Books Leadership

How to make a BIG impact – lessons from the US Constitution (and Tom Peters)

Tom Peters and Skip & Tom Today marks the 223rd anniversary of the U.S. Constitution and it reminds me of a story that Tom Peters talked about at a small gathering I attended this past spring (pictured at left - Tom Peters, Skip Falatko, Tom Hood).

This post is for anyone who serves on committees, task forces, volunteer organizations, boards, etc. inside and outside of our organizations.

Can you imagine a small group of dedicated people crafting a document that became the foundation of one of the most powerful nations in the world?

I am not talking about the big names like Hamilton or Franklin or the other founding fathers, but the few dedicated "committee members" who quietly do most of the work. You know what I am talking about. The real work of a "committee" of thirty usually gets done by a group of six. Apparently that is exactly what happened during the Summer of 1787 according to author David O. Stewart in his book by the same name.

Tom recounts the story like this (my comments in parens), "The delegates would often break early to escape the elements (if you know how bad summer in Philly can be without air conditioning), turning over the writing of some key clause to a little subcommittee that would in turn retire to a Philly pub to do their monumental work...

Delaware showed up big time and sent five representatives - and the five were present every damn day from the opening bell to the closing bell. And they voted on every-damn-thing, and because of their numbers - 5 out of 30 on the floor average that summer-ended up volunteering for many, many a crucial sub-committee assignment. Wee Delaware's impact on the final document is stratospheric.

There's the "little BIG thing" called "showing up," Delaware style, and then there's, um, "showing up"..."

It is also about how GREAT things happen everyday in our own organizations. We charter committees and task forces of "volunteers" to tackle new challenges and opportunities, mostly outside of their "real" jobs. This is often the work that turns ideas into action and often makes a huge difference in our organizations and beyond. That is the story of the US Constitution - thirty people over a few weeks during a hot and humid summer in Philadelphia changed the world. Five of them from our little sister to the northeast, Delaware.

How are you helping your people to "show up" and empowering them to make the little BIG things happen?

Here is to all of the volunteers who show up in our organizations everyday to do the little BIG things that make us all a little more excellent every day! Here is to the "Wee" state of Delaware! and here is to all of the drafters of the US Constitution! Thanks for showing up!

To inspire you and your people to show up Delaware Style, read Tom Peter's handbook on EXCELLENCE, The Little Big Things - 163 Ways to Pursue Excellence and read the Delaware story on pg xxiiii - xxiv and page 136-137 #50 Show Up! (It's a Start.).

P.S. The Summer of 1787 is a fascinating read and can be considered a handbook for anybody leading or serving on a committee who wants to be inspired that great things can come from the often seemingly mundane work of those "voluntary" jobs we take on, inside and outside our organizations.

Check out Tom's blog and follow him on twitter

The "Little BIG Things" synopsis series

See our posts from CPA Success Tom Peters, nice guy and Have you had E-N-O-U-G-H?

Tom Peters on social media: It's a relationship economy, stupid!

Oh and by the way, Happy Constitution Day!


Team BLIOnline