Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Finding Hope in Death!

My friend’s grandfather passed away on Monday 10/29/07. Thankfully, the whole family has a strong Christian faith (as you will read in the link to follow). Their faith has given them hope and assurance that their dad/grandpa/great-grandpa has gone home to Jesus. There is still grieving, as there always will be, but there is also celebration.

My friend’s uncle (a missionary living in Jerusalem) flew home to be with his father in his last days. He blogged about his experience. I must say it’s very powerful and inspirational. Here’s a small excerpt:

Our Dad died yesterday (Monday). He died in his own bed, quietly, at peace, and with Mom, Tony (my older brother) and me around him. We kissed him good-bye and then he was gone. A pretty ordinary death for a pretty ordinary man who lived a pretty ordinary life, a life distinguishable only in that it was a life lived in faith and with extraordinary loyalty. These two traits are what set dad and so many others like him apart, I think……

….They say that when you come to your last days, you are stripped of all the masks you’ve worn, all the pretense wrapped around you in life, the collected baggage is blown away, and what is left is who you are at the core of your being. If this is so, then our father was, at his core, a man of great courage and uncommon goodness…

To read more of Marlin's inspirational words, please visit . He truly writes powerful and amazing posts!

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Tuesday, October 30, 2007

A Fork in the Road (or) Just a Showertime Dilemma?

I was at a fork in the road of sorts this morning. I was taking my morning shower when I realized that I was out of soap. What an interesting dilemma I had. Do I take the “skip-the-soap” road that possibly leads me to a funky body odor all day at work? Or, do I take the “use-my-wife’s-cherry-blossom-Bath-and-Body-Works-fruity-kind” road that possibly leads me to a less manly, more feminine smelling body all day at work? Well, after minimum deliberation on the choice at hand, I went with the “Cherry Blossom” body wash! See, for me, I would rather smell like fruity flowers, than a sweaty gym sock!

It’s all about choices isn’t it? I mean, aren’t we reaching forks in the road every day? Decisions have to be made. Different roads have to be taken. Obviously, the fork in the road to start my day wasn’t a “major” decision with possible “major” consequences. But, what about some of those major forks in the road we do encounter in work and in life? What are your experiences with these? What forks have you come across? What decisions have you had to make?
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Thursday, October 25, 2007

Corporate Cutlture: The Black Hole!

“Welcome to Black Hole Light Processing, Inc. Here at the Black Hole, we pride ourselves on employee retention! Sure, our corporate culture may be dark, shady, and lonely. We may foster a shallow and empty morale, driving the fun out of the organization. But, look at these turnover rates!! They’re lower than the self-esteem of everyone who works for us! And check out our productivity: Higher than our top executive egos. Now that is success at its finest!”

“So, how do we do it here at the Black Hole? How do we keep turnover down and retention up? Well, quite frankly, we do just enough to keep people here. Raises and bonuses are common and competitive. When you pay your people properly, it’s much harder for them to leave. We practice the “Tear-‘em-Down-then-Build-‘em-Up” philosophy. We push hard, and then we push harder. If morale gets too low, then we build them up with praise and complements. It’s these few and far between “pats on the back” that they’ll remember! Trust me, it’s these random acts of kindness that keeps them coming back for more.”

“We also discourage creativity and risk and we make tasks repetitive and uniform. Doing this dumbifies the workforce, where the employees know nothing better than what they have. We also overload the drones, creating 12 hour workdays, 6 days a week. When the employees are busy, they don’t have time to search for other jobs.”

“Well, I can’t give away all our secrets. Otherwise, how would we maintain our competitive advantage? The above was just a few tips for you to share with others on how they can begin to lower their turnover. See, once you’ve got your people in the quicksand, they’re never gettin’ out. The harder they try, the more stuck they get. And that’s really what it’s all about: Recruiting the right stars, and keeping those stars in your galaxy!”

Disclaimer: The above excerpt is from a fake interview with a made up executive of what I believe is a non-existent company, purely for your enjoyment!

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Wednesday, October 24, 2007

"Reach Out and Touch Faith"

So I was on my way home the other night, flippin’ through radio stations in my car, when Depeche Mode’s song “Personal Jesus” started resonating from my speakers. The specific lyric that first hit my ear was the chorus line of “reach out and touch faith.” I’m sure you all have heard this song before. Heck, I can probably sing the whole song to you right here if you wanted me to (of course, you would have to be prepared to enjoy the screeching of dying mules)!

