It’s Been a Bad Week

I should stop getting updates from a variety of news sources. This week has seen a flood of reports about abuse of children and others. The one that stood out was the sentence of probation passed out to a woman defendant in Minnesota who attempted to hang a 16-month old in her home based child care center. The sentence handed down by the judge? A ten year term of probation, including special conditions for mental health treatment, and no unsupervised visits with minors, among others. The defendant was credited with the 20 months in jail that she has served since her arrest in November 2016.
Here’s the problem – a sentence imposed in a criminal matter has a number of functions to fulfill, not the least of which is specific and general deterrence. According to defense counsel, the defendant already served a sentence of imprisonment because of her pretrial detention and she’s now lost her career in child care. Seriously? How does the sentence imposed address the important consideration of general deterrence? So long as our criminal justice system continues to be inconsistent is punishing offenders who inflict harm on others, especially children, we all will continue to read horrific stories of people inflicting unspeakable harm on victims, especially those who are too vulnerable to fight back. Those of us in positions of leadership, whatever the organization, can be of help by working toward a more consistent approach to effectively punish anyone who inflicts harm on another. Our criminal justice system is good, but by exercising our moral and ethical leadership, we can make it better, especially for victims of abuse.

Cotton Candy or Substance?

The ongoing debate about any topic you might want to select from the news these days has reached a new standard, in my assessment of, “are you kidding me?” I don’t doubt for a moment that the people involved think they’re making sense but they’re not making their arguments clearly or logically. In many instances, the “debate” has been reduced to an emotional display of nothing more than name calling. So what has this got to do with leadership within our organizations or even more importantly, our goal of protecting victims within our society? A whole lot, if we stop to think about it.
If the goal is to get changes made to existing laws to better protect victims but our arguments for doing so are confused and illogical, those who don’t want to make the changes will be able to derail the goal. The same is true for making changes within organizations.
On the other hand, if the arguments for making changes to the laws are well reasoned, logical, and based on verified facts, those individuals who oppose the goal will be less able to undermine it. Again, the same is true for an organization seeking to make changes in process, policies, procedures, etc.
It’s important to remember that it’s not about how something appears. Rather, it is the underlying foundation upon which the goal is based. Base the goal figuratively on cotton candy, and the first hint of any moisture will melt the foundation in a New York second. Base the goal on a solid foundation of reason and verified fact, and no amount of argument will undermine it.

Breaking Out of Our Rut

This past weekend I had occasion to shop at my local office supply store and was a bit shocked to see “Back to School” displays and goods already available. It took me a couple of seconds to remember that here in the desert southwest, school starts a number of weeks before schools in other areas of the country, so it’s only going to be a bit more than a month before school starts back in earnest.
It’s sort of comforting to know that despite all that‘s going on in our lives these days, there are still some things that never change – schools open for about 180 days and close for the summer. We know that Labor Day will mark the traditional end to summer and we’ll enter into a busy time of the year with various holidays upcoming. And we know that with the New Year, we’ll continue that comfortable cycle.
What we can’t continue is turning a blind eye and deaf ear to the needs of hundreds of thousands of children in foster care in this country, nor can we continue to stay in our rut when it comes to child abuse, molestation, and murder. I know I keep beating this drum about protecting our children, but as leaders in our communities and organizations, if we don’t stand up and do so, who will? Data is available which shows that hundreds of children die each year from neglect or abuse. I know that so little attention to paid to this horrific situation, probably because it doesn’t garner a whole lot of media or public attention. That, in itself, speaks volumes about those people who would seek to continue to ignore this issue. I can’t ignore this any longer. I know that today’s children represent the future employees and leaders of our companies and organizations and we need to protect their futures now. I hope you will join with me in breaking out of this rut and finally make a positive, significant difference in the lives of our children.

It’s Raining

A characteristic of our summer is the monsoon season, which officially began on Friday, 15 June.  Sure enough, for the first time since March, I’ve seen rain at my place yesterday evening and today.  I have to chuckle at myself as I head out to see if the clouds are building up enough to give us some rain at the house.  Even the pups are looking skyward, although truth be told, the biggest of them refuses to get wet.  If it’s raining and it’s time for him to go outside, he pokes his nose out, feels the first drop and heads back inside.  Hard to explain to him that just answering the call of nature in the express lane is a whole lot faster and drier than trying to find ways to avoid getting wet.  And this got me thinking –

It is unfortunate that problems happen.  Like the rain, we know that many of them are going to occur simply because we have yet to hit upon the long-term solutions for stopping them. My one pup spends more time trying to avoid getting wet than simply going and doing his business and like him, we also try to avoid addressing the issues. As leaders, it’s important for us to know and believe that whatever the problem, each of us has a contribution to make in finding the long-term solution and, in the case of abuse (especially of children), each of us has to follow our heart and our passion in resolving that issue.  What’s also important is that we all focus on the same goal – developing and implementing a solution that, once and for all, addresses the issue effectively.  Like the raindrops, individually and collectively, we can make a difference.

