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Wednesday's Whim

Wednesday’s Whim: Seek First to Understand

I’ve been fully submerged in leadership literature and self-improvement type books twice in my lifetime and I’ve learned three things from these experiences.


It is possible to get too much of a good thing.  My second immersion in management/leadership type reading was at my first job after college.  The organization bought into every theory and author being published at the time: Spencer Johnson, Ken Blanchard, Stephen Lundin, Bill Hybels, Stephen Covey, John Maxwell, Jim Collins, and more.  To be honset, I bought into it all, too!  On the surface, being familiar with a variety of approaches to the topic can be helpful, but at some point it seems wise to choose something that suits the organization or leader, adapt it to that person’s natural abilities, put down the rest of the books, and give it a go.


Create raving fans.  (This point and the next will seem contradictory to the first, but bear with me – there is an advantage to soaking in the literature!)  In Raving Fans, a little book I read 10 years ago and haven’t seen or touched since, Blanchard writes that our world is focused on mediocre results.  We are satisfied if our customers are satisfied.  He uses a dining experience as the example: no complaints = success.  But if we are to succeed – really succeed – that can’t be good enough.  Granted, we can’t be all things to all people and certainly not all of the time, but it can’t hurt to approach our individual relationships, our work, and our communities with an intention to create raving fans.

Love life, engage in it, give it all you’ve got. love it with a passion, because life truly does give back, many times over, what you put into it (Maya Angelou).


I had a college professor who assigned me my first leadership book: Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.  Today, I only remember one of those habits, but has become my mantra:

Seek first to understand, then to be understood.

There are times when I need to be reminded of this habit, but usually it is my nature.  Lots of practice helps!

Twice this weekend under very different circumstances folks asked me about the future of Camp Stevens.  The gist of their inquiry was this: what are you going to change?  My response in both instances was the same: I don’t know, I’m not there yet.

Any time someone enters or leaves a community, that community changes or shifts.  This fall, a handful of new staff joined the Camp community and each of us brings new and different gifts, abilities, and perspectives.  Adaptation to these new perspectives is inevitable.  But something tells me this isn’t the change my inquirers were wondering about!

My first step (and it’s a big one) is to seek first to understand.  To learn.  To participate.  To listen.  To immerse myself in the culture and the change that has already happened in the Executive Director transition – and not just at Camp, but outside it as well.  There are a lot of people who have and are invested in this place, some of whom have different opinions from one another, and I believe all of these perspectives are important.

This fall, whether it be in a Friend’s Annual Fund letter, on the website, at the Board of Visitors Weekend, or over coffee or a beer, when I invite you to share your story I am serious.  I seek first to understand before being understood.

I guess leadership, management, and self-improvement literature isn’t all bad!


Whim: “sudden idea.”  This weekly post promises a number of things: personal thoughts and reflections, showing off Camp Stevens’ programs and staff, announcements for upcoming opportunities, and answering questions or responding to comments “from the audience.” If you have a topic or question you’d like addressed, just e-mail Beth!


One thought on “Wednesday’s Whim: Seek First to Understand

  1. Thank you for sharing this Beth. I can only imagine the pressures you feel from every compass direction. You are in my thoughts and prayers. I wholeheartedly encourage you to be true to yourself in your quest to “seek first to understand.” Thank you for being there. It’s going to be a great adventure.


    Posted by Daniel Rondeau | October 11, 2012, 7:33 am

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