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.

It doesn’t take a crisis

In a recent discussion, folks expressed their belief that it was sad that it took the crisis of Harvey to have folks do nice things for others. I’m sorry – I have to completely disagree.
Good people, kind-hearted people don’t wait for a crisis to help others. With or without a crisis, not a day goes by in this country without folks getting involved in trying to make life a bit easier for their neighbors. The difference is that they don’t broadcast what they’re doing. They’re simply doing it because it’s the right thing to do. They’re doing it because three little boys need a loving home and people to help them learn that childhood is not about being abused or locked away in the dark. They’re doing it because some young people made a poor decision which landed them on the wrong side of the law and they don’t want to see those lives thrown away, nor the lives of the rescued pups the young people are training with. They’re doing it because of their love for teaching and wanting to see young people learn the importance of art and music in expanding their minds. Race, color, gender, and all those other labels folks use to try to separate us don’t matter. Good people help folks simply because it’s the right thing to do.
The devastation from Harvey and Irma will pass. But the kindness shared between strangers will live on in the hearts of those receiving and giving those kindnesses. What lesson can we learn from Mother Nature’s latest show?  All of us are affected by the devastation. But we also know that a better day is coming and we all will have yet another opportunity to share a kindness with strangers.


It recently dawned on me that I didn’t get the memo.  It seems a complete paradigm shift has occurred. At some point in time, folks have apparently decided to turn over to words the power to completely control their lives.  If someone says something they disagree with, they can’t control their emotions. The rest of us get treated to the spectacle of temper tantrums in adults that are worthy of three-year olds.

Why in the world would anyone give such power to words?  When these folks hear something that hurts their feelings or with which they disagree, they apparently can no longer function as normal adults.  They lash out, using words that would, in previous generations, result in a serious washing of the mouth with a bar of vile tasting soap.  They foster more hate and division than the original words could ever hope for.

Words are just that – words.  How we use words is what is important.  We can use them to create great literature, poetry, and songs.  We can use them to make inspiring speeches, or empower others to seek out new discoveries and ideas.  We can use them to console others when tragedy strikes, or to comfort those who are sick or dying.  Words allow us to express what is in our hearts.  As an educator, I use words to challenge my students to engage in critical and creative thinking as I ask them for new solutions to entrenched problems, always keeping in mind the value of the individual.   We can use words to motivate ourselves to become better people, to heal divisions between people who probably have more in common than they do different.  Or, unfortunately, on all sides of the political spectrum, we can hear and see words used to foster hate, division, and animosity.  Those of us who disagree with hateful speeches can follow the new philosophy of doing nothing because our feelings are hurt – or we can stand up and overwhelm that hate speech with words of tolerance, patience, and understanding.   I don’t know about anyone else but I choose the latter option.

A different reflection

Dear readers –

Today’s posting will be quite different and I hope you will indulge me.

Yesterday’s news of the passing of the legendary Debbie Reynolds was very hard to wrap my brain around, coming so quickly after the death of her daughter, Carrie Fisher.  I was very fortunate many years ago to attend a presentation of “The Unsinkable Molly Brown”  in New Haven, Connecticut with two of my sisters.  Watching and listening to Debbie Reynolds in that role is a treasured memory (along with getting her autograph on my program!) but even better was seeing her interact with the young people in attendance.  After the show Debbie came back onstage and directed her immediate comments to those children, introducing herself as “Princess Leia’s mother.”  It captivated all of us who remained in the audience.  I was and will remain a fan of both of these great ladies.  Why?  Not simply because of their artistic talents but more because of the struggles they endured in their personal lives and shared candidly with others.  The spotlight of public attention on mental illness shone brighter because of Carrie’s work and that of her mother.  The overcoming of adversities in their relationship is something that many mothers and daughters can relate to and yet, through it all, they never lost focus on what was truly important in that relationship.  For me, they demonstrated the true meaning of empathy, talent, and a drive to make things better for others.  What a great legacy and I hope that we can all contribute to that legacy, each in our own way.  After all, helping one another achieve greatness, overcome adversity, or simply to let others know we value them is a truly wonderful gift.  May that gift continue to be shared for many generations to come.

Another Teachable Moment

What sort of teachable moment can we take away from the last few months and how do we apply it to our organizations and people?   The key I think is to renew our efforts to eliminate political correctness from our organizational cultures and vocabularies.  You all know that I cannot recall any other social movement which has done more to stifle collaborative discussion and problem solving than the intellectual tyranny foisted on us by a very vocal minority.  Nor can I recall a recent social movement which has done more to marginalize individuals.  So how do we move forward?

As leaders within our organizations we owe it to ourselves, our staffs, and our organizations to return respect and compassion to our way of interacting with others.  Obviously, the election results were going to bring about significant change, no matter which candidate won.  Implementing the various changes which will now result will more than likely bring about increased levels of stress and anxiety.  What can we do to reduce the stress and help insure that our staffs know that they are respected and valued members of our organizations?

If we have to practice some form of social movement, let us all think about ways in which we can implement, model, and practice emotional correctness.  Treating others with respect and courtesy tends to lead to something rather amazing.  Getting to know the people we think we do not like, learning that we usually have more things in common than things which are different, makes it a bit more difficult to treat one another with disrespect and hatred.  As the leaders, we can show our staffs that we value each individual, respect the differences which make us unique, and work together to find the best ways of achieving our goals.

A Pleasant Surprise

I recently experienced a problem with some computer hardware. A keyboard which was put into service in April suddenly had about ten keys which no longer had any markings on them. It was difficult to type quickly without having to constantly check where my fingers were. Frustration level – high. In mid July I wrote a letter to the CEO of Logitech, Mr. Darrell, explaining the situation and noting that I was disappointed in the durability of what is otherwise an excellent keyboard.

