A Good Home

7 Fixes for Our Dysfunctional Royal Family

Yes, my friends: Canada is a constitutional monarchy — one of 4 “core Westminster states” headed by Queen Elizabeth — so it’s “our” royal family too!

Blog Photo - QE on Cdn money 4

And no — I wasn’t always an author and journalist. For years, I was an organizational change leader, working with media executives whose organizations were going through big changes, including crises such as the newest one facing the royal family. 

Early this  morning, I drafted a few thoughts about how “The Firm” can be run better. Please read it with a critical eye and tell me what you think. Warning: You’ve not seen me do this kind of writing before, and likely won’t again!

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The new crisis threatening the royal family – Prince Harry and Duchess Meghan’s public announcement that they plan to partially withdraw from their roles as senior royals – has caused widespread alarm in the family and among people who believe it still has an important role to play in the modern world.

I’m not here to debate that latter point. I’m arguing that this crisis was entirely preventable. 

Emerging from the many stories about the divisions, jealousy and infighting between the palaces is a second picture. We are seeing glimpses of a royal family mired in secrecy and inept management and locked in a tug of war — between ancient rules, warring parties and an urgent imperative to adapt.

It’s an organization that is badly led and managed, and one blatantly lacking the plan, skills and knowledge that could have prevented this crisis.

Blog Photo - QE on Canadian money 3

Queen Elizabeth, monarch of the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand (‘the 4 core Westminster states’) and titular head of the 53 nation Commonwealth, has ordered her team to resolve the crisis — not just for the good of negotiations with Harry and Meghan, but to prevent similar crises in future generations of royals.

The problem, however, is that the royal family has demonstrated that it is a dysfunctional team. And while it may call itself ‘The Firm’, it’s becoming clearer by the day that it’s a poorly-run organization with big cracks in its foundation. It urgently needs to bring in the skills and knowledge it lacks.

 If the royal family hasn’t already hired an expert in strategic planning and team-building, it had better do so immediately.

If it doesn’t have expertise in how to bend archaic rules that favour one child over all others and relegate siblings to non-entity status, it needs to acquire such skills today.

And if, as seems evident, it does not have a real leader, it needs to designate one now. With crisis after crisis taking place on her watch in just a few months, the queen has lost the confidence of some onlookers; more and more of them are suggesting that she is now unfit to be monarch. The situation is untenable.

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To anyone who knows anything about teams and organizations, the warning signs are clear.

First, the royal family  needs to get its act together.  Forget the term ‘family’; this isn’t a close group of relatives. It’s an organization with titles, roles and departments, albeit a badly run one. But instead of acting like one organization, royal staff and their leaders behave like disparate companies fighting against each other for the same customers. This must change.

Second, to be a well-run organization, the royal family should be a tight team. It isn’t. Instead, its different ‘households’, each with their own staff and advisors, seem to spend an inordinate amount of time trying to one-up each other, worrying about being outshone by the others, and leaking stories to royal reporters to make themselves look good.

Third, the royal family’s command chain is in flux and no-one seems to know who is in charge. Is it the queen or her senior courtiers? Is it Charles? Is it, as some people have suggested on Twitter, really William and his courtiers at Kensington Palace? Who is running ‘The Firm’? This must be clarified.

No time is more dangerous for an organization than a shaky period of transition between leaders.  No-one knows who to trust. Allies become rivals, as key  players try to consolidate their power so they will be able to jockey for position under the new regime. 

Fourth, in this period of uncertainty, communication is key. Not only do Charles and his sons not seem to be communicating, but this historically secretive family’s iconic smoke signals are sending messages that may well be inadvertent.

Why on earth – in this time of uncertainty and lack of trust between the senior royals – did the queen, in her annual message to the public, choose to prominently display a family photo that included only the heirs to the throne and excluded the Sussex family? 

This is the year when the Sussexes’ first child Archie was born – wasn’t this the year to include the Sussexes and their infant son in a family photograph?

Fifth, if the royal family has a strategic plan, no-one outside Buckingham Palace seems to know what it is. We hear rumours of Charles wanting a ‘slimmed down monarchy’ but what does that mean? Does it include both his sons and their families? This week’s news reports have suggested that Harry believed he and his wife were not included, and that further alienated him and his wife Meghan.

