“You have all the responsibility in the world”

– J. Terry Edmonds on Youth’s responsibility in preservation of culture

Recently, I was able to speak with Former Presidential Speechwriter J. Terry Edmonds about the role that young adults play in preservation of Black history and culture. Edmonds is the first ever African American Speechwriter for the President of the United States. His credits include several speeches from President Bill Clinton on social policy (like welfare reform) and even the State of the Union Address. As a Gen Y professional with a focus on the future, I can’t help but learn as much as I can about the past. In business, the same must apply to any organization that looks to retain it’s culture when the changing of the guard happens as more Gen Y professionals begin to fill leadership positions and Baby Boomers begin to retire.

The insight that I gleaned from Edward’s comments (see video above) about preservation of ethnic culture related to corporate culture in the following ways:

Once the current regime is gone, they’re gone. Corporate culture is built through a process of establishing norms by top-level management. This process can be intentional or unintentional but it all begins and ends with what top-level leadership allows to happen. Once top-level leadership is removed, new people step in with their own ideas of how things should be run and that can mean a change in philosophy of “how things get done.”

If you don’t teach it, will it be retained? Someone who knows the culture of an organization in and out can answer two questions: how? and why? How do we carry out our culture and why do we carry out our culture. If you don’t communicate the underlying “why” for organizational culture, you’re left with employees who cannot ascribe value or worth to traditions and are more likely to change them one leadership changes.

Culture is not a mantra, it’s a living thing. I’ve always said that History and The Future are comprised of “now” moments where what you do “now” plays a part in establishing a history and creating a future. Therefore, constant practical application of cultural beliefs in the workplace must be shared between different levels of leadership or else there is less of a chance for retention.


Leadership Takeaway:  Is your organization one that truly carries the banner of your vision and leadership? In order to build an organization that carries your legacy after you leave, you have to teach the “how” and “why” of your corporate culture. This helps endear others to your passion and also allows others to step in to teach this to new hires as well. Here’s a practical example of such leadership. Jumpstart:HR offers several solutions to help coach leaders on how to be more engaging and effective in the workplace.

Human Resources Takeaway:  Are you hiring for fit as much as you do for talent? It is important to ask the questions that matter so that your organization spends less time on teaching culture than it does on being a productive and cohesive unit. I encourage you to learn how Jumpstart:HR can work with your organization to address these and other challenges.

Professional Development Takeaway: As you rise in your career it is very important that you understand organizational culture and it’s impact on office politics, procedure and workflow. Jumpstart:HR provides one-on-one coaching as well as a new book called Never Miss the Mark that focuses on career management strategies that can help you growl