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Let's Do This!

What Really Matters

So now that the eclipse is over we can focus again. Just kidding, the eclipse was very cool and generated a lot of attention and interest.

There has been a convergence of events lately that have really caused me to be even more pensive that usual.

·         The Charlottesville attacks. This disturbed me on many levels. I know there are angry people out there, but I have always thought of Charlottesville as part of the “new” South. It is especially disturbing that people used Robert E. Lee as kind of a flashpoint. He was a noble man. Yes, he fought for the Confederacy, but he did that because of his commitment to the state of Virginia, not some passionate commitment to the institution of slavery.

He recommended against any monuments to any of the symbols of the Confederacy, calling divisive and slowing the healing process.

·         The response to Charlottesville. This was an opportunity to demonstrate real leadership and the response from our President was an epic fail. His refusal to accept that, step back and own that failure demonstrates deep character flaws in his leadership ability and capacity to understand viewpoints different from his own and build trust.

·         A recent publication from Gallup that indicates that for yet another year we have been unable to move the needle on engagement beyond the 30% level.

As I can only do so much on the first two, I have decided to get back on my pulpit about the last one.

I have had an opportunity to read the results of a recent study in the UK that concluded that age 35 is the point where employees begin to feel disappointed and potentially disengaged from their work. They gave a number of reasons such as the competing stresses of work and personal life, unfulfilled expectations, perceived shrinking career opportunities and other reasons. Misguidance?

That date makes me sad on many levels. The first is that the average person at 35 can expect to spend double the time in the workplace that they have to date. Dragging that bag of pooh for another 30 years is pretty daunting. For employers, these are your “seasoned” workers. At this stage people have likely hit their productive stride and mastered their jobs. Not a good combination.

Since all these people are not likely to be able to find refuge in some entrepreneurial endeavor. They will remain in the workplace. The statistics of what disengagement costs the economy every year are both daunting and irrefutable. Think trillions, not millions or billions.

So why aren’t we moving the needle?

A recent article from Gallup concludes that in large part we are measuring and trying to address the wrong things and points to one critical area, the quality of leadership.

They suggest that employee engagement efforts would be better served to focus on recruitment and selection of those we promote into management and then follow up with appropriate management education and development.

Can I get an amen!

As I have published before multiple studies and surveys have concluded that better than 60% of people seeking leadership roles are primarily interested in making more money, period. No surprise they don’t make great leaders.

I recommend to my client organizations that we recruit and place only leadership candidates that possess the following capabilities:

·         Technical competence

·         Understanding trust and congruency

·         Emotional and social intelligence

·         Emotional awareness

·         Emotional balance

Apart from “technical competence” I defy you to find these skills or attributes being taught in MBA programs!

Discussing things like trust and congruency are still considered pretty woo woo in most organizations.

Trust occurs on three levels:

·         Deterrence (Power or authority)

·         Knowledge Based (Education and “qualifications”)

·         Identity (shared experiences and mutual investment)

For close to a thousand years we loved the deterrence model. The divine right of kings or religious institutions. Calvinism and scientific management have this concept embedded in their foundations.

We have become very enamored of late with knowledge based trust. You can’t swing a dead cat without hitting an organization offering credentialing in something. Add that to chasing education and other pseudo solutions that build over confidence in the holder and you understand some of where we are.

Identity based trust is what Simon Sinek and Patrick Lencioni write about. I have also heard it described as thick versus thin relationships.

A thick relationship is where we share values and purpose and a common “why”. Thin relationships are where we refer to employees as human capital look at the employment relationship as transactional. Employment at Will is a thin relationship; “either party can terminate the employment relationship with or without notice for any legal reason”. Doesn’t exactly reek of mutual trust and investment, does it?

Congruency is about alignment between the organization and the individual. It occurs at multiple levels:

·         My view of the activity. (positive or negative)

·         My view of my ability to perform the activity. (perceived ability or competence)

·         The alignment between my personal values and the values of the organization.

·         My commitment to do the work. (perform and improve my capabilities)

·         My belief in the product, service, or mission.

A few things I have learned in my three decades plus as an HR executive, C level executive, and consultant.

·         I can fix some of these things with training and reinforcement, but trying to change someone’s values isn’t just hard, it is wrong.

·         People who aren’t congruent on all five of these levels aren’t engaged.

·         Less than ten percent of the organizations out there are even having conversations about congruency and trust.