Sixth, a strong organization recognizes and takes advantage of the strengths of each player. I am not a dedicated royal watcher, but even I can see that the Cambridges and the Sussexes both possess different but valuable assets.

What a gift for the royal family and for Britain, in this, the Brexit era when the country needs to strengthen itself while forging greater bonds with other nations.

The two couples even appeal to different constituencies.

William and Kate, duke and duchess of Cambridge, appeal to more conservative whites in Britain, and yes, to those with nativist or racist preferences.

To them, the couple may be bland, but they are a reassuring reminder of the traditional Britain they loved and still hanker for (as evidenced through the Brexit referendum, and the results of the recent general election). 

Harry and Meghan, duke and duchess of Sussex, appeal to a very different group.

Their British constituency is more liberal and (likely) younger. They appeal to many in liberal-minded, multicultural America and to many, many citizens of Commonwealth nations around the world, far beyond the four core Westminster states. 

The Sussexes even charm some republicans, people in the 4 core states who otherwise would not support the monarchy. Who can forget their overwhelmingly successful tour of Australia and New Zealand?

Differences can be strengths. Diverse talents and personalities can help revitalize an organization, broaden its appeal and help it grow.

But to realize these benefits, an organization needs to have the knowledge and skills required to effectively lead a team. It calls for the kind of no-nonsense leadership that keeps its eyes on its goals, communicates them well, and refuses to tolerate infighting, backstabbing and other unprincipled behaviours in its principals. 

Finally, the royal family needs the will to change the way this ancient institution has operated.

Anyone who has read British royal history or even watched the television series “The Crown” will recognize the historical tragedy of the family’s ‘spare siblings’ – Princess Margaret, Prince Andrew, and the others not destined to be heirs to the throne. Why has the family historically failed to create meaningful, important roles that value and take advantage of their strongest skills?

This week’s salvo from Harry and Meghan demonstrate that they are leaders who have a well-thought out and modern (“progressive”) plan for their future. They may not have the details, but they have the expertise or advisors to help create and make their vision work. As important, they also have the will to see it through.

For the good of its constituents and for the good of itself, I hope the royal family can prove itself at least as capable of doing the same. There’s a role for the royal family in today’s Britain and in the world, but only if it proves that it is capable of carrying out that role.

 

#GlobalSussexBabyShower, A Good Home, Duke and Duchess of Sussex, Prince Harry and Meghan markle

A Royal Surprise – Part 4

I admire “purple turtles” — characters who are uniquely different from others around them, and whose difference gives them a special strength.

So it’s no surprise that I admire the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.  

Like the main character in my Myrtle the Purple Turtle books, Harry and Meghan are anomalies in their environments; becoming a couple has only made them more so, and stronger for it.

Blog Photo - Baby shower - Diana and sons
Credit: Kensington Palace

Born a redhead like many in his mother’s family, Harry stood out immediately from his parents, brother and the other Windsors.

Meghan, with an African American mother and a white American father, was also a distinctly different child from her much older, white half-siblings. At school, she says, she also didn’t quite fit into any group.

Feeling very different influences behaviour.  A child may deny her uniqueness to gain acceptance then discover later that she has lost herself.  Another child may rebel and misbehave. 

But if you’re lucky, you become driven to succeed at something while developing a strong empathy.

Perhaps these were two of the shared qualities that drew Meghan and Harry together. Despite their current wealth and privilege, both seem to deeply understand what it means to be vulnerable.  Their back-stories of pain, mistakes, learning and maturing has made them stronger.

Blog Photo - MM and PH applaud- Credit Kensington Palace
Credit: Kensington Palace

Taken together, it all makes them a royal duo unlike any the modern world has seen.

That strength has earned them detractors – in the media, and even, allegedly, among some royal staff. But it also attracted a global army of well-educated, media-literate supporters who believe the Sussexes’ power is transformative and far-reaching.

And if royal insiders and reporters attack them, their loyal army will fight right back.

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Since November 2016, fans of the couple have been fighting back at media with facts, angry rebuttals and the occasional F-word.

But the Global Sussex Baby Shower was a different undertaking, one requiring them to act with love and compassion. 

