A Season of Giving

In the past week or so there have been news stories about school administrators’ efforts to basically outlaw any celebration of Christmas on both primary and secondary school campuses. In my assessment this effort is totally misguided and driven by a continuing effort to demean and degrade one of the world’s major religions. 
Just this week I got the chance to surprise my daughter-in-law for her birthday. The surprise was complete because I have a steadfast rule of not traveling back east when the frozen white stuff is falling or there’s a possibility of it falling – and my mandatory minimum temperature has to be above 60 degrees. But seeing the joy in her eyes made it all worthwhile. This week reminded me of the special moments untold numbers of folks are preparing to share with loved ones. It’s the quality of time that will be shared with family and friends and the loving memories which will make this season special. More than material goods, time is the most precious gift we can give one another. At this time of year, the gift Christians were given over 2,000 years ago is not lost on folks once we get past the commercialism and think about the true meaning of this season.
My commentary is not an invitation to those who seek to trash Christianity to continue their efforts. Rather, it’s an invitation to stop denigrating and, instead, seek to understand and appreciate. Engage in a conversation where emotional correctness and active listening are used. And try to remember that true people of faith are seeking ways in which to have a meaningful and fulfilling relationship with their God while practicing real tolerance and love for their neighbor. Don’t be surprised if that honest conversation leads everyone to learn that we have more in common than we have different. From that common point we can all work together to find realistic solutions to the problems which continue to bedevil us all. And we can give one another the most precious gift of all – time spent together as friends, neighbors, and family.

Implementing Change in Difficult Times


Please take a moment to read about the workshop now offered by PSC:


The hard reality of today is that individuals and organizations of all types are expected to provide better and more detailed services with fewer human and fiscal resources.  When fiscal resources become constrained, agencies naturally move to identify areas for cost savings, and professionals are confronted with the possibility of losing their jobs.  For example, organizations nationwide have been forced to re-design their programs and reduce staff while simultaneously adopting Evidence Based Practices (EBP), or a “doing what works” initiative aimed to maintain or increase the bottom line.  The remaining staff are given extra duties and may experience increased stress, decreased motivation, and reduced performance.  Despite being an almost every day occurrence in personal and professional lives, change also evokes anxiety and stress reactions in those impacted directly or indirectly.  Change, when proposed and implemented, can bring about new workplace conflict or exacerbate conflict already occurring.  All of this can contribute to decreased job performance, health issues among the staff, lower job satisfaction, and higher employee turnover, among other things.

What is the purpose of the proposed workshop for leaders and managers?  It provides an environment which explores ways to implement change while reducing conflict and stress that may enable the organization to implement change while maintaining employee wellness and motivation, thus positively impacting the organization’s bottom line.

In the workshop the participants will be asked to see how change is an everyday occurrence in both their personal and professional lives.  In addition, a goal of this training is to help reduce the stress associated with change and to reduce the potential for workplace conflict by assisting participants in correctly identifying the source of the conflict and developing realistic approaches to resolving it.  In essence, leaders and managers will see how conflict mediation can be used to help reduce stress and anxiety within the workplace.  In the discussions the participants will seek a greater understanding of what conflict mediation approaches might best suit their personal leadership or management style.

Participants will engage in discussions concerning the importance of effective communication.  Characteristics of effective communicators will be shared and participants will be encouraged to practice the techniques to enhance their conflict mediation skills while also developing realistic implementation programs for change.

Principles of effective change management will be presented, along with discussions on how to incorporate those skills into personal leadership styles.  Effective implementation of change comes about because leaders are willing to manage the changes, not be managed by them.

The workshop discussion will be guided by the principles of both critical and creative thinking.  These skills will be called upon as we engage in our discussions and activities for this workshop.

The objectives of this workshop are:

  • Describe the stress reaction and its impact upon our personal and professional lives.
  • Determine effective approaches to dealing with workplace conflict.
  • Apply appropriate conflict mediation skills to help resolve conflict.
  • Examine the characteristics of effective communicators.
  • Develop an understanding of some core principles of change management.

Interested:  Contact us to schedule a presentation of this workshop for your organization.


A Reminder

Last week I was gently reminded of the tremendous support system which surrounds me. I have to admit that over the past few months I became mentally exhausted from having to deal with a medical issue. That issue forced me to focus all my mental effort to manage a significant amount of pain and it did not allow me to focus my attention on the issues I had recently asked you all to join in and support me. Fortunately, I was able to make a connection with a set of doctors who immediately developed a plan of action and set it into motion. That action included some significant surgery, meaning that I would not be the independent person that I usually am. I would have to rely upon others to help me. In this situation I didn’t even have to ask for help. I was told that folks were going to be helping me and there was no room for negotiation! A very dear friend rearranged her work schedule to insure that I was driven to the hospital where she stayed until the surgery was completed. Michelle then drove me home and stayed with me through the night (an extra treat for my dogs to have her around, for sure.) The medical professionals were of the highest quality. I was important as an individual, not as a symptom. They recognized the importance of Michelle and me sharing some humor to keep things relaxed and they even joined in – something that will probably stick with them for a time!
The outcome of the surgery could not have been better and the recovery is progressing, albeit not as quickly as I’d like. My progress is being monitored by three rather large pups who think they need to shadow me everywhere I go and I don’t mind. It reassures them that I’m doing alright.
So why do I share such a personal note? Thanksgiving comes later this week and I have so much to be thankful for – good friends and family, quality medical care, and the ability to share how grateful I am for what I have. I wish everyone the true blessings of this season – that we are grateful for what we have and so willing to share with others who might not be as fortunate. I am especially grateful for the reminder I received to never take my blessings for granted and to acknowledge the source of all those blessings. God bless you all.