In a perfect world, I tell my clients we should recruit for congruency in every position we hire for at any level. At a minimum, I tell them that in addition to the five skill sets and attributes I mentioned above you better damn sure have congruency in your leadership cohort.

My experience is that when you embrace this model you are building a foundation for engagement. Your employees aren’t likely to become disengaged at 35 because you are recruiting and reinforcing thick rather than transactional relationships.

In short you are hiring and managing whole people.

With the savings, we can recapture from employee disengagement we can fund universal health care, better education systems, and increase organizational productivity and profitability, or we can just keep doing it the same way.

If you can’t embrace congruency as a foundational screen for all your employees, then at least embed it in the hiring, selection, and development of your leadership team. Your organization is only as strong as your weakest leader…….

 

 

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In Search of ....Loyalty

The Illusive Nature of Loyalty

As anyone who has ever read anything I have written or had to sit through one of my trainings or presentations knows I am an advocate of employee engagement or commitment over compliance.

The concept of loyalty is one of my personal pillars of an engaged relationship, but I think I might just define it differently from the traditional sense.

Under the old compliance model; the relationship between employer and employed had elements of what many would call loyalty.

We used to see employees work for a single employer for years, perhaps even decades. The idea was that if an employee did a good job they could expect a degree of job security that would take them through retirement.

Maybe it is just me, but that good seemed to include a healthy dose of obedience. It was also amusing or perhaps more ironic that most employers who did not have unionized workforces saw employment at will as almost a sacred principle. When I say ironic it is because while employers valued this construct they struggled with the idea that the concept of employment at will is entirely based on equal balance.

Yes, the employer can terminate any employee for any legal reason without notice or reason, but the employee retains the right to terminate the relationship without notice or punishment as well.

Over my multiple decades as an HR practitioner I spent countless hours explaining and arguing with employers that they couldn’t preserve their at will rights and then punish employees who correctly interpreted the concept and acted on it.

As we globalized the concept of mutual loyalty got significantly diluted. In the sixties, seventies, and eighties you saw right-sizing, outsourcing, and a number of other approaches to reduce costs by decreasing the workforce. I personally believe this is when the concept of human capital really took root. We de-personalized people and started looking at them as an item on the balance sheet.

The Millennial and Gen X generations grew up during this period. That is part why they view the employment relationship with such cynicism.

I grew up essentially in the Southwest, so I saw a different construct of loyalty. The Southwest is the birthplace of the cowboy. Being a cowboy was just a job, it was a philosophy. It was not uncommon for cowboys to travel from ranch to ranch offering their services as required.

We have an expression called riding for the brand. Very loosely interpreted it meant that while I lived in your bunkhouse, ate your food and rode your horses you had my loyalty and could reasonably expect me to give you my best efforts. It was a temporary and transitional relationship that had a degree of independence for both parties. There was mutual trust and respect on the part of both parties.

I smile when I hear employers lament the loss of loyalty. These are often the same organizations that during the recent recession adjusted wages, reduced workforces and told remaining employees they should expect or request salary increases, but rather should be grateful to be employed.

And then the economy began improving….

The most current discussion of loyalty is with our current President. It seems he expects, or rather demands personal loyalty above all else. We heard that when his tumultuous relationship with Director Comey was disclosed and even more recently with his chief of staff.

It seems Mr. Trump doesn’t define loyalty in the traditional sense, but rather more in the old definition of absolute personal fealty.

It is also interesting to me that he is as transactional in his own personal loyalty as the CEO’s I hear complain about disloyal employees.

I have personally chosen to define loyalty more in line with my cowboy roots…

First, loyalty is based on the mutual trust explained by Stephen MR Covey in his book, The Speed of Trust, at that illusive third level; identity based trust based on shared values and experiences. That is the kind of trust that you hear described by members of a military unit that has served together or even an athletic team. It is earned and it is reciprocated.

Second, that reciprocity is foundational. Both parties see inherent value. We don’t measure loyalty in terms of tenure, we measure it in terms of contribution.

Just because someone has been with my organization for a long time doesn’t mean they are loyal. Recent studies indicated that close to twenty percent of the U.S. workforce is actively disengaged, that means they come to work every day and do as little as possible and in fact actively disrupt or sabotage the workplace. The scary thing is these employees or no more likely to leave than employees who are neutral. They quit and stay.

