May 7, 2020

Lessons Learned Regarding Our Corporate Culture: Undaunted Courage and Unending Effort

Jerick Henley
Jerick Henley

So, I'm reading this book...

To be honest, I'm enamored (hopefully not quite obsessed) with adventure. Maybe it touches some deep-rooted, primal urge to wander. Ever since I can remember, I've been the guy that asks, "What's over that hill?" When I can't actually wander (which is, unfortunately, more often than I'd like), I resolve that urge by reading about storied adventures of the past. One that has resonated with me recently is the tale of Lewis and Clark's expeditions.

On May 14, 1804 Meriwether Lewis and William Clark began an epic journey into the unknown, ultimately traveling almost 8000 miles over nearly 2 ½ years from St. Louis, Missouri to the mouth of the Columbia River at the Pacific Ocean … and back! The details of the adventures of the Corps of Discovery are incredible and, thankfully, we have first hand knowledge through a true national treasure in the pages of the exhaustive journals of Lewis, Clark and other members of the expedition.

Stephen Ambrose summarizes those journal entries and captures, in fantastic fashion, the intimate details - from dangerous to romantic - of the Corps journey in his book "Undaunted Courage: Meriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson and the Opening of the American West." When I read Ambrose's account, besides getting lost in my wanderlust, I am reminded of the amazing success of the entire venture and the fact that it most certainly had to be attributed to the leadership of Lewis and Clark - the co-captains on this military mission. The fact that Lewis had insisted that he and Clark be co-commanding the mission would have given doubt to their chances of success from the beginning. The military hierarchy of the day (and in fact even now) would state that there would be one commander in charge. Although the remainder of the enlisted men in the Corps (more than thirty of which) did follow a strict hierarchy, Lewis and Clark were identified and addressed as the Captains-in-charge. Lewis must have had a remarkable amount of trust and confidence in Clark, and vice versa, in order for this to work. It must also have been apparent to the rest of the expedition team.

Throughout the book, Ambrose does a tremendous job of pointing out the value of Lewis and Clark's leadership qualities. Charisma, Commitment, Communication, Competence, Courage and so many more character traits were all evidenced. John Maxwell's "21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader" was published in 2007. I'd say Lewis and Clark checked most of those boxes.

Besides their leadership qualities, Lewis and Clark displayed an extreme energy and enthusiasm towards the mission. Ordained by Thomas Jefferson himself, they saw no option but the successful completion of the mission ending with the personal delivery of every detail directly to Jefferson.

Each of us is on an epic adventure of our own, an individual trek through life filled with similar dangers, pitfalls, disasters, triumphs, and successes. The question then becomes; are we as dedicated to the outcome as Lewis and Clark were?

A core component of the culture within our organization (AHSG) is grit, the display of passion and perseverance for long-term and meaningful goals. This important theme stems from Angela Duckworth's book, "Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance." We teach from this book regularly, most notably in our new employee onboarding program, Immersion. Each new individual that enters the AHSG umbrella goes through three full days of training and presentations from other leaders in the company, and a significant portion of that time centers around the importance of grit - especially as it pertains to our organization and industry.

A key aspect of Duckworth's book is her equation of grit itself.

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The underlying effects of the abstract equation is that effort counts twice. It counts more than your natural talent and even more than the skill you've developed. It has a multiplier effect! We quantify the effects of effort by running some numbers for the Immersion class. The exercise has had a profound effect on our culture at AHSG. We're a pretty gritty group!

Duckworth, however, wasn't the first to identify the importance of effort. Let's go back to Meriwether and Lewis and his great journey across the American West.

On August 18,1805, still three months from reaching the Pacific Ocean, Lewis celebrated his 31st birthday by journaling about how lazy or "indolent" he has become. Remember, he's led an expedition over 3,000 miles for 13 months through hostile country, but he views this for what it is: a work in process! He wrote, "This day I completed my thirty first year ... I reflected that I had yet done but little, very little indeed, to further the happiness of the human race or to advance the information of the succeeding generation. I viewed with regret the many hours I have spent in indolence ... I dash from me the gloomy thought and resolved in future, to redouble my exertions and at least endeavor to promote those two primary objects of human existence, by giving them the aid of that portion of talents which nature and fortune have bestoed on me..."

Simply incredible! One of the greatest explorers in our Nation's history, having traveled so far and toiled so much, clearly recognizing he had been bestowed some talent, but without doubling up on effort, he could not truly serve the human race, thus no achievement! Two hundred years before Duckworth penned her grit equation, Lewis was living it. Life is a journey, an epic adventure. There is no replacement for effort in this journey. In fact, effort counts twice. It did in 1805, and it does today.

Charge on!

Jerick Henley

Chief Marketing Officer

American Health Staffing Group

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