Earlier this month, the Morgridge Family Foundation team convened in full for the first time since March of 2020. For many employees – myself included– it was the first time ever meeting the entire team in person. The team spent a week together in beautiful Big Sky, Montana, where we got out into the fresh mountain air, bonded and brainstormed big ideas.
As a distributed team, and given the restrictions of the pandemic years, MFF has built a strong remote culture to stay connected and productive, allowing space for creative and strategic thinking. But there’s nothing quite like coming together in person!
These were our biggest takeaways from the experience.
Our biggest, and arguably most important, takeaway from our time together was about the identity of the Morgridge Family Foundation itself. In all of our conversations, whether a design thinking session or a casual chat during dinner, our mission and focus always came back to education. While education has been a core focus and component of our funding and work, this retreat solidified its importance and guided our conversations about the future. Stay tuned to learn more about why education is our stake in the ground in our upcoming 2021 annual report!
Education is an incredibly broad category and can be defined in many different ways. Whether we’re partnering with K-12 educators, conservation organizations, social entrepreneurs or food security innovators, at MFF we define education as empowering future problem solvers, in all industries and from all walks of life. We believe in human potential and strive to provide everyone with the opportunity to succeed and thrive.
We recognize that building and maintaining a strong internal culture is just as important to our work as building external relationships. As a team, we make a commitment to empower each other. What does that look like in practice? It means seeking out opportunities for each member of the team to pursue their passions, pursue their ideas and interests and capitalize on their strengths. We actively lift each other up and support one another in our personal and professional pursuits.
While MFF calls Denver home, our team is dispersed across the country and works as a remote team. Remote work aligns with our team values by providing flexibility and opportunities for inspiration. At the same time, effective remote work requires strong communication, adaptability and trust. Being together in one place gave us the opportunity to recommit to being the best teammates we can be, from wherever we are located.
One of the reasons a distributed team works for MFF is because we believe every person should discover the factors that lead to their best work and ideas. Carrie Morgridge finds that her best ideas come on a bike or in the pool. I know that I’m most creative in the evenings and when traveling somewhere new. Sabrina Kronick works best under pressure. Tony gets into the zone while working on airplanes, without distractions. John Farnam’s superpower is setting new initiatives into motion while at a dinner party, whereas Meredith Dreman opts for coffee shops and quieter nooks to get into her writing groove. Our team retreat in Montana incorporated a variety of activities and locations to inspire everyone.
Both things are true: remote work is a core part of our team culture and in-person connection remains a special and important experience that MFF enables whenever possible. Meeting face-to-face offers the opportunity to connect on a deeper level and draw inspiration from each other.
The most important part of being on the MFF team is having the ability to leave your ego behind. There is no room for ego in our work or partnerships. Likewise, there was no room for ego on our team retreat. We shared ideas, asked questions, gave feedback and refined strategies without fear of anyone’s ego being in the conversation, too.
What better place to go for fresh air than Big Sky, Montana? In line with our team values, we got outside as much as possible to clear our heads and connect with each other. From hikes to craft projects to a friendly game of pickleball, much of our team retreat happened outdoors.
The importance of both in-person and remote connection extends to MFF’s network as well. We are proud of every single one of our partner organizations and the world-changing work they do every day. It is important that each member of the team has the opportunity to connect with MFF’s network as well as build their own network of trusted partners and mentors. The old adage of “two heads are better than one” may be overused, but it is certainly not wrong. As a team of lifelong learners, we seek outside input and opinions as often as possible.
Every moment of the MFF team retreat reminded us that we work with unique, encouraging, incredible leaders. MFF President John D. Morgridge shared the story of MFF’s founding through the generosity and hard work of his parents, John and Tashia Morgridge. Beyond that, John D. and Carrie Morgridge exemplify the traits of extraordinary leaders in everything they do. They are supportive, collaborative, open-minded and always willing to discuss new ideas. They excel at bringing people together and inspiring their best work – and this team retreat was no exception.
The overwhelming feeling at the end of the retreat was gratitude. Gratitude for our time together in person, for supportive colleagues and brilliant leaders, for the opportunity to support disruptive social impact work around the world. Thanks for joining us on this journey.