leadership dot #2941: marriage

Without fireworks, cookouts and all the usual trappings of the Fourth of July, it won’t seem like a holiday to some, but it’s still Independence Day with or without pyrotechnics.

It reminds me of times when people are so focused on the big, flashy wedding that they forget that what’s actually important is the marriage. Today, the real reason for celebration isn’t in the night sky rather to commemorate the founding of our country and the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

Take a moment to appreciate the gifts of democracy, freedom and our never-ending quest for equality. It may be fun to have fireworks or a fancy wedding, but the real value comes from the work you do afterward to sustain it.

leadership dot #2926: Juneteenth

A year ago, June nineteenth went unrecognized by many people who were unaware that it commemorates the day the last slaves in the U.S. were told of their freedom when word finally reached Texas 30 months after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed.

But the recognition of the date has gained much more prominence as part of the current race equity revolution. This year, employees at Nike, Twitter and other corporations have the day off in observation; the Juneteenth flag is flying over the Wisconsin State Capitol for the first time in history, and several marches and rallies are planned for the day.

If you’re not familiar with the story, you can watch a short video here or read more about what has been called America’s Second Independence Day here.

You know when a social change is taking place by observing the little things that are altered. In the span of less than a month, Band-Aid has announced that after 99 years of only making its product in white flesh tone, it is now committed to offering new products in a range of light, medium and dark blacks and browns. Quaker Oaks is retiring the Aunt Jemima brand after 131 years. Other brands, such as Uncle Ben’s Rice, Cream of Wheat and Mrs. Butterworth have also committed to changing their imagery. Change happens slow, then it happens fast.

At one time, not that long ago, any of these changes would have been unthinkable. Hopefully, next year it will be equally unimaginable that most people fail to recognize this holiday and the history it represents.

 

leadership dot #2921: for all

I’m not a vexillologist by any stretch, but on the occasion of Flag Day, I became curious about some of the history and etiquette surrounding our nation’s symbol. There are many rules about the folding, displaying and disposing of a flag – all to show proper reverence for something that is considered the most sacred symbol of the country. You can read some of the rules and some trivia here.

For 243 years, the stars and stripes have been the official flag of the United States of America. The origin of the flag is lost to history – no one is quite sure of the specifics – but George Washington is to have said that the stars were added to “represent a new constellation in the heavens” as a nod to succession and independence.

On this Flag Day, take a moment to reflect on the ideals on which the country was founded. It seems an appropriate time for everyone to recommit to the pledge and to fulfilling its promise of liberty and justice for all.

“I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

leadership dot #2901: memorial

One of the members of the armed forces who will be remembered today is Dwight D. Eisenhower, the 34th President of the United States and the Supreme Commander of the troops who undertook the Normandy Invasion on D-Day. He was a war hero whose leadership changed the course of history and his service will be memorialized with a monument in Washington, DC.

The tribute has been a long time in coming – the commission to begin work on the monument was appointed in 1999. They selected Frank Gehry as the architect – someone known for his non-traditional style (Guggenheim Museum, Walt Disney Concert Hall in LA) – and then faced long delays because his submissions were deemed as “controversial.” The Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial park was to be dedicated on May 8 of this year, the 75th anniversary of Victory in Europe Day (VE Day), but the pandemic had other plans. I think Eisenhower had less trouble invading France!

Eisenhower could have rested on his military service laurels but continued to make a difference as president. He signed the Civil Rights act of 1957 and sent troops to integrate Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas. He established NASA. His most lasting legacy may be the creation of the Interstate Highway System which opened up corridors for commerce across America.

Eisenhower may be among the more prominent military members who are remembered today, but all who gave the ultimate sacrifice are deserving of our appreciation and consideration. Be inspired by their perseverance, dedication and service and pledge to make your life worthy of their efforts.

 

leadership dot #2868: earth

If COVID taught us nothing else, its lesson clearly demonstrated how interconnected the world is. Despite attempts to limit immigration or close off supply chains, there no longer is an “us” and “them.” We are all inhabitants of the same Earth.

 

So, today, as we celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day, it’s an appropriate moment to consider our actions and how they impact global climate issues. You may already be taking small steps to lessen your personal impact, but if you’re inspired to do more, you can take the Earth Day 22-day Challenge.

 

We primarily tend to think of environmental issues on a personal level, but when is the last time you added the topic to a staff meeting agenda? Have you reviewed your organization’s practices lately to see where there is energy waste, unnecessary packaging, single-item purchasing, or unnecessary travel? (You can find other tips here and here.) Your initiatives can provide financial as well as environmental benefits for your organization and create an avenue for you to play a leadership role outside your defined job.

On this Earth Day, commit to raising your environmental consciousness in your organization as well as at home, starting with taking one sustainable action. What new practice can you begin today that will improve our interconnected community tomorrow?

leadership dot #2858: mismatched

I have an Easter decoration that always makes me laugh – a plaque with a bunny being hatched from an egg. It’s an absurd combination, yet the symbols of bunnies and eggs are inextricably linked for the commercial portion of this holiday. There are many facets of Easter that make no sense: rabbits with baskets, coloring and hunting for eggs, chocolate rabbits and jelly beans – but they have been so ingrained into our culture that we don’t pay much attention to the implausibility of them.

