Commentary by Michael Wade on Leadership, Ethics, Management, and Life
Thursday, October 30, 2014
Halloween Music Prep
Halloween is tomorrow. As is traditional here, we start early with "Werewolves of London."
Crank it up.
At Muddy Colors, Dan dos Santos looks at some upcoming art books.
The Millwright and The Poet
Many thanks to Cultural Offering for featuring this brief, thought provoking, video featuring D.J. De Pree, the founder of Herman Miller.
[I'm sitting in a Herman Miller chair as I write this.]
D. J. De Pree died in 1990 at the age of 99. His son, Max De Pree, told the story of the millwright and the poet in his book, Leadership Is an Art .
It is an important story to remember.
[Here is the link for the Max De Pree Center for Leadership.]
The Nurse Who Went to Maine
Althouse weighs in on the Kaci Hickox story.
I confess to having little sympathy with Ms. Hickox who is having to endure - endure, mind you - some temporary confinement while the nation sorts out how to handle people who may have Ebola. Since the scientific wisdom from the medical authorities seems to change every other day, you'd think there might be some patience and cooperation from those who are possible carriers.
But imagine the hardship of not being able to leave your home for 21 days!
The horror! The horror!
Just think. You'd be reading books, watching movies, and eating ice cream - the usual Gulag fare.
Big Brother is a monster.
[As for her reading, I recommend Heart of Darkness.]
Your Best Work May Not Be Noticed
I've worked on some sensitive and complicated projects where there were plenty of second-guessers. In some cases, their knowledge of the work matched my mastery of Bulgarian literature but that didn't seem to restrain them. Some professionals feel compelled to answer every jibe or analyze every bizarre suggestion. I don't because doing so can interfere with the real reason I'm there: to produce positive results.
You ignore the buzz and do the work. If you can find an easier, more pleasurable, way, you take it, but you need to do what is right for the client. That means putting aside your ego.
There is, of course, a flaw in that quiet approach. An inexperienced person will not know the 50 different ways in which matters could have quickly gone south; ways which you prevented. Some of the finest aspects of a job well done are never acknowledged because they are unnoticed.
Good work, like virtue, can be its own reward.
Quote of the Day
The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew, and act anew.
- Abraham Lincoln
Wednesday, October 29, 2014
Top Party Schools
Playboy has released its notorious list.
My alma mater, a place of great sobriety and decorum, came in fourth. I must have been running in the wrong circles.
A Photographer Found
The Excuser's Excuse
You sit and listen to a bright and well-meaning person making a multitude of excuses for the performance of an executive or manager. "He had a rough transition." "She had a lot on her plate." "The team wasn't completely supportive." "The budget was tight." "The requirements are cumbersome."
You listen, knowing all along that previous people in that job have faced the same or much worse challenges and they not only performed better, they performed extraordinarily well. They weren't just solid and competent leaders; they were transformational leaders who brought energy and high morale to the entire organization..
As the excuses pile up, you wonder what excuse the person making the excuses could possibly have for glossing over poor performance in this case but not in others.
That worries you more than the poor performer.
The Key Factor
A better You will lead to better Actions and those Actions will produce better Results. The better You will make the better Actions more consistent and the more consistent the better Actions, the more consistent the better Results.
Watch out for these traps:
- Stalling on self-improvement without taking action.
- Waiting for perfection before taking action.
- Believing that your actions will be consistent without self-improvement.
- Expecting instant improvement and/or no setbacks.
- Rushing to achieve results without refining the actions needed to produce consistent achievement of the results.
- Lack of accountability.
- Lack of initiative.
- Lack of ambition.
Quote of the Day
An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last.
- Winston Churchill
Tuesday, October 28, 2014
Modern Life Update
At Althouse: a pretty woman walks in New York City and meets local sophisticates.
[We need to bring back the concept of being formally introduced.]
I tried this and that but for some reason none of the troubleshooting explanations included "Wife placed cloth over router."
