Photo by Flickr user Sarah Nichols
As we approach the end of 2016, a year that's been not-so-affectionately described as a "dumpster fire," what I keep thinking of is Red Rover.
Remember playing this game as a kid? You'd stand in two lines facing each other, holding hands, and one at a time, kids would have to run across and try to ram through the opposing line. It could be fun, but also rough. Too often, the game would turn into bullies playing dirty and knocking other kids to the ground.
On November 9, I felt as if I'd been punched in the gut – the vitriol in the 2016 election felt like I'd run into a Red Rover line and had the wind knocked out of me. In the weeks since, like many others, I've been trying to get back to my feet and brush myself off. I know the months and years ahead will be full of challenges, and I'll need to regain my breath and use my voice.
Part of the shock for me was the stark gap between the communities I'm a member of: Hennepin County, my home in Minneapolis, went 63% for Hillary, while my family home of Faribault County went 63% for Trump. New York City, where I attended business school and lived for 5 years, went 79% for Hillary, while the township that's home to my family's farm went 79% for Trump.
At Connect the Grey, we've had many conversations about what we see as the biggest problems facing businesses, agriculture, Minnesota, America, and our planet… and what we can do in our small slice of the world to help. As we gear up for 2017, here's what we're resolving:
1. To link arms with the underdogs.
In Red Rover, you and the rest of your line are all in it together; you are connected to the people next to you, and it's your job to hold on tight and keep those connections strong. The presidential campaign and election aftermath have made clear that many people are feeling newly vulnerable and scared. It's important to us to stand with those who are most affected and who most need our support, and to lend our strength to protect everyone. And remember that in the game of Red Rover, people are constantly switching teams, running back and forth between sides. In one moment, you might be victorious, and in the next, you're tumbling to the ground -- so it's important to lend a hand to others, because you never know when you might be the underdog. The goal is to keep the game going and have fun playing, not to destroy your friends.
2. To push businesses to lead change.
Our work focuses on helping businesses grow and thrive through integrative problem-solving and constructive dialogue, and on encouraging our clients to embrace not just "best practices," but "next practices," the strategies that drive sustainable success in the long run. We believe that businesses must take bold action to improve their operations and to tackle the world's major challenges. Our challenge to business leaders: be real leaders, not just within the walls of your organization, but out in society. Get active in your community and use the platform and voice you’ve been given to be a force for good.
3. To build a resilient team that shares common values.
2016 has been a challenging year for the individual Connect the Grey players in ways big and small, with team members facing family loss and serious illness. Though we're still a young company, it's been important to support each other by coming together as a team, by filling in for one another and providing a base of support that allows each one of us to live full lives and focus on what's important.
2016 was a hell of a year. There were things that shook my confidence as a leader, an entrepreneur, a person. Things that called into question my faith in myself, not to mention my optimism and my faith in humanity and society… the beliefs that had always kept me going in the past. Personally, professionally, and culturally, the year has brought some dark times, where it seemed the only thing visible was a nasty dumpster fire.
But once my eyes adjusted to the light, I could see there were others who were also out in the street, looking for something to do. The connection, recognition, and camaraderie were what helped reinvigorate my energy and reminded me that we’re not alone. All of us want to live happy, healthy lives... so we've gotta look out for one another, find each other in the darkness, and redirect that dumpster fire flame to “light the fire” that motivates us to take action and do better.
This starts with recognizing that 2016 was a tough year for a lot of people in a lot of different ways. We’re all emerging a little battered and bruised, but it helps me to remember that those wounds are often what comes from being engaged and taking risks, and that we don’t have to go it alone. I’m so grateful for my team at work, and how they’ve stuck with me through some low spots in my journey. And I'm grateful to recognize the ways that my sticking with them through their low spots is what re-energizes and motivates me to do and be better, and to strengthen the team. We can draw energy from each other to keep forging ahead and push for improvements… and make sure no one gets trampled along the way.