Collaboration | Non-profit Ideas

Does Your Agenda have a Prayer?

Three of my young children sleep in the same room, and every night, I lay down with the youngest and we all take turns saying our prayers. We are not a religious family, and each one of us already has a different interpretation of who or what we are speaking to. Although each of us gets different things out of the practice, we all follow the same basic formula, and it has become a family tradition.

The formula we’ve established is to first tell God (or the universe, or fairies, or angels, or the Elf on a Shelf — the kids can choose whatever they want) what you are grateful for, then a prayer to help someone other than yourself (like people who need food or animals who need adoption), then ask for help with something personal for yourself, like not losing your temper, or not peeing your pants.
· things I’m grateful for
· help others be happy
· help me be a better person

There are nights when one or more of my kids grumble that they don’t want to do it, and I have to remind them that this is a tradition that we do together as a family. But really, when the kids are tired or don’t feel like it, what really gets it going is when I remind them of the formula. Having this mental template takes so much of the stress out about figuring out what to say. Granted, we get some funny prayers sometimes, like “Thank you God for American Ninja Warrior” but even the funny ones are actually very insightful. My son was really thanking God that for once we found a show that the whole family enjoyed and watched together. My other son once asked God (and fairies and angels) to help Daddy be less grumpy. Well, man, that hurt a bit — but he was totally right. I was rushing prayers that night because I wanted to go to bed myself. Leave it to a 3-year-old to call you right out on that.

As Pollen has grown, we’ve decided to implement a weekly management meeting, where the managers get together and give each other quick updates on our departments and then cover the most pressing topics of the week. Early on, we established an agenda for each of our updates which is to talk about the best thing of the week, the worst thing of the week and something that we need help with.
· Best
· Worst
· Help

A “best” might be the successful launch of a non-profit’s new website, a “worst” might be that a team member is overwhelmed (and always is followed by how to make it better), and a “help” might be about how to improve a client relationship. The team, being greater than its parts, pitches in with help and advice and real action over the following week — but the team is also plugged into the greater source, Pollen’s purpose, to use the power of design for good.

Recently, I was struck by how similar these two formats, prayers and update agendas, are to each other. You don’t have to believe in a literal God (or fairies or angels) to recognize that there are forces at work in the universe that are far greater than humanity and which we may never understand — that you are a part of something greater. Our prayers are one of my family’s ways of connecting with this greater whole, making our feelings and wishes of goodwill known and requesting help with our own personal development.

By using this similar format for team meetings, what we are doing is recognizing that each of us is a part of something bigger, and we’re connecting with that greater whole of the team, the organization, and the purpose — Pollen’s “reason for being”. We recognize that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts and so in this way we give ourselves to and plug into the whole.

Experiment with different formats and agendas that work for your team and your family, but I suggest ensuring that it serves to plug you in to your larger mission, your source of strength and inspiration. By thoughtfully sharing ups and downs in the context of the greater whole that your team creates, your family and your business can recharge and realign.

What traditions, rituals or regular activities does your organization practice that plug your team into its greater “source”?

With gratitude,
John Natoli