Can you be a Leader at a wedding?

This May, I had the fortune (or misfortune, haha) to attend two of my cousins weddings. Now for those of you who don’t know, South Asian weddings are several days long of various ceremonies and family dinner parties and such. So all in all, I was booked for 8 full evenings! But while there I noticed that there were great examples of leadership, both in terms of what some people did and what they could have done.

Leadership to me is not always about the big things like “I planned a rally to raise $10,000 for Africa”. That is awesome if you can do it, but leadership is also about the small things. So at the weddings I observed, I practiced, and I appreciated a variety of examples.

Wedding Leadership 101

1) Help the moms, kids, and older folks get their meals first. You can wait. 

It was odd to see all these men pushing through the buffet line to get at the food first. I saw one kid with his mom telling her what he wanted and she was trying to manage 2 plates, her kids, and these pushy folks. Relax people, the food will still be there and they’ll even refresh it.

2) Make sure the kids are okay, safe and know where their parents are, even if they aren’t yours

There are hundreds of people and tons of kids around playing. Everytime I lost track of Nyal, I would search for him and ask my niece Syrah and my nephew Asif (they are 16 year old twins) if they had seen him. To my delight they immediately dropped what they were doing with their friends and helped me look for him. Throughout the evening they would even check in with me to let me know he was okay and was with them.

3)  If you can take the time to get a card and write a cheque, you can take the time to write a nice note

Nowadays most wedding invites audaciously say “No Boxed Gifts”, but that is a topic for another discussion. So you get a card, write a cheque and maybe say something brief in the card like “Congrats!” or “All the best” or maybe even 1-2 sentences. From my own wedding, I can honestly only remember three things. Those who gave us way too much money, those who got unique (good or bad) gifts, and most importantly those who said really compelling things in the card. Take the time to reflect on the history of your friendship or what the couple means to you. These words are forever etched in writing and bring positive sense of connection everytime they are opened.

4) Those awkward looking people at that table could really enjoy someone to talk to. 

We were at a table with someone we didn’t know. They seemed to not know anyone. I could have just focused on my kids, but I brought them into the conversation and next thing you know they were engaging my kids and talking about their own older kids. Anytime during a wedding you can scan around and see people sitting patiently but awkwardly. Help them out and start a conversation, find out how they are connected to the wedding. Your actions will help them feel more connected. I saw a group of non-south asians sitting together who were lost because they had no idea what was going on up onstage during a cultural ceremonial game. So I went over and helped them out.

5) If you see anyone waiting to talk to you or take a picture with you, please honour their waiting

Leadership also applies to the guests of honour, whether you are bride, groom, best man, or parent, etc. Too often guests spend very little time with or have access to the wedding couple. They sit way back at table #47 with people they don’t know, and all they want is a picture with you. Please give them that courtesy and take the time to talk with them and acknowledge their presence.

6) You have every right to be the belle of the ball, so long as you don’t ignore the needs of your guests

Bridezillas aside, at your wedding people want to feel connected so try and find ways to do help them. This can come through the ceremony, photos, dancing, visiting tables, receiving lines, speeches or just taking the time to have a conversation with every guest that attends. Even creative methods of having games or memorable events can help. Guests don’t get much, but we should try to accomodate their needs and expectations a little bit.

KEY TAKEAWAY

Leadership is about the small things. It’s about making connections. It’s about investing in the moment, the people, and relationship. So make the most of it whether you are getting married, helping with the events, or just going as a guest.

The Mother’s Connection

Happy Mother’s Day! A perfect time for reflection, but the question is what do we reflect on and how? In my case, I fell under the spell of the old adage “Just wail till you have kids…”.  I have seen first hand what my wife Ananda does and why she is a terrific mother. I also understand more of what my mother Imtiaz (“Ammi”) did for me.

It starts with the first big thing, which is carrying a baby for 9 months. That is quite an amazing amount of time to go through such incredible physical changes and emotional rollercoasters. Everything is harder, heavier, and squishier. You can’t stand for too long, your bladder can’t last too long, and your muscles ache for so long. But oh the joy when that little bundle of joy comes to change your life dramatically.

