The Truth of Human Resources and KM #PracticalHR

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Visually Compelling Organizational Development

The work by Kevin Desmond was thoughtful and emotionally charged.      It is tough to be a leader in general, but the world today makes it even more difficult.

Leadership is something I care deeply about.   I strive to be a better leader in the same way that Jascha Heifetz said, “If I don’t practice one day, I know it; two days, the critics know it; three days, the public knows it.”

It takes practice and clear commitment, but the results aren’t always as beautiful as a heartwarming tune.   It may result in tough decisions and failure, but you have to strive on and keep trying.

I have a team and they are geographically dispersed.  I care about them as a group and certainly care for them each as individuals.   I am lucky and honored to have this amazing team and I have a responsibility to honor them and give them time to learn more about each other, including building their own relationships.    Finding time is not always easy, but this was something that I chose to do with the support of my leadership.

The compounding factors in team dynamics and collaboration are always moving.  It feels as if we have to hurry to get something going in order to get this snapshot of a moment in time.    This is where Kevin was able to come in and get us started.

The answers aren’t always.. 

Right and wrong aren’t clear concepts as they used to be.  Some would argue that they are clear, but what I would say is that perspective and context are key to a shared determination of what is right and wrong.   In order to share common perspective or context, we must be able to communicate and share our ideas.    Our ideas are born from our knowledge or our perceived knowledge about something.    Regardless, we must level set and to do that “level setting” we must compromise.     In order to compromise we have to have a willingness to compromise.    We have to build trust.   Trust is a critical enabler.   It is THE critical enabler.

Kevin came down and sat in my office a while back, he looked right at me and told me that I may have to do some things that would make me uncomfortable but I would have to trust the process.    We went through some of the ideas and concepts he would use with a clear objective of helping the team baseline or “level set.”    He said, “Howie, you realize this is only the beginning, right?”

We set the objectives and goals,  built in some time for flexibility and discussion and included some primers for thinking.   There was clarity in the thinking and of course what we sought to achieve, but the results were emotionally compelling right from the start.   For the sake of privacy and respect for my amazing team,  I will only share my personal experience and my personal thoughts as part of a similar thought exercise not directly aligned or reflective of anyone other than my experience.

It is the reason for the Cohen tombstone at the top of this post.   If I am to choose a picture of what I want to represent who I am and I am given a controlled group of images, which would I choose?

For the sake of this posting and in practical consideration,  I chose a grave stone with my name on it.   I would preferred it to have said Howard Cohen, Father, Husband, Brother, Son, Time Traveler, Stunt Car Racer, Lover, Fighter,  Good Guy, Bad Guy, Hardworking Guy,  and on the bottom “Crack is Wack” because I think I am funny sometimes.     I mean to say that I consider my mortality.  I consider my life in that I am thankful for it and I am thankful for each day.  I think of death as I understand that it is an end or beginning and I don’t know which, but I know that it can come at any time and that I should be true to who I am and love hard, play hard, work hard, but mostly be the best person I can be.   Not so easy to pick a picture, but is something that we have to do.   Every moment in our lives is like the iPhone video application,  you can take movies, but every once in a while you have to push the button and get that single frame snapshot.

The exercise of taking this image and sharing it with you and potentially the whole world is a little embarrassing I suppose and a bit revealing of some of my weakness and maybe strength, butall  in all, it is important because it is part of building trust through sharing and revealing who I am.    One of my team said “there is the face you show and the face you hold close” the you that you are is a multitude.   Of the many, you are a person and what you choose to show or hide consumes energy.

With one act and one question,  Kevin started an activity that set a course for myself and my team to share and consider the multitudes in each of us.   In my willingness and/or the willingness of the team, we could begin to share start a process of “level setting.”

Measuring the Distance of Knowledge

How do you measure knowledge?   How do you measure trust?   What was the best team you ever had?   Who was the best leader you have ever known?    How do you measure success?  How do you define success?   What if success for you is failure for someone else?  Is that always the case?   Are you running a race?  Is this race with yourself or others?  Why do you jump out of airplanes?    What would make you better and how would you measure that?  How would you be sure that you were better?

** I just started working for Booz Allen and was working on the floor of US Joint Forces Command Integration Directorate.    An old Marine was running part of the military architecture shop, he was a contractor himself but commanded the equivalent of a cell.   In other words, he had his team on lock down and he was no joke.    He called me over to speak with him, looked at me in the eyes (sorta scary) and said “son, what’s your CV?”   I really didn’t know what the heck he was asking me so I just stood there looking at him.  He said, “ok, were you in the service?”   I said “yes sir, I was a Damage Controlman.”    He looked around for a moment and literally stood himself taller almost as if I were to shrink down and he asked “How the hell does a DCMan get here?”    My answer..

