Discovering What Matters: Reflections from Our First 2017 Summit
On March 1, we launched our third cohort of passionate underrepresented entrepreneurs. On March 20, we welcomed them to New Orleans in our opening Summit. The Summits are always a powerful experience for our team, and I wanted to share these reflections from this past week:
It’s been awhile since we wrapped-up our last cohort - 209 days to be exact. In that time we have gone through a lot of changes as an organization - new branding, revised application rubrics, and writing our first program manual. All of these things matter. Our opening summit was an opportunity to connect back to the heart of our work - our Fellows. And it reminded me that the thing that can be the great multiplier of bringing 12 people together is love. Love is the thing that keeps you up at night talking about how you might work together. Love is the thing that ensures one fellow helps another with his tie so he is on point for the investor event. Love is the thing that allows you to say to another Fellow that the job description you wrote isn’t inspiring. We cannot plan for these things. We must though continue to set the stage and continuously invite Fellows to love. This love will empower our collective efforts to heal, build, and strengthen our communities.
It sounds self-evident to say that leaders matter. We have always believed that it is just as important to build the person who is building the thing, as it is to build the thing. We believe this because the stronger the leader, the better company they will build. For the last two fellowship cycles we thought that if we focused on the technical skills of company building that Fellows would learn them and then implement them. The truth is though that founders all have their own “stuff” that they are working through too. And the sooner they can understand it, name it, and have tools to grow, the better their organization.
It sounds bizarre, but it was exciting to hear our Fellows on our first full day of the Summit as they worked with Deb Katz, our amazing leadership facilitator. At one point in the activity Fellows have to go around and introduce themselves by the naming the problematic situation that they allow to be true - e.g., Hi, my name is Aaron and I’m okay with employees not keeping their commitments. I know change is not immediate; but I also know that for many Fellows six months from now the situations that they allow to be true today, will not be true tomorrow.
Our time with fellows is limited; we are only with them for six-months. Research suggests that 87% of learning is lost after 30 days if not reinforced. So as much as we were able to put in front of Fellows, now the real work begins. It is up to our whole team, including our Entrepreneurial Engineers, to refresh our Fellows memory and strategically find opportunities to frame issues that our Fellows confront as opportunities to put learning to real-world use. We must live out the credo that we shared with Fellows this week from Denzel Washington’s acceptance speech at the NAACP’s Image Award: “Without commitment you’ll never start; but more importantly, without consistency you’ll never finish.”
This week was one of my favorites of the year so far. We started with a family dinner featuring local favorite, Miss Linda’s famous Yakamein, and ended with a design sprint workshop and emotional share-outs. In-between, there were amazing workshops led by strong leaders I’m honored to call our friends, a crawfish boil, improv, and more. Fellows, thank you for sharing your visions and time with us. Team, thank you for making this possible. To all of our supporters, thanks for believing in us. It’s happening.
If you're interested in following our journey for the next 6 months, I invite you to check out the newest page of our website: the 2017 Fellowship hub.