What the “sea of blue jackets” teaches us about shared values

A reflection from Donna Moenning about the 2018 National FFA Convention

Donna MoenningIndianapolis was a “sea of blue” in mid-October as more than 65,000 FFA members and guests gathered for the 91st National FFA Convention. The “sea of blue” refers to the beloved blue corduroy jacket that members wear as part of their official dress for FFA events. Youth, representing every state in the nation as well as Puerto Rico, converge in one place to celebrate their accomplishments, participate in career and leadership development events, and find inspiration for their next steps in the organization and their future endeavors.

For many in food and agriculture, experiencing the convention is one of the most meaningful ways to refuel your perspective for the future. I know. I attended my first National FFA Convention as a member in 1979. As an FFA mom and volunteer leader, I have been in the “sea of blue jackets” the past five years. Each time, just like the first, I leave inspired.

What is it that attracts so many to this organization and its convention every year?  What is it that equally excites a high school freshman attending the convention for the first time and a career professional who returns to help judge a leadership event?  What enables FFA members from California to easily bond with their new friends from Minnesota? And what is it that enables you to feel like family with thousands you have never met before?  It would be easy – and technically correct – to answer these questions by saying, the FFA is a dynamic youth organization that changes lives and prepares members for premier leadership, personal growth and career success through agricultural education.  Afterall, that’s what it says on the FFA website. It is simply a great organization!

However, I believe there is an even better answer and it has to do with shared values. At the heart of the organization is the FFA Creed, the foundation of what the organization believes and the values that are shared.  Written by E.M. Tiffany in 1930, the FFA Creed amazingly has only been revised twice in the history of the organization. Ask any current or past FFA member, and they can likely recite the first paragraph:

I believe in the future of agriculture, with a faith born not of words but of deeds – achievements won by the present and past generations of agriculturists; in the promise of better days through better ways, even as the better things we now enjoy have come to us from the struggles of former years.

It is the shared values expressed in the five paragraphs of the National FFA Creed that fuel this great organization, its members, alumni with the enthusiasm experienced at the National FFA Convention year after year.

Look East knows shared values can help fuel communication efforts. The success of the FFA reminds us that commonalities move people to experience a greater connection with you, your company and your brand. Our peer reviewed, and published research shows that shared values are 3 to 5 times more important in building trust than facts and information alone. That’s why we help our clients focus on identifying and communicating the values they share with their stakeholders to build trust in products, processes, people and brands.  Shared values are powerful.

American actor John Ratzenberger, who played the mailman Cliff on the TV series Cheers, said this about values, “Find people who share your values, and you’ll conquer the world together.”

That’s what is happening in the sea of blue jackets.

The National FFA Organization serves as an inspiring example to all of us of the power of shared values.  Your company, organization or farm may not have a five-paragraph creed like the FFA. That’s okay.  What you do need is to take time to identify what your values are. Write them down and use those values to guide your business decisions, empower your employees, and most importantly, share those values as you engage with others to build trust.

I predict the impact you experience will be inspiring.