This was the post I wrote in 2009 on Dr. King’s birthday, which we celebrate today. It’s interesting how over the last 7 years much of what I was feeling at the time about the possibilities that were presenting themselves have yet to become a reality. In some ways, we’ve gone backward despite some of the progress. I’m not sure race relations in this country are at the place I recall back in the 60’s but it’s good to have a day dedicated to the man that moved us all forward so we can reflect on the topic. The business point in the post hasn’t changed – some things, such as Dr. King’s message – are eternal.
Last week was actually Dr. King‘s birthday but since we’re celebrating it today I thought I’d add my two cents. I’m old enough to remember him and while he didn’t light the fire of the civil rights movement in the US (I’d say Rosa Parks is that hero), he certainly brought the fire to life and tended it well until his assassination (and I remember that as well – how horrible a day it was!).
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
What inspired me, a young (then) white kid was his notion of bringing a dream to reality. OK, the words and delivery were pretty inspirational too, even when you read them off a page. Yesterday the Inauguration Committee had a concert on the very place where Dr. King gave his “I Have A Dream” speech to celebrate, nearly 46 years later, a big piece of that speech coming to reality. One can’t help but wonder what Dr.King would have felt and said – he certainly should still be alive – he’d just be turning 80.
Robert Kennedy said “There are those who look at things the way they are, and ask why… I dream of things that never were, and ask why not?” I think that’s great business advice as well, even if George Bernard Shaw had the notion before Bobby. Mark Twain wrote that “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
So today, I celebrate Dr. King’s dreaming of a better world and making it happen. Tomorrow, we can watch it become real. What are you dreaming of? Can it be real? Why not? Or better – why not!!
I started to write another post about Dr. King in celebration of his birthday. I went back to something I had written in 2011 which in turn went back to something from 2009. In all candor, I stopped trying to write a new one after heading out into rants on the subject of race relations today. Since we don’t do politics here I’m reposting the older screed. Maybe in honor of Dr. King you’ll go see “Selma”, as imperfect as that film is, and reflect on his message.
Today is the day we pause to celebrate Dr. King’s birthday. I went back and looked at my post from two years ago, which was about dreams – specifically one of Dr. King’s dreams becoming a reality. That was sort of focused on what he saw – his vision. Today I want to focus on one of the great man’s best qualities that influenced how he acted to make that vision real. I think it’s applicable to business. No, it’s not going to be another ethics rant (although those are never out of style in my book). Today, it’s about the most important skill I think all great businesspeople – and great leaders – posses.
To me, great leaders serve to fulfill the needs of their people. For Dr. King, it meant endless meetings with various groups to understand their concerns and explain how broadening civil liberties to be more inclusive could help meet them. For those of us in business, it means paying more attention to the concerns of our customers and co-workers than to our own agenda – these folks ARE our agenda to a certain extent, along with the underlying needs of our businesses. In a word – listen.
Everyone wants to feel as if their ideas and thoughts are being heard if not acted upon. Without someone hearing them, action on those concerns is impossible. Listening, then speaking, brings trust.
I know this isn’t a new thought in this space but it came to mind on this day thinking of Dr. King. If you go back to the early days of Dr. King’s involvement in the civil rights movement, it’s pretty clear that he was a reluctant leader. He was drafted to lead and was kind of unsure of himself. As he listened to the members of the community and other clergy, he realized that he was simply a voice for the community and their agenda became his agenda.
Many of you will be familiar with Stephen R. Covey, who wrote that we ought to “seek first to understand, then to be understood.” I think Dr. King, if he read pop-psychology, would have appreciated that.
What are you listening to today?
Today is prep day for tomorrow’s feast. Since I’m busy doing many other things (including praying the pending snow storm misses us), I’m reposting my Thanksgiving screed from 2008. Not much has changed in the intervening 6 years about my approach to the task at hand. It’s also a decent observation on the value of planning and attention to detail. Happy Thanksgiving!
I had an assistant once who developed the concept of “the Ritter factor” when estimating time. The basic concept was that if I said something would take a certain amount of time, that amount needed to be multiplied by 4.5 to determine the actual time required. While not admitting to the accuracy or even existence of this factor, I can state that Thanksgiving‘s biggest challenge is time. “Time?” you’re thinking, “that’s the biggest challenge? HA! This idiot has really lost it!” I’m sure you could put together a list of this week’s challenges which would contain items such as where to stash all the coats, how to fit 25 people around a table made for 12, and how to step over Uncle Elmer to get to the bathroom without waking him up. However, as the conductor of the Thanksgiving orchestra around old Rancho Deluxe here, let me assure you that the primary challenge of the day is delivering all 39 items on the menu to the table at the same time, appropriately hot or cold as required.
The key to the entire day is a timed checklist. Seriously. I take enormous amount of crap from everyone who sees mine each year until they realize that the meal is being served at exactly the time requested by the Mrs. which happens to coincide nicely with halftime of the football game. This list is created by using back timing – something TV and radio producers do all the time. Beginning at the desired end time and factoring in the availability of necessary facilities (ovens, stove burners, etc.), you work backwards and piece together the time required for each dish until you have a road map. Anything I can knock off ahead of time (baking, prepping all the dressings, parboiling vegetables) is done up to 24 hours in advance. It even gets down to resting time for the turkeys before carving and the time it takes for the oil to heat up in the fryer. In fact, we’ve started frying a turkey in part because it frees up an oven late in the process. This sounds like a silly bit of overkill to get the meal ready, but it prevents you from leaving the soup in the refrigerator or forgetting you were serving carrots and finding a 20lb bag the next morning.
I’d be happy to share my list with you but it really would only help you a bit. The cooking facilities here are pretty damn good although we spent the money on them instead of indoor toilets (kidding). You have to tie your back-timed list to the menu, the facilities you have available to you, and your cooking skills. Even though my former assistant (who comes most years for the Thanksgiving meal) thinks I’m chronologically challenged, I’ve got 25 full bellies Thursday evening that think otherwise.