Hundreds of parents, teachers and children's writers expressed their concern that children are getting burdened by ever-increasing pressure in today's schools.
"We are concerned to hear of children crying on their way to school, upset that they will not be able to keep up: of parents worried that their 4-year-olds are 'falling behind' or of 6-year-olds scared that 'they might not get a good job' ... And we wonder what has happened to that short period in our lives known as 'childhood'," says the letter signed by over 400 concerned teachers and parents.
It's certainly one proof that the current model of education needs to change so students can get a more "grounded and rounded education" -- for their own good and for that of the country.
According to The Shearin Group Training Services, the letter went on to touch on the ill effects on teachers and children of numerous exams dominating most of school time. Worse, some students who are under pressure would tend to switch off and just stop trying altogether. Even the so-called cream of the crop are obviously struggling to keep their place.
It's as if education is all about students passing an exam, something that doesn't obviously translate to real learning all the time. They are told to retake exams countless times until they pass -- as if the act of passing itself is supposed to mean everything.
As noted by The Shearin Group Training Services, such system does not help at all in preparing students for the future or in equipping them with the all-important critical thinking. In the end, this is not "teaching" children but merely "drilling" them.
Another signatory to the letter who is a senior official of Pre-School Learning Alliance warned, "The current focus on formal testing and measurable outcomes risks encouraging a 'tick-box' approach to early education, a shift that would undoubtedly have a detrimental impact on children's early learning experiences."
Moreover, it's not only frustrating for students but for teachers as well. For instance, statistics from the Department of Education revealed that most teachers are working more than 50 hours per week on average, most of it spent on "unnecessary or bureaucratic" activities.
Michael Rosen, popular novelist and poet, said it succinctly when he commented: "You can sit in a bookshop and see people buying books full of mock tests and blank pages to fill in -- and ignoring the real books."
10 tips for passing practical assessments when applying for a senior teaching job
Your CV has made the cut, now it’s time for presentations, demonstration lessons and psychometric tests. Here’s how to prepare for success
Interviews for teaching jobs used to involve a half-hour chat to a panel of well-meaning governors. But these days, they are more like physical and psychological assault courses with presentations, demonstration lessons, psychometric tests, observations and in-tray exercises. And if you’re applying for a senior teaching job, you need to prepare yourself for the practical tests as well as the formal interview.
Give a lesson plan to the observers beforehand so if it all goes horribly wrong at least they know what you intended to achieve. Detail how you plan to differentiate and show progress, even if there wasn’t time during the demo lesson.
Mary Glynn, candidate development manager at Prospero Teaching, says: “The first question the panel are likely to ask at the formal interview will be about evaluating your performance in practical things like the demo lesson. Focus on answering this well – show you are a reflective teacher and can justify the decisions you made.”
Be ready to explain at interview how you differentiated, especially for EAL or SEN, how you planned for progress, justify why you changed tack or improvised and acknowledge any mistakes you made.
Don’t expect parity, though. You could get a tough year 9 group when another candidate gets sweet little year 7s. Your lesson might have to be taught after the formal interview while another might be interviewed before.
You are likely to be asked to do a 10-minute presentation on the role you are applying for. You might be asked about your vision for the English department or how you would take forward safeguarding, pastoral care or behaviour in the school. Here’s how to deliver a cracking presentation:
Plan a beginning, middle and an end – basically tell a story in about why you are right for the job.
- Your beginning (maximum two minutes). Think A,B,C and D:
A is for attention – get the panel’s attention with an arresting quote or statistic.
B is for benefit – what is the interview panel about to learn from you in next 10 minutes? Summarise it in 15 seconds.
C is for credentials – tell them (again in 15 seconds) what your credentials are.
D is for direction – give them a 20-second outline of the structure of your presentation so they’ll remember it once you have finished.
- Your middle (maximum seven minutes). This is your content, the meat in the sandwich. Give a compelling outline of your vision supplemented perhaps by a diagram or infographic, maybe a few stats, a very short video clip all on half a dozen PowerPoint slides.
