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Golden Oldies: Leadership’s Future: Where Have All The Heroes Gone?

Monday, July 31st, 2017

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 are a collection of what I consider some of the best posts during that time.

Heroes. Humanity has always had heroes. While it’s doubtful that will ever change, what constitutes a hero has changed radically over the centuries. I wrote this post in 2009, as the trend of elevating the most inane individuals, and even the dregs of society, to hero/role model status. As the old saying goes, something’s got to give.

Read other Golden Oldies here.

Last Friday I wrote Narcissism and Leadership and how much narcissism has increased over the last few years.

I’ve never understood the preoccupation with the glitterati, but I have wondered how much our celebrity-worshiping culture affects kids?

According to Drew Pinsky MD, AKA, Dr. Drew on radio and TV, and S. Mark Young, a social scientist it may be especially dangerous for young people, who view celebrities as role models.

“They are the sponges of our culture. Their values are now being set. Are they really the values we want our young people to be absorbing? … It harkens back to the question of how much are young people affected by models of social learning. Humans are the only animals who learn by watching other humans.”

Worse than dysfunctional celebs is our penchant for making heroes out of the bad guys.

18 year-old, 6-foot-5, 200-pound “Colton Harris-Moore is suspected in about 50 burglary cases since he slipped away from a halfway house in April 2008. Now, authorities say, he may have adopted a more dangerous hobby: stealing airplanes.”

Adin Stevens of Seattle is selling T-shirts celebrating him and there is a fan club on Facebook.

I’m not surprised, in a world where serial killers have groupies and people fight for souvenirs of death-row inmates it figures that they’re going to romanticize someone who manages to not get caught.

But what makes me ill are his mother’s comments, “I hope to hell he stole those airplanes – I would be so proud,” Pam Kohler said, noting her son’s lack of training. “But put in there that I want him to wear a parachute next time.”

It’s tough enough to grow up these days; it’s tougher in a dysfunctional home or in areas that are gang-controlled, but what kid stands a chance with parents like this?

What can we do? Where can we find more positive role models that have the glamour that mesmerizes kids and grownups alike?

When will we glorify function instead of dysfunction? Meaning instead of money?

Image credit: Chesi – Fotos CC on flickr

Join me tomorrow for Wally Bock’s take on heroes and how they need to change.

Golden Oldies: Hiring Newbies

Monday, July 3rd, 2017

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 are a collection of what I consider some of the best posts during that time.

I wrote this post four years ago; the problem wasn’t new then and its gotten progressively worse since.

People today, not just Millennials and not all Millenials, don’t communicate well. People at all ages and levels, including CEOs are poor commicators — and if you doubt that, take a look at Whole Foods CEO John Mackey’s speech at the town hall meeting after the Amazon acquisition. Written communications aren’t much of an improvement, even ignoring grammar and spelling errors, they often have little clarity, flow, or even coherence.

Texting has resulted in still worse writing, especially as people disperse with details like capital letters that can totally change the meaning.

“Capitalization is the difference between helping your Uncle Jack off a horse and helping your uncle jack off a horse.”

And thanks to the overall focus on STEM education you can expect it to get even worse.

Read other Golden Oldies here.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/evoo73/9140462500/Do you groan at the thought of having to hire and manage new-to-the-workforce people?

Do you wonder what’s wrong with today’s college graduates?

If so, remember two things.

  1. The problems are not a product of your imagination.
  2. You are not alone.

Multiple studies find the same problems I hear first-hand from managers.

“When it comes to the skills most needed by employers, job candidates are lacking most in written and oral communication skills, adaptability and managing multiple priorities, and making decisions and problem solving.”  –special report by The Chronicle of Higher Education and American Public Media’s Marketplace

“Problems with collaboration, interpersonal skills, the ability to deal with ambiguity, flexibility and professionalism.” –Mara Swan, the executive vice president of global strategy and talent at Manpower Group

What’s changed?

Helicopter parents, crowdsourced decisions, me/my world focus, and the constant noise that prevents thinking.

