A few months ago, I was interviewed for a radio program on leadership. I heard a story told by one of my colleagues, Eileen Joseph. Eileen and I went to grad school together, and now she is the CEO of a CareLink, mental health organization.
On the day of the interview, she talked about an experience earlier in her career with three seniors recently discharged from Byberry state mental hospital. She went to their home and helped them bake cookies. After the cookies were baked ( and eaten), one woman went out to sit on the porch. Eileen had been told that the the woman was deaf and couldn’t speak. That same woman came back into the house shortly later with a magazine in hand. She was pointing to the picture of a Lexus. She asked Eileen if she had a car. Eileen proceeded to let her know that she did have a car, but not a Lexus.
The woman later told staff that she had just stopped talking when she was living at Byberry because she didn’t think it was her place. This is not the only story like that I have heard. I myself have had more than one experience with the same theme. I don’t know if it was safer not to talk at Byberry, or if people were encouraged to just keep quiet.
While we know the effect of the environments we are in, we need to remain cognizant that when we create a new environment, it too will have limitations. All environments do. We need to be courageous to ask what changes can we make which will better enhance the human spirit and bring potential to life. What environments make it possible for people to reach higher?
You can listen to our interview on Executive Leaders Radio , program date March 30, 2016, by clicking here.