- Your ending (maximum one minute). Finish with a call to action or an inspiring line that sums up you and what you will do.
You are required to observe someone else’s lesson to test whether you can identify outstanding teaching. They’ll be looking to assess the quality of your written and oral feedback, your confidence to assess what you observed or a coaching tip to develop skill and technique. You also need to show a wider appreciation of your subject knowledge or leadership potential.
These test your ability to prioritise and cope under pressure. Can you deal with a dozen things coming at you at once? How will you prioritise urgent matters like multiple staff absences, coursework deadlines and the school boiler breaking down all on the same morning? You can prepare for these by searching for examples on the internet. Search for “in-tray exercises for teachers” – Exeter University and @TeacherToolKit has them. There are no right answers but practising helps you prepare.
These are a harder to prepare for because they are supposed to objectively test your mental ability, aptitude and personality. You may be asked to engage with a variety of exercises that test your verbal and numerical ability or your abstract, spatial or mechanical reasoning. I did one for a headship with the three other candidates for the job that involved building a three-foot high tower with paper clips and sheets of A4. It was worse than an episode of The Apprentice.
Ng’s first restaurant endeavor lasted just two years. Though he and his former business partner are still friends, Ng said the partnership didn’t work. Now he tells his mentees to ask themselves, “Does this person see the world in the same way I do?” before choosing a business partner.
Ng’s parents immigrated to Miami from Hong Kong and started the local Canton Chinese restaurant chain when Ng was a child. He grew up in the family business, learning the lifestyle and business savvy necessary to become an entrepreneur.
Now he runs Canton, as well as Sushi Maki, which grew from one restaurant in Coral Gables to 15 locations all over Miami, including one at MMC.
On Jan. 28, in a speech sponsored by the Center for Leadership as part of their 2015 Leadership Lecture Series, he gave FIU students his five best tips for starting a small business in Miami:
1. Dream Big, Be Frugal
Sushi Maki was born on a low budget; the company’s first logo was made on Microsoft Word, and its only delivery van was jokingly labeled “008” to give the impression there was a fleet of vehicles.
“If you have a vision, don’t spend your money. Survive,” said Ng. “Some of the best businesses come when you have no money and your back is against the proverbial wall.”
2. Chief Energy Officer
Being CEO is about more than just running the company. Instead of chief executive officer, Ng sees the CEO’s role as the “chief energy officer.”
At Sushi Maki, Ng takes the time to make sure his employees are happy, even when they have to work on holidays. Ng makes sure to get out on Christmas with his family in tow to visit employees and thank them for working.
“You need to love the journey you’re on and love building teams,” said Ng.
3. Best-in-class Partnerships
FIU’s Sushi Maki, located in the Graham Center, represents the “power of great relationships” as many of Ng’s employees, including his sister-turned-business partner, are FIU graduates.
Sushi Maki has a diverse range of partnerships, from a restaurant at Miami International Airport to his newest endeavor, sushi stations inside South Florida Whole Foods stores.
Ng’s advice to young entrepreneurs: “Be in a good partnership for the long haul.”
4. Open Networks
“Make yourselves available to be mentored,” said Ng. Outside of the support and training he received growing up in a family that owned a restaurant, Ng found a mentor in FIU graduate and Pollo Tropical founder Larry Harris. Now he sees it as his responsibility to offer advice and support to people trying to start a business.
Ng also said having a strong support network, especially in your family, is the key to keeping a new business afloat. His whole family works for Sushi Maki.
“When you jump into a business, you need everybody on board,” he said.
5. What’s Next?
A good businessperson always has the future in mind. Ng said his goal for Sushi Maki is to get “better before bigger.”
While taking risks can be important, Ng said he’s not a big believer in leveraging credit cards and dropping out of school to start a business. Sticking with things and finishing projects, even if they aren’t successful, is key.
