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Leveraging Opportunities

Travels to Austria reveal an interesting connection between the Shaw Women's Innovation Network (WIN) and Benedictine Monks. Both share a passion for learning, a commitment to community (their group) and a willingness to serve others.

Anita Thornton

Director, HRIS

What do the Shaw Women's Innovation Network (WiN) and Benedictine Monks have in common? Probably not a question you’ve really pondered, right? Recently, I had the opportunity to learn about Melk Abbey located in Austria that has been home to a Benedictine Monk order since 1089. In reading about the Abbey, there are three phrases that summarize the monk’s core values; translated into English the phrases mean: (1) a dedication to knowledge; (2) a commitment to community; and (3) charity or service to others. As I learned about this group, I immediately recognized how closely these align with WiN’s objectives.

The monks are dedicated to learning for themselves and with the development of others. The Abbey has operated a school since the early 1700’s. Like this group, a key WiN objective is providing growth opportunities through educational sessions, community groups, and a wealth of resources on the WiN website. Through each learning experience, I identify at least one thing that will help me improve. I’m certain you are familiar with the “use it or lose it” phrase. That saying is certainly true of new ideas to fully leverage what we learn, we must find a way to apply them. I do this by jotting down key learnings in a notebook; then, I develop a plan for how to use the new knowledge. I periodically do a “refresher” by reading back over the main points that I’ve captured. I often find that “oh, I had forgotten about this or that tip.” 

Periodically reviewing the thoughts that I captured reinforces the skill and challenges me to consistently apply what I’ve learned. Here’s the challenge: ask yourself, “what have I learned today?” or “have I used my new knowledge?” Get fully engaged with WiN and take advantage of learning and applying new skills. 

Don’t doubt your abilities or second-guess yourself; rely on past successes to build your confidence.

The monks also take a vow to be committed to their community or order. Another key part of WiN is connecting and learning from others in a local community. My community has representatives with a variety of job experiences; as we’ve discussed the session topics – it’s been interesting to learn from each other. The diverse perspectives have increased the understanding and relevance of the topics. If you are not part of a WiN Community, I encourage you to join. If you are part of a group, be a committed member – attend sessions, share your perspective, encourage and develop others.

The final component is charity or service to others. This is an area where I have a strong passion. President Kennedy used a scripture reference for his quote, “For of those to whom much is given, much is required.” I count myself among those who have been given much – I’ve had the opportunity over my 32 year career at Shaw to grow and develop. Now, I have the responsibility to use my talents to improve others and contribute to the communities in which we live and work. WiN gives us an opportunity to share our talent and help others grow; we are given the opportunity to develop and mentor, and be involved in outreach projects, such as Camp DEM. WiN members take active roles in leading community projects and making a difference by giving of their time and talents.

What do WiN and an order of Benedictine monks share? The common elements are a passion for learning, a commitment to community (their group) and a willingness to serve others. Join me and other WiN members as we leverage growth opportunities and live our company’s vision to create a better future.