Kindness

Kindness (noun): Having the quality of being considerate, generous, and/or friendly.
Acting with kindness requires very little effort on the part of the giver. At one point in time, it was a gift that was given abundantly, with no strings attached. When shared, it is the gift that keeps on giving. Being on the receiving end of an act of kindness can make a person’s life so much better. In turn, that person may want to share the kindness with others. That’s what used to happen and no one thought anything wrong with sharing kindnesses. However, in today’s world and social media, not so much.
The anonymity of the Internet allows folks to broadcast hurtful, unkind, malicious, and false statements with no fear of being caught and held accountable. Regardless of intent or agenda, there is really no place in our lives for hatred and unkind behavior. Choosing to be kind can make such a positive difference to our workplaces and in the lives of our family and friends.
Contrary to what some might have us believe, being kind to someone is not a weakness. In fact, we need to realize and appreciate the strength of character it takes to be kind, especially when confronting hatred or unrelenting division. In the name of all that is decent, we must hold ourselves and one another accountable so that in our time, hatred and unkind behavior can once and for all be eliminated, replaced by the uncompromising generosity of kindness.

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.

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.

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.

“…Tone deaf, unresponsive, and insensitive to the victims….”**

** Cited from the statement issued by the MSU Board of Trustees on the fourth day of victim impact statements during the sentencing hearing for Larry Nassar.

If ever a published statement was the epitome of being tone deaf and insensitive, this certainly qualifies.  I credit the trustees for requesting a review by the Michigan Attorney General’s Office.  But that credit is tempered by their recent statement of support for the current president, stating that President Simon should continue in office.  That statement is, in my assessment, premature and misguided.

Perhaps a reminder of ethical leadership is needed.  Free of charge, here is a quick review of this concept.  Ethical leadership is guided by a profound respect for ethics (what we do when no one is looking), especially such ethical values and beliefs which protect the dignity and rights of individuals.  That guiding principle and such concepts as honesty, trust, and consideration, form the foundation for quality leadership.  President Simon might have been the right leader at some point but a hallmark of a leader is that when the proverbial stuff hits the fan, the one in charge takes the blame.  She was in charge and the majority of this travesty happened on her watch. On that basis alone, she must step down.  She can lament that she did not know what was going on but she had the ethical responsibility to know.  When she found out, she had the responsibility to do whatever she could to insure that the victims were harmed no further.  Her desire to remain in office cannot take precedence over the need for MSU to redress the harms done to the victims.  The Board of Trustees should immediately issue a new statement, acknowledging that MSU needs a new direction, one which adheres to the values of ethical leadership.  That statement should also acknowledge the impact on the victims.  Perhaps the trustees could express the hope that they can work with the victims to develop and implement changes that will insure that such a travesty never again happens at MSU or any other institution.

It’s about the victims now.  Let them know without a doubt that MSU is going to do take a new direction, one that is both ethical and moral.

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.

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.

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.