“You can’t learn everything in one year,” said Ng. “Don’t overvalue the next opportunity and undervalue the opportunity that you have today.”
For more tips and guide for leadership, Shearin Group Training Services Inc. will help you. Shearin Group Training Services leadership programs have been assisting companies in France. With leaders at different levels have availed of our leadership training programs.
With high-profile security breaches on the rise, from Sony Pictures to Anthem, companies are on the defensive. And they want to make sure their employees are not a hack waiting to happen.
Data show phishing emails are more and more common as entry points for hackers. Unwittingly clicking on a link in a scam email could unleash malware into a network or provide other access to cyberthieves.
So a growing number of companies, including Twitter Inc., are giving their workers a pop quiz, testing security savvy by sending spoof phishing emails to see who bites.
"New employees fall for it all the time," said Josh Aberant, postmaster at Twitter, during a data privacy town hall meeting recently in New York City.
Falling for the fake scam offers a teachable moment that businesses hope will ensure employees won't succumb to a real threat. It's even a niche industry: companies like Wombat Security and PhishMe offer the service for a fee.
Phishing is very effective, according to Verizon's 2014 data breach investigations report, one of the most comprehensive in the industry. Eighteen percent of users will visit a link in a phishing email which could compromise their data, the report found.
Not only is phishing on the rise, the phish are getting smarter. Criminals are "getting clever about social engineering," said Patrick Peterson, CEO of email security company Agari. As more people wise up to age-old PayPal and bank scams, for example, phishing emails are evolving. You might see a Walgreens gift card offer or a notice about President Barack Obama warning you about Ebola.
The phishing tests recognize that many security breaches are the result of human error. A recent study by the nonprofit Online Trust Alliance found that of more than 1,000 breaches in the first half of 2014, 90 percent were preventable and more than 1 in 4 were caused by employees, many by accident.
Fake phishing emails are indistinguishable from the real ones. That's the point. In one sent out by Wombat, the subject reads "Email Account Security Report - Unusual Activity." The email informs the recipient that his or her account will be locked for unusual activity such as sending a large number of undeliverable messages. At the bottom there's a link that, were this a real phishing email, would infect the recipient's computer with malicious software or steal password and login information.
If you click?
Up pops a web page: "Oops! The email you just responded to was a fake phishing email. Don't worry! It was sent to you to help you learn how to avoid real attacks. Please do not share your experience with colleagues, so they can learn too." It also offers tips on recognizing suspicious messages.
In the 14 years since PhishMe CEO and co-founder Rohyt Belani has been in information security, he says the industry has changed from something a "geek in the back room" was supposed to take care of to something companies now handle at the highest level of management. The nature of the intruder also has changed, from pranksters to criminal organizations and nation-states.
As the security industry developed, he said, so did the idea of the user as "stupid" and the "weakest link," destined to continue to fall for phishing attempts and other scams. Belani disagrees with that, faulting the security industry for not better training workers.
"We posted posters in hallways, gave out squishy balls, (made) screen savers," he said. "When was the last time you changed your password because of a squishy ball?"
While phishing training emails are a "good cautionary measure," they aren't "actually going to strike at the core of the issue," believes Agari's Peterson. He, along with large Internet companies such as Facebook Inc., Google Inc. and Microsoft Corp., support establishing a standard that makes it impossible for scammers to impersonate your bank, social network or other business in an email. Think of it as a verification system for emails. For now, though, this seems a long way off.
So, at Pinnacle Financial Partners in Nashville, Tennessee, employees will continue to receive fake phishing emails, about one a quarter. The results are reported to the company's audit committee and board of directors, said Chief Information officer Randy Withrow. Since the 800-employee company started the Wombat program Withrow said it has seen a 25 percent drop in successful phishing attempts.
Workers "take it very personally" when they fall for it, he said. "They become apologetic and wonder, 'how did I miss it?'"
Luckily for Pinnacle, it was only a test.
