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Quotable Quotes: Simon Wiesenthal

Sunday, November 15th, 2009

hateFor those of you too young to know, Simon Wiesenthal was an Austrian-Jewish architectural engineer until the advent of Hitler. He survived three death camps in a four year period and became a world renowned, or reviled depending on your sympathies, Nazi hunter.

Wiesenthal’s words may have their roots in the Holocaust, but they apply equally well to today’s geopolitical situation, as well as more mundane stuff like work. You might think I’m exaggerating, but if you tone down the power of his words you’ll find a reflection of the office bully; the pointy haired manager; and other situations you face on a daily basis.

If you know from history the danger, then part of the danger is over because it may not take you by surprise as it did your ancestors.

Ancestors aside, tracking the historical actions of the people in your world protects you from being taken unaware.

Violence is like a weed – it does not die even in the greatest drought.

There are many kinds of violence and not all of them involve bodily harm; psyches are gossamer; abuse exists in many contexts.

What connects two thousand years of genocide? Too much power in too few hands.

Think this doesn’t apply to business? Think of the lives destroyed by Enron, the banking crisis, Bernard Madoff—there are many kinds of death and the destruction of dreams and hope is a type that often goes unacknowledged.

For evil to flourish, it only requires good men to do nothing.

True since time began, but good men and women often do nothing in and out of the business world.

Technology without hatred can be a blessing. Technology with hatred is always a disaster.

Technology covers a great deal of ground; in itself it is benign, but, like a car, it can maim and kill when mixed with anger, fear, hate or carelessness.

Freedom is not a gift of heaven, you have to fight for it every day,

Your personal fight is against whatever enslaves or endangers you, no matter the source. Just be sure in fighting that you don’t inflict the same damage on your foes.

Humour is the weapon of unarmed people: it helps people who are oppressed to smile at the situation that pains them.

And it is humor that wreaks the most havoc on your foes in the business world.

Human rights is the only ideology that deserves to survive,

Ideology has cost our world its peace, prosperity and maybe its future. Ideology eliminates rationality; I honestly believe that the minute people start thinking ‘yours is wrong, mine is right’ the trouble begins—and usually escalates.

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Seize Your Leadership Day: Leaders: Authentic And Otherwise

Saturday, November 7th, 2009

seize_your_dayWhat do you do when you are booted out of your business leadership position? Go into politics, of course.

Carly Fiorina, Hewlett-Packard’s ex (to the great relief of people both internal and external) CEO is the latest to throw her hat in the ring, touting her corporate problem-solving skills; problem-making is more accurate.

So what do you do when you are booted out of your political position (or your term expires)? Go on the speaking circuit.

I realize that I may offend some of my readers, but to learn that George W. Bush is being paid $100K to speak for 40 minutes ($2500 per minute!) on “How to master the art of effective leadership” makes me ill. (Hat tip to Grant Lawrence at OEN for the heads up. I found his thoughts on the subject well worth reading.)

The next item is a great interview with Drew Gilpin Faust, president of Harvard University, who, unlike her predecessor, recognizes that communication is the most critical action when leading an organization “with enormously distributed authority and many different sorts of constituencies, all of whom have a stake in that institution” and have no tolerance for any top-down management.

Authenticity is cited by many leadership gurus as absolutely necessary, but Professor Jim Heskett, my favorite Harvard voice, solicited reader responses to this question earlier this month, “Can the “masks of command” coexist with authentic leadership?” Beyond his summation be sure to scan through the comments for significant insights both pro and con.

Your comments—priceless http://www.mappingcompanysuccess.com/seize-your-leadership-day-

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Leadership's Future: We Need More Tom Dunns

Thursday, November 5th, 2009

knowledge-is-powerWhat do you do and where do you go when you leave a high-stress career that nearly kills you?

If your name is Tom Dunn and you spent 20 years, first as a defense counsel in the Army Trial Defense Service, then stints in Florida, New York State and most recently as head of the nonprofit Georgia Resource Center, you find a less stressful environment in which to indulge your passion.

You teach in a tough middle school in Atlanta, Georgia where “ninety-three percent of students are black and 5 percent Hispanic; some 97 percent qualify for free or reduced lunch.”

Dunn’s prior experience made him a passionate believer in what Frederick Douglass said, “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.”

According to principal, Danielle S. Battle, middle school turns off many teachers because it’s where “students’ bodies and minds are changing, and disparities in learning abilities are playing out.”

