This is Thanksgiving week in the United States – a reminder to slow down, pause, spend time with family and friends, and be thankful for our blessings.
It is a tradition that goes all the way back to that first autumn when the Pilgrims (North America’s original immigrants) harvested their crops, supposedly shared their bounty with the native American Indians and got ready to hunker down for the winter.
While some aspects of that first Thanksgiving are no doubt mythical, we have made the holiday into perhaps the quintessential American celebration.Many of us overdose on football and more of us overeat, but most of us do indeed stop and think for a few moments about what’s gone well for us over the past year.
Sadly, given recent events in Paris, Brussels, Bamako, Lebanon, Ferguson, Detroit, Cleveland, Oregon, South Carolina, and elsewhere, it is difficult this year to feel good about either the immediate past or the foreseeable future. This country is tense, rife with both verbal and physical conflict, and suffering from way too much violence in the streets, shopping malls, movie theaters, and college campuses all over the country.
And yet we do have much to be thankful for. I participated last Friday in a stimulating networking exercise conducted by Nora Wolfson for the Bay Area Consulting Network (BACN), a group that meets monthly in San Rafael, California (and yes, given the name BACN, we do enjoy bacon for breakfast).
One phase of the exercise included each of us writing down individually what we felt grateful for, and then sharing our thoughts as a way to become better acquainted with each other.
I started, as did many others, with health and family. You can’t buy good health; it is truly a blessing (especially at my age!). And although you can’t quite choose your family I am incredibly fortunate to have chosen a bride who became a loving and supportive wife (for more than 48 years!) and two wonderful, caring, and highly successful children.
I also noted my gratitude for friends and colleagues. But what made that BACN conversation memorable was the way it led me to think more deeply about the attributes that draw me to individuals and organizations who I end up being grateful for.
I like working with and for people who:
- value human experience over bureaucratic rules;
- prefer collaborative leadership to command-and-control;
- thrive in networks rather than hierarchies;
- relish the innovation that comes from diversity;
- respect everyone’s experience and value their insights;
- believe in honoring commitments; and
- pay attention to outcomes, not activities.
I also want to say thank you in particular to two organizations that I’ve been privileged to be part of. Both of them, and the people within them, have made significant contributions to my current worldview, to my professional development, and to my optimism about the future of work – and life.
First is the Great Work Cultures movement – a loose association of individuals and organizations that are committed to enhancing the work experience by fostering cultures that respect diversity and believe in empowerment as a source of organizational effectiveness and sustainability. The first three items in my list of likes above are taken directly from the Great World Cultures credo.
Check out the GWC website, sign up to be a champion, and contribute your insights and energy to our cause. It’s free, and there is no formal commitment other than to share your ideas with other like-minded folks who are working to ensure that industrial-age command-and-control cultures are replaced by digital-age collaboration and power-sharing practices.
The second organization that has become central to who I am today is the National Speakers Association (NSA). NSA is a professional association made up of public speakers, trainers, facilitators, and many small business owners who either speak for a living or speak to promote their businesses and personal passions.
When my close friend Candace Fitzpatrick, CSP, persuaded me to apply to become an NSA member, she told me she had found her “tribe.” And now three years later I know exactly what she meant. NSA is not just a collection of smart and highly motivated people (though that is an apt description of its members); it is also filled with caring, competent professionals who go out of their way to help each other build businesses, accelerate careers, and build meaningful lives.
Cavett Robert, NSA’s founder, articulated the association’s values exceptionally well when he said many years ago, “Let’s not fight over getting a bigger slice of the pie; let’s work together to build a bigger pie.” That value of mutual support continues to thrive within NSA today.
Today many of my best friends and biggest supporters are NSA members. I guarantee that the book I’ve been working on for over a year (Making Meetings Matter), which will hit the shelves in January, would never have come into existence without NSA.
Finally, my most important message for this holiday season (and for every day you are alive): be grateful for all the people in your life, whether they are close friends and family, people you see every day, or someone you see only once. And please, above all else, just say Thank You – whenever and wherever you can.