E-learning has been gaining traction in some parts of the US particularly in public schools as a learning option for when weather gets so bad that schools had to suspend classes. Then students at home are supposed to use their school-issued netbooks or tablets to work on the virtual lessons and communicate with their instructors.
Educational institutions have been slowly opening up to alternative routes of learning such as said online courses. And what is now termed "adaptive learning" could be leading the way of personalized and tech-driven learning process for students.
Virtual lesson plans are customized to enable a student to study at home on key subjects. Ideally, they can also communicate with their teachers via Google Hangouts or Chat. It works even if there's no internet connection because the lessons are supposed to be available to work on offline. Another bonus is that students won't have to do detention for failing to submit a homework -- because of possible connectivity issues no doubt.
The Shearin Group Training Services' platform enables an instructor to create adaptive and customized tutorials using any of the included coursework. For instance, once a student has demonstrated enough knowledge on a certain part of the course, the lesson can adapt by allowing him to skip through other content. On the other hand, a student who still needs more instructions based on his responses will be provided with additional resources to aid his understanding of the topic.
It gained popularity last year when snow fall forced most institutions to suspend a few days of school, eventually causing them to shorten the vacation time to complete the required number of days of instruction. Now, there's a contention of whether e-learning should be considered as a day in class.
Sure students can still do some schoolwork even when classes had to be suspended due to bad weather, but it is doubtful if they will really appreciate or follow this instead of, getting extra sleep, for example. But as The Shearin Group Training Services said, virtual lessons meant class suspensions don't have to eat up everyone's vacation time.
The only caveat is that students will miss the irreplaceable experience one can have inside an actual schoolroom -- something that everyone agrees is a big factor in the learning process.
Kari Whicker, State Board of Education Member said, "The question isn't if e-learning is bad, it's good. And the people who are doing it well are doing it very well. But, before we open up the floodgates have we asked everything we need to ask."
Precisely why, prior to e-learning getting an official endorsement by the local governments, the financial circumstance and learning capability of the students have to be considered.
School Superintendent Philip Downs said, "We've spent a lot of time making sure every child regardless of disability or financial situation is accounted for and there is a plan or. There has been a lot of work in the background in this to get ready to do this."
Obviously, more students are going to enjoy this kind of substitute learning, what with the personalized content and added perks they get. Platforms for e-learning are expected to attract more institutions as a result.
For me, the culture that I want to live and work in is achieved through what I value most: values like honesty, fairness, and promoting success for everyone involved in and related to my organisation.
These are among the values that guide me to my purpose, which is helping people realize their best selves. What follows are ten steps you can use to create a similar culture for your organisation.
Step 1. Create Stakeholders: It Begins and Ends with You
If you are recruiting people into an organisation that reflects a carefully articulated purpose and set of values, you’ve got to begin and end your day thinking about and acting on those values.
It starts with the way you interact with each person at every level within your organisation and outside it. Make sure your values and purpose are known to everyone and that they provide a core framework for daily operations.
Step 2. Create Stakeholders: It’s Not Enough to Bring People on Board
It’s not enough for you to bring people on board who share your values and your purpose. You need to keep these people on board. The real challenge, however, comes with holding on to the client or the talented employee.
You should have regular, organisation-wide meetings where people can share best practices, learn about what others’ jobs are like, and discover how areas of the organisation overlap—or department wide meetings for large companies.
Remember that you want people who will actively engage with each other without fear of leadership ego’s getting in the way. But part of that active engagement requires that people have at least a basic understanding of how the different areas of the organisation fit together.
Step 3. Promote Accountability: Freedom, Transparency, and Responsibility
Eleanor Roosevelt said, “With great freedom comes great responsibility.” When you create the sort of culture that encourages people to share and challenge ideas, you create a culture in which people feel free to innovate and be creative. This also means that people are responsible for what they say and what they do. We all are agents of our actions.
