One of the organisations I am involved with used to have a ritual at the beginning of every board meeting. It used to open with a prayer.
Now I am not a particularly or overtly religious person and over time that ritual has been allowed to lapse. It was, for some, slightly awkward but I have questioned the wisdom of letting the practice disappear.
What the opening prayer did, very successfully, I felt, was to cause us all to consciously switch modes, from our normal day to day personas and behaviours to the people we needed to be to discharge our duties in our temporary roles as directors, custodians or trustees of the organisation. It forced us to think about what our roles were for the duration of the board meeting; to understand that for the next couple of hours or so, it was not about us and own self interests. It was about our duties in the roles we had been asked to fulfil.
I am happy to say that the tradition hasn’t been totally abandoned but has been modified. What we do now is have a few moments of quiet personal reflection to contemplate the role that we each have to fulfil and to consider our duties, obligations and responsibilities for the people on whose behalf we are acting, the stakeholders of the enterprise: the beneficiaries, customers, staff and shareholders.
I find this incredibly useful, humbling and focussing. So, I wonder whether this simple technique of taking a moment to take stock, to understand what we are there to do, what our duties obligations and responsibilities are in the moment and to consider who we need to be to best discharge those obligations can and should be repeated more frequently.
Certainly on an individual level it would be very effective. For a team to take a moment to understand and reflect upon what they individually and collectively need to achieve would be even more effective I sense.
There used to be a saying that ‘when you are up to your backside in alligators, it is difficult to remember that the object of the exercise was to drain the swamp’. Maybe the very best thing we can do for each other is to take a little time to remind ourselves what we are here to do.