Dunn found that amusing, “You can’t be a starry-eyed idealist and do defense work in capital cases for 20 years.”

Dunn is the type of teacher that every parent should want for their child, but, as proved in Dallas, teachers are fired for being good—good meaning tough enough to stick to their guns and require kids to learn.

We need more teachers like Dunn; teachers who care and environment that supports their efforts to educate.

But the kids complain to their parents, the parents complain to the school board and the teacher is out—no matter how good the test scores. So tying teacher pay to test scores may not help if the choice is between less money and no job.

What are line managers, AKA principals and teachers, supposed to do when the executive team, AKA, school district board, first gives tacit approval to shipping shoddy products and then formalizes the practice through its work rules and quality processes?

How stupid is it to tie funding to students staying in school and passing and then allow the bar to be lowered in order to achieve the goal?

Does the ability to pass tests accurately reflect an ability to think?

Kids are smart; they know when the system is gamed and how to leverage their power.

Who is in charge here?

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Image credit: Nieve44/La Luz on flickr

Leadership's Future: America's Tragic Shame

Thursday, October 29th, 2009

Neglect. Drugs. Abuse. Molestation.

Where do you go when those four words describe your parents and your home life?

Where do you sleep; what do you eat?

homelessWhen you’re cold and hungry you do what it takes to survive, including stealing and selling whatever you can find to sell—including yourself.

And these kids are as young as 10 years old.

The NT Times ran a two-part series called Running in the Shadows about teen runaways. It should be required reading for every American (part 1 and part 2).

Children on Their Own

This is the first of two articles on the growing number of young runaways in the United States, exploring how they survive and efforts by the authorities to help them.

Many cling together to avoid predators, but many more are seduced by pimps—it doesn’t take much.

“My job is to make sure she has what she needs, personal hygiene, get her nails done, take her to buy an outfit, take her out to eat, make her feel wanted,” said another pimp, Antoin Thurman, who was sentenced in 2006 to three years for pandering and related charges in Buckeye, Ariz. “But I keep the money.”

Out of frustration, Sgt. Byron A. Fassett of the Dallas Police Department started looking for patterns in child prostitution cases.

One stuck out: 80 percent of the prostituted children the department had handled had run away from home at least four or more times a year.

Fasset created a special “High Risk Victim” unit within the Dallas PD that has seen enormous success, both in getting kids out of that life and putting the pimps behind bars.

The unit’s strength is timing. If the girls are arrested for prostitution, they are at their least cooperative. So the unit instead targets them for such minor offenses as truancy or picks them up as high-risk victims, speaking to them when their guard is down. Only later, as trust builds, do officers and social workers move into discussions of prostitution.

Repeat runaways are not put in juvenile detention but in a special city shelter for up to a month, receiving counseling.

Three quarters of the girls who get treatment do not return to prostitution.

The results of the Dallas system are clear: in the past five years, the Dallas County district attorney’s office has on average indicted and convicted or won guilty pleas from over 90 percent of the pimps arrested. In virtually all of those cases, the children involved in the prostitution testified against their pimps, according to the prosecutor’s office. Over half of those convictions started as cases involving girls who were picked up by the police not for prostitution but simply as repeat runaways.

Those statistics are amazing. Here we have a case of initiative taken; leadership shown, and impressive success. Not a fancy approach, but a pragmatic one based on a proven pattern.

So why hasn’t it been applied across the nation?

In 2007, Congress nearly approved a proposal to spend more than $55 million for cities to create pilot programs across the country modeled on the Dallas system. But after a dispute with President George W. Bush over the larger federal budget, the plan was dropped and Congress never appropriated the money.

Just $55 million dollars, that’s all; a drop in the bucket in comparison to most earmarks.

But, in their wisdom, our wonderful, elected leaders in Washington didn’t believe it had enough reelection value to make it worth fighting for—maybe this is what’s meant by throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

Of course, these kids can’t vote, may not live long enough to vote, so it’s no big deal to the folks on their perpetual campaign trail.

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Leadership's Future: Abusing Water To Produce Energy

Thursday, October 15th, 2009

blog action dayToday is Blog Action Day and the topic is Climate Change, so I asked Chris Blackman, who is a strategic consultant specializing finding both private and public funding in the green and clean technology sector, to offer her thoughts on a subject that enrages me every time it comes up—which is more and more often. The subject is the sacrificing of one limited resource for the sake of another.

