By Caerley Hill
In 1776 a committee of 5 men assembled to draft a document that would forever define American history. Often called Thomas Jefferson’s “enduring monument,” the Declaration of Independence was the first official document of the “free and independent states.”
Though many of us think of July 4 as a federal holiday to be celebrated with picnics, parties and fireworks, it is also a day of reflection. I myself reflect on the fact that Jefferson, Sherman, Adams, Livingston and Franklin all managed to pen this statement in under a month, during a sweltering summer wearing wool knickers and wigs. But sweating aside, another thing I often marvel at is the leadership it took to compose and execute such a monumental historical moment.
As leaders in the workplace, we are often faced with difficult decisions and situations, which are tricky to navigate. Just like the Founding Fathers, you have a team that looks to you for answers and guidance. So what can you do to inspire a revolutionary team of innovators?
- Be specific about what you need to know. In leadership roles it is important to clarify what information you need. By being direct, your team will be able to effectively understand and support the organization’s goals. Take a cue from Thomas Jefferson and draft a list of the critical information you require from everyone. Then get your team to sign off on what they can deliver.
- Communicate the big picture instead of fine details. You might have a list of what you need to know, but your team doesn’t need to see everything. As a nation we knew that our overall goal was to separate the 13 colonies from Great Britain, but not everybody knew the particular logistics of how that was to happen — nor did they have to. As a leader you must be able to parcel out information as needed and communicate the driving goals to keep everyone on track.
- Use statements of clear intent. Unlike vision statements, which are used to align a company to a common path, intent statements guide behavior in practical ways. To better motivate people in the pursuit of their goals, try using purposeful terminology that lets people know “this is what we do,” not “this is who we are.” The Declaration of Independence is a great example of who we are as a nation, but our purpose as Americans is to exercise those freedoms and uphold the laws by which our country is governed.
Finally, a fun Fourth of July fact for you: Congress voted on July 2 to declare independence and then spent the next two days debating and revising the document draft. It was finally finished and ratified on July 4, which is why we observe on that specific date.
For more revolutionary tactics and tips for leaders, check out the white paper “Three Fundamental Approaches to Leading a Revolutionary Team.” Got a leadership tip for us? Let us know @GoToAssist.