Did you know being a trailblazer isn’t easy? A trailblazer is a person who makes a track thru a wild country. A person who is an innovator, a creator, an inventor. At least that is how Webster defines it.
I continue to be inspired by the courage and strength of those who have gone before us despite the adversity and having a vision for something that had never been reached before.
These people believed beyond the landscape their eyes could see that the world would change and they could be a part of that change. They would rise. The power of their personal belief personified in the gift of life that was given to them.
I learned of Shirley Chisholm this past week while at a meeting in Facebook’s headquarters from their lobby community board. It inspired a few thoughts about her and her accomplishments and deepened my belief in the power of culture and values:
Shirley Anita St. Hill Chisholm (November 30, 1924 – January 1, 2005) was an American politician, educator, and author.
 In 1968, she became the first African-American woman elected to the United States Congress,
 and she represented New York’s 12th Congressional District for seven terms from 1969 to 1983.
In 1972, she became the first black candidate for a major party’s nomination for President of the United States, and the first woman to run for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination.
In 2015, Chisholm was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
In Facebook’s culture, their printed values are on all their walls and in meetings rooms displayed in this creative graffiti style. It is impossible not to notice them and better yet, in their community meeting rooms, people pin papers or examples to show what those values mean to them individually. The values are literally evolving on their walls.
Very unlike the traditional text in corporate desk picture frames, the faceless wall posters or silly toys that were thrown on desks that were the bulk of my professional experience in how corporate and financial services share value statements. These corporate motivators are given more creatively each year with different themes and sponsors yet far too often we roll our eyes when we receive them as they are not worth the cost to print. Why? The values are not the living beliefs within the mindsets of the leaders or the people that truly do the work much less were they created in a way that included the needs of the people who bring them to the intersection of the abundant exchange possible with clients.
Culture is the corporate personality and values are the subliminal influences of behaviors yet if not ingrained into the collective essence of that company, meaning they are not walked or talked in everyday experience, they truly are meaningless. They will never show up in the external experience of doing any kind of business with that company long-term and at the level the financial goals will require. We unknowingly despite the best of intentions to grow and build business leave the most powerful tool of achieving economic results off the table. By creating values but failing to live them, to talk them, or be them nor giving people the permission to do the same we miss the greatest potential delta shift of the business pivot table. Deteriorating culture and detached values unknowingly will always show up in the business financials but often is explained away within the ineffectiveness or perceived out-of-date products, misinformed pricing or the quality and experience of the sales person who was expected to win the deal. Lastly, we look at competitors enviously and wonder just what are they doing that we are not doing to win more clients and make more money. Expensive consulting companies exist purely built upon this lack of awareness. They help companies “survey away” the connection they lack with their message and propel paralysis by analysis of blind group feedback rather than simply suggesting the exploration of what might be missing or limiting the corporate narratives and beliefs you live and create. Sound familiar?
The unalienable gift we all have is we are always creating. That is what I have truly been inspired by in learning from others in this recent journey of my career and life. It has reignited a passion I only recall having before when I was in grade school. I suppose I was a bit of geek in the sense that I loved to read and going to the library on Saturdays was a favorite pass time with “my Gran”. I lived thru the words and texts of others I found on the top end of bookshelves I reached leveraging myself on the top of my toes to pull down. Reading about traveling to far off countries and wondering what it would be like to have grown up there. What would they like to eat? Where would they go on a Saturday, what kind of houses did they have and what was the weather like? Better yet, where did they like to go on vacation? I plotted and planned how I would one day go to such a place and “be local”. I was learning and growing from the culture and values of others. Imagine that?
By giving myself permission to embrace a narrative that was always contained with the language of how I encoded what was possible but now including dialogue and possibilities from others both similar and dissimilar to me, I now freely see how much is truly possible. Just like how I did when I was a kid curious about everything that wasn’t like me which at the time I thought wasn’t that interesting. Now I know this is quite untrue. We are all unique and unbelievably interesting. This present view of curiosity has opened the door for me to find communities and businesses that believe and live by the same level of consciousness of what is possible for companies to thrive economically. Now I am able to reach and be in those rooms and sit at those tables and now can explore what worlds we can create by what “The Collective We” believes is possible. The Power of “I am” is an integral part of the Power of “We”.
In this experience of understanding what people feel from you deeply is what they believe in. If it is authentic, it is why they will invest in you long-term which is so key for any leader or entrepreneur to own as a behavior, in particular in growing business. This has allowed me to understand the macroeconomics of social value we see growing in the last decade of start-ups.
What does happen when a small group of people by nature of their beginning being simple, new and clear, leveraging their roots and identity which they had a say in the creating, having a clear vision, message and one they communicate authentically because they all believe it? What does happen? It creates a strength of knowing, a collective consciousness that becomes the bedrock of their culture and values and makes the global transaction possible at a scalable economic return in timeframes and returns never before seen possible. These start-ups are reaching levels of economic return and scale that took franchise household names we grew up with decades to reach on the top of their toes. Now we see lifetime achievements in value being reached in just a few years and often the people creating the business are half our age and experience. The net economic effect is we have a lot to learn about the being behind the Power of “We”.
Facebook celebrates and lives their values in the walk and the talk. I didn’t say perfectly as no one does, but I love the vision of what they aspire to bring to the world. What are their values? Be Bold, Focus on Impact, Move Fast, Be Open and Build Social Value. Interesting that I am home now, it is a week later, and I still remember their values. I still see their interactive living walls.
I left even more inspired as drove away from 1 Hack Way and better yet, I left believing even more in the power of being connected for the good of humanity and the power of what we can build in business. Their mission coming alive in my mindset and collaborating with my vision of how I want to walk my talk and the permission I want to lead in the giving to other business leaders and communities. Now that is being bold. That is a focus on impact. That is open and it has social value to me and for whom I seek to serve.
May we all build and create cultures and values in our lives, our families, and businesses that allow more “firsts” to step forward like Shirley Chisholm and may we fully embrace the highest of calling – being whom we were meant to be. May we experience this as a living legacy and not an award we receive beyond our lives passing. The more connected we are, the more we embrace each of us individually and the power of accepting that and coming together, the stronger the