For some reason though, this night, this lyric really stuck with me for a couple reasons:

1) “Reach out and touch faith.” To touch faith. I just don’t know if I can grasp that idea. Let me explain, by giving you my definition of faith as I see it:

To me, faith is a strong belief in something where there is no proof. It is a belief in something that is not there. That cannot be seen. My Christian faith is a belief in a God that cannot be seen, or heard, or physically touched (although many people do feel the presence of God and do hear the words of God). So, how do you reach out and touch faith? How do you touch something that is not there and cannot be seen? Interesting! Happy Contemplating!

2) Faith and Leadership. Faith in leaders and faith of leaders.

How do you put your faith in others? How do others put there faith in you? How do you really know that these people have “faith” in you as a leader? I mean, you can’t see it (as I’ve defined it). Maybe they’ve told you they have faith in you. Maybe their actions confirm their faith in you. But, how do you really know? I guess the only way to know is by your faith. It has to be your faith in them that allows you to know that they have faith in you. Whew….Life is full of faith, isn’t it?

Final thought/conversation piece: How do you instill faith in your workers/friends/family/etc? What do you look for in others that make you say, “Wow, I am going to put my faith in him or her?” I’ll start the list:

They’re honest
They follow through
They’re compassionate
They listen
….Your lists here….

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Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Fun and Work: An Oxymoron or A Necessary Marriage?

Timothy Johnson posted a question on his blog (see here) on whether “fun” can be incorporated into all jobs? Put another way, are there any industries or careers where bringing “fun” to work is either difficult or not applicable.

Here’s the backdrop: Our leadership class is reading and discussing the Leslie Yerkes book, Fun Works: Creating Places Where People Love to Work. Yerkes argues that companies need to incorporate more fun into their organizations to help improve productivity and morale.

Here’s where I am struggling. See, I truly believe that we need to strive to bring fun into the workplace, and I plan on continuing my journey towards that goal. I pride myself on being able to make people smile. Make people laugh. But, how do I implement fun into my organization? How can I be a change agent for my organization? For my industry?

I’m a project manager at a small manufacturing firm, and I’m beginning to believe that the manufacturing shop floor may just be the most difficult place to incorporate fun. I see so many production employees who just want to come into work, put in their time, and leave. No personality. No fun. Just work and get out. The “Leave-Me-Alone-and-Let-Me-Do-My-Job-So-I-Can-Get-Outta-Here” mentality. How do I bring fun to this?

I suppose what we need to do here is to first, define “fun.” Is it “being goofy.” Is it “playing around.” Or, is it simply just “enjoying your job.” Maybe it’s “doing tasks with energy and passion.” I don’t know if I have the answer to this yet (although this is probably a key definition to obtain)!

So, I guess I should just stop there. Or should I? Maybe I can still work towards this goal of bringing fun to the workplace. Maybe I already have worked on this goal. Let’s see, this past week, I have done the following:

  • Brought candy one afternoon to all four of my employees (I supervise a small work cell in the plant) (also, food is a great way to start - Everyone loves food!!)
  • Bought a large breakfast pizza for my work cell team on Saturday morning (yes, I did have them work on a Saturday)
  • Worked along side my team, on the production line, for a few hours on Friday and Saturday
  • Talked football, cracked jokes, laughed with my work cell employees while working along side of them

I guess I have started on that journey. I can also tell you this: I plan on continuing on that journey. Tim Johnson would say “If you’re not having fun, then why are you even doing it?” I think it’s time I live by that motto. And, I think it’s time I try to influence others to live by that motto. I suppose I can only start with my small circle of influence. The real question is: How do I begin to influence others beyond that circle?

What are you all doing to bring fun to the workplace? What is your definition of “fun”? How do you influence beyond your circles of influence?

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Monday, October 22, 2007

Is Prpoper Spelilng Piontless?

I jsut watned to try a fun ltitle test. I recieved an emial a whlie back abuot being albe to raed sentnences rahter fluildy, even if the wrods were not spleled corerctly. The emial was atcually rather long, yet I was albe to raed it with no prolbem.

See, the trick was taht the fisrt and last letters of each wrod had to be rihgt, but evreythnig in bewteen could be jumbled aruond. So, this is my test. Are all of you able to raed this fine? It's qutie a facsinatnig thing rellay. It maeks me wodner why I eevr had to take spelilng class in shcool. Our brains are able to copmrehend mispselled words with no porblem, so wha'ts the big deal if I can't splel?

