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The Story Of Labor Day

Monday, September 4th, 2017

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pullman_Strike#/media/File:940721-remington-givingthemthebutt-harpersweekly.jpgHave you ever taken time to wonder why there is a holiday dedicated to people who work?


Then before you get too caught up in shopping, beer and BBQ, take a minute to learn exactly where the holiday comes from.

It’s the result of an 1894 labor strike against the Pullman Company (think aspirational, luxury private railroad cars).

Engineer and industrialist George Pullman’s workers all lived in company-owned buildings. The town was highly stratified. Pullman himself lived in a mansion, managers resided in houses, skilled workers lived in small apartments, and laborers stayed in barracks-style dormitories. The housing conditions were cramped by modern standards, but the town was sanitary and safe, and even included paved streets and stores.

Then the disastrous economic depression of the 1890s struck. Pullman made a decision to cut costs — by lowering wages.

In a sense, workers throughout Chicago, and the country at large, were in the same boat as the Pullman employees. Wages dropped across the board, and prices fell. However, after cutting pay by nearly 30%, Pullman refused to lower the rent on the company-owned buildings and the prices in the company-owned stores accordingly.

Federal troops used extreme force to break the strike resulting in 30 deaths, while rioting and sabotage left 80 million dollars worth of damage in its wake.

Indiana state professor and labor historian Richard Schneirov said President Grover Cleveland’s decision to declare Labor Day as a holiday for workers was likely a move meant to please his constituents after the controversial handling of the strike. The president was a Democrat, and most urban laborers at the time were Catholic Democrats.

Congress approved (knowing their constituents would also be pleased).

Makes you wonder what the current president and congress would do.

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

Ryan’s Journal: Fear As A Culture

Thursday, June 1st, 2017

https://www.flickr.com/photos/bullgator0892/11370960706/This week has been an interesting confluence of events across the world stage.

Uber continues to be in the news, this time they decided to fire the head engineer, Anthony Levandowski, who is at the heart of the lawsuit with Google.

The US is on the verge of leaving the Paris Accord, something that could quite possibly have a generational effect.

Suicide bombs continue to tear apart lives across the globe.

What is at the root of these three things?

I believe it is fear.

They say the coward dies a thousand tiny deaths, but a brave person dies one glorious death.

I can tell you right now these are cowardly acts.

To begin, Uber is in the fight for its life. They are losing money every day with their current model. They are betting big on automation and have come up against Google over perceived theft of proprietary documents.

If they lose this they could be done. When you step back and look at the ride sharing model, it’s needed but it’s not unique. The barriers to entry are low and there is no differentiation of product from one company to the next.

They need to lead the space in automation because it’s the future and is inevitable. Fear has led them to both hire and fire the engineer at the center of it all. Perhaps they believe this will help their case, time will tell.

The US leaving the Paris Accord is monumental. I am not a scientist, but I can say this: I inherently know that pumping carbon emissions into the air is bad. Add to that the science that supports it and you begin to see the need to somehow influence climate change for the better.

Why would a president risk the lives of future generations so that a few energy companies can prosper?

Fear. Fear has gripped the voters in the first place who chose not to better their lives through education, which would enable them to better their lives.

Fear is in the president’s heart as well to think that climate change is not real.

Finally it brings us to terror.

These plots are designed to disrupt and bring fear to the masses. It is sometimes effective and can have lasting implications.

How do we combat fear?

One way is by seizing the courage to move one step forward at a time. Embrace the fear and look st how destructive it can be and then make a move against it.

That could be helping someone that isn’t like yourself. Learning about a new culture. Perhaps even sitting down to talk with someone on a different political aisle then yourself to learn why they believe the way they do.

It starts with believing people have value regardless of position and then embracing them.

Perhaps that’s too simplistic, but I know in my own life it has worked and is scalable.

Image credit: Pati Morris

Entrepreneurs: What Leadership Looks Like

Thursday, October 13th, 2016

KG emailed me this cartoon and asked what I thought.

leader-bossI responded that I had a better image of leadership, only mine was drawn with words.

I’ve shared them here before, but a reminder never hurts.

As for the best leaders,
the people do not notice their existence.

The next best,
the people honor and praise.

The next, the people fear;
and the next, the people hate—

When the best leader’s work is done,
the people say, “We did it ourselves!”

To lead the people, walk behind them.

–Lao Tzu

Now that’s what I consider a beautiful image.

