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LEADERSHIP: Thanks as simple as a popcorn kernel

dmackin-7-07We’ve always had a variety of traditions during our Thanksgiving dinner. We start the meal by reading Abraham Lincoln’s Thanksgiving Proclamation (1863) as a way to remind us from where all our blessings come.

A second tradition includes placing 3 kernels of corn in front of each person’s place at the table. We use popcorn kernels to represent the early Pilgrims and the significance of that first Thanksgiving with the Native Americans. At the beginning and in between each course, we pass around the table a small bucket where each person puts one kernel into the bucket while giving thanks for something specific. When the kids were little, they’d be thankful for silly things (“I’m thankful for mashed potatoes”). Now, as adults, the sharing has become much more meaningful, as the years have brought real joys and real sorrows. It is a great way to break up the meal and to really stop and reflect on what we can be truly thankful for.

We also print out on strips of colored paper all kinds of Thanksgiving jokes (“Why did the turkey cross the road?  It was the chicken’s day off.”) and little known Thanksgiving trivia (“How many gallons of beer did the Pilgrims bring on the Mayflower?”). Periodically throughout the meal, we’ll pick one of the strips off the table and share a joke or piece of trivia to keep the atmosphere light and fun.

Of course, Thanksgiving wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without Paul’s French onion soup with caramelized onions or the family favorite dish of lulu paste and crackers, or my recipe for pumpkin pie lined with bittersweet chocolate.

So many of these traditions by themselves sound silly, yet if we left any out, the holiday just wouldn’t be the same. The same is true for our workplaces. In our quest to be faster, better, and cheaper have we pushed aside important traditions? As organizations, do we take time to be thankful for our customers, suppliers, team members, co-workers, supervisors, managers, and stockholders? Thanksgiving is more than just the day before Black Friday or an opportunity to eat to our hearts’ content. It is the only holiday that allows us as a nation to come together for the singular purpose of acknowledging our countless blessings. We thank you for your support during this past year and wish all a very Happy Thanksgiving.

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