Tuesday, February 28, 2006
One of the fascinating aspects of fear is its ability to affect people in different ways: The combat veteran who is afraid of delivering a speech. The trial attorney who is afraid of giving a deposition. The decorated police officer who is afraid of being on television.
This also says, of course, that there are different types of courage. I recall a story of a Civil War soldier who would stay in line until the bullets began to fly and then run away. The rest of his unit never mocked him because he always returned and was always in the front ranks for the next battle where he would do the same thing again. The author of the story, which was true, reflected that the man may have been one of the bravest in the regiment because he was willing to face his fear time after time.
Catch this article about his latest venture and don't miss his regular column in National Review.
[HT: Cathy's World ]
While observing the employees at work over several weeks, they noted that about 10% of the team didn't follow scripts but resolved many problems in one call, sometimes selling customers a new service as well. These customer reps were able to use their knowledge of the company's products and listening skills to find solutions.
Average performers "apologized a lot to customers about what they couldn't do, while the high performers always offered something," Ms. Grayson adds. When scheduling a repair person to make a house call, for instance, the high performers would say, "I can't get you anyone on Friday, but I'm making this appointment for Monday -- and meanwhile I'll put you on a waiting list for Friday, so give me a cellphone number where you can be reached if something opens up."
It doesn't say: We'll be there between 8 a.m. and 7 p.m. so just hang around until someone appears.
Do you have a satisfactory answer if any of the following questions pertain to you?
- You have a problem with your co-worker. Why haven’t you talked to the person about it?
- You know you have an incorrigibly abrasive person working for you. Why haven’t you fired him?
- You know a team member is being ostracized. What real action have you taken to ensure that person is brought into the team?
- You have just hired a person. Have you given that person a serious orientation?
- Your organization claims it hires on merit. Why are you giving preferences based on race, sex or national origin?
- You think your marketing people may be misleading customers. Why haven’t you tried to change that?
- You know that upper management routinely discounts the efforts of a peer who is doing extraordinary work. What have you done to help that person?
- One of your best people has turned in a letter of resignation. What are you doing to convince that person to stay?
CNN described the touching romance that started it all:
Smith married the oil tycoon in 1994 when he was 89 and she was a 26-year-old topless dancer in Texas. Marshall died the following year. His fortune has been estimated at as much as $1.6 billion.
Read the entire article here.
Two items to consider:
Will evaluations be candid if they are written?
Doesn't a succession planning program carry Equal Employment Opportunity dangers by implying that there are tapped successors?
CareerJournal has some options here and they carry some risks.
My take: In most cases, the organization knows the manager has problems and is ignoring it until a crisis is produced. This is a bad practice that organizations need to address. It's unfair to the employees, harmful to the organization and even a drawback for the boss who may be correctable.
This is tied to the entire area of performance evaluation, which is often handled terribly.
Monday, February 27, 2006
Even when you disagree with him, he's a hoot. An excerpt:
Serious Americans - frumpy, middle-aged men with furrowed brows - love to rattle on about the "culture wars" that plague society. The left, or what passes for the left in America, resents the fact that politics and business are controlled by Republicans. The right deplores the fact that culture, entertainment, style and even cuisine are dominated by Democrats. The right punishes the left by slashing taxes, badgering minorities, stirring up trouble in abortion clinics, and filling the airwaves with the ramblings of paunchy, pill-popping ideologues extolling virtues they do not themselves possess, while the left punishes the right by putting Jimmy Carter's fatuous memoirs on the bestseller list and making high-minded motion pictures in which conservatives are portrayed as hyenas. The saintly Susan Sarandon is never terribly far from the action.
Read the entire article here.
Living in the desert, you get used to sunny skies but this is getting to be a bit much.
The weather reports give us a 40% chance of rain tomorrow.
They may be toying with us. We've heard that sweet talk before.
In addition to my consulting practice, I teach a business law class at a community college where I used to run across cases that were not even close calls. Some students would just flat-out copy material and pass it off as their own. We've since changed the paper requirement to make it more difficult to plagiarize and the cases have dropped - so far - to zero.
Epstein notes that plagiarism has long terrified him as a writer. That may be a common fear. You write a passage and worry that it may resemble something you read five years ago.
That worry, however, may be your greatest safeguard.
[HT: Arts & Letters Daily ]
Sunday, February 26, 2006
I like "If the board says it wants changes, don't believe it."