Like Mel, they wanted the couple to know that their supporters around the world “aren’t just fans, but partners willing to work alongside them on our world’s most persistent problems.”

Like Deesa, they hoped the shower would “take the focus off the ugliness and focus on the good that the DDoS want to do.”

Neri hoped it “made Prince Harry and Duchess Meghan proud, and they know they are loved! But more importantly, that their supporters are inspired by their example.”

Tola, from Durban, South Africa, is proud of the shower’s impact. It “refocused the group’s energy.”

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Blog Photo - Camfed donations from baby shower

Blog Photo - Baby Shower - Wellchild Baby
Credit: WellChild

As donations flooded in to charities that badly needed them, The Sussex Squad began to realize it had influence, even power.

Blog Photo - Baby shower - Baby Gifts

In mere days, their initiative had raised awareness and more than US$70,000 in small donations from around the world.

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Credit: Magali

Blog Photo - Baby shower - Little Village image

So what now?

Sussex Squad members have called for fans to boycott articles and books by royal reporters who have persistently maligned the duke and duchess.

They’re also calling out American and British TV networks who engage these reporters for commentary on the royal family.

And, as I write, the Sussex Squad members are still fighting with royal reporters and trolls. Still fact-checking, still calling out unfair treatment. 

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Newspapers like The SUN now claim the Sussexes have “broken protocol” and “angered the nation”  — because they won’t pose for news photographers just hours after their baby’s birth, as Kate and William did.

“ROYAL RAGE 

Meghan you don’t get to claim ‘privacy’ after your star-studded baby shower and wedding that WE forked out £30m for – being a royal isn’t a part-time job.”

Sussex fans fired back that it was friends who paid for her baby shower. They  also asked: Did the queen, who birthed four children privately at home, break protocol too?

It’s exhausting. But Tina says to make the world kinder and more positive, the Sussex Squad must “push back forcefully against negativity and hatred from the media”.

How best to do that?

Some fans call out sexism and racism in unapologetically blunt, even harsh, language.

Anne and others advocate “that we be better than the trolls and focus on championing Meghan and Harry’s charities and message.”

Yet she quickly notes that the “vitriol coming from online trolls is very real and racist” and provocative, so many Sussex supporters feel they have to be fierce “to protect Meghan”.

Blog Photo - baby Shower - Sussexes
Credit: Kensington Palace

Brenda hopes that “with the new royal family social media guidelines, the new Sussex Instagram account, and the new Sussex baby, we will see so much positivity that it will turn us away from the negativity. Myself included.”

Mimi hopes that “we see that by staying positive and leading with love, we can all make a difference.”

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Everyone is looking forward to the birth of the Sussex baby, and the future beyond.

Portia, the education assessment officer in the UK, says: “This is an amazing time to be alive and to follow the works of the Royal family — especially the Sussexes. There is no equal to them, and no blueprint for them to follow.”

That causes hope and some anxiety.

Benedicta prays that “their love is strong enough to withstand all the negative things that are thrown at them and that they will continue to do wonderful work as they’re doing now.”

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#GlobalSussexBabyShower, A Good Home, Meghan Markle, Prince Harry

A Royal Surprise Pt.3: A Painful Beginning

To understand why supporters are so protective of Harry and Meghan, we have to go back to 2016.

Deesa Roberts, the Atlanta lawyer, knew nothing about Meghan Markle until October 2016.  However, she and her two daughters had been royal supporters for decades.

Blog Photo - Baby shower - Diana and sons
Credit: Kensington Palace

“When Princess Diana died, we bawled our eyes out. We felt so sad for her children, and especially for Prince Harry, who was so young to experience such a loss. I always had a soft spot for him.”

She kept track of Harry as he grew up.

“Then, in October 2016, news broke about his relationship with Meghan Markle and was confirmed in November.”

November 8, to be specific. That day, in a strongly worded statement, Kensington Palace asked British media and “trolls” to stop harassing Harry’s girlfriend.

“His girlfriend, Meghan Markle, has been subject to a wave of abuse and harassment. Some of this has been very public – the smear on the front page of a national newspaper; the racial undertones of comment pieces; and the outright sexism and racism of social media trolls and web article comments.”

The “wave of abuse” didn’t stop.