Third, loyalty can be transitional. You never arrive. Like engagement it is something you actively work at every day and you never take it for granted.

So, I would suggest that before we require or expect loyalty we do the work of earning our stakeholders trust and respect and that we cultivate and nurture it.

I think that Mr. Trump like many CEOs I have known is living in a fantasy world. You don’t demand loyalty or respect you earn them and part of that process is that it is reciprocal and based on shared values.

We also gave up the monarchy in the 18th century, loyalty should be to the values and principle embodied in the Constitution not to a person, but rather to the office.

Maybe I am too literal, but it works for me…

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The Road He Traveled

A Truly Special “Whole Person”

On Friday I had an opportunity to attend an event that was poignant, funny, somber, and compelling in different stages.

It was a tribute to a friend and colleague, Dave Hauser, who guided our local Chamber of Commerce for a quarter century.

I had the chance to know Dave both professionally and personally. We collaborated on a number of projects including the WorkTrends Conference, the ACE Awards, and others.

I had the chance to serve on the Economic Development Committee, Business Assistance, as a charter member of the Local Government Affairs Council, and finally as a member of his Board of Directors

He was a great foil for me. I like big ideas and I can be impatient and impetuous. Dave was thoughtful and deliberate. I don’t think in the almost 25 years I knew him I ever saw him get angry or respond with anger no matter the provocation.

My favorite times with Dave were typically one on one, discussing one of my “big” ideas over coffee or a beer or his patience with my horrible golf game, which he suffered on more than one occasion.

I titled this a “whole person” both because of the correlation to my first book, Managing Whole People, and because of the glimpse into the wholeness of Dave that his family graciously shared with us.

We got to see Dave as a father and a friend beyond the leader and colleague that most knew him as.

The relationship he maintained with his children and his wife was one that I think would make many wistful if not downright envious.

Dave led in a way that was consistent with the Bible verse, “to whom much is given, much is required”.

He never shirked and he never gave up.

Leading a business association in Eugene is not a role for the faint hearted. On more than one occasion the relationship between business and our elected officials was tense not if actually acrimonious, but Dave never angered or disparaged anyone.

His legacy was illuminated in the many people who passed through employment at the Chamber, developing skills there that they would take on to bigger and more significant roles and the programs that will continue to move forward in his absence and that I for one believe would have been stillborn without his leadership and support.

I think that one of his colleagues described the essence of Dave best when she called out his most significant attribute; not his patience, sense of humor, Midwestern values or even niceness.

Dave was kind in a time and place that we could use more kindness from our leaders.

Those who spoke gently prompted us that remain to remember Dave’s legacy in the most proactive way, keep on and be kind…

I will miss you my friend. You were truly the epitome of a whole person and my life is better for having known you…

 

 

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Got Trust?

First Things First

As I enter almost my fourth decade of hiring, managing, and deploying talent I like to look back at what I have learned; and perhaps more importantly what I haven’t.

I have long been an advocate for what we now call employee engagement, when I look at the data that is available about the difference between organizations that are highly engaged as opposed to their less engaged competitors I remain astounded about the opportunity we leave on the table every year not just in North America, but worldwide.

Although engagement is something that we have been hearing and talking about for the last 15 years we still aren’t moving the needle much in terms of concerting employees and organizations from neutral to engaged. The latest studies still show that around 30% of employees surveyed rate themselves as highly engaged.

So it makes me curious as to what the issue is, and why we haven’t made more progress of late I have encountered quite a bit of literature that validates my thinking and makes me frankly sad.

We have a trust crisis.

When I had the opportunity to read Stephen MR Covey’s brilliant book, The Speed of Trust, a couple of years ago one particular quote really stood out to me-

Every organization earns a trust dividend or pays a trust tax

I thought the book in total, discussing the basis and levels of trust and the elements involved should be required reading in every business school and leadership program internationally, but that statement really stood out for me.

It turns out that Covey’s assertion applies not just to individual organizations, but to whole societies.

The Edelman Trust Barometer which has surveyed tens of thousands of people in over 28 countries reported that for the first time in its 17- year history the average trust level in all four of the institutions measured (Government Officials, Business/CEO’s, NGO’s and Media) was below 50%.

Government came in last, closely followed by media, but 48% of respondents did not trust business leaders to do the right thing.

So let’s take a look at business specifically.

