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Signing the Declaration of Independence: The First Dysfunctional Meeting

The First Dysfunctional Meeting, 4th July 1776

The signing of the Declaration of Independence was the first dysfunctional meeting.  What can we learn about our meetings from how their meeting went?

Listen to the podcast here:    

“The First Dysfunctional Meeting”   

Karla Nelson:  And welcome to the People Catalyst podcast, Allen Fahden. 

Allen Fahden:  Hello Karla. 

Karla Nelson:  Greetings Sir. And Happy Fourth of July! 

Allen Fahden:  And Happy Fourth of July to you too. 

Karla Nelson:  Even though this is not really Fourth of July we recorded this before fourth cause we’re out watching fireworks and eating hamburgers and hot dogs, so…. 

Allen Fahden:  Bang, bang, bang, bang, bang, bang, bang, bang, bang. Was that convincing?  

Karla Nelson:  Yeah, there you go. But we definitely wanted to reach out and wish everyone a Happy Fourth of July. And as everyone knows, that July 4, 1776 was the signing of the Declaration of Independence. And it marks a, just a fortunate, you know we’re all fortunate that that date happened and we’re gonna talk a little bit about that and living in this country and having the freedoms that we do. The opportunities to pursue our dreams and one of them, you know the freedom of speech is pretty important for us, Allen. 

Allen Fahden:  Oh absolutely. We rely on that.  

Karla Nelson:  Especially for you. 

Allen Fahden:  We couldn’t do this podcast in several countries. 

Karla Nelson:  Yeah, no, good point, good point. So, very fortunate for this country and to live in this country. However, we are going to dive into some interesting thing in regards to the signing of the Declaration of Independence which we refer to as the first dysfunctional meeting.  

Allen Fahden:  Yes, and why was that a dysfunctional meeting? Well, think about your own meetings. Does everything go just perfectly well and everybody agrees and you’re done in about ten minutes and everybody’s excited about what you’re gonna do? Nah! 

Karla Nelson:  Oh come on…. 

Allen Fahden:  So, let’s go back to 1776 and only about a third of the people who were meeting on the Declaration of Independence were for the revolution. There were a third of them who were against the revolution, they wanted to stay with the British. And then there was 30, another third of the people, who just didn’t want their names mentioned anyway. I would say that’s a lot more like the meetings we have today. 

Karla Nelson:  Very true 

Allen Fahden:  So, I have a quiz for you, okay?  

Karla Nelson:  Okay 

Allen Fahden:  What day, what date is Christmas on?  

Karla Nelson:  December 25th 

Allen Fahden:  Okay. What day is Valentine’s Day on? 

Karla Nelson:  February 14th 

Allen Fahden:  And what day is the Fourth of July on? 

Karla Nelson:  Hahaha. Fourth of July?  

Allen Fahden:  Yes. No! 

Karla Nelson:  August 2nd.  

Allen Fahden:  August 2nd. I had you fooled there for a minute. 

Karla Nelson:  That’s what we’re gonna talk about today. I’m just kidding ya 

Allen Fahden:  Duh! Fourth of July. It’s actually August 2nd. 

Karla Nelson:  Well, we’re gonna talk a little bit about why and walk through that because most people don’t know these interesting facts about the first dysfunctional meeting, is that, and we’ll go through the timeline on that, so July 1st the colonies voted and it was twelve to thirteen because New York had to get approval from all the business people, which doesn’t really make a lot of sense, by the way. 

Allen Fahden:  That sounds like one of our everyday meetings today too, doesn’t it?  

Karla Nelson:  Oh, good point! 

Karla Nelson:  Yeah, I can’t do it. 

Karla Nelson:  And then July 3rd, they actually took two entire days, they might have done 24 hour days. I couldn’t tell by texts that we were doing with our research on this, but it seems like, they said they deliberated for two days and it was the early morning of the second day, so….Those crazies might have sat in the room and there were five of them. They put a committee together of five and it took two days to edit and then on, and then with those edits, they deleted and revised a whole bunch of the text and then it wasn’t until the ninth of July that New York actually voted cause they needed a 100% vote. And then on August 2nd, they finally, everyone signed the Declaration of Independence. So, Allen, why don’t you talk a little bit about the edits and you know, how it was written and what happened there.  

Allen Fahden:  So, Ben Franklin and John Adams made a lot of the edits. They left the preamble to the declaration alone but then they took especially about twenty percent of the declaration itself after Jefferson had written it, did a lot of edits and submitted the edits, two days worth, and then most of them didn’t get used. 

Karla Nelson:  Isn’t that a typical thing? We went in, and how does that make everyone feel? Now, of course, we’re using this as a real funny parody to a meeting, but how often does that actually happen in a meeting? Where you go in, you give people kind of authority, they had a committee of five, they spent two days, probably 24 hours a day maybe taking a couple naps here and there. And then you don’t use them. 

Allen Fahden:  Typical 

Karla Nelson:  Yeah, what I think is interesting about that is, didn’t Jefferson go back in, and he was the one that didn’t adopt, right? And he went back to the original writing of it, right?  

Allen Fahden:  It was a little bit unclear, but it pretty much seemed that way. Just a little aside, Jefferson and Adams didn’t like each other very much. And the irony was, you know what date they both died on? They both died on the same day. 

