Dare boldly

A blog by Louise Gallagher


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Friday Musings on Leadership and Other Random Thoughts

It’s a simple concept. To be good for one it must be good for all.

It’s also a challenge. How do you ensure that whatever you’re doing is not going to create worse for someone else? Can you?

I remember the first time I had to let a staff go. I was sick. How could I impact a person’s life that way?

Turns out, it was a good thing for that individual. They didn’t like the work. They wanted to go back to school and this gave them the opportunity to do so.

Changing their work status created an opportunity for them to change their lives – it also created better within the organization.

I couldn’t have foreseen that at the time. I just knew that, even though it was uncomfortable, our paths had to part.

Change by its very nature is not static. Change one thing, someone else is impacted which creates more change.

As I settle into a new leadership role, I am thinking about change a lot. Everything I do has an impact.

What kind of impact do I want to make?

At the end of the day yesterday, I sat with a former co-worker who has just taken on an ED role at another organization. We chatted about change and leadership and how to create better while holding space for applause and criticism without being attached to either.

“It’s lonely at the top,” my friend said. “Because no matter the situation, you have to make the final decision. There will be people who like it. People who don’t. Doesn’t matter. You have to make it anyway.”

My friend is right. I can hear all the opinions, see through many lenses, shift through many perspectives, but in the end, the decision rests with me. In the end, I have to be okay with whatever I decide.

My friend went on to say that often, there’s no right or wrong decision, there’s just the one you choose.

Isn’t that the crux of it?  Whatever decision we make, we have to be comfortable with what we’ve chosen and then, live into the choice.

As a leader, it’s imperative to not continually second guess, vacillate or keep changing your mind. It’s important to commit.

It’s okay to pause and consider the options before committing to a course of action. It’s not okay to decide to not decide.

I’m musing on leadership these days. Thinking about what kind of leader I want to be. What is my impact? How do I get comfortable turning up, paying attention, making decisions and staying unattached to the outcome?

It’s an interesting space. I’m leaning into growing and learning and staying grounded in what I believe as I move deeper into the role. —  We all start out the day with the intention to do and give our best. My role is to create space for everyone to bring their best forward so that their brilliance will inspire others to shine so that together, we can light up the world and make it a better place for everyone.

Namaste.

 


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Where Plans Fail and Planning Matters

A week ago today, I took on a role I was not anticipating.

The Executive Director at the family emergency shelter and housing provider where I work left and I was asked to step in as Interim Executive Director.

It was not in my plan, but as Eisenhower is often quoted as having said (it wasn’t actually him but that’s another story), every plan is only as good as the first encounter with the enemy. Planning is essential, but plans are useless (that one is actually attributable to Eisenhower – he just said it a bit differently).

And that’s the thing about taking on such a big leadership role. While I am only taking on the role while the Board searches for a new ED, I don’t know how long that will take, and have committed to staying for as long as it takes to get the right person in place. Thus, I must plan accordingly.

Which is kind of exciting.

Because here’s the deal, several years ago I thought I’d enjoy the challenge of being an ED. At that time, as I explored opportunities I realized that my life vision and work vision weren’t aligned if I took on such a role.

When I joined this agency, I came because I wanted the last segment of my formal working career to be in a place where I was passionate about the mission, the people and the work. And I am.

I believe we can end child and family homelessness if we work together, build the necessary infrastructures and housing and stay focused on ensuring everything we do is bringing us closer to our goal.

I also believe we can’t do it ‘for’ the children and families experiencing homelessness. We must do it ‘with’ them, or as is often said by those with lived experience, “Nothing for me without me”.

To suddenly find myself in a place where I have authority and responsibility to move the bar closer to achieving our goals is exciting. Especially when I know I am surrounded by people I admire, trust and am in awe of their passion and commitment, are walking with me as we take each step on this journey.

Today, when I go into my office, I am taking with me a blank canvas to hang on the wall. The canvas represents where we are today, in a space where all things are possible and not all things are necessary.

It is the tension within that duality that excites me.