“Well sir,  I went(s) to college”    In fact, by that time I had a Masters but it isn’t like you carry it around like a patch on your arm or anything.

We are judged by what we do or what we have done and that is in the realm of someones idea about us in which they (think) they know and/or make assumptions about us.   Even if there is a measure that exists or criteria, these are still open for discussion.    I went to school but maybe the school I went to wasn’t the top school in the nation.   What if I had the best teacher in the nation in one of the lower tiered schools?   Would there be a measure or some condition or factoid that would illuminate that as a fact?    The answer is of course “no.”    The point is that we have to measure what we can, and define success as we can but in order to do this we have to be clear about it in the scope of our activities and relative to a moment in time.

Throwing the fastest pitch consistently over time matters only if these measured factors produce the result that you threw that same pitch during a game and as a result won!

Kevin helped illuminate these points through a series of activities and discussions.   He talked about measures and what they mean’t and the importance of using them.   He also spoke of the context in which they apply.

The Human Resource to Knowledge Connection

I enjoy the thinking that Knowledge Management and Human Resources is tied at the hip and they are their own combination of many things that add up to one.   The idea that we have to be able to have a person in a mode to listen or receive,  and a person in a mode to transmit.   The active listener actually listening and not thinking to rebuke or over take the conversation.    It is the primary condition in communication.    The condition to be ready to listen, learn, read, pay attention and think about what someone else has said or is saying.     If you are reading this right now, you are allowing me the honor of sharing with you and I thank you for that.    It is the precondition for knowledge sharing and knowledge management.   It is also a condition provide though an act of respect.   It may very well be that after you read what I have written that you lose or gain respect for me but under this condition at this very moment, you are providing me a channel in which I can communicate with you.   This is where the organizational development begins but the preconditions and factors must allow for it.   Just as if you are growing something in a garden,  you need the environment, conditions, and factors to all come into play.   Human factors, human engagement and understanding of cognitive, physical and social conditions, are the preconditions for our knowledge connection.

 

Bring It

I am writing about this because I believe that OD doesn’t get enough recognition.   The words say “Organizational Development” but what it really means is “Factors, conditions and practices, to make people better.”  As a result of helping people, the organization will naturally become better and that results in a domino effect that spreads in multiple directions.   Why?  Because kind acts matter.

If you want the details of how to make all this stuff work,  you could reach out to my friends Kevin Desmond  or Tom Tiberia as they are actually the experts.  I am just sharing the results.   What were the results anyways? 

I walked away with a to-do list of things that I need to work on.   I also have a list of team goals aligned to my organization and organizational goals tied to myself as an individual.  I have a lot of questions that went unanswered but that is good because I never thought to ask some of these questions and I didn’t know how important they were.    I have ideas on measures that matter and I have homework for myself and my team.

Adam Grant Author of Give and Take recently said in a post “We love asking successful people for their secrets. But often, they’re not even aware of what they do differently from others.

Next time you want to learn from someone, instead of asking directly, go to that person’s collaborators. They have the clearest window into unique habits.”

What I had a chance to do here and what Kevin and Tom gave me was a window into my actions through the lens of others.   I can see a glimpse and take action on keeping my strengths strong and working on my legs..   <– that was a joke, you ever see those guys that just lift with their upper bodies?  They look top heavy.. I think you can look that way intellectually or emotionally as well if you don’t round out your work out.

gymguy

As usual.. questions comments, complaints..

 

 

 

How Can I Help? #Advocate

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Three+1 Things You CAN Do


Wake up in the morning, get my cup of coffee,  head to the office to start my day.  Open my email, it is full to the brim, I switch over to the calendar and see my schedule is full.   How did my day become consumed by meetings?   I go through my day,  I eat while I am working, it gets late,  I go home.  I tend to my family and then back to the email, maybe a little book reading and off late to bed to restart the whole thread.

Somewhere in the mix I have to hold on to my humanity.  All the work that I do is electronic and amounts to a pile of nothing, but electrons and virtual transactions.  How the heck can I help anyone?

Take Time to Listen

When someone writes, calls or knocks on the door, make the time to listen.   Sometimes you are standing between two connections and you are the bridge, you just didn’t know it.  Active listening is a great skill to have and it certainly takes practice. https://cohenovate.com/2015/02/22/understanding-conflict-and-knowledge-management/  Listening is good for them and good for you!