If you think that individuals can send mixed signals as to expectations, multiply that with a board. What their message really means is, "If you succeed, we'll like it" and "If you don't, we'll barely remember how you were selected."
The one about the apology is also sound. Summers tried to appease some groups that would never be placated.
My choice for Harvard president: Alan Dershowitz, if only to see the reaction of the Liberal Arts faculty.
[HT: Althouse Law Blog ]
It's the sort of concept that would get 10 extra points for creativity in an international relations seminar but note how vague he gets when it comes to providing specifics.
Soft power only appears to be effective when hard power is backing it up.
Click here for the article.
This month, there was another murder. Ilan Halimi, also 23, also Jewish, was found by a railway track outside Paris with burns and knife wounds all over his body. He died en route to the hospital, having been held prisoner, hooded and naked, and brutally tortured for almost three weeks by a gang that had demanded half a million dollars from his family. Can you take a wild guess at the particular identity of the gang? During the ransom phone calls, his uncle reported that they were made to listen to Ilan's screams as he was being burned while his torturers read out verses from the Quran.
This time around, the French media did carry the story, yet every public official insisted there was no anti-Jewish element. Just one of those things. Coulda happened to anyone. And, if the gang did seem inordinately fixated on, ah, Jews, it was just because, as one police detective put it, ''Jews equal money.'' In London, the Observer couldn't even bring itself to pursue that particular angle. Its report of the murder managed to avoid any mention of the unfortunate Halimi's, um, Jewishness. Another British paper, the Independent, did dwell on the particular, er, identity groups involved in the incident but only in the context of a protest march by Parisian Jews marred by ''radical young Jewish men'' who'd attacked an ''Arab-run grocery.''
Read the entire story here.
What a glorious vision is this, this future Eden, where speech is so carefully watched, even if it is not listened to, and where no one need ever again experience judgment or reproach. You'll be OK, I'll be OK, we'll all be OK, truly OK, and we can shout out together the immortal words of Sally Field: "You don't dislike me. You really, really don't dislike me."
Read it all here.
I’ve been weeding out my book collection lately. I’m a stone book addict. Television could end tomorrow and I’d barely blink. Books, on the other hand, are as necessary as breathing. When stacks of books start to impair mobility, however, steps must be taken and several rules have evolved:
- With the exception of classics such as War and Peace, beware of long novels. Few writers nowadays can write them.
- Don’t complete a bad book. Not finishing a book was a major sin when I was young. No more. I’ll give a writer a few chapters and if that sucker isn’t working, forget it.
- Aside from reference books, the only books that belong on the shelves are those that are yet to be read and those that will be re-read. If a volume falls in-between, it’s gone.
- Know when you’re reading trash. A little trash reading can be a nice break, but don’t equate Stephen King with Charles Dickens or Gabriel Garcia Marquez.
- Find a prolific great writer. I just stumbled onto Anthony Trollope a few years ago and Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey-Maturin series can be enjoyed again and again.
- Give a second break to the classical novelists who bored you when you were in high school. There’s a reason why they are classics.
- Avoid the sort of “dysfunctional family” books that Oprah likes. They will only depress you.
- Periodically, read something completely out of your normal routine. You may lurch into a new perspective.
- Mickey Mantle
Saturday, February 25, 2006
"Tell me about yourself."
One of my favorite true stories from the world of interviewing is the applicant who handled the question, "What is your weakness?," by smiling slightly and sheepishly replying, "Fried chicken."
I always thought that Tucson, Arizona's Speedway Boulevard had a less than safe tone but it may be mild compared to Psycho Path and Divorce Court.
Read the entire list here.
"The concern is not simply with people getting sick and staying out of work," says Kobrin. "It has to do with a fairly substantial breakdown in infrastructure. If there is a pandemic, people will be reluctant to leave their homes. That means disruptions in food supplies, supply chains, mass-transit systems and information technology systems if the systems [fail] and IT people aren't there to fix them. The issue is, 'How do you operate in the context of turmoil?' You have to plan for a substantial breakdown in the physical and social infrastructure. The question companies should be thinking about is how to keep their businesses going." Imagine just a few of the effects a pandemic would have on attendance at any number of venues -- high-rise offices; factory floors; airlines, buses and trains; schools; hospitals and doctors' offices -- as people stayed home either because they were already sick or feared becoming ill.