 

Embrace that spirit of creativity today to allow yourself to have free-flowing associations with disjointed concepts. Link your own version of rabbits and eggs to create a new idea for work or for family entertainment.

 

Hide spice jars around your house instead of eggs. Put your books in the cupboard and plates on the bookshelf. Mix two unexpected ingredients to make a new dish. Wear polka dots and plaid together. Intermix carrots and petunias next to each other in your front landscaping.

 

Easter symbolizes a new beginning. Use the fresh start to infuse a burst of creativity into your world.

leadership dot #2847: prank

It’s April Fool’s Day – an excuse to find some levity in these otherwise tumultuous times. You may have to use your family or housemates as “victims” since social distancing makes pranking at work challenging right now, but use your imagination!

One of the things I miss most about working on campus is the laughter – our staff would be engaged in humorous antics all the time. We truly enjoyed each other and knew it was a gift to do so. Hopefully, this time of isolation will rekindle that appreciation when people return to their workplaces.

But until then, take four minutes today and enjoy the office prank played by Jimmy Kimmel. After you have a good laugh, think about how you can bring similar joy to the lives of those with whom you work. It may need to be virtual now, but in-person will return and chuckles are always welcome.

Watch here.

leadership dot #2823: female

On this International Women’s Day, it may be natural to thank the obvious female role models in your life like your mom or sister or even to acknowledge your professional female colleagues. I’d encourage you to expand your thinking to recognize the women who are forging paths for the women of the future, not just to celebrate those in prominence today.

Two that have been in the news recently are Patrice Banks and Emily Pilloton who are working to create new career opportunities for women in the trades. Banks runs the Girls Auto Clinic and manages a staff of female mechanics – or SheCANics as she calls them. She couldn’t find a female mechanic for herself so enrolled in tech school to learn how to become one and now is working to expand her service center to other areas.

Emily Pilloton was a high school shop teacher until she launched Girls Garage to provide classes for girls ages 9-17 in subjects such as welding, carpentry and drafting. She employs an all-female staff to help the girls learn how to “fear less and build more,” preparing them for life as well as an in-demand career.

Who would you add to your list? The fearless women who ran for President of the United States certainly qualify. Closer to home, you could add my all-female veterinary clinic, female city administrator, the female electrical engineer who enrolled in my MBA class or the female head of the Boy Scouts chapter.

Look around and pay attention to the trailblazers. A SHEcanic in Pennsylvania may not mean much to you now, but she’s creating new options for the girls of tomorrow.

 

leadership dot #2803: a hell of a job

President Warren Harding is quoted as saying about the presidency: “My God, this is a hell of a job.” It’s impossible to know the true scope of any position before you take it, but I can’t even imagine the surprises that a U.S. president finds after the inauguration.

The sheer breadth of responsibility is daunting, even before you learn the nuances or have to face the issues with serious time pressures. One current candidate’s website lists where they stand on the following topics: affordable housing, climate change, consumer protection, criminal justice reform, disability, election security, Electoral College, equitable public education, extremism, foreign policy, gender equity, gerrymandering, gun laws, health care, higher education, immigration, inclusive economy, Indian country, infrastructure, judicial system, LGBTQ rights, minimum wage, national service, organized labor, political representation, racial justice, reproductive rights, rural economy, special interests, veterans and voting rights. Who would want the job?!

Shortly after President Warren Harding took office, he said: “I am just beginning to realize what a job I have taken over. God help me, for I need it.” As we celebrate this President’s Day, let us wish blessings on all those who have and will hold the position and give them the strength to rely on others to guide them in understanding the issues they face. The same holds true for you.

leadership dot #2800: anthropomorphize

Apparently, it wasn’t enough for retailers to cash in on the $20.7 billion that Americans spent on Valentine’s Day last year. Now they are trying to extend the holiday sales by targeting dog owners to spread the love from pet to pet.

Milk Bone created bones that are imprinted with popular names of dogs, calling it Bones for Friends. They also created special treats embossed with heart shapes – allowing you to send a valentine to your favorite pooch. Just like you decorate your house for each season, now there are toys, collars, and clothing that allow you to accessorize your dog for each holiday, too.

Obviously, the animals have no sense as to whether the treat has a heart shape or the bone has their name or a nemesis, but the human tendency to anthropomorphize their pooches has led to the creation of these types of products.

Can your organization capitalize on this phenomenon? Maybe your next bake sale can include dog biscuits where you write their name in spray cheese or frosting. You could make holiday pet bandanas as a craft project. Or you may consider hiding treats instead of candy and allow dogs to hunt at Easter.

People are crazy in love with their pets. You’d be wise to find ways to direct some of that exuberance to benefit your organization.