CULTURE RULES

Culture is more than a buzzword used in employee satisfaction surveys; it is a company’s multifaceted personality, soul, and character. A company’s culture includes concrete aspects of work life, such as compensation, benefits, and career development, as well as less tangible aspects like attitudes, values, and employee behavior.*

For example, in his book Onward, Howard Schultz described the spirit (soul) of Starbucks this way: “Our stores and partners [employees] are at their best when they collaborate to provide an oasis, an uplifting feeling of comfort, connection, as well as a deep respect for the coffee and communities we serve.”

Whether culture is expressed through mission, vision, values, or some other way, every organization appears to be focused on creating and sustaining a culture where workers can thrive, customer service is extraordinary, and products and services are of the highest quality. If you Google ten companies right now, ten would provide an enticing message about their culture. Most go through a painstaking process to ensure they use the right words to describe their culture and why it makes a difference

The truth is culture happens regardless. During my career, I worked for companies that have the best intentions when it comes to culture. Leaders communicated all the right things, but for some reason, the message didn’t translate for the frontline. I have also been in situations where leaders preach culture and then do and say things that undermine it. In an article titled The Soul of a Start-Up, Ranjay Gulati offers a structure for organizations to help them find and sustain three crucial dimensions of a start-up’s soul:  business intent, or a loftier reason for being; unusually close customer connections, and an employee experience characterized by autonomy and creativity—by “voice” and “choice.” All three provide meaning to stakeholders. **

“I don’t know how it started either. All I know is that it is part of our company culture.”

Once the leaders in business gain clarity around these 3-dimensions, they must be resourceful in making it stick. This is more difficult than it may seem. As we all know, change is the only constant in business and life. Employees no longer stick around to get the gold watch or, for that matter, a 10-year pin. The churn is constant at all levels. To make matters more challenging, marketplace dynamics are changing at an escalating pace. Therefore, it becomes a delicate balance between evolving the culture based on these changes and holding on to the fundamental elements that are still relevant.

*Culture: The soul of your company written by Paul Larkins, President, and CEO of SquareTwo Financial (2012)

**The Soul of a Start-Up written by Ranjay Gulati. A version of this article appeared in the July–August 2019 issue (pp.84–91) of Harvard Business Review.

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Grocery Store Dilemma

Apparently, grocery stores don’t have to provide good customer service. They just have to be conveniently located–either close to the house or on the way home from work. Typically, grocery shopping is a utilitarian experience featuring service that is between not good and barely good enough. I sense that employees are preoccupied with tasks and feel zero obligation to interact with the customer.

Case in point…I recently acquired an Apple credit card and wanted to see if it could be used to buy groceries. The card is different because it doesn’t have any specific information on the card itself (see below).

Little did I know I was going to get a lesson on the current state of customer service at grocery stores:

Grocery Store #1

I drove by the store in the closest proximity to our house and asked the dude at the customer service counter if they accepted the Apple credit card. His answer was NO. That’s it. Nothing else, just NO.

Grocery Store #2

I then called the next closest store to the house and was able to get through to their customer service department. When I asked if they accepted the Apple card, the young lady who answered the phone responded, “I have no idea.” She didn’t offer to place me on hold so she could go find out. She seemed satisfied with her response.

Grocery Store #3

My final call was to the 3rd closest grocery store, where I received a warm greeting from a cheerful customer service person, and her response was, “Yes, come see us!”

I drove to store number 3, got my groceries, and went to check out. It just so happened that the customer service associate I spoke with on the phone (Shelly) had jumped into my aisle to bag groceries. I mentioned the Apple Card, and she immediately acknowledged that we spoke over the phone. She wasn’t 100% sure how to conduct the transaction but was confident I could pay for the groceries with the card. We tried to complete the transaction as you usually would and couldn’t get it through. Then Shelly invited me to follow her to the customer service counter, where she said we’d figure it out together. That’s when I had a “duh moment. It dawned on me to go to the app on my phone, which had all the information, including the cc#, expiration date, and CRV code. Shelly put the card reader in manual mode, punched in the required information, and presto– the card went through.

Now, correct me if I’m wrong. Couldn’t the other two stores have done the same thing? Assuming this is the case, the response from customer service at both stores caused me not to shop there that day. Even worse, on the days when I have time, I will invest the extra 10 minutes driving to store #3.