Share Ideas, but Don’t Share Answers

Sometimes the answers come easy, but the real solutions are difficult.   In other words,  having an answer on how to fix a problem may create more of a problem.  Sometimes we need to just talk through ideas and come to solutions on our own.  Offer up ideas or thoughts but, offer them as concepts and not answers.

Be a Shoulder, not a Boulder

Being there for a person and helping means you have your attention focused on their needs.  I have found that listening to people and helping them sort through their problems can help me with challenges that I face.   The best thing to do is to stay focused and help them and be strong for them as they need.  Adding your problems to the discussion is a weight added, not a burden lifted.

Recognize and Advocate for Others

They say that it takes more muscles to frown than to smile.  Some suggest that this is not true, but that smiling may cost us less overall energy. http://zidbits.com/2011/09/does-it-really-take-more-muscles-to-frown-than-to-smile/

It may seem that it takes more energy to advocate and recognize others than it does for yourself, but if you practice recognizing others and advocating for others, it will take overall less energy and be helpful to you.  Realistically, we can’t be responsible for the actions of others, but our entire world is built on the foundation of relationships.   Recognizing a contribution or advocating for someone helps strengthen the bonds and the ties between us.   We are better together and we are better when we recognize each other.   It is simple to do.   Be mindful, be courageous and bold, advocate with intent and without fear, the costs are low and the results will always pay off.

photo credit: via photopin (license)

Thanks Wendy Woodson for your creative contribution

Working Out Loud: Speak to the Heart and Mind (Part 4 of 5)

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

Living a Life of Legacy

We are living on a spinning rock full of magma destined to be consumed by a ball of fire in the form of an extinguished star. It is pretty easy to question the purpose of our existence.  Some look to religion, others to philosophy.  Either way, there is some form of rationalization on why we are here. When I turn on the news I mostly find a cold world full of consistent tragedy. It is 2015, and as a child I dreamed of a world with flying cars, robots, and peace.

I thought my generation was so intermixed and informed that we would simply starve out racism, sexism, and challenge all that was wrong with the world.  I was looking for something big but I have come to believe that I should be looking for something small.  This post is about speaking to the heart and mind because you can speak to one or the other; however, we can communicate our message best if we seek to address both with purpose and passion.  

A lot of people believe that they have to wait to be great.  They spend years building wealth and working hard to achieve this ultimate dream of having success and security.   Born from this sense of security and wealth, they can now live a “life of legacy” where they can go and do good things and be charitable.  They can find the kindness in their hearts that they had to set aside to be good at being tough.  Being tough and strong is a characteristic associated with good leadership.   Rarely do you hear of leaders being weak and wimpy.   It is always said that the “strong survive” and that is how our world works.   In business or war ironically, we see and hear similar practices around strength.  I believe there are forces that are underestimated in our world.  There are both strong and weak forces and to focus on strength and toughness holistically would be missing the benefits of these other factors.  People can be made to do something by force and people can be led to do something by inspiration.  It is part of our nature, but either way the same rules don’t always apply.   

With this in mind, these new philanthropists believe they can be what they want with no person to control them as they did their time and generated the income needed to find security and success.   As I am speaking generally, I recognize that a lot of people “do good things” but more often than not in my experience it doesn’t seem to be enough for them to recognize how good their daily acts really are.  The point is that if you want to live a life of legacy, there is no reason to wait to do something that your heart is calling for.  Right now is a good time and it starts with behavior over events.

Speaking to the Heart

If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head.  If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart. (Nelson Mandela)  

The intent of this quote was to address people in their mother tongue as a sign of respect and understanding.   This quote can go much further than intended in that language is complicated.  Even when I speak or write in English, it is when I find common connections and words that that seem to touch something inside that goes beyond logic is when I am most compelling.

Watch this video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YeWks6cgJ-k  it is only two minutes. The first time I saw this it came from  Dr. Madelyn Blair on storytelling.  

It is the experience or feeling of something great and compelling that inspires thought or action.  It touches on a memory or something inside of us that helps us “get it.”  We don’t need to stand on a pulpit or talk from a mountain to find this voice. More often it comes from something simple like a Post It note, a whisper, a kind word or simply diverting attention from a computer screen or phone to look up at someone and listen.  

