This past weekend was Canadian Thanksgiving. In our family this is always a very busy weekend with 20 to 30 of us gathering in the Collingwood area north of Toronto for a big dinner. But this year was very different.
I come from a family of five. The youngest is our sister who now lives far away and she was married this weekend – in Collingwood. So our traditional, slightly large Thanksgiving dinner celebration became a very large four-day affair including a wedding, a separate Thanksgiving dinner under a rented tent, flying tours over the area, a tennis tournament, a bike trip and more for upwards of 50 people.
Today we wake up with mixed emotions: it was an amazing weekend that we will never forget and we are really glad it’s over. This weekend was a lot of work for a lot of people. But there were some lessons learned that I thought I would share with you.
1. From my wife… it takes a village. The weekend involved months of preparation. The actual 3 to 4 days involve coordination, hard work and certainly some stress for some. But in the end our success came as a result of the many people helping out in so many different parts of the puzzle. In each separate part we watched someone stand up and take ownership. During the execution of each part we witnessed many more people rally around to help out. It does take a village to execute events like this. Leadership is important but without the rest of the village enthusiastically following and executing, this kind of event will never be successful.
We certainly learned that there doesn’t have to be any glory in that leadership role. As a strong leader at any level we should be able to enjoy the simple fact that it went off without a hitch and that everyone had a fabulous time. There is no need for an award ceremony or a letter of thanks to one person. The village knows it did well and we all take pride in the results.
2. From one of my brothers… people can be so appreciative of the smallest thing. I love this. We do tend to think about the big splash and the big event and the big applause. But the smallest thing can certainly make a difference. My sister was thrilled with the set-up for Thanksgiving dinner: the tent set-up in the yard, the tables set for 40+ people, the beautiful candles and more. But the truth is that what she loved the most was the little details that we included from all the traditional Thanksgiving dinners that she is missed over these years by living in Denver. Our song that we use for grace. The silly little wooden houses that we build as place cards for all of our guests during these special dinners.
In life and at work many of us perform small tasks, play minor roles within an organization, contribute small parts to larger projects and forget how important these small things can be. There are very few accolades, and often no thanks, but we do make a difference. And just when you think that no one has noticed, someone will come along one day to offer a heartfelt thank you. This makes all of our work so worthwhile.
3. From my daughter… don’t present the problem, just tell me the solution. This goes back to a decision that had to be made about some part of the weekend. I saw a problem and proceeded to sell the problem to as many family members who would listen. And my daughter turns around with this line. She certainly caught me by surprise. She was quite right. I was wasting everyone’s time. What she wanted was a solution to the problem. This way she and others could look at a proposed change-up and weigh in on the potential results.
Maybe we do waste too much time preaching the problem. I will try to preach the solution next time.
4. My last lesson learned is a reminder of how important one special role is in any event like ours when timing is tight, there are a lot of moving parts and it involves a lot of people: the goffer.
One of my children decided that she would stand in the middle of all the thanksgiving preparation chaos and be on call to anyone who needed help. There were five ‘prime cooks’ in the kitchen, three others carving the turkeys , four others setting up for the food presentation, 5 others setting the tables and more. She stood up at the beginning and declared herself as the go-to person for anyone who needed any help at all.
I thought afterwards of the many conferences I ran over the past 17 years, of the numerous charity events I have been involved with and the many large family dinners I have helped with and I realize how important this role is. She stood in the middle of the room and declared herself in charge of helping anyone who needs it. Brilliant.
It was a lovely wedding that my family will never forget. It was a great Thanksgiving dinner. The flying tours were amazing, the tennis was fun and the traditional family walk on Sunday was wonderful as usual.
But I learned a few things along the way. I think others did as well.