Imagine

Scanning through the Internet yesterday, I came across a difficult piece of news. Charles Krauthammer has written a letter announcing that he is losing his battle with cancer and reportedly has just weeks to live. I was struck by the grace and dignity present in his words, especially the following: “…I leave this life with no regrets. It was a wonderful life…I am sad to leave, but I leave with the knowledge that I lived the life I intended.”
Imagine being able to say such a thing about our own lives, that we all lived our lives the way we intended them to be lived.
Even better – imagine that each of us, in our own way, did all we could to insure that victims of crime, especially the children, were given a voice so that their stories could be told and proper actions taken to punish those who inflicted the harm. Imagine doing everything we can to insure that the future of our children, our grandchildren, and all future generations would be one where no individual, no child, no elderly person, would be physically, mentally, or emotionally harmed by another. Child abuse, sexual assault, or elder abuse offenses would become a distant memory, part of a dark and difficult history. Such behaviors would no longer inflict harm because we’ve educated ourselves and our future generations to keep such crimes from ever happening again. Just imagine.

AUTO CORRECT

(This posting was rejected for “boosting” by Facebook because according to their policies, it contains political material.  It is presented here verbatim, from the posting made to our Facebook page.  You decide.)

I HATE AUTO-CORRECT. It drives me crazy at times. I’m doing battle with the grammar check for Microsoft©. The latest – telling me I have an error with the phrase, “So do I.” Their correction? I’m supposed to use, “So do me.” Seriously? I hate auto-correct on my phone. It has led to some interesting comments sent from me to family and friends, prompting an immediate second message to correct the first.
When we hear of particularly heinous crimes involving victims, especially children, we sometimes want to have an auto-correct program of our own, to shut out the horrific details of what happened. For example, we saw this with the murders of both James Byrd, Jr., in June 1998 and Matthew Shepard in October 1998. Both murders were particularly gruesome and that gruesomeness was reported in great detail by various media outlets. One outcome of these murders was the passing of the “Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act,” which was signed into federal law in 2009. But because of the extensive detail provided in the media coverage, people sought refuge in shutting out the details so that they were not overwhelmed by the nature of the murderous acts. It’s a natural reaction. We’ve developed an auto-correct system to deal with the news of such horrific crimes. When such crimes come to light, we use our auto-correct defense: The story can’t be as bad as it’s being reported. People just don’t do that to others – or do they?
Unfortunately, people do harm children and others in gruesome and stomach wrenching ways. Those of us who cannot conceive of a time when we’d torture a child or another person, have to realize that when such stories are reported, we need to disconnect our auto-correct defense. We need to focus on doing what we can to insure that those individuals who harm others deliberately and with malice, are isolated from our communities and our societies. We have an obligation to work together to insure that a clear message is sent to those who think nothing of harming others – bad behavior will be punished to the fullest extent of the law, and those who facilitate such behavior will also be held accountable. Truly, we can have no lesser goal.

Empower the Victim

I recently watched a February 2018 Royal Foundation Forum involving Prince William, the Duchess of Cambridge, Prince Harry, and Meghan Markle.  In the forum, as well as in other venues, a spotlight was put on mental health issues within the UK. Good for them!  Their addressing this very important topic will not only help folks in the UK but will, hopefully, also shine the spotlight on mental health issues throughout the world, including the U.S.  I thank them for taking this important first step.

The now Duchess of Sussex mentioned that her focus will be on empowering women.  A good focus, but I ask that she consider broadening her view.  Efforts should made to empower victims of crime, especially victims of sexual assault, molestation, and abuse.  Here in the U.S., earlier this year we had our hearts broken as more than 150 young women and girls bared their souls and described the particularly vile and heinous conduct of Larry Nassar.  Not only did they shine the spotlight on him but they also pointed a relentless light on the conduct of those who had the responsibility to stop him decades before he was finally stopped.

Now imagine if all of us stood with all the victims of crime, young, old and in-between, standing shoulder to shoulder with them as they travel the very difficult journey of not only coping with the harm but also working to reestablish their sense of self, sense of security, and recognizing that they still have value.  Imagine how the young Royals with their “Heads Together” campaign can impact the world’s view of victims as they struggle with episodes of PTSD, thoughts of suicide, and attempting to live a “normal” life as spouse, parent, sibling, etc.  Imagine a campaign where victims of crime are empowered with no judgments made.  Imagine being that shoulder of support and encouragement for someone who so desperately needs to be heard.

What if we really and truly did attempt to do what the Most Reverend Bishop Michael Curry suggested – harness the power of love for one another, especially those within our families and neighborhoods who have lost their love for themselves as a result of being victimized by criminal acts?  Imagine the world we’d have where we help victims find within themselves the strength to effectively regain their sense of self-worth.

