Leadership · Curriculum · Lifelong Learning

Last week, I went to the store to pick out a card for my wife.

While scanning the shelves, I was taken aback by the overwhelming selection, the analytical shoppers alongside me, and the art of choosing the best card. With so many moving parts in the process, it helps to begin with the end in mind.

It helps to start with why. It’s about people.

Choosing the best card depends entirely on the person receiving it.

Arriving at the best product is a result of practicing the best processes.

Instruction (Connect Appropriately)

Sometimes, it can be hard to know what to do. It can be hard to know what to say. It’s hard to find the perfect words, images, actions, or symbols that will precisely hit the spot. What’s the best way to send and receive heartfelt emotions?

Indeed, Words of Affirmation and Giving Gifts are among The 5 Love Languages and The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace. In addition, giving a card can be coupled with other love languages, such as Acts of Service and Quality Time. Through it all, it’s imperative to center the receiver’s preferred language(s).

It’s important to practice The Platinum Rule.

Giving a card is one way to connect with others. It’s one language in which to communicate. It’s one method of delivery. It’s one way to serve the needs of others.

Giving a card is one unique opportunity to get it right.

Curriculum (Mapping the Process)

What’s the special occasion? Why this? Why now? What standard(s) are being met–and exceeded?

Before foraging too far forward, see the forest. Before zooming in so far on the star, gaze over the galaxy. Before exploring the gorge, consider the creation of the canyon.

What were the events leading up to this moment? What has this person experienced in the past that will directly impact how this expression will be received in the present?

Along the same lines, if you could see into the future, how might you appropriately prepare in the present? If you could scope-and-sequence potential next steps, how might that inform, guide, or predict your present processes?

Still standing in the aisle, I thought through my success criteria. Given formative assessment data, so to speak, I took into account all the highs and lows, and what I had learned, unlearned, and may need to relearn along the way. In any relationship, might one major goal be continuous improvement?

Might reflections upon our formative interactions serve to better align efforts with our summative success criteria?

If I could paint the perfect picture, I wanted to hit the sweet spot in a way most meaningful to my wife. I wanted her to know that I had invested careful consideration, deep differentiation, and a little loving extra just for her. I wanted her to catch the inside joke, to recall a fond memory, and to feel the moment. I wanted her to know how special she is and how much she means to me. I wanted her to smile, hug, and maybe even shed a tear. I wanted her to know that it was just for her. I wanted her to receive it.

Environment (Embracing the Context)

Where do I envision giving this card to my wife, in terms of abstract places? Did we just meet or have we been married for five years? Are we just friends or partners for life? Are we on a relational mountain peak or crawling through the valley? Are we celebrating professional benchmarks or persevering through personal milestones?

Where do I envision giving this card to my wife, in terms of concrete places? Will it be just she and I? Will it be during our family Christmas party? Might it be at a work party or maybe even in a white elephant exchange?

Knowing my intended audience is not the same as intending to know my audience.

Timing is everything. Context is everything. Strategy is everything.

In anything, the rollout is everything.

What environmental factors might influence success? What are the mitigating and aggravating factors?

How might I discern context clues to circumvent catastrophes?

What is it about the people, objects, and circumstances surrounding the experience that might affect its outcome?

Wanting my wife to receive it to the fullest extent extensively depends on the context.

Learner (Approaching the Receiver)

I love my wife. It’s why I want to express my love to her.

I have chosen to express my love through the language of giving a card.

I have mapped the process to the product.

I have carefully considered the context.

Alas, I approach the one receiving.

What’s interesting here is that–while directly approaching the receiver is the last step, it was indirectly envisioned from the beginning. The receiver is the why. With no receiver, there’s nothing to send. With no receiver, there is no sender.

No one randomly chooses a card–and then the most appropriate recipient. Rather, it’s the recipient that drives, inspires, and even specifies all the decisions made along the way in the process of choosing the best card.

A card is one tool in the box with unlimited fitting options. With countless cards on the shelf, the customer carefully considers customization at the core. Before attempting to change the recipient, have I done everything that I can do to change my approach?

If the cards on the shelf don’t fit the recipient, create one that does.

I care about the person on the mountain. As a means to connect, I have chosen to hike up to the peak. Using the best resources available, I have mapped the most appropriate trail for getting there. I have meaningfully meandered to avoid and remove barriers, to increase accessibility, communication, and potential, to reroute when necessary, to accept help, to include and collaborate with others, and all at the right pace and in the right time.

Looking back over the journey, I can reflect with confidence and evidence that I have done everything that I possibly could do to prepare for that one shining moment.

Blogger’s Note: This post was somewhat guided by The RIOT/ICEL Matrix.

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