Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Parents + Schools + Students + Businesses = a Phenomenal Partnership

Parents + Schools + Students + Businesses = a Phenomenal Partnership
Darrel Hammon

Some time ago, I visited with a high school principal who told me parents were not generally supportive of their children in school. By that he meant, I suspect, that they did not come to school to help their children as much as he would have liked them to.

Part of the challenge is parents are busy. In many families, both parents work and are unable to spend the amount of time they wish to be with their child at school. Granted, some junior and high school students would rather have their parents stay as far away as possible from the school as possible.

So, how can businesses help? 

Former Secretary of Labor, Lynn Martin, once wrote: “Are the schools and workplaces in my community adequately preparing the workers of today and tomorrow? If not, what am I going to do about it?” 

I have a few ideas.

Continue your vigorous participation as business supporting education. Historically, businesses have been wonderful supporters of education at all levels. Your donations—real money or “things” from your businesses—have been extremely helpful in extending the school’s budget. Without some of you, schools would not be able to function as well as they do. Although money is important, students need to understand there is a direct correlation between work and school.
Become mentors to students. Students are your labor pool. They work for you after school, on weekends, and during the summer. What a prime opportunity for you as a business leader to help them understand the importance of school as it relates to work. Additionally, you may want to hire an intern periodically to learn the trappings of your business. Not only do you get an extra set of hands, you also are helping students learn valuable workplace and leadership skills they will carry with them to other jobs and situations. Plus, you are simultaneously connecting education to real work experiences. Also, if students do not have the basic skills, it is going to be difficult for them to become your workers of the future.

Provide time for your employees to participate in school activities. Often many school activities are held during the school day, hence during the working day. Many parents complain they have no time to be with their children or participate in their children’s school activities. My philosophy has always been: “Make time.” But I have also said to parents: “Convince your boss you will be a better employee if you are involved in the education of your children. Whether he or she believes you or not is beside the point.” Who are the best teachers or trainers of children? Parents! Research has shown that parents are children’s most important teachers. Thus, involved parents will result in young people doing better in school and employees who are better workers.

Become involved in what many school districts call “Taste of Teaching.” All of you possess certain skills and experiences students need to hear about and learn from. Think about what it would be like if you went to classrooms and share with them about what it takes to be successful like you are. What you are doing is demonstrating to students that education is important, that it is relevant to the real world. Every school I know about would love to have business leaders become involved in teaching. If you don’t feel comfortable talking about your business in front of students, let me know. I’ll provide a “business inservice” in how to present your message. If your school does not have a program such as “taste of teaching,” then visit with the principal and powers that be and convince them this would be a good thing because it is.

I have held this philosophy for years: “We can spend as much money as we want on K-12 education, but students still have to go home.” Shouldn’t they go home where the parents are positively involved in education, either helping out at school, attending some sort of school/lifelong learning activity themselves, or being involved as business educators? 

Bottom line is this: Children do better in school when their parents are providing a positive role model by being a part of schools and their activities, and I am not just saying attend the basketball or football games. I mean, attend the spelling bees, debate tournaments, speech and drama meets, business simulations, plays, and other academic activities.

In essence, businesses can also play an ever-increasing important and integral role in helping parents fulfill their responsibilities as teachers of their children. Imagine what businesses can do if they go to the classroom and participate in connecting school to work. Helping teachers help their students understand that learning is a real-world/workplace concept is an incredible service you could provide.

Just think, your future employees are sitting today’s classrooms. You might as well help train them now while they are still in school. It’s less expensive in the long run.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

“Tenacity and Persistence: How Two-Year-Olds Teach Us”

“Tenacity and Persistence: How Two-Year-Olds Teach Us”
Darrel Hammon

When our oldest granddaughter was almost two-years-old, we spent two week at our daughter’s home in Utah, taking care of her while her mother was at Young Women’s camp. Her father had to work; so, we were able to be with her during the day. I learned a valuable lesson during our week with her. The lesson was tenacity and persistence.

For me, I had to realize that she wasn’t quite two yet. But the little woman was tenacious and persistent! Having tenacity or being tenacious means literally having the persistence to carry through with something. Sometimes there is a conclusion; sometimes there is not a conclusion. But the key is to persist with tenacity.

When we travel, we often bring travel bottles of shampoo and things so that we do not have to carry large quantities of the items. One of those items is a special type of shampoo that I use just a couple times a week. For travel, I put a small amount in a bottle. The bottle I happened to use for this trip was one of those bottles with a safety screw cap that you have to press down and then turn. It is sometimes difficult for even me to open.

Well, my granddaughter found the bottle and tried opening it. She tried and tried and tried, every which way possible. But she was unable to open it—thank goodness. But she was tenacious and persistent about it. When I attempted to intervene, her simple words were “No, Emi do it!” And she was adamant. She was not going to have Grandpa do something she could do on her own—or so she thought. Not once did she ask that I open the bottle for her. She just kept twisting and twisting, turning and turning, the bottle cap, trying with her little might to open the bottle.  She didn’t try for just a few seconds, but her twisting and turning continued for some minutes. Finally, though, she did decide that she couldn’t do it by herself. She placed it back where she got and left. I know if I had given it to her again later in the day or the next day or any day during our visit, she would have tried to open the bottle. That’s tenacity! That’s persistence!

