It’s Been a Bad Week

I should stop getting updates from a variety of news sources. This week has seen a flood of reports about abuse of children and others. The one that stood out was the sentence of probation passed out to a woman defendant in Minnesota who attempted to hang a 16-month old in her home based child care center. The sentence handed down by the judge? A ten year term of probation, including special conditions for mental health treatment, and no unsupervised visits with minors, among others. The defendant was credited with the 20 months in jail that she has served since her arrest in November 2016.
Here’s the problem – a sentence imposed in a criminal matter has a number of functions to fulfill, not the least of which is specific and general deterrence. According to defense counsel, the defendant already served a sentence of imprisonment because of her pretrial detention and she’s now lost her career in child care. Seriously? How does the sentence imposed address the important consideration of general deterrence? So long as our criminal justice system continues to be inconsistent is punishing offenders who inflict harm on others, especially children, we all will continue to read horrific stories of people inflicting unspeakable harm on victims, especially those who are too vulnerable to fight back. Those of us in positions of leadership, whatever the organization, can be of help by working toward a more consistent approach to effectively punish anyone who inflicts harm on another. Our criminal justice system is good, but by exercising our moral and ethical leadership, we can make it better, especially for victims of abuse.

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.


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.

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.

The Value of Military Experience

I may be dating myself but I was taught from a young age that service to one’s country is a high calling. I was fortunate to be able to answer that calling and I received both an excellent education and training as a military officer. The oath that I took was a sacred bond – a contract, if you will – between my country and me. There’s something about taking such an oath, and the awesome responsibilities that come with it. I can see the same qualities in many of the young people serving as officers and enlisted within our military today as I saw in the officers and enlisted who came after me years ago. There is a dedication and sense of purpose in taking such an oath and it carries over into whatever they do. What is even more remarkable is that our service members are all volunteers. Their dedication and professionalism are qualities highly valued both in the military and in today’s workplace. Whenever I can, I encourage employers to look to the veterans and retirees of our military if they want staff members who are excellent problem solvers and able to get the task done right the first time.
Why am I writing on this topic today? Because tomorrow, 11 November 2017 is Veterans Day, a day when veterans are honored for their service. It is a day when I hope that people will pause for a moment and remember those who made that contract with our country and have served this nation with distinction and with honor. Our veterans deserve the very best our nation can give them in recognition of their service and their sacrifice. No one completes their military service without some sacrifice. Please take a moment tomorrow, and be thankful that our veterans were so willing to step up and do what our nation needed to have done.

Never ceases to amaze me

I recently traveled and people continue to amaze me.

Here are the folks who follow the neck cushion trend.  Whoever invented that pillow must be living on Easy Street by now.  Every color of the rainbow can be seen on parade through the airport of your choice.  With the way the airlines are configuring the seats in coach (or economy) to be sure to pack in six folks in the space originally designed for four bodies, if all three folks in the same row use these cushions, it certainly makes for some interesting gymnastics to fit them comfortably.

We have folks who believe that if they like the smell of their food, every passenger within a radius of three rows must like it, too.  I have nothing against onions (well, maybe the chopping part) but at 7:30 in the morning on a fully packed flight, having one passenger consume the Italian special sub, loaded with spicy meats, peppers, and extra onions sure makes for a difficult few moments, especially when that person is in the seat next to me.  Wonder what the reaction would be if I asked them to dine outside?

Then there’s the child pulling on the back of the seat in front of him or her, or deciding that he/she is going to kick the seat in front for the remainder of the flight.  Mom (or Dad) is completely oblivious to whatever Junior is doing and now, here come the screams.  How do those kids get that decibel level out of their throats?

But my favorite is the passenger currently in front of me who has decided to recline his seat back ALL THE WAY. Forget about using my tray table.  What I wouldn’t give to be a kid, kicking the seat in front of me……


A Step Forward

Earlier this week I was honored to attend an adoption ceremony where three little boys had some permanent stability finally come into their lives. How wonderful to see those three superheroes ( they attended the ceremony dressed as Batman, Spiderman, and Superman) become a family – a true, loving, and stable family. Their future became just a little brighter in that one magical moment.
This moment did not come easily but my friend who initiated the adoption proceedings persevered through thick and thin. Despite the challenges, obstacles, and bureaucracy, my friend stayed positive when talking with the boys, reassuring them that the day would eventually come. And it did. I like to think it came because common sense prevailed. Never once did she let the boys think that things were not going well. Never once did she waver in her push to achieve the goal of adoption. Wonder why? Because she believes in what she is doing. She believes that the boys deserve a second chance at a happy childhood, leading hopefully to a happy and successful life. The journey for her children won’t be easy. There are physical and emotional scars which need to be addressed. But those will be addressed in a world now where these three little ones know that they are loved, that love will never die, and they have the love, prayers and support of a whole “village” of relatives and friends. I wish this new family all the very best and will continue to enjoy watching these three superheroes make their mark on the world.


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.