Jsut somehting for evreyone to ponder. Ejnoy!!

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Saturday, October 20, 2007

Leadership and Other Ramblings Named as an ON Blog! Recipient

Leadership and Other Ramblings has officially been named as an ON! Blog recipient. Many thanks to Troy Worman for this wonderful recognition of being an outstanding new blog. Please check out his site "Orbitnow!"

I have been blogging now for only 6-1/2 weeks, and I must say I absolutely love the fellowship and conversation that this experience has given me. I can say now that I'm no longer "Shakin' Like A Leaf" (see my very first post here), but am instead, excited and anxious to see where this journey will lead me.

I appreciate everyone who has stopped by and commented on my posts, and I hope that there will be great and plentiful conversation in the future. Again, a huge "Thank You," to Troy Worman, and please check out the sites of my fellow ON! Blog recipients.

About Every Little Thing by Lis
Abundance Journal by Belle Wong (Toronto, Ontario)
Angela Maiers by Angela Maiers
Attitude, Ultimate Power by Mel Kaye
C is for Corrie by Corrie Haffly
Confident Writing by Joanna Young
Continuum Wellness by Catherine
Creatorship by Barbara Sliter
Employer Ease by Carl Lingen
Get Fresh Minds by Katie Konrath
How To Be An Original by Lodewijk van den Broek
Innovating to Win by Jim Todhunter
Leadership and Other Ramblings by Eric Peterson
Lead Quietly by Don Frederiksen
Litemind by Luciano Passuello
Media Hunter by Sticky Advertising
Moment on Monday by Art Dinkin
My Beautiful Chaos by April Groves
Rooms of My Heart by Trinity
Runners Lounge by Amy Hunold-Van Gundy and Tom Green
Sui Generis by Derrick Kwa
Tamara by Tamara Dull
The Happy Burro by Joe Raasch
The Road Map by Ron Bland
ThoughtSparks by Phil
Wendy Piersal by Wendy Piersal
Yap 3.0 by Robin Yap
Your Human Experience by Paula Kawal
ZoomStart by Shane Navratil

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Lovin' Your Enemies

Okay, maybe you don’t need to “love” your enemies. However, Linda Kaplan Thaler and Robin Koval, in their book “The Power of Nice,” do suggest that you “help your enemies.” I know this sounds a bit odd, and truthfully it did take me a while to grasp, but I do think they are on to something here.

See, my leadership class at Drake University spent last week reading “The Power of Nice.” It’s a very good read, especially when read right along side of “The No-Asshole Rule.” These are two very good books on how to lead, and how not to lead.

The Power of Nice does a good job of showing some real world examples of how various leaders have been able to gain respect, loyalty, and financial reward by going against traditional management techniques and instead employing a nice and compassionate game plan.

There were two chapters that really stood out to me. The first one, “Sweeten the Deal” explains how offering compliments, gifts, and humor can get you ahead in business and life. J. Erik Potter has a great post on this chapter, so I’ll let you check his site out!

The other chapter that really hit home for me was “Help Your Enemies.” Talk about an offbeat statement that not too many people would think of trying! Can you imagine if George Washington had decided to help the British? There would have been uproar among the Americans, not to mention a possible defeat in the Revolutionary War and a complete change to history as we know it. According to Linda and Robin, however, Washington did help his enemies by ordering his soldiers to treat the British prisoners with humanity. See, good ol’ George new that these prisoners may end up being the first citizens of the USA, and he wanted to make sure that “these adversaries would be tomorrow’s allies.”

I’m telling you, this idea is pretty interesting. Let’s dig into this even further. Why would you want to help your enemies (or rivals)? Wouldn’t that give them a leg up on you? Well, Linda Kaplan Thaler argues that you do it because cooperation beats out the competition. If that’s hard to believe, I suppose you could ask Bill Gates and Steve Jobs.

Apple and Microsoft have been in constant competition since the day they started on the job. These two would be considered definite rivals. I recently watched a cooperative interview with the two of them, and they both explained that although they are fierce competitors, they realized that they had to work together in order to better the personal computer and its software. In fact, Bill would go to Apple and work right along side of them to help better the Macintosh. It was an interesting interview that really showed a good example of how being nice to and helping your rivals can further you along in the world.