In order to live a life of legacy everyday, it seems that we should practice working out loud. As life inspires us, we have an opportunity to take our thoughts and snippets of wisdom and do something with it to help others.    One personal example comes from my very good friend and mentor, Mr. Ron Batdorf.    Ron exemplifies working out loud and speaking to the heart and mind.   He works hard and faces adversity and he never quits.   He is soft spoken and thoughtful, and he shows up when called and he practices leading through small kind acts.   I have seen the impact of his good work in many forms, but I also benefit from his friendship and wisdom almost every day.  I hope he doesn’t mind that I share a note here from him.

“Howie, I have found that Rabbi Heschel has the same understanding of dialectic patterns as St. Paul (Sal) had.  See below a excerpt from the website: https://theshalomcenter.org/node/88   Interesting that this is foundational to both the Christian and Jewish Faiths.  Just wondered if you know of Rabbi Heschel’s Theology?  Hope all is well and that the new owners understand your value to them.  It seems that unless we are directly into the processes of an organization our purpose is diminished.  I guess it gets back to concepts that if not effecting processes are not part of the value to an organization.  Integration of knowledge can be seen this way.  I have started looking at Multi-agent systems and the processes of developing a “Learning agent”.  I think there is insight in that design that can be developed into a KM format for any organization.  Just a thought.

Shalom to you and your family Howie.

Ron

PARADOX AND POLARITY

A necessary condition affecting human beliefs in philosophy and religion is the paradox. The source of their paradoxical character has its origin in the essential polarity of human being.

To ignore the paradox is to miss the truth.

Jewish thinking and living can only be adequately understood in terms of a dialectic pattern, containing opposite or contrasted properties. As in a magnet, the ends of which have opposite magnetic qualities, these terms are opposite to one another and exemplify a polarity which lies at the very heart of Judaism, the polarity of ideas and events, of mitzvah and sin, of kavvanah and deed, of regularity and spontaneity, of uniformity and individuality, of halakhah and agadah, of law and inwardness, of love and fear, of understanding and obedience, of joy and discipline, of the good and the evil drive, of time and eternity, of this world and the world to come, of revelation and response, of insight and information, of empathy and self-expression, of creed and faith, of the word and that which is beyond words, of man’s quest for God and God in search of man. Even God’s relation to the world is characterized by the polarity of justice and mercy, providence and concealment, the promise of reward and the demand to serve Him for His sake. Taken abstractedly, all these terms seem to be mutually exclusive, yet in actual rising they involve each other; the separation of the two is fatal to both.

Since each of the two principles moves in the opposite direction, equilibrium can only be maintained if both are of equal force. But such a condition is rarely attained. Polarity is an essential trait of all things. Tension, contrast, and contradiction characterize all of reality.

However, there is a polarity in everything, except God. For all tension ends in God. He is beyond all dichotomies.”

Failure comes easy

It is easy to fail.  It is easy to quit and say that you can’t do something.  It is easy to allow someone else to impact your thinking.   Everyone has a boss and everyone is influenced by someone.   Very few people in the world are an island to themselves.  I would be willing to bet that even those who live alone are troubled by their own duality.

People will tell you that you can’t do something and if you let them, they will hold you back.  Dreams could be shattered easily.   Again, this is a tough world and we all face adversity. There isn’t a person on this planet that isn’t faced with challenges.   The question is when given the choice, what will you choose to do?   We are all destined for an ending and that is part of life, we are born and we live and we die.   Sometimes, I think we forget about the dying part or on the other end of the spectrum we focus too much on dying.   Regardless, we still have choices and opportunities.  We can choose to get up when we fail and we can choose to share our failures along with our success.  In fact, if we shared more of our failures we might give others an opportunity to learn from these and they could achieve their dreams or desired outcome that much faster.  (See blog on learning from failures)

Speaking to the Mind

Our humanity often gets in the way of logic.   There are multiple types of intelligence, speaking to the mind or logical aspect of ourselves limits our ability.  That being said, logic is important and needed as if we were running around simply making emotional decisions all the time, what would the world look like?  War, famine, divorce, disease, power hungry people, I apologize as I digress.  We need to use math, analytics, and science to address universal truth.   Things make sense often because there is logic behind them not because they “feel good” and this is the part of the story of working out loud.  