The Value of Military Experience

I may be dating myself but I was taught from a young age that service to one’s country is a high calling. I was fortunate to be able to answer that calling and I received both an excellent education and training as a military officer. The oath that I took was a sacred bond – a contract, if you will – between my country and me. There’s something about taking such an oath, and the awesome responsibilities that come with it. I can see the same qualities in many of the young people serving as officers and enlisted within our military today as I saw in the officers and enlisted who came after me years ago. There is a dedication and sense of purpose in taking such an oath and it carries over into whatever they do. What is even more remarkable is that our service members are all volunteers. Their dedication and professionalism are qualities highly valued both in the military and in today’s workplace. Whenever I can, I encourage employers to look to the veterans and retirees of our military if they want staff members who are excellent problem solvers and able to get the task done right the first time.
Why am I writing on this topic today? Because tomorrow, 11 November 2017 is Veterans Day, a day when veterans are honored for their service. It is a day when I hope that people will pause for a moment and remember those who made that contract with our country and have served this nation with distinction and with honor. Our veterans deserve the very best our nation can give them in recognition of their service and their sacrifice. No one completes their military service without some sacrifice. Please take a moment tomorrow, and be thankful that our veterans were so willing to step up and do what our nation needed to have done.

CHANGE – Friend or foe?

I’ve been looking at any number of organizations which are currently undergoing change. Despite all the research, change is still seen as something very negative and implementing change remains a difficult mountain to climb. Why is that?

Let’s be honest. Change causes anxiety. Will I get to keep my job? Am I still a valued member of the organization?

There are any number of organizations which implement change smoothly, with little to no disruption to the productivity and job satisfaction. What do they do that works?

Probably the key thing is communication. When a change is being considered, leaders within the organization need to let the staff know what’s going on. Leaving it to the rumor mill is a surefire way to creating dissatisfaction. Ask the staff for their thoughts on how best to implement the change. Use the experience within the staff to quickly identify potential problem areas and have the staff work with management to develop realistic solutions to those problems should they develop.

Another key is making sure that the staff is provided with opportunities for training in the new way of doing things.  This can help insure that the staff gets the training they need  which prepares them for the new way of doing things, but it also sends an important message – they are considered valued assets to the organization. When downsizing has to occur, the organization can take a very positive step by insuring that resources and retraining are available to help people expand their skill sets and find employment in other areas. Simply letting folks go with the attitude of “don’t let the door hit you as you leave” paints the organization in a very negative light, one which is not easily countered. Word of mouth will insure that quality recruits will take a second look at an organization that doesn’t value its staff.

Change might not be our friend but we need to make sure we’re not turning it into an unbeatable foe, either.

Civil Discourse – The Endangered Species

If civil discourse from public figures and politicians in this country is needed to save the planet I, for one, will be making my final plans.  In recent weeks, the level of intolerance, personal attacks, and the lack of civility has reached an all time low in this country.  My breaking point was the posting by the attorney formerly associated with CBS who stated that she felt no sympathy for the victims of the massacre in Las Vegas because apparently only white Republicans attend country music concerts and she believes such people are fair game for killing.  More troubling – the sound of crickets from all levels of leadership in this country against such hatred and acceptance of violence against a certain segment of our population. Such tacit consent for hatred and violence does not bode well for any organization within our country, much less the country itself.  The silence is deafening from virtually the entire political and socioeconomic spectrum.  In my assessment, no one has anything to be smug about here because no one seems to be standing up and saying, “enough!”

No one, and I do mean no one, should be the target of such filth.  We may not agree on politics, religion, sports, or whatever topic, but each of us has the right to feel safe and secure when expressing an opinion on any topic – AND the obligation to be civil as we do so.  Yes, even those who espouse hatred toward an individual or group because of race, gender, etc., have the constitutionally protected right to stand up and publicly demonstrate how misinformed, intolerant, and stupid they really are.  But no one has the right to espouse violence against another.  And when such tragedies as Las Vegas happen, no one has the moral superiority to gloat over the deaths and maiming of hundreds of people.  That concert wasn’t about politics.  Plain and simple, it was about listening to and enjoying the music by a group of very talented musicians.

To those talking heads, political pundits, and public figures who publicly demonstrated their complete lack of sensitivity and civility – out of respect for those who lives were lost and those whose lives have now been horribly changed, if you can’t be civil, just be quiet.

Never ceases to amaze me

I recently traveled and people continue to amaze me.

