Outer Circles in Utah

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A Lake Powell conversation

Writing for UtahOutsider means meeting new folks and asking questions. These are enjoyable tasks, but even with a few decades of newspaper reporting, they don’t come naturally.

Turns out they don’t come naturally for most of us. Utahn David Sturt wrote in Great Work: How to Make a Difference People Love, “we talk to the same five or ten trusted confidants, allies, and buddies about 80 percent of the time.”

While this inner circle is important, it’s also vital to keep an open mind and engage an outer circle.

“Our outer circle, in great work terms, simply means those people that we don’t normally talk to …That’s where we’ll find divergent thinking, unexpected questions, novel ideas, differences of opinion, and added expertise. “

Redmond, Incorporated is one Utah company embracing this idea. They invited me and several other outsiders (non-employees) to their Leadership Retreats at Lake Powell in the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area.

On houseboats, over four sun-filled days, 60 of us met to discuss approaches and philosophies for improving oneself and seeking a greater good. It was a rich time, full of thought-provoking conversation, lots of physical activity, and sumptuous food.

They invite an outer circle.

IMG_2536But why?

What’s the catch?

Some of us were waiting for a timeshare pitch.

Redmond’s Mike Mumford explained their corporate culture:

“If all of us work on being better people, we not only become better mothers, better husbands, and fathers, but we’re probably better work associates…If an associate’s potential rises, the whole tide rises and that makes a better company.”

By inviting outsiders, Redmond “adds value,” said Vance Barrett, who works in the company’s Best Vinyl division. “The books we read and the people we associate with are main determinants of who we become in life.  At Redmond, we like to rub shoulders with people who have something to add.”

Years ago, the retreats began with one or two boats. Now, the company uses four houseboats, hosting more than four hundred employees and associates annually.IMG_2740

The program sounds idealistic and a big stretch for typical Return on Investment parameters. But it’s hard to argue with success: in the last decade, Redmond has grown by about 15 percent annually and is now worth $55 million.

In his recent TEDx talk, Sturt challenged his audience to engage that outer circle and be more open-minded. UtahOutsider accepts the challenge. And it looks like Redmond does, too.