From Chris…

Would you choose to go hungry and thirsty so that you could have energy?

That choice is the dark side of clean energy.

A ‘clean coal’ power plant uses tens of thousands of gallons of water daily—water that cannot even be reused or recycled—because it is so fouled and contaminated.

To biomass’ benefit the water it consumes is reused over and over again, but turning waste to energy using the aerobic digestion method has a 1:1 ratio—one ton of waste requires one ton of water to process that waste.

In some ways, we have adopted an anything goes approach to producing some green energy and it seems a bit deja vu: using oil products to produce other energy forms.

In this case, it is even worse—it is not only the environmental impact but also the real possibility of going thirsty or hungry if we use our drinking or irrigation water to produce energy.

A recent New York Times article revealed that a solar power company dangled the opportunity to create hundreds of new jobs in a desert community at the cost of consuming 1.3 billion gallons of water a year, about 20 percent of the desert valley’s available water.”

All that community needs to do is to look at the legal battle being waged right now amongst the states that have access to the Colorado river to vividly understand why they should not sell their water rights, in the hopes of procuring water from their neighbors.

Already there are many parts of the country in which the water is already unusable in spite of the Clean Water Act.

In the last five years alone, chemical factories, manufacturing plants and other workplaces have violated water pollution laws more than half a million times. … the vast majority of those polluters have escaped punishment. State officials have repeatedly ignored obvious illegal dumping, and the Environmental Protection Agency, which can prosecute polluters when states fail to act, has often declined to intervene.

I am not in any way advocating stopping our investments in clean and green energy; however, it is tunnel vision to invest in clean energy at the cost of clean water.

There are places in this country better suited, where the solar and water requirements are better aligned: Florida and the rest of the Southeast, at least in most years. (See Chris’ post on how dark, rainy Germany used US-invented technology to become a global solar leader.)

The opening question may seem melodramatic, but I wonder what the former Soviet Republic would give today to have the Aral Sea back, since today it is mostly a dry lifeless bed of blowing salt.

Was its loss, and the salt poisoning of the surrounding lands, worth the measly two decades of cotton they produced while depleting its water sources? The environmental and economic toll of the Aral Sea’s destruction could end up being as costly as Chernobyl.

That is not melodrama, that is precedent.

Want more proof? T. Boon Pickens, who isn’t known for his ‘friend of the community’ attitudes, is betting 100 million dollars that water is the new oil.

‘Oh Father, spare me the need to eat and drink so that I may use these resources for electricity’ – who would ever pray for that?

We still don’t get “the vision thing.”

When will we begin to approach our economy and the environment as a single integrated whole?

When will we balance out the true costs and benefits of our activities?

When will the options we choose from include using less, instead of always inventing new ways to consume more?

When will we learn?

What do you think?

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Image credit: Blog Action Day

More GoingGreen West: Energy

Friday, September 18th, 2009

Monday I introduced Chris Blackman, who attended the AlwaysOn GoingGreen West conference for us.

I found her reporting of the attitudes toward implementing renewable energy into the grid in the face of entrenched interests disturbing.

Fungible Grids

Will the energy grid replace existing sources of power—oil, coal, gas, and nuclear—with renewable energy? Currently, our energy is finite and polluting yet highly efficient. And all of the players in the market, producers and consumers, recognize the need to overcome these limitations.

Solar energy accounts for only 0.003% of energy consumption in the US today and that is projected to increase to 2% by 2025. That kind of miniscule percent of the overall energy consumed is not specific to solar energy. Wind, bio-mass and geothermal heat all give a negligible contribution to the US’s power supply.

The players in the market have one requirement of energy: it must be reliable at all times.  Oil and coal are reliable. And from what I could see at the AlwaysOn Going Green conference, oil and coal companies are not going to allow their market shares to erode without putting up a fight and having their case heard.  Chris Poirier, CEO of CoalTek, emphasized to the audience: coal in particular exists here in the US in abundance; coal companies are developing cleaner versions of this resource.

Much is made of “clean coal” but at the end of the day, clean coal is an oxymoron. Coal is a disaster at every stage of its production.

To mine coal, currently the companies raze our mountains to procure the coal. What they absolutely never want to discuss is that they are a highly subsidized industry: all of the energy used to transport the coal over vast distances is subsidized.

