28 August 2014

Are you a "nogwogist?" Would you want to be?

Most who know me know that I'm a special education teacher. I've written several transition plans to help young people move successfully from secondary school into a post secondary school setting, and I care about equal access - not just to education but to life opportunities - for individuals with disabilities.

When I saw this book, I knew I HAD to read it...

The subtitle on the cover of No Greatness without Goodness, by Randy Lewis, pretty well sums it up. The book is all about "how a father's love changed a company and sparked a movement." When Randy and his wife's son Austin received a diagnosis of autism, life changed... drastically. As Randy started considering the future... the next moments... next weeks... next years... next days of life for his son, he decided to do something that would benefit not just his son, but many - and perhaps by example, all - individuals with disabilities. He wanted his son to someday have the security of a job. As the senior executive in Walgreen's, responsible for the functioning of the distribution centers of one of the largest and fastest growing pharmaceutical retailers in the United States, Randy set as his goal the creation of an inclusive workplace where those with disabilities would be employed under the same conditions, held to the same standards, for equal pay and with equal benefits - as their typically abled counterparts.

Not only is the story an authentic glimpse into life with a child like Austin, it is an encouraging and challenging one. The chapters are short and each one has a key point Mr. Lewis wants to make. He succeeds. As I finished the book, I realized that I'd dog-eared at least 20 plus pages where there were quotes, short stories, examples... something I wanted to go back and reread, write down, think on further, etc.

Some of those things I dog-eared?
  • "Look deeper, even into troubles. There is gold to be found everywhere." (p. 27)
  • "Principles are only the starting point. If you want to make a difference in the world, you need to act on what you believe." (p. 50)
  • "The willingness to fail is the first step toward success." (p. 61) 
  • "Compassion stirs us to remove the pain of the world. Justice stirs us to remove its cause." (p. 69)
  • "It's time to ask yourself, 'If we can't, who can? Who else will make greatness and goodness rhyme?'" (p. 81) 
  • "When people say 'best practice,' think best practice so far. If no one has ever done something before, that's an opportunity, not a stop sign." (p. 87)
  • "Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men's blood." - a quote of the 19th century architect Daniel Burnham (p. 97)
  • Competence is like money that keeps earning interest. One day you can cash it in for an even bigger prize." (p. 103) 
  • "We were no longer strangers doing a job; we were men and women coming together to do something important... Use every opportunity to help others see meaning in their work. They will be transformed from bricklayers to cathedral builders." (pp. 104,105)
  • "Leaders must work consciously, constantly, and conspicuously to drive out fear... It stands in the way of greatness." (pp. 112,113)
  • "We can delegate authority but not responsibility." (p. 124)
  • "...many of the scenarios we imagine with dread never happen.... There were problems that we didn't anticipate, of course.... Uncertainty makes people jittery. The best question someone brought up at one of our planning meetings was 'What about the problems we haven't thought of?' I assured everyone that unforeseen problems weren't just a possibility but a certainty and that we would address those occasions as they came up.... We were doing something new, with few precedents to guide us. This meant that we would have to deal with uncertainty and depend on discovery along the way. It was more like blazing a new trail than like making the morning commute. Innovation is a journey, not a commute." (pp 126,127)
  • "Doubt and inertia are the status quo's best friends. They always say no to change, risk and innovation." p. 132
  • "Don't let the prospect of difficulty stand in the way of the grand possibility." (p. 135)
  • "Forget about losing face. Worry about what will happen if you don't have the courage to keep going." (p. 141)
  • "[Call] disabilities 'positive distractions' ...[Give] people the freedom to be themselves, with no need to hid their disabilities." (p. 181,182)
  • "The workers at Habitat were men and women with obvious challenges. There was no hiding here. And there was no shame... here a disability was just a distraction from the typical, not a flaw in the person's humanity. Brokenness was not a source of shame, nor were gifts a source of pride. There was no 'worthiness' test." (p. 183)
  • "There is no 'them'; there is just 'us.' Making that idea a reality changes the workplace. And the world." (p. 184) 
  • "Set a clear and elevating goal that inspires and challenges. Focus on what can be, not on what can go wrong." (p. 189) 
  • "It takes longer than you think to overcome history. Cultural change does not happen overnight; it requires years of reinforcement and constant attention. As every athlete knows, it takes more effort to stay in shape than it does to get in shape." (p. 193)
  • "Greatness is proprietary, but goodness can be shared without being diminished." (p. 197) 
  • "Greatness requires continuous energy to maintain and stands at a single point in time. Acts of goodness, in contrast, have a life and energy of their own and touch others in unpredictable ways." (p. 206)
  • "As exhilarating as your own success is, it doesn't compare with the joy of helping others succeed. Everybody wins."
There are even more quote worthy phrases and sentences all throughout the book. This book is so much more than the dry story of the steps Walgreen's took to create an inclusive work environment. It is a gentle but exciting exhortation in the importance of seeing individual people, not objectives... a charismatic challenge to begin making changes, even when uncomfortable, for the benefit of those who've not received benefit before... a resounding reminder that there really is no greatness without goodness.

Are you a nogwogist?

A nogwogist is someone who believes that:
  1. no achievement can be considered great if detrimental to the common good
  2. a leadership philosophy which seeks to maximize the benefit of all who are impacted by its decisions; ethical leadership; selfless leadership: it is about us not me.
  3. a belief that it is possible and desirable seek to reconcile the disparate facets of our lives and embrace the best of all: e.g., achieve excellence, do rewarding work, make a difference and leave the world a better place; to be one person at home and the same person at work; combine good business and good citizenship; do well and do good.

Do you want to be? If so, how will you go about it?

photo credit: John C Abell via photopin cc

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