Andrea and the girls and I went to the UK a few weeks ago. You might think we wanted to see our families and friends, and I won’t deny that was a nice corollary experience, but as a British citizen living in the US, I felt it was my obligation to undertake an inspection of the new US embassy in London. After all, it had been much in the news a few weeks earlier when the president expressed his opinion that it was in a bad part of town.
I thought perhaps I should don my foreign correspondence hat, venture across the pond, and bring back a first-hand report.
Do you know that new-car smell when you buy, well, a new car? The embassy doesn’t smell like that. But you can still smell the new paint on the walls. And the moat! Does that not conjure up visions of medieval England of yore?
Well, okay, maybe the building is very modern (though it does have a moat).
And maybe I was there because I was more or less required to put in an appearance as part of sustaining my visa status to live and work in the US, which I very much enjoy doing.
It’s a beautiful building actually, in my opinion. (Though I’m no more an architect than I am foreign correspondent.) Our business there went smoothly, and we were in and out quickly. The location is actually in a quite nice part of London, close to the Thames, with amenities all around and across from the Tate Galleries. (I also make no claim to be an art expert, but the Tate Galleries have a world-class reputation, and I do know that.) Eventually, the area will be home to multiple embassies.
The idea of building something new is sometimes controversial. The same is true when you build a new team or organization. It’s not just that change is hard, but that choices can bring controversy. We at South Shore Mental Health are embarking on introducing our organization to the world with a new brand, engaging new people to sit on our board, establishing important partnerships, building the systems to offer better care, and fostering the commitment to our staff. The worst thing in this process is the sense you might let people down.
Nothing is without anxiety, risk, or controversy. One of the values I hope for in building a new senior team is not only appreciating each other’s strengths but also embracing each other’s weaknesses. It’s easy to sit in a management or strategy meeting and enjoy each other’s talents. The real challenge is to accept the things we find a little annoying, the flaws, the habits, the insecurities we bring to a discussion. I’m hoping to build values that can hold all those things in some degree of harmony, making the senior team a stronger role model for the organization as a whole in the process because we are prepared to show both our talent and vulnerability to our colleagues.
We won’t be building a moat. That is true. But we will be creating connective tissue for living organisms—the people and partners we serve. And in the end that’s a winning trade.