Wharton management professor Peter Cappelli recalls the strictures that were put in place in companies when he was visiting Singapore during the epidemic of severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS, in 2003. Each morning, some companies made employees report their body temperatures -- an indicator of whether they were infected with SARS -- before being allowed into their offices to work. Officials implemented a "buddy system" under which one employee was required to take the temperature of a co-worker to certify that the "buddy" was not lying about his or her thermometer reading.
Read the whole thing here.
I'm a bit confused by all of the shouting and have some questions:
- If we are going to win the war against Islamo-fascism, aren't we going to need Arab allies?
- Will we win Arab allies by barring any Arab companies, no matter how respected, from contracts?
- Shouldn't we have strong security oversight regardless of the nationality of any port management company?
After all, police and fire departments have had cadet programs and ROTC programs are in high schools.
But do you ever wonder whatever happened to childhood?
Part of this is a calculated move to change what had been a relaxed culture. Nardelli has taken the George Patton approach. What will be interesting to see is how well he does when the organization evolves to the point when an Eisenhower is needed.
Read the Business Week story here.
Friday, February 24, 2006
There are also the Zamboni drivers.
Zamboni drivers simultaneously perform three operations: scraping away a thin film of ice, picking up the debris and laying down water to create a fine new layer of ice. One false move with the scraping blade and the ice is scarred with a gouge that could trip up players. Too much water leaves puddles that slow the puck, too little doesn't fill the ruts cut by the skates. The drivers also keep an eye on the temperature of the water, which is usually about 150 -- hot enough to remove the oxygen that slows freezing.
All this while driving about nine miles an hour, looking backward at the ice they leave behind, and keeping aware of a second Zamboni on the ice (in hockey matches, they usually drive in tandem). During each 15-minute intermission between periods, the drivers have about six minutes to cover the 200-by-100-foot sheet of ice, which leaves enough time for the new water to freeze before the players return. (A vast network of cooling tubes beneath the ice keeps the temperature at about 22 for hockey. The icemen must watch the temperature, too, taking regular readings as the arena heats up with cheering fans; too cold and the ice chips, too warm and the skates dig in.)
Read the entire article here.
There is concern that an employee may embarrass the company, as in the case of this flight attendant blog, or anger customers or harm the company's reputation.
Forbes examines some policy considerations here.
In addition to otherwise nice people who are pressed for time and who often don't recognize how small oversights may appear rude, there is the corrosive nature of a society where the put-down is raised above simple kindness and where the cult of Me First and Foremost has a large membership.
I sometimes see that in classes. A person in a supervision workshop gets upset because part of the class deals with what he sees as the unnecessary topic of time management, all the while missing the fact that many other class members want help in that specific topic. There is an inability to get beyond self that can be jarring. Our society's marvelous ability to customize products and services to please every taste may foster the attitude that every experience should be customized and there should be no trade-offs. You see many teams that are collections of independent operators instead of a blend of collaborative participants. When that environment exists, rudeness can flourish.
[Hat tip to Business & Legal Reports.]
Does Burger King keep its "King" character out of the Burger King stores because he gives people the heebie-jeebies?
There is something spooky about a character who smiles and never changes expression. The story speculates that it may scare off young/future customers.
Click here for the story.
- Philip K. Howard
Thursday, February 23, 2006
It becomes clearer here.
[HT: Arts & Letters Daily]
In addition, the “inherent ethics” of the “good moral people” that a company hires include:
76 percent of MBA graduates who reported that they were willing to commit fraud to enhance profit reports to management, investors, and the public;
The fewer than 50 percent of employees who believe their employers have high ethical integrity;
30 percent of all employees who currently report that they “know or suspect ethical violations such as falsifying records, unfair treatment of employees, and lying to top management;”
41 percent of employees in the private sector and 57 percent of employees in the public/government sector who are aware of ethical misconduct or illegal activities;
60 percent of employees who state that they know but have not reported instances of misconduct in their organizations. Most employees cite the lack of companies’ confidentiality policies as reasons for not coming forward about ethical misconduct. They fear “whistle-blower” retaliation and that existing policies won’t protect them.
Read the entire article here.
Here's an article that lists the prices of a variety of items, ranging from 50 cents for your address on up to $35 for your military record.
In the future, we all may want to be in the Witness Protection Program.
[Via www.thestalwart.com ]
[My own experience is that the call centers are quite professional, with the one exception being an operator who was extremely nice but who insisted on my spelling all names in military alphabet terms such as Alpha, Bravo and Charlie. It was both frustrating and amusing.]
What is often missing from the outsourcing critics' views is that the call centers are probably using American telephones and American computers.