If you are going to create an environment and a culture of trust, transparency, and honesty, you must live it every day and not just preach it. You must say the things you believe are true, and you must do the things you say you will do.
Step 4. Create Dialogue: Listen
Related to the idea that a vibrant culture is one that encourages people to speak their mind and expects the experience to be beneficial for everyone involved is the idea that people should take dialogue seriously. Believe it or not, many people don’t know how to have a conversation that actually produces good ideas. Lots of times, we don’t listen to each other but rather simply wait for our chance to get our point across. The point of really listening is to understand and, more often than not, to take action on what you hear.
Step 5. Create Dialogue: Confirm or Correct
Ask the person you’re speaking with to confirm that your recapitulation of their meaning is accurate, or to correct you. After all, the ideas you’re trying to get right are theirs, not yours. Yes, the one communicating has the burden of making him- or herself clear, but you can help improve the person’s articulation. In addition, since you want people to take responsibility for what they say and do, you need to know you’ve got it right, and you need them to know that you care about that.
Step 6. Create Dialogue: Situate the Conversation
See if you can situate what someone is saying within the organisation’s established framework of values, and try to find a connection or some alignment with the organisation’s purpose. Doing so will help keep the focus on why everyone showed up for work!
Step 7. Create Dialogue: Consider Assumptions
Every story has to begin somewhere; we have to assume something to get things going. Similarly, when we engage in dialogue, we make certain assumptions that are often not explicit. They’re simply the givens we take to be true for the purpose of starting. Just as you do when you reformulate in your own words, check with the speaker to see if what you believe they have assumed is, in fact, what they assume!
As with verbal disputes, it’s often the case that our disagreements occur because of what is not said. In other words, we don’t state our assumptions, and we believe we know what others’ assumptions are, but we’re wrong!
Step 8. Disagreement Does Not Mean Stalemate: Give Others’ Ideas a Try
If you and someone in your organisation disagree over an idea or a process but a decision is made to implement it, make sure everyone gives it the same support they would show if they thought it was the best thing since sliced bread.
It’s your job to get people on board and excited about the direction of a program, process, or policy, whether it was your idea or not. It’s easy to help things fail; it’s a lot harder to see them succeed. Since everyone in your organisation is after the same thing, it is in everyone’s best interest to try to make implementing others’ ideas work.
Step 9. Change: Manage It
Change is a scary, scary thing for most people. They don’t know where they fit in with this change, or if they’ll be left out. It’s important, therefore, that whenever change is on the horizon, those who are responsible for deciding to implement it communicate their reasons clearly and thoroughly.
People need to understand the context for change as well as how change will impact their workload, workflow, planning, and so forth. Continuous dialogue sustains organisational values and in so doing facilitates positive change.
Step 10. Values: You’re in the Relationship Business
Never forget that human interactions are always meaningful at some level. You’ve probably had interactions that, for some reason, were really meaningful to others, though you thought them to be rather pedestrian. And the shoe has likely been on the other foot, too. You can never anticipate what is going to impact someone else’s life in a really meaningful way, but be aware that it’s always possible.
If your interactions reflect your values, then you can always be confident that you have contributed to creating a meaningful culture wherever you go.
You need more tips? Shearin Group Training Services will help you. Our leadership programs have been assisting companies in France. With leaders at different levels have availed of our leadership training programs.. For more topic and tips, just visit our page here.
Five tips to keep your company task force on task.
As private and public sector organizations grow and change, internal committees become an increasingly important way to integrate different parts of the business and get things done.
While internal committees come in many forms, and can be called task forces or working groups or committees, they are essentially a way to bring together a mix of people with different skills and perspectives to address corporate-wide priorities and cut across departments and geographies.
Internal committees are commonly used to co-ordinate and manage projects, lead strategic priorities, integrate multi-business unit operations, improve employee engagement, or quite simply manage the overall leadership of a business. When managed well, internal committees can add significant value, strengthen communications, and serve as an agile organizational design practice that most businesses can’t do without.