The result is that many new hires require remedial actions from already overloaded mangers that go well beyond the professional growth coaching that typifies the best managers.

Flickr image credit: evoo73

Misogyny — Follow The Money

Wednesday, March 29th, 2017

Perhaps Susan Fowler’s post about the harassment she endured and Uber’s culture in general is more empowering than some thought it would be.

Especially regarding Silicon Valley’s “untouchables.”

I say that, because another woman, AJ Vandermeyden, just went public, although the lawsuit was filed last fall.

Only this time it’s Tesla and she still works there; not only works, but loves her company.

“Until somebody stands up, nothing is going to change,” she said in a recent interview, her first comments about a discrimination lawsuit she filed last year. “I’m an advocate of Tesla. I really do believe they are doing great things. That said, I can’t turn a blind eye if there’s something fundamentally wrong going on.”

Tesla’s response was hilarious, in as much as it parroted almost word-for-word the Valley mantra.

“As with any company with more than 30,000 employees, it is inevitable that there will be a small number of individuals who make claims against the company, but that does not mean those claims have merit”

Whoo hoo. Doesn’t that just give you a warm, fuzzy, confident feeling of trust?

Things were better for women 30-40 years ago. What happened?

For one thing, at least for tech, video games happened.

But that’s just one reinforcing piece.

The Atlantic took a more comprehensive look at the misogyny so prevalent in tech culture.

Investigators often say that the best way to trace anything is to “follow the money.”

Turns out that applies here, too.

When Silicon Valley was emerging, after World War II, software programming was considered rote and unglamorous, somewhat secretarial—and therefore suitable for women. The glittering future, it was thought, lay in hardware. But once software revealed its potential—and profitability—the guys flooded in and coding became a male realm.

Now look a bit further and think about the industries notorious for their bad treatment of women.

Wall Street/financial services. Law. Doctors. University-level teaching. Architecture. Chefs. Construction and journeyman crafts. I can keep going.

What do they have in common?

Follow the money.

White and blue collar = high pay.

Pink collar = low pay.

Money means freedom. Freedom to choose. Freedom to walk — from a job or from a relationship.

Put another way, money means control.

The more money you have the more control you have over your world — whether for good or for evil.

So maybe control is the real root cause.

Men (some, not all) need to control women, AKA, mom…

Poor, insecure, little guys.

Trying to change their past by taking revenge on the present and, in doing so, damaging the future.

Video credit: Business Insider

How To Become An Adult

Wednesday, March 22nd, 2017

Sometimes people seem to forget that kids grow up and become adults.

Or they used to.

The responsibility for most of the problem can be laid at the feet of their parents and their helicopter approach to raising their offspring. Most ironically, they complain when job candidates sport the same attitudes as their own kids.

Other factors retarding adulthood include the escapism offered by today’s video games, especially for under-30 males, the lack of interpersonal skills driven by social media, along with social media’s unsubtle efforts to foster addiction in the name of profit.

And, of course, the largest factor being family and friends, whose emotional and financial support, enable a relatively comfortable living situation.

The difficulty today’s young adults are having in becoming actual adults was the impetus for (what else) a startup.

Rachel Weinstein, a psychotherapist, and Katie Brunelle, a former elementary school teacher and coach, responded by creating the Adulting School, a place for people to gain the skills they need to feel like an adult, from goal-setting and sheet-fitting to how to manage money or hang a picture.

Simon Senek, a British author and motivational speaker, also blames parents for the false expectations of so many Millennials, who never were given the chance to learn/live the process of achievement.

“Everything you want you can have instantaneously, except for job satisfaction and strength of relationships,” Senek argues. “There’s no app for that; they are slow, meandering, uncomfortable processes.”

Whatever you think about a school that teaches adults how to be adults the real question is: in what direction will the next generation go?

