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Practice Stewardship: Promoting Human Flourishing

People seek meaningful connections at work — both in terms of how they show up but also how they work with others. To do great work, one’s full humanity should be present in and acknowledged by their organization. 

Today, we’re exploring our final Box of Crayons value:

PRACTICE STEWARDSHIP

Support individual growth. Promote human flourishing. Regenerate what you take.
Embrace the long view even over chasing quick wins.

What does it mean to be a steward of something? While the traditional understanding is of caring for something, we here at Box of Crayons think of it a little differently based on the work of Peter Block. Practicing stewardship is about a relationship of trust: Not of care and control but creating a space for the diversity of people as they are, in their different roles. We seek to create an environment where people’s gifts and goals can be shared, appreciated and developed. 

Stewardship also means that all members in our organization have the autonomy to accept and share responsibility. Our work, then, is rooted in a commitment towards a common vision that is owned by everyone, and that work is a service to the wider community.

In the blog below, Box of Crayons’ General Counsel, Anjana Bhaskaran, writes about when she’s encountered this value in her own life.

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The first day at a new job is always special. 

Your excitement and fear are building while you’re sitting through long hours of induction.

In a previous job, I was made a part of a team of other newcomers from departments within the organization (luckily there were no other lawyers!). We started the day with a “formal team building” activity: Making as many paper boats as possible within a short span of time and using a limited supply of paper. The team lead was tasked with setting the strategy. They suggested that we make big paper boats with each sheet so that we use up all the supply without any waste and finish well within the timeframe. Everyone nodded and agreed to this strategy, but something didn’t sit well with me. How would we achieve the goal of making “as many” boats as possible, if we were only making big ones? We would run out of our paper supply soon and would have made only as many boats as the number of sheets available.

I picked up a bunch of sheets of paper and started tearing them into smaller pieces in order to make more boats.

The team lead didn’t bother asking me about it, and I didn’t share what I was doing with the rest of the team. 

The outcome: My team lost (obviously) and the team lead was criticized for not creating a “comfortable” environment for all the team members to sail towards the same goal! There was even specific discussion about how one member (yours truly) in the team worked independently versus working as part of the team.

This whole experience of working in my own silo made me question whether I was an arrogant, overconfident know-it-all or maybe a person who doesn’t speak up about new ideas or for what I think is right. Both made me feel bad about myself. I felt alienated from the team. To make it all worse, the winning team used the exact strategy I had adopted to build their boats. What if I had simply taken a little effort to explain my thinking to my team so we could see the bigger, more complex picture rather than the quickest and easiest solution at hand? Frequently, the most glaring problem is not the one that requires immediate attention.

Some things stick with you for life and help you understand yourself better — and this is one for me. 

Because of this experience, I now strongly believe that if I’m making a decision I do it with the team and not on behalf of the team. This is “stewardship” in its best version. 

At Box of Crayons, it’s embracing the long view even over quick wins. I see this as taking care of the organization as a whole and achieving its objectives. Stewardship also enables each of us to help someone see their blind spots; what are we not thinking about in arriving at a decision? Is the team focusing on the final goal, or just an interim success?

As a lawyer, I’m naturally risk averse and have been trained to foresee the possible outcomes of any given decision. I’ve been taught to make difficult choices and embrace them as my own. This “thinking through” helps me brainstorm situations that align (or even misalign) with the company’s mission, vision and values. Through this process, I’ve also come to realize that it is not easy to arrive at a unanimous decision when several people (or leaders) are involved; however, it’s definitely worthwhile to explain one’s thought process to support a proposed course of action. I like to think of this as steering the process by sharing the path that I tread in arriving at my recommendation. 

I’m also in the profession of putting my client first and foremost. My decision-making process needs to marry my professional obligations with the core values of the organization. Part of my responsibility is good stewardship of Box of Crayons’ vision and goals.

Among other benefits, “Practicing Stewardship” supports human flourishing. It makes everyone feel empowered and important. 

How would you feel if your boss came to you saying they needed your opinion before making a big decision? It fosters inclusion and provides autonomy in thinking. Involving your team in establishing the processes for running an organization creates an allied team because they participated in making the rules.

The simple act of staying curious a little longer (you see what I did there?) and nurturing a team that thinks outside of their silo, both on behalf of the organization and in favor of the long view, opens up a world of possibility for the organization. Personally, this particular value touches upon one of my favourite quotes: “Hard choices, easy life; easy choices, hard life” (Jerzy Gregorek, Weightlifting Champion).

Anjana Bhaskaran
General Counsel

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Practicing Stewardship is a relationship of trust allowing us to work in partnership together: Empowered and accountable. Supported but not dependent. 

The five Box of Crayons values we’ve explored in this series provide us with a sense of purpose. These values are deliberate choices we’ve made that, like the quote Anjana shared above, are hard because they require thoughtfulness and commitment. The result is a guide to our decisions and ways of being with each other. We have shared ownership in who we are as a company and how we work with our client partners. And in embracing the long view, we keep focused on the impact we seek to have as an organization. 

It’s no surprise that, first and foremost, we value Staying Curious Longer.

Box of Crayons’ mission is to unleash curiosity, and we foster it in our own culture as well. Curiosity unlocks the capabilities needed to actualize all our values, such as humility, empathy and connection. Curiosity is a state, not a trait. Think about that for a second. If curiosity is a state of being we fully embrace in our culture, we can actualize our other values more easily. 

So, we really are curious.

Of the values we’ve shared in this series, which really resonated with you? What could your organization do to become a more values-led culture?

One Response to Practice Stewardship: Promoting Human Flourishing

  • Lani Beer

    Great insights here – thank you for sharing. I work at a law firm and its useful to share stories like this 🙂

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