Working Out Loud: Speaking to Leadership (Part 2 of 5)

anchoredSpeaking with Leadership and Working Out Loud

Part 2 “Speak Up”

  1. Show up whenever possible (Part 1)
  2. Ask to speak with senior leaders; chances are they will see you. 
  3. Advocate for yourself and others. (Part 3)
  4. Speak to the heart and mind. (Part 4)
  5. Have faith and courage. (Part 5)

“Senior leadership isn’t interested in what I have to say.”
“They (leaders) don’t care what we think.”
“We are just the hired help here.”
“I don’t have time and I am not really motivated”
“I have tried before and it didn’t work.”

I hear phrases like this often. I have heard people say what they can’t do and what leaders aren’t willing to do for most of my career. What I have found is that people make assumptions about leaders based on their personal perspective. The reality may be very far from a personal truth. In fact, there are many reasons why leaders want to hear from their staff. It is important to take into consideration that everyone is different and that organizational cultures are different. We have to be mindful of the approach in every organization but in my experience there are good people who are willing to spend time learning from their peers and staff.

**Note: When you are Working Out Loud, there should be a clear purpose articulated. It helps filter noise to signal as people try to gain clarity on your message.

Working Out Loud and Senior Leadership

A few years ago, my team was working on a project that would help grow business for our company. We were beyond excited and ready to get started. We had a client, a plan and support from our immediate leadership. Our team worked in a very specific business area; we were specialized to an extent. Our client / customer base was part of a specific practice in our company. When we discovered and developed this new opportunity, we thought that our company would jump all over it. We also thought that they had a process that we could follow or learn. We were wrong.

There wasn’t a process or practice we could follow and what followed was a series of rejection and overall negativity that could have stopped us in our tracks but that didn’t happen. Here is what we did.

  1. Read, Study, Learn, Write: Our team started working the 42nd hour in other words; we spent a lot of time working after hours. I don’t think we went Elon Musk but we met up, read books on the subject of interest, and we met with other industry experts and worked hard to write multiple aspects of a business case. On Sunday mornings I would blog about some of the things I learned but I would keep my writing generic to an extent. Our team figured that anything we were learning along the way could benefit others as well as ourselves. Writing also helped sharpen our understanding of the work and presented an opportunity for experts to help us.
  2. Shaping the Story: Who you are and what you do are important. Your company hired you for reasons beyond your knowledge, skills and abilities. You found a way to fit in and you are part of an organizational ecosystem. What does that mean? What is the story of you? We started by rewriting our resumes and we created multiple versions. We also wrote short biographies and created some high level presentations around our thinking.
  3. Learning Leadership: The corporate intranet is treasure trove of information. Every large organization I have worked with has a lot of information about their leadership in org charts but they also may have articles and biographies. The first thing I do is research both internal and external inter and intranet resources to learn about senior leaders. It is also general practice for me to know the people I work for directly. **note: Sometimes even leadership needs leadership.
  4. Schedule Interviews: Starting with my direct supervisor, we scheduled 10 minute phone calls or quick meet ups to discuss our ideas. In our case our supervisor was pretty excited about what we were doing. It was the next level up where we started to run into challenges but we scheduled meetings there too. When they didn’t want to meet, we scheduled meetings with their peers and folks above them. On one occasion, we scheduled a meeting with the most senior partner of our firm. When our peers and leaders told us that it would be impossible to reach him, we reached out to his Executive Admin and asked for help. We had an in person meeting scheduled almost immediately.
  5. Leverage the Network: We used our internal social network to build community connections. Our organization had over 22,000 people including a multinational presence. We used our understanding of community management and social networking to discuss our ideas. We asked for help in our communities and we were active contributors. We used the concept of “batching” work.

Nothing is Easy

Our team turned an opportunity into a great deal of money.  It wasn’t easy; it took hard work and a lot of writing. We also had a lot of rejection. Many folks in middle management rejected us even when we offered our work as part of a partnership. For every few that rejected us, we found friends and champions.

The most compelling aspect of this story is when we traveled to visit the senior partner. In hand we had a few slides talking to our thinking. We had sent some read ahead material that he didn’t have a chance to look at. We had a few discussions with his EA to learn about the best way to communicate with him. We sat down in his office and he asked, “How can I help you?” We were ready to answer that question. He listened intently, gave us direction and proceeded to help us. He also mentioned in our discussion that he had wished others would reach out to him. Most often, it is lonely place at the top with a lot of information prepared and filtered. We didn’t have a problem sharing our perspective and he used that perspective to help shape some of his strategic initiatives.

Part 3.. Advocate for yourself and others..

What is that story of you?

What can you do to advocate for yourself and others?

Why is it important to advocate for others at times over yourself?

What are tools that you can use?

How can this be applied to your business or organization?

