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Ryan’s Journal: International Women’s Day

Friday, March 17th, 2017

https://www.flickr.com/photos/ufv/33321834446/Folks. I am about a week behind on recognizing International Women’s Day, but wanted to speak about it today.

There is always an element of folks out there who cry that we are dividing each other more by recognizing every different group of people, but I disagree.

At this point we have roughly 7 billion people in the world and they are each unique. That’s pretty cool if you ask me and I find that recognizing the differences that make us unique can be a unifier.

One reason I want to address this holiday is because I have been personally affected in a profound way by strong female leaders, both in life and work.

These women were mothers, wives, bosses, employees and, in some cases, warriors. I call that out because throughout history there was not always the option for women to follow their own path — it was chosen for them.

I am the father of two beautiful girls, they are identical twins and they light up my life. My wife and I are blessed (and challenged) by them daily. In June I get to experience it again with the addition of our third girl.

If I am being completely transparent, I was never a feminist. I didn’t think men were the superior sex, but I didn’t think the status quo was an issue either. While having girls has helped to change my thinking, the journey began many years ago.

I served five years as a United States Marine and enjoyed the opportunity to be a part of something greater. Now, the Marine Corps has around 200,000 active Marines and about 7% who are female. It’s a male dominated world where recent news has uncovered that misogyny is alive and well unfortunately. I don’t bring this up to shame the institution but to call out the opportunity for improvement.

Within this environment though I had the pleasure to serve under a female Marine officer by the name of Meredith Brown. At the time she was a Major and retired as a Lt. Col.

She was a no-nonsense person who expected results and demanded excellence. I recall how I used to write reports for her and she would pull out a red pen and begin striking things out. As she did that though, she took the time to show why the corrections needed to be made and expected that I wouldn’t repeat the errors.

Now you may be thinking, this lady sounds rough! I will tell you though, she knew what she was doing. I was a young man who needed guidance and she also saw something in me that perhaps I didn’t see myself. As a Marine she was tough but also fair to a fault. She was the first strong woman in my professional career and I valued our time greatly. We still speak to this day and she continues to give sound advice.

How does this fit into culture? Because as a society we have determined that sex, color, background, race or other factors that could be discriminated against are not how we should be judged.

We have deemed actions to be our judgment. Does this always happen? Absolutely not, but we strive for it.

If I had been an older man in a different Marine Corps, I would have never had the opportunity for a female Marine to lead me. I would have operated in a bubble and be unable to see another point of view without great difficulty.

So next time we have a day that celebrates a unique quality about a specific group of people I suggest we take the time to embrace it.

See something from a different perspective, walk in another person’s shoes, so to speak, and learn.

Culture is continuous.

Image credit: University of the Fraser Valley

Ducks In A Row: Are We Going Backwards?

Tuesday, February 7th, 2017

Whether you were alive in 1984 or not, you’ve probably seen Apple’s Super bowl ad. It’s reshown almost every year and has been consistently voted the top-rated Super Bowl ad ever made, which is saying a lot.

When the ad was made women were on an upward trend and were respected members of the tech community — unlike now.

Watching the ad again last week I got to wondering.

If that ad were made today would the person throwing the hammer be a woman?

Or would it be the proverbial “twenty-something guy in a hoodie?”

Video credit: antisubliminal

Fight Hate: Take Action NOW

Friday, February 3rd, 2017

http://www.businessinsider.com/womens-march-washington-signs-2017-1/#-42

Today is (or should be) the first day of the rest of your life speaking out and actively working for the world in which you want to live. To do everything you can to quell the rise of hate and change the direction of your world.

If you care it’s time to act — not wait for the other guy to do it.

I’m sure that some of my readers are happy with its direction and will be very unhappy with this post. They may even unsubscribe (it’s happened in the past), but that is their right and I respect that.

But hopefully the rest of you will heed this call to action, take time to read the links and time to think about the world you want — not just for yourself, but for you current/future kids and their kids, etc.

Last December I wrote about a pledge by techs not to build a Muslim registery and I quoted the words of Martin Niemöller, a prominent Protestant pastor and rabid anti-Nazi, who spent seven years in a concentration camp.

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

This resonates with me because I am Jewish, granted I’m a sectarian Jew, but bigots don’t make that distinction.

My father’s family had the choice of emigrating from Russia or dying by the had of the Cossacks.

