leadership dot #3671: civic duty

The newly-elected second President John Adams wrote to his wife Abigail about the transfer of power between himself and George Washington. Adams noted Washington’s jovial mood and wrote: “Methought I heard him think Ay! I am fairly out and you fairly in! See which of us will be happiest.”

On this day when we celebrate our independence, Washington and Adams provide a good reminder that democracy is not easy. To keep America as the Land of the Free, we must all become engaged in civic duty. It is essential — but not enough — to vote. We need to be active participants in the political or legislative process.

The Fourth of July is about more than fireworks. Let the day remind you that independence came at a cost, and it requires continual sacrifices to maintain it.

leadership dot #3657: commemoration

I vividly remember driving a friend to the airport several years ago so that he could tend to some critical business at his hometown bank. We were halfway there when suddenly it occurred to us: OMG, it’s Casimir Pulaski Day in Illinois tomorrow and the banks will be closed!

Casimir Pulaski Day is in March, but I suspect that others will experience a similar scenario today due to the celebration of Juneteenth. It’s a two-year-old Federal holiday so people are not yet accustomed to it, and it’s more complicated this year with Juneteenth being celebrated on June 20th. But there is no mail, no in-person banking, and no open government offices.

Neither of us knew who Mr. Pulaski was or why he merited his own holiday, but we were inspired to find out. (He is honored for his contributions to the American Revolution and is considered the Father of the American Calvary.) I hope you do the same today. Instead of considering it an inconvenience, treat it as an opportunity to learn about Juneteenth and the freeing of enslaved Americans. It’s a day to atone as well as celebrate as well as a chance to understand and own the history that shapes who we are as a nation today.

leadership dot #3656: expand

The traditional gift for Father’s Day usually means ties or tools but a Massachusetts company has something different in mind. This holiday, they are promoting “Bro-tox” — yes, Botox but for men. As with women, it helps alleviate wrinkles and frown marks and enhances the appearance of men who receive it.

“Bro-tox” is another example of how the lines between genders are blurring. There used to be a clear distinction between products only men used and products just for women, but now a product is purchased by anyone who needs its features.

If you have limited your audience because of previously-held beliefs that limited you to only male or female, it is time to rework your messaging plan. There are fathers out there who may love the gift of Botox instead of a drill. Expand your thinking to include them.

leadership dot #3636: missing

Memorial Day is a day to remember those in our armed forces who died while serving. A local restaurant is one of many that use the occasion to remember another category of people who answered the call of duty: those who are missing. The Defense Department reports that over 80,000 Americans who served are still missing today, with half presumed lost at sea.

A Missing Man table is a symbolic way to acknowledge the servicemen and women whose fate is unknown. Each element of the display has meaning:

  • The white of the tablecloth represents the purity of motives
  • The rose symbolizes their life
  • The yellow ribbon reminds us to account for them
  • The salt represents the tears of their families
  • The Bible shows strength of faith
  • The inverted glass reminds us they are not able to toast with us
  • The empty chair is because they are missing

Just as the designation of Memorial Day was designed to create a pause and reflection to remember those who died while serving, the Missing Man table acknowledges those who never came home. Take a moment today to think about all those who gave the ultimate sacrifice to ensure the freedoms we enjoy today.

leadership dot #3619: thirteen

When I was in college, I was randomly assigned to room 1313 Washington Hall. It worked out fine for me, but even being on the 13th floor bothers some people so much that many hotels and skyscrapers skip the number 13 when designating spaces. The elevator is marked from 12 to 14, thus reducing the fears of those who are superstitious or feel that the number is somehow unlucky.

But think about this for a moment. Just because you skipped 13 on the elevator button does not mean that there isn’t a thirteenth floor. Of course, there is. It’s purely a mind game but easier for the owner to play than dealing with pushback or undesirable real estate. The trepidation may not be logical or warranted but it is still real for people.

Is there a “13” in your organization where through a simple renaming you can avoid angst or anger? How you label something can make all the difference.