Image credit: Anonymous via the Internet

The Ultimate Hack

Wednesday, August 10th, 2016


A colleague commented that he feared tackling a major project he had never done before. He said the challenge was exciting, but it was still scary.

I told him to think about all the stuff he does now that at some point he hadn’t done before.

This is just one more new thing that would soon become old.

Old and comfortable.

It’s how one gains experience and, occasionally, wisdom.

I reminded him that anyone who figures out how to do something the second time without doing it the first, could sell the hack and be a billionaire.

Flickr image credit: fry_theonly

Entrepreneurs: Musical.ly — Channeling Andy Grove

Thursday, June 16th, 2016

In 1849 Jean-Baptiste Karr said, “the more things change the more they stay the same” and that’s still true today.

On the surface you wouldn’t think Musical.ly’s Alex Zhu Zhu and Intel’s Andy Grove have a lot in common, but you would be wrong.

Both created cultures that incorporate a critical attitude — paranoia —  although they look very different.

Andy Grove: “When I came to Intel, I was scared to death. I left a very secure job where I knew what I was doing and started running R&D for a brand new venture in untried territory. It was terrifying.”

Zhu Zhu: “The day we released this application to the market we realized it was never going to take off. It was doomed to be a failure.”

Musical.ly’s first pivot went from a video education app to a combination music/videos/social network that was catnip to their target early-teen demographic.

That led to growth, but it was slow growth, which the founders knew was leading to a slow death.

The a-ha tweak happened when they moved the logo and growth exploded.

They had realized that when people shared the music videos, the logo was cropped out on Instagram and Twitter. They repositioned it so now it was easy to see that it was a Musical.ly video.

Grove said, “Success breeds complacency. Complacency breeds failure. Only the paranoid survive.” (Grove’s paranoia did not condone bullying or a culture of fear.)

Zhu Zhu is far from complacent and keeps pushing and iterating faster.

“I think we have these scary moments all the time because you’re never safe. Even if you have tens of millions of users, you have to keep them always engaged. I think it’s better for us to be scared all the time rather than feel content that we built a successful product and now we can lay back.”

If you don’t care for paranoia, you can substitute a combination of never-ending mindfulness, objective reality as opposed to comforting assumptions and unremittingly honest feedback.

Image credit: musical.ly

Golden Oldies: Out of the box is about choice

Monday, March 28th, 2016

It’s amazing to me, but looking back over 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.

Do you spend any time reading archives from sources you like? I don’t mean stuff that’s a few months old or even a couple of years. I mean thought pieces dating back 5, 10, 15 years ago or even more, especially those focused on what bosses need to do to motivate, retain and get the best from their teams. The problem is not in the content, nor how pertinent it is. The problem is that it’s still applicable, which means bosses haven’t changed much, if at all over all that time — but the workforce has. Here’s an example of what I mean.  Read other Golden Oldies here.

My post yesterday brought an interesting question from Dan L. in Boston. He said, “Why in the world would any manager do anything that would reduce the options available to identify a solution needed in his/her group, especially a CEO?”

So, I paraphrased five reasons that I’ve actually heard, in one form or another, from top managers who talked about being out of the box, but really wanted to stay in it.

  • Think outside—as long as it doesn’t make me uncomfortable.
  • Don’t challenge the status quo in a manner that scares me.
  • Be creative within parameters I can understand.
  • If you want to breach the box, do it my way.
  • We’ve never done it that way.

At first, Dan was incredulous, then he really thought about what’s behind each of the five reasons, and he understood what anybody who really listens to the thoughts behind people’s words comes to know.

Out of the box is about change, and change is scary—for everybody.

But it’s not about being scared, it’s about how you choose to handle it.

That’s right, choose.

Your responses, your choice.

Think about it this weekend.

Then, when you get to the office Monday and one of your people has a great idea that scares the dickens out of you, consciously choose how you respond—knowing that no matter how you choose the ripples of that choice will spread and impact not only your future, but also the future of your people and your company.

Tough or Toxic?

Wednesday, August 19th, 2015


Everybody is talking about the NY Times article detailing little-known aspects and actions of Amazon’s culture.

There is a plethora of discussion, commentary, vehement agreement/disagreement on the information presented in the article and I don’t plan to add more.

What is important is knowing when your workplace crosses the line from tough to toxic.

While the fluidity of the line is a function of the individual, that is only true when there is choice.

And fear, whether real (no new job prospects), instilled (abuse resulting in an “it’s my fault” mentality) or imagined, precludes choice.

Without choice it’s toxic.