Here are the folks who follow the neck cushion trend.  Whoever invented that pillow must be living on Easy Street by now.  Every color of the rainbow can be seen on parade through the airport of your choice.  With the way the airlines are configuring the seats in coach (or economy) to be sure to pack in six folks in the space originally designed for four bodies, if all three folks in the same row use these cushions, it certainly makes for some interesting gymnastics to fit them comfortably.

We have folks who believe that if they like the smell of their food, every passenger within a radius of three rows must like it, too.  I have nothing against onions (well, maybe the chopping part) but at 7:30 in the morning on a fully packed flight, having one passenger consume the Italian special sub, loaded with spicy meats, peppers, and extra onions sure makes for a difficult few moments, especially when that person is in the seat next to me.  Wonder what the reaction would be if I asked them to dine outside?

Then there’s the child pulling on the back of the seat in front of him or her, or deciding that he/she is going to kick the seat in front for the remainder of the flight.  Mom (or Dad) is completely oblivious to whatever Junior is doing and now, here come the screams.  How do those kids get that decibel level out of their throats?

But my favorite is the passenger currently in front of me who has decided to recline his seat back ALL THE WAY. Forget about using my tray table.  What I wouldn’t give to be a kid, kicking the seat in front of me……


A Step Forward

Earlier this week I was honored to attend an adoption ceremony where three little boys had some permanent stability finally come into their lives. How wonderful to see those three superheroes ( they attended the ceremony dressed as Batman, Spiderman, and Superman) become a family – a true, loving, and stable family. Their future became just a little brighter in that one magical moment.
This moment did not come easily but my friend who initiated the adoption proceedings persevered through thick and thin. Despite the challenges, obstacles, and bureaucracy, my friend stayed positive when talking with the boys, reassuring them that the day would eventually come. And it did. I like to think it came because common sense prevailed. Never once did she let the boys think that things were not going well. Never once did she waver in her push to achieve the goal of adoption. Wonder why? Because she believes in what she is doing. She believes that the boys deserve a second chance at a happy childhood, leading hopefully to a happy and successful life. The journey for her children won’t be easy. There are physical and emotional scars which need to be addressed. But those will be addressed in a world now where these three little ones know that they are loved, that love will never die, and they have the love, prayers and support of a whole “village” of relatives and friends. I wish this new family all the very best and will continue to enjoy watching these three superheroes make their mark on the world.

It doesn’t take a crisis

In a recent discussion, folks expressed their belief that it was sad that it took the crisis of Harvey to have folks do nice things for others. I’m sorry – I have to completely disagree.
Good people, kind-hearted people don’t wait for a crisis to help others. With or without a crisis, not a day goes by in this country without folks getting involved in trying to make life a bit easier for their neighbors. The difference is that they don’t broadcast what they’re doing. They’re simply doing it because it’s the right thing to do. They’re doing it because three little boys need a loving home and people to help them learn that childhood is not about being abused or locked away in the dark. They’re doing it because some young people made a poor decision which landed them on the wrong side of the law and they don’t want to see those lives thrown away, nor the lives of the rescued pups the young people are training with. They’re doing it because of their love for teaching and wanting to see young people learn the importance of art and music in expanding their minds. Race, color, gender, and all those other labels folks use to try to separate us don’t matter. Good people help folks simply because it’s the right thing to do.
The devastation from Harvey and Irma will pass. But the kindness shared between strangers will live on in the hearts of those receiving and giving those kindnesses. What lesson can we learn from Mother Nature’s latest show?  All of us are affected by the devastation. But we also know that a better day is coming and we all will have yet another opportunity to share a kindness with strangers.


It recently dawned on me that I didn’t get the memo.  It seems a complete paradigm shift has occurred. At some point in time, folks have apparently decided to turn over to words the power to completely control their lives.  If someone says something they disagree with, they can’t control their emotions. The rest of us get treated to the spectacle of temper tantrums in adults that are worthy of three-year olds.

Why in the world would anyone give such power to words?  When these folks hear something that hurts their feelings or with which they disagree, they apparently can no longer function as normal adults.  They lash out, using words that would, in previous generations, result in a serious washing of the mouth with a bar of vile tasting soap.  They foster more hate and division than the original words could ever hope for.

Words are just that – words.  How we use words is what is important.  We can use them to create great literature, poetry, and songs.  We can use them to make inspiring speeches, or empower others to seek out new discoveries and ideas.  We can use them to console others when tragedy strikes, or to comfort those who are sick or dying.  Words allow us to express what is in our hearts.  As an educator, I use words to challenge my students to engage in critical and creative thinking as I ask them for new solutions to entrenched problems, always keeping in mind the value of the individual.   We can use words to motivate ourselves to become better people, to heal divisions between people who probably have more in common than they do different.  Or, unfortunately, on all sides of the political spectrum, we can hear and see words used to foster hate, division, and animosity.  Those of us who disagree with hateful speeches can follow the new philosophy of doing nothing because our feelings are hurt – or we can stand up and overwhelm that hate speech with words of tolerance, patience, and understanding.   I don’t know about anyone else but I choose the latter option.