My Romanian grandmother was lucky. Her sister’s husband had only enough money to bring one sister to the US and she drew the short straw. The rest of the family died in the Holocaust.

I doubt it was an accident that the executive order was issued on Holocaust Remembrance Day.

I’m also a nobody and MAPping Company Success is barely a gnat in the blogsphere, but I’m adding my voice to Fred Wilson’s Make America Hate Again, Mark Suster’s Never Let Anybody Tell You to Shut Up and many others.

The hate being shown to this wave of refugees echoes the hate shown to past waves, but this time it’s far more hysterical and fraught.  

As for the argument that the Muslim ban fights terrorism, what really are the odds that you might die in a terrorist attack in the US, especially compared to all the other ways to die? Take a look at the hard data.

odds of dying

Yes, ISIS is real, but terrorism on our soil is an excellent cover for one of the truly ugly underlying reasons today’s refugees are so violently rejected — they are black.

Anand Sanwal provided an insightful comment in his typically irreverent style.

So I landed in India with my daughter on Saturday and saw the news about immigration changes in the USA.
I don’t think American citizens of Indian descent are banned from re-entering the USA yet, but let me know if anything changes as I got another 5 days here and things appear to be changing quickly.
For the time being, I believe my type of brown person is still considered ok so that’s a relief. But definitely let me know if that changes. Thanks.

From Trump to Tea Party you are seeing the second coming of WASP thinking.

If this isn’t who you are then you need to speak out.

Not only speak out, but get active NOW.

How?

By getting involved in Swing Left, an organized effort to take back the House in 2018 or go directly to the Swing Left website.

The operative word is NOW.

Image credit: Dave Mosher/Business Insider

Ducks in a Row: Facebook — Racist or Just Dumb?

Tuesday, November 1st, 2016

Considering it’s 2016 the unbelievably racist targeted advertising choices offered by Facebook are hard to swallow.

facebook-screenshotHarder still are their explanations.

First, they claim to prohibit this kind of ugly targeting.

Facebook says its policies prohibit advertisers from using the targeting options for discrimination, harassment, disparagement or predatory advertising practices.

They claim that advertisers won’t misuse these options.

“We take a strong stand against advertisers misusing our platform: Our policies prohibit using our targeting options to discriminate, and they require compliance with the law,” said Steve Satterfield, privacy and public policy manager at Facebook. “We take prompt enforcement action when we determine that ads violate our policies.”

But their worst excuse is the old A/B test.

Satterfield said it’s important for advertisers to have the ability to both include and exclude groups as they test how their marketing performs.

Hence my question.

Is Facebook really so naïve they actually believe that the so-called “affinity choices” won’t be abused or, in the name of profit, do they just not care?

Image credit: Facebook via Pro Publica

Golden Oldies: Hate, Intolerance and Responsibility

Monday, September 5th, 2016

It’s amazing to me, but looking back over more than a decade of writing I find posts that still impress, with information that is as useful now as when it was written.

Golden Oldies is a collection of what I consider some of the best posts during that time. It’s been four years since I wrote this, but it could have been anytime in the last several decades. The time difference wouldn’t have been that noticeable, except that what I described just keeps getting worse. I find it both sad and disgusting that we humans seem incapable of growing and, instead of moving forward, we move backwards. Read other Golden Oldies here

my-way-hwyAnyone reading the news—local, national or global—knows that hate and intolerance are increasing at an alarming rate everywhere.

Also, because there have been/will be so many elections around the world this year ‘leadership’ is in the news even more so than usual.

What responsibility do leaders—business, political, religious, community—bear in fostering hate and intolerance?

A lot.

Not just the age old race and gender intolerance, but the I’m/we’re-RIGHT-so-you-should-do/think-our-way-or-else.

The ‘we’re right/you’re wrong’ attitude is as old as humanity and probably won’t ever change, but it’s the ‘do-it-our-way-or-else’ that shows the intolerance for what it really is.

And leaders aren’t helping; in fact, they are making it worse.

During my adult life (I missed being a Boomer by a hair) I’ve watched as hate and intolerance spread across the country masked by religion, a façade of political correctness or a mea culpa that is supposed to make everything OK, but doesn’t.

Various business, political, religious and community leaders give passionate, fiery talks to their followers and then express surprise and dismay when some of those same followers steal trade secrets, plant bombs, and kill individuals—whose only error was following their own beliefs.

We are no longer entitled to the pursuit of happiness if our happiness offends someone next door, the other end of the country, or the far side of the globe.

