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.

Barbara Bush

It is with sadness that I read the news of the passing of former First Lady Barbara Bush. My prayers and deepest condolences are offered to her family and friends.
In all candor I feel a heavy sense of loss. I never had the honor of meeting Mrs. Bush in person but I was impressed by her public grace under fire, her ability to cut quickly through the fluff and get to the substance of an issue, and her devotion to and practice of her core principles. She was a mother lion when it came to her family and was never shy about letting folks know that in public and political debate, talk truthfully and respectfully about her family members – or suffer her wrath. Nothing wrong with that, in my view.
Whether you agree with her political views is totally irrelevant. She was and will remain a positive role model. I am very sure that Mrs. Bush had such a command of the English language that she could verbally cut people off at the knees if she disagreed with them. But she apparently followed a very simple principle – just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. She was gracious even with those who disagreed with her in the nastiest of terms and behavior. While she may have suffered terribly in private, she remained calm and polite in public. That opened the way to honest and productive dialog. For me, that will be, among other things, Barbara Bush’s greatest legacy. I sense that she was honest with herself and with others. Her integrity was without question. She especially found ways to let folks know that we have so much more in common than we do different, and if we tone down the decibel level, it’s amazing what we can accomplish. We are a better society in many ways because of her unfailing belief that working together, we can solve many of the issues which bedevil our nation. Rest In Peace, Barbara Bush, and thank you.

Problem Solving – The “Whack A Mole”© Method

Ever watch young kids try the arcade game where they hammer the moles into oblivion? As the game progresses, they hammer the moles harder and harder. The older kids quickly realize that no matter how hard they hit the moles, another one is going to pop up. They generally walk away, refusing to play anymore. Ahem, leaders and supervisors – a lesson to take to heart?

Simply addressing the symptoms of an issue within your organization is not going to result in any meaningful solution to your problems. And if you keep doing the same thing over and over, expecting a different outcome, you’ve just succeeded in demonstrating Einstein’s definition of insanity.

A key component to problem solving is the correct and accurate identification of the cause of the problem. But I think that’s the issue. Identification of the underlying issue seems so simple at first. When the identification doesn’t come easily, the tendency is to revert to looking at the symptoms because they’re more obvious and easier to address. Address the symptom, hammer another mole and problem solved. NO! Symptom addressed.

Here’s a practical suggestion: Put the hammer down. Sit down, take a deep breath, and get a plan together. Put together a quality work team to begin the problem solving stage. Talk with AND LISTEN to the people involved in the problem situation and those who have experience handling such issues. After collecting information, work together to develop quality responses. Communicate with the people involved in the situation, as well as the entire organization. Decide on your best solution and implement it. Use the evaluation phase to assess how well the solution is working. If it’s working, great! If not, make the necessary changes to either fix the implemented solution or toss it out and implement one of the other solutions developed previously. It’s hard work but worth the effort. And if you want to pick up the hammer and whack something, take your kids to the arcade and see how many moles you can whack.

National Crime Victims Rights Week: 8 – 14 April 2018

Sunday, 8 April, marked the beginning of a week long recognition of the importance of letting crime victims know of their rights within our criminal justice system. Many organizations, especially NOVA and other victim advocacy agencies, are doing special events to inform the public of the many services available to assist crime victims. Here in the Phoenix area, a local church, the Church of the Advent in Sun City West, is hosting an information session with members of the Arizona Attorney General’s Office. Attendees will hear about different types of scams which specifically target the elderly. The focus of this session on Saturday, 14 April (10 a.m. to noon) is to let potential targets know what they can do to minimize their chances of being victimized. Unfortunately, the reality of today’s world is that many elderly residents will be subjected to criminal behavior. The presentation will also include information on what to do in the event a person becomes a victim of criminal conduct.
Our criminal justice system is well served by a dedicated and passionate group of individuals who serve as victim advocates throughout our country and our military. Almost on a daily basis they see individuals at their lowest moments, many of whom have suffered severe physical and emotional trauma. Victim advocates often bear the brunt of the anger, the outrage, and sometimes a complete emotional breakdown as they figuratively walk with the victim through the process of prosecution, trial and conviction, sentencing, and hopefully, the start of the healing process. They do an extraordinary job for every victim they meet, oftentimes completely in the background. They’re so successful at working in the background that many members of our communities have little to no knowledge of what victim advocates do. Suffice to say that victim advocates are a special group of individuals, much deserving of our support and respect. I, for one, am extremely thankful that we have such a dedicated group of professionals who selflessly and tirelessly work to make crime victims whole again.