Michael McAfee at the 2016 QCOSS State Conference (highlights)


So what I wanted to talk to you about today is really this notion of do you really believe everything is possible how many of you all really believe that
really really believe it and I don’t want you to just don’t raise your hands
or anything just think about that for a moment because all around the world this
is our moment for those of us who are in leadership positions if we are building
an institution and we don’t believe it something’s wrong and no matter where I
go there are a couple of things that I have observed and that I’ve come to
really believe and hold dear in my own leadership the first is this the self is a
beautiful instrument of change the self is a beautiful instrument of change but
that assumes that you want to be that it assumes that you want to be that do you really want to get up every day
and manifest possibility in your behavior in your language in the work
that you really do how do you show up and manifest
possibility how do you show up and manifest possibility i’m going to give
you a couple ways that you can do it that are safe and they can become more
profoundly bolder as you go and you step into your leadership the first is to remember what do you
want to see in the world you came to this work for a reason what do you want to see in the world and
to always be clear about what are you working for not the job that you have I’m not talking
about the job that you have i’m not talking about your responsibilities that
you measure performance by there’s a way that I go through the world, i was
telling people yesterday my title is simply an HR function that’s for them to
figure out my compensation levels and take care of that what I’ve been put
on this earth to do is my responsibility do you see the difference i could be the
vice president of programs and I can act like the CEO I could act like the
president of united states or I can act like a secretary if I wanted to how I manifest that possibility is my
job to think about that and it actually has
nothing to do with my role my role may give me more latitude the higher up I go
and the more positional power that I get but that’s not what i’m talking about i’m
sure many of you all know people who have titles and are quite ineffective so what I’m asking you to think about is
this show up and hold the interest of the population who do you serve who do you serve are you holding the
interest of that population in mind for me i’m always holding the interest of
the hundred million children and families in America that live at two hundred percent
of the poverty line so no matter what conversation I’m in,
i’m always in a conversation where I’m carrying the voice wisdom and experience
of that population that’s it and the reason why that’s so important
is because it allows me to discern what conversations I should be in and where I
should not be it allows me to understand am I in a results-based conversation or is
this really a waste of my time what population do you own in service of
your leadership that’s the first thing the second is are you aware enough about
yourself that you actually know what you’re capable of do you know your potential do you see
greatness in you when you look in the mirror do you have a heart of service do you
want to fight for the most vulnerable? I believe that’s why we came to this work
in the first place to do this work and what I’m asking you to think about right
now is it is hard because many of us in positions have forgot the ability to, we’ve
lost the capacity to build our institutions and to dream we’ve really lost it we satisfice now
we do what is feasible when you do what is feasible it is easy to become
mediocre part of our problem is that many of us do not actually have a
conscious thoughtful arc of change that we want to see with our leadership you know I was telling folks yesterday
about the book “winning marriage” that chronicles the gay rights movement over
20 years of them setting an arc of change and actually winning on that
issue folks many of us have to get much more strategic than just doing stuff and
hoping that that translates to change – it doesn’t it could just mean you spend 20
years and all you’ve done is a bunch of stuff so what i’m inviting you think
about is this actually declare this is the change i would like to see i’m
going to start working on that change today and i would like to see these
markers of progress in say three to five-year increments and figure out who
do i need to join to make that happen and list those folks underneath it and then
go back and say how can I show up at work differently so that I am
manifesting leading in a way that’s going to get me there so I want you to
think about actually believing again in possibility I want you to be resilient in that
belief even if it’s hard for you to believe it right now I want you just to
try to take a couple of steps just try to take a couple of steps to say forget
possibility just try to transform something in service of the people that
you care about and are privileged to serve just try to change one thing figure out
how you could have a different conversation with someone to shift
something figure out how you hold the space intellectually so that whole
sector will begin to come to your ideas how would you do that how can you extend
the practice of what you do by running the best programs in the nation there is
possibility within each and every one of us I want you to live up to it I’m trying
every day to live up to it in spite of being scared in spite of being uncertain in spite of
not having all the answers in spite of not having all the skills that I need to
really be able to do this work but there’s one thing that i do have that
many others don’t I believe in collective impact i believe
in abandoning myself to the strengths of others and when I’m vulnerable enough to
join with others everything becomes ok and we could
get great work done so I want you to try to believe again I want you to try to
join with others I want you to try to abandon yourself to
allowing someone else to support you i want you to try to join with others to
try to get bigger results and I want you to be able to quantify what those
results are and look back in a year and see what happens that’s the work for our time the work
for our time is not to write another report the work for our time is not
to give another rousing speech the work for this moment is to actually do the
work

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