Boiling the Frog – Human Factors around Sharing

The parable of the boiled frog is told to create a shared understanding around the key challenges in coping with change.

Frog in Hot Water

The story as told by many over the years is that if you put a frog in hot boiling water that it will immediately jump out as a natural response to the environmental conditions.   If you put a frog in a comfortable temperature and slowly heat the water, the frog won’t notice the changes over time and won’t respond to the temperature change until it is too late.

The frog tale has been debunked but the science behind it was never the point behind the story.  That is the focus of my thinking today.

When Facts Matter or Not

When I worked for a consulting firm, it was often stated that we should “focus on facts” or “facts are friends” but not unlike the tale of the boiling frog, the facts are not really facts, they are facts of convenience.   The personal and political agendas get in the way of sharing and the focus on self-centered and selfish behaviors is highly prevalent.  These behaviors make it very difficult at best to build trusted relationships.   The lack of trust makes it difficult to share information and knowledge.   People wind up feeling like they are in survival mode.    All the while information and knowledge does change hands but it seems to be a lot of noise and little signal.

More often than not, organizational sharing appears to have increased over time but has mostly decreased in effective or relevant content.  The fact is that content generation has dramatically increased but one has to question the sheer amount of content usefulness.

 

Why it Matters

If you throw the frog in the boiling water, there is a really good chance it won’t get out.   We have an expectation that we can place people in high intensity, high velocity and high stress conditions with an expectation that they can manage it or get out in a reasonable time.   Frankly, that is non-sense. We want these people to learn fast and suck the knowledge through a technical straw and become an expert within moments.  News flash, this isn’t the Matrix and Neo isn’t working for you.  We also are looking in many organizations to find ways to share information, data, and knowledge in an open and transparent way but not really.    For the past 5+ years all I have heard about is crew change concerns and subject matter expertise worries but they sort of equate to the boiling frog in the sense that we are watching the temperature rise a degree at a time.   Ultimately, it really “boils down to” the same things we recognize as true over human history.  You can fill your desk with the greatest books of all time but without the mastery of language and an understanding of the subject, you will still know nothing.   It doesn’t matter how smart you are either because you are dealing with unknowns.   If there is no trust,  you cannot transfer knowledge.   If someone thinks you have an agenda, they won’t teach you and they won’t listen.   All of the content and sharing that may come from you the learner or the teacher would be for nothing, just a number or artifact but potentially useless.

One must recognize that if we do not consider how we treat people who at the end of the day whether the frog was thrown into a boiling pot or it was trapped in the pot because the heat snuck up on it, both instances result in something bad for the frog.   Companies will spend millions of dollars on technologies to solve the problem of sharing but few will spend the time <– the time in understanding the behaviors.   If you don’t understand the behaviors and the human factors and they are left unattended, the result will be very bad.

Knowledge Driven

A trust driven organization will tell us that the frog story is a parable to help us think about the dangers of rapid change and our lack of awareness in change.  It would also say that the frog story is just a story.    It is that simple difference of being open and transparent that creates an environment that allows people to share.   If there isn’t a trust driven organization, there will never be a knowledge driven organization.

Summary

What we know is the frog story is told to help us understand and be careful in many situations, ultimately it is about awareness.  Gaining awareness is gaining knowledge.  We can only gain knowledge with trust.  Finally, just because we have content generated and information sharing occurring as an activity doesn’t mean that the information or knowledge is useful.   It can only be found useful from an authoritative source, authoritative meaning “trusted.” Additionally, if we don’t have trusted relationships, we may not even understand what we are looking at.

The answer..  start and lead with honesty, truth as you understand and clear intent.   All other roads will see someone boiled.

 

This post was written for my friends in consulting..  

 

 

The Context of Perspective

Chipping Away

Day after day, we chip away on the mountains of work or things we need to do in our lives at home.   A lot of people live in “unintentional isolation,” which creates some complexity with regard to our ability to be holistically better.

A few years ago, I read a book called The Curse of Blessings by Mitchell-Chefitz.  This week while considering what to write, I was thinking about how innovation comes from pulling information across domains.    I happened to pull this book off the shelf and when I opened it, I was pleasantly surprised to find this story.    I emailed the author and asked permission to share his content.   Have the courage to venture left or right!

Curse of Blessings 49

Curse of Blessings  Sometimes  the Right Story Can Change Your Life   Mitchell Chefitz   Google Books50

Curse of Blessings  Sometimes  the Right Story Can Change Your Life   Mitchell Chefitz   Google Books51

Curse of Blessings  Sometimes  the Right Story Can Change Your Life   Mitchell Chefitz Google Books52

Curse of Blessings  Sometimes  the Right Story Can Change Your Life   Mitchell Chefitz   Google Books53Curse of Blessings  Sometimes  the Right Story Can Change Your Life Mitchell Chefitz   Google Books54

Curse of Blessings  Sometimes  the Right C Story an Change Your Life   Mitchell Chefitz   Google Books55

Curse of Blessings  Sometimes  the Right Story Can Change Your Life Mitchell Chefitz Google Books56Thank you Mitch!