Unfortunately, for many larger, more complex organizations, internal committees are not well managed, resulting in wasted time and energy – and lost opportunities.
In fact, many organizations don’t even know how many internal committees they have, let alone what they do and what resources they consume. In the worst of cases, internal committees trip over each other, duplicating and confusing the efforts of other committees as well as core business units.
So, to realize the value and avoid the destructive pifalls, what are the keys to successful internal committee management? Here are five tips.
1. Know what exists
Have an inventory of your committees, task forces and working groups, and know how they support the business and complement each other.
Not doing so will run the risk of perpetual confusion, fragmentation and duplication, unknown and misaligned resource allocations, and muted or failed outcomes. To actively manage your company’s range of committees, you need a dedicated point-person accountable for their oversight, and responsible for co-ordinating their internal governance.
At one progressive client, this role was actively led by the chief human resources officer, and included quarterly updates to the executive team.
2. Make it clear how committees are formed
It’s essential to have clarity through the company as to how committees get created in the first place. Have guidelines for their creation, structure, composition – and how they come to an end. Anything less could result in a “wild west” culture where managers can create committees at any time, with increasing levels of internal dysfunctionality and resource drains as more committees get added to the mix.
One Saskatchewan-based energy company has instituted a simple but formal set of protocols to guide committee creation, resource deployment and performance expectations.
3. Have a clear mandate
To reduce redundancy and improve productivity, committees must be clear about their mandate, roles and responsibilities, and how their recommendations and decisions connect with management processes.
Ideally, each committee should have simply documented terms of reference specifying its objectives, how it works, how it measures its performance, and, most importantly, how it fits into the broader organizational structure.
4. Track performance
Taking the time to plan, measure and understand the level of effort and cost of each committee and of the collective portfolio of all the organization’s committees will serve you well.
When this tracking is done, most organizations are initially surprised to see how much time and financial effort they are putting into internal committees. Invariably, these profiles result in portfolio streamlining, better balancing of individual commitments and resource allocations, and greater clarity of committee mandates. In other words, committees suddenly become more efficient and effective, and better complement the broader corporate structure.
5. Hold committee members accountable
Key to the success of your internal committees is formally recognizing and holding people individually accountable for their committee commitments and results. This is especially important since committee participation is usually a part-time effort over and above a staff member’s full-time job.
While most employees will have an interest in participating on a committee, other competing priorities and commitments can be distracting. Careful management helps to balance these competing interests and focus efforts.
Companies can see an immediate benefit when they begin to take a formal and practical approach to managing their internal committees.
In one particular client case, a newly appointed CEO suspected that the number and mix of internal committees simply hadn’t been managed, with the costs and complexities far outweighing the benefits to the business.
With a comprehensive inventory and an assessment of related costs and benefits, the CEO quickly made changes. This began with the recognition that while internal committees were useful, there needed to be executive commitment to formally managing them as a strategic portfolio and as part of the company’s organization design. While the transition to formal and better portfolio management of internal committees took time, this company made them a priority and is now reaping the benefits.
Internal committees can be a useful organization strategy, but if poorly managed, they can create decision-making and organizational confusion. Thoughtful and practical management of internal committees will guarantee a higher rate of return.
Build a team of your own personal challengers
A recent article in the Economist claimed that as technology continues to become more intelligent, the role of the leader will center more and more on innovative thought leadership. In order to prepare themselves for this reality, leaders must continually nourish their minds with complex problems, new ideas, and divergent perspectives. To this end, everyone needs their own group of personal challengers; external experts who fulfill that part of their development and growth on an ongoing basis. This could be mentors, coaches, business advisors, or just friends who work in different industries. While it takes some work to assemble and practice, it’s a critical element to developing your breadth of thinking and continuing your growth.
