Birthday Week

My red-headed uncle kept telling his red-headed sister, my mom, that she would have a red-headed child on the Fourth of July. He was close. I was born at 5:30 a.m. on the fifth of July meaning this is my birthday week. Because I was almost born on the 4th of July, most of my birthday parties have taken place on the fourth. In my early years, I was pretty sure all the fireworks were for me. They weren’t, but I still had good birthday parties.

The other reason my birthday parties were good was because my dad made great birthday cakes – among all the other spectacular items he baked over the years. I remember a six-layer rainbow cake. I think I was four that year. There were a couple of years where the cakes were decorated like the American flag. And then somewhere along the way, my day developed “The Cake”. The Cake was his own recipe for which he won either the Oklahoma State Fair or the Pilsbury Bake-off. He won both in the 1960s, the only man in either competition. I can never remember which was for the cake and which was for the chocolate torte. Once he developed this amazingly rich and wonderful chocolate cake with chocolate mint icing, it was the only cake we wanted for years. It’s still my favorite cake.

Eventually, my dad admitted his favorite cake was Italian Cream Cake. I can make both now, though I struggle to make the three-layer chocolate cake stand tall. The last time I made the Italian Cream cake for my dad’s birthday, he told me I “had this one down”, a high compliment.

Paying attention to birthdays is one of those leadership things that can be fraught. Some people truly don’t want their birthdays publicly recognized. Maybe they don’t have happy birthday memories or they don’t like aging, or any number of reasons, but no cake, no cookies, no celebration. One of my colleagues was at the other end of the spectrum. He spent the month making sure people knew when his birthday was on the horizon. Woe betide the person who didn’t remember his day. But at least he made certain we all knew it was important. It’s worse when that’s a secret.

Then there’s the internal dynamic. Does each component celebrate individual birthdays on the specific date or should it be done as a large scale event on a date that isn’t an actual birthday? Birthdays are just one example of the challenges of paying attention to the needs of staff and colleagues. But as challenging as it is, It’s still one of the important components of leadership. Do you know the birthday preferences of the members of your team? It may not be the most important things to know, but it’s a start.

Happy 4th of July to you all. I hope your holiday is just the way you like it.

Take care,


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