Let’s get started

In the time that has passed since my last blog, more children have been abused and several more silenced forever. It is time for us, as leaders in our communities, to start the long overdue process to end this madness.

I now request that each of you share this blog with all of your contacts because we are going to engage in an online brain storming session to start our work.  Our collaboration begins with ideas on two important points.  How can we best make the national registry an effective tool, and how do we change state and federal legislation that will insure convicted child abusers are punished to the fullest extent of the law.  Another point follows from the last one – we need to have the most effective system in place to insure that people charged with child abuse are charged appropriately, especially in situations where a plea agreement is reached.  Each charge should reflect the seriousness of the harm caused the victim.  If a child dies as a result of the injuries inflicted, we need to work with victim advocates and others to insure that the prosecution brings the most appropriate charge against the defendant.  Doing this lets victims know that our society has their best interests in mind and the sentencing goals of specific and general deterrence might actually come to mean something.

My request for help in achieving this goal reflects my personal philosophy – If it truly does not matter who gets the credit, we can accomplish any goal.  Please remember the focus of our activity – to make the national registry effective, and to work with the criminal justice system to insure that those convicted on child abuse charges are not given a wink and a nod for their conduct. Children’s lives are at stake.


A Teachable Moment

Like many of you I have been watching with increasing frustration the daily debacle coming from Washington.  Rather than just fume I’ve decided to try to turn this into a teachable moment.  I’m not going to play the blame game – there’s more than enough blame to cover the professional politicians involved in this mess.  Instead, let’s look at this in terms of compromise and consensus.

Compromise is a term often used to characterize negotiations.  “Everyone has to compromise” is the phrase often heard, usually an instruction from the party in power to the weaker party, right?  How many of you have been involved in negotiations where demands were made on you to give up something in order for you to gain something?  Here’s the problem.  If what you have to give up has a greater perceived value than what you receive how willing are you to compromise?  Compromise works best when mature adults engage in a balancing act where the guiding principle is fairness, not getting one over on someone.

Consensus is defined as achieving general agreement through harmony.  The starting point is the focus on the issue or situation,  usually accompanied by an objective identification of the problems.  When engaged in trying to find a general agreement mature adults use creative and critical thinking skills.   Again, the guiding principle is fairness.  The parties involved in consensus are not asked to give up anything in order to gain something in return.  Consensus works best when the communication stays open and fair.   Ultimately what results generally treats the staff fairly.  Isn’t it an accepted business practice that if you do right by the people who work for you they will do right by the organization?

So which approach works best for you?

Giving up the ostrich response

How was that last conversation with Aunt Nell?   As I suggested earlier you may not appreciate the importance of group dynamics.  Just recently there’s been a real life example in the news and I’d like to share some of my observations with you.

Marissa Mayer, the new CEO at Yahoo!,  recently issued a memo to her entire staff, stating that telecommuting was ending and all staff members are expected to report daily to the office  beginning in June.  I have no inside information but I can hazard a guess that Ms. Mayer may have a legitimate concern that the lack of daily office contact with about 500 staffers had caused that group to be perceived as disconnected and remote from the remaining 12,ooo or so other employees.  There is some legitimacy to that perception if we think about it.  Having a coffee break in the employee break room provides a valuable communication channel among the employees.

In my assessment Ms. Mayer may not have fully appreciated the impact of the major paradigm shift she has ordered.  Obviously she appreciates the importance of having the employees interact with one another through means other than impersonal emails and text messages.  Getting all her employees together physically gets everyone on the same page and focused on the same organizational goals.  It improves the quality and frequency of communication and I think it gets employees more personally invested in the success of the organization.   But implementing such a significant change requires, in my view, a stick and carrot approach.  The stick would be having folks  physically in the office.  From the news reports I’ve read the change has been received with the understandable negative response.  However, I think Ms. Mayer can mitigate that negativity by offering a carrot.  It would be a reconsideration at some defined future point of reinstating the work from home option.  What standards she would use would have to be clearly defined and objectively measured.  But it can be done.  In my view, Ms. Mayer has already shown that she’s not afraid to make the hard decisions.  Making an adjustment to her earlier decision would not diminish her in any way but would show how she is willing to listen, evaluate and implement changes as appropriate.  Are you able to say the same thing about your performance?