Knowledge Management and Healthcare

HealthCareCohenSaving Lives

In that moment when you realize that what you are experiencing is real and you have been shaken into the understanding that you are a human being; frail, fragile and living only for a short time this one moment can define or redefine your whole life.

Most of us live our day-to-day lives in a state of ignorance with regard to our health and our lives until we are faced with our mortality or impacted by someone close to us being sick.   People that work in the healthcare industry especially those on the front lines of medicine know all too well about human mortality.  That being said, it is still easy to get into routines and patterns of operation which create a narrow scope of perspective.  In other words,  being in a medical practice can create an intentional numbness.  Some studies show that doctors may suppress their emotions or their brains may automatically inhibit their ability to be empathetic in a short period of time.  The stress of being a person in an environment constantly being reminded that life is short and constantly fighting battles to save lives takes a lot out of people.  It also impacts their decision-making process.

My personal and professional experience has driven me to question why knowledge management is lacking in the healthcare industry.  This industry isn’t short of information but there are indicators that medical practitioners may not have the right information at the right time.

***Frame***

Chip and Dan Health wrote on KevinMD

The following is an exclusive excerpt adapted from #1 New York Times best-selling authors Chip and Dan Heath’s new book Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and WorkHow a smart process helped Kaiser Permanente save lives, which was released on March 26, 2013.

One of the most fundamental problems of decision-making, according to psychologists, is that people get stuck in a “narrow frame”—they view their decision in an unduly limited way, often missing options that are available to them. To break out of a narrow frame, people need new options, and one of the most basic ways to generate those options is to find someone else who’s solved your problem.

For many health care leaders, this search for new options has become second nature. They’ve long since learned to “benchmark” competitors and absorb industry “best practices.” Sometimes, though, the practices that work for one organization may be incompatible with another, like an organ transplant that is rejected. (Imagine if McDonald’s, inspired by movie theaters, started trying to hawk $12 Cokes.)

That’s why we shouldn’t forget, when hunting for new options, to look inside our own organizations. Sometimes the people who have solved our problems are our own colleagues. That’s what was discovered by the leaders of Kaiser Permanente, one of the largest HMOs in the country with almost 9 million members.

In early 2008, Alan Whippy (her first name is pronounced uh-LANN), the medical director of quality and safety at The Permanente Medical Group in  Northern California, was staring at a set of data that astonished her. To continue pushing their hospitals to get better, Whippy and her team had asked the leaders of the 21 Kaiser Permanente Hospitals in Northern California to do detailed case studies of the last 50 patients who had died at each of their hospitals. One problem their hospitals had addressed aggressively—heart attacks—accounted for 3.5% of the deaths. But almost ten times as many deaths came from another cause that was barely on the radar screen at Kaiser Permanente or most of the other hospitals they knew: sepsis.

Dr. Whippy explained sepsis with an analogy: “If you have an infection on your skin, it gets inflamed–red and hot and swollen. The infection itself doesn’t turn the skin red, that’s the body reacting to the infection.” Sepsis is a similar reaction to an infection in the blood stream. The body’s inflammatory reaction spreads to the whole body, even to parts far away from the infection—a case of pneumonia, for instance, can trigger kidney failure or even brain damage.

What Dr. Whippy and her team realized was that physicians were paying careful attention to the infections, like pneumonia, but they weren’t aggressively treating the associated sepsis, which was often the true cause of a patient’s death.

Freeze there. Whippy had a problem on her hands: She needed options for improving Kaiser Permanente’s treatment of sepsis. Where could she find those options?

She located one critical connection within Kaiser: Dr. Diane Craig, a physician at Kaiser Permanente Santa Clara. Craig and her colleagues had spent several years working on sepsis and had already shown some reduction in their sepsis death rate. They were frustrated that progress was not quicker, though—especially since the “recipe” for managing sepsis was known. In 2002, a provocative article had appeared in the New England Journal of Medicine, showing that patients were substantially less likely to die from sepsis if they received quick and intensive treatment shortly after they were diagnosed.

It was easier said than done, though. As Craig knew from personal experience, the quick and intensive treatment was difficult to implement for two reasons. First, sepsis is hard to detect. A patient might look fine in the morning but plunge into crisis by lunchtime, and by then it was often more difficult to correct the cascade of internal damage.  Second, the protocol recommended by the article for treating sepsis—which involves administering large quantities of antibiotics and fluids to the patient—carries its own risks.