Then it’s all the small things. Whenever my mom made chicken curry, she would let me have all the ‘fun’ pieces (like the leg, thigh, or wing) while she ate the ‘bad’ pieces. I would fall asleep in my mom’s lap with her hands clasped around my tummy and she would sit there for hours, part enjoyment, part letting me sleep, part hoping I will fall into a deep slumber. Meanwhile her legs go numb. My mom always had something amazing for me to eat and now I know how long it takes to make all those curries, pastas, desserts and breads all from scratch. My mom would laugh at all the crazy things I’d say, she’d laugh at my jokes even if she had no idea what I was saying, and everytime I slipped, tripped, or fell she would say a little ‘bismillah’ prayer for me. Lastly, when I was in the hospital, she would stay with me and give a long goodnight by holding my head and stroking my hair, even though I was now in grade 9. I loved it, and still do today.

Then I saw the big things. My wife Ananda completely transformed the way she lived her life for our little Nyal and Ryah. She researched every aspect of every thing and went to the pre-natal classes able to answer to any question the instructor had. She spend day and night, 24/7 catering to every little need of our baby for months on end, while always praising the joy she felt was far beyond any inconvenience. She taught me that being a good ‘mom’ is about doing what’s best for the child and not what’s best for me. She created excel sheets that planned out the entire organic food preparation from months 6-12. She looked into all facets of our kids development and growth, even planning what schools and daycares to attend 1-year, 2-years, and 5-years away. She inspires me on a daily basis.

Then there are the things we don’t realize. Mom’s will lay bare their body and soul whenever their child needs it, to the point where they don’t care they are in the middle of the TTC…up goes the shirt to feed. Mom’s will get up in the middle of the night, no matter how tired they are, if they hear their child needs something. Mom’s will catch spit-up food or even vomit in their bare hands. Mom’s will eat all the leftover cold, disrupted food. Mom’s will bring another child (or more!) to add to the already hectic number of balls she is juggling. Mom’s let spit, tub splashes, poo and pea infiltrate their wardrobes. Mom’s take the risk to get bitten. Mom’s risk never looking the same or living the same again. Mom’s allow dozens, nay hundreds of people telling them how to raise their kids or what to do, and just continue to do what they do best….which is to do what they think is best for their kids.

I cannot get over how much my mom did for me. I look with wonder at how much my kids benefit from their mom. Mom’s are the first connection, the most important connection, and the best connection we will ever have. So cherish it, remember it, and honour it.

Thanks Ammi. Thanks Lolli. Thanks to my mommy friends.

Happy Mother’s Day!!

Sharing touchy subjects that connections disagree with

One of the best things about an election are people discussing all the various political issues of the day. I have really enjoyed all the dialogues on Facebook and Twitter and I love commenting too, even if I am disagreeing with a friend. I am actually going to miss it. I myself am pretty passionate about politics, but I realize that some people may not connect with what I am saying. or worse, they may feel that this disconnect brings up a question of “do I want to stay friends with this person”?  Should that stop me or you from talking about how we feel?  No, because as many of my Rules of Connection state, you really should be true to yourself and speak passionately about what is in your heart and mind.

Now of course there are better ways to do it. Touchy subjects like politics, religion, and personal hygiene require some basic principles from kindergarten that I am sure we can all remember (no name-calling, listen, take turns, politeness). I have found a few connections in my life who have vastly different politics and values than me, and yet we consider ourselves good friends. Those of you in that group (you know who you are), I applaud you. The true connections can tell the difference with the intentions of what you say and why you say it. They will see the genuine and authentic you.

It takes courage to give an opinion that you KNOW people will not like. But it takes even more courage to accept, acknowledge, and try to understand that different point of view when engaged in a discussion. So please keep sharing! By thinking, reflecting, and sharing, we can all find growth.

Have a great week!

p.s. I have tagged some of you who have shared the last month. Thank you!