Russell’s Ramblings

Those who do not hear the music might think the dancer mad

My Great Day at the Lake

Bill Russell, CCE

One of my mentors, Gene Martin, was noted for a charge he would give aspiring young business leaders, when he encouraged us to – “Do what we love, love what we do, and deliver more than you promise.”  Those few words have become a philosophy that I try to put into place daily and I have often used the same message when I meet with young business and community leaders.     This year marks my 19th year in the association management field.  Essentially, I have the unique opportunity to perform in a job that allows me to work with business and community leaders as we make our region stronger and our communities better than we found them.

I have always enjoyed civic service, advocating on behalf of people and businesses, and speaking to groups about how they can bring about positive change for our community and nation.  No, I take that back – I love it!   Perhaps no day better illustrates that than Friday August 27th.  It began like any other day as we convened a program of our Focus Friday and a very informative session on Charlotte Mecklenburg Utilities from their executive director Barry Gullett.  Barry was joined by Jim Duke who led a Mayor’s Task Force on the water rate challenges we were experiencing earlier this year in Mecklenburg County.

Duke did an outstanding job of demonstrating what local citizens can do when they organize together in a constructive manner bringing about changes in CMUD’s operations.     The program adjourned and I went straight into a meeting of our Pubic Policy Committee where Hilary Broadway of Allen Tate Realty and I outlined the Chamber’s advocacy positions we would take to Washington, DC a few weeks later.

Ada Jenkins Check Presentation

Then it was off to a meeting of the Regional Roads Committee, an organization of 17 other regional Chambers of Commerce, as we heard presentations from CATS to Gene Conti, our N.C. Secretary of Transportation.    I hurried back up to the lake for a check presentation from the Ingersoll Rand Foundation to the Ada Jenkins Center for $60,000.  The community outreach center offers 19 programs and services including the free medical clinic, food pantry, school tutoring, and much more.

Leaving there, I rushed off for a ribbon cutting and a grand opening of a new Huntersville business – the Comfort Suites – before heading back up to the Chamber for a meeting of the Lake Norman Kiwanis Aktion Club.     Aktion is a club for young people over the age of 18 with special needs.  I am fortunate to be their club advisor and help facilitate their meetings as the young people get together once a month to socialize and conduct projects.

This particular meeting we enjoyed pizza together provided by Brooklyn South, a great Chamber member, as we wrote letters to the men and women serving overseas in our military.     Perhaps few days go by that each of us do not lament about the economy or how things are just not going our way.  However, each month I have the opportunity to witness one of God’s miracles as a young person, who has every reason in the world to complain, reminds us life is so precious.

Aktion Club of Lake Norman

There is no discussion of shortcomings or disability, just the bright smiles of these kids and their laughter when they get together.  I listened as they read the words from their cards and showed us their own particular handiwork.  Their crayons filled with love, compassion, and innocence.     As I drove home that night, thinking of those kids as they poured their hearts out in words and colors on their greeting cards, I felt tears welling up in my eyes.  I couldn’t help but believe that the hour I spent with them that evening was God’s gift back to me.

It’s the reason I do what I do and just another great day at the lake!

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October 4, 2010 Posted by | Chamber of Commerce | , , , , | Leave a comment

You are the Message

What exactly does “You are the message mean?”  Actually how we say something is just as important as the words we speak.  The hand gestures we use, the tone and pitch of the words, our eyes, smile, humor, all say volumes whether spoken or not. Professor Albert Mehrabian of UCLA determined that listeners were influenced by non-verbal facial expressions and body language 55% of the time.  Our voice – its pitch, tone, and variation accounted for 38% with the words we actually speak making up the remaining 7%. We’ve all judged speakers on whether they sounded hollow or sincere.  Did the speech come from the heart or did it sound contrived or rehearsed?  The words themselves are meaningless unless your audience believes you own them.

In 1991, I was the president of the South Carolina Junior Chamber of Commerce (Jaycees), the largest young people’s civic organization in the state.  It was a one year elected position and my responsibility was to get our members motivated to exceed the goals and objectives they set for the year. While our Jaycee Chapters were in the business of raising money for a variety of charitable causes from MDA to St. Jude’s, perhaps no cause was more dear than our own state philanthropy – Jaycee Camp Hope for kids with mental disabilities.

Gene Martin accepting a Presidential Award of Honor

We had four state meetings during the year – four opportunities to fire up the troops.  I remember sitting down with one of my political advisors at the last meeting of the year.  He asked if I knew what I would say to them as they prepared to finish out the year as strong as possible. I handed him a speech about volunteerism, patriotism, and assisting the families of soldiers who were fighting in the Gulf War.  My advisor, Gene Martin, read the speech, handed it back, and told me, “Bill, that’s a great speech.  Really good stuff.  But is that what you really want to say to them?”  I admitted sheepishly, “No.  I want to tell them to go get more young people involved.  Recruit more people into the organization.  Membership is people and we’re in the people business.  The more people you have, the more money you can raise.”  Gene looked at me, removed his glasses, and said in his slow South Carolina accent, “Then go tell ‘em.  You were elected to lead.  They’ll follow you.  Just go tell ‘em what they need to do.  Bill, if you don’t do it, exactly who do you think will.”

1990 - 1991 South Carolina Jaycees - The Best of the Best

To this day I remember walking to the podium 20 minutes later.  My hands were trembling thinking about what I was fixing to say.  No notes  – no prepared remarks.  Just a short talk from the heart why we needed to get more people involved.  “We were born for this moment, the fate of our communities lie in our hands.” In 1991, the South Carolina Jaycees started the year with 4,294 members and ended with 5,008 for a net growth of +714.  Most of the new members joining in the last couple of months of that Jaycee year.  We raised nearly $75,000 for our state philanthropy Jaycee Camp Hope, and $20,000 for a new Lupus Awareness program. In addition, we raised more than $200,000 in goods and services for the victims of the Ohio Floods, who the year before had been so generous with our communities during Hurricane Hugo.  The South Carolina Jaycees were also recognized as one of the Top Five Jaycee States in America that year.

Twenty years later, I still give talks to civic groups and Chamber members urging them to be their very best. Rarely do I attempt to use prepared remarks.  I learned long ago, the best speeches come from the herart.  If you show folks how much you care, they’ll show you what they can do.  My advisor, my friend Gene Martin left me with a very valuable lesson, “Our words speak boldly of our intentions, but our actions speak louder than the words and while the words are important – we are the real message.”

June 18, 2010 Posted by | Junior Chamber of Commerce (Jaycees) | , , , , | 1 Comment