I remember Ann Rand saying in an interview that she believed that she had the right to be totally selfish, where upon the interviewer said that would give her freedom to kill.

Rand said absolutely not, in fact the reverse was true, since her selfishness couldn’t impinge anyone else’s right to be selfish.

Leaders aren’t responsible; we are, because we go along with it—as did the Germans when Hitler led them down the hate and intolerance path.

That about sums up my attitude

What’s yours?

Image credit: Street Sign Generator

Golden Oldies: Of Porcupines and People

Monday, January 4th, 2016

It’s amazing to me, but looking back over nearly a decade of writing I find posts that still impress, with information that is as useful now as when it was written. Golden Oldies is a collection of what I consider some of the best posts during that time.

I chose today’s Oldie for two reasons. First, it’s a new year and taking it to heart at the start assures you of a better more productive year, and second, it’s an election year, which makes it ultra-divisive, and there’s enough stress in the normal workplace without adding another element — especially such a vicious one. Read other Golden Oldies here

https://www.flickr.com/photos/nostri-imago/2854029427/

Sometimes good things arrive in my inbox amidst the silly videos and spam.

And so it was yesterday; I was thinking about what to write when this arrived and it seemed the perfect answer—assuming, that is, that you are as tired as I am of the rising tide of hit pieces so prevalent this election.

Fable of the Porcupine
It was the coldest winter ever and many animals were dying because of the cold.
The porcupines, realizing the situation, decided to group together.
This way they covered and protected themselves; but the quills of each one wounded their closest companions, even though they gave heat to each other.
After awhile they decided to distance themselves one from the other and they began to die, alone and frozen.
So they had to make a choice: either accept the quills of their companions or disappear from the Earth.
Wisely, they decided to go back to being together.
This way they learned to live with the little wounds that were caused by the close relationships with their companions, but the most important part of it was the heat that came from the others.
In this way they were able to survive.
Moral of the story:
The best relationship is not the one that brings together perfect people.

The best relationship is when each individual learns to live with the imperfections of others as opposed to dying alone in the cold.

What do you think? Will humans live up to the example of porcupines or die alone in the cold?

Flickr image credit: Cliff

Ducks in a Row: Seeing Ourselves Clearly

Tuesday, November 10th, 2015

https://www.flickr.com/photos/anemoneprojectors/5620251974

A few weeks ago Wharton professor Adam Grant wrote Dear Men: Wake Up and Smell the Inequality focusing on why men can’t seem to wrap their heads around gender inequality.

In corporate America, 88% of men think women have at least as many opportunities to advance as men.

This is the finding of a major new study—almost 30,000 employees across 118 companies—by LeanIn.org and McKinsey & Company.

Just 12% of men felt that women had fewer opportunities to advance in their organizations.

Today, KG Charles-Harris sent a link to an article by Marshall Goldsmith about suck-ups, with an underlying focus on how easily we see traits in others, but not in ourselves. (I call it ‘but me’)

Almost all of the leaders I have met say that they would never encourage such a thing in their organizations. I have no doubt that they are sincere. Most of us are easily irritated–if not disgusted–by derriere kissers. Which raises a question: If leaders say they discourage sucking up, why does it happen so often? Here’s a straightforward answer: Without meaning to, we all tend to create an environment where people learn to reward others with accolades that aren’t really warranted. We can see this very clearly in other people. We just can’t see it in ourselves.

And that brings us to MAP (mindset, attitude, philosophy™).

MAP, in case you’ve forgotten, is what underlies and drives all our thoughts and actions.

While not seeing things in ourselves may be fundamental to our MAP, that doesn’t mean we can’t change it.

To do so is a choice, yours and no one else’s.

Choice is the most valuable thing that any of us have and it’s the most painful to lose.

Remember Dumbledore? He summed it up perfectly.

“It is our choices that show us what we truly are, far more than our abilities.” (Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, p 333)

Flickr image credit: Peter O’Connor

Will Curation and Safe Spaces at College Lead to a Fear of Living?

Monday, April 13th, 2015

https://www.flickr.com/photos/stella12/14556898073

Earlier this month I shared a conversation with a founder who believes he can lead only one type of person.

It wasn’t that surprising, because the more things are curated the more we hear from and cleave to people like ourselves.

There’s no question that curation reinforces opinions, while eliminating conflicting ones, narrows people beyond from where they started and acts like fertilizer to unconscious bias and outright bigotry.