Image credit: the Adulting School

Golden Oldies: Corporate Culture: They Will Become Their Parents

Monday, March 14th, 2016

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

Eight years have passed since I wrote this, but it still holds true. Gen Y is eight years older and its leading edge are already producing Gen Z, which will continue the disruption, make unimaginable demands on the workplace and eventually become the status quo. That’s just the nature of the beast. Read other Golden Oldies here

I love it. Another article focusing on what companies need to do to hire Gen X and Y—of course they’re a big chunk of the workforce and getting bigger—Gen Y alone is 80 million strong and will compose 44% of workers by 2020.

Not that I disagree with the comments, but that the focus is strictly on doing these things in order to lure younger employees because they demand it, when the same perks [listed at this link–Ed] will attract works of any age.

‘The move often is aimed at attracting the youngest members of the work force — Generations X and Y — who are more outspoken than their baby boomer predecessors about demanding a life outside the office, said Lynne Lancaster, co-author of When Generations Collide.’

generationsWhat people seem to forget is that the Boomers were plenty disrupting and more demanding than their parents—in fact, historically each generation has disrupted the status quo and demanded more than its predecessor in one way or another.

Just as every generation has focused on various traits of the upcoming generation and deemed them the end of civilization—if not the world.

I’m sure our hunter ancestors looked with horror at their gatherer children and predicted starvation if the herds weren’t followed.

I have no problem when Gen X and Y talk their demands and walk when they aren’t met because most of those demands will improve the workplace for all ages, but they would do well to remember that eventually they will become their parents—maybe not to themselves, but to the newer generations agitating for change.

Ducks in a Row: the Damage of an Overly Competitive Culture

Tuesday, July 28th, 2015

https://www.flickr.com/photos/acrylicartist/15321161786/

Last Friday we looked at the disturbing number of entrepreneurs who suffer from anxiety and depression, exacerbated by the pressures of founding a startup, and too often find their solace in suicide.

Mark Suster wrote how the same problems often haunt success.

Today’s New York Times had a complimentary article, Campus Suicide and the Pressure of Perfection.

There are several compelling points to consider;

  • almost all are young;
  • they are high achievers recognized for ‘crushing it’ — whatever ‘it’ happens to be;
  • they are driven to live up to outside expectations; and
  • they constantly compare themselves to others’ external images as depicted in social media.

The acts required to “keep up with the Joneses” have changed significantly from my under-35 days.

Back then it was your neighbors and school/social/professional circles that comprised the Joneses.

Now it is the no-holds-barred world.

The existential question “Why am I here?” is usually followed by the equally confounding “How am I doing?” In 1954, the social psychologist Leon Festinger put forward the social comparison theory, which posits that we try to determine our worth based on how we stack up against others.

Growing up and in the years since ‘how am I doing’ was never my focus, because I never fit in; never was part of any crowd and certainly never told I was special.

Fortunately, I wasn’t competitive; in fact, competitive has never been part of my personal vocabulary.

Somehow I’ve always known that no matter what I accomplished there would always be people who were richer/smarter/thinner/more popular/more whatever than I.

Unlike those described in the aforementioned articles.

And the pressures have increased exponentially for those susceptible.

In the era of social media, such comparisons take place on a screen with carefully curated depictions that don’t provide the full picture. Mobile devices escalate the comparisons from occasional to nearly constant.

“Curated” is the polite way to say that people lie — not only to convince the world, but probably to convince themselves.

Don’t get caught in this trap; teach yourself to talk about how you feel — to at least one real person, preferably more.

And take time to be there for others who are struggling.

Flickr image credit: Rodney Campbell

Ducks in a Row: the Fallout of Family-style Culture

Tuesday, October 8th, 2013

http://www.flickr.com/photos/shankaronline/8454251331/

A recent study found that Millennials want their bosses to act more like a parent and a whopping 71 percent want co-workers to be a second family.

And companies are rushing to provide the desired environment.

…training its managers to respond and give more guidance, like a parent would, and show young workers a path to upward mobility. (…) “We are a social-networking generation, which is why communication is so important to us,” said Jeremy Condomina, a 27-year-old business analyst and computer-system trainer with Dade Paper in Miami. “Whether or not we hang out outside of work, we want to know that we have a work family and even if we step on toes, it’s going to be OK.”

