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Friends and Mentors

July 12, 2010

I borrowed the title of this blog from Warren Bennis classic book, “On Becoming a Leader.” On page 85, Dr. Bennis quotes Jamie Rasking who stated that “The people I’ve admired most are the people I know or know of historically who’ve been able to see seemingly unrelated things coming together. One of my favorite people was Martin Luther King. Something I read by him when I was a kid had such an effect on me. He said that all life was interrelated, all humanity part of one process, and to the degree that I harm my brother, to that extent I am harming myself. A lot of leadership is based on the ability to see how all humanity is related, how all parts of society are related, and how things move in the same direction.”

After I read this quote I realized that our Restoration to Health strategy reflect actions that correlate with Dr. King’s belief. Our mental and physical health is interrelated. Our Tribal Members live within a common process of life. And we have harmed our brother, our children, our parents, and in effect we  have harmed ourself by having to live an a community that fails to achieve its great potential. The thinking of how we change direction is complex, and involves numerous other people who have thought long and hard about parts of this common process. It is this knowledge that we seek to tap.

Tapping into this knowledge can seem overwhelming. A few days ago I send an email to my Community & Families Division Director and Behavioral Health Manager. I titled it “Information Overload” with the body of the message stating “This 2000 Surgeon Generals Report is fascinating, with a number of great suggestions. I am getting overloaded with potential. How do we narrow down the options?” I am essentially asking them to help me connect the dots. Both are very experienced in the mental health needs of rural Alaska.

The title of the chapter this quote is from is called “Knowing the World.” As I stated in an earlier blog, one of the gifts my well managed staff gives to me is the time to make some attempt to know the world, or at least the part of it that affects the mission Chugachmiut pursues. I try to download lots of information with an open mind (no prejudgments). Then I use the tools of Lean to map our what the process (future state) might look like. After that, I share with experienced people the concepts and ask for honest feedback. As Dr. Bennis states “…we need true engagement too; we need mentors and friends and groups of allied souls.”

We are having regular discussions with staff and my executive team for the purpose of learning and planning how we implement our Restoration to Health Strategy. When we have a coherent explainable theory on how to implement the strategy, we will be asking our “groups of allied souls” to give us their advice and experience. We will also be going out to the prospective clients and engaging them in the conversation on Restoring their Health, asking for advice, feedback and engagement is helping us move forward.

What I realize is that all of the information we need to pursue an effective strategy is out there in our world‘s database of knowledge. We (I) need to ferret it out, assess it, integrate it, discuss it and place it into an honest pool of discussion and debate for refinement and focus.

The pursuit of a direction requires a mind open to new thoughts and information, and freedom from judgment with biases. Closed minds are our enemy. Good leadership and setting a future state is our friend. Collaboration with any and all of our “groups of allied souls” is necessary.

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