I understand it’s a struggle to hire and retain employees in retail brick-and-mortar stores. Regardless, the team members with customer service in their title must be the ultimate brand ambassadors. Their role is to set the standard by doing whatever it takes to please customers.

Of the 3 stores, guess which one is thriving?

Posted in culture, Customer Service, perceptions, workplace | Tagged , , | 7 Comments

Sometimes Good Guys Do Finish First

From time to time, I fall off the wagon and have to write about sports. I can’t help myself. Sport is embedded in my DNA.

As you might imagine, growing up in northern New Jersey, I became a Yankees fan before I learned to walk.

As my fellow Yankees fans know, this season has been a roller coaster ride. Before the All-Star break, they had the best record in baseball. After the break, they went into a tailspin. Guys got hurt, and everyone who was healthy and in the lineup seemed to be mired in a slump. The only player that continued to perform at a high level was number ninety-nine, Aaron Judge.

Aaron Judge is hard to miss. At 6’7″ and 280 lbs. he’s a physical freak of nature – an Adonis in pinstripes. As I write, he is on the doorstep of baseball nirvana. Even the casual fans know he is one swing away from tying the American League record for homers in a season. The record is held by Yankee great – Roger Maris, who hit 61 in 1961. As if that wasn’t enough, Judge is also chasing the Triple Crown, another rarity in Major League Baseball. It is awarded at the end of the season to a player who leads the league in 3 categories – batting average, home runs, and runs batted in. Currently, Aaron is hitting .313 with 61 homers* and 130 RBI.

*Update – On Wednesday night, 9/28/22, in Toronto, with the score tied 3-3, Aaron Judge ripped a line drive home run to left, tying Roger Maris’s American League record of 61 homers in a season. He’ll look to break the record tonight in the Bronx.

Since the beginning of the major leagues in 1876, only 14 players have won baseball’s Triple Crown. But wait, there’s more. He’s also the odds-on favorite to win the AL’s Most Valuable Player Award. Many have said he has put together the most outstanding season in baseball history. However, what is even more impressive is who he is.

Aaron Judge making another kid’s day

Aaron Judge is an exceptional human. On and off the field, he’s cool, calm, and collected. Recently by a reporter asked about his demeanor. Aaron explained that both of his parents are teachers, and from an early age, they taught him to be polite and respectful to others. He’s on what is arguably the biggest stage in the sport, under the bright lights of New York and the scrutiny of the most demanding fans. The way he deals with the media is “Jeter-like.” No drama! His words are carefully chosen, brief, and to the point. He will tell you, in no uncertain terms he’s focused on two things: being a great teammate and winning a championship. Sure, this is scripted, however, his actions speak louder than his words.

It didn’t take long to realize he was different. When was the last time you witnessed an outfielder in an MLB game playing catch with a kid in the stands between innings? This is just one small example of the mutual love affair between Aaron and the fans. When he’s asked about this relationship, he’ll tell you he was once that kid in the stands, and he understands that even a small gesture from a pro athlete can create a memory that lasts a lifetime.

The long and the short of MLB

Over the last couple of years, Aaron has become the face of the Yankees and MLB. He stands for everything that is right in sports and in the world. Regardless of your fan loyalty, it’s hard not to root for this guy.

I’d be remiss on this day if I didn’t give props to the legendary Albert Pujols (pronounced POO-hols) of the St. Louis Cardinals, who just smacked his 700th career home run last night Friday, September 23rd, in Los Angeles in the top of the 4th against the Dodgers. Only three others in the game’s history have hit 700 homers – Do the names Babe Ruth, Henry Aaron, and Barry Bonds* ring a bell? After 22 years with the Cardinals and the Angels, at the age of 42, this is Albert’s final season. Many talking heads didn’t think he’d be able to make it to the magic number. He qualifies as a superhero, too. Who he is as a person far outweighs his prowess as a baseball player.

Posted in american values, Baseball, MLB, New York Yankees | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

A Strange Visitor From Another Planet

Or maybe it’s a ghost. It is ridiculously unpredictable and attacks its prey in a variety of ways. British golf announcers like to refer to a challenging golf hole as diabolical (meaning characteristic of the Devil or so evil as to be suggestive of the Devil). This is that!