But, here’s the key! How do you employ the Power of Nice effectively? How do you keep these “nice” principles from getting you used and abused (your employees taking advantage of you)? If used effectively, can you build up your referent power? If not used effectively, do you remain an ineffective leader? For answers, you’ll have to read the book and come to your own conclusions. I would love to discuss the book some more, but unfortunately that would make this short story of a blog into a novel, and would probably ruin a great read for you. So, you’ll have to take my word for it that this is a must read!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

A Toddler Taught Adversity Lesson

If you remember my post a week or so ago, “My Lesson on Persistence…….,” you’ll remember that my daughter was credited with teaching me a lesson on persistence. Well, now she has given me a lesson on adversity.

The Story
My wife and I had a scare a few nights ago. After putting our 2-1/2 year old daughter into bed for the night we retreated downstairs for a movie. About 30 minutes in we heard a large crash come from upstairs. I ran upstairs to find my daughter standing at the foot of her bed screaming in pain. At the time I was sure that she had fallen off her bed, but I wasn’t sure what exactly had happened (a day later we figured out that she was jumping on her bed in the dark and fell off).

When I picked her up by the armpits she began to scream hysterically. I knew something wasn’t right, but all I could get out of her was her neck hurt. We called my in-laws to come over and watch our 3 month old. Upon their arrival we left for the ER (this was around 10:30 pm).

To shorten the story a bit (and to get on to the “adversity lesson”), after some x-rays, some Tylenol with codeine, and 2-1/2 hours in the ER, it was confirmed that my daughter had broken her collarbone. Luckily, it is “cracked” and not broken all the way through, so we hope the healing time will only be a few weeks instead of upwards of 6 weeks.

The Lesson
Fast forward a couple days now! Watching my daughter, I have really seen how she has been able to adapt to her situation. Life has thrown her a minor league curve ball, and she is handling it quite well.

See, she loves to play. She is a very active girl. She is also a very smart girl, and she has figured out how to do some of her favorite activities without inflicting pain onto her left arm. It’s neat to see her figure out how to stand up and sit down, get off the couch, color, play with her dolls, play in her kitchen, all her favorite activities, and doing them with a temporary disability. A little adversity has come her way (in the form of a broken collarbone), and she has dealt with it and been able to accomplish the very same things she was accomplishing before “The Fall.” Needless to say, it is a pretty proud moment in her mother and father’s eyes (of course, along with the sympathy we have for seeing her in pain)!

Children can be such inspirations sometimes. It's neat to see how they grow and develop, and even teach adults important lessons. So, that was my toddler taught adversity lesson. Or maybe it was actually a lesson on “independence” or “perseverance” or “toughness.” At any rate, it’s another valuable lesson from a special child! Do you have any "lessons learned" from your kids? How about from others in general?

Snow Ski or Water Ski?

Let’s give this a try again. If you’ll remember my post from a few weeks ago (Cake or Pie), I am going to pose a question every once in a while to try and generate a little “reader participation”! My goal here is just to have a fun way to get to know the readers and/or other bloggers. Plus, it’s a good way just to mix things up a bit.

So, which is it? Water skiing or snow skiing? Are you a summer person who enjoys the heat and being able to get out on the lake? Or, Are you a winter person who enjoys bundling up and racing down a ski slope at an unusually high rate of speed?

I’m a snow skier! Being from the Midwest, there is something about snow that just gets me excited. Racing down that hill, swooshin’ back and forth, jumpin’ them moguls, and crashin’ and burnin’ (well maybe not so much the crashin’ and burnin’). There’s just nothing like it.

So, what’s your choice? Gotta pick one!

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Sunday, October 07, 2007

October = Breast Cancer Awareness Month

I wanted to remind everyone that October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Please make sure that all of your family and friends are aware of how to check themselves for this disease.

Yesterday in Des Moines, Iowa, the Race for the Cure took place. This is an annual 5k run and walk that is put on to honor of those victims and survivors of breast cancer. This year I took my 2-½ year old daughter to watch her mother take part in this annual run. This is an annual trip in my family as we feel it is important to honor all of those that have been affected by this disease. Personally, I have an aunt that is a survivor of breast cancer, so it really brings an extra special meaning to our family.

I am truly in awe every year at this event. 20,000+ people take part in this great event every year. It truly is inspiring to see so many people run in honor of their friends, family, and others. The most inspiring scene, however, is to see all of the survivors themselves take part in this amazing race!

