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 #2574: bandwagon

There’s nothing like a holiday to create a bandwagon for marketers to jump on and the Fourth of July is no exception. It seems that the weeks between Memorial Day and Independence Day have become one big promotional marathon with stores and their products decked out in red, white and blue – hoping that it makes consumers spend green.

It’s one thing to promote the blueberries and strawberries that would be sold anyway but this year I was struck at the number of pre-packaged products that came out with a holiday edition. Cereals, chips, candies, cookies, beverages and snacks offered their foods dyed with the colors of our nation. Paper products, clothing, decorations and flowers all feature stars or stripes. If there was a way to tie something to the holiday retailers have done it.

On a personal level, you still have today to rush out and deck your halls and buffet table with red, white and blue. Organizationally, take a moment to process the frenzy around you. Did you waste time and energy by participating, or did your additional efforts pay off? If you sat out, could you have benefitted from being part of the wave?

The calendar is packed with mass merchandising opportunities: back-to-school, Pumpkin Spice, Halloween, Dia de los Muertos are all on deck. Jump on the bandwagon or stay off – but do either with intentionality.

leadership dot #2573: today

If you’re having a hard time focusing on work this week, here’s an excuse to start celebrating early: The official motion that severed the colonies from England actually occurred on July 2, not the fourth. The proclamation telling of this split, the Declaration of Independence, was approved on the fourth, but by then it was just a formality. The real business had occurred two days earlier.

There are other facts about Independence Day that don’t align with how history is told: most did not sign the Declaration until August as the document was still being revised and the Founding Fathers anticipated that July 2 would be the day of grand celebrations.

Any major change occurs over an extended period of time. There is no “one day” when the change is finished so it is left to the leaders to pick one of many options for when to celebrate and to commemorate. It’s important to pick “a date” and coalesce around it for maximum impact, but if you’d like, you can follow the lead of John Adams and celebrate today instead!

You can read more trivia about the Fourth of July here.

Thanks, Meg!

 

leadership dot #2560: 2-1/2 years

Today is Juneteenth, a holiday that commemorates the freeing of the last enslaved people in the United States on June 19, 1885 in Galveston, Texas. If you’re an astute student of history you will note that this is two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation that, in theory, gave slaves their freedom.

Juneteenth is a perfect illustration that just because a leader says there is to be a change does not mean that those who are to enact it actually do so. Proclaiming a change and implementing it are two very different things, carried out by two distinct functions within an organization.

In this case, the Texans were not about to relinquish their “property” until they were forced to do so. It took two years for Major General Granger to provide the might necessary to mandate that change occur, needing to wait until the war concluded and enough Union troops became available to make their way to southern Texas for law enforcement instead of civil war combat.

In addition to spending time developing bold proclamations about the change you want to occur, dedicate resources toward creating an implementation plan to ensure that things actually change. Leaders – and all political candidates – would be wise to take lessons from Juneteenth. Good intentions – and even good laws – don’t become a reality overnight.

 

leadership dot #2547: remembering

It has been called the most significant 24-hours of the 20th Century, yet today many Americans don’t know the history of D-Day. The Allied Forces’ victory at Normandy is considered the turning point in World War II – a heroic series of battles that saved Europe from Nazi rule. The invasion on France’s beaches literally changed the world – 75 years ago today.

 The victory was monumental at the time and those who were alive when it happened can recall where they were when they learned of the raid. Today, most people don’t appreciate the magnitude of the war, let alone one battle within it.

The same thing happens with other key points in history. In less than 20 years, emotions generated by the terrorist attacks of September 11 have waned and Patriot Day has become just another day for those not directly impacted. On November 22, people are thinking of Thanksgiving instead of JFK.

Consider the history you need to preserve in your organization (or family, etc.). What were the turning points that made your organization what it is today? Who were the leaders and what risks did they take? What were the battles that were won – and lost – and what lessons were learned along the way?

History fades into the past without intentional efforts to keep it alive. Be your organization’s – and community’s – storyteller and help honor the key events of the past in the present.

Monument Des Braves St. Laurent-Sur-Mer, Omaha Beach France

 

leadership dot #2537: flags

This weekend may be the start of summer for some, but in my town, it’s known as the start of flag season. The local Eagles Club provides a service project whereby members place American flags outside businesses for each patriotic holiday this summer: Memorial Day, Flag Day, Independence Day and Labor Day. The companies pay for the flags, but the Eagles do all the work: setting them up a few days before and taking them down on Monday after the designated event.

Many businesses participate in this project and so the flags become very noticeable. With the benefit of a little breeze as was the case this weekend, Old Glory is even more glorious.

The flag project is a perfect intersection between service and visibility. So often, good deeds are done to individuals or behind-the-scenes in ways that not many can see: a donation, a scholarship or helping someone who has medical issues, but the flags bring a wave of patriotism to many.

This Memorial Day remember those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice for your freedom and pay them tribute by serving in a way that brings joy to another.

leadership dot #2536: sorry day

In Australia, today is National Sorry Day, a holiday established in 1998 to make atonement for the separation of Aboriginal children from their native people. The removals occurred from 1910 to 1970, but the Sorry Day did not occur for nearly 30 years after the practice ended, and the public apology did not come until another decade after that.

Saying “I’m sorry” and admitting mistakes is hard for a country to do and it’s also challenging for an individual. It gets even harder when so much time has passed and relationships have been severed.

But take a lesson from Australia and do the right things by making amends. Who needs to hear “I’m sorry” from you today? Do the right thing and be the first one to extend your hand in reconciliation.