Shari Bowles Gibbons
Legacy and Inspiration: What’s in a name?
As we approach the celebration of our national independence, a colleague inspired me to write a piece about the origin of my company name: Anderson Lane and Associates. It is a story about family and personal legacy infused with possibility.
“So we begin with two Bowles brothers emigrating from England to Virginia….. because they did not wish to ask the Queen whom they should marry” as my great Uncle Hal once told me about our heritage. If you are rebellious enough to fight for the right to choose, then it is no surprise that my 8x grandfather, Gideon Bowles (1735-1799) and his brother Anderson, were on the front lines supporting the revolution against unfair British rule. Gideon named one of his sons in his brother’s honor and the name has been passed down from generation to generation and is my father’s middle name.
During these difficult times of the pandemic, it has been helpful to shift perspective while considering the challenges faced by past generations and to be reminded of their grit, determination, and resilience. Whether it is leaving the safety net of England for the New World or rebelling against taxation without representation, our ancestors’ drive and perseverance was passed down through generations as further demonstrated by the pioneers moving West where my grandfather was born.
My ancestors demonstrated a consistent pattern of fighting for freedom to build a better world, traits shared by a lot of Americans. They did not have it easy, though – all my grandparents survived the 1918 Spanish Flu Pandemic and the Great Depression. While one grandfather (George Sr.) was too young to serve, my other grandfather, Howard Anderson Bowles, Sr. (known as Doc), who was born in Indian Territory before Oklahoma become a state, served in the Army during WWI. Both sets of grandparents sent sons to war with my Uncle George Jr, serving in WWII and my father serving in Vietnam.
Despite the challenges, they lived to see phenomenal growth and progress. Doc Bowles served in the Signal Corp., where his unit was developing the first surface to air communications, which is remarkable since the Wright Brothers had not concurred flight until after he was born. My grandparents lived through tremendous progress, having witnessed the transportation revolution from horses, to automobiles, to airplanes, and even to rockets transporting astronauts to the moon.
Anderson, from Anderson Lane and Associates, is a tribute to my father’s family legacy; for those who survived difficult times, fought for a better world, and had the grit and determination to see things through.
While Anderson is my father’s middle name, Lane is my middle name and it is of no significance whatsoever. My mom just liked the name. It is complete white space from a family legacy perspective, so it is up to me to make meaning of it. I am generating meaning for it from what I believe and what I am committed to. I believe in the power of teams, I believe we are better together, and I am committed generating collaborative growth to help people create a better world. I achieve this by offering different perspectives, living my values, and helping my clients achieve insight.
Perspective: Mobility of Point of View
The United States is in a tough spot right now. Not only with the pandemic and its economic devastation but with the realization that the #BLM and #MeToo movements require of us significant change. Diversity of thought and mobility of point of view is vital to building our knowledge base while innovating and creating growth, moving forward.
Most people, however, are fossilized in their own rhetoric while listening only to partisan media. Therefore, perspective and mobility of point of view are rare yet extremely important. I believe you cannot truly debate your side of the issue until you have tried to debate the issue from the opposing side. And it is not about winning the debate, it is about a thorough and honest look at accurate information with steadfast values. The analogy I like to use is a football game: there is the perspective on the field, and in the game, which are different for each player, for each referee -depending upon where they are relative to the football. Then you can also observe the play from the 50-yard line, or from the top of the stadium, the announcer’s box, or you could be listening on the speakers while getting refreshments or using the bathroom. Life is like this – things are happening all the time and we make assessments and judgements about what is happening without realizing our information is limited to where we are relative to the state-of-play. We forget, or are not diligent enough, to adjust our point-of-view to address our position relative to the play on the field – this is what I mean by mobility of point of view.
Matching Principles to Process.
Values and Principles do not mean anything until you live them during difficult times. It is easy to have a politically correct value system, but it is not real until you demonstrate your values when you must choose between one value or another. I had a CEO once who would always get frustrated because his employees ‘didn’t do the right thing.’ What he did not realize, however, was that his drive for double-digit growth always eclipsed ‘doing the right thing’ and everyone knew it, except him. It was a blind spot. He valued achieving growth above every value in the book – and he just was not honest with himself about it. Employees need to see their leaders and managers living the corporate values, demonstrating them every day or they mean nothing, just empty words posted on a wall or a website.
Insight: Simplicity on the Other Side of Complexity
A lot of us have been fortunate enough to grow up in comfortable times. I wonder if this has made some of us complacent, soft, perhaps taking too many things for granted. If we think about our ancestors and what they had to endure to get us here, perhaps we can shift our perspective. We have tough problems to solve here in the United States and in the world. Our survival, either nationally or globally, is not guaranteed. We need to cut through the noise and focus on the larger issues that are jeopardizing our futures. I believe we need to promote long-term profit, vs. short-term quarterly stock pumps, for the benefit of all constituents (employees, customers, community, investors, environment). I believe we need to hold our politicians accountable for delivering results, not rhetoric. I highly recommend the following two resources for further food for thought relative to these two topics:
Re-imagining Capitalism: In a World on Fire by Rebecca Henderson
The Politics Industry by Katherine M. Gehl and Michael E. Porter
While I did not major in mathematics, I was one class short of a minor in calculus and yet I still believe it is possible for 1+1=1,000. One of the best examples of that is the results produced by the 1980 US Men’s Ice Hockey Team. We are better working together and one of my strengths is the ability to build and help others build great teams. I am blessed to have a team of wonderful thought partners and colleagues. There are too many to list here, but I need to mention two in this article because they inspired some of the language I am using in this post. Barbara McMahon, who introduced me to the phrase “matching principles to process” and Susan Kleinschmidt, who coined the phrased “simplicity on the other side of complexity.”
I earlier posed the question: What is in a name? My company name Anderson Lane & Associates, incorporates centuries of grit, determination, and resilience with the aspiration of building a better world through hard work, values, perspective, and insight.