It’s so powerful it has permanently changed the way people conduct their lives. It strikes fear into the hearts of those who get it and their loved ones. It has killed over a million Americans and 6.5 million people globally. I’m talking Covid. Why? I recently recovered from a 3-week bout with the wicked witch. Talk about a rude awakening…

Before I share my story, I want to acknowledge that I am blessed with good fortune. I can’t even fathom what others have gone through and how awful it must’ve been. So many unsuspecting people ended up in a hospital hallway fighting for their lives while their loved ones couldn’t even visit. Not to mention the nurses, doctors, and other healthcare workers fighting the battle on the front lines. If that’s not heroism, I don’t know what is.

We take care of my 98-year-old father-in-law, so we’ve been hyper-vigilant about Covid, especially during the days of the shutdowns and shelter in place. While his vitals are better than mine, he’s at high risk at his advanced age.

I came home with a nasty sore throat one day in August. My wife, Susan, keeps a stock of home Covid tests on hand. She immediately put on a mask and gloves, stuck a long Q-Tip-looking thing up my nose, and instructed me to wait for 15-minutes for the results. The entire time I say to myself, there is no way I have Covid. Even if I test positive, it will be a mild case similar to the common cold. It will only last 2-3 days, and I’ll be over it. Son of a gun if she didn’t walk in 15-minutes later and announce the test was positive. Even though I felt like crap, I was in a state of utter disbelief. I wanted a “do-over,” which we did the next day, and the result was the same.

I called my doctor’s office, and their response was interesting. First, the doctor’s assistant told me they aren’t doing anything for Covid patients. Instead, she said to rest, drink plenty of liquids, and stay away from people until you feel better. Duh, that was helpful.

For 3-weeks, I was locked down in one room. My throat was so sore, that I could hardly swallow. The worst was the body aches and just feeling drained. I also experienced brain fog, where I was unable to think clearly. It was different than what I had imagined.

I was vaccinated (and not boosted based on the advice of my GP). So, before it hit, I was feeling fabulous and fortunate to have avoided the dreaded virus.

I wasn’t hyper-vigilant during the height of the pandemic. I got vaccinated, wore a mask, washed my hands, and did my best to avoid crowds and other events where I felt the risk factor might be high.

As word got out to family and friends, many of them asked how I got it. My stock response was, “Your guess is as good as mine!” In the interest of my father-in-law’s health, we’ve continued to stay away from large crowds and anything that might resemble a super spreader event.

I hesitated to write this article because we are all tired of hearing about Covid. However, I figured we all need a reminder now and then. It’s human nature to move on and I would never recommend obsessing over it. Call Covid what you want, but it is still out there, and you can take it from me; people are still being affected by it.

Posted in awareness, heroes | Tagged | 5 Comments

There’s More to a Smile Than We Think

Okay, the subject matter I have chosen for this week’s blog may seem a bit fluffy! I mean why should we care about smiling? I spent the majority of my career in the hospitality business where I was on high alert for smiles every time I walked into one of our establishments. We used to say, “When you see someone without a smile, give them yours.” Corny, I know. Our challenge then was getting twenty-somethings to understand the value of a smile.

I believe facial expression is a key component when you are in customer-facing roles. Even in cold-call selling, trainers encourage their trainees to “smile while they dial” because it affects their tone of voice and helps the caller maintain a positive frame of mind. This all made sense intuitively, however, there was little scientific evidence that smiling could make a significant difference for the one providing the smile and/or for the one receiving the smile. Now, the research has been done. The experts have concluded that there are significant benefits to smiling:

11 Science-Backed Benefits of Smiling

  • Releases endorphins
  • Alleviates stress
  • Reduces blood pressure 
  • Strengthens immune system 
  • Increases endurance
  • Reduces pain 
  • Boosts mood
  • Reduces risk of heart disease 
  • Strengthens relationships 
  • Relieves anxiety/Correlates to a longer life

* from a blog written by Corey Doane – Mindful Meditation Institute https://mindfulnessmeditationinstitute.org/2021/02/18/11-science-backed-benefits-of-smiling/

Many see smiling simply as an involuntary response to things that bring you joy or inspire laughter. While this is certainly true, it overlooks an important point: Smiling can be a conscious, intentional choice. It appears that whether your smile is genuine or not, it can act on your body and mind in a variety of positive ways, offering benefits for your health, your mood, and even the moods of people around you.

I find this information compelling for a number of reasons. First, there are so many things in life that we can’t control. This is something so simple and it is completely within our control. Also, in today’s crazy, topsy-turvy world there are so many reasons not to smile. Just spend a few minutes people-watching and pay special attention to their facial expressions. I’ve noticed that smiles are few and far between.