But it’s not enough to just imagine.  Now is the time to begin the hard work.  Let’s do it together.

Persistence

With no subtle filter in place, so far this month has been the “May from Hell.” One of my pups had surgery in late April to address a year old spider bite which had never fully healed. Thank goodness for that because during the surgery the vet discovered a completely encapsulated mass. Had the bite healed properly, we would have discovered this mass probably too late to effectively address it. Now comes the hellish part.
An infection unrelated to the surgery accomplished the removal process of the sutures by literally blowing out the incision just two days before the sutures were to be removed.
Both she and I are blessed that her vet team was/is determined to get her through this. Tests, cultures, exams, etc. have all been done and no satisfactory answer for the source or cause of the infection has been found. Thankfully, her vets won’t give up until my pup is healed and restored to good health. Gotta love persistence.
Wouldn’t it be great if our leaders and managers were just as persistent in finding practical and realistic solutions to the problems facing them? Instead of going for the easy fix, wasting time, money, and human resources, leaders and managers need to buckle down and do the hard work. What is the correct source of the problem? Exactly what is the problem? How can we find the best solutions to resolving this problem? (HINT: It’s not about imposing a solution to address the symptoms – it’s about getting the best people together to correctly identify the problem and work out possible resolutions.) How do we communicate the issue to our organization factually and accurately? Persistence, that’s how. Long hard work that’s firm in its dedication to solving the problem.

CIVIL DISCOURSE – THE ENDANGERED SPECIES (An UPDATE)

I need to revise a posting I made last fall on the lack of civil discourse in this country.  Civil discourse is no longer an endangered species.   It is extinct.   I thought in October 2017, that civil discourse had reached an all-time low in this country.  I’m sorry to say that I was wrong.

During a broadcast on MSNBC on Friday, 11 May 2018, in reference to Sarah Sanders, Nicolle Wallace asked NBC White House reporter Kristen Welker, “How do you resist the temptation to run up and wring her neck? Why can’t she just say, ‘If a staffer said that, we’re going to get to the bottom of it and she’ll be fired?’”  Calling for the WH press secretary to publicly try, convict, and punish a employee before the proper steps have been taken to address the behavior is ill advised and puts us on a very slippery slope. Leaders and professionals try to avoid that slope.

Let me first say that bad behavior is bad behavior.  Those who engage in bad behavior must be held accountable for their conduct. No equivocation here.  If there is a factual basis (complying with EEOC policies, rules, and regulations) for disciplining the staff member for the comment regarding Senator McCain, discipline should be implemented for poor judgment and unprofessional conduct.  KEY POINT – an individual who uses his/her position to publicly advocate the use of violence against another individual also needs be disciplined, again for poor judgment and unprofessional conduct. To discipline someone in the first scenario but not the second runs the risk of a serious decline in professional standards and ethics that can only lead us to a very negative place and I don’t care what field or profession we’re talking about, nor the political party to which a person belongs or follows.  Double standards are never good and double standards that advocate violence against a group of people or an individual can never be accepted in civilized society.  Ethical conduct and leadership cannot tolerate such double standards.

All those in public life have an obligation to uphold the highest standards for professional conduct.  Our professions and our leadership positions demand nothing less from each of us.

Do Your Job and Do It Well – No matter how long it takes

I realized something while reading about some senators who are calling for the U.S. Senate to cancel its August recess if they haven’t completed their work by the end of July.  Setting politics aside, I have a few thoughts.
Suffice to say that in the real world outside the halls of the U.S. Congress, slacking off on doing your job carries with it significant consequences, the vast majority of which are negative. Such consequences can range from a verbal or written reprimand, withholding pay increases or promotions, denial of vacation, and (gasp!) suspension without pay, and even (double gasp!) termination. Why would any of us as leaders within our organizations or communities want to continue paying someone who isn’t doing his/her job? For that matter, why would our organization want to keep us around if we start half stepping it through the work day? As leaders, we have an ethical obligation to serve as positive role models. Our guiding principle should be that we expend however much time it takes to get the job done and to insure that a quality product results.
In my teaching, I see students who expend just enough time and effort to get some semblance of an assignment submitted and who are then surprised when the grade they receive is not what they expected. A mediocre effort generally earns a mediocre grade. The same is true in the workplace. Mediocrity generally does not lead to pay raises, promotions, or a reputation for being a quality employee. (And if mediocrity is accepted, that organization needs to take a serious look at its standards and organizational culture.) Same thing for leaders. Mediocre leadership generally gets recognized in time and does not lead to increased responsibility and authority within an organization.
Half stepping it and sitting on your laurels based upon previous success doesn’t really help the organization remain competitive in today’s world. But I guess if we are only judged by past reputations and accomplishments we might all be tempted to take our foot off the gas once in a while. Let’s not make a habit of it, though.