History’s Lessons

The older I get, the more I appreciate history. I have lived long enough to see the patterns in my life that can be traced back to the experiences, decisions and relationships that set them in motion. 

Ironically, what seemed monumental at the time often turned out to be less consequential than I imagined.  What seemed at the time to be rather ordinary so often turned out to be life-changing. 

I agonized in college over my major and settled on Psychology and Religion because they were of personal interest, and wound up with a career in technology! 

By contrast, a short conversation with my brother-in-law’s father at a family gathering set me on a path for a 35-year career working in government that has been challenging and fulfilling.

Working in the same field for so long, I am also able to see the patterns we created decades ago by our decisions and actions, some of which seemed consequential at the time and some of which seemed so insignificant. 

An abandoned project due to personality conflicts seemed at the time a reasonable decision to stop the drama. From a different vantage point, I see today the substantial negative fiscal, operational and service impacts this decision from decades ago has had.  

By contrast, I see that courageous leadership exhibited decades ago to forge partnerships and shared decision-making led to significant transformations in services that has served the people of Minnesota well. The names of these great leaders have long been forgotten but their legacy lives on.

When we are doing an assessment of today’s challenges, in addition to all of the methods we practice to understand and analyze them, it would serve us well to also look at the historical roots of the decisions that led us to this place. Seek out the old-timers who love to tell stories of the past, for in their stories and observations lies wisdom and insight that can only be gained over time. Seek out old artifacts that explain intention and earlier decisions that could shed light on today’s issues. For there, under an old rock, you might find the key to solving the problem and unwinding the dynamics that led to it.

Though we cannot always know, we must at least consider, what the long term impacts of today’s decisions will be in years and decades to come. Make decisions with humility and courage that are grounded in sound principles and long term values rather than merely short-term relief. Seek out the visionaries who can guide you on the journey of time.

Visionaries have an uncanny ability to see in decisions the dynamics that might be set in motion and the unintended consequences they might bring. Visionaries have the ability to discern which actions might be the most significant for the future and which will likely be inconsequential. Visionaries can also look back to see the root causes and essential threads that link today’s challenges to yesterday’s actions. Visionaries are often viewed as nay-sayers and skeptics but can also be an organization’s greatest asset if they are sought out and heard.

For more ideas on how to create wise organizations, check out my book, Management Culture at mgmtculture.com or amazon.com.


About Denise Moreland

The dynamics between employees and managers are fascinating, and often dysfunctional. I have spent my career trying to create healthy and engaging relationships. My book, Management Culture (Two Harbors Press, 2012), identifies outdated rules and patterns, and offers fresh ideas on how we can all improve our work places. Learn more and purchase Management Culture at mgmtculture.com. Through my business, LifeGuides, I provide life coaching, facilitation and public speaking services. Please follow me on: Facebook Linkedin Twitter
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