Recently I’ve been experimenting with consciously smiling during my day-to-day activities. For example, the drycleaner. I’ve been in there hundreds of times and the woman behind the counter never smiles. I’ve been consciously smiling on my last couple of visits and she actually smiled back at me. If you are skeptical about the smiling thing try this. Next time you are in a tiff with your significant other change your frown to a subtle smile. Don’t be surprised if it has a positive impact on the outcome.

But wait there’s more! This is my favorite… A psychological effect of smiling is that it makes you look and feel younger. Wait! Stop the presses! Say what? Forget the facelift or the tummy tuck. Stop your search for the fountain of youth. Save your money for a trip to Bora Bora. And keep a smile on your beautiful face!

Posted in american values, change, culture, Customer Service, perceptions, psychology | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

Is it Too Late to Change?

Throughout the years, many of us have been conditioned to believe that once we reach a particular stage in life, we can’t change. The outcome of today’s blog is to blow a big fat hole in that myth. How many times have we heard or said,” “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks” or” “A tiger doesn’t change its stripes.” Unfortunately, phrases like these are a staple within the English lexicon. So much so, the thought that we can’t change has become an ingrained belief that few have challenged.

If you feel like many people are” “set in their ways”” and will never change, you are probably right. However, you are incorrect if you believe that once a person becomes set in her ways, she can’t change. If you think I’m full of manure, try googling Neuroplasticity (or just keep reading).

While surfing the net, I came across THE HAPPINESS BLOG written by Dr. Sandip Roy board-certified medical doctor from the National Medical Commission.* From Dr. Roy’s blog, I gained the following insight:

A Brief History of Neuroplasticity

According to Fuchs and Flugge, 2014, it was Santiago Ramón y CajalFather of Neuroscience, who first mentioned” “neuronal plasticity” in the early 1900s. However, the term “neuroplasticity” was first used in scientific literature by Jerzy Konorski from Poland, in 1948. He used it to explain the changes in the nerve structure of our brain cells.

For decades, the brain was considered a “non-renewable organ.” That is, the brain cells are of a finite number, and when they die eventually as we age, it’s the end of the line for them. But research proved otherwise.

In the 1960s, scientists found the brain could “reorganize” itself after a trauma. Further research discovered that the brain could re-allot large portions of its structure to take up new functions.

The Science of Neuroplasticity**

In a simple sentence, Neuroplasticity is the brain’s ability to restructure itself by creating new nerve connections and taking over new functions. Research has firmly established that the brain is a dynamic organ and can change its design throughout life, responding to experience by reorganizing connections—via so-called “wiring” and “rewiring.” Scientists sometimes refer to the process of Neuroplasticity as structural remodeling of the brain.

Neuroplasticity enables the brain cells to grow new roots and take up new roles, thereby making up for any functional impairment after damage to the brain. (This is excellent news for those of us who destroyed all those brain cells during our college years.)

A short blog may not be enough to convince you that humans can change at any stage of their life. If you are interested and need more evidence, subscribe to Psychology Today or just surf the net. It’s one thing to believe it can happen and an entirely different thing to make it happen. Change is difficult. It requires commitment, desire, and discipline, just like any worthwhile endeavor in life.

*Author Bio: Written by Sandip Roy – medical doctor, pyschology writer, happiness researcher. Founder of Happiness India Project and chief edior of its blog. He writes popular-science articles on positive psychology and related medical topics.

**Neuroplasticity as described in Psychology today


Posted in change, education, perceptions, psychology | Tagged , , , , | 5 Comments

One of Life’s Small Treasures – An Auto Mechanic You Can Trust!

I drive a 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport (SUV). I think Hyundai manufactures a reliable vehicle that is an excellent value. I purchased this one from a used car lot when my 2006 Honda Pilot crapped out a couple of years ago. All things considered, the Hyundai has been good to me.

Any self-respecting American consumer knows you don’t go to a dealer to get your car serviced. I’m sure most would agree it is a ripoff of criminal proportions. But, it’s not just the ridiculous prices they charge. In my experience, the attitude at car dealer service centers is atrocious.

Everyone has a story about a negative experience dealing with a car dealer’s service center. For my first few years living in Texas, my car troubles were few and far between. When I had an issue, I took my cars to places other than dealerships, which always seemed to be an overpriced hassle. However, I had urgent car situations during the last several years, first with the Honda and then the Hyundai. I was crunched for time in both cases, and the dealer was the most convenient alternative. Actually, I was too lazy to vet a trustworthy mechanic.