Karla Nelson:  That is so bizarre. And it was the 50th anniversary of the signing. 

Allen Fahden:  July 4th, fifty years later. They both died on the same day. They weren’t speaking to each other, I guess. And so, how ironic is that, that they both died on July 4th, fifty years later. 

Karla Nelson:  Interesting. What are the odds of that? Let’s talk a little bit about this, July 1st is the original vote and it’s not until August 2nd that the signings happen but, what’s really interesting is the two people that never signed it. 

Allen Fahden:  Yeah, and this is fun because one of them, Robert R. Livingston, was on that committee of five and he wound up not signing it. A whole bunch of, obviously. 

Karla Nelson:  He was probably ticked a lot of his edits didn’t get.. 

Allen Fahden:  Probably right. But it’s interesting because Livingston, on the Mover, Shaker, Prover, Makers was probably a Prover because his statement, when he didn’t sign was that “This independence from Britain thing was probably premature”, you know, meaning,  “it’s not really thought out. It’s got a lot wrong with it.” So that would be a typical kind of a Prover response. And the John Dickinson was the other guy and he wanted to stay with the British and he was just uncomfortable with the whole thing and he said it like, “I don’t even know why we’re doing this” and he wanted to reconcile with Britain because there had been fighting and so forth. So, that’s a typical kind of a Maker response which is like, “I don’t even want to do this. Why are we doing this? So much change. I’m getting uncomfortable here.” 

Karla Nelson:  Yeah, and as we know Makers don’t want to be in the meeting in the first place. 

Allen Fahden:  That’s right.  

Karla Nelson:  Just like, sit quiet, don’t make any sudden moves cause I don’t want anything to change anyway.  So, why don’t you review the timeline again cause I think this is a real fun and interesting fact. We learned a lot, actually, doing this. We wanted to reach out to the listeners and say Happy Fourth of July, make this a really super short podcast, and share some interesting facts. So, we’ve learned a lot, we hope you have too. But, Allen, if you want to review that quick timeline cause I think it’s so interesting.  

Allen Fahden:  Timeline, so, is actually Richard Henry Lee that proposed the independence from Britain and it wasn’t getting a lot of traction at the time, but all through June they debated it and they fought like cats and dogs. And so, when they met on July 1st, they voted. 

Karla Nelson:  Okay, you just brought that into the timeline too, so listen to this, an entire month actually happened before July 1st.  

Allen Fahden:  That’s right. 

Karla Nelson:  Does that sound like a typical… 

Allen Fahden:  And they voted twelve out of thirteen of the colonies voted to pursue independence and, of course, New York didn’t have permission so they had to kind of, they kind of had to wait until New York went back to delegation and got permission from the powers that be in your state. Ran home to mommy to get permission. Now, of course, it didn’t help that they had a hundred British warships in New York Harbor. 

Karla Nelson:  That could have had something to do with it. 

Allen Fahden:  So, on July 3rd, this is when they, Jefferson brought back his text that he’d been working on and that’s when they did two days worth of edits, at least a day and a half well into July 4th. So, then they had revised about a fifth of the text and then on July 4th they pretty much deleted the revisions and then they made plans to, you know they had to get the thing printed up. It was just all scribbled, Jefferson just scribbled the thing on a piece of paper, it was all messed up and so they had to get it hand lettered on parchment and that would take a couple weeks. So they went off to do that on the more like the original Jefferson version. And then on the ninth of July, New York finally voted it in and then they waited for the document and they got everybody together on the second. And John Hancock signed it first. 

Karla Nelson:  Yeah, everyone’s seen that one 

Allen Fahden:  They wanted, he was actually the president of the Continental Congress. He wanted the King George, with his weak eyesight, to see his signature. And then a bunch more of them signed it, I think four of five of them signed it later. And of course, Livingston and Dickinson didn’t sign it at all, so it went unsigned on their… 

Karla Nelson:  What a great story! And think about that incredible document obviously, you know, two and a half months….there’s a whole bunch of history obviously behind that that we won’t go into here. But we thought that was a fun parody of the first dysfunctional meeting, so 

Allen Fahden:  And they’ve just gotten worse today. 

Karla Nelson:  They’ve gotten way worse because they had a big why. When 70% of people hate their jobs, how big do you think that why is in that meeting room? We talk about engagement, well, they were really engaged. At least the 33% that were completely committed were. Just completely, and a big reason why it got voted in was, and we just did a podcast on Simon Sinek “Start With Why”, is that there was a ton of inspiration and they didn’t want to be repressed anymore and taxed by the British. You can go back and listen to that podcast as well and how that inspiration of desire of freedom. And we talk about employee engagement, well, you’re sitting in a stinking.. that’s freedom. We’re just sticking in a boring room talking about the marketing strategy or something. 

Allen Fahden:  Making the logo bigger. 

Karla Nelson:  Exact, making the logo, exactly. So, anyway, we just wanted to wish you a Happy Fourth of July. 

Allen Fahden:  Happy Fourth! Listen to those fireworks! Bang, bang, bang, bang, bang, bang 

Karla Nelson:  And, by the way, if you want to go ahead and listen to a previous podcast that we recorded you can go to thepeoplecatalyst.com and look for episode 27. Happy Fourth my friends. 

Allen Fahden:  Happy Fourth or August, Happy August 2nd.  

Karla Nelson:  Happy August 2nd.  

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