Saturday, June 28, 2014

A Sad Day for the Friends of James Madison

James Madison has no monuments or fancy remembrances as do many of the other founding fathers (and mothers.) Yet without him, we might not have our republic, our constitution, and be an independent country today.

When Madison was a student, at what is now Princeton, he stayed another year to work on a study of the world's constitutions while soaking up the ideas of the Scottish Enlightenment from the university's president. This began his life-long passion for republican ideals and constitutions. After flailing about for a while after college, he was elected to the Virginia (Colonial) House of Burgesses and began his life as a politician. He followed this calling to public service until the end of his presidency. Those who call for term limits and hold their noses at the idea of a "politician" could learn a lot from his decades of devotion.

After the Revolution, he watched with mounting horror as self interest brought out the worst in the Virginia legislature and the Congress under the Articles of Confederation was worse than "do nothing." By 1878, the country was in turmoil, Congress was impotent, groups of States talked of leaving the fragile union spurred on by European powers, the economy was a shambles, and Shays' Rebellion in Massachusetts frightened every property owner. The prognosis for continued existence of the country was dire.

So Madison joined Alexander Hamilton and Ben Franklin to conspire to overthrow the government; they committed treason for the second time. Working with others, Madison persuaded General George Washington to join in the call for a Constitutional Convention to provide the political cover they needed. Madison got the resolution through the Confederation Congress and became a delegate along with Washington and others to the gathering. His long-time rival, Patrick Henry, refused to have anything to do with it; "I smell a rat!" He was right, of course. Madison's intent was not to amend the Articles but to abolish them.

Jemmy and Me

He arrived in Philadelphia early, having made a thorough study of republics and constitutions "ancient and modern." He persuaded the governor to present his draft as the "Virginia Plan." Although little of it remained in the final draft signed by the delegates, it did serve as the agenda and shaped the nature and substance of the debates. Madison and the most committed delegates toiled for four months in the Philadelphia summer heat with early morning committee meetings, all-day debates, and informal politicking in the evening. Madison took voluminous notes we still marvel at today and early Supreme Court justices used to unravel "original intent."

But when the delegates scattered back to their states, the work wasn't over. They had to get the special ratifying bodies to agree to the document. In Madison's Virginia, Patrick Henry led the anti-federalist forces. Despite Henry's legendary oratorical skills and political clout, Madison bested him and eked out a tiny margin of victory.

Then he was off to the new Congress as a Representative in the House and to serve as Washington's whip in that body to achieve his legislative agenda. He served as Jefferson's Secretary of State and then as President, presiding over the War of 1812. In fact, he was the only Commander in Chief to actually go into battle, despite having no military credentials.

He was the last of the "fathers" to depart this world and did so on this day, June 28, 1836. His parting words were, "Nothing more than a change of mind, my dear." James Monroe, who succeeded him as President, referred to Madison in his dying words, "I regret that I should leave this world without again beholding him."

In my Google Alert for Madison, about 95% of the mentions are from people, right or left, trying to claim his "authority" for their views. Like anyone quoted out of context, Madison's words are distorted. More importantly, because Madison was a patriot, a passionate politician, and as partisan as anyone, you can always find some snippet to support you. These folks do a disservice to the man, his memory, and his message.

Madison, like all of us, evolved and changed with age. At the end of the Convention, he thought the Constitution was a failure because it created a Senate representing the states and not the population. Yet he went to the ratifying convention and worked with Hamilton to write the Federalist Papers defending the new Constitution with every ounce of his considerable persuasive talent. By Washington's second term, he had joined Jefferson to destroy Hamilton and the Federalists and create the Republican Party (precursor of today's Democrats.) As president, he opposed legislation for building roads and canals or providing "charity." As an elder statesman, he made it clear he had evolved to support these government efforts.

What made Madison so great was he was NOT an ideologue. He constantly thought about things, changed his mind, and made it clear where he stood at any moment. He was prepared to compromise for the good of the nation. He seldom held real animosity for his opponents. (Today he'd be derided as a flip-flopper, drummed out of whatever party he was in, and excoriated by the chattering class and talk radio.)