But what happens when

  • A ‘sibling’ is terminated?
  • The economy falters/crashes and half the ‘family’ is laid off?
  • The much loved parent-boss abandons her family for another?

These events cause trauma in battle/life-hardened Boomers.

How they will affect a cossetted generation in which everyone received an award no matter what.

Flickr image credit: oldandsolo

Hiring Newbies

Monday, July 8th, 2013

http://www.flickr.com/photos/evoo73/9140462500/Do you groan at the thought of having to hire and manage new-to-the-workforce people?

Do you wonder what’s wrong with today’s college graduates?

If so, remember two things.

  1. The problems are not a product of your imagination.
  2. You are not alone.

Multiple studies find the same problems I hear first-hand from managers.

“When it comes to the skills most needed by employers, job candidates are lacking most in written and oral communication skills, adaptability and managing multiple priorities, and making decisions and problem solving.”  –special report by The Chronicle of Higher Education and American Public Media’s Marketplace

“Problems with collaboration, interpersonal skills, the ability to deal with ambiguity, flexibility and professionalism.” –Mara Swan, the executive vice president of global strategy and talent at Manpower Group

What’s changed?

Helicopter parents, crowdsourced decisions, me/my world focus, and the constant noise that prevents thinking.

The result is that many new hires require remedial actions from already overloaded mangers that go well beyond the professional growth coaching that typifies the best managers.

Flickr image credit: evoo73

Shrinking Interactions

Monday, June 17th, 2013

http://www.flickr.com/photos/zeno77/2446183097I had just finished unloading my cart at Home Depot the other day when a woman pulled up with her two young sons; when I offered her my cart she shook her head and kept walking.

There was a time when she might have offered to take the cart, but those times seem a part of the past.

Instead, she kept walking, talked to her sons and answered her cell phone.

Is the world really shrinking or is it just a narrowing of interactions and less interest in what’s around us in real-time?

The more distracted we become, and the more emphasis we place on speed at the expense of depth, the less likely and able we are to care.

Everyone wants his parent’s, or friend’s, or partner’s undivided attention — even if many of us, especially children, are getting used to far less. Simone Weil wrote, “Attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity.”

Each step “forward” has made it easier, just a little, to avoid the emotional work of being present, to convey information rather than humanity.

As usual, I am out of step.

I take back the carts, function beautifully sans cell/smartphone, pay attention to the humans in my orbit and love real-world interactions.

Digging in the dirt, conversation and reading (mostly cozy mystery fiction) are my favorite “time wasters;” no Facebook, Twitter or Candy Crush (my sister’s addiction).

I prefer to be connected to a few in the real world than connected to dozens (hundreds?) in the cyber world.

In short, I want to continue to pay attention and be present for whatever time I have left on this planet, whether decades or days.

Flickr image credit: Zeno_

Expand Your Mind: Hodgepodge

Saturday, January 15th, 2011

Today’s selections started in one direction, veered towards another and then went off in a third. But that’s OK; I have great confidence in your ability to follow the sometimes torturous logic of my mind.

The first two present views of raising children. Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior is an essay describing the difference between “Chinese” parenting and “Western” parenting (although both terms are applied more widely); be sure to read some of the nearly 6000 comments. In direct contrast to the Chinese approach is the movement to restore playtime to kids in an effort to encourage imagination and creativity. They seem to be in direct conflict, but are they?

This HBR article brings up a related question: if not you, who? Who will push you to practice and grow as an adult? What happens if you stop working on yourself? How do you know when you need to improve?

Moving from what differentiates individuals to what differentiates organizations, especially organizations in a “dying” industry such as magazines. What allows the number two company to spend a billion dollars on acquisitions in less than a year while the number one company is closing title right and left?

And now a bit of levity to round out the day.

Most people scoff when others talk about their lucky shirt or special rock, but consider the beliefs harmless. Does superstition influence business? In a word, yes—everything from the stock market to productivity. Are you superstitious (you don’t have to answer out loud)?

Image credit:  MykReeve on flickr

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