As we move forward over the next few months, the canvas will become a reflection of our hopes and dreams, desires and creations. What won’t be visible are the things we’ve chosen not to put on it. The things we determine don’t fit, don’t belong, don’t bring us closer to realizing our shared vision of ending child and family homelessness.

A week ago today I took on a new role. I believe it was the right thing to do.

Change requires stability and trust. I came to the organization to end my career on a high note. I found that opportunity. With this change in my focus, I get to play a leadership role in making a great organization even greater.

I’m excited and grateful.

Excited to take on a new challenge where I feel my contributions are making a difference to people and community.

Grateful for the Board’s trust in me and for staff’s willingness to walk with me as we explore all that we can do together to support children and families in crisis and all that we can do as a community to end child and family homelessness.

Namaste.


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A hammock on a busy avenue

Yesterday, as I was leaving the family emergency shelter where I work, I noticed a hammock strung between two trees on the grassy area beside the parking lot across the street from our building.

There was someone in the hammock, maybe two. On the grass beneath it was a big black plastic bag and a suitcase. I could only assume the occupant’s worldly possessions.

It struck me that if that hammock was placed in someone’s backyard, its presence would evoke thoughts of comfort, coziness, lazy days of summer spent idly swinging back and forth.

Yesterday, the sight of it made me feel sad.

To have your whole world in a shopping bag. To hang your hammock, your home without a home, in a tree along a busy downtown avenue. To lie in your hammock hoping no one steals your belongings.

It just feels so sad to me. So distressing. So disturbing.

In the homeless-serving sector, we are faced every day with people whose lives are in disarray. Whose best efforts have lead them to the place they never wanted to be. Homeless.

And, just when you think you’ve seen or heard it all and encountered every aspect of this condition called homeless, you see something you never imagined.

In this case, a hammock strung between two trees on a busy downtown avenue.

I wondered about the person or persons in that hammock. What made them choose that spot? How did they get there? What resilience do they have that gave them the forethought to carry a hammock? How will they get home?

I thought about calling the DOAP team, a mobile response unit in Calgary that is operated by Alpha House to support individuals on the street who are in distress.

But the individual(s) in the hammock weren’t in distress. And they weren’t causing a disturbance.

I chose to let them be. To not disturb the delicate ecosystem they had created in that spot.

And still, the image of that hammock strung between two trees haunts me.

It is so intentional in its placement yet also a contradiction. Hammocks belong in backyards, not on busy downtown avenues.

I wonder if it will be there this morning when I arrive at work.

I wonder if in stringing that hammock between two trees they found respite from the hostile environment that a city can represent to those experiencing homelessness.

I hope the night treated them well.

I hope they came in for a meal. That between our shelter staff and the staff at the adult singles shelter next door, they found what they needed to be safe.

And if the hammock is still there, I will check with staff to see if they have already checked on their welfare. Because a hammock on a busy downtown avenue is not a sign of blissful peace.

It’s a sign that something is amiss in someone’s life.

Yesterday, I missed the sign and chose to walk on by.

Today, I’ve awoken.

Namaste.

 


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The divine tastes of dinner with Chef Michael and team

Julius Caesar is quoted as having written in a missive to the Roman Senate after successfully winning a battle in 47 BC, Veni. Vidi. Vici. (I came. I saw. I conquered.)

After Friday night’s extravaganza with Chef Michael from the Calgary Westin Downtown, I would change it to, Veni. Vidi. Edi. Which loosely translated means, They came. They saw. They ate.

And eat we did.

It was extraordinary.

There is nothing about the evening I would change except perhaps a walk between each course.  I could not send my plate to the kitchen without cleaning it off. It was soooo good.

They arrived in a white van. Unloaded baskets onto carts that they then wheeled into our kitchen.

Roma and Jennie immediately set to work setting the table and organizing glassware and wine while Chef Michael and Sous Chef Saurabh began preparing the food in the kitchen.

I am in awe of how these four amazing individuals came into our home, created a masterpiece of a dinner and then, when they departed, left the kitchen as if it had never been used. All they left behind were the incredible memories of a delicious meal and sublime service. Of laughter. Shared times and divine tastes that lingered on my memory long after my tastebuds settled down.

Definitely a night to remember.