My Honda had a window stuck in the down position, and it was raining. I stopped by the dealer with what I thought was a simple, inexpensive request. I asked the service guy if it would be possible for them to raise the window so it would be stuck in the up position. I figured this would be an easy temporary fix until I could figure out an affordable alternative. When I asked the question, the guy looked at me as if I was a Martian. He responded with a one-word answer — NO! I fought the urge to rev the engine, drop it into drive, flip him the bird and try to burn some rubber on my way out. Instead, I calmly asked what it would cost for them to fix it. He said, begrudgingly, “I’ll have to do an estimate.” As you would expect, they wanted $800 plus! I looked at it and said two words, “Not interested,” and drove off. I ended up looking it up on YouTube. It took me a while, but I fixed the window for the cost of a part – $50.

A similar situation occurred last summer. There was a recall on an engine part in the 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport, which required service provided by a Hyundai dealer. Coincidently, my air conditioning had stopped working thinking it might just need a freon refill. In the interest of time, I figured why not kill two birds with one stone. Silly, me! When I dropped off the car, I asked them to look at my air conditioning. Later that day, I got a call to inform me it would be $950 to fix it. I said fahgeddaboudit and picked up the car to have someone else look at it. That’s when I decided to visit Coit Auto Center.

For Service You Can Trust – Coit Auto Center

I’d been driving by the Coit Auto Center for years, and it always seemed to be busy. For some reason, this place never came up on my radar when I had a car problem. Then, on a whim, I pulled in. Rami (the owner/manager) greeted me with a smile from behind the counter. I explained that my air conditioner wasn’t working. His response was pleasant, short, and sweet. “If you have a few minutes, we’ll look at it right now.” In less than a few minutes, they checked it out. Rami assured me there was nothing structurally wrong with the A/C; it just needed freon. So for $70, they did the freon refill. Fifteen minutes later, I was on my way home, grinning ear-to-ear.

Recently I had another situation with the passenger side seat stuck in the reclined position. So, again, I took it to my new favorite mechanic, and he asked me if I had a few minutes for them to take a look. They quickly diagnosed that it needed a new part and recommended I purchase the part off Amazon and come back because it would be significantly cheaper that way. I mean, who does that these days? In both instances, Rami and his team at Coit Auto Center saved me significant time and money while addressing my minor car issues.

Rami is THE MAN at Coit Auto Center

I don’t understand why more service providers don’t take a page out of Rami’s playbook. It seems so simple:

  • Consistently optimistic customer-first attitude
  • Demonstrate a sense of urgency equal to that of the customer
  • Do the little things that truly make a difference

Rami is smooth. He makes it look easier than I’m sure it is. No wonder Coit Auto Center is always busy. It’s not rocket science.

Posted in Customer Service, perceptions | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Fans Will Be The Biggest Losers

I heard a faint creaking sound in the distance last Thursday. It was Arnold Palmer rolling over in his casket. This occurred right around the same time the first pairing teed off, at the LIV Golf Tour event at Centurion Club outside of London. The LIV Golf Tour is funded by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund in conjunction with the Saudi Arabian government, initially pledging $400 million to start the league. LIV Golf has used mega-million dollar contracts to lure players from the PGA. According to reports, Phil Mickelson’s deal is $200 million and Dustin Johnson’s contract is $125 million. To give you some perspective, that $125M is more than Tiger Woods’s career earnings on the PGA Tour ($121M). That’s before DJ puts a tee in the ground on the LIV Tour! Johnson only earned $75M during his 12 years on the PGA Tour. I’m biting my tongue to guard against a sarcastic rant.

The PGA Tour has been the gold standard since it was formed in 1968. Greg Norman who is now the CEO of LIV Golf had moaned for years about the PGA Tour’s policies; some of it justified, most of it not. While he achieved notoriety and had tremendous success, during his years on the PGA Tour, he only won two majors. His career earnings totaled $15 million, give or take a couple hundred thousand. Greg parlayed his golf fame into multiple businesses and according to Forbes (2020), his net worth is $400M. In spite of his flair on the golf course, I haven’t been a fan of his since he ignored my autograph-seeking 6-year-old son, at a charity golf event.