My Favorite Baseball Story
You Know You Want One
At CoolTools, the Torin Aluminum Work Platform.
Wally Bock has collected an excellent assortment of essays on leadership.
[My reading stack groweth.]
Remembering The Fiddler's Father
In City Journal, Harry Stein writes about playwright Joseph Stein, his memorable and talented father. An excerpt:
That my father wasn’t blacklisted was largely a matter of happenstance. He originally wanted to be a journalist, but as the Depression deepened, he instead became a social worker, remaining one for nearly a decade. He didn’t so much fall into comedy writing as grab at the flimsiest reed of possibility. At a Bronx dinner party of fellow thinkers, another guest, a small-time comic named Zero Mostel, mentioned that he’d just landed a local radio show and could use some funny sketches. “I write those,” my mother was astonished to hear my father pipe up. Back home late that night, he wrote his first. Within a few years, he’d quit social work and was writing for radio full-time, and several years after that, with TV taking off, he joined Sid Caesar’s legendary writing staff.
The Meeting Card
IS THIS MEETING REALLY NECESSARY?
It's better to have no meeting than a worthless one.
WHAT ARE WE DOING HERE?
(Circle one): The primary goal of this meeting is to: inform, persuade, decide or analyze.
WHAT'S THE AGENDA?
This will be clearly stated at the start. [In most cases, a copy will have been distributed in advance.]
WE'VE DONE OUR HOMEWORK
We will have completed any required assignments prior to the meeting.
We will stick to the meeting agenda/purpose. If any of us starts to ramble (no matter how brilliantly), the others will quietly hold up their Meeting Cards and the story will be saved for another time. There will be no hard feelings. We've all rambled.
HAS EVERYONE HAD A CHANCE TO CONTRIBUTE?
We won't let a few people dominate the discussion. We'll make an effort to include everyone.
NO SEETHING NOW AND BADMOUTHING LATER
If we disagree, we'll voice our concerns in a polite and professional manner at the meeting.
WHAT HAVE WE ACCOMPLISHED?
At the end of the meeting, the leader will summarize the meeting's achievement(s).
DO WE NEED A FOLLOW-UP MEETING?
If so, let's decide on a tentative time and agenda before we leave the room.
GET OUT OF DODGE!
When this meeting is over, each of us will leave. We won't linger and turn this into two meetings.
[Compliments of Sanders Wade Rodarte Consulting Inc. - www.swrci.com]
Monday, October 27, 2014
Honoring The Good
At Live & Learn: Let us remember Cpl. Nathan Cirillo.
Ginger Baker: Handy with Drum Sticks and a Cane
And while we're on the subject of rock, here's the trailer for "Beware of Mr. Baker."
Jack Bruce and Cream
I watched them, and knew that I had seen their like before -- but not where you'd think. They were operating their machinery, and I had seen men operate familiar machinery before. I've known many men, skilled in the rough arts: masonry and concrete finishing and excavation and demolition and blasting--men past their physical prime, but still tough as nails, and wise, and able to leave any three youngsters in their dust.
Read the rest at Sippican Cottage.
Classical Radio Station Links
Steve, a reader from Portland, recently posted a comment noting that he has All Classical Portland streaming in his office. I smiled at that news because I often do the same with KBAQ, which is Phoenix's classical station.
Since you can also listen to those stations via the Internet, here are their links. Please feel free to add any others.
Art Break: Harpignies
Art Contrarian looks at the work of Henri-Joseph Harpignies.
Fear The Spear
Writing in The Washington Post, Ian Shapira on the Red Mesa, Arizona Redskins team and their high school. An excerpt:
In the second half, the Redskins continued running up the score. When the clock signaled the game’s end, Red Mesa celebrated 14 quarters of keeping their opponents scoreless, sealing yet another blowout, 46-0, and bringing their record to 6-2. They hurried off the field, changed clothes and joined their families for a barbecue, where the same joke about their NFL namesake was repeated again and again:
At least these Redskins win.