As Craig said, “It takes a while for people to get comfortable saying, ‘This patient looks good but I’m going to put a large central IV catheter in their neck and put them in the ICU and pump them full of liters and liters of fluids. And we’ll do all this even though they look perfectly fine at the moment.’” The research supports this early intervention. The risks are worth it. But it was difficult for doctors, with their “Do No Harm” ethos, to move as quickly and forcefully as the research said they should.

Craig and Whippy realized that, to fight sepsis, they had to overcome these two problems by making sepsis easier to detect and by demonstrating to staff the risk ofinaction.

With Whippy’s support, Craig and her team began to incubate new approaches to the problem at Santa Clara. One idea was simple but powerful: Whenever physicians ordered a blood culture—a sign they were worried about a blood-borne infection—a test for lactic acid was automatically added to their orders. (Lactic acid is a critical indicator of sepsis.) This allowed them to detect sepsis well before it began to influence the patient’s vital signs.

Other changes were intended to make the Santa Clara staff more aware of sepsis. Posters and pocket cards were printed up that highlighted the symptoms of sepsis. A grid on the printed materials showed the mortality risk for different patient circumstances. “People could see that this patient, right in front of me, even though they look good—they have a 20% chance of mortality. It was very powerful,” said Craig.

If the doctors and nurses spotted the symptoms of sepsis, they were asked to call a “sepsis alert,” the equivalent in urgency of the “code blue” called when someone is experiencing a cardiac arrest. The sepsis alert summoned a team that could assess the patient and, if appropriate, begin the intensive sepsis protocol.

These innovative solutions began to work. Sepsis deaths began to decline. Whippy, who’d been following the work, knew that the Santa Clara team was assembling a package of cultural interventions that she could spread to other hospitals.  Meanwhile, other hospitals, who’d been pursuing their own solutions, added other critical pieces of the puzzle, like a “pressure bag” that fit around an IV like a balloon, ensuring that sepsis patients would receive fluids quickly enough.

Within a matter of months, under Whippy’s direction, the sepsis protocol was being actively implemented in other hospitals. By summer 2012, Kaiser Permanente Northern California, composed of 21 hospitals serving 3.3 million people, had driven down risk-adjusted mortality from sepsis to 28 percent below the national average.

This solution has astonishing potential. If all hospitals could match Kaiser Permanente’s 28 percent reduction, it would be the annual equivalent, in lives saved, of saving every single man who dies from prostate cancer and every single woman who dies from breast cancer.

* * *

The leaders of Kaiser make it a priority to study their own internal “bright spots”—the most positive points in a distribution of data. For the treatment of sepsis, for instance, Dr. Craig’s team represented a bright spot, because of its lower death rate.

Bright spots can be much more mundane, though. If you’re trying to stick to a new exercise regimen, then your bright spots might be the four times last month that you made it to the gym. If you take the time to study and understand your bright spots—how exactly did you manage to get yourself to the gym on those four days?—then you can often discover unexpected solutions. Maybe you’d notice that three of the four occasions were during lunch, which tends to be the least complicated time for you. So you might make a point to avoid scheduling things at lunch time, keeping that time free for future workouts.

The wonderful thing about bright spots is that they can’t suffer from the rejected-transplant problem, because they’re native to your situation. It’s your own success you’re seeking to reproduce.

Both bright spots and best practices, then, act as sources of inspiration. If you’ve got a dilemma, and you need new options, you can look for new ideas externally, as with benchmarking and best practices, or internally, like Kaiser’s leaders. What’s critical is that we refuse to get caught in a narrow frame, considering only one or two options, and instead widen our perspective so we can see the full spectrum of options that are available to us.

Chip Heath and Dan Heath are the authors of the new book Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work, as well as the previous bestsellers Switch and Made to Stick

 ***

The Basics

In the book Decisive, the authors pointed out something that I found compelling but they glossed over.   The time it took from when the article from  New England Journal of Medicine was published until  Dr. Whippy could get the model into best practice was somewhere between 8-10 years.    Authors: Stephen Boone, MD; Christian Coletti, MD; John Powell, MD state in their quick reference guide on sepsis that:

Severe sepsis affects approximately one million patients and claims more than 250,000 lives each year in the U.S. It is the second leading cause of death in non-cardiac ICU patients. Early and aggressive therapy influences outcomes. Utilizing the Surviving Sepsis Campaign Guidelines improves morbidity and can decrease mortality by 25%.

If I am doing my math correctly, in the US alone healthcare professionals had an opportunity to attack 2.5 million cases of sepsis over the past 10 years and the indication is that most haven’t.   Regardless, this is a best practice that should be addressed.