Following the coverage from Atlanta, Deesa was shaken by the anti-Meghan “racism and misogyny” in the UK tabloids.  

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There are few (known) persons of colour in the British royal family. Though Queen Charlotte, wife of George III, is said to have been part-African, she’s been dead for centuries.

Blog Photo - Baby shower - Queen Charlotte - Credit National Portrait Gallery
Credit National Portrait Gallery

Meghan Markle was an anomaly.

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The attacks on Meghan Markle weren’t isolated to Britain.  Comment sections of several UK newspapers had as many American anti-Meghan remarks as British.

Deesa, meanwhile, read everything she could about Meghan.  “I sensed that she was the one for him. I felt she could handle the pressure.  She was older than his previous girlfriends and more mature; she had faced difficult issues and overcome them.

Blog Photo - Baby shower - Meghan Markle CU
Courtesy: The Queen’s Commonwealth Trust

“I decided I had to support her. I was born in Georgia and my grandfather was born in slavery.  So I’m thoroughly familiar with racism.  I recognized the attacks by some royal reporters early on. I tried to engage them and other royal watchers in respectful conversation, but it didn’t go anywhere. For my efforts, I was dubbed a ‘race warrior’.”

Blog Photo - Baby shower - Deesa CU
Deesa Roberts

Deesa’s concerns were echoed by others whom I interviewed for this series.

Mimi, also American, admired Princess Diana and felt protective of her sons after Diana’s death.

“Prince Harry was my favorite. I always rooted for him and supported his causes. I became a Meghan fan when she was with Suits. I followed her blog The Tig and admired the speech she made at UN Women. Having loved them both separately, it was a no-brainer that I’d support them as a couple.”

Blog Photo - Chris and Sparky and David
Chris, Sparky & Chris’ son David

Chris, from the US south, loved Princess Diana.  “When she died, my heart ached for Harry. Sometimes the press was so hard on him, but he truly has such a caring and loving heart. 

“When I heard he and Meghan were dating, I was thrilled.  I truly thought it was a match made in Heaven. 

Blog Photo - Baby shower - royal engagement H and M
Photos Courtesy: Kensington Palace

“From their engagement interview, to their wedding, and everything they’ve done so far, they’ve really impacted me. Their passion to help others and change the world is inspirational. I’m old enough to be their Mom (lol) but they’ve really impacted my life.”  

Blog Photo - baby shower - Melbour Australia skyline
Melbourne, Australia skyline. Credit: Wikipedia

From Melbourne, Australia, David says:  “I really believe in them as a couple and think they will achieve great things together and individually. They seem to both be driven people and that really resonates with me. Also very impressed with Meghan’s background before meeting Harry.”

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Many Sussex supporters  around the world felt they had to speak up against the “lies and vitriol” being directed at the couple on social media “and sometimes the press.”

Portia, an education assessment officer in the UK, says: “What was distressing, and still is, is the press giving a platform to trolls by using their quotes and giving press coverage to them. That I find sad. There is a need for a re-balancing of issues in the press.”

 On Twitter, Sussex fans fact-checked and rebutted reporters’ stories. Some reporters saw them as trolls who were brutally insulting, a few even “threatening”. (Author Note: I’ve seen no threats myself, but have seen many angry, and some insulting, tweets.)

As the battle waged, Sussex fans became familiar with each other through their tweets and Twitter profiles. After Harry and Meghan married and became the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, Deesa says, she suggested fans call themselves The Sussex Squad.

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As organizers of the global baby shower, Sussex Squad members turned their focus to helping vulnerable people and pets through charities associated with the royal couple.

Blog Photo - Baby Shower

When people hurl online insults at the Sussexes or the baby shower,  most Sussex Squad members try to rise above it, often replying with these slogans:

“Don’t Hate. Donate”.

“Leading with Love”.

It’s a strategy of positivity and kindness. 

But they’re also strongly committed to defending the duke and duchess against the media and ‘haters’. 

Can the Sussex Squad do both things?

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Next: Moving Forward

 

 

 

 

#GlobalSussexBabyShower, A Good Home

A Royal Surprise

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex (aka Harry and Meghan) were caught by surprise last week when an online baby shower was mysteriously launched in their honour.

They hadn’t seen it coming, and no-one knew the identity of the people behind it.

