Building Bridges with the Class of 2017

Brian Marino, Financial Planner at Skylight, recently attended the opening retreat for the 2017 Cleveland Bridge Builders (CBB) leadership program which “prepares mid-career professionals of all ages for meaningful, fulfilling and impactful engagement in the community.”

Here Brian shares his thoughts and reactions as he starts on this 10-month CBB journey.

When you hear the word retreat what springs to mind? Well, for me, it typically conjures up thoughts of relaxation and reflection in a safe environment.  So as I set off for my two-day retreat with Cleveland Bridge Builders I was intrigued and excited to find out just what kind of retreat lay in store.  Honestly, I didn’t really know what to expect.

As we filed into the meeting room, I found myself looking at nearly 60 strangers (and a few welcome and familiar faces) who I would be spending the next year getting to know.  I was initially struck by the diversity of the group.  From my introductory conversations, I learned that we all came from very different places and backgrounds – from the public sector, the private sector, for profit and non-profit and I felt excited by the different perspectives this would bring. We weren’t, however, to remain “strangers” for long as we were quickly taken out of our comfort zone and thrust into groups for relationship building exercises.  This involved everything from crafts to learning about our personality styles and soon we all started letting our guard down and opening up.  By evening time on the first day, there was totally no place for inhibition, as we quickly changed into our jeans and tennis shoes and hit the streets of Cleveland to play “The Go Game”.  It’s aptly described by the organizers as a “cell-phone scavenger hunt on steroids”!  Basically, we did crazy things (avoiding any arrests) and made idiots of ourselves – taking funny photos and videos, doing trivia, head-to-head challenges including duels and dance-offs.  There was nothing for it, I had to let myself go and succumb to the silliness! It was incredibly funny and I have to say the highlight of the retreat for me. It totally achieved its aim in forcing us to get closer!

One concept, in particular, that has really struck me from the retreat (and has stayed with me) is that to be a good leader you need to “show up and make it happen” which I believe to be true in business, personal or civic life.  I will particularly be putting this into action in the Leadership Action Project (LAP), Cleveland Kids in Need, which I was assigned during the retreat.  Cleveland Kids in Need do amazing work by providing over $1 million in free school supplies every year to students and teachers in nearly 250 schools around Greater Cleveland and I’m really excited by this challenge.  Our team has already got a meeting set up and we will work with the leaders of the organization to look at strategies to make their organization stronger. It was the civic engagement that particularly attracted me to the program in the first place and it was great to see my fellow classmates equally charged up and excited about what we could do to help our city grow and prosper.  So many of us are from high-level firms, like my own firm Skylight, and the community outreach component, for me, validates the great stuff that we and our firms are already doing in our community.

I can’t exactly say it was a relaxing retreat (more of an action-packed one) but definitely, it was one that took us away from the distractions of our hectic lives and gave us time to reflect and be present.  It was great to start building bridges and relationships with an amazing bunch of people.  On top of all the monthly meetings and group work, we’ve been challenged with meeting everyone from the Class individually during the next year over coffee, lunch or a beer and I’m totally going to go for it. I want to spend as much time as possible with these awesome and inspirational people!  It’s just the start of our journey together and I’m fully charged up and ready to go!

Thanks Brian for sharing with us.  We’ll keep you posted on how Brian is getting on!