This is about the right information at the right time.   I have written in the past about how in one hospital the leadership turned to a race team to learn how to perform an effective and efficient shift turn over.   I can’t think of any organization that needs to leverage knowledge management more than healthcare.  This is more than just money, this is about saving lives and wellness.onlinelogomaker-102613-2009

When I walk into the doctor’s office today, he is carrying his iPhone or iPad with him, he is managing his personal knowledge but how is his personal knowledge moving from his device to his team or his colleagues?

How many people do you know that have died or have had complications due to sepsis or septic shock?

This is one area of discussion, how many other opportunities are we missing out on?

****

Do you know any healthcare professionals?  If so, forward the sepsis guidelines and best practice guides to them please, you never know you may save a life!

On Forgiveness

What is Forgiveness?

forgiveCohen.jpg

Stop feeling angry or resentful toward (someone) for an offense, flaw, or mistake.

http://www.psychologytoday.com/basics/forgiveness

Mustering up genuine compassion for those who have wronged us, instead of allowing anger toward them to eat away at us, is the course of action recommended by most psychologists.

http://www.wikihow.com/Forgive

Forgiveness is the renunciation or cessation of resentmentindignation or anger as a result of a perceived offence, disagreement, or mistake, or ceasing to demand punishment or restitution.[1][2] The Oxford English Dictionary defines forgiveness as ‘to grant free pardon and to give up all claim on account of an offence or debt’. The concept and benefits of forgiveness have been explored in religious thought, the social sciences and medicine. Forgiveness may be considered simply in terms of the person who forgives including forgiving themselves, in terms of the person forgiven or in terms of the relationship between the forgiver and the person forgiven. In most contexts, forgiveness is granted without any expectation of restorative justice, and without any response on the part of the offender (for example, one may forgive a person who is incommunicado or dead). In practical terms, it may be necessary for the offender to offer some form of acknowledgment, an apology, or even just ask for forgiveness, in order for the wronged person to believe himself able to forgive.[1]

The Forgiveness Problem

I recently read a book authored by Harold S. Kushner called How Good Do We Have to Be?  http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/133804.How_Good_Do_We_Have_to_Be_

The context is that my grandmother passed away and her sister provided me some valuable and powerful insight that allowed me to sleep on and think deeply about forgiveness.   My objective is not to offend anyone here and it may happen as I have allowed my frustration and anger to bubble up to the top in order for me to just deal with it.

An Excerpt from How Good Do We Have to Be: A New Understanding of Guilt and Forgiveness by Harold S. Kushner

Rabbi Harold Kushner proclaims that God’s forgiveness enables us to accept our flaws and the failings of others. In this excerpt, he writes about transformation or to be whole before God.

“To be whole before God means to stand before Him with all of our faults as well as all of our virtues, and to hear the message of our acceptability. To be whole means to rise beyond the need to pretend that we are perfect, to rise above the fear that we will be rejected for not being perfect. And it means having the integrity not to let the inevitable moments of weakness and selfishness become permanent parts of our character. Know what is good and what is evil, and when you do wrong, realize that that was not the essential you. It was because the challenge of being human is so great that no one gets it right every time. God asks no more of us that that.

“The philosopher Immanuel Kant once wrote, “Out of timber as crooked as that which man is made of, nothing perfectly straight can be carved.” He is probably right, but the lesson to be learned from that insight is not to give up on humanity, but to give up on the search for perfection. Maybe human beings can’t fashion anything perfectly straight. But maybe what we are able to fashion, with its curves and knotholes, will be more interesting, more satisfying.

“Life is not a trap set for us by God, so that He can condemn us for failing. Life is not a spelling bee, where no one matter how many words you have gotten right, if you make one mistake you are qualified. Life is more like a baseball season, where even the best team loses one-third of all its games and even the worst team has its days of brilliance. Our goal is not to go all year without ever losing a game. Our goal is to win more than we lose, and if we can do that consistently enough, then when the end comes, we will have won it all.

“In the beginning, in the infancy of the human race as in the infancy of an individual human being, life was simple. Then we ate of the fruit of that tree and we gained the knowledge that some things are good and others are bad. We learned how painfully complex life could be.

“But, at the end, if we are brave enough to love, if we are strong enough to forgive, if we are generous enough to rejoice in another’s happiness, and if we are wise enough to know that there is enough love to go around for us all, then we can achieve a fulfillment that no other living creature will ever know. We can reenter Paradise.”

WOW 

We aren’t perfect.  In fact we do bad things to each other to get what WE want.  My friends that are religious and have deep faith will have a solid position on forgiveness.  In fact, most people I know that I have spoken with have a very clear position on forgiveness.   I thought that I did until I read this book and now that I did, I am backtracking.    When I say backtracking, I mean reassessing forgiveness.

