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Saturday, December 26, 2009

Making Memories this Christmas

Can you remember your all time favourite Christmas gift? Do you remember the love and the music that filled the air during Christmas?

Of course, the Christmas season is not defined by the material gifts we give and receive but by the gift of love we share and the memories that we create together. Through the years presents are lost and become outdated but special memories are something that last forever. So this Christmas holiday season we encourage you to become Memory Makers:

1. Make Memories for Yourself - During this Christmas season say to yourself, "When I look back what do I want to remember about this time? Do I want to remember myself as a stressed out, unhappy, angry person or do I want to remember the joy I felt, the connections I made, the gifts of the heart I have given and the special moments I have shared."

2. Make Memories for Your Children - If you have children and you are feeling stressed about all the things you have to do, stop for a moment and ask yourself, "20 years from now what do I want my children to remember? What memories do I want to define their childhood?" Then create them. It's not about the presents.

3. Start a Tradition - It's never too late to start a new tradition. Traditions connect one generation to the next and they make life more meaningful. Tell a story, read a specific book, go to church, go Christmas caroling, make a certain meal, bake a specific dessert, volunteer, sponsor a family in need. Start a tradition and let it create memories every year.

4. Give Meaningful Gifts - In a world of so much stuff and maxed out credit cards... buy less this year, yet give more. Give more by giving gifts that have meaning. So whether it's a special book, a picture, a poem, a painting, or a symbol of your love, give a gift with meaning and it will create a memory forever.

5. ________________How do you make memories?

Leadership by Example

Alan Deutschman is a journalist, which is fortunate for us, the readers, because not only does he write fluently and vividly, but he tells stories, which is what all good journalists do.

Walk the Walk: The #1 Rule for Real Leaders is a compendium of stories taken from the interviews he has conducted with leaders over the past 20 years, most of them in business but some, equally relevant and revealing, from the worlds of sports and politics. Deutschman’s subjects range from Jeff Bezos of Amazon.com to Barack Obama in the first week of his presidency, from FedEx to the Florida Gators, Nelson Mandela, and the Greensboro Four, whose lunchtime sit-ins in 1960 helped to jump-start the desegregation movement in the United States.

The stories make for compelling reading, particularly because they are not all paeans to the individuals profiled. Deutschman is critical of quite a few leaders, including California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger for talking the talk about energy and the environment but continuing to own a fleet of five Hummers. The fact that, in response to criticism, Schwarzenegger got General Motors to retrofit one of the vehicles to run on hydrogen and another on biofuel was not helpful, suggests Deutschman, because neither fuel is readily available to his constituents. Obama, too, comes in for some mild criticism for not leading enough by example in the very early days, although he is praised for many of his initiatives.

Deutschman uses his stories to make a point, or several points. He starts with the statement that “the most crucial role of a leader is establishing and instilling the one or two values that will be most important for an organisation or a movement or a community.” There are always a multitude of values that are important — the hard part is making the trade-offs between them in order to focus on one or two. He castigates Coca-Cola for its list of six goals and seven values, many of which are potentially contradictory: Were “people” more important than “profit,” and where did “integrity” come in the pecking order?

It is, Deutschman says, only when you walk the walk that you reveal the ranking of your values. He describes the response of Martin Luther King Jr. when he was attacked by Roy James, a Nazi sympathiser, in Birmingham, Ala., in 1962. King staggered back under a rain of blows, but dropped his hands and refused to fight back. He turned the other cheek. He walked his walk, lived his teaching, and so demonstrated that others, too, could live by his principles. Deutschman contrasts King’s behaviour with stories of corporations and chief executives that have ignored their declared values and principles when it suited them to do so or when they went along with the prevailing customs of their industry, most flagrantly in the case of the airline companies. Deutschman labels them lemmings, those who follow the herd rather than setting their own standards.

Deutschman distills his long list of stories into a series of principles. Although these are obvious, like so much in the literature of leadership, it is the stories that bring them to life. Our recommendation would be to read the stories and make a note of the ones that resonated most with your own situation, underline the simple message that they contain, and then resolve to act on it or, as Deutschman would say, to walk your walk.