Focus on the Ordinary. It’s Where Beauty and Magic are Made.
My feelings about social media are slightly complicated. I love being connected with people from all different phases of my life. I really enjoy seeing their kids grow up, cheering them on when they accomplish doing the dishes or their lifelong dream. I also share in their grief when things don’t work out the way they had planned. Those things focus on the ordinary and feel “normal” to me and it’s quite possible that’s just where I feel safe.
My struggle is when social media distorts success and fame. It’s a strange time when “being known” on a social platform is equated with the highest level of success. This “get famous – grow your company – super big and fast” culture FEELS like modern-day success but many times it is fleeting. I’ve seen numerous companies and influencers jump on the scene with full gusto but then before I can blink they have disappeared. I’m not saying failure, or a change of course, is bad but I do think the focus has been wrong.
It’s hard to not measure yourself on the social media success meter. Even my kids are looking at their likes, loves, and followers. It’s not that having a lot of followers and influence is bad but the obsession is overrated.
Really, it is.
Like, whoa, friends.
Let’s just settle the eff down.
Instead of the fast path, might I suggest the long road? Or better yet, the ordinary life?
When I started Eleanor I didn’t have a plan for fast growth or to have 500 employees…. and I still don’t. I simply wanted to do the work, create a caring culture, and to help companies create better brands. People often ask me why I named my company Eleanor. I usually respond with the same couple of lines:
She was my grandmother. The best grandmother, or quite possibly an angel – you decide
She was the consistent good in my life
She always showed up and extended the grace I needed
And Eleanor is a strong female name – and lord knows, it’s ok to let the ladies lead
As the years have gone by, I couldn’t be more proud of my decision to call my company Eleanor. I’ve learned that her ordinary ways were actually quite extraordinary. That her dedication to ALL things throughout her life, taught me the best lessons on leading a team and loving people well. Since you all didn’t come here for a novel, I’ll keep this short and sweet — just like my grandmother — and share with you a few of the lifetime leadership lessons that I plan to carry with me forever.
1. Love your team with all your ❤️
My grandmother LOVED the Huskers. She wasn’t a loud and crazy fan, she was a consistent fan. She didn’t start praying for a win if they were down but she did quietly slip out of the room to put on more red ;-). She limited her criticism and was always quick to remind people that they were only kids and with some good coaching everything would be alright.
My grandmother only had four grandchildren and we were her team. She faithfully cut out newspaper clippings and sent them to us in the mail. She cherished sharing updates about my cousins and welcomed us into her home any time we wanted to visit.
My grandmother didn’t have an endless circle of friends. She wasn’t a socialite and she didn’t spend her days networking with others BUT she did love her team with every fiber of her being.
Leading your team and loving your team, whoever they are — kids, employees, volunteers, clients — requires constant attention. The one thing I’ve learned is that many things can be scaled but relationships aren’t one of them. You have to figure out who your “team” is and how you can love them individually and as a whole. As a boss, I’ve carved out individual time for my employees. I also let them select unique benefits that are a blessing to them (a housecleaner, gym memberships, etc.). I have them take their Gallup strengths so I can figure out the right way to communicate with them and the right roles for them. I also remind myself that I have a lot to offer them but they have so much to offer me.
Loving your team takes knowing your team — which simply takes time. This time will build trust and over the years it will turn into something more magical than you could have ever anticipated.
2. Find a Way to Show Up
My grandmother lived in the village of Silver Creek. It’s a tiny town with about 350 residents and I still have the fondest memories of my time there. While I had the privilege of seeing my grandmother on a regular basis, she also found another beautiful way to show up in my life.
Every week, I received a handwritten letter from Silver Creek, Nebraska. No joke. She wrote me a letter every week for as long as I can remember. Thankfully, I still have the majority of the letters with the kindest words and stories from her.
In the letters, she celebrated my achievements, talked about the weather (because Nebraska, obvs), gave me family updates, occasionally gave me advice and most letters closed with a loving reminder that she was praying for me. She showed up in the way that allowed me to realize that she loved me dearly, gave me space to be my unique self, and that if I needed advice I could always turn to her.
Figuring out how to show up for your team isn’t a canned approach. You may be a boss that travels, you might have to work from home, or you may spend 8-hours a day together in the same room but no matter what, you have to show up in a way that they can see you. What I learned from my grandmother, was that I needed to show up for my people but allow them to use their strengths to write their own story. As a business owner, I’m continually giving guidance, steering the ship, setting expectations but they need their space to thrive.
3. Pay Attention, Darling
I was lucky enough to have 34 years with my grandmother. In that time, I never once felt like she was distracted and not paying attention to my theatrics, latest life update, or my newest attempt to run for some sort of student council office.
It didn’t matter if I dropped in on her for one night or if I decided to stay for a week, she was ready for me. Ready to listen, talk, play rummy or feed my never-ending cravings.
As a boss and a mother, this is quite possibly one of my top 500 struggles. But she reminds me to be present. Close the laptops during team meetings, take time to schedule one-to-ones with my core team, and to listen well when my people need me.
4. Consistency is Your Friend
When I started Eleanor in 2008, I chose the name Eleanor because my grandmother was my consistent light. It was also a strong female name and in an industry that is typically led by men, I wanted to bring a woman’s voice to the table.
As the years pass, I think about how my grandmother’s consistency has really played out with this company. When I started, I didn’t have a fancy office or a team of employees. I simply had a few clients and work. Every day, I got up and did the work. There was nothing flashy about anything I did nor was I posting regularly to social media to tell people about my wins. For me, I was grateful for the work that I had and I wanted nothing more than to help my clients be successful. Eleanor Creative continues to gain trust in our market. Our company became known as a team of excellent branding, designers, and marketers but it wasn’t because of our own self-promotion. It was simply because we did great work, consistently, year-after-year.
It’s really about the long game, friends. The relationships that you can carry with you from decade to decade. The employees that you can nurture from year to year, and the growth that you can have within yourself to stay consistent even when the storms you weather feel like more than you can bear.
My grandmother, Eleanor, is at the heart of what I do. I’m thankful that I learned from an early age that it’s hard work, humility and people — not things, not your status, and not your facebook likes that matter. If you focus on the ordinary, take the time to know people and love them well, to do the work and learn, you are on the best track to creating something beautiful.