What I've always found so appealing about Madison was his humanness. My favorite quote from him is (out of context, of course,) "If men were angels, no government would be necessary." Madison is great because he is no saint on a pedestal. He was dead wrong on many things. He made no claims to perfection. We can admire him, not because we agree with him or can find some phrase to prove our political point, but because he thought continuously and was willing to change and grow and leave old notions behind.

If today's leaders, whether in politics or business, would spend a little time with "Jemmy, the great little Madison," they might be less inclined to require unthinking adherence to a static idea. Madison's interpretation of the republic's mission statement, the Preamble to the Constitution, matured and morphed over time. If we could take a page from his book, we might all succeed in evolving, being more strategic, making better decisions...and leaving old ideas behind.

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(c) Rebecca Staton-Reinstein and Advantage Leadership, Inc. 
Want to know more about Madison and his role in the Constitution and early republic? Want to know how modern leaders exploit the Madison Factor? Check out Conventional Wisdom: How Today's Leaders Plan, Perform, and Progress Like the Founding Fathers. 
Your research into the planning sessions of the Constitutional Convention and the struggles that our framers of the Constitution faced has been cleverly weaved into the strategies of modern business. I am pleased to have your book.  
-- Justice Sandra Day O'Connor (RET) 

Monday, June 23, 2014

What veterans can teach you about mission

“It's a smart business decision to hire veterans. Give vets a mission and the result you want and they will achieve it. That’s what they've been trained to do,” an entrepreneur pointed out on a recent business show.

What about your organization? Have your folks been trained to be laser-focused on the mission? Will they give it their all to get results? Is this what you've trained them to do?

In too many companies, employees may not even know the mission or it may have been relegated to meaningless words on a plaque. I recently had a poor experience with an airline and took a look at its mission. I couldn't find it on the website but an analyst’s report pulled a statement off the annual report that covered the territory...Not a word about the customer among its five focus areas. The airline believed if it was clean, safe, on time, had courteous employees, and delivered great revenue at competitive costs it would have “exceptional customer satisfaction.”

How does that happen exactly? If I'm an employee, focused on the five areas, as long as I stay courteous and don’t do anything to escalate costs, I'm fulfilling the mission.

This is not a rant about poor airline service. This is a rant about the power of mission to focus everyone’s energy to achieve company goals. Examiners for a major quality award routinely ask every employee they encounter, “What’s your role in achieving the corporate mission?” When people can tell you this in their own words, you get stellar results. The whole point of the mission is to guide daily action and decision making.

When a mid-sized commodity manufacturer was faced with an urgent need to transform or be acquired, it started by revamping its mission and vision.

Mission: The people of XYZ are leaders in the design and manufacture of abc solutions to meet your def needs.
Vision: To be a premier supplier of abc using innovative technology throughout our company while sustaining this in a positive and creative environment. 

This was a major change for the company; emphasizing people and a positive, creative environment. It was the first step on their successful, sustained renewal journey.

You can read about creating a mission and the bottom-line impact data in an earlier blog.  To repeat one fact: in companies where almost every employee believes the mission is important, profits are 5 – 15% higher than in companies where few people believe mission is important.

My husband and I were honored to be part of a ceremony commemorating the 70th anniversary
Sculpture “Les Braves” by Anilore Banon,
Omaha Beach St. Laurent Sur Mer, France

of D-Day at Omaha beach. The band was conducted by Colonel Arnald Gabriel, Conductor Emeritus, The United States Air Force Band, who had come ashore on this beach that “longest day” as a young recruit. His mission was to get rid of the machine gun nests raining death on the troops wading ashore. The mission was clear so the results were clear.

If you want to put your people first in meeting goals, that must be clear in the mission. If you want to build a positive, creative environment, that must be in your mission. If you want to achieve "exceptional customer satisfaction," as the airline claimed, you must have that in your mission, train and empower employees, and reward them for doing everything to achieve the mission. 

“Get people on a mission and the metrics will follow,” John Zumwalt, former CEO of engineering firm PBS&J, told his company leaders when he took over. If you have a strong mission AND train your people to accomplish it, you will succeed. Learn from our veterans.
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Join a live webinar, Get People on a Mission: Strategic Decision Making Drives Daily Action, Thursday, June 25, 1 PM Eastern or catch it on demand or on DVD.   Learn from contemporary CEOs and the U.S. Founding Fathers about how to create a mission to drive results.