The below article was written for the August issue of FLAME.
I am not sure there is a single principle more important than simply loving your people. I’ve always enjoyed reading books by John C. Maxwell, and in one of his books he had a statement from President Theodore Roosevelt, “People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.”
In 1985, I met a man named Ray Parlier. Ray and I were very involved in the South Carolina Junior Chamber (Jaycees) and later he would lead the state organization as President. He also became one of my political advisors when I was National President of the United States Junior Chamber of Commerce.
While Ray was extremely successful in the Jaycees, his real impact was shaping the lives of kids at Furman University where he served as Athletic Director during the time when it claimed its only National Football Championship. Ray’s influence on me was profound, but his greatest lesson was to love your people. If you demonstrate how much you care about the people you lead, they will follow you anywhere. People always came first with Coach Parlier and he was a master at making you feel special.
He called until it was too late to talk on the phone. Then he would switch to addressing postcard after postcard thanking folks for the smallest things. Ray was a fierce competitor and he believed everyone had a place on the team. The quarterback who made the perfect fade pass was important but so was the trainer who conditioned the players. Ray gave out more plaques and incentives than anyone I ever met and sometimes it was the smallest tokens that people desired the most. It was not the size of the reward but the appreciation for the job well done. I am not sure I ever saw as many grown men hug each other as they did under the leadership of Coach. He made you feel good about yourself and your effort.
Someone recently asked me to what I attributed the success of the Lake Norman Chamber I lead here at Lake Norman. Location is a critical factor for any business, but it really benefits those who make their home at the lake. We have businesses that work their plan, take advantage of our networking events, and our outstanding personal growth and business programming. However, the thing that sets our chamber apart, which enables us to be the “Best of the Best”, is our appreciation of each other. You must show folks how much you care. It is the foundation of leadership.
I still remember a Saturday morning in Charleston, S.C. when I had just been elected President of the South Carolina Jaycees. Coach Ray Parlier put his arm around me and hugged me tight. He then looked deep in my eyes, with a wide smile across his face and reminded me, “Bill, love your people and they’ll love you back.”
As I look back on a life that has spanned six decades now, that may well have been the single best advice I ever received.
The following article was written expressly for the May issue of Flame. To read articles written by other Lake Norman Business and Community Leaders visit: https://bit.ly/2zxxktD
To paraphrase Winston Churchill, “In every individual’s life, comes that special moment when he or she will be called upon to do something great, and what a tragedy it would be, if at that moment, they were unprepared for the task.”
Growing up as a boy, I would spend weekends with my grandparents. On a Saturday night after supper, Granddaddy Russell and I would sit on the backdoor steps where he would polish his shoes. He always wanted to look his best for Church the next morning.
I still recall one evening when he asked, “Billy, have you got those shoes shined up for church tomorrow?” I recall answering that my shoes were still shined from the week before.
Not one to be deterred, Granddaddy examined my shoes, gave me a stern look, and simply handed me the brush and polish. Granddaddy would sometimes spit on his shoes as he polished them to bring them to a high luster. And I would spit on my shoes as well, because that’s what granddaddy did.
Afterwards we would retire to the dining room table to do our “lessons.” That’s what he called reading and studying the bible passages we would review the next day in Sunday School. I would have much rather watched television, but granddaddy said we had to study for church. “But why do we have to read all that?” I would ask. “We’ll be reading it again tomorrow.” He would point out. “You need to be prepared.”
As I write this column, we are three weeks into a “Stay at Home” order imposed by Mecklenburg Country and the State as we wrestle with the physical and economic impact of the Coronavirus pandemic. The illness has already claimed thousands of lives here in America and could rage on for weeks to come.
I am not sure anyone in the world foresaw the severity of this outbreak and there is no question our federal and state agencies were unprepared. As grave as this issue may be, I do believe we can emerge from it a much better community and nation.
Few of us will ever face a crisis as dire as this event unfolding before us. While the community, country and world are filled with anxiety and fear, there are many who are emerging as leaders. Not just the healthcare workers and first responders on the front lines, but everyday Americans looking to lend a helping hand. Whether it’s as simple as donating to a cause or delivering food and other essentials to those in need, our community is pulling together!