In the recent past,  I was asking a very religious friend of mine to forgive someone else for his transgressions.  I asked for my friend to consider that this other person has grown up a lot and experienced new life altering events and that this person is essentially a newer version of himself.   My friend looked at me and said “I don’t have to forgive him , G-d forgives, not me.”   I argued my position (which was different) but ultimately religion itself is a boundary or barrier to conflict resolution and he would keep his stance.  As a matter of perspective aren’t most wars about religion?  Most conflict can be tied one way or another to religion and even if you seek religion as a crutch you may become bound by it.   Even the very basic 10 commandments is open to multiple interpretations http://www.godstenlaws.com/ten-commandments/#.UisuUWR4Zhk  

I have started to think that forgiveness may be a wolf in sheep’s clothing for humans. I said “for humans” because I am starting to think that forgiveness isn’t for us holistically.   Forgiveness is an activity.  You have to do something to forgive and you have to be aware of why you are forgiving.   You have to be able to put what bothered or hurt you behind you.   It is about closure.    I read the book and I spent some time thinking about it.  Frankly, it wasn’t days or weeks but it was enough for me to start to pull ideas together that were powerful to me.   I sat down and wrote to my aunt.    My thoughts were clear and literally poured out of me very quickly.   While I was writing, I discovered that ignorance was connected to forgiveness.  It was Kushner himself that pointed this out in the story of Adam and Eve.    I wrote this to my aunt:

Do I have forgiveness in my heart?  I have forgiveness for people that make an effort and a choice to be better.   When Rabbi Kushner advised the woman to forgive her father(for abandoning her), I found the idea that she should forgive him ridiculous.    Would you morn for Hitler?   The constant barrage of emotional abuse and destructive behavior is a holocaust on a persons emotion and psychological condition.   It forever changes that person.   We should forgive the deed of the rape but not condemn the rapist for he is human and people make mistakes.   If he never were to rape again and repent for his ways and realize that what he did was wrong.. we should forgive him not for him but for ourselves because we shouldn’t carry this anger.  It is destructive to us.    When I was a child, I was quick to forgive and I realized that forgiveness allowed for me (us) to move on.  The reason why it did was because there was closure.    Closure is an end to these feelings that you have about something and that you put those feelings behind you and move forward with a clean plate, a new start and a clear perspective.   Allow me to offer you a different idea on forgiveness.   What if forgiveness was tied to ignorance?   I would guess that you have never seen the movie Memento but in that movie a man has no short term memory.  He was left only with his long term memory in place and he is on a quest to solve his wife’s murder.   He marks his body with tattoos to tell himself the story of where he is when he forgets what happens to him.   He has to interpret the markings every time he forgets.   He loses his memory within minutes of an event.   In the end, WE find that he sees the world differently than the world sees him and that his view of the world as unkind as it is, it much kinder than the reality of the world.   I think that is ground truth.   We are ignorant of most things and when we get to see the truth, it is mostly unkind.  That is not to say that there isn’t good in the world but that reality is much harsher than our ignorance allows us to perceive.   There is good in not knowing.   If you knew that you were going to die a painful and un-purposeful death tomorrow what would you do today?  After all faith itself is belief without knowing.   I would like to think that my grandmother loved me very much, my knowledge of her tells me she didn’t and my ignorance tells me that she could have.   If I stick with my ignorance, the less I know about her the more I could embrace and love her.  The more I could find myself forgiving.  I could close the door and start fresh, except she is gone now so there isn’t anything new to start.
Forgiveness is not for the person or people who hurt you but for you?   We should forgive and not forget.  That is another statement that I love.   We should forgive but not forget because if we forget than we could allow for history to repeat itself.   Forgiveness is like the thing that we would like to achieve but never seem to get there.    Do the Native Americans forgive the people who took their land and destroyed their lives for generations?  Do the African-Americans forgive the people who enslaved them?   Do the Jewish people forgive the people who have sought to exterminate them?   Shall I continue?   We don’t forgive.  We seem to pretend to forgive but we carry our anger and our hate with us through the generations.
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What if you didn’t know to hate?   The picture above was posted by my friend Kimani on Facebook one day ago.  What if the knowledge tree was the curse?  I am angry but not a G-d.  I am angry at man.  If a person does something over and again and exhibits consistent unrelenting behavior, should we forgive them?   We should forgive the person and not the deed itself?   I have written about conflict on this blog in the past.   An oversimplification of the work (in conflict) is that intractable conflicts are extremely complex in nature, so complex that it is difficult to sustain a mental map of factors that influence the conflict.  We act to simplify conflict, and, in fact, the tendency is to over-simplify, to reduce the conflict to a simple us/them, pro/con, I’m right/you’re wrong.  The complexity of the conflict is too much to handle cognitively.  Once the conflict is simplified, opposing forces can dig in, increasing intractability.