A recent survey on trust by Ernst and Young involving 10,000 adults and another 3000 Gen Z’rs reported that less than 50% of those surveyed trusted their employer, their immediate supervisor, or their team in descending order.

The survey included representation from four (4) generations in the workforce; Boomers, Gen X, Millennials, and Gen Z and the results were remarkably consistent. Although the younger generations were less trusting it wasn’t a significant generational delta.

Also remarkably consistent were the environmental factors that lead to distrust-

·         Perceived unfair compensation

·         Unequal opportunities for pay and career advancement

·         Poor leadership

·         High turnover

·         Lack of collaboration

Similarly, all four generations cited four characteristics they seek in a boss and organization they trust-

·         Open and transparent communication

·         Respect for them and other employees

·         A supervisor/boss that coaches and supports their growth and advancement

·         A supervisor/boss that recognizes them and their performance

Another recent post I read identified three (3) fundamental characteristics that create and sustain high trust environments. Leaders who-

·         Listen

·         Demonstrate self- awareness and self- control

·         Demonstrate humility

Let’s juxtapose that with the way most organizations identify high talent potential leaders in their organization. The selection criteria are typically –

•                     Professional and technical expertise

•                     Taking initiative and delivering results

•                     Honoring commitments

•                     Fitting into the culture

If we are really honest with ourselves we can agree that the first and last criteria are the two biggest factors. When we add the fact that 60% of leadership candidates seek those opportunities to increase their earning potential and upward career trajectory are we surprised by where we are?

In many cases we are still immersed in the precepts of Frederik Taylor’s scientific management model. Some were born to do, others born to manage or lead.

Identity based trust, Covey’s highest and most critical level of trust, is nowhere to be seen in our leadership develop models or development initiatives.

As an alternative I like to recommend that business leaders remember three things-

•                     Maslow’s Hierarchy, is as relevant today as it ever was. When you are in safety and survival mode you aren’t focusing on the big picture and how to become engaged. You are focused on basic issues like food and shelter.

•                     Line of Sight, I tell my clients that line of sight may be the most important part of their compensation/performance management strategy. The critical function of compensation strategy and performance management is to align efforts with outcomes. Employees need to see clearly how positive outcomes for the organization translate to positive outcomes for them and vice versa.

•                     Be clear with management at every level it is their responsibility to earn and sustain trust and give them the tools to do that. They are entirely learnable and reinenforcable. People rarely trust what they don’t understand.

So I would like to leave you with two thoughts-

•                     You will never have sustained customer engagement without employee engagement.

•                     The foundation of employee engagement is trust. You have to do the work.

 

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We Need A New Model!

Doing It Wrong

Sometimes being right is disappointing. I just read an article from the latest edition of the Harvard Business Review by Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman that concluded the same thing as I did in a blog post a few weeks back titled We Are Doing It Wrong.

The article talked about a study they did on almost 2000 participants in formal high potential programs. Usually participation in these programs is limited to what management defines as the top 5% of performers in their organization.

The study evaluated these individuals in leadership capabilities using a 360-degree assessment including their manager, several peers, direct reports and other colleagues. Their prior research had indicated that collecting data from this kind of cross sample could be statistically correlated to desired outcomes like employee engagement, lower turnover and higher unit productivity.

Here is the bad news; 12% of these HIPO participants were in the bottom quartile on leadership effectiveness and overall 42% were below the median. I would call that an epic fail.

The characteristics for selection may be part of the problem. Candidates were selected based primarily on four (4) criteria:

·         Professional and technical expertise

·         Taking initiative and delivering results

·         Honoring commitments

·         Fitting into the culture

That last characteristic is important because the research indicated that underperformers tended to emphasize (or overemphasize) a specific trait valued by their organization. This caused a kind of HALO effect or bias that caused their total profile to be overlooked.

Interestingly underperformers shared two primary deficiencies; strategic vision and the ability to motivate others. Good individual contributors don’t always translate into strong leaders.

I have been a practicing manager for over three decades. I remember the model I was originally exposed to as the fundamental skill sets of effective management- planning, directing, controlling, and budgeting.

We were still immersed in the precepts of Frederik Taylor’s scientific management model. Some were born to do, others born to manage or lead.

As a young human resources professional we were tasked with administrative activities and relieving managers of less valuable activities like setting expectations, providing feedback, coaching for optimal performance, and taking appropriate corrective action when performance didn’t meet expectations.

