Don’t Wait to Celebrate

Validation helps us fight the good fight.

I’ve been thinking a lot about “the Great Reset.” That’s my shorthand for everything that’s rocked our world and our industry in the last 100 days as we navigate a pandemic, fight a global recession, and come to grips with a new Civil Rights movement that is justifiably disrupting the status quo. I used to think that companies like Freeman, who have overcome every conceivable challenge and adversity in 90+ years, had seen it all. But we’ve hit the trifecta of sea change, compressed in an unimaginable time frame.

I suspect that this is what it means to live at the speed of digital, where there is scarcely time to process the significance of events in real time because they are coming at what feels like warp speed. It’s physically exhausting and emotionally draining for everyone. But baked into the formula of rapid change is inherent hope that rapid change can also bring positive transformation. And that’s why, even when we are scrambling to keep the plates spinning and feeling overwhelmed — especially when we’re feeling that way — we need to celebrate our victories.

Cause for applause came from a surprising quarter last week when Forbes officially included Freeman on its annual list of America’s Best Employers for Women. This unsolicited accolade from such a credible source served as validation that when we act with intent, live our values, and refuse to accept the lazy, ingrained habits that excuse discrimination, we can affect positive change. The Freeman manifesto states that all employees can expect a “career experience to promote an enriching life of learning, creativity, growth, and fulfillment.” We are committed to the relentless work of ensuring equity in the way people are hired, compensated, and afforded opportunities for promotion — regardless of age, gender identity, race, or any other point of differentiation.

We are not ready to declare absolute victory in the fight to ensure diversity and equity at Freeman. But as an organization grounded in design thinking, we know that diversity is critical to success in an industry that demands innovation. This affirmation encourages us to push harder. And on a larger scale, it is a welcome reminder that the seemingly thankless task of tilling the soil today may bear fruit sooner than we think. Until then, we would do well to stay focused on promoting growth. And let’s make time to celebrate each green shoot.

What’s your manifesto?

Recently, while attending an event at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, I participated in a client workshop that was facilitated by our Chief Design Officer, Bruce Mau. We were talking about the value of creating manifestos to articulate what’s important to us as companies, as business leaders, and as regular people taking up space on the planet. We shared the Freeman Manifesto, but that was just by way of example. In fact, Bruce shared a more impressive manifesto – written by a grandmother for her grandchildren. She wanted these loved ones to understand what was important to her; she wanted them to benefit from some of her life lessons.

North Star

It blew us away. And then Bruce challenged us – he gave us three minutes to create our own personal manifesto. Personal. The point of a manifesto, of course, is to make a public declaration of one’s beliefs and intentions. We all quickly realized that, by making our personal intentions public, we could be held accountable. I found this experience somewhat intimidating, but very powerful. We only had three minutes, so there was no time for posturing or bloviating.

Here’s what I wrote:

I will fail and keep trying… I will offer unconditional love to those who do the same. Be vulnerable. Be honest.    

Yeah, it’s short and simple. Just over 20 words. Shorter than many of my tweets. But it’s pretty much how I feel about life. I want to be open to new challenges, take risks, and not be over-afraid of failure. And I want to give other people the same safe space to try new things and grow.

As we went around the room and shared our personal manifestos, it was a beautiful moment. We cut through the hubris—the need to feel cool or important. These manifestos were totally honest. They were vulnerable—a bit aspirational. It was as if, at that one moment in time, we could all point to our own personal North Star. It was a moment of pure clarity regarding the one true thing about what we’re trying to do, about what really matters to us.

So, how about you? What’s your manifesto? How do you intend to approach today’s assignments, your long-term goals, your life? What matters to you? Can you point to your North Star?

Do yourself this favor—write down your manifesto and share it with the people you love. Post it on Facebook if that’s your thing. Just do it. Now.

You have three minutes.