Last night while reading a riveting book on organizations, I used a coaching client's business card as a bookmark. It is a reminder of several things I need to address with that manager.
On my nightstand is a bottle containing some pills which I take, one each morning. I turn it upside down before I go to bed so in the morning I'll know I haven't taken anything.
Little tricks, but important ones. I'm a list-maker of Olympic caliber. Two inches from my left hand is an open Moleskine notebook which has today's work list. [Oops. I just added a missing chore.]
I also keep a calendar in a Circa notebook; a practice which is quaint but effective. As a booking site for meetings and projects, it is the Holy of Holys. An item is not official until it is posted there. I've found that keeping more than one calendar is dangerous and prefer the pencil and paper approach. Note cards are also heavily used. [I knew a priest who used to put those pink telephone messages on the floor between his desk and the door so he'd remember to return the calls before leaving for the day.]
At least once a week, I like to review projects. Anything that is lingering gets red-flagged and either given a high priority or examined for why it has been lagging. [Sometimes the Inner Procrastinator is sending a warning signal.]
Lately, I've been immersed in a bunch of material for my online classes. [More on those later.] This box is leadership, that one is ethics, and the stack over there is crisis management. Others include EEO, harassment, supervision, disability and veterans issues as well as a unique class on Arizona.
"Immersed" is the right word and that's why a system of reminders is important. It keeps chaos at bay.
Constructive termination is where a workplace is so offensive that an employee is forced to leave. What on the surface appears to be a voluntary resignation is in reality a coerced one.
I suggest that another helpful concept would be constructive resignation. In that situation, a person who performs in a manner which signals extreme incompetence or a lack of interest in performing the job would be regarded as having resigned, even though no resignation has been formally submitted.
Elements of constructive resignation would be:
- Frequently being surprised by events which should have been anticipated;
- Frequently attempting to blame others for inadequacies;
- A history of shirking responsibilities;
- A history of missing deadlines;
- Repeated fumbling of crises and major decisions;
- Failing to fulfill frequent vows to correct practices;
- Failing to manage;
- Failing to follow-through;
- Failing to work well with others;
- A long history of excuse-making;
- Failing to produce results.
Just as there are people who retire on the job, there are people who "resign" but remain on the job.
They are not gone but they should be.
Advice: Seven to Remember
Writing at Muddy Colors, David Palumbo has seven pieces of good advice. An excerpt:
2: Don’t teach yourself the mistakes of others
Early on, I had some ideas about working as a comic artist and was fortunate to have a portfolio review by Joe Quesada. After looking at my (in hindsight) very crude pages, he told me that he felt I was looking too much at other comic artists and not enough at real life. He told me that, while you can learn a great deal by copying the work of those who inspire you, the vast majority of your study should be direct observation. When you copy another artist, you are copying their mistakes and teaching yourself their bad habits. Working from life, on the other hand, lets you train without that baggage clouding up the picture. You are much more likely to develop your work into something unique if you learn from the world unfiltered.
Sunday, October 26, 2014
Scribbled some thoughts on candor and daily life before moving to my desk. Wife still asleep. Dog snoring behind me. Have been reading the William Wilberforce chapter in the Seven Men book by Eric Metaxas. Will shuffle out to get the newspaper and look at the sky.
We have the gift of a day.
Saturday, October 25, 2014
What's at the Bottom of Your Cup of Life?
Cultural Offering has some great lines from P.G. Wodehouse.
Read them. You'll feel better.
On a dreary spring day in London, preaching outside a Finsbury Park mosque to a crowd that numbered no more than a few dozen, a Moroccan cleric called for the British government to end the public display of sacrilegious art. The initial target of his campaign was the aluminum statue of a nude Eros atop the bronze fountain at Piccadilly Circus.