The models were still very much about compliance, if employees would be loyal (defined obedient) they would be rewarded with a degree of security upon retirement. Then we discovered outsourcing, down- sizing, and offshoring to optimize financial performance and the contract was broken.

According to a recent survey over fifty percent of people seeking additional managerial responsibilities do so to increase their earning potential.

Is it just me or do the results of this new study tend to reinforce that we haven’t entirely let go of this old thinking?

I happen to be a big fan of Paul Hersey’s definition of leadership – working through and with others to achieve organizational objectives.

We still have major issues with trust in leadership and capitalizing on the opportunities represented by true employee engagement, but to address them we need a different criterion for selecting and developing leaders.

Over the past three and a half decades my experience and research have led me to look for five (5) characteristics in selecting and developing leaders:

·         Technical competence (mastery of the knowledge, skills, and abilities to perform the job).

·         An understanding and mastery of all three levels of trust (Deterrence, Competence, and Identity)

·         Emotional Intelligence (this allows you to know which level of trust or leadership style to employ in a given situation)

·         Emotional Balance

·         Self-Awareness

For me personally the technical competence is kind of the threshold, you need it to gain admission, but it is the minimum standard not the measuring stick.

My experience has also led me to believe that in the absence of emotional balance and self-awareness you will never really master the third level of trust on a sustained basis, and these represent the Achilles Heel of most leaders.

My experience has been if you have these attributes we can teach you the skills associated with successful management and leadership, but if you are missing one or more you will never be a highly effective leader.

I also personally believe that automation will make these leadership skills more important not less important.

The ship has sailed on whether or not employee engagement is real and it can affect the performance of an organization. Organizations where employees consider themselves highly engaged outperform their competitors in every key performance indicator and engagement is a universal rather than a North American phenomenon.

We still don’t like to talk about soft skills and we aren’t very good about teaching them. I saw something recently that said that the concepts of emotional and social intelligence don’t really exist because we can’t scientifically validate them, we should rely on IQ.

I would submit the results of the study reported in the HBR article give you a good idea of how that model works out.

Perhaps because of my professional development as a human resources practitioner the idea that leadership is based on behavior not words and that at the end of the day it is a relationship rather than a position these things resonate with me.

 Thomas Jefferson described two camps relative to their view of people-

•             Those who fear and distrust the people, and wish to draw all power from them into the hands of higher classes (Frederick W. Taylor and Scientific management).

•             Those who identify themselves with the people, have confidence in them, cherish them and consider them as the most honest and safe.

I would submit that if the term human capital is part of your vernacular and you see culture and employee engagement as the province of your human resources department and you haven’t adapted a new leadership model you have picked your camp.

The choice is yours to make, but given the competitive environment for talent, the demographic shift to Millennials being the single biggest group in the workplace, and the economic and social bleed from lack of trust and engagement you may want to rethink your models.

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Understanding Real Legitimacy

Understanding Real Legitimacy

I just finished re-reading Malcolm Gladwell’s latest book, David and Goliath.

Like the books that preceded it I enjoyed it a great deal.

I see Gladwell as kind of a social facilitator and observer. He doesn’t try to present himself as a behavioral scientist with countless reams of data to support his conclusions, he makes comments and observations. The reader has the choice to accept or reject them.

Given the outcome and the divides both during and now following our election cycle I found some of his insights particularly worth revisiting.

While I enjoyed the entire book the part that most spoke to me was Gladwell’s discussion of legitimacy.

According to Gladwell legitimacy occurs when three elements are present-

·         Those who are governed have a voice in the process; their input is sought and heard.

·         There is a dimension of predictability and consistency in the application of the law or standards.

·         The application of the law or standard has to be administered fairly and objectively, you can’t have disparate treatment without a clear and compelling reason.

From what I have seen demonstrated to date our new President doesn’t share Gladwell’s description of legitimacy.

Specifically, his interest in viewpoints that don’t coincide with his own appears non- existent and his application of laws and standards don’t in my opinion pass the fair and objective test.

I personally believe that any meaningful change in our leadership philosophy and application is going to need to come from the private sector. The current administration is interested in a rigid application of the compliance model; people should do as he instructs them.

It will be interesting to see the repercussions of the DeVos nomination, never before with a majority in the Senate has the Vice President had to cast their vote to confirm a cabinet nominee.  

