. But rather, the goal is that the organization TRANSFORMS itself into the community hub for healthy relationships. The conversation shifted in a whole new direction that touched on the conditions that need to be in place, as well as the “doing” to get there. The blinders-on-$10- million-focus left the table as committee members built on each other’s ideas about the future. It’s what happens over and over when we simply take the time to get to know each other better and discuss what we’re aiming for together. (Don’t tell, but it sounds a lot like defining a shared vision!)

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