An elevator panel that skips the number 13 (Source: Wikipedia)

leadership dot #3616: mothers

I’m a “mom” to two four-legged kids and they always recognize Mother’s Day by treating me to something I pick out myself! I guess that American Greetings realizes I’m not the only one with furry children who acknowledges the holiday. They have created an entire line of “pet parent” cards to allow all manner of pets to send their appreciation to their “mom” (with a little bit of help, of course!).

If you’re not a pet lover as I am perhaps you are rolling your eyes at the absurdity of this. Instead, maybe it’s a sign that your organization should consider how to capitalize on the $260 billion pet industry. Those pet “moms” are a huge audience all year long, not just on Mother’s Day.

leadership dot #3605: arbor

One hundred and fifty years ago, there was no talk of climate change or even environmental protection and on the vast prairie of the new Nebraska Territory, there were barely any trees to protect. Yet, J. Sterling Morton had the foresight to realize that the area needed trees to help hold the soil, function as a windbreak, provide fuel and serve as building material in the new settlements.

So, when Morton became secretary of this fledgling territory, he created the first Arbor Day in 1872, offering prizes for the largest number of properly planted trees. Over one million trees took root that day! His efforts sparked similar programs and today Arbor Day is recognized in all 50 states, with today marking the official 150th anniversary.

I can relate to the treelessness Morton faced as I saw it myself moving into a new development that had previously been a farm. There was not a tree in sight in our subdivision, but fortunately, our covenants had the same respect for trees as Morton and required trees to be planted in every yard. Now, just 13 years later, my trees are taller than my house and provide shade, homes for birds and squirrels, and endless enjoyment as I watch them bud out and then turn vibrant fall colors.

The Chinese proverb reads: “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.” Follow Morton’s legacy and make tree-planting part of this weekend’s activities. You and the Earth will both benefit.

leadership dot #3538: POTUS

I just had a conversation with a colleague about how one organization does and another doesn’t do a good job of recognizing past leaders. Even if those new to the fold don’t know the earlier chief officers or fully know their story, there is value in knowing their name and their place in shaping the organization to become what it is today.

Who are the leaders that we recognize on today’s holiday? Is it just Washington that we honor? Or maybe it is Lincoln and Washington? President’s Day or Presidents’ Day? The answer is — it depends. The federal holiday specifically recognizes Washington; some states also recognize Lincoln, and others recognize all who have held the office of President of the United States. Given the challenges of the job, I’m comfortable acknowledging all of them today for their service.

So, today take a moment to refresh your memory of the 45 different men who have served as POTUS. How many can you name without looking it up? Can you give a nugget of information about them beyond their name? Maybe, instead of doing Wordle or scrolling your social media feed, use Presidents’ Day to read about the leaders who have shaped our nation.

leadership dot #3530: opposite

Valentine’s Day is a day for love — except for those who have been scorned. An exotic animal rescue in Pennsylvania is trying to tap into this disenchanted audience by selling the ability to “toss your ex to the wolves.” For $5, they will write your nemesis’ name on a treat and feed it to their rescued wolves — all in the name of raising funds to support the animals.

It’s a creative spin that should get your mind thinking of how you can distinguish yourself or your organization on future holidays. When everyone is marketing “love,” can you find a niche in those without it? For St. Patrick’s Day, instead of the green everything, focus on the authentic few who aren’t pretending to be Irish for the day. For today’s Super Bowl, you could have created a “Wait Until Next Year” club for all the fans whose teams aren’t playing.

To paraphrase Robert Frost, sometimes the holiday less traveled makes all the difference.

leadership dot #3515: be sensitive

The marketing machine is getting ready to promote the litany of spring holidays: Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, Memorial Day, etc. While it may be good for business, not everyone feels joyous about all these occasions. The Day of Love is tough for those who are alone; Mother’s Day is hard for those who have lost a child or are unable to conceive one, and the list goes on.

Etsy has demonstrated sensitivity to this issue and sent an email: “Do you want to opt out of Valentine’s Day emails? We understand that Valentine’s Day can be a tough time. If you prefer not to receive Valentine’s Day emails from us, you can opt out by clicking below. You’ll still get tons of other great content from Etsy.”

Before you jump on the holiday promotion bandwagon, consider how you can empathize with members of your audience who may consider the days reminders of pain instead of glee.