An easy way to simplify intractable conflict is to forgive.   What if we don’t seek to forgive?  What if we can’t forgive?  What if forgiveness itself doesn’t matter?   How about we turn forgiveness over to G-d and we just realize that for most of humanity that forgiveness is something we would like to aim for but depending on the deed in question may never attain.

Ignorance = ?

I wouldn’t say that ignorance is bliss per se but I would say that if we put less effort into having to forgive and more effort in having to forget then maybe we would simply be happier.   Maybe the demons that keep you up at night wouldn’t haunt you if you didn’t know they existed.    I told my aunt that the punishment for being disconnected is being forgotten.   Think about this.. in less than a few generations it is very possible that YOU will be forgotten.   All of your good and all of your bad could be nothing but a moment in time that no longer exists that no one knows of.    The interesting thing about this is that if you carried hate, love or indifference those tacit inside feelings and emotion may itself convey.  This historical narrative of people will carry across the generations.   Where is forgiveness there?

FIN

 

Why I Think Business is Personal **Remembering Arden**

2013-08-11 13.48.47I met Arden (aka Spook) in the late 1990’s after I was lucky enough to get a job at a little internet startup company called ExisNet.    I was troubled by some of life’s lessons and I was looking for myself.   Spook was one of the supervisors at ExisNet, he was a Marine (retired) but still a Marine.   I was in my late 20’s and still very young minded.    I think in his years as a leader and warfighter, he has seen plenty of young men like me.    He was an expert photographer and private investigator, he chose to work in order to have purpose but also to fund his outside activities.

Spook

At work he was a tough and stubborn guy and he would be quick to tell me that he would shoot me if I messed up.   The not so funny part was that he did carry a gun all the time and I knew that he had experience in the matter of killing.   More than fear, our team respected him.   It was Thanksgiving time and I didn’t have family in the area, he invited me to come to his family’s house for the holiday.   I didn’t know any of his family and they welcomed me in with open arms.   This was the beginning of our family connection.    As this is a simple blog and I could write many Spook stories on here, I want to point out that our relationship developed at work.  I wouldn’t have met Spook or known him otherwise.  He was my supervisor and a mentor, later he became a father figure and a friend of the highest order.   I am reminded at times that at work (it is business).   I have thought about this over and again and I disagree.  We are people and we build, maintain and grow relationships.   There are times when work relationships become something else and it could be inappropriate but more often working relationships are some of the best and deepest relationships we can in our lives.   To forcibly seek to separate these or to state that “business is not personal” is to ignore our humanity.   My best friends have come from my working relationships.   I still love and care for my relationships built while on active duty (at work).   My active friendships came from my work relationships and my family was built from my friendship with Geoff O’Brien (who reluctantly introduced me to his awesome sister).

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Sammy is named for Spook (Sam Arden) Cohen

Next time someone says “business isn’t personal” think about your experiences and ask yourself about your life.   Isn’t business personal?

Spook passed away Jan 2010, his love and kindness are missed by many.    His impact on my life forever changed my path and I am reminded of him everyday.

Words for Spook

For those of us that are parents we love our children unconditionally.
In a way we are programmed to potentially have maybe a little more
patience with our children because they are after all a part of who we
are. Most of us never turn our back on our children and further we
protect them as much as we can even as they become more responsible
for themselves. We have a responsibility to care for them, after all
they are our children. We love our children unconditionally, even if
they make mistakes that are hurtful and harmful. In a way we have
limited choices when it comes to our children because they are always
ours. Spook chose to extend this same kind of love to me. He always
believed in me and pushed me to do better.984 Boys