I’m a huge sports fan. I love football, baseball, basketball, and golf. When it comes to sports I’m a traditionalist. I just happen to follow teams steeped in tradition. I acknowledge the need for sports to evolve to keep fans interested and for the various leagues and team owners to remain solvent.

For me, golf has always been a profession where the participants earn every cent they get. This separates golf from most other professional sports where contracts are guaranteed for multiple years. The PGA Tour is comprised of a bunch of independent contractors who don’t get a paycheck unless they make the cut. Many have sponsors who help defray their out-of-pocket expenses, but they have to play at a certain level to make the big bucks. This aspect of the professional game creates drama and fuels the stories of perseverance and the will to win. It also accentuates the agony associated with defeat.

I started hearing the rumblings about LIV golf mid-year 2021. It didn’t have a name then but it became public knowledge that it would be funded by the Saudis and there were a couple of golf’s biggest names involved. As an ardent golf fan, I hoped the idea would never get off the ground. Little did I know the toothpaste was already out of the tube. It’s now a full-blown issue surrounded by controversy and uncertainty about what the future holds.

I’ve followed this debacle closely over the last several weeks. The more I learn, the more disconcerting it becomes. This is such a complex emotionally charged issue it is difficult to discern fact from fiction. However, I do have clarity on several important points:

  • This is all part of Saudi Arabia’s master plan to distract the US (and other countries) from their egregious human rights policies.
  • The Saudi government has unlimited resources to fund LIV Golf and other activities, so the regime can continue the way it governs.
  • The money they are paying players (just to show up) is obscene.
  • In the inaugural event, last weekend, the total purse was $25M Charl Schartzel won and collected $4.75M. The golfer who finished in last place pocketed $120k. Purses for PGA Tour events are between $3M and $15M.

If money is the most important thing in your life, you opt to play on the LIV Tour. What irks me the most is the insulting script LIV has provided for the PGA TOUR players who have defected. When the players are asked why, they give the same repulsive response. This is the right decision for my family, LIV is reinvigorating the game of golf, we are growing the game around the world, it’s unique format is fun and exciting for the players and the fans. It’s weird to listen to these repetitive responses, it’s as if they joined a cult.

I understand free enterprise and the right to make choices. I’m convinced that this is different. It’s about morality and doing the right thing. It’s 2 former PGA TOUR players (Norman and Michelson), with gigantic egos, trying to start a revolution in golf. Both lack self-awareness and compassion for others. The worst part is they have partnered with a devious regime that has an ulterior motive.

The PGA TOUR will be fine, the defecting players, while they have to live with themselves, are financially set for life. Unfortunately, the biggest loser is the fan.

Posted in american values, golf | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments

Stop The Madness!

I promised myself I’d never blog about politics. I’m going to do my best to keep that promise today but I’m afraid there are no guarantees. Today is an exception.

Again?

I’m an optimist and I prefer to express my thoughts and ideas in a positive frame. Today I’m finding it difficult to do this because of what’s happening in this great country of ours.

This most recent event in Uvalde, Texas left me feeling horrified, angry, sad, and helpless. I always feel this way when I hear about innocent people losing their lives, especially when it involves children and guns. It makes me sick when I think about the pain and suffering those poor families are going through as I write this article.

It’s also caused me to try to understand the bigger picture. Why have we not made any progress in reducing the amount of gun violence in the US? I am so tired of the rhetoric about the 2nd amendment and our “right to keep and bear arms.” I took a few minutes to see what I could learn online about the 2nd amendment and I came away dumbfounded.

I learned that the 2nd amendment is ambiguous:

 “A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

It references the state militias that were put in place to protect the individual states from the British and other outside forces. Some also pose that the militias were formed to repress rebellion from the enslaved. It’s unclear if “the right to keep and bear arms” refers to the people in the militia (collectively) or the people as individuals. The intent of the second amendment has been debated ad nauseam over the years. Since we can’t have a Zoom call with Alexander Hamilton to have him explain its intent, our only recourse is speculation.

Regardless, of its interpretation, the 2nd amendment was written and published in 1791. The most common guns included muskets and flintlock pistols. According to the Washington Post, a “Typical Revolutionary-era musket” had a one-round magazine capacity, and it could fire around three effective rounds per minute – in the hands of the most skilled wielder. Its maximum accuracy range had to be within 50 meters. Would you agree that we are in need of a modernized interpretation of the second amendment?