Particularly as it’s the first time I’ve seen my brother-in-law each salad and like it. He jokingly told Chef Michael he was coming over to the dark side. But not for long. Once the tenderloin was served he let go of his memory of salad and dove in with nary a thought for tomatoes and greens.

Even Beaumont agrees the evening was a huge success. Along with all the treats his Uncle Jim provided, at the end of the evening he snuck into the kitchen to lick the plates as they were being placed in the paniers to go back to the hotel!

As Chef Michael said in his parting remarks, the Westin is committed to giving back to community so being able to do dinner’s like this that support a cause like Inn from the Cold is really important.

Thank you Michael, Sandhu, Roma and Jennie. Your food, attention to detail, care and incredible grace left an impression in all our hearts.

And thank you the Marriott International and the Calgary Westin Downtown for believing so whole-heartedly in giving back to community and making evenings like ours on Friday night possible.


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The Big Dinner with Chef Michael Batke

It doesn’t matter what I have, what I’ve done or do, the titles, accolades or accomplishment if in my doing and being, I do not put people first, I am empty.

My life is not richer because of what I have. It is richer, more vibrant, more ‘livable’ based on the quality of my relationships.

I am blessed to have amazing people in my life. People who have supported me over the years, through ups and downs and in’s and out’s. Who have stood beside me in dark times and celebrated with me in good times.

This evening, my beloved and I are hosting a special dinner. If we could, we would have had others at the table but this dinner is specifically limited to 8 people. (Alexis and James, Anne and Lee, T.C., M.C., CJ x2, NR and so many others – we would have found a way to have you at the table if we could have!)

Tonight’s dinner is in honour of two beautiful people — my sister Jackie and her husband Jim. It’s their birthday soiree and while not ‘big numbers’ their big hearts make it extra special.

What also makes this dinner extra special is, I’m not cooking it. And we’re not ordering in.

This evening, the Downtown Westin Hotel’s Executive Chef Michael Batke and some of his team will be preparing and serving the meal, in our home.

In July, Chef Michael participated in a lobster cook-off at the Marriott’s Annual Lobster BBQ held at the Delta Calgary South. Funds raised went to support Inn from the Cold, the organization for whom I work.

In the process, the five chefs competing in the cook-off, proffered up Dinner at Home for the successful bidders of a live auction. Now that’s community spirit and giving in action!

C.C. and I were fortunate enough to be the lucky bidders for Chef Michael to come into our kitchen and cook it up!

Tonight is the Big Dinner. (I know. I know. Caps are sooo annoying. But I am sooo excited I can’t help myself.)

It promises to be an incredible evening of extraordinary food, wine and service. The Westin’s wine guy gave us a listing of wine pairings and the incredible team at Vine Arts is fulfilling on the list. (I must remember to remind C.C. to pick up the wine!)

What’s incredible about this dinner is… I don’t have to do anything and it’s all as a result of our supporting a cause I am deeply committed to:  ending child and family homelessness in our city.

I gotta tell you, excited doesn’t even begin to describe how I’m feeling!

And just to whet your appetite… and to tease your tastebuds just a little bit.  Bon Appetit!


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The Promise of Flowers Yet to Bloom (a poem)

The Promise of Flowers Yet to Bloom

©2018 Louise Gallagher

A flower lost itself to fall today.

Autumn fell upon its delicate petals
vanishing all memory of summer’s heat
as frost nipped its buds
and winter whispered with wicked glee,
I will see you soon.

A flower lost itself to fall today.

And with autumnal grace, golden leaves drifted down
into that place where winter’s cold embrace
lurks at the edge of lengthening shadows
creeping silently across leaf covered ground
lying fallow in anticipation of arctic winds yet to blow.

In autumn’s falling colours
the earth prepares
to awaken to black on white images
of frosty mornings
kissed with winter’s icy breath.

A flower lost itself to fall today.

Its petals fell effortlessly
as with one final sigh of relief
the flower dropped its seeds to cast
the promise of flowers yet to bloom
upon the wind.

And I wait in this liminal space
where autumn falls all around.

