Recently, I was awarded an Honorary Fellowship with the University of York in the United Kingdom. It is incredibly humbling to be an honorary staff member of this amazing institution. I have genuinely enjoyed working with this team, as well as the journey it has taken to get here…
“Always curious, always learning” is a core value of Reka’s and mine. While on a hut-to-hut hike through northern Italy a couple of years ago, we met an English couple, Ioan and Jasmine. Because we were trekking along a similar route, we ended up staying in the same places for several nights in row. Our days were shared hiking together and the evenings were filled with homemade meals and incredible desserts. Much of this time included wonderful conversations and debates. Ioan (Welsh for John) and I hit it off, even though we had different ways of looking at comparable issues. We did not agree on everything; in fact, we were very much at odds with one another on certain topics. Typically, when I run across this in the States, I am told that I am wrong, called a name, attacked, or dismissed. That’s that. However, Ioan and I both strived to understand the other’s perspective. The reality was, more often than not, we agreed on the core concept, but how we arrived at our answers differed.
Ioan and I have remained in contact through Zoom. When he accepted a new position at the University of York in England, just outside the walled city of York, I was excited to hear he was brought in to help with strategy and pushing the ways of thinking. Through our discussions, a realization came to mind: I may be able to assist him and the senior leadership team in restructuring, realigning, and focusing this group towards a common academic goal.
So, I was introduced to this incredibly intelligent group of passionate academics. I am pleased they had enough trust in Ioan to listen to this non-academic, dyslexic “Yankee,” who can’t spell and has bad handwriting. Candidly, I felt a little intimidated during our first session. After all, these guys had PhDs and British accents. I mean, I barely got a bachelor’s degree in home economics from the University of Wyoming (true statement – I had a 2.7 cumulative GPA and earned a degree in clothing design). I had my preconceived perceptions about academia, and I am sure they had theirs about a Yankee. Once again, I was with Ioan and I found myself in a situation where everyone needed to be receptive to being a little uncomfortable. The key to our success is that each member comes to our sessions with only good intentions.
Over the last year, the team and I have met many times for our virtual sessions. Through this, I believe we have built a common bond and genuine trust with one another. Each of us embraces the intention of supporting and guiding the senior leadership team in focusing their vision and achieving their academic goals. I truly enjoy working with this team.
When I was notified that I had been awarded this Honorary Fellowship, I was “properly chuffed,” British English for “a mixture of proud, pleased, and honored”. As a kid in the second grade who had to ride the short bus to a “special” school, it feels wonderful to have the acknowledgment from such an outstanding institution. The best part was the heartfelt acknowledgments from my York team, who I look forward to working with for years to come.
Going forward, I encourage you to be curious and open to different thinking or beliefs. You never know where it may go.
Are you a leader who could benefit from thinking differently? Could your organization use more curiosity and candidness? We can help with that! Reach out to us today to find out how to get started.