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Started From The Bottom


Because picture day does require someone bossy...

Started from the bottom, now we’re here.


Milwaukee is sort of on a Drake hiatus for the moment while the Bucks play Toronto. But I couldn’t help but think of those song lyrics this morning as I cleaned the front entryway at Hope Street. Here, in this space called Hope Street, where I have been given the title Executive Director.


I have played a lot of roles in this building. I started out as a volunteer and very quickly learned that if you think something is beneath you you’re probably at the wrong place. Here we clean toilets, we pick up trash sprinkled across the lawn and we dispose of leftover belongings. Sometimes, HERE is an acknowledgement that you have been humbled.


The last couple of weeks have brought about interesting conversations around “authority”: who has it, how do they enforce it and when do you know you have received it? I am sure, in large part because I have hired my younger sister, I am the boss. But that doesn’t give me the right to be bossy. It comes with responsibility and an expectation that I equip, empower and release those who I work with. Yes, sometimes I make final calls - but even those final calls fall under a higher authority: The Greenhouse for People.


A Mission Statement is an incredible gift. It focuses you, it reminds you and most of all it enables you to make appropriate choices. For me, our mission statement has freed me to celebrate my team’s unique gifts. Each person is given the freedom to create inside the framework of GFP (Greenhouse for People). It sets a standard. We all have to do our part in upholding it. Here, that may look different depending on the week.


I don’t mind cleaning. In fact sometimes I prefer it. It is one of those things you can actually get done. Once it’s done you see what you have accomplished. Most of “my job” doesn’t look like that. Although there, in those moments of doing tasks, Executive Director’s shouldn’t do, is the very real expectation that I shouldn’t ask anyone to do something I myself am not willing to do. I am not patting myself on the back, it is just that to be a good leader you must be willing to go to the “bottom” and bring (acknowledge) value and worth there in order to get “here” where everyone is headed. A good leader never settles, or lands somewhere - we ought to continually seek to know and understand what it looks like to be on the other side of you, what it looks like to complete tasks that you don’t normally do because you assign them.


The building hasn’t been cleaned the way I like it to be kept lately - in large part because my friend Amanda is gone. What I do know is I have a tremendous amount of respect and gratitude for the work she diligently did.


Started at the top...making my way down...so that “here” looks a lot less about me, and a lot more like we.


Together we make “here” possible.

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© 2018 by Ashley Thomas

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