Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Professional Integrity

MLKThere will be a lot written today about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his amazing and important legacy in fighting for the God given rights every person in the world deserves, regardless of their ethnicity, race, religion, color, gender, sexual orientation, etc.

I can’t imagine living in a United States that was segregated like it was before the brave men women like Dr. King, Medgar Evers and Rosa Parks brought the Civil Rights issues in America to the world stage, many of them paying extremely high prices, sometimes even giving their own lives in the process.

The ultimate speech Dr. King gave was obviously his “I Have a Dream” speech, one that has been recounted and praised by people much smarter than me. The content of that speech was inspiring.  What I found even more interesting though was that the structure of the speech was equally poetic.

One of my favorite books is on the art of communication by Nancy Duarte called Resonate It is a must have for anyone in AV I’d say, as knowing how great communication happens will only enhance and give some relevance to the type of products we develop and AV systems that we design. In Resonate, Duarte artfully defines the structure of great speeches and presentations, showing the similarities in great communications throughout the decades in everything from Jobs iPhone launch, to the Gettysburg Address, to Dr. King’s I Have a Dream speech. (See the Duarte “sparkline” to see the full transcript and structure of Dr. King’s masterpiece).

So it seems that Dr. King was not only an amazing speaker, but a skilled speech writer as well. There was a method behind his passion that made him one of the best, and made this speech so special. And that is where I’d like to step in and offer up Dr. King’s thoughts on professional integrity.

Of course this could be applied to any person, in any occupation, anywhere in the world, but I’d like to offer it up specifically to the AV community for reflection, and perhaps some inspiration.

Many times we see our roles as somewhat subordinate or not as important maybe as some others. Maybe because it is not the position we really aspire to, we let our lack of passion for the role itself affect the fulfillment of those duties.  For those who find themselves in this position, rather frequently or infrequently, I offer up the words of Dr. King that I find inspiring:

“If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.”

People notice passion. They remember follow through, attention to detail, and pride in workmanship. I have seen this pride in workmanship take an individual at a $100MM integration firm from the engineering department to the President’s desk. I have seen that same pride in workmanship take someone from the warehouse to being in charge of all vendor relationships and product selection for another.

I will never forget a phone call I received while working for one of my former integrators. Our technicians had made a mistake on an install that seemed directly related to apathy and laziness. They were given the opportunity to go back and correct their mistake, and were sent back to the customer’s home to rectify the situation.  They finished and left.  Not an hour later I received a call from the customer, as they had again taken a shortcut and left the job finished improperly.  It was quite an embarrassing call and I still remember the way he started:

“Mark, Let me tell you a little something about Professional Integrity”

OUCH!!!  There was nothing I could say to defend us that day, as there was no excuse for the actions of my install team, other than a severe lack of pride in their own workmanship.

I challenge us all to take Dr. King’s words to heart, doing our jobs even as “Michelangelo painted”.  I know I could heed that advice more myself, and just think how much better we could perform as an industry if we all took that to heart!  (I offered up some resolutions to this effect at the beginning of the year).

God Bless Dr. King’s legacy today and let the world continue to recognize his contributions to our country and the world.  His inspiration can only continue to move us forward both personally and professionally.