Which Role Do You Play?

How many of us remember the childhood story of the little red hen?  In a nutshell, it tells of a little red hen living with other farm animals.  She finds a grain of corn and decides to plant it.  When she asks for help from the others, no one wants to be bothered.  On her own she plants the corn, tends it, harvests it, and takes it to the miller for grinding.  From the flour that results she makes a loaf of bread.  When the bread is ready to eat, she finally gets offers to help her.  The others are more than willing to help eat the fruits of her labors but none was willing to labor with her.

Think about the problems within your organization.  Which role do you play?  Are you someone who works hard to solve the problem or are you one of those standing on the sidelines, waiting?  The only time you want to participate is when the problem has been solved and the fruits of others’ labor are now available.

In my assessment, that’s not the work ethic upon which this country was founded.  Of course there were issues in the past and there are issues today which need to be resolved.  But one of those issues to be resolved should never be the question of having one or two people do all the work to solve the problems, only to have the rest of the organization jump in and reap all the rewards.  Solutions which are developed in that scenario might be excellent ones but the residual bad feelings will almost always undermine their effectiveness.  Hard work does pay off but folks need to be willing to break a sweat.  Success will follow.

Long Term Solution or Use a Band-Aid? (A follow up to consensus or compromise)


Recently I was talking with a friend who described an issue at his church.  It got me thinking that in our lives, two of the places where problems most frequently develop are our churches and schools.  Their problems provide excellent opportunities for all of us to learn the essentials of problem solving and team building.

Problems with our schools have made the news all across the country.  Problems with our churches  – not so much.  One of the decisions many churches have to face is how to deal with large attendance.  Two solutions usually recommended are to either change the schedule to include two or more services, or to enlarge the facility by building a bigger church.  There will be resistance to either approach.  Change can be uncomfortable for a lot of people.  What’s the best way to present possible solutions and to gain a consensus on which path to take?

No matter what the organization is, a church, school, small business, corporation, community agency, etc., the options for the range of solutions is to address a long term, permanent solution or take the Band-Aid approach.  Here’s something to consider.  What exactly are you trying to accomplish?  Taking either approach will have its benefits and pitfalls.   Long term solutions make the problem go away for extended periods of time or make it disappear completely.  Band-Aid approaches may buy some time and minimize the ruffling of feathers.  The important thing to remember is to keep your focus on what you’re trying to accomplish.  Hiring a problem solving consultant will make that process a whole lot easier.

Problem solving through consensus or compromise?

As the leader of the organization which has successfully identified the root cause of the problems, the question you may now face is which approach to take in developing and implementing solutions.  It’s a given that you have the courage to bring together both the leadership team and employees to develop the solution so let’s take a look a couple of things.

Do you develop and implement solutions through consensus or compromise?  Does it really matter?  Yes, it really does matter.  Look at the definitions of both words.  Consensus is usually defined as a general agreement or judgment arrived at by most of the individuals involved.  Think of consensus as being a general agreement reached through mutual accord or harmony.

Compromise is defined as a settlement which has been reached either through consent or arbitration with both involving mutual concessions.  So what’s really the difference here?  Compromise and consensus can achieve the same goal but there is a down side to the compromise approach.  Most folks think of compromise as a give and take approach.  If you end up believing that you’ve given up more than you’ve received, there’s a tendency to feel cheated.  How motivated would the parties be to implement solutions to problems they feel were forced on them?  What are some of the long term consequences of an unpopular compromise?  How much better off would your organization be if you hired a problem solving consultant who facilitated consensus?  You decide.