My “Christmas Vacation” Tree Good Intentions…

In keeping with the theme of Christmas for December’s blogs, let’s think of the topic of good intentions with a story from my Christmas past.

Have you ever started out thinking something would be a really great idea? Yep, me too. Stay with me, there is leadership in this…

The first year of our marriage, Heather and I did the Christmas Vacation thing. On the first weekend of December, we loaded up in my truck and went to get a real Christmas tree, even singing Christmas carols (“Deck the Halls” in my best Clark Griswold impression) on the way there. We went to a Christmas tree farm out in the country somewhere and actually cut a tree down. We walked up and down row after row until we said, “There it is, the ‘Norton family’ Christmas tree.”  The tree farm even gave us a saw, so I did not have to pull the tree out by the roots. We were proud of our accomplishment.  We were going to do our first Christmas right, real tree and all the trimmings.  It was going to be the “Hap, happiest Christmas of all.”

Remember how we started this story? Good intentions…

When we got back home (one-bedroom apartment), we lugged our tree upstairs. Now… this is the part where the good intentions come in. Someone had told Heather that if you put sugar-water in the tree stand, it would make your tree stay green and fresh longer. So, we did. What we did not know is that with full sun, sugar-water will begin to ferment. And guess what, we had our tree placed in front of the double full-length french doors that provided full sun most of the day. Needless to say, after a few days, we would begin to ask, “You smell something?”

About two weeks before Christmas, I was putting a present under the tree and actually got a whiff of what was going on down there in the bowls of the tree-stand. What I found was what cousin Eddie told Clark, “Just a real nice surprise.” The sugar-water had fermented and almost turned to a solid. The smell was so bad, I nearly knocked myself out trying to get up from under the tree. If fumes had color, our tree would have been emitting something green like the disposable waste of cousin Eddie’s RV in the sewer or the Grinch’s bad breath.

That same weekend, we undecorated our tree, threw it out over the balcony to haul it off later. The tree’s “bad breath” had even contaminated the wrapping paper of the presents. We had to unwrap and rewrap all the gifts (I needed a HazMat suit), and spray a massive amount of air freshener. Fortunately, we did not have to file an insurance claim to fumigate.

Good intentions are what they are, good intentions. As leaders, we should show up and provide good intentions every day. However, we must make sure that they are on the right side and can make a positive impact on the greater good. Intentions should be based on the test of time and values.

As leaders, we also need to be conscious of our intent. With every intent, there is always a motive. We just wanted a tree that would stay fresh and green longer. In the end, our “why” was on the good side. The “why” of intentions will always show a leader’s true character.

As I look back, we really had good intentions for our first Christmas tree. Now, we just laugh and ask, “Remember when?” However, it just did not work out. What I learned, though, is never to have a live tree again. By the way, we did not get another tree that first year.

Hoping each and every one of you and your families has a great Christmas season…

 

Remember… Think Leadership and Be For Others

©2019 J Clay Norton

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Leadership As A Christmas Tree Ornament?

Like many of you, I am sure, we put our Christmas tree up last week. I tackle the outside of the house, and Heather, my wife, decorates the inside. As she was finishing up placing ornaments on the tree, I helped out with getting a few to the top areas of the tree. When we were finished, like always, I stepped back to take an approving look.

What I did next, I found myself doing every year. I just started looking at our ornaments. What I noticed is that every one of them has a backstory, and for some reason or another, I am proud they are on our tree. As always, it “got me to thinking…”

What if the ornaments on our trees represent the leadership that others see? Better yet, what story do they tell?

Here are a few thoughts I had…

This year I took a few pics of ornaments and sent them to my mom, asking, “You remember these?” And of course, she did. Ornaments have a way of connecting our lives and memories to days that do not exist anymore. However, they do continue to live in our hearts. That is what great leadership does; it connects and resonates in our hearts in a way that continues to touch others’ lives. This is a big deal for me and my life. I want to have leadership that has “connectivity” with others.

Almost every ornament on our tree, we can tell you where it came from or who gave it to us. Each one unique on its own. Some have been passed down multiple generations and are beginning to show age. But, like those and the other ornaments, they help to create a personality of our tree. Just like ornaments, our leadership has a personality. What is it saying about you?

You cannot lead based on a cookie-cutter approach. What you are missing out on is the authenticity of not only yourself but the leadership you are trying to provide. That is what an original ornament brings to a tree. More importantly, it is authentic to you for your own reasons. It definitely is not store-bought in a box.

When we decorate our Christmas trees, I believe it is as much for ourselves as it is for others, providing a meaningful reflection of moments that have touched our hearts. Each ornament hangs on our tree is purposedly placed there for no other reason than our own.

As we think about our leadership and Christmas tree ornaments, we want it to touch our hearts, have substance, create an emotional feeling that we can recall and want to have again, and most of all, feel its presence. That is what leadership should always do and what we as leaders should strive to provide.

If your leadership were an ornament, would someone place it on their family Christmas tree?

 

Remember… Think Leadership and Be For Others

©2019 J Clay Norton

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HOME

If you would like to download a printer friendly version of this with the above picture as a washout watermark, click here: HOME

HOME

Every home, unique on its own…
A place where you once were and are now.

Growing up, growing old…
Leaving and coming back.

Memory moments made to last…
Every moment of every day.

Small things that trigger the mind…
Moments of laughter and often a cry.

The past is remembered…
The future in the making.

Now is what you have.

Home is where we are alive…
Blood running through family veins.

Where hearts beat as one…
Why ask any more than that?

…Home…

A place of faith and gratitude.
Yes, it’s where you live.

More importantly…
It’s where you love.

Home… where is it for you?

…Happy Thanksgiving…

 

Remember… Think Leadership and Be For Others

©2019 J Clay Norton

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The value of your standards…

Inspect what you expect, but do not expect what you do not model.

We could probably just end today’s blog right here…

Little things… a small scrap of paper or candy wrapper on the floor, but you walk right past it. However, you say to others, keep your area clean. Little things, ignore them and they become big things.

standardsinuse

Your standards?

As leaders, we have many standards; spoken aloud, written on paper, advertised…

Your standards…

Ultimately, your standard is who you are. What others see is what we actually do. We say, “do this,” but we do not do it ourselves. How many times have you seen a leader tell everyone, “This is what the ‘rule’ is, and this is what we are going to do.” Only after a little while that same leader is not doing anything with regards to what they said, yet expects you to keep the “standard” that they put in place.

Our standards should be the mindset of wanting an identity – what we want others to believe about us, not think about us. Time is the accurate measure of what you say your standards are. Typically we all start out strong; committed to the cause, then time happens, and we become lackadaisical? Time measures the standard, creates the culture, which, in turn, determines the identity.

We all want high standards until it is time to meet them. Then… we want the standards to be lowered, for we do not want to be seen as not meeting them. Standards are always good for others, but when they become personal, the marker is moved.

Keeping the standard where it needs to be…

Why would you lower them? Well, it happens.

We lower standards when everyone is not held accountable for the exact same concept. When we let one “get away with something” and not another… others begin to notice. Two things usually happen here… 1) others start doing the same thing, 2) others call the leader on it, and the leader gets defensive. Nothing good comes from either point.

We lower standards when the expectations of others become the norm, and we decide this is where we need to be now and hereafter. Why should people care where the standard is and more than that, maintain the standard., if you are not?

But… what you accept will become the standard and the fact that others are willing to accept your standards determines it’s value and sometimes your value as well.

Be the standard-bearer of your standards. Time will have its say.

Remember… Think Leadership and Be For Others

©2019 J Clay Norton

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