We’ve all heard the expression “put your John Hancock on it.” Most of us know this comes from the very distinctive, first signature we see on the actual Declaration of Independence.
This week we’ll be celebrating Independence Day, that fourth day of July in 1776 when John Hancock, President of the Continental Congress, signed the Declaration with a very large, distinctive signature. The actual original document only had his signature and that of Charles Thomson. Myth has it that he signed it in a large way because he didn’t want the king "to have to put on his spectacles to see it.”
Putting Your Name on It. Many businesses have programs where team members sign or mark their work. We see it often with product manufacturers. Steve Jobs insisted on many teams signing or marking the insides of Apple products because he wanted to inspire his people to make excellent products and take personal responsibility for their work.
Often when I buy clothes, I take a slip of paper out of a pocket that tells me either who made or inspected the piece. I remember an episode of Monk when Monk, a detective character with OCD (Obsessive-compulsive disorder), would only buy a shirt made by a person with a certain number on the slip he retrieved from the pocket. He searched stores for his favorite brand and his favorite “number” and visualized in his mind what the person looked like. Yes, of course, a mystery developed that forced him to find the person.
Most of us don’t make products, but we do produce tangible items - voice mail, e-mail, Facebook posts, Tweets, and text messaging, to name a few. Every time we produce these items we are making our mark, we are putting our “John Hancock” on them. We should ask ourselves, “if a wider audience heard or saw this work, would I be proud of it and stand behind my work?”
Taking Personal Responsibility. Some products are fairly simple to mark. But what about more intangible actions, which account for most of our efforts? I think we put our “John Hancock” on intangible efforts when we take personal responsibility. I sometimes imagine there is a visual tag on my intangible work with my name on it. This helps remind me how important it is to do excellent work, even when it isn’t visible.
There are many intangible actions performed by leaders. Some important ones include:
- Connecting all of your team’s activity to satisfying the needs of your customers;
- Selecting the right people for your team;
- Clarifying personal objectives and showing people how their objectives connect to your organization’s mission;
- Inspiring team members to do their best; and
- Consistently using your core values to guide your behavior.
As you celebrate the 4th of July this week remember how proud John Hancock was to put his signature on the Declaration of Independence and how ready he was to stand behind it. Then make your own declaration to pridefully put your “John Hancock” on all your work.