Now for the pleasant surprise – within a week I received an  e-mail from a customer service representative who asked that I provide some additional information, including photos of the keyboard. A few days later I was informed that I would be receiving a new keyboard. The new equipment arrived this afternoon and it is a pleasure  to type again. This surprise is all the more pleasant because a replacement was not my intent. As a matter of fact I had already purchased the replacement the same day I sent my letter but had not installed it as yet.

Mr. Darrell and his staff at Logitech appear to appreciate the importance of quality customer service and professionalism. It is gratifying to see that a positive approach was taken to resolving what is in the overall scheme of things a rather minor problem.  I hope that there is a consistency between the quality of their customer service and the treatment of staff.  Such consistency will insure that job related issues will be consistently and appropriately addressed with positive resolutions the likely outcome.  A win/win for the organization.




My Goodness!

Recently, I watched a news conference and witnessed something I never thought I would see in a chief executive – an exquisite non-verbal temper tantrum worthy of a two year old.  Now you know that seeing such behavior got me to thinking.  Are we aware of the non-verbal messages we send?

Any leadership or management class will teach us about the importance of attending to the non-verbal cues in any communication.  The various communication theories tell us that the majority of our interpersonal communication is non-verbal.  Are we cognizant of the non-verbal messages we send?  When a colleague is speaking do we glance at our watch, perhaps more than once?  What message did we just send?  When we are involved in conflict management, do we listen to opposing opinions with arms crossed?  If we make eye contact are we doing so in an aggressive manner, daring the individual to continue to publicly disagree with us?  Do we get aggressive in our stances, invade the other individual’s personal space?  Do we engage in non-verbal tantrums to let people know we are displeased?  Are we aware of what we are doing?

Here is a key point.  I do not know about you but I want my colleagues to disagree with me.  Their viewpoints and perspectives are critical to keeping me focused on our goal – resolve the problem in the best possible manner.  I am not diminished because someone has the temerity to disagree with me or point out where my approach might need some improvement.  I think we all improve our decision making when our staffs and colleagues provide honest assessments of those decisions.  I work hard to create a work environment where people provide constructive criticism.  The end result makes us all look good – an effective, realistic resolution to a difficult problem.

Taking Stock

The last few weeks caused a brief hiatus from my blogs and observations.  After ten years of procrastination I underwent a total knee replacement.  The time of strictly enforced limited activity gave me a chance to assess a number of things – to take stock.

The hardest life lesson I’ve learned is that I don’t always have to rely solely upon me.  Yes, I’m independent and self sufficient.  I’ve learned that relying upon others doesn’t diminish either my independence or self sufficiency.  I think having others help has given me a deeper appreciation for the joy of giving and helping others.

The best lesson – I am surrounded by family and friends who believe in and follow a positive philosophy in their lives.  Having such a positive environment envelope me after surgery has been invigorating and enriching.  Even in the most difficult moments following my release from the hospital to come home that positive spirit allowed me to acknowledge the low moments and deal with them.  There were tears and doubts, admittedly.  But the positive spirit won and progress, though painful, continues.  There will be some life changes but those will be easy to accept in light of the positive support and encouragement I receive daily.

My responsibility now is to continue to carry this assessment forward in my work and life.  I am eager to return to helping decision makers learn innovative ways to make and implement decisions which benefit their staffs and their organizations.  Such a positive approach is not looking at the world through rose colored glasses.  Rather, it is an acknowledgement that challenges exist but a positive philosophy will insure a realistic and viable approach to finding lasting solutions to problems.

Own your ignorance – and change it!

Let’s be honest.  Ignorance is not bliss.  Nor is it the negative connotation that most people get when we use the word.  Ignorance, in the context I’m using it, means not having the skill set or the mind set to tackle the persistent personnel issues hurting your organization.  So own your ignorance to the extent that you acknowledge that you have neither the time nor the skills to personally address the issues.  Unless you’re willing to expend both time and effort to become a professional problem solver you’re going to have to have the courage and grace to accept help from others.

Now to change the ignorance and become wise – professional problems solvers have no agenda other than helping you resolve the issues which you’ve identified.  An additional advantage to using the problem solver is that they may be able to identify the real source of the problem rather than focus just on the symptoms.  Accepting help from others won’t diminish your authority or influence within the organization.  Can you imagine the positive impact upon your staff?  It enhances your leadership by letting others know that you’re comfortable calling upon others with better developed problem resolution skills than yours.  It showcases your decision making skills while also demonstrating the importance you place on people.  Having the problems resolved once and for all can only enhance people’s work experience and eventually the organization’s success.

Lesson to be taken from all this?  Accept that you can use the help of a professional problem solver and gain the experience and knowledge needed to  become wise.  Everyone comes out a winner.

It’s a New Year!

Happy New Year.  More than ten days into the new year and are you reviewing all those resolutions yet?  Was one of them to resolve once and for all the personnel problems which have been around for far too long? Is it finally time to get the stockholders (especially Aunt Nell and that nephew of hers) off your back? Just exactly how do you plan to do this?

Even with the new year the proposed solution from last year needs to be seriously considered. You need to hire a professional problem solver.   But keep in mind that professional problem solvers are not miracle workers. If you expect the problem solver to snap his or her fingers and shazam! – the problem is solved,  I’m afraid you’re going to be bitterly disappointed. But perhaps that attitude could help explain your procrastination. Unless you’re polishing silver or washing windows where the results of your efforts are immediately noticeable, the results of effective problem solving will take some time to be evident. Even a gourmet meal or an excellent cocktail takes some work and some time.

How much longer can you afford to ignore the problem(s) or engage in ineffective solutions? When you’ve run out of ideas please give me a call.  At the very least I can listen.