So, where do we learn persistence and tenacity? In the April 2000 General Conference, President James E. Faust said: “President Grant had a favorite quotation from Ralph Waldo Emerson which he lived by: ‘That which we persist in doing becomes easier for us to do; not that the nature of the thing itself is changed, but that our power to do is increased.’”

I memorized that quote many years ago and quote it often, more so for myself than for anyone else. Over the last couple of years, little Emi has become amazingly more proficient with her fingers, and she can open lots of things, some things her mother wishes she wouldn’t have—like glue and glue stick. Her persistence, her tenacity, will carry her through her entire life, and she will accomplish much.

Our power to do something increases if we keep with it. Often, in our society, people give up way too early before they are able to accomplish a task. Working through something will inevitably help us gain greater insight into that which we are doing. But we must understand a simple concept: being humble enough to accept our weakness and then work diligently on it to make it our strength.

The ancient Prophet Moroni once wrote: “And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them” (Ether 12:27).

We all possess weaknesses. According to Moroni, President Grant, and Ralph Waldo Emerson, we need to persist in overcoming our weaknesses through working hard, being tenacious, and being persistent. When we do, our weaknesses will become our strengths.

So, we must continue forward like little Emi, twisting and turning and trying to figure out how that cap comes off because it does come off, but it takes a bit of work to do it.

Be tenacious! Be persistent!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Creating Significance

Creating Significance

Some time ago, I sat in a meeting and listened to a retired Air Force Colonel discuss the importance of significance. I was intrigued by his insight and his use of the word in a spiritual context. But I would like extend the meaning to five areas: education, family, community, world, and self.

The simplest definition of significance is the “state or quality of having meaning or importance.”

In order to make the connection to the five areas, I have a few questions to ask you—

Question 1: What significance are you making in education? What you are doing today creates significance. A few years ago, Joanne and I were sitting with a young single mother who said, “I earned my GED, and now I am enrolled in the College. I will make sure my daughters do not drop out of school.” Her oldest daughter, then 16, was an honor student. Do you think she has created significance by returning to school? I do. And she has much more to do. Investment in education will be the best investment you will ever make. I promise.

Question 2: What significance are you being as a member of your family? I believe families are important. For most of us, our families created significance in our lives by pushing us forward, motivating us to do better, and creating opportunities to succeed. On Mother’s Day each year, we celebrate the mothers in our lives and remember our mothers, no matter where they are. Father’s Day is another significant day. If you are a mother, what kind of mother are you? If you are a father, what kind of father are you? If you are a son or daughter, what kind of son or daughter are you being? If you are a brother or sister, what kind of brother or sister are you? You can create significance in your family.

Question 3: What significance are you making or will you make in your community? I believe serving in our communities is significant. There is so much to do and so many organizations that need us to help. When we serve others, we create significance—in ourselves and in others. People are appreciative of what you do.  I even think of international foundations like Ruben’s Shoes, the Dominican Starfish Foundation, and MACILE and what they do to create significance in poor areas in the Dominican Republic. Will you continue creating significance in the community you live in?

Question 4: What significance will you make in the world? Some of you will go out and do grandiose things by the world’s standards. Others will do things that will ultimately create significance that will reverberate throughout history—and often we may not know what significance we have done. And that’s the beauty and the power of significance.

Question 5: And, perhaps, most importantly, what significance will you create by being you? Your example, good or bad, will create significance in whatever you do. No matter whether your job is small or great, your significance, your importance, will create an aura that will touch people in small and great ways. Your mere smile will encourage others to smile. Your kind acts will motivate others to reciprocate. Your reaching out to help others will encourage them to do the same. Everything you do creates significance, and it is up to you what level of significance it will be.

Finally, I extend to you an invitation to create significance knowingly: Write a note to someone who has made a significant impact on/in your life. My preference would not be an e-mail, not a text message, not a tweet, not a Facebook or MySpace message—unless, of course, you do not know this person’s address. An actual letter or card written by your hand in real ink would be preferable. Let them know specifically why they are significant and how they created significance in your lives. When you do this, I sincerely believe you will experience “significance” in your life and in your being. Thanking those who have “created significance” for you and in your life need to know why they have and how they have. You may be the first person who has ever done this, and your mere act will create significance in their lives.

Often, many people just do what they do, not realizing what significance they might create or have created in the lives of those with whom they work and serve. It is when they receive a message from you and me, thanking them that they finally realize, perhaps, what they might have done. In many cases, they will pass it off as being some trivial thing that they remember vaguely. But to us—you and me—what they did truly turned our lives around. I believe that is truly the meaning of significance: when we do something because that’s just what we do to better the world around us. That enthusiasm for doing what needs to be done seeps into the lives of others and somehow changes them, turns their views, helps them contemplate a new way or a more effective way of living their lives or doing something. They change because we helped them learn “significance.”

Thus, my challenge, each and every day, is create significance, be significant, and do significant things because you are significant.