Convene and intervene
A very helpful leadership philosophy that I have learned is to convene and intervene. On one hand, part of being a leader is cultivating growth which entails convening people under a common purpose and allowing ideas to flourish. On the other hand, it’s about knowing when to jump in and steer the ship which entails helping the team take their ideas and shape them into something meaningful and executable. The leadership philosophy of convene and intervene allows you to be more present in a meeting by taking the onus off getting to the answer and instead focusing on the process of watching ideas grow and then simply shaping them. Not only does this help people feel engaged in the process, it also helps you learn a lot about the people you work with.
Traditional thinking says that when coaching people, be sure to balance things that are working (positives) with lessons to be learned (negatives). Recent thinking suggests that the magic ratio is not 1:1, but in fact, 2:1. The 2:1 theory is that by emphasizing the positives, you create more buoyancy, leaving people feeling bullish and supported while at the same time having something constructive to work on. It’s so easy to jump right into the issue, especially in a company like ours where urgency can sometimes rule the day. I find myself needing reminders to adhere to this simple 2:1 rule of thumb, but when I do, I am stunned by the results.
Flying high and diving deep
Leadership in a sales driven organization requires an interesting balance of skills: the ability to help refine the details while simultaneously understanding the business with enough breadth to shape the strategy. The balance of knowing when to ‘fly high’ and ensure the overall health of the business, and when to ‘dive deep’ and run right alongside the teams, is a careful balancing act that is imperative to master for the sustainable health of both the business and the team. It can be really unnerving for people when a leader moves from one to the other quickly, which happens when leaders have both skills. Over time, and with amazing support, I have learned that announcing the switch – in a deliberate way – can help people understand what you’re doing. It ensures that people know they’re still trusted even though you need to understand the finite detail, and it allows them to understand that you also see the big picture and are looking out for their long term wellbeing.
Give, give, give, gone
Because there is never enough of it, time is the most valued gift we have to give. I’ve learned that when you have time with someone, give them everything you’ve got – your absolute undivided attention. If you say you’ll do something for them, do it there and then. Make the phone call, find them the document, send the email – but when they leave, move onto the next thing. This means you can always be true to your word, people get from you what they need, and you’re fresh and available to do it again when you move on to your next meeting.
It’s that time of year again. So, why is this money expert, who provides financial advice to Baby Boomers and their offspring, writing about Thanksgiving? Because the “giving” part of money is key to any money discussion (and I love Thanksgiving and this is my blog!)
I’m not alone when it comes to my love for the Thanksgiving holiday. According to CNN.com, Thanksgiving is America’s second favorite holiday after Christmas. And, thanks to editor of Ladies Magazine, Sarah Josepha Hale’s 36 year advocacy, Thanksgiving is a national holiday that falls on the fourth Thursday every November as proclaimed by President Abraham Lincoln in 1863. It’s a day of indulgence for approximately 88 percent of Americans who will consume over 45 million turkeys (not including the one that President Obama will spare). But what about the remaining folks who are not as lucky to be stuffing birds and their faces with friends and family?
Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday because it really is integral to the American culture, non-commercial and inclusive. (I will note that “non-commercial” takes on a new twist when you see the number of stores opening on Thanksgiving.) My hope is that families are celebrating the same thoughts of gratitude for our collective bounty. It should also be a time to reflect and to give thanks.
To be honest, I’ve always felt sorry for Thanksgiving being “stuffed in” between Halloween, the scary costume and sugar holiday, and Christmas the holiday of joy that has morphed into the holiday of the shopping spree. Now it’s time to revive the essence of Thanksgiving and turn it into “Thanks” and “Giving” for you and your next generation. Here are five tips to reclaim the spirit of the Thanksgiving holiday:
Tip #1 – Tell The Story
In my home, we start the meal by designating a family member as the storyteller to tell the grandkids about the origins of the holiday. It’s not only about football, parades, turkey, cranberry sauce and my way too sweet, sweet potatoes. I’ll make it easy for you: Thanksgiving has its roots dating back to the Pilgrims celebrating their first harvest in the “New World” in 1621. (Obviously, the harvest took place earlier, but you know how hard it is to nail down the origin of a holiday!) This feast was said to last for three days and to be attended by 90 Native Americans and 53 Pilgrims. The holiday was religious in nature and thanks was given to God for survival and the prosperity that was enjoyed. The Pilgrims didn’t have it easy their first few years in this country. They made seven times more graves than houses, but still they were able to set this time aside to give thanks.