But isn’t college supposed to help change that by exposing students to people with different beliefs, experiences, attitudes, etc.?

Several years ago a couple of startups gave the college-bound a way to curate their roommates, so they could be sure not to be exposed to ideas, attitudes or upbringing not in sync with their current thinking.

Mangers have been doing this for decades by thoughtlessly hiring people like themselves, so they can stay within their personal comfort zones.

Now college students are taking the concept much further with the demand for “safe spaces.”

Safe spaces are an expression of the conviction, increasingly prevalent among college students, that their schools should keep them from being “bombarded” by discomfiting or distressing viewpoints. Think of the safe space as the live-action version of the better-known trigger warning, a notice put on top of a syllabus or an assigned reading to alert students to the presence of potentially disturbing material. (…)

Eric Posner, a professor at the University of Chicago Law School commented, “Perhaps overprogrammed children engineered to the specifications of college admissions offices no longer experience the risks and challenges that breed maturity,” But “if college students are children, then they should be protected like children.”

This need for safety and zero-level tolerance for discord makes me wonder what will happen to the current college generations when they venture into the workplace, let alone the rest of the real world.

Image credit: Deb Nystrom

If the Shoe Fits: Seeing the Forrest, but not the Trees

Friday, August 15th, 2014

A Friday series exploring Startups and the people who make them go. Read all If the Shoe Fits posts here

5726760809_bf0bf0f558_mSince Spring the media has been sharing stories and statistics about the rampant sexism, ageism and general bigotry in tech, its self-proclaimed “meritocracy” and the amazing male hyperopia (farsightedness) that seems almost incapable of recognizing bigotry in themselves or those close to them.

Y Combinator President Sam Altman and founder Paul Graham are a good example.

Last month Altman posted the importance of eliminating the gender bias in tech and Silicon Valley in particular, and that people need to stop pretending.

“One of the most insidious things happening in the debate is people claiming versions of ‘other industries may have problems with sexism, but our industry doesn’t.'”

He cited Y Combinator’s track record of accepting women founders into the incubator as proof that it isn’t sexist.

He did not, however, explain Graham’s statements in May that he doesn’t fund founders with strong accents or women who have/want kids.

Altman thinks HR can be a solution.

“Our sense is that many will benefit by doing it [human resources infrastructure] earlier. Traditionally, startups have thought of HR as a drag on moving fast and openness, but a well-running team is one of the best assets a company can ever have.”

However, the dozens of women who work for established companies with plenty of human resource infrastructure and have shared horrific stories on platforms from Whisper to Fortune are proof that rules don’t work.

The real solution in any company, from startup to Fortune 50 is a founder/CEO who backs a culture that is blind to gender, age and color and, most importantly, walks the talk, both professionally and personally.

This puts you, as a founder, in a position to truly change the working world.

Image credit: HikingArtist

Are You what You Tweet/Say/Write?

Monday, November 25th, 2013

http://www.flickr.com/photos/eligius4917/7661422988/

Whether you like it or not, agree or not or just consider it unfair, what you say/write/tweet and pin is who you are to the world.

Based on what comes out of his mouth, Mel Gibson is a not only a bigot/raciest/anti-Semite, but a thoroughly rotten human being.  

Twitter CEO Dick Costolo claimed there are no qualified women for his Board, but it didn’t take much for outside experts to identify 25 women who are more than qualified. Of course, Costolo has a lot of company in that mindset.

In a blog post, AdRants Steve Hall self-proclaimed that for “salaciously selfish, purely prurient, Neanderthal-ish reasons” he wanted to work at ad firm Young & Laramore, because of the hot staffers; he also identified several other women he considered hot, then informed everyone via Twitter that he didn’t mean to be insulting and was, in fact, a “nice guy.”

Celery founder Peter Shih of wrote a post citing everything he thinks is wrong with San Francisco that was a cornucopia of “misogyny, homophobia and a general disregard for socioeconomic inequality” that, in the subsequent storm, he tried to pass it off as “humorous satire.”

The thing that all these have in common is that the protagonists were all innocent.

None of them meant anything bad, and some, like Gibson, even denied that they actually believed what they ranted.

They blamed booze, misguided humor, lack of context, ignorance, third-party misunderstanding and a myriad of other reasons why their words shouldn’t define them.

But your words reflect your thoughts and, thanks to the Internet, they will be around forever.

Flickr image credit: Steven Cateris

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