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Archive for May, 2010

Heroes and Memorial Day

Monday, May 31st, 2010

My father turned down a parental deferral and desk job during World War II, instead choosing to fight and served as an intelligence officer in the Pacific. He returned safely.

When he returned he clandestinely took up another cause, helping the Haganah in the fight to establish the State of Israel. He died in his sleep during a gun buying road trip along with two others when the driver also fell asleep.

Both were causes about which he felt strongly; both he was willing to fight for, but in one case he lived and the other he died.

To some he was a hero, to others a villain and to still others a fool, who risked his life when he didn’t have to.

We need more fools.

heroes

Heroes

Some Heroes obvious, some unsung,
their lives and health, tempting fate.
Vulnerable in tasks for our civilization,
few glories for their life’s profession.

The Service men in our Armed Forces,
the cause be sure for freedom’s sake.
For their family, strangers, citizens all,
few medals show their life’s duress.

The policeman whose life is in peril,
by high-speed chase, gunfight ensued.
The simple traffic stop may kill,
few medals show the dangers faced.

The man who is trained as a fireman,
to save our lives, our homes from fire.
The first on scene when aid in need,
few medals show each hazardous deed.

The utilities that keep our comfort whole,
power and phone, the men on poles.
Sewage, garbage disposed for health,
no recognition for the civilian fight.

The many others whose work obscure,
performing tasks with risks not yours.
Construction, or the viral flu to cure,
no medals glory for the civilian plight.

Flickr photo credit to: http://www.flickr.com/photos/donabelandewen/470780785/

mY generation: Quitting

Sunday, May 30th, 2010

See all mY generation posts here.

quitting

Quotable Quotes: Memorial Day Mondegreens

Sunday, May 30th, 2010

IMG_6298

I thought I’d share some Memorial Day appropriate fun with you today and get serious tomorrow. I’ve written about palindromes (no relation to Sarah) and I’m sure I will again, but today I have three patriotic mondegreens courtesy of Jon Carroll.

In a nutshell, a mondegreen is a mishearing of song lyrics—as you might guess, kids are a great source of them.

The term was coined by Sylvia Wright in 1954 when she wrote about a song she heard as “Ye highlands and ye lowlands/Oh where hae you been/They hae slay the Earl of Murray/And Lady Mondegreen,” only to learn years later that it was actually, “They hae slay the Earl of Murray/And laid him on the green.”

So here are three to help launch your Memorial Day celebration.

I love this first one, it could be the start of a new oath for people who take jobs on Wall Street.“I led the pigeons to the flag” (for “I pledge allegiance…)

Next, is a possible opening line for a song about Congress, “Oh, beautiful, for spaceship guys,” only it might be more accurate if it was ‘oh, beautiul, for spacy guys…’

This final offering has to be the product of a hungry five-year-old, “America, America, God is Chef Boyardee.”

For more mondegreens be sure to use the link above.

Flickr photo credit to: http://www.flickr.com/photos/roxeteer/4302530479/

Expand Your Mind: Tidbits for Culture Vultures

Saturday, May 29th, 2010

expand-your-mind

Once again EYM is dedicated to culture. Five excellent articles showed up this week, mostly fairly short and very informative.

If you have followed Microsoft for many years you’ll know that it has never been known for its great caring, give-back culture. But times are changing; Microsoft is aging and it needs to get its cool back if it wants to have a shot at hiring the quality and quantity of people needed to remain relevant. Part of that effort is focused and driven by the philanthropic actions of alumni and employees.

“To attract the next generation of employees, making a social mission part of the company’s DNA has become a vital recruiting tool,” said Lisa Brummel, senior vice president for human resources.

Microsoft isn’t the only company changing its culture; take a look at what SAP has done.

…the effect on SAP of the co-CEOdom of Bill McDermott and J.H.Snabe seems to be truly dramatic. Without hesitation, I would say that I have never, in all my years of experience with high tech companies, or companies of any kind, seen such a fundamental transformation in the outlook, direction, and tenets of company life from any company than the one I’ve seen at SAP.

Now see how a national retailer of computers, electronics appliances and furniture has used sports to infuse its culture, brand its business and reach its customers.

Sports is something our employees and franchisees embrace, but most importantly, sports are engines we use to brand our company.

Next, from Working Mother learn how the five Best Companies for Multicultural Women are embedding diversity deeply in their cultural DNA.

Diversifying the workplace is one thing. Creating a companywide sense of belonging, and a deep knowledge that all employees are playing on the same team as equals, is quite another.

Finally, a quick note from Portland, OR wondering if the following is the start of a trend. What do you think?

“People have actually been coming up to me and telling me that they are in too nice of a building for their corporate culture.” Considering corporations on the whole have taken a beating in the forum of public opinion since the recession started, lots of them have set policy on what class of space local affiliates can be in. Some corporations have even cut back on the types of cars executives can drive and how flashy the offices can look.

Flickr photo credit to: pedroCarvalho on flickr

Looking for Leadership

Friday, May 28th, 2010

spotlightI’ve never watched American Idol, Survivor or Oprah, but I love the CSIs (not Miami), NCIS (both) and especially Bones. The main character is a forensic anthropologist and one of her lines really resonated with me.

Anthropology tells us that the Alpha male is the one with the crown, the most shiny baubles, the fanciest plumage, but I learned that the real alpha male is often in the shadows because he is busy shining the light on others.

I think that applies to leaders, whether male or female.

It does not apply to those who lurk in the shadows manipulating others to do their bidding.

