Action needed, not just words

I read an Internet article yesterday about the death of a former K-pop singer, Sulli.  My first thought was of her family and friends and the devastating sense of loss they must be feeling.  I wondered how such a talented young woman would come to think that the only solution to her mental anguish was to apparently take her own life.  How is it in today’s world, where we are supposedly so interconnected through social media, that a young person would come to feel so isolated and alone?  It appears to me that far too many people, young and old alike, come to believe that the ultimate solution to their pain becomes their only option.  We, as a society and global community, are diminished by that decision.  How can we turn this around?

For one thing, we need to have meaningful conversations with one another.  That means that the cell phones are put down and face to face conversations take place.  We need to be engaged with one another in discussing the things that matter most in our lives.  Old fashioned eye to eye conversation is needed in order to make that human connection that will mean so much to those involved.

Next, as a society and global community, we need to reassess our priorities.  Today’s technological world has the advantage of social media, but that advantage also carries some significant consequences.  Social media can and often does create an unrealistic standard of what we should look like, what to wear,  what to eat, who we should follow, etc., etc.    What’s missing in that approach?  I think what’s missing is the realization that each of us is unique and individual.  Because of the anonymity of the Internet, some folks believe that gives them license to point out other people’s imperfections, often in demeaning terms.  Instead of insulting one another over real or perceived imperfections, why aren’t we celebrating the fact that despite our individual differences, we humans have the heart and mind to come together as a family, group of friends, neighbors, colleagues, etc.  That coming together to solve common problems is, in my assessment, the avenue we must use in order to stop the sense of isolation which can lead some to believe that the world is better off without them.  Trust me, we aren’t.

Life Lessons = Karma?

 
Many times we hear of someone receiving a life lesson and folks nod knowingly and murmur something about karma. From what I’ve gathered, karma is another way of talking about how things all seem to balance out, one way or the other.
In trying to understand why I get an occasional figurative smack to the back of my head – one as recently as Monday evening, I took a look at some things I learned when I first entered the military, affectionately known as the three truths in life. Trust me, the subtle filter is in place!
“Time will tell.” This is usually stated when someone questions whether a decision is the right one or not. Time will let us know whether we’ve made the right decision or whether we need to make an adjustment. A modified dose of karma?
“Some things in life will always smell, no matter what we do.” That science experiment in the office fridge, the dirty diaper filled just moments after the old diaper has been removed, the ‘green air’ emitted by our dog just as guests arrive for a formal dinner… You get the picture. Not sure any of these qualify as karma but it is one of life’s truths that some things really do stink. Feel free to make your own decision on this.
“Water will seek its own level.” I think that no matter what I do, things are going to even out at some point in time. And for me, this is where the concept of karma comes in. Water has a way of moving mountains and making its own way – just look at the Grand Canyon, for example. No matter what we do, water makes its way around and through the structures we might place in its path, often to our detriment. Karma? Probably.
So what has this got to do with problem solving? Sometimes, problems come about because we ignore the three truths in life and try to impose our own will, often to our detriment. Sometimes, we simply have to accept things for what they are and work as best we can with them. Taking that approach can be far less stressful than having to clean up the impact of karma and the life lesson we just had dumped into our lap.
Oh, and my most recent life lesson? Trying to rush the rehab on my left wrist. I thought I was finally ready to lift something that weighed about ten pounds. I was but my wrist wasn’t. I’m repainting the kitchen in a few weeks. Karma!

An Opportunity

With the new year, we have an opportunity for a fresh start on any number of things – improving things within our organization, starting a new fitness plan, taking up a new hobby or refining one (shooting my age in golf is a dream), learning a new skill, etc.
As leaders within our organizations, we have an opportunity to ensure that all of the tools needed by our staff are now available. We can also, as an organization, provide help and support to any number of worthwhile victim advocacy agencies within our communities.
As members of our community, we can renew our efforts to make a positive change in the lives of children who are or have been in abusive or difficult situations. One thing that we can focus on is learning about the needs of organizations which help families which provide foster care or adopt these children.
Many of these organizations are nonprofit groups which provide a number of services such as counseling to all victims as well families, and providing information about available resources. Some of these organizations exist to increase public awareness and to provide education and training for other support groups, as well as members of the community. Victim advocates provide an important service of insuring that the needs of any victim are appropriately addressed in a timely manner. Advocates provide vital support to victims if a criminal prosecution occurs. These advocates stand by the victims throughout the entire process.
It is important for these agencies to know that they have the support of the surrounding community as they provide these vital services. So what can we do?
We can learn about what agencies and groups are available within our own communities. We can volunteer services or talents that we may have to help these agencies achieve their mission. We can help broadcast their important information to other members within our community. If we can seize this opportunity in this new year, we can make a positive difference in the lives of victims, especially the children.

