Today was a memorable day, indeed—one of those celebration opportunities for me. I attended a ceremony at which ten World War II veterans were awarded the French Legion of Honor, the highest award that the French government can bestow. Other recipients have included Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower and Gen. Douglas MacArthur.
In particular, I came to this ceremony to help recognize and thank Colonel Hal Shook USAF (Ret.). A remarkable man, Colonel Shook is a veteran of World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. If that isn’t enough, Hal is the author of three books, is a successful entrepreneur, and is a sought-after speaker. Imagine being able to do all that so well during one person’s life!
While I sat waiting for the ceremony to unfold, I was reminded of the part that celebrations play in our personal and business lives. As life’s bookmarks, celebrations enable everyone on hand to pause in recognition of what has gone before us. They also stand as powerful educators of why we live or work–to help others and in the process bring meaning and purpose to our own lives; to recognize personal and team accomplishments; and to resuscitate and recommit to our individual or organizational goals, visions, and mission. In doing so, we infuse our mortal being with the mutuality of emotional affirmations that we voice as one body together in celebration.
And let’s not forget that, as was the case in the ceremony I attended, we celebrated these people’s accomplishments, too, to get our fair share of the goose bumps our neural circuitry provokes when we have the honor to stand in the presence of giants. For the heroes who surrounded us today, regardless of our own calling, are the heroes of another age–the greatest of The Greatest Generation. Now that alone is worth a thousand times the price of admission!
Organizations and businesses plan celebrations to acknowledge coworkers’ chronological milestones, and that’s important, but leaders at every level of an organization should not defer to institutional recognition alone. If you think about it, recognition can take countless forms, and the really good news is that you can never foul up a simple, authentic thank you. You cannot get it wrong, really.
We instinctively know that when it comes to acts of kindness or compassion, intent always trumps execution. So there’s no need to focus on style! To make the form of recognition “a really BIG show,” as emcee Ed Sullivan used to say on Sunday-night television. My friends, honest celebration and recognition are at the heart of respecting others because being recognized and appreciated for our works and ourselves nurtures our self-worth, allowing it to flower. Allowing us to go forth and do more good, for the benefit of others and ourselves.
And, based on what I saw at the celebration of Gallic gratitude and honor today, even the greatest of our heroes, humble in the extreme, deeply appreciate being noticed and thanked. These men and women, who never set out to garner thanks and accolades, cherish the recognition of grateful nations and its people.