He would tell me of the things that I can do and the success that I will
have. I didn’t have family in the area and I hardly had enough money
to make ends meet. Often Jane would pack an extra sandwich and send
it with Spook. He would tell me that he wasn’t hungry and that he
didn’t want to waste food so I should eat the sandwich.
During the holidays he would take me with him to visit with family who
would graciously accept me into their homes.
Spook was probably the most religious man I have ever known. He
didn’t practice by going to church but instead he acted on the most
fundamental principles of religion. Spook put others before himself.
Often he would enroll me in his campaign to help someone. His efforts
never ended even towards his final days.
We are all here today to celebrate Spooks life. I thought it might be
interesting for me to tell you a little about how he has impacted
potentially millions of people. Spook often told me about how he was an
orphan as a child and how he believed that family was more than just
blood relations. When I first met spook he had already retired from
the military and effectively had dealt with hundreds if not thousands
of young knuckleheads like me. He had taken many people under what
I would call Spook and Jane foster care. Spook and Jane fed and
cared for countless Marines and many friends outside of the Corp.
Spook gave to everyone, I am willing to bet that almost everyone here
today has something from him. I would even venture to say that some
of us may even have something from him with us today.
Spooks nature-wildlife website was an example of him sharing his love
of animals and nature with the world. His website still to this day gets
hundreds of thousands of hits a month. He has electronically touched
millions.
Spook loved gadgets, flashlights, tools and he loved to share them.
Often he would buy something for someone and then buy one for
himself, he couldn’t resist. He would call me to talk about new things
and new technology. He would call me almost every day. If he had
nothing to talk about we at least had an opportunity to say hello.
People.. he loved people, as I am sure most of you know.
Sorry to jump around but there is more to say than I have time. He
was a patriot, he believed that he fought as a marine for our freedom.
He believed in our country, our way of life and he believed we should
be responsible for ourselves and each other. Each of us has a personal
responsibility to do the best we can to do the right thing. Each of us
should have the courage and the integrity to stand up for what we
believe in.
Yeah.. so Spook was different. He bought what he wanted, he did
what he wanted, he did things his way. He didn’t regret. He didn’t lie.
He did what he always said he would do. He played hard and he loved
people in a way that was generally unconditional.
Our world was changed by his presence, his life, his values and his love.
I can tell you that I would not be here today and I would not have my
life if it were not for him. I would like to leave you with this one short
recent story. I was traveling to Europe not long ago and Spook gave me
some things to take with me that I was meant to return. He also
asked me to do some things which wasn’t unusual for him. When I got
back I did the things he asked and he told me to keep the things he
gave me. I started to question him as to why he was giving me this
stuff and he replied “Howie.. I am not dying, when I am dying I will tell
you I am dying and then I will tell you what you need to worry about
then.” The past two weeks have been crazy and Spook has been under
special care, pain medicine, and really a lot of pain. The day he realized
that he was dying he looked at me and said “Ok.. now I am dying and I
am telling you the things I want you to know.” He faced death as he
faced life. I hope to be more like him in my days and I hope my
children will love me as much as I love him. On behalf of myself, Erin,
William, Bryce, and Drew on behalf of my extended family and friends,
on behalf of the children reading about Lions on his website, thank you
Spook.. Thank you!

The Doctor will See You Now – Context = Business Quick Fix

Chances are if you go to the doctor you will have a short conversation, a quick check up and some blood work.   When your results come back your doctor will call you in to discuss your findings.   If your doctor practices medicine as a modern practitioner and there are any problems found they will look to find a prescription for you to take.

Now take your medicine.

The same thing has happened in business.   Companies look at business indicators, take into consideration the technical factors and come up with technical and process oriented solutions to change the business in order to increase overall business effectiveness.

The result in both cases is that we treat symptoms and not the root problem.    The problem is that it is very costly and time-consuming to treat the problem.  Treating a symptom is fast and effective.   It is a quick fix solution that may delay or push back the need to address the root problem.    The problem is still there and both your doctor and business leader are just potentially exacerbating the situation by masking the problem.

“Take two business leadership books and call me at the end of the quarter.”

Why don’t we change our behavior?

I have been wrestling with this question for a long time.  I have read a lot of books and articles on this subject and my team and I have come up with ideas and tested them in the workplace.   It boils down to the same thing over and over.   It is about consideration for people relative to a quick dollar.

Let us say in the scenario first presented with the doctor that when you went in to the office, you spend more time and money up front with the doctor.   The doctor gives you a much longer diagnostic, they ask about your life and your family not in passing but in detail.  They talk to you about your food intake and your stress levels, they look at your schedule for work and home and they do some research on your life.   They would in this case look to learn more tacit information.   It costs too much money.  It will cost too much time.  It would be expensive for you and the doctor in many ways that doesn’t require a breakdown because this is something you already understand.

It is the same with business.  If the business has to invest a lot of time and resources even with a long-term vision, it won’t spend money on people.

That’s it!  People are the most important aspect of any business or practice but the way our world works today we look to think about short-term people strategies and short quick fixes.   This short-term thinking has been very expensive itself as it creates a whole slew of new problems and new technologies.

In every aspect of our lives we now look for short-term and quick solutions.   Think about it.   From 30 minute meals to 60 day exercise routines that will bring you quick results.   Take the pill and you will be better.  Buy a technical solution and it will fix your business.

If we are going to start seriously addressing the problems at work and at home, the first problem we need to really deal with is asking ourselves about what we are willing to invest.   We will have to ask ourselves how important the problem really is to us and how much time we want to even think about it.

If you want a quick fix and have a desire to pretend that everything is ok, take a pill and be on your way.  If you want to really deal with the issues at hand, there will be pain and sacrifice, there will be an investment on your part, and there will be tough choices.   The funny part about this second option is that other problems could come up and all your work could in fact be for nothing.   This is just reality.  Even with that being the case, what is the effort worth to you in the long run?

Start asking these questions and you may find out that it is worth more than you know.