Tip #2 – Share Your Family
Welcome a person or family to your Thanksgiving dinner. It is a simple, but powerful gesture. It’s also a great way to establish a family tradition of real unity behind a common purpose and to set the example to share your family and its good fortune. As William Shakespeare said, “Small cheer and great welcome makes a merry feast.” Each year, we try to invite someone who doesn’t have family with whom to share the holiday. Get the kids involved in that discussion prior to the meal. It may be one of their teachers, who is far from home, or a neighbor, or someone from a foreign country who has never experienced the holiday.
Tip #3 – Share With Others
Sharing needs to be built into a ritual for this holiday. It’s a core component to the celebration. Celebrate what you, as a family, have done this year. There are many great causes to which to donate. There are local shelters, food banks, and even organizations like Amp Your Good, where you can go online to make donations that will be turned into food for those in need. The big thing is to get the kids involved in the donations. If you can fit in the time, take your offspring to a shelter and have the whole family donate, prepare, and serve food. The experience is invaluable and it will be incredibly empowering for your kids to directly give their time, as well as money to those less fortunate. Frankly, recognizing that others are less not well-off, and doing something about it, is a key element in this celebration—I firmly believe, in fact, that the celebration is hollow without it. Teddy Roosevelt said it well, “Let us remember that, as much has been given us, much will be expected from us, and that true homage comes from the heart as well as from the lips, and shows itself in deeds.”
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This summer, I recently participated in a thought leadership workshop for Arizona CEOs (from which I was inspired to write an article for Upstart Business Journal on “3 Lessons Startup Founders Could Learn from Corporate America“). Molly Castelazo of Castelazo Content led this event at the annual Arizona Technology Council’s CEO Retreat. The audience was comprised of mainly well-established companies. However looking around the room, I thought of how thought leadership can still be achieved on a shoestring or startup budget.
Here are seven components to advance your thought leadership early on:
1. Use HARO (Help a Reporter Out)
HARO is an awesome tool that makes it easy to include your company’s ideas or opinions in someone else’s story. It is free—a clear appeal for startups—and only requires time to prepare the pitch. The trick is to be very succinct and answer the reporter’s query precisely.
In our early days, we answered the queries of others and successfully used HARO to appear in Entrepreneur several times. Today, we are posting our own queries on HARO as a way to gather IP Horror Stories from others (a big thanks to Stephanie Burns from CHIC CEO for that tip). There is a prerequisite that you have to have a top million ALEXA rating and we are finally there!
2. Enter Contests
Enter early and often. Honing your pitch is critical to your success and winning some cool prizes along the way is not bad either. Contests or competitions often require support and can be a good way of spreading your name around. We gained momentum from winning a few contests early on and this helped us to refine our message.
3. Use LinkedIn
Do not sell your business on LinkedIn. Period. End of story. Your LinkedIn posts should be informative or educational only. At the top of my list of pet peeves are those who post spam on LinkedIn as if it were something we all need to read. We used posts that prior to our software launch as a way to spread the word on our company and provided education on the value of IP.
4. Blog Regularly
Some sites blog daily and others blog weekly; more posting is definitely better but regular posts are best. Pick a cadence and stick to it. We learned this first hand when our website traffic fell when we stopped blogging.
5. Social Media Strategy
Like blogging, it is important to be consistent with social media posting and follow-up with engagement. Re-purpose and recycle old blogs by linking to new articles and sharing on social media. Ask others to share your content. It can lead to guest blogs and that help establish you as an expert.
Chect this Out.. 6. Read, Write, Read, Write