Last year I participated in a program called Leadership New York that is run by an organization called Coro. This was a 9-month part-time program for 50 mid-career professionals who worked in non-profit, for-profit, and government.
The program was one part leadership skill development, one part networking, and one part deep dive into New York City’s biggest issues in topics like education, health care, and public safety.
One of the most rigorous parts of the program involved working in a group of 6 people to organize an all-day experiential learning opportunity focused on one of the aforementioned topics.
Before we started working on designing these days, our program director challenged us to participate on two levels. On the surface, she expected us to work together to design this day of learning. More substantively, she invited us to use the experience as a case study.
The point is this: while you’re doing the work, observe the decisions you are and are not making. Observe the decisions your teammates are making. When do you decide to speak? When are you pushing your colleagues? When are you not delivering on your promises? Who is the leader of the group? Are team members with kids treated differently because their time is more limited than those who do not have kids?
The exercise of doing work, reflecting on that work, discussing it with other people who are reflecting, and then doing more work was invigorating.
The point of the work was not the work. The point of the work was what I learned about myself and other people while I was doing the work.
This nugget has stayed with me ever since. Not only has the idea of my life as a case study helped disassociate my sense of self-worth from my work, it has also helped me notice patterns in the choices I make. I am able to be more deliberate because I am more aware.