A most intriguing encounter happened to me last week while flying from Austin to DC. I met a man, Luis Gonzalez Jr., a Viet-Nam vet, who was holding what looked like a leather-bound scrapbook. It had the U.S. Navy insignia on it.
My curiosity was piqued. Being an avid scrapbooker, I couldn’t help but ask to see his scrapbook. We only had a few minutes before boarding, but he began to show me the photos and other memorabilia inside his scrapbook.
Turns out the scrapbook was a memorial to 20 men who lost their lives during battle on the USS Newport News in 1972. One of the ship’s gun turrets exploded inwards in the heat of battle, killing the 20 men; many who were Luis’ friends.
Boarding the plane I was so delighted to find that Luis’ seat was right next to mine. I knew this was providence – so much more than a chance meeting.
A scrapbook brought to life
We went through his scrapbook and I savored each page, each story. The photos of the sailors – many very young men; their stories as Luis told me about their jobs on the ship and their families that Luis has made it his mission to meet over the years.
He brought each person’s story to life for me. And as I listened, I couldn’t help but think about the sacrifice these men made. And not just these men, their families too.
What makes a hero?
As Luis closed the book and I sat pensively thinking about these men and their sacrifice, I thought about heroes and what makes a person a hero. The word sacrifice kept coming up.
I thought about heroes and sacrifice in the context of corporations and organizations. While not paying the ultimate price of giving their lives, we do have people in every company and organization who we can call heroes.
People who go beyond the call of duty to sacrifice their time, energy, and self-promotion for the greater good. People who many times go unnoticed and uncelebrated; yet without their contributions, things would have turned out very different.
Organizational culture is shaped through people. We can have all the systems, processes, and technologies in place, but it is people who make the difference.
And as I mused over the stories that Luis shared as we looked through his scrapbook, I wondered what a “corporate scrapbook” would look like.
How do we capture the stories of the people and teams who made a great impression on the company’s history and culture? How do we celebrate the sacrifices these heroes made? How do we weave their stories into the fabric of our organization’s culture?
How do you celebrate YOUR heroes?
I’d like your thoughts on this. Please leave a comment and let us know how you celebrate your heroes and the contributions they made to your organization.
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