Respect

Respect (noun) – having a high regard for someone or something or having an admiration for another based upon their achievements, abilities, or personal qualities.
I think we can all agree that it appears that the concept of respect has become lost in the sauce. Respect means that we hold someone in high regard. Like kindness, respect is given with no strings attached. We are simply expressing our admiration for an individual, group, organization, etc. This admiration is based most often upon positive qualities.
I respect Christina Kim of the LPGA. Her professional career is not the stellar career of other professionals on the tour, but I hold her in very high regard because of her courage in dealing with a mental health issue that significantly impacted her professional golfing skills. She hid her pain of severe depression through humor and comedic antics on the course. I especially admire her courage in going public with her issue. And with karma being what it is, shortly after opening up to others about her issue, Christina earned a much deserved LPGA tour win.
I respect the thousands of victim advocates who work tirelessly on behalf of individuals who have become victims of criminal behavior. The professionalism and passion that these individuals show on a daily basis cannot be imagined until you see these individuals come together in a national symposium to recharge their batteries (so to speak), learn from one another, and constantly seek new and better ways to assist victims. It is through their dedication that victims understand and appreciate that they are valued as individuals.
I often wonder how much better our society would be if we all lowered the decibel level and showed more respect. In any disagreement, there is never an invitation to be disrespectful, hateful, or mean-spirited. There is nothing about the concept of respect that requires us to give it blindly. Simply stated, respect must be earned and once given to an individual, that individual must continue to uphold the same standards that earned our respect in the first place.

A New Approach?

Have you ever had the experience of opening the fridge to the smell of some science experiment going really south on us and the smell is enough to knock an elephant off its feet at a distance of half a mile? Obviously, we can’t leave that until the weekend when we’d planned to clean the fridge, so we attend to it right there and then. But as we do so, we find still other problems living in our fridge. Now we do a thorough cleaning and a couple of hours later, our fridge is sparkling clean and a healthy place to once again store our perishables.
What if we treated issues within our organizations the same way we approached finding the source of the smell and fixing things so our fridge was again safe for food storage? Do we work to identify potential issues before they erupt? Or do we wait until the issue goes from a molehill to a mountain? Once an issue is identified, we must address it effectively so that it is completely resolved. We don’t simply address the symptom (yes, let’s throw out that bag of salad we were saving for lunch next week, only “next” week was actually last week and now it’s changing into a liquid version of itself. And oh, good grief! The bag is leaking all over the place!)
Getting to the source of the problem quickly and developing effective resolutions can prevent issues from developing that can consume all our time and energy – time and energy better spent on insuring quality productivity and customer service. Focusing on identifying the issue correctly also helps prevent us from addressing only the symptoms. Throwing away the outdated bag of salad addresses the symptom but doesn’t address the problem (we need to pay attention to what’s there and for how long.) Now off to organize the freezer…..

My, oh my!

I got to people watch last week and I don’t think I’m going to surprise anyone by the following observation –

At first glance, there appears to be an increase in instances where coarseness and rudeness direct our everyday interactions with one another.   I watched a number of people in the airport push their way around the person in front of them.  Rather than wait for an opening in the oncoming crowd, these folks decided their journey was so important that they needed to rudely push their way past the obstacle they had determined was in their way.   I’ve seen the same behavior when driving.  I admit my temper almost got the best of me the other week when someone blasted past me on the interstate, driving on the shoulder and kicking up all kinds of gravel and debris. I now have a stone chip in my windshield that needs to be repaired.  Whoever it was got to squeeze in between the car ahead of me and my car.  I suppose he achieved his goal, whatever it was.

Being the eternal optimist that I am and believing that people are not generally rude or coarse for no reason,  I know that stories about people behaving badly get more air time and social media time than stories where everyday people are treating one another with kindness and respect.  The observation of people pushing past others in a mad rush to get out of the airport is offset by the more frequent observation of people taking their time, stopping to help someone obviously struggling with too much luggage, young children, and an airport that apparently has absorbed the entire population of the state of California squeezed into one terminal between Gates A6 and A17.  We need to continue to be kind.  It sets a wonderful example for others, especially our children.  I’ve faced rudeness and coarseness before.  For right now I’m going to continue to follow the philosophy of refusing to engage in a battle of wits with an unarmed individual.  Helps keep my stress levels under control.

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.

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.

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.

Let’s Ignore the Cabal in Criminal Justice

I have watched with increasing concern, the behavior of some folks who have sworn to uphold the laws and the Constitution. Seems we have a cabal of individuals who believe that certain people are to be treated more fairly than others. A privileged class of individuals has grown who flagrantly violate the law – the same law that others without political power or money are prosecuted under and are often sentenced to prison when convicted.

Why am I worried about what some would call “old news?” A couple of reasons. First, I’m very proud of our Criminal Justice System (“CJS”) in this country. It’s not perfect but I know that we have dedicated folks who are passionate about insuring that changes are made so that we can achieve the fair and impartial administration of justice. These individuals should not have their efforts tarred with the self-serving conduct of others who support a privileged class of select citizens.

More importantly, with the cabal in place dominating the headlines, time, and effort, those of us looking for meaningful changes in the way in which victims are protected and served throughout the entire CJS will be stymied.

Getting laws passed is the least of our concerns – fair and impartial enforcement is the most important concern. Prosecutors who pick and choose who to prosecute based upon status and perceived political power; judges who consider the future of the offender over the rights of victims; or, universities and colleges which decline to press for criminal prosecution for a campus rape, continue to threaten our efforts to implement change. Members of the CJS who work daily to insure the fair and impartial administration of justice are the folks which should be grabbing the headlines. Indeed, their efforts and passion about protecting the rights of victims should be fully acknowledged and recognized. Shine the spotlight on these dedicated folks, and let’s ignore the cabal.