Let's see now: They're supposed to buy from us but we aren't supposed to buy from them?
The cost of that worry can be rather surprising.
(A) Take the total number of supervisors in your office, team, division, or department: __________
(B) Estimate the average hourly pay for those supervisors: __________
(C) Assume those supervisors grapple with preventable problems for an hour each day, so the total daily cost is:
(A)__________ times (B)__________ = $__________
Take that amount and multiply it by 22 for 22 working days per month and you’ll get the total monthly cost: $___________________
Multiply that amount by 12 for the total annual cost: $_________________
[Via: www.managersadvantage.com ]
Many workers are reluctant to take vacations, fearing the boss will view them as slackers -- or decide they’re not even missed. A 2005 study by Universal Orlando Resort found about half of workers left vacation time on the table. That actually leads to some good news: Mr. Faulkner said employers, concerned about health and productivity if workers don’t take time to recharge, are beginning to add policies mandating that employees take at least a weeklong vacation.
Read the entire story here.
Wednesday, February 22, 2006
Here's one account of a supervisor who wishes he didn't ignore the message.
- If you can avoid checking luggage, do so.
- Never check any luggage that can’t be lost.
- Rent from a rental car outfit that permits you to return the car at the airport.
- Trying to stuff a steamer trunk into an overhead compartment is rude.
- Take reading material for when you get stranded.
- Take your professional magazines with you, tear out the articles you want to read and dump the rest of the magazines in the trash at the airport.
- Drink plenty of water.
- Flights get canceled. Have a back-up plan.
- Keep your cell phone charged.
- Take along basic medicine like aspirin and Pepto Bismol tablets.
- Watch your laptop computer as if it’s your child.
- Put a Power bar in your briefcase or carry-on bag.
- Don’t gripe about security.
- Don’t discuss sensitive business information with your colleagues during the flight.
- Treat the flight attendants with extra courtesy.
- Overtip the SkyCaps.
- The most dangerous part of the trip is any shuttle or cab that you take from the airport.
- Marriott is almost always a safe choice.
- Hotels with 24 hour room service tend to be on the ball.
- Have a routine as to the number of bags that you take and what goes where.
- If possible, bring your pillow.
Tuesday, February 21, 2006
It reminded me of this famous credit card prank of a few years back where the prankster signed with a variety of weird signatures and symbols and no one noticed.
Perhaps getting the signature was always the equivalent of adding an egg to a cake mix. It made us feel as if we'd done something important but it was really just a psychologically-placating gesture all along.
Hmm. I think I'll go read the medicine's ingredients.
One of the inevitable questions will be whether the lack of experience and certification could have been caught when he was being considered for employment.
Bar exam officials deny that they are just trying to keep down the number of attorneys. They claim the exam is needed to protect the consumer.
Gee, if that is so, shouldn't they give the exam to every attorney in the state every three years and perhaps just give them two weeks to prepare?
After all, they should know the stuff, right?
Read the whole Los Angeles Times story here.
[Via Wall Street Journal Law Blog ]
GBR: Those are tough decisions. The last question really summarizes a lot of the points that you have talked about. That is, if you were to describe four or five of the key management principles that guide your business philosophy, what would those be?
JS: Well, I don't know that I can keep it down to four or five, but I'll try. Let me go back again to start with integrity. You have got to be ethical. I think you have to have a clear vision and communicate that vision to the organization. I believe strongly in listening. I would spend two days a week out visiting the stores, listening to our employees and our customers. I always go back to hiring the best people you can and giving them the education and the tools they need to do the job. I have always encouraged people to be entrepreneurs. And I guess the last thing that I am famous for saying is, "Have fun." I really mean it .I remember that I used to go to all of the pre-store openings and I would talk with the new people for about two hours, and I always ended up saying, "Look, at the end of thirty days, if you are not having fun, please quit." And they would look at me with these big eyes, and I would say, "No, I really mean it. You spend most of your life at your job. If you are not having fun, get out of here." And I really sincerely feel the same way. I am almost 70 years old and I still think you have to have fun doing what you are doing.
Monday, February 20, 2006
She tells the story in this article on The New York Times Magazine and anyone who has ever encountered unfairness will identify with her.
The unmentioned issue: Did the school ever do anything to correct the injustice? Apparently not.
It's the sort of story that is the journalistic equivalent of shooting fish in a barrel: bureaucrats living it up on taxpayer dollars. Some people have been reprimanded and suspended. Life goes on.
