|"Stop! Who approacheth the Bridge of Death must answer|
me these questions three, ere the other side he see."
Bridgekeeper Monty Python and the Holy Grail
(Fifty Nifty Years in the United States Series)
Aside from the Monty Python reference, it was lasting lesson I gained from my work with Don Olson who was the General Director (that's what they called YMCA CEOs back then) at the YMCA in Pasadena, California.
Don always gave me his full attention and was always genuinely interested in me. I have tried to model this (successfully and unsuccessfully) and know that he is a master of making someone feel like they are his number one priority.
Don was the general director at the Y that brought me back to the Y. I had left the Y for a short period and did some work for the Boys and Girls Club and I was working full time at a local newspaper.
When Kelly Cullen (See Blog post Leadership and Lasting Impact) passed away, I got a call from a board member at the Y asking if I’d be interested in returning to Bluff Lake. She informed me that there was a new leader as the General Director and he was a “true” mission focused YMCA person. I have been and always will be motivated by the mission. (I serve others who lead and serve others.)
As things line up I went in and had a great first meeting with Don. I recall him asking three questions that ultimately where, “what went right? What went wrong? And how would you do it better next time?”
Those three questions (and various versions) became my way of looking at every experience I would have for the last few decades. I worked with Don for a about a year and the impact of those three questions have a made a huge difference in my life.
Upon leaving that Y and going to another, I used those questions as a way in how I approached work, leadership, programming, volunteer development, relationships and the list goes on.
It is amazing how three short, little questions change your perspective and allow for growth. It gives you an opportunity to celebrate the success. It gives you the option to lie to rest the mistakes. And it gives you the opportunity to grow by learning from both. Don retired from the Y in order to run the family business at the Oakhurst Lodge in Oakhurst, CA – gateway to Yosemite Park.
I am grateful to so many in my work with the YMCA and other agencies and organizations over these last 50 plus years in these United States. Don made an impression in how I lead by being the great leader and mentor that modeled a path that is somewhat less tread upon. For that and for those 3 simple questions, I am blessed.