The President has never been in an environment previously where he is accountable to anyone and he seems to be struggling with that transition.

The reason I find this discussion about legitimacy so interesting is in its application to the work environment.

For the last three decades I have been promoting and teaching the merits of an employment relationship based on Commitment rather than compliance. When the employment environment is optimized in a commitment based model it results in employee engagement.

I also believe that to a large extent leadership as opposed to management is founded in legitimacy. Leadership is entirely relational versus hierarchical. As a manager you have the authority of your position and the benefit of what Stephen MR Covey calls deterrence, authority that comes from rules or position. We would like to believe that management also incorporates Covey’s second level competence, but I am not sure that is true.

 In many cases the competence we rely on in elevating someone to a management role is based on application of their technical skills, their competence is emotional and social intelligence are still considered “soft skills”.

The highest level of trust in Covey’s hierarchy is identity based trust which incorporates both your competency and you character as demonstrated by your applied values and behavior to create credibility.

In my over 30 years as a human resources professional, C level executive, and management consultant it has been interesting to see emerging and current “leaders” bridle at the idea that they have to earn trust. For many it is an expectation that trust is embedded in their role, they shouldn’t have to earn it.

It is very chic today to dismiss collective bargaining and unions as passé, but any student of the relationship between employer and employed realizes that up until the 1940’s the concept of employers need legitimacy through the input of their employees was considered ludicrous.

Unions fought very hard to legitimize their right to bargain with employers over hours, wages, and working conditions. I am not going to say that I believe collective bargaining is the preferred methodology or relationship structure between organizations and employees, but the concept of participating as equals didn’t come from management enlightenment. Many of our current models still have their roots in scientific management-managers manage and people do. If you see people as human capital, what is the likelihood that you are seeking the endorsement of those you “lead”?

Surveys come out every year that reinforce that the most important role played by human resources professionals is compliance by both operational executives and human resources professionals themselves.

Under the old social contract organizations provided a degree of social and economic security in return for loyalty (spelled compliance in my opinion). As the economy became more international we still wanted the loyalty, we just didn’t want to provide the security.

It is interesting in most jurisdictions outside of the U.S. the subjects of bargaining include the introduction of technology into a work setting. In our U.S. model we must negotiate the effects of the technology, but not its introduction.

In creating my own foundation for employee engagement I feel that there are critical elements you have to include.

The first is a foundation of trust. I would go so far as to say you have to have trust at all three levels to experience true engagement.

I also think you need to add the elements of respect, responsibility, information, equitable rewards, and mutual investment.

I don’t think you need to negotiate your culture with employees, but I do think they are entitled to clear expectations, constructive feedback, and fair treatment.

When you provide that kind of context you are allowing employees to join up with you. On that foundation when change is introduced you do it with rather than to people.

Gladwell’s examples of authority without legitimacy are pretty fascinating; the outcomes aren’t pretty.

There is a lot of discussion about the next generations. They are pretty intolerant of assumed legitimacy. They also represent both the future employee base and future leadership.

Perhaps taking a moment and asking ourselves if we are incorporating legitimacy and trust into our leadership models and recognizing and teaching the skills of leadership beyond technical competency is a worthwhile endeavor.

I hope it at least provides food for thought…..

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Moving Forward

Inclusion versus Exclusion

I admit it, I read a lot. I find myself very curious about many things not the least of which is the viewpoints of other people. Since I wrote my last post things have been pretty crazy.

I have been working with a client to help build a bridge between philanthropy and businesses as one part of a new model to address some of our issues around the management of health and the delivery of health care.

To many it may be just a matter of semantics; but I see philanthropy as different than charity. Philanthropy to me has a connotation of investing in a larger cause or purpose. I am not saying charity is bad, but I rather like the idea of making investments in societal infrastructure to achieve a better quality of life for everyone and more comfortable for me. I don’t really like codependency between adults in any form very much.

I also see the management of health and delivering health care as being related, but different. I think that managing health is a collaborative effort that involves patients/people, providers, payers, educators, etc. in investigating and creating solutions; hopefully on a proactive rather than reactive basis.

My clients organization is mission driven, they are a not for profit. We have had interesting discussions about how their role in delivering health care is really the how of what they do rather than the what. It is really a delivery mechanism rather than the goal itself. We have been discussing of late whether the role of his team is actually an important bridge to that larger mission because it allows people from the community to get involved in a lot of ways that is not direct care giving.

