I’ve had the pleasure of reading my colleagues’ RK&A at 30 reflections over the past few months before sitting down to write my own. Even still, it’s been tough to distill my feelings about my own personal growth into words. As Stephanie said, recognizing learning is hard because it is often non-linear and happens slowly over time. And, as Katie wrote, deep and meaningful reflection is equally challenging. I know that I have grown in so many ways in my 5 years at RK&A, but how?
And then, one day, it hit me. What I’ve most learned to embrace in my time at RK&A is actually a very simple idea – our work is not about us. Let me explain…
RK&A is a client-focused firm. In other words, our clients’ concerns and questions drive our work, not our own. We bring our expertise and creativity to help clients frame their questions, but ultimately, we are not setting the agenda for our projects. We do our work to support our clients in achieving their vision. What do they want for their audiences, what experiences do they want to give their audiences, and what questions do they have or barriers might they be encountering that planning, research, and evaluation (our work) might help address?
This is something I’ve always known about RK&A’s approach but that has taken a while to fully sink in. It’s been uncomfortable at times reflecting on why. I’m someone who likes to think up and contribute creative solutions, share my ideas, and who honestly enjoys a bit of attention and recognition. I can also be very opinionated. I think these are positive traits, but they can also get me trouble, mostly because they can sometimes entice me to jump into problem solving before fully listening to and understanding the problem in its entirety.
It’s so easy to have an opinion about how things should be done. It’s another thing to be able to sit back, listen, and support others in executing their own vision as best as possible. I’ve learned to pay closer attention to what our clients express, in explicit and subtle ways, and to check with them every step of the way to make sure my work is in support of what will actually help them move forward. Sometimes the best way to make a positive difference is to stop talking and just listen. Go figure.