But probably the gravest problem of using coal as an energy source is that it emits more carbon dioxide than any other fuel and those carbons are much more polluting because the carbon molecule in coal is larger.

According to John Woolard, CEO of BrightSource Energy, the only way that we can overcome the limitations of going completely green and clean is if we take a localized approach to integrating the grid. That requires the grid to receive energy locally: solar power from Southern California and the Western states, wind from the Mid-West states, tidal power from the coastal states, etc.

That is a smart way of consuming energy. However, what do cleaner oil and coal have in common? The infrastructure already exists for these products. The grid already runs on oil and coal.

How will consumers and the US government react to the fact that this resource resides in abundance in this country and that we wouldn’t have to pay to overhaul our infrastructure to continue to use it?

For argument’s sake, let’s suppose that all renewable energies will have the same level of projected involvement as solar will in 2025, renewable energies would capture about 15% of the market.

Hopefully this is an ineffective way of looking at the situation as nothing is static and clean and green tech companies could possibly improve the amount of energy they generate exponentially in the future.

This all begs the question: can green and clean tech survive and even thrive without national policies to encourage their adoption?

I fear that due to the propaganda of coal being cleaner from the coal companies and the lack of capital investment and political incentives from the government to upgrade our infrastructure we will not replace coal and oil in our grid with renewable energies.

What do you think?

(Be sure to see what Chris says about water.)

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Image credit: LeoSynapse on sxc.hu

Leadership's Future: Of Closed Minds And Personal Responsibility

Thursday, September 10th, 2009

The silly blow-up over President Obama’s back-to-school speech drove home once again how I am that won’t be around when the current crop of kids take the reins of political, social and business so-called leadership roles.

I am continually amazed and revolted as I watch so-called conservatives of all stripes work to be sure their children are exposed to nothing that conflicts with whatever ideology they are steeping them in.

I say ‘conservatives’ because so-called liberals seem more flexible within their stands. (Please note that I said ‘flexible, not changeable.)

What exactly was in this speech, that some kids weren’t allowed to hear? Here are some excerpts that I found especially uplifting to hear—and if you think I cherry-picked the contents you can read it in its entirety and decide for yourself.

  • But at the end of the day, we can have the most dedicated teachers, the most supportive parents, the best schools in the world — and none of it will make a difference, none of it will matter unless all of you fulfill your responsibilities, unless you show up to those schools, unless you pay attention to those teachers, unless you listen to your parents and grandparents and other adults and put in the hard work it takes to succeed. That’s what I want to focus on today: the responsibility each of you has for your education.
  • You cannot drop out of school and just drop into a good job. You’ve got to train for it and work for it and learn for it.
  • What you make of your education will decide nothing less than the future of this country. The future of America depends on you. What you’re learning in school today will determine whether we as a nation can meet our greatest challenges in the future.
  • We need every single one of you to develop your talents and your skills and your intellect so you can help us old folks solve our most difficult problems. If you don’t do that — if you quit on school — you’re not just quitting on yourself, you’re quitting on your country.
  • But at the end of the day, the circumstances of your life — what you look like, where you come from, how much money you have, what you’ve got going on at home — none of that is an excuse for neglecting your homework or having a bad attitude in school. That’s no excuse for talking back to your teacher, or cutting class, or dropping out of school. There is no excuse for not trying.
  • [After describing specific kids’ situations] But they refused to give up. They chose to take responsibility for their lives, for their education, and set goals for themselves. And I expect all of you to do the same.
  • I know that sometimes you get that sense from TV that you can be rich and successful without any hard work — that your ticket to success is through rapping or basketball or being a reality TV star. Chances are you’re not going to be any of those things. The truth is, being successful is hard. You won’t love every subject that you study. You won’t click with every teacher that you have. Not every homework assignment will seem completely relevant to your life right at this minute. And you won’t necessarily succeed at everything the first time you try.
  • I do that every day. Asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of strength because it shows you have the courage to admit when you don’t know something, and that then allows you to learn something new.
  • So today, I want to ask all of you, what’s your contribution going to be? What problems are you going to solve? What discoveries will you make? What will a President who comes here in 20 or 50 or 100 years say about what all of you did for this country?

The text of the speech was released early in response to fear-mongering, but some schools still didn’t broadcast it and some parents still prevented their kids from watching.

Why? Because he encouraged them to take responsibility for themselves? Because he said that our country’s future depends on them? Because he was raised by a single mom? Because he told them that success was a function of very hard work?