Regardless of what our forefathers intended, our modern leaders have made a mess of things. In my opinion, it’s all about the polarization of American politics which has been reinforced by the media. There is no such thing as bipartisanship. It’s a never-ending vicious battle focused on who is right, not what is right. A message to our leaders: If you can’t get your shit together to save our children, seek other employment… WTF! C’mon people!

I didn’t want this to be about the numbers but I couldn’t help myself after seeing these graphs. They illustrate gun violence is out of control in the US and the matter is urgent and requires immediate action.

K-12 School Shooting Statistics

  • There have been 1,924 school shooting incidents since 1970.
  • 2021 had the greatest number of incidents, with 249. …
  • Since 1970, 637 people have died in shootings at schools. …
  • 2018 was the year with the highest number of people killed, including the shooter, with 51 killed. …
  • California, Texas, and Florida are the states with the most incidents.

The statistics only tell a fraction of this human story. It’s about people, just like you and me, who have had their world shattered in a matter of minutes. It’s about those precious, innocent babies (yes they are babies) at Robb Elementary School who perished and all the humans who have lost their lives to gun violence over the years. As American citizens, what can we do? What steps can we take to help create change? How can we help stop the madness in Washington and in our communities?

Thank you for reading my blog. I look forward to your comments.

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Skills Are Skills

When I look back on my career, I wouldn’t change a thing. My journey has had more twists and turns than Chubby Checker (dated analogy – look him up, Millennials!). I’m grateful to those who have believed in me and helped me along the way.

I’ve been with successful companies and not-so-successful companies. I’ve experienced a variety of different cultures. I believe that culture is everything when it comes to business success.

Few would argue that hiring people with skills is of the utmost importance. Then, when an employee lacks the skills to perform their job at a high level, training is also critical. Years ago, “the experts” professed that skills should be divided into HARD SKILLS like reading, math, and science, and SOFT SKILLS like communication, empathy, and emotional awareness. This resulted in a perception that hard skills were more important than soft skills.

In the past, companies could focus on the hard skills, neglect the soft skills and get away with it. This was especially prevalent in public companies. After all, they had shareholders scrutinizing their every move. In many cases, executives got caught up in pleasing shareholders and overlooked culture and training. They defaulted to a command and control mentality that seemed to work when they were part of the rank and file, besides who had the time to focus on the soft stuff when angry shareholders were nipping at their heels. This approach filtered down through the organization. The common refrain was, “If my boss is doing it, why can’t I?”

Then something happened on the way to increased profitability. It was a seismic shift in the landscape. Boomers were aging and retiring. Gen Y and Z were infiltrating the workplace. This created an entirely different challenge for supervisors who were deficient in soft skills.

The age diversity in the current workforce is the widest ever. It is now common for organizations to have employees who represent four to five generations working side-by-side: 

  • Silent Generation (Traditionalists) born 1928-1945
  • Baby Boomers – born 1946-1964
  • Gen X – born 1965-1980
  • Gen Y (Millennials) – born 1981-1996
  • Gen Z – born 1997-2012

Studies show that each generation shares its own distinct view of the world. Currently, Millennials are a primary focus for business leaders. They’ve been referred to as the WHY generation because of their insatiable need to know why. This group grew up with “mouse-in-hand” while cell phones evolved into handheld supercomputers. They entered the workforce feeling comfortable asking why because they could easily verify the validity of a given strategy by “Googling It.”

As the Millennials continue to establish themselves, they have been outspoken about culture, fairness, and diversity in the workplace. I can’t give Millennials all the credit, but they championed much of today’s social reform. They continue to shed light on the need for business leaders to become aware that “the whole person comes to work.”* In other words, supervisors must demonstrate a certain level of compassion when employees struggle professionally and in their personal lives. Gen Y workers don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.** Managers can’t just teach; they must understand how each employee learns and how they prefer to be managed. Telling is no longer effective. It’s now about listening, collaborating, and caring.

The pendulum began to swing in the right direction years ago. Visionary business leaders busted out of the old paradigm and realized that soft skills are not only as necessary as hard skills but critical to bottom-line profitability. It’s time to stop labeling skill types and emphasize all skills equally.

Thank you for reading my blog. As always, I look forward to your comments!

*Susan Fawcett, Founder and CEO of Coaching Insight Out coined the phrase, “We hire for the position, and the whole person comes to work.” Susan is the most intelligent person I know, and she just happens to be my wife!

**The legendary Zig Ziglar, Godfather of the Self Help Industry, referred to this phrase early and often.

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