On Thursday this week we in the United States will celebrate Thanksgiving – a holiday that began as a reminder of our good fortune in surviving another year and bringing in a bountiful harvest that would last through the winter.
Most of us remember hearing stories in school about the pilgrims who (supposedly) invited their native American “friends” to join them for a feast that (supposedly) included turkey, mashed potatoes, cranberries, and pumpkin pie.
Of course we know it wasn’t quite like that. And unfortunately Thanksgiving has evolved into a day for stuffing ourselves as well as a turkey, for gorging on football and the Macy’s parade, and for gearing up for Black Friday and frenzied all-night shopping for year-end holiday gifts.
Somewhere along the way we seem to have forgotten that Thanksgiving is about giving thanks, and about sharing our blessings.
I’ve just returned from a four-day event that reminded me over and over again what Thanksgiving is really all about, and I want to share an important story with you that just might add some new meaning to your own Thanksgiving.
The event I was privileged to participate in was the annual Chapter Leadership Institute (CLI) that the National Speakers Association (NSA) produces every November for the presidents-elect of NSA’s 30+ local chapters around the United States.
We bring this group of about-to-be leaders together for several days of learning about the responsibilities and challenges of leading a volunteer board of directors. The CLI experience also transforms these individual leaders into a leadership community for sharing and mutual support.
Most of NSA’s local chapters operate on a July – June fiscal year, so these presidents-elect are still six months or more away from taking office (though they all sit on their current chapter boards already). But they each left the Institute on Sunday afternoon with a basic plan for what has to happen each month between now and the time they take office.
The weekend workshop is designed to help these future leaders understand their roles and responsibilities, and to equip them with the knowledge and skills they’ll need to recruit volunteer board members and meld those independent individuals into a collective team.
As a past chapter president I was privileged to serve on the Chapter Leadership Committee (CLC), the team that designs and leads the Chapter Leadership Institute (and I want to give a special shoutout to the CLC Chair, Marty Stanley, who assembled a world-class team of thought leaders and then trusted us to design the workshop experience).
We created a whole series of high-energy conversations about the “Five M’s” of chapter leadership:
I find that a compelling model for any leadership team, but it is particularly powerful for volunteer boards and professional associations.
However, there was a much deeper meaning to the weekend. Last Monday, November 14, was the birthday of NSA’s founder, the late Cavett Robert. And it is his legacy – the Spirit of NSA – that all of us remembered and honored this weekend.
That legacy is best described by the way Cavett led his own life. As he put it:
Don’t worry about how we divide up the pie, there is enough for everybody. Let’s just build a bigger pie!
You see, almost every NSA member, whether he/she is a keynote speaker, a trainer, a coach, or someone who speaks to promote a business or a product, is either a solopreneur or the owner of a small business.
In a sense, we are competing with each other for business, even though we speak about different topics, to different audiences, and in different regions of the country (and the world).
However, by caring about each other, by sharing best practices, and by supporting each other’s personal and professional growth, we collectively enhance our profession and develop our industry. Together we grow the pie, enabling each of us to get a bigger slice.
So as you sit down on Thursday with family and friends, please pause for a moment to think about how you can help each other bake a bigger pie. While many of the natural resources on our small planet (water, air, plants, minerals) are limited and threatened, the most important things that define our future (ideas, relationships, love, beauty) are infinite if we believe they can be.
In fact, your future is limited only by your imagination and your mindset; invest your time and your energy in helping to bake a bigger pie, and we’ll all have more than enough.
Are you frustrated by all the time you waste in boring, unproductive meetings? Call me today (+1 510.558.1434) for a free exploratory conversation about how you can design and lead meetings that matter. And treat yourself to a copy of my most recent book, Making Meetings Matter: How Smart Leaders Orchestrate Powerful Conversations in the Digital Age (link is to the book’s page on Amazon.com. However, you should contact me directly for volume discounts).