I saw a statistic recently that said over 75% of people are not feeling fulfilled in their jobs. I know from my work in employee engagement that less than 30% of American workers consider themselves highly engaged and in many cases they feel they don’t trust the senior management of their organization or the leadership of the country. I find that very sad, but also a significant opportunity. In fact a very recent study stated that this lack of engagement costs the U.S. economy alone $350 billion annually.

When we have those kinds of numbers we are losing enormous opportunity every day. The research says we lose trillions annually to turnover, health related expenses, poor productivity and a number of related areas because of that sense of disengagement. We have tried for the last nine or ten decades to replace engagement or alignment with a larger purpose with technology with pretty mediocre results, but still we persist. Technology won’t ever replace relationships and relationships are God forbid built on peopley stuff like trust and communications and mutual respect. Technology can’t replace that.

When I look at the impact of technology on communications on relationships; especially things like social media I wonder whether it has helped us or set us back a couple of hundred years. It has certainly removed some restrictions to the flow of information, but it has also provided an unrestricted platform for a lot of people to say really nasty, hateful, things to and about other people.

I remember when I was growing up my mother would often say “if you can’t say anything nice about someone, don’t say anything at all”.

As a leader and an aspiring manager I found that really doesn’t work. Sometimes you need to give people constructive feedback that may be difficult for them to hear. Withholding that feedback in my opinion does them a disservice and it may if taken too far be blatantly dishonest. That isn’t nice.

I have tried to modify my mother’s intent message slightly and focus on saying things that are productive and well intentioned. I like to think I get it right about 75% of the time, my goal is of course 100%, but I know I have a lot of work to do.

As a former executive and current coach and consultant I continue to be disappointed by how much of my role is encouraging people to listen to each other and seek common ground and how acceptable it has become to criticize someone else’s viewpoint or solution without feeling any obligation to present a solution of your own.

Our most recent election was won by a candidate who articulated that as part of his mandate; being elected to join others who shared his viewpoint to ensure that the viewpoints and solutions that don’t fit their worldview don’t move forward, or better yet don’t get heard. I am not sure which is more appalling-

·         That an educated person would embrace such a position

·         That others would vote for him or her

I don’t blame him entirely, as I have said before the other candidate failed the trust test miserably as well.

I find other viewpoints interesting and sometimes very instructional. I don’t always agree with them, but I certainly wouldn’t want to be in a society where you don’t within reason have a right to advance a viewpoint.

Before anyone gets too abhorred most people wouldn’t describe me as a liberal or do-gooder. I have strong opinions and convictions about many things, I just don’t feel a need to prevent others to have views that are not coincident with mine. Again I would encourage people on both sides of issues to consider that.

I think there are certain essential truths that aren’t negotiable, but they are much more limited that some would articulate.

 I think forcing another person to do something against their will or values is pretty consistently wrong. I think using superior physical, mental, or financial capability to force someone to do something against their will is wrong. Beyond that I think we should look at situations contextually and one at a time.

The current environment seems to becoming more and more polarized and excluding more and more people. I find most of the rhetoric from both sides of the aisle to be equally uninspiring.

Recent actions like Brexit, discussions about building a wall between countries, and excluding people from immigrating to or visiting the U.S. because of their country of origin are in my opinion moving in the wrong direction no matter how well intentioned.

I come partially from a family of immigrants. My maternal grandparents both emigrated here from Italy. Italy isn’t on the list currently, but things can change.

I understand a desire to keep America safe, but find it a bit ironic that there has never been a terrorist attack on American soil by a current or former citizen of the seven countries on the list.

On the other hand, countries who have harbored terrorists are excluded, but members of the current administration have business interests in those countries. I hate to be cynical, but I don’t think that is coincidental.

Our current President has strong viewpoints as do his supporters. Strong boundaries and discipline have merit sometimes, but I think that the people of Syria and others need compassion not discipline.

 To paraphrase the late novelist Morris L. West who used the Catholic Church extensively as a backdrop for his books, “People are crying out for bread and we are giving them stones”.

It would seem much of our leadership is driving in that direction.

I would say that is equally true for both sides of the aisle. We need leadership to bring people together, not widen the divide.

I guess I will continue to look for ways to include rather than exclude and find solutions that benefit many rather than few. I might only have limited success, but somehow it seems much more satisfying….

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