Running into the Storm

by , August 22, 2012

This piece will appear in the forthcoming newsletter of the Blue Shield of California Foundation’s Strong Field Project. This statewide initiative strengthens leaders, organizations, and networks to build a stronger field of providers and advocates in the movement to end domestic violence. CompassPoint provides the leadership development component of the Strong Field Project.

Wilma Mankiller, the first female principal chief of the Cherokee nation, has often shared her story of the buffalo on the Great Plains of the Midwest.  When a storm comes to the plains, cattle turn and run away from it.

The buffalo, however, turn to face the storm and run directly toward it. By facing the storm in this way, they find they quickly pass through to the other side. In the domesetic violence field, we are facing many storms of varying magnitudes. And when these storms come, we have choices.

Individually and collectively, Cherokee people possess an extraordinary ability to face down adversity and continue moving forward.
– Wilma Mankiller


We can turn away from them or we can face them head on. At the July gathering of the Strong Field Project Leadership Development Program in Monterey, we practiced facing a storm head on together. Using the storm as a metaphor for organizational adaptive challenges and the buffalo as our guides, the cohort spent the day preparing to run into the storm and then come through the other side. The day unfolded in the following ways:


Preparing to run into the storm (connecting to our core)

As a group, we grounded ourselves physically by practicing Tai Ji. We reconnected to personal talents and strengths, personal purpose, and organizational “touchstones,” such as our theories of change or missions.

Running into the storm (stepping into the challenge)

We identified tools and strategies for practicing adaptive leadership and strategy formation in order to apply them to organizational challenges. Then we coached one another to be strategic in tackling a challenge head on. Examples included re-visiting an organization’s business model, addressing low staff morale during a period of rapid change, and managing an executive transition.


Coming through the other side (identifying resolution)

We helped one another surface “a-has” or blinding flashes of insight from our time in the storm as well as tangible next steps to take back into our organizations.

As the group debriefed the day, one participant shared, “I was reminded today that with core, anything is possible.” What personal or organizational storms do you need to run into? How will you connect to your core in order to step into these challenges? What “touchstones” are important for you to call upon? How might you become more like the buffalo?

By Michelle Gislason, Senior Project Director

More information on the Strong Field Project:

Michelle’s other recent CompassPoints of View blog post:

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