Blog Photo - baby Shower - Sussexes

What the Duke and Duchess of Sussex knew was that money and good wishes were pouring in from across the world to support some of their favourite charities, as part of something called #GlobalSussexBabyShower. 

They sent their thanks via Instagram:

Blog Photo - Baby Shower thanks from DDoS

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Starting today, I’m sharing the story of the people behind the charitable drive, why they did it, and how I became involved.

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If The Sussex Squad were an organization, it would be a multi-national, spread across dozens of countries.

But there is no organizational flow-chart, no official leaders, no official address, and no official membership. Instead, there are hundreds of devoted fans who share a common affection for Harry and Meghan, and a desire to protect them from media and online abuse.

Blog Photo - MM and PH in Morocco - Credit Kensington Palace

The #GlobalSussexBabyShower is the first project they’ve undertaken together, and the planning of it was sudden and … unusual.

Four women – 3 from the US, 1 from the Caribbean — found themselves thinking along similar lines in the last week of March.  All wanted to “do something” to show their admiration for the couple’s compassion and empathy, and to combat  “online bullying” of the couple.

“Mel” saw a tweet “from someone who said they hoped the Duke and Duchess know they are supported”.  She responded with an idea: Why not hold an online baby shower, and invite Sussex fans worldwide to donate to orphanages and children’s charities?

Blog Photo - Baby shower - Florida seniors - Credit - Sun-Sentinel
Credit: Lisa Sileo, Acts Retirement

“Mimi”, also American, saw an article about a group of Florida senior citizens who hosted a baby shower for Meghan and donated baby supplies. She thought: “ ‘What a pure and sweet idea’.”

“Luckily, my fellow Sussex Squad members had the same idea. I saw that Mel had tweeted about having an online baby shower and I added that we could also raise money for the charities that Harry and Meghan support. Freepeeper and I started DM-ing ideas.”

Blog Photo - Baby shower - Meghan Harry and Child
Credit: WellChild

The minute “Brenda”, a university lecturer from the Caribbean, read the idea on Twitter, she became enthusiastic about it, “not knowing it would be such a huge hit”.

That was Thursday, March 28.

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I, meanwhile, was also ‘Dm-ing’ with someone that night.

When the online shower idea first came up on Twitter, someone tweeted that perhaps I’d be interested in doing a story about it.

“Send me a news release,” I tweeted back.  I got no reply.

I contacted Tina, one of two women who run the “Sussex Squad Podcast” heard by followers from 71 countries. We’d communicated when I was researching an earlier story.

Blog Photo - Credit WellChild Awards

I soon discovered that no-one in the small group of planners knew how to write a news release. (Highly accomplished in their business and professional fields, yes, but not in dealing with the media.)

My husband and I drafted the release, telling the Sussex Squad members to fill in the gaps and send it out. It was a bit strange: I had never drafted a news release that would be sent back to myself!

My husband, a former newsroom editor and TV news anchor, said, “This idea could be really successful if done right. Why don’t you help them?”

Tina (of Sussex Squad Podcast) would later say that I lit a fire under them that Thursday night. An emergency conference call was held.

Before the night was out, I helped the group to draw up an initial media list, assign roles, choose the charities that would benefit, and create an overall strategy using Twitter and traditional media to get the larger group involved.

 The plan was made and set in motion.

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Freepeeper worked swiftly to design a video and text for Twitter. It was attractive and skillfully worded.

Blog Photo - Baby Shower

Known to be eloquent and level-headed, she agreed to be the group’s spokesperson.

“When Freepeeper actually ran with the idea,” Brenda says, “I felt a rush of satisfaction because we could finally do something for this beleaguered couple that would make us happy and shine a light on their work and positive contribution.”

Blog Photo - Baby shower Announcement

The Twitter announcement was launched the next day, Friday, March 29 and quickly retweeted by members of The Sussex Squad.  It announced the kick-off for that Sunday, which happened to be Mothering Sunday in Britain.

But excited fans couldn’t wait.  Charities started receiving donations from around the world almost right away.

Despite my husband’s prediction, I was shocked at how fast the campaign grew. I wasn’t the only one.

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Tomorrow: Part 2 – The Charities are inundated.