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Following Harry Potter’s Lead to Build a Culture of ‘WE’

By Laura Bohen, Extension Educator — Health and Nutrition

I was so pleased to be asked to write a follow-up to Mary Marczak’s post Following Flip Saunders’ Lead to Build a Culture of ‘WE’. I must first make a shocking confession though: I had absolutely no idea who Flip Saunders was until I read that post.

I know! I know! The shame!

While I’ve just revealed my lack of Minnesota sports knowledge (I could barely name a Vikings player to save my life, let alone a basketball coach), I hope you will bear with me for the rest of this post.

Part of building a culture of “WE” is being vulnerable and admitting when we have a question (Who is Flip Saunders? What is basketball?), while also recognizing each others’ unique strengths and contributions. For example, I may know nothing about sports, but I do know a lot about Harry Potter.

One thing I’ve learned from reading J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series is that it’s all about teamwork. Well, it’s all about magic, so magical teamwork. For those of you who have not read the books or seen the movies, all you need to know is that Harry did not work alone to defeat the evil Lord Voldemort: He had Hermione, Ron, Professor McGonagall, Headmaster Dumbledore, and Hagrid to help him.

Malfoy and Snape — not so helpful. Image credit: Richtoon.

Harry Potter knew that he needed his friends, and we know that we need each other. Sometimes it seems easier to just do it ourselves and focus only our own work, our own classes, and our own projects. Harry did that too when he tried to leave to find the magical horcruxes by himself. But his friends stopped him and persuaded him that together, their chances of success were greater.

The barriers that families face to making healthy choices, or being financially self-sufficient, or having positive family relationships are huge. They are as big and scary as He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. And it will take all of us working together, asking questions, and bringing our unique knowledge and skills to the table to defeat Him. Er, I mean, to overcome these barriers.

I’ve been lucky — during my short time at Extension I’ve been able to work with many different teams, first as a regional coordinator and now as an Extension educator. I’ve been so lucky to have teachers from all over the state who have taught me what our work can look like in many different settings and communities. And their knowledge and expertise has made my work better. And, just as Harry Potter relies on and trusts his friends, I have come to rely on and trust them. Or rather — YOU.

I trust that you care about Extension's mission, and that you will continue to teach and support me. You can count on me to do the same. And you can count on that mutual trust to make our work more effective. That is what it means to create a culture of “WE:” It means trusting each other as much as Dumbledore trusts Professor Snape.

What I’ve seen across all our different teams and work groups is that when we are all communicating and collaborating, the quality and scope of the work just grows and grows. And when we look outside Extension and frame our partner agencies and especially the families that we are trying to serve as a part of our “WE,” the work gets even better.

Because, as Dumbledore once said, “We are only as strong as we are united, as weak as we are divided.” And we are much, much stronger united.
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