The Sunshine Club

photo (14)I finally had time this week to look through our Christmas Card Basket. I have this ritual of waiting until there is a pile and spending a whole evening reading cards, Christmas stories from our friends and family warm my heart. I really get no credit for the dozens and dozens of card we get each year because as Diane sends to everyone on our lists. I stopped at this particular card because it looked like a hand painted card. Puzzled, I noticed it had the lower case letters, “mpt” in the corner. I thought how interesting is this card? It is so  classic, original and artistic rolled up in one. I opened it and there at the bottom was a signature of a very special person in my life who became my professor, mentor, boss and a life-long friend.  I have known Mary Pat for a “few years,” too many years to disclose as it may total couple-three bakers dozens.

MPT, is an amazing lady. She has an intrinsic talent for supporting those she touches in life and her work including the hundreds and hundreds of students she has taught.

As I was reminiscing about the many laugh’s and rich discussions I have enjoyed with mpt my thoughts were flooded with emotions. There is one particular story she shared that I will never forgot. I was an undergraduate student and mpt was a professor at the university. She was lecturing on how to be an effective leader. One who supports employees aligning them to work together to achieve the mission of the organization.

This one particular story she was told us one morning seemed absolutely ridiculous to me at the time. She lectured about the challenges of the organizations Sunshine Club. As an 20 year-old young man, I had no idea what she was talking about. It seemed like a silly story. She even challenged us to remember the story when we became leaders, manager or administrators in the future.

The story described how one of the most challenging tasks of the leading an organization would how to manage the Sunshine Club. I had no clue what a Sunshine Club was nor did I even care. Her story went on to discuss how good leaders have to find strategies to treat people with respect, fairness and help them feel supported. She taught us that we needed to establish ideas to recognize staff by genuinely acknowledging them for their contributions. While money rewards people, it does nothing to help them feel valued, acknowledged nor supported in their work.

Honestly, this story made perfectly no sense to me at the time.

The lack of understanding of the story, ended when I got my first position as a young manager of a team. In fact, I have been reminded of this story over and over in every leadership position that has been my responsibility. What the story, taught me is how important it is to value those you lead. The Sunshine Club was a formed to raise money to support activities, gifts and celebrations for team members. The rules of the Club were never documented, but assumed and led to all sorts of conflicts. Whose gift was bigger, who got the better flavor birthday cake, whose celebration costed more, were all the challenges of the Club.

At that time in life, it all seemed irrelevant. Later in life I realized the exercise of having staff self govern the Club was all about camaraderie, team work, acknowledgment, change, challenge and of course celebration. The Club promoted the development of all the essential components of our high performing teams.

In the true spirit of Christmas, this hand painted card served as the symbol of a legacy. The Sunshine Club story is a gift of wisdom from mpt. A gift that keeps giving, year after year after year.

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