We all have relationships in our life that run out of gas. Sometimes there is a clear break and other times we just move on to different things and the relationship atrophies and goes away. We can all think of people we used to call best friends who today we have no idea where they are in the world. I just returned from watching the Notre Dame–BYU football game with my son and it occurs to me that the same thing happened for me with Notre Dame. I talked with some folks about it and they confess to a similar atrophy. I wonder where you stand on this.
For those of you who don’t know me that well, I am a graduate of Notre Dame. In fact, I was the mascot, the Leprechaun, in my senior year. So, by some accounts, I didn’t just go to ND, I was ND, to some people for a time. It was a wonderful time and then life goes on.
I did a similar thing with my Marine experience. After I got out I worked to move on from that. I was out, period, and it was history. I was all about the future and that was my past. Writing my first book, NO YELLING: The Nine Secrets of Marine Corps Leadership You Must Know To Win Business (which was selected as one of the best business books of the year by Entrepreneur magazine!) got me reconnected to the Corps. It got me a column with Military.com, it got me a position as a non-resident fellow at Marine Corps University, and it started an annual tradition at our house to celebrate the Marine Corps Birthday with an open house featuring the traditional cake cutting with sword. The neighborhood kids love it, the sword and the cake! The adults love the cake, the food and the beer. I don’t wear my Marine Corps experience on my sleeve but I don’t diminish it either. It has found the right place in my life in the right proportion.
What happened to Notre Dame then? I guess it was a similar thing. I was about the future and that was in the past. I didn’t want to be one of THOSE fans who live and die with every win and loss. Go watch a game for any major university at the local sports bar and you will know exactly what I mean. In the past decade I had visited three times the campus. Once to speak, once to do a book signing at the book store on a football Saturday (think Walmart on Black Friday) and to take my daughter to the game, and then once to take my son to a game four years ago. I have season tickets to football but those are more for clients than for me.
This time was different. My son is eleven. He is old enough to learn about the place and what it means to me (I was the first in my family to go to college). I took him to the Grotto and I prayed (ND aspires to be a force for peace as a preeminent Catholic University). I lit a candle, although I am not Catholic and had to explain why I did that and why it brought tears to my eyes (for a Marine I flew with who committed suicide). As we walked across that frosty campus our conversation even touched on the three part nature of our Christian God just as we came upon the mural of Touchdown Jesus!
I feel the same emotions every time I return to campus but I don’t return often enough to sustain those emotions. Those emotions matter because they help me remember the values of my parents who helped me attend, the values of the university and, ultimately, the person I am called to be.
Most of you reading this did not attend the University of Notre Dame. That is not the point. As a business consultant I started this with the end in mind of calling upon business leaders to tell the story of their firm to their people. To have those celebrations, to tell about the bad times and the successes, about the people and the characters who have made the firm what it is.
I am encouraging you to give people something to connect to and commit to. Why is your place of work any different that the one down the road? If you do not tell the story and give people a reason to stay then they will surely find reasons to leave. You have to work to create a connection. You as a leader must tell the story and cast the vision. It need not be grandiose but it need BE. Employees may connect to you personally because of your effort or they may connect to the larger organization if the story is well told. Certainly my connection to the Marines and to Notre Dame are not about a person.
I know there are some of you reading this who directly relate to the loss of connection with an institution that matters to you. As I said, I started this with my business readers in mind but I recognized the message was bigger than business. This message of remaining connected with the things and people that impacted us is vital for anyone. If you have read this far you already know what you need to do, who you need to call, where you need to go. Get it on your calendar, find a way to connect.
Go Irish…Semper Fidelis…Peace…
This article was originally published by Firestarter Speaking
Published: November 27, 2013