Breast Cancer will affect one in eight women (according to a race official I met downtown). That is an alarming statistic. Again, remember to make sure your loved ones take the actions needed to check for this disease. And, please visit the Susan G. Komen website for more information on this disease, as well as to make a donation in support of breast cancer research!

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

One Certification You Don't Want

I’m reading “The No Asshole Rule” for my graduate leadership class, and I must tell you it is quite a fun read. In his book, Robert Sutton explains his theory on how companies need to avoid bullies/jerks/etc. He argues that these kinds of people really drain a company’s morale and productivity and that no matter how accomplished they are at getting results, they ultimately wreak havoc on an organization

Without giving too much of the book away (because I do recommend that you read it for yourself), I can tell you that the main points Sutton touches on are:
- How bullies drain the workplace (hence, why workplaces should install the No Asshole Rule)
- How to implement and enforce the rule
- How to stop your “inner jerk” from getting out (because everyone has it in them)
- How to survive the workplace that is run by these jerks
What I’d like to do instead of giving everyone a book review, is to pull out a couple concepts/quotes that really hit home with me. Beyond these concepts, you will have to read the book yourself

1) “The Temporary A-Hole vs. The Certified A-Hole”
Sutton distinguishes between the temporary A-Hole and the certified A-Hole. I think this is a big concept to remember when dealing with people in general. There are very decent and good people out there that have their moments. They may get worked up or say the wrong thing at a specific moment, but in all, they are a decent person (the temporary A-hole). Others demean and belittle people constantly and therefore are certified a-holes.

One needs to be careful in how they label a person. I know that for me personally, there have been times when my initial reaction to a person has been “Man, this guys a real jerk.” However, I have later come to find out that the person is very good guy, but I happen to catch him at a bad time.

I am assuming that this distinction really hits home for many people. As I read Sutton’s section on temporary and certified bullies, I immediately started thinking of people I know that meet both descriptions.

2) “Teach People How to Fight”
As Sutton argues that companies need to enforce a No A-Hole Rule, he also recognizes that companies cannot create an environment for “conflict averse wimps.” He argues that companies need good and productive arguing. He explains that companies should teach people how to fight. He shows how Intel teaches their employees how to fight through lectures, role playing, and manager role modeling. Essentially, Intel has a training program for this.

I think this is a great concept. Teaching employees how to fight shows them how to attack problems and not people, and how to use evidence and logic to frame their arguments. Instead of personal attacks, Intel teaches their people to question the ideas. This could definitely be used by many companies. Effective conflict resolution can really help improve the culture of a company. Also, effective “fighting” helps stimulate ideas and keeps a company constantly moving forward.

Have any of you read the book? I have barely touched the surface (and most likely have failed to do the book justice). What are your thoughts? Do you have any interesting stories about certified A-holes?

A Motivated Couch Potato!?

I had a conversation a number of years ago with a teacher about laziness and motivation (I wish I could remember exactly who this conversation was with), and we were arguing whether or not a “lazy” person (let’s call him Mr. Couch Potatohead) was motivated to be lazy, or just simply not motivated. To put it another way: Is laziness attributed to a “lack of motivation,” or does it actually take a person to be motivated to be lazy! Are you confused yet?

Let’s discuss!

You hear it all the time. “I’m just not motivated today!” This statement is usually said by someone who is sitting on the couch watching television, or may have been said by a coworker who has been very unproductive for the day. But, are they truly “unmotivated,” or are they actually “very motivated” to sit and do nothing. Maybe they are not motivated to work, but they ARE motivated to be lazy? Of course, let’s also realize that I am talking about true “laziness” and not someone who is just taking a little time to “relax.”

What are your thoughts on the subject? Is Mr. Couch Potatohead truly lacking motivation? Or, is Mr. Couch Potatohead just extremely motivated to eat his bag of chips while sitting on the couch accomplishing nothing? I used to think laziness involved a lack of motivation, but this teacher really got me going in the direction that a person had to be motivated to be lazy.

The next set of questions is for those that believe laziness is attributed to “being motivated to be lazy:” Is there any such thing, then, as a “lack of motivation.” Can a person lack motivation? Or, aren’t we always “motivated” to be doing something (or for that matter: nothing)?

That is my philosophical thought for the week? Please let me know your thoughts on it!

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