My earlier careers, while diverse, have all required development of the same skill — understanding that each situation is unique and learning how to listen for the clues that will enable me to understand them.
Living and conducting anthropological research with a traditional society in the mountains of the Philippines required that I recognize that the assumptions they made about their lives and the world around them were completely different from mine. I had to watch and listen carefully to find the clues that would lead me to an understanding of their world.
In addition to undergraduate teaching at Fordham University under the mentorship of Margaret Mead, I taught anthropology classes to help NYC Police Officers better understand the many worlds in which they operate. The essence of the teaching was the ability to pick up the clues that would lead me to an understanding of the unstated assumptions and values of my students.
My career in law, litigating in courts ranging from New York City’s Housing and Criminal Courts to the courts of many U.S. and foreign jurisdictions, helped me further develop the skill of listening. As an attorney, I also volunteered as a mediator; a role that requires the ability to look for the clues that can point to common ground between opposing parties.
Board members who have been successful in their lives are asked to apply their skills within an entirely new organizational and cultural context. Effecting this transition requires helping them to understand and appreciate the unique nature of their role and to see the value of adopting effective board management structures.