In the midst of golden leaves
and cast off petals
strewn haphazardly upon the ground
I stand hopeful in the shimmering possibilities
that awaken with every changing season.

____________________________________________________

The creative process fascinates me. I awaken unsure of what will appear once I touch my fingers to the keyboard and give myself up to trusting in the process. In that letting go of expectation, space is created for the muse to flow through me, creating space for that which is yearning to be expressed.

This morning, I had no idea an autumn poem was birthing itself in morning’s slowly awakening light. I had no idea that a photo I’d taken of the bunch of Asters I’d placed by our front door would awaken thoughts of changing seasons and all the possibility that sweeps in with every falling leaf.

Fall is my favourite season.

It seems fitting a poem would write itself out of that place where I let go of expectation of what to write and allow trusting in the process to give birth to that which is yearning to be expressed.


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3 Things to make the world a better place.

I have been contemplating 3things.

In particular, what are 3 things, of all the things I’ve learned in my life, I want to share most with my grandson?

It is not a simple process to discern these 3 things. I don’t want them to be about ‘doing’. They are about ‘being’. Present in this world. Aware. Conscious. Thoughtful.

This contemplation is a deep examination of my values. Of what is important to me to create value  in the world around me and an understanding of what I feel is my unique expression of Divine Grace in this world.

These 3 things are not like teaching him how to say the alphabet or count to 100. They are deeply personal, deeply impactful to the quality of my life and my being fully present to and within my life.

This morning in meditation, 3 things floated into my consciousness as gracefully as a leaf drifting down to rest upon the surface of the river on a warm autumn morning. I held them for a moment and like the leaf, let them drift quietly away as I sank deeper into the silence.

Yet, when I came back into awareness, there they were, 3 things I seek to carry with me as I journey through this world. 3 Things I seek to share with my grandson to add value to his world.

These three things are not shared through teaching, but through being who I am and how I am in this world. Somedays, I live from within my 3 things with grace and ease. Other days it’s a struggle. But always, when I let my 3 Things be my touchstone, my world is a better place for me and everyone I meet.

And that is what I want to share with him. The beauty and fragility of our human condition and our capacity to be forgiving, loving and compassionate with ourselves and everyone in our lives when we live from a heart-driven place where love, compassion and kindness are our guides..

My 3 things are unique to me. They are universal qualities. They mine come from that place deep within us where we rise above our impulses and ego-driven motives to hear our heart and soul calling us to be in Unity with the Divine Grace of life within and all around us.

My 3 Things bring my deepest desires into alignment with the desire of the Universe for me to know life in all its beauty, wonder and possibility. They free me to live at peace in that grace-filled space where I am One with divine love and compassion for myself and the people around me.

  1. Be kind.  In all things, all ways, be kind. Treat people and this earth gently. Tread lightly. Speak softly. Act respectfully. Do not let your thinking interfere with your being who you are. Do not let your anger pull you away from the path of kindness. Ask yourself, is this [whatever I’m about to do or say] kind? And let your heart answer.
  2. Listen to your heart. No matter what is happening in the world around you, your heart knows the answers. Listen deeply. Strive to keep your heart soft and your mind open. Let your heart inform your thinking. Let your heart lead the way. When angry or feeling hurt by the actions of others, when you feel frightened and alone, when you feel unsure and confused, ask your heart what it knows. Your heart will always tell you the truth. Listen deeply. Trust in Love. Trust in yourself. Believe in your heart.
  3. Live joyfully. It can be tempting to fall into the trap of thinking life is a serious business. That making a difference means focussing on what’s wrong in the world, not what’s right. There is a great deal going on in this big ole’ world that makes your heart beat faster, your eyes open in wonder and your thoughts take flights of fancy. Let the wonder of it all keep you seeking the path of joy. No matter what you’re doing, where you’re going or how you’re travelling, let joy be your constant companion.

I want my grandson to know that as we travel through the world, we can sometimes lose our way. To find ourselves again, all we need to do is come back to our hearts by living within the truth of our 3 Things.

We all have 3 Things, even more. For me today, 3 Things are what I need to travel lightly so I can share with my grandson the beauty I see in the world around me.

What about you. What are your 3 Things?