Good Power

I hope I don’t quickly forget the thrill of being in a room with all my colleagues for the first time. The RHB team met in December in Indianapolis for the first time in more than two years. Bear in mind, we’ve added a good share of our team since COVID began. Consequently, this was the initial occasion where we were meeting colleagues face-to-face.

The hum of genuinely excited voices—not just polite banter—and the number of simultaneous conversations with animated hand gestures shed its own energy throughout the room. As Abraham, Ken, Alex and I were chatting, we all commented how palpable the charge was. And when I looked around the room at the incredible talent and capacity represented by the collection of these specific and gifted people, I was compelled to describe it as “power,” as in a source of energy like an electric company. So, when I used that comment (“The power in this room is amazing!”) in my introduction, I wasn’t thinking of its negative connotations or its potential as a trigger word, particularly in a room filled with people of diverse life experiences and backgrounds. Amanda rescued that moment with her quick reply: “Power for good.” Her insightful response became a bolt of lightning theme for our few days together as a team. That recurring charge carried through to the end of our in-person time together. I’ve felt it often since we returned to meeting on Zoom, but now with the added benefit of having been in the same room.

I felt that power for good  in our review of the year as we draw near to the close of our 30th year in operation in April. We’ve had a remarkable couple of years and in 2020 alone, we’ve added substantially to our team. Candidly, it’s an employee list of rock stars and for whom I am so grateful. Being in the same room with them is simply delightful. Recalling our accomplishments with clients is completely satisfying.

As we met in December, we addressed challenges that have risen from substantial growth. Getting our collective act together and ensuring that we all buy-in to processes—and invent new ones—requires a high level of mutual respect and cooperation. As we dissected our technical and adaptive challenges related to client care and success, the privilege of observing power collaborating for good was exhilarating.

When we met for dinner that first night, you could sense that power for good in our social interaction. We don’t use the word “love” much in business settings, but I have to say, I felt it authentically that night. Our collective power frankly felt good! That first evening together, we honored Sam who celebrated his 20th work anniversary this year. We had fun reminiscing about his RHB career with some photos we dug out of the vault. But the theme of that tribute was the incredible good he has done throughout his career to date, for RHB and especially for our clients. His strategic and creative stamp on our work is formidable.

The next morning, several members of our team reported on assignments we had completed in the past year or so. How amazing to see the power for good expressed in the breadth of that work–Slate solutions, portals, creative design, content development, experience-making, impeccable forms, effective consultation, curriculum design, marketing strategy. The work itself was impressive, but the results of that work was the core of power for good. When we stop to think about the number of students reached, faculty supported, processes streamlined, hours saved, dollars raised, systems improved, that is when our hearts are glad. Our work for the most part is great fun. More importantly, it’s good work for good clients doing good things.

At this team gathering, we had special guests. David Wantz, president and CEO of Independent Colleges of Indiana, led an open dialog with Sue Ellspermann, president of Ivy Tech Community College; Rob Manuel, president of the University of Indianapolis; and Nassar Paydar, chancellor of IUPUI. We were honored by their willingness to meet with us and more so by their transparency about the challenges they face as presidents of their institutions. The power for good was evident in the way they each spoke about their work and their interest in student success. Our engagement with them was a clear reminder of the importance of our work in higher education as a power for good.

As we looked ahead to a new year on RHB’s path forward, we were challenged by Tammy, Sam and Alex to build on our past successes. They outlined a path forward that will expand the scope of our services and will create more opportunities for good with our clients. The vision for the coming years

The sense of our collective power for good was profoundly  intense as we met later that night for our annual holiday gathering. Naturally, we had great fun dining together and our table conversations were lively (and perhaps a bit noisier than Vida is accustomed). RHB has a few traditions around the holidays, one of which is a white elephant gift game (or pink elephant, if that’s what your tradition calls it). We have strict rules for the number of times a particular gift can change hands before being declared finally “owned.” Each year these rules are contested almost as if the rule challenges were part of the tradition, in the same way that your aunt can always be counted on for the chocolate pecan pie. Our gift theme this year was books; @abbylovesbooks made a #BookTok highlighting some of the selections.  

Perhaps, for me anyway, the power for good was most explicit in the remarkable gift giving at the end of the evening. Throughout our 30 years of owning RHB, our team mates have always celebrated by giving us a remarkable gift. In the past, we’ve received a paddleboat, a patio deck heater, a year of great movie-going, Broadway tickets, fine wine, spa resort days, luxurious sweaters–truly kind and lovely gifts that we have loved and enjoyed. This year, however, our team decided to each make a gift in honor of Tammy and me to organizations of their choosing whose work reflected our values of truth, beauty, love and justice. As each team member stood to tell of the organization they had supported, we were genuinely awestruck by the compassion and passion they reflected in their comments. In that hour, we were joined in our effort to make the world a better place; to help transform the universe. From education to healthcare, caring for the homeless, feeding the hungry, welcoming refugees and twenty more (even our alma mater received a gift!), that moment was one of true good spirit— power for good spirit. There’s really no telling how much good was done in that one united effort. It’s wonderful to imagine how those gifts changed life for the number of people—hungry, ill, homeless, lonely, outcast or impoverished people—because they were influenced and aided by those organizations. I am thinking about students who will unknowingly benefit from the generosity of team members represented in that one evening’s giving. Collectively, we will likely have affected thousands of lives. We of course don’t know precisely where our investments will be felt or by whom. What we do know is that we are a power for good and RHB is energized by the possibilities before us.


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Rick Bailey

Rick is the Principal and founding partner at RHB.