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engage your Beliefs

by | Dec 20, 2021 | Belief, engage, The Staple Singers

🖋 “What do you Believe?” It was a very direct question, from a very direct woman. My wife’s “great aunt” asked me … just as we were leaving from her small apartment. I had been helping her write her memoirs, which turned out to be much more coaching than either of us had anticipated. As she would tell her stories, I would simply listen and try to write as fast I could to record these stories that were amazing, raw, and very engaging. And a question that you should always be ready to engage – actually, what DO you Believe?

The end of this week is Christmas – a day that has a lot of complexity caught up in it depending on your own background. For me, it also typically corresponds to a season of writing reviews for my direct reports. Reconciling what we had agreed on “what good looks like” and what we had agreed to accomplish during the year just past. And for me, it was something that I took very seriously. I Believed that this was a core part of my responsibility as a leader – to provide particular insights on what went WELL, and diminishing the things that went less well. No one needs to be reminded of those – their negative voices and Beliefs are strong enough…

As I have been writing again, I have gotten feedback from a few readers which has been VERY helpful. I will be asking you for more soon, and certainly, ANYTIME you have thoughts on topics, music, ways that I could improve things, please reach out. And… encouragement is worth way more… I am modeling exactly what is wrong with most “performance management” here – I am listening for the “but”. Yea, yea, I know you like ____… what can I do BETTER??? And…

… the feedback was perfect – starting with what she loved about what I did… which of course I ignored… and jumped right to what I could “improve”. I just went back and read it again, and once again, leaped PAST the positive. That is how hard this is to do well – our brains are programmed to simply do what we have encouraged them to do, in my case, for 60+ years. Find what makes things “better” – what can “help” more – what can be “better” – what can be optimized…

🎵 The Staple Singers came of age in the same period we were just considering Ray’s Country and Western album. Roebuck Staples – no wonder he changed his name to Pops – was the youngest of 14 children born in Mississippi in 1914, including a brother Sears 😉 And if you remember your blues history, that means he actually played with Charley Patton, Son House (sadly no relation) and wait for it…. Robert Johnson. Like many, he dropped out of “school” in the 8th grade to sing in a gospel group and work in the cotton fields, before marrying and again like many, moving to Chicago in 1935. There he worked in the Stockyards, construction, and a Steel Mill..making 4 cents A DAY… all while still singing with the group Trumpet Jubilee.

Eventually, he realized the Jubilee was going nowhere, came home, and announced to his family that THEY were going to be his group. Circle up children… and The Staple Singers were formed in his living room where he directed with his basic guitar. They sang for the first time at the Mount Calvary Baptist Church where they were so good, they had 3 encores … of the SAME song – the ONLY song Pops had taught them all the way through 😉 They landed on nighttime radio there in Chicago – which had a clear channel AM radio – so they were heard across the country with their unique family blues/soul/gospel music, and were signed to VeeJay Records, a “race-record” label on the southside of Chicago. Today’s track is the first hit from that first album in 1957 and rarity with Pops singing lead…

🖋 One thing about “being in your head” all the time, I was mostly prepared to engage that question about my Beliefs. I didn’t hesitate to respond with some of my core Beliefs – both about people, but also about my Faith. We all shared that tradition, so it was appropriate and helped us not only become closer, but seemed to answer well enough that my wife and I could continue our way out the door 😉 It still rings out to me over the years since then as an important question that very few take the time to consider.

So this week I want to talk about Beliefs… by sharing some of mine, and of course, woven through the beauty of music that is simple, and yet, complicated. Weaving the story of the struggle for Civil Rights that encircle the Staples at every junction, we see their Faith and Beliefs only grow stronger with each interaction. It is a great story – one that only came from the gift of feedback that is so important to every one of us. How can you help grow those around you, and of course, yourself, by stepping into that breach? Sharing what you see, what you experience – mostly positively – about your team, your band, your family? I can tell you it is rarely done well, either knowing what they are, or telling people how well they are doing it. And if you focus on improving, you will ensure The Circle is Unbroken…

Will the circle be unbroken
By and by, Lord, by and by
There’s a better home a-waiting
In the sky, Lord, in the sky

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