leadership dot #2590: feel the love

Today is the much-anticipated release of the live-action Lion King movie, the story that is a gem in the Disney empire. It’s the highest-grossing entertainment property in history, bringing in $8.1 billion in revenue from the Broadway version alone. Add in the original movie (and soundtrack), Broadway soundtrack, spin-offs and merchandising – well, there are more dollar signs than hyenas.

Part of what made the story magical was the music, specifically the Can You Feel the Love Tonight ballad sung by Elton John. And while hindsight would make it obvious that the song would be a mega-hit – winning a Golden Globe and Academy Award for Best Original Song, plus earning Sir Elton a Grammy – it wasn’t always so clear to the folks at Disney.

The producers originally slated the song to be sung by the comic sidekicks Timon and Pumbaa but Elton John vetoed that plan, stating “it was meant to follow Disney’s tradition of great love songs and that it could express the lions’ feelings for each other better than the dialogue could.”  Modifications were made to have the song in the background during the “love scene” and to be fully featured during the credits. John exerted his influence again when the song was cut from one of the final screenings and insisted that it be returned to the movie, a wise move considering it went Platinum and sold over 1 million copies.

If you’re one of the many to see the new version of the movie or to hear the song again after a hiatus, remember that what in retrospect what seems like a sure hit had a rough road to greatness. If not for the persistence of its champion the ballad would have never been heard outside of the studio.

Even Disney can get some things wrong – until they have the wisdom to listen to others in order to get them right. You, too, can feel the love if you don’t dig in and let greatness pass you by — and if you don’t give up when you believe in something so strongly. Hakuna Matata!

leadership dot #2588: share

Writer Anne Lamott was asked by someone if they could use one of Anne’s lessons in a blog they were writing. I love Anne’s generous response: “Yes, help yourself – everyone, to anything I’ve written.” I feel the same way (with attribution, of course!)

Not sharing your writing is akin to those who hoard their recipes without divulging the “secret ingredient”, or presenters who won’t make their PowerPoints accessible to others or people who hesitate in revealing where they purchased that fabulous outfit/accessory/décor. Why wouldn’t you share?

There is essentially nothing new in this world. Anything creative is a different twist on something that already existed, so even the inquirer uses Anne’s lessons, it will be in a new context that will enrich Anne’s thoughts, not diminish them.

I am reminded of the adage from John Wesley: “Do all the good you can. By all the means you can. In all the ways you can. To all the people you can. As long as you ever can.”

And a great way to do that is to be generous in sharing your “stuff” in whatever form that may be.

leadership dot #2578: art history

There are many ways to preserve history, including turning it into art. That’s what they did when they renovated Illinois State University’s library, creating a display that is “a remembrance of and tribute to” the card catalog.

Card catalogs were ubiquitous in every library until the electronic era made them obsolete. Rather than recycle all the entries and have this method of information retrieval forgotten forever, ISU selected several dozen cards and created an art piece for the library’s stairwells. A plaque honors not only the card catalog itself – which was in use from 1890-2000 – but it also pays tribute to University of Rochester Librarian Otis Hall Robinson who is credited with putting a hole in the cards so a rod could keep them in the proper order.

Today, most people don’t give much thought to the cards, the catalog or the rod/hole system but all these things worked in harmony for effective information retrieval for over a century. Now the artwork and accompanying story can share a bit of history with the next generation of students as well as serve as a conversation piece and décor.

Take a lesson from the library and find creative ways to bring your history out from the archives. Telling your story through art is one great way to do so.

leadership dot #2575: pledge

We’ve all heard the Pledge of Allegiance hundreds of times and often say the words by rote memory. On this Independence Day, take a few minutes to listen to Red Skelton explain the meaning of each word and make the Pledge come to life. I challenge you to listen to his monologue and not be moved by it.

Skelton adds power to something by making the familiar unfamiliar. Instead of just using words that we recite without thinking, he challenges us to pause and consider why the words were chosen. Can you adopt a similar technique for an important message in your organization? Perhaps you can have a founder shed light on the thought behind the mission statement. Elders could each share the meaning behind the organization’s values. The board chair or president could describe what the name of the organization or its slogan was trying to achieve. Instead of just sharing words, aim to share meaning.

Happy Independence Day!

leadership dot #2561: word choice

I am continually struck by the power of language and how nuances in word choice can change the meaning of an entire concept. I especially wonder about this with the notion of climate change. So many of the early warnings centered around “global warming” and, while I personally believe the scientists, not everyone is directly experiencing warming. In the midst of the polar vortex when it was -55 degrees, global warming seemed to be a foreign concept and gave fuel to the doubters. I wonder if there would have been greater acceptance if scientists had initially framed the issue as “climate change” from the start – a concept that seems irrefutable given the havoc that weather is creating around the globe. If more people could agree that the climate is certainly changing, it may be a starting point for discussions regarding what to do about it.

A similar shift is occurring in the mental health arena, with many advocating for the use of “brain health” vs. “mental illness” in an attempt to reduce the stigma that the latter often creates. If we treated an unhealthy brain with the same compassion and access as we provide to unhealthy bodies it could create a world of opportunity for many.

In the social sector, language is changing away from “foster care” which sounds nurturing to “stranger care” which is the reality of what occurs in many out-of-home placements. The more accurate descriptor creates an urgency to focus on prevention rather than on additional facilities.

Language is also being reframed around gender identity, expanding beyond the binary “male or female” to a multitude of choices, a personal preference for pronouns and a movement toward neutral language that precludes labels altogether.

A change of language can become a euphemism, designed to sugar coat the real issue at hand, such as calling lies “misunderstandings” or disguising unpaid grunt workers as “interns”, but language can also serve to create an opening for understanding and action. Take care to describe that which is important to you with words that others are able to hear.

leadership dot #2552: sounds

Much effort goes into preserving the visual aspects of our culture but far less attention is paid to the audio components. An online museum: “Conserve the Sound” is trying to change that by compiling a collection of dying sounds to preserve as part of history.

Initially, you may pause and wonder what kind of sounds are dying but once you start thinking about it dozens of examples come to mind such as manual typewriters, electric typewriters, adding machines, push buttons on the car radio, slide projectors, modems, etc. The museum features less technological sounds as well — goat bells, deserted sea shores and egg beaters – sounds that many will never hear in their lifetime but were commonplace at one time.

It reminded me of an interview by Sheryl Sanders after her husband died where she said: “I wish I had taken more video.” It’s one thing to have a photo, but another to hear someone’s voice, their laugh and all the nuances of speech that make someone come to life.

Think about the sounds of your family or organization – which ones are most meaningful and should be preserved? Raise the consciousness of all the sounds around you – pay attention so you can really hear the distinctions amidst the cacophony that make up the soundtrack of your life.

leadership dot #2550: longhand

Staples recently ran an ad touting that they were “bringing back the fine art of notetaking and launching an entire new collection.” Since when did notetaking go out of style?! I’m probably in the minority, but I have never stopped taking notes or using notebooks of all shapes and sizes.

Harvard Business Review just published an article that confirmed what I have known all along: taking notes in longhand has many advantages.

Maggy McGloin of HBR writes: “Research shows that when you only use a laptop to take notes, you don’t absorb new materials as well, largely because typing notes encourages verbatim, mindless transcription…And while there are plenty of ways to work smarter with digital tools, you may remember more if you leave the laptop or tablet at your desk and try bringing a notebook and pen instead.”

It may be old school, but I know of no better way to remember things, organize ideas or keep track of details than a trusty notebook. Watch for those Back-to-School displays to start popping up and stock up on your own collection for a bargain.