So when you are deciding whom to follow, who’s vision to trust, skip the shiny baubles and silken words and look to see who keeps turning the spotlight on others.

Flickr photo credit to: http://www.flickr.com/photos/unclebumpy/105681820/

Leadership’s Future: Ethics in the Modern World

Thursday, May 27th, 2010

Wally Bock has an excellent post regarding his rethinking of the value of the MBA Oath and its possible effect on future ethics. Wally quotes from a post by Scott Eblin entitled “Why we need an MBA oath.”

“What doesn’t get said, doesn’t get heard. If the MBA Oath causes even a few leaders to stand up and say out loud how they intend to conduct themselves then it was worth the effort of writing and promoting it.”

That idea dovetails perfectly with a tongue-in-cheek op-ed column by Edward E. Sanders, an adjunct lecturer at New York City College, textbook author and entrepreneur.

Sculpture: Deadly Sins #1, Pure Products USA, by Nova Ligovano aSanders suggests that today’s leaders got their ethics lessons watching JR and Gordon Gekko and many followed in their footsteps, so perhaps Hollywood could produce a new batch of TV shows and movies that focus on CEOs making tough choices and doing the right thing.

Perhaps Tom Hanks (as a John Wayne character) could play the role of a competent and honest CEO — a person respected and trusted, and who inspires others to do the right thing when confronted with compromising choices.

Sanders may be on to something. How about a group of forensic accountants fighting financial crimes a la CSI.

Most kids need ethical examples beyond their parents and they do look for them in their various entertainment forms.

The problem, of course, is money.  All entertainment mediums build their offerings around what sells and what sells is from the dark side.Pride

It doesn’t matter that JR and Gekko get their comeuppance at the end, viewers’ well-developed “but me” tool reassures them that their outcome will be different.

But like the MBA Oath, it can’t hurt and it might help.

Image credit: Flickr

Wordless Wednesday: Lousy Leadership

Wednesday, May 26th, 2010

lousy-leadership

Flickr photo credit to: http://www.flickr.com/photos/hikingartist/3000698020/

Ducks in a Row: Tell Me a Story

Tuesday, May 25th, 2010

ducks_in_a_rowDo you use stories automatically in discussions and conversations? I do and have for years.

Brain research has proven that stories get your point across better and it is remembered longer.

Many cognitive scientists believe stories are so accessible because they’re the way we make sense of the human world. … Stories grab our attention because there is nothing of more interest to us than the actions of other people.

While people are often the bane of managers, their growth, triumphs and ah-ha! moments, small and large, provide much of the joy found in performing a management role well and stories are one way to increase the joy.

Stories increase the joy because they boost management success; simple enough.

How do you know which story to tell?

By taking the time to know your audience and choosing a story that will resonate with them—even if you have to take a little creative license.

For example, if your audience is comprised of mostly twenty-somethings and the main character in your story is sixty-something they may focus on the age and dismiss the important part. So update the story with slight changes that makes it feel more relevant.

Of course, if their eyes glaze over during the telling you can be pretty sure you chose the wrong story. Rather than continue to the bitter end, break it off and come back to the subject from a different point and at a different time.

How do you know if the story worked?

The same way you know if any of your efforts work—watch the results.

Flickr photo credit to: Svadilfari on flickr

Your Strategic Edge

Monday, May 24th, 2010

senior-teamDo you run a small or medium business (SMB)? If so, do you have a senior staff?

“Senior staff” doesn’t necessarily mean a bunch of vice presidents (for convenience I’m using that title), but it does mean the top people in your company who manage different functions (with or without staff). They are the people you rely on

  • as a sounding board;
  • for both tactical and strategic intelligence;
  • to tell it like it is—even when you don’t want to hear it
  • to see and understand the big picture;
  • to lead the effort in employee acquisition, motivation, and retention;
  • to support and strengthen the culture she envisioned;
  • to not sabotage another group or start a turf war, and
  • to help stamp out politics whenever and wherever it rears its ugly head.

And more, but you get the idea.

How to build your senior staff

The first item on your agenda is to determine what parts of your business/company beyond the standard finance, development, marketing, sales should report directly to you for peak performance. You don’t want a function that is absolutely critical to your success reporting through or responsible to someone else (agendas do get in the way).

It may be customer service (or whatever it’s called); it could be IT; if you are large enough to have someone handling HR it should definitely report directly to you.

Support functions, such as HR, are often left to report to someone else, which can prevent you from knowing what is really going on.

Where does one find talented VPs? Now and then you’ll be lucky enough to actually hire someone complete with all the bells and whistles that you want, but it’s more likely that you will find someone with the right potential.

Be aware that the main thing that separates good senior staff apart from other managers is a strong strategic ability, which means they see the entire team and understand how their department or area fits into the whole.

I’ve known many C-level executives who never grasp this, as well as director level and lower managers who get it.

All your staff needs a real understanding of business, including financials, and it’s your responsibility to make sure that they get whatever training and information is needed to do their job as a member of your senior staff.

Further, if you want the most powerful senior staff possible cross train them in each other’s functions and challenges.

Think of the phenomenal value of a finance person who understands the intricacies of manufacturing as more than a set of numbers; a head of product development who understands financials, customer service and inventory turns; an HR head who understands what actually happens in the different departments, etc.

Think of the power inherent in a senior staff that understands what it takes to turn an idea into a product and a product into revenue.

Think of what a difference it will make to your ability to do your own job, not to mention the overall success of your company.

Flickr photo credit to: http://www.sxc.hu/photo/909053

mY generation: No Escape

Sunday, May 23rd, 2010

See all mY generation posts here.

noescape

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