Although it's been years since I've had a boss other than myself, I've been thinking about the first boss I had. He was the longtime superintendent of a small school in a Minnesota farming community where I had been hired to teach high school English.
I was eager, idealistic, ready to make my mark in the world of education. Although my students did not always share my enthusiasm for Emily Dickinson, Walt Whitman and Wordsworth, that didn't stop me from sharing the beauty of poetry. I innovated and taught the classic poets with the Beatles thrown in.
It worked and my students developed a passion for literature they hadn't anticipated.
Unfortunately, I did so without the support of the administration. To begin with, the superintendent's frequently quoted motto was, "You can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear."
This is not a promising position to hold if you are entrusted with developing human potential.
In order to circumvent his rigid approach to education, I enrolled my students in a secret conspiracy. I told them that whatever happened in my classroom was private. Yes, this was years before the What Happens in Vegas Stays in Vegas campaign, but it was the same principle.
My students showed up with anticipation, ready to be surprised. They developed a penchant for great ideas. They were determined to explore a bigger world.
What happened in my classroom back then and in all the classrooms I've inhabited since then comes out of my recognition that the work of a teacher or leader or manager in any endeavor is to serve as a catalyst for the creative energy that's there.
I'd like to invite you to join me in another conspiracy. You can participate whether you're the boss or have a boss.
Here's all you have to do: ask people what they want to be, to do, to have and then listen. Really listen. Then commit yourself to supporting them in realizing their dreams. Help them stay focused on the vision. Make a safe place for them to make mistakes. Encourage them to stretch and celebrate with them.
Before you know it, you'll be the missing link for a variety of plans, goals and purposes.
Give yourself the same gift. After all, being a creative catalyst is equally important when you're the only boss you have.