This temporary pause also gives each of us time to reflect on what is important not only in our business but in our personal lives. Each of us can use this time to reprioritize goals and set new objectives. A great many of us have discovered new technologies to communicate with clients and friends which we not have previously utilized.
But the biggest opportunity may be the opportunity to be the person you can be after the pandemic and not the person you were going to be.
As a little boy, I could not have imagined that a virus could single handedly stop the American economy and hold our nation hostage. But perhaps this is the moment in time Sir Winston Churchill spoke about. An opportunity when we are called upon to be our absolute best – and a time when we dare not fail in that task.
W.E. “Bill” Russell, CCE, IOM
President & CEO
Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce
The following column was written for a special publication called Flame. The contributors to this monthly online publication are business leaders and coaches in the Lake Norman region. I am fortunate to be a contributor. Below is my column about a woman who used Faith to influence my life – Mrs Trumbell, a Bible Teacher who visited Finley Road Elementary School in Rock Hill, SC when I was a little boy. This article was written Pre-Pandemic.
A couple of weeks ago, the Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce hosted a luncheon which was keynoted by Mark Johnson, North Carolina’s Superintendent of Public Instruction. He shared what our public schools are doing to get students “Career Ready” as they look at two- or four-year institutions. According to Mark, some students are pursuing apprenticeship programs, while others may elect to go straight into the workforce. The Chamber also used the luncheon to recognize three Lake Norman teachers as the Outstanding Educators of the Year.
As we sat at our tables during lunch, invariably the subject of “Which teacher influenced you the most came up.” I listened intently as several business owners and managers shared their stories, recalling fondly, how this special instructor significantly touched their life.
Leaving the luncheon, someone stopped to ask me, “Was there a special teacher in my life?” To be sure, there are quite a few memorable mentors who have made an indelible impression. But the individual who comes to mind was not an educator in the conventional sense. She wasn’t paid to do her job, yet she had one of the most fulfilling roles any teacher was ever provided.
When I was in third grade, a retired lady would visit our elementary school once a month. She would hand out little red Bibles to the children and spend half an hour telling Bible stories. Our parents had to sign an approval form before we could attend her story telling sessions. Those who did not want to participate could go to the back of the room and take a nap or play with some of the games and puzzles kept there. However, many of us chose to listen to Mrs. Trumbell’s stories of David and Goliath and King Solomon’s Mighty Temple.
Today, fifty years later, children do not have the choice between taking a nap and Bible stories. Religious displays have been banned in public buildings and on municipal grounds. As we approach the Easter Season, you are not likely to see offensive crosses to some in a retail store, but there will be bags of candy and plenty of baskets for the Easter Bunny.
Prayer in school, invocations at sporting events, and references to the Ten Commandments are being challenged by the ACLU and those who are offended at the thought of religion threatening their freedoms. Separation of church and state is their battle cry.
A few weeks ago, I attended a meeting in which the discussion centered on the declining work ethic in today’s employees. The Internet is filled with marketing campaigns by major retailers with strong sexual images targeting millennials and we continue to read heartbreaking stories committed against children by their parents.
The state of our workforce, our families, and our communities tell me that people like Mrs. Trumbell are sorely missed. I agree you cannot legislate morality. However, we as parents, community leaders, and volunteers can work with children and help them understand and appreciate simple values. The education the children receive at home, through the examples set by parents, are stronger than any instruction they can receive at school.
An issue I am very concerned about is the very bitter, divisive way we treat each other in social media. Friends, coworkers, and family members are using adjectives such as racist, sexist or perhaps just ignorant, if someone dare disagree on political policies or candidates. Perhaps a greater concern for me personally, is what impact does that have on our children – the generation which will succeed us tomorrow?
The students educated today are the business and community leaders of tomorrow. I applaud our elected leadership who insist God still has a place in our society. To whom we pray is less important than the fact we should pause each day and give thanks for the blessings from above. We are all so fortunate to live in a nation founded on strong principles and paid for by the blood, toil, and sweat of the generations who came before us. We should never forget the sacrifices made by so many so that we could enjoy the privileges we have today. And let us pause and give thanks for these blessings, while America still has a prayer.