Flickr image credit: eek the cat

Shodan and the Internet of Things

Monday, December 1st, 2014


Over the holiday weekend “Eric” canceled his email subscription and the reason given made me smile.

He said my post about the potential for hacking the “Internet of Things” was more fear-mongering than fact, so he was, as I always recommend, “voting with his feet” and unsubscribing.

Granted, I should have referenced my proof, but it’s hard to remember every article I read and this one dates back 15 months.

It’s an article about a search engine called Shodan — the Internet of Things’ worst nightmare.

Shodan crawls the Internet looking for devices, many of which are programmed to answer. It has found cars, fetal heart monitors, office building heating-control systems, water treatment facilities, power plant controls, traffic lights and glucose meters. (…) “Google crawls for websites. I crawl for devices,” says John Matherly, the tall, goateed 29-year-old who released Shodan in 2009.

Shodan wasn’t built for nefarious purposes, but intent has very little to do with actual usage.

Currently, Shodan is the only device search engine with public search results, which is, obviously, a boon to hackers.

However, I agree with Matherly, because if he hadn’t built it someone else would have.

“I don’t consider my search engine scary. It’s scary that there are power plants connected to the Internet.”

And, in case you are wondering, yes, I sent the article URL to Eric.

Flickr image credit: centralasian

Are Entrepreneurs and Managers Different?

Wednesday, February 27th, 2013


Not long ago an entrepreneur with whom I work and I disagreed. He said that entrepreneurs and managers were different and that while entrepreneurs should be managers managers couldn’t be entrepreneurs.

A study using brain scans from MIT professor Maurizio Zollo seems to back him up.

…when entrepreneurs performed explorative tasks, they used both the left and right sides of the frontal parts of their brains, the entire so-called pre-frontal cortex. In comparison, managers tended to use primarily the left sides of the frontal part of their brains. This is an important difference, as the right side of the pre-frontal cortex is associated with creative functions involving high-level thinking (like poetry, arts, etc.), whereas the left side is associated with rational decision-making and logical thinking.

But I still don’t agree.

Zollo isn’t sure either, but thinks that it has to do with the willingness to take risks.

People who just reason with the rational and logical part of the brain might be a bit more risk averse.

Or perhaps that’s more Pavlov’s dog and a conditioned response.

I’d like to see the right/left brain activity of managers at companies known for innovation, such as 3M, Google, and Jeff Immelt’s GE, as opposed to Jack Welch’s.

That would be much better comparison of apples with apples instead of with oranges.

Companies that focus on metrics often lose their innovation mojo.

Managers who work for companies that focus on innovation, have done away with fear and celebrate failure think differently.

Flickr image credit: Nathanial Burton-Bradford

If the Shoe Fits: Don’t be a Fool

Friday, November 30th, 2012

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

5726760809_bf0bf0f558_mAre you familiar with the old saying “a fool and his money are soon parted?”

So are a fool and his startup.

In the situation I’m talking about both could happen—will happen unless the fools with the money dump the fool from his startup.

The founder fool has great talents, but his best is wooing and managing money fools, i.e., investors.

He’s also good at wooing people to join his fledgling company, but even better at being the author of their destruction.

He is a master of disparagement—eye rolls, winks, smirks and, of course, sarcasm.

This founder fool’s arrogance is based on his ability to manage upwards, but mostly on fear; fear that someone who works for him may somehow, somewhere, become more successful than he.

That arrogance, combined with his unfettered belief that anybody who works for a living, including in his own company, is a lesser person creates an environment that destroys people by damaging their self-respect.

Not only does he take out the (in his mind) competition, he also improves retention, since those he undercuts are less likely to leave.

As Jeff Haden says, Self-respect is a lot like trust. Once lost, it’s almost impossible to regain.

Almost. It can be regained, but doing so takes careful rebuilding and support by a manager skilled at seeing diamonds where others see a lump of coal.

And that means either the investor fools rise up to oust the tyrant or the people find the courage to walk away.

Option Sanity™ enhances self-respect.
Come visit Option Sanity for an easy-to-understand, simple-to-implement stock allocation system.  It’s so easy a CEO can do it.

Do not attempt to use Option Sanity™ without a strong commitment to business planning, financial controls, honesty, ethics, and “doing the right thing.”
Use only as directed.
Users of Option Sanity may experience sudden increases in team cohesion and worker satisfaction. In cases where team productivity, retention and company success is greater than typical, expect media interest and invitations as keynote speaker.

Flickr image credit: HikingArtist

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