- From The West's Last Chance: Will We Win the Clash of Civilizations? by Tony Blankley
If out early enough, I can get the eastern exposure yard work completed before the sun gets too high. I can then shift to the west side where the trees and house will provide some shade as I attend to its needs.
The back yard once had an enormous carob tree, a beautiful monster which sucked up irrigation water like a camel and dropped massive numbers of heavy pods. I never experimented with the culinary possibilities of carob but was content to enjoy the tree itself which eventually died of a disease that foiled the experts who treated the patient with the same creativity of an 18th century physician prescribing bleeding and purges.
With the monster gone, the yard has made a come-back and there is more grass to mow. We put in a ficus. Although pretty, it lacks personality.
I prefer trees that I'll remember.
In the mid-1970s, boxing fever had swept through the Philadelphia-South Jersey area, where I grew up. Rocky, which was famously set in Philadelphia, had just struck gold at the box office for Sylvester Stallone. Muhammad Ali lived in my hometown, Cherry Hill, New Jersey. Heavyweight champion Jersey Joe Walcott was a constant presence. Joe Frazier had long-standing ties to the region, as did Sonny Liston. Middleweight world champion Joey Giardello was a neighbor, and Mike "the Jewish Bomber" Rossman was making headlines.
- From Glass Jaw: A Manifesto for Defending Fragile Reputations in an Age of Instant Scandal by Eric Dezenhall
What is the Leader's System?
Have a rigid chain of command and you risk having information filtered. Have a loose organization and you risk wasted time. Too much bureaucracy and initiative is diminished. Too little and chaos may emerge. Decision-makers fight battles of information overload or information drought, too few options or too many, and an ongoing campaign to reduce unnecessary interruptions.
That's why a key question when evaluating any top leader is to ask, "What is this person's system?"
Quote of the Day
The words of a president have enormous weight and ought not to be used indiscriminately.
- Calvin Coolidge
Friday, October 24, 2014
The Non-Citizen Vote
Finding Your Habits of Productivity
At Entrepreneur, Michael Simmons examines seven productive habits of young entrepreneurs.
Five options to consider shortly after returning from an Ebola-stricken country:
- Self-quarantine and don't leave your home or have personal contact with others for 21 days.
- Monitor temperature while riding subway.
- Take dish to pot-luck dinner but don't bring the potato salad.
- Decompress at Disneyland.
- Visit enemies.
- Roy Orbison: "Crying"
- Pepe Romero: "Concierto de Aranjuez" and "Recuerdos de la Alhambra"
I grieve for some of the old radios we threw away.
Art Contrarian has a fine collection.
Cartoons and Life
As we grow beyond childhood cartoons and get into the turmoil of life, there are days when we find ourselves resembling:
- Bullwinkle more than Rocky;
- Goofy more than Mickey;
- Wimpy more than Popeye;
- Wile E. Coyote more than The Roadrunner; and
- Elmer Fudd more than Bugs Bunny.
Our Daily Soap Opera
Nicholas Bate reminds us of some options.
Adolf Eichmann is an icon of the twentieth century, of the Nazi regime and the genocide it waged against the Jews. The much-used official photograph of the smiling young SS officer with filmstar looks who deported millions of Jews to the death camps seems to personify all of the perpetrators of the Nazi genocide. The ubiquity of this image is equalled by that of Eichmann at his trial in Jerusalem in 1961, sitting or standing inside a bulletproof glass booth. Its power lies in the way it encapsulates the satisfying story of the perpetrator meeting justice at the hands of his former victims. In this picture the killer is now safely incarcerated; but his one-time prey allows him the dignity of a hearing, evincing the humanitarian values he trampled. Eichmann thus seems to be a metonym for the entire history of the Nazi persecution and mass murder of the Jews as well as its legacy. Along with Hitler, Himmler and perhaps Reinhard Heydrich, he is the face of Nazi mass murder.
- From Becoming Eichmann: Rethinking the Life, Crimes, and Trial of a "Desk Murderer" by David Cesarani