Or is it the closed-minded attitude of the ideologue represented by 15-year-old Andrew Quick, near Orlando, Fla., who said “he considered the speech to be a potentially disruptive interruption of his school day, so decided not to watch it. “I’m a Republican,” he said, “and I really don’t like Obama all that much.”

I translate that to mean ‘I don’t listen to anyone who doesn’t think as I think and agree with me’, an attitude that doesn’t bode well for our country’s future.

Exactly what in this speech was of such concern to the conservative agenda that their kids should not hear it?

Perhaps the problem is the message that, in the end, they are each responsible for what they become—not their parents or teachers or politicians and certainly not God—just them.

That they will be what they choose to be and whether that choice is active or passive; it’s their choice as thinking individuals—assuming they choose to think and not just blindly follow a given ideology.

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Quotable Quotes: Ted Kennedy

Sunday, August 30th, 2009

Whether you laud Ted Kennedy or despise him you can’t deny that there are things he said that resonate with any person, in any country and any circumstances.

Here are some of my favorites.

“I recognize my own shortcomings — the faults in the conduct of my private life. I realize that I alone am responsible for them, and I am the one who must confront them. I believe that each of us as individuals must not only struggle to make a better world, but to make ourselves better, too.”

There is no safety in hiding.”

“Yes, we are all Americans. This is what we do. We reach the moon. We scale the heights. I know it. I’ve seen it. I’ve lived it. And we can do it again.”

“I have seen throughout my life how we as a people can rise to a challenge, embrace change and renew our destiny.”

“The work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives and the dreams shall never die.”

“We have learned that it is important to take issues seriously, but never to take ourselves too seriously.”

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Leadership's Future: When A Lie Is Not A Lie

Thursday, August 27th, 2009

Hypocrisy has had a high profile on my blog this summer, especially as it relates to the emerging attitudes of young people.

One of the current hypocrisy poster boys is Senator John Ensign, who really drove home what is acceptable and not acceptable in the prevailing attitudes of those who claim the moral high ground.

The Senator, who roundly condemned then-President Clinton’s sexual peccadillo and subsequent lying to a grand jury, said, “I haven’t done anything legally wrong.” (My emphasis.)

Which mean that if Clinton had admitted screwing around with Monica Lewinsky it would have made it a “distraction” (Ensign’s term for what he did.) as opposed to the felony created by lying.

Ensign is prominent member of the Promise Keepers leadership, which lists seven basic tenets, the third being, “A Promise Keeper is committed to practicing spiritual, moral, ethical and sexual purity” and the fourth, “A Promise Keeper is committed to building strong marriages and families through love, protection and Biblical values.”

Ensign violated both and compounded the violations by having his parents pay off his mistress.

These don’t count, since Promise Keepers isn’t a legal entity and, obviously, lying to your followers and constituency isn’t illegal—just unethical and immoral.

What kids will absorb is that there are no real repercussions; Ensign still holds his Congressional seat, will probably win reelection, hasn’t changed his role in Promise Keepers, and is still cheered when he gives a speech. And if reporters dare to raise additional questions, his response is “I’ve said everything I was going to say about that.”

We may ring our hands and lament the lack of accountability of society in general and the Millennials in particular, but we don’t have to look very far to find the cause.

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Seize Your Leadership Day: Obama At 6 Months

Saturday, August 8th, 2009

In spite of the importance of Obama’s success in office, there is only so much I can read on a subject before I become jaded. As a result I try to make my sources as objective as possible, which is difficult when the subject is political.

I’m also not a political junkie, so in looking for ‘how’s it going’ information I tend to skip sources with rigid ideologies, since I pretty much know what they will say.

(I must say I find it amusing and satisfying that we finally have a president that both the far right and far left don’t like.)

I did find three articles to share, two short and one longer.

The first is a compendium of opinions from a varied group of Wharton professors, one phrase I really liked was when Obama was termed “short on ideology and long on pragmatism,” an attitude I wish the entire country would adopt. I also found it amusing that he was downgraded for attacking too many major topics at once—healthcare, the economy, two wars—as if he had any choice.

The second is from economist and Harvard Professor Jeff Frankels. Be sure to click the link at the end to see the comments at another location.

Finally, a far ranging Business Week interview with President Obama that speaks especially heavily to the business community.

All have links to additional resources for those of you so inclined.

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