The criticism is easy; perhaps too easy. Anyone who has flown from Phoenix to Europe knows that it is quite a trek. If you are going to conduct important business at the end of that journey, then at what point does it make sense to make sure that you'll be reasonably alert during the sessions?
Can you fly in a day earlier to get over your jet lag or would the extra day's hotel bill be excessive? Can you fly at a more convenient time even if another time would be cheaper? Can you fly a more expensive direct flight or should you bounce through several connections if it will save some bucks?
When I was in the Army, I had to fly to Germany once on an investigation. Another officer and I flew from Washington, DC to New York, then to London and then to Frankfurt where we were picked up by a driver and taken to Heidelberg where, with no rest other than catnaps on the plane, we walked right into a meeting. Was that wise scheduling? In retrospect, I think we were nuts. We should have taken an extra day to decompress and get our bearings.
That's not what you want to hear, however, if you're a reporter.
Full disclosure: I once worked for the City of Phoenix and it is a client of mine. And no, it never sent me on a trip to Europe.
The main reason, however, for posting about pickpockets in Venice is it is hard to resist a story in which the name for the heroes is "undistracted citizens."
And they're doing a good job. Read it here.
As loony as Holocaust denial is, should it be a prison offense?
It reminds me of a letter I received several years ago from an organization touting its Total Quality Management (remember that?) program.
The letter contained more than seven typos.
I toyed with the idea of circling them and sending the letter back to the company but then abandoned that as too cruel. Most of us have sent out items with glitches of some sort or another.
Our ability to cringe is a force for excellence.
[HT: www.emergencemarketing.com ]
By a stroke of extraordinary good fortune, the man for whom this office was designed was also a man who was profoundly aware of the potential dangers inherent in the office that had been specially designed for him. Washington was keenly aware just how easily the Presidency could degenerate back to a monarchy, or worse; and, shrewd man that he was, he clearly saw that there was nothing in the written Constitution that could prevent such a process from occurring.
For example, there is a remarkable letter that Washington wrote, before assuming the Presidency, in which he argues that he is peculiarly qualified to be President because he has no son. Now imagine a candidate for the Presidency today making such a claim: Vote for me, because I have no son. How strange it would sound to our ears. Yet Washington regarded this as virtually an indispensable desideratum in a President—or, at least, in the first President. Nor is it difficult to see why this mattered to him so much. He did not want the office of the Presidency to become the possession of a dynasty.
Read the whole thing here.
I'm currently blessed to be working with some extraordinary people who get along well with one another.
If you've spent any time in the workplace, however, you know how rare that can be. Usually, there's at least one troll - some unrecognized genius - who tosses out snide remarks at staff meetings, plays devil's advocate as a blood sport and is generally unpleasant. People work around rather than with the person because of his or her abrasive qualities.
The person may have some skills - after all, few people are devoid of talent - but there's only one real solution: Get rid of that person as soon as possible!
I'm not recommending a rush to judgment so don't put me down as someone who won't give a team member a decent break. This isn't about someone who needs a few rough edges polished but who otherwise has a good attitude and solid values. This is about the incorrigible offender who might be fine in a job where food can be slipped under the door but is lousy in any position that requires working with others.
- Send the person to expensive workshops in the hope that the person will be turned around. It won't happen.
- Restructure the job to please the person. It won't work.
- Ignore it. The people who have to work with the character will resent your weakness.
- Tell yourself that we all have weaknesses. We do, but not to that degree.
If you are faced with this situation, you know I'm right. Talk to any group of managers or supervisors and they can quickly list their dysfunctional employees. Ask them why those people are still on the job and they stare at the ground and draw circles with their shoes.
Don't procrastinate. Go to your Human Resources people, your organization's attorney and your boss and explain that the employee is not working out. Set a schedule for a rapid turnaround and, if lightning doesn't strike, a dismissal. Don't keep someone on who can make your life miserable for years.
You'll be happier and the co-workers will be happier.
It's like a boss who is so afraid to single out anyone for recognition that everyone gets a prize, even the slugs and the scoundrels.
In short, it's ridiculous. George Washington and Abraham Lincoln deserve separate holidays. They earned them. The others didn't. There are some close contenders - Franklin D. Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan come to mind - but close doesn't do it. Washington and Lincoln are the ones.
You can barely turn on the television without finding some Hollywood tribute to, well, Hollywood and the two major presidents don't get honored?
- Morris Udall, explaining his dark horse candidacy in 1976