In Practice

As I have written, I like to consider if I were reading these words, how would I use them?   How could I find benefit in my daily life?  How could I find benefit at work?  We spend a lot of our time at work or working, or so it seems, at least in the US.  I would hope that it is for something beyond simply punching a card and getting a paycheck to be a cog in the great corporate machine.   Here are a few things I do to work out loud while speaking to the heart and mind:

  1. Write a narrative:  For everything I do, there is a story,  I spend some time with my team writing a short narrative of what we are doing and why.  I also look to identify the outcome of the work and measure it.    It is normally no more than 2 pages and it is accessible to everyone in the organization.
  2. Meetup: I meet with people often and I listen to their stories.  I look to find common bonds and/or opportunities to share something I know or learn from them.  
  3. Advocate:  As I have written in past blogs, I advocate for others and myself, but this comes in the form of both written and oral history.
  4. I write: I try to write at least once a week for myself and I look at this as an opportunity to learn and share.
  5. Consider my purpose:  I don’t know why people get to stay or go.  I don’t know why we wind up where we are and why fate has us here.   I believe that I have purpose and when I don’t know what it is in the big design, I consider the small things.    When I was a baby I came down with the flu.  We were scheduled to fly to Miami to see our family in Florida.  My parents chose to cancel our flight and I can tell you that my father is a person who would take high consideration to make this choice.   The plane crashed and everyone on board died.   Maybe in another universe I was on that plane but in this one, I am here and I have things to do.   I consider my purpose often and work hard to remind myself that today is a gift and not a promise.  

In practice, it is the small acts that matter. Consider that working out loud is part of this practice and it is just like exercise.   We know that it is healthy to do all the time, and we have no need to wait until the day that we have more time to do it.

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?

Lesson From the Pope

Today Pope Francis spoke about trust and our interconnectedness.  He essentially said that the more we focus on ourselves as individuals, the more we are lost and alone.   I believe that is true as well.   We have lost something of ourselves in our social media.   When I was a child,  I knew the names of the people who owned local stores and they knew me.    We don’t talk to each other, we broadcast and in that mode of communication, we are losing our humanity.    It is very difficult to build trust today.   It is difficult to read and listen to each other because we are overwhelmed with information.   It is difficult to know which information is true or false and we get so much information that it disables us.

We are so connected that we are disconnected.  It is that simple.   The lesson that I took from the Pope during this visit was to look up over the phone, the tablet, the laptop, the book, the newspaper or whatever it is that has us distracted and find ways to be a connector.

Just one day before, Pope Francis was late on his trip to Philadelphia, we had the news on in the background and I was pouring a cup of coffee.   The Pope was stepping off the airplane and into his car for his drive over to Philly.   I heard one of the commentators ask why the car was stopping.   I looked up and walked towards the television to see what was happening.  The Pope had stopped his car and gotten out, he walked over to a boy in a wheelchair, he leaned over and he kissed his head.  He looked up and held the hands of the boys mother; she was full of tears and saying, “Thank you, thank you.”  I immediately started to tear up in appreciation for the true kindness and totality of this act.   The world was literally waiting for him (Pope Francis) but no one at that moment was more important to him over this family.    For the boy, maybe nothing, for the parents it is hope.   It is this recognition that we must have hope and that we must build trust and relationships beyond some social network construct.   We must practice good listening and empathy over broadcasting.  We must become “connectors.”

I recently read, Synchronicity by Joseph Jaworski. This book is 20 years old, but speaks of both collective intelligence and our interconnectedness.  Awareness and belief that we are all connected is nothing new.  It is this knowledge that fundamentally drives us to a desired outcome of connectedness.  The challenge that we have is in our substitution of technologies as a replacement or placeholder for our actual human interaction.  The Pope demonstrated in his actions the other day his keen awareness of the spaces between.  It is no coincidence that change management starts with “awareness”

This brings me to the thinking about what I can actually do about this challenge.    I have to ask what being connected means?  I have to think about actions and activities that will help me be more connected but moreover, have better awareness.  I believe we must practice building trust by getting past the social network and building relationships with hand shakes and if you know me… hugs every so often.    To what end do we practice these behaviors and what do we aim to achieve? I think Joe Jaworski thought about this when he met with the physicist David Bohm.   They had a conversation around the connected universe, but Bohm boiled it down in some practical thinking as follows:

Dialogue: Collective Thinking and Listening

“From time to time, (the) tribe (gathered) in a circle. They just talked and talked and talked, apparently to no purpose. They made no decisions. There was no leader and everybody could participate. There may have been wise men or wise women who were listened to a bit more ­ the older ones ­ but everybody could talk. The meeting went on, until it finally seemed to stop for no reason at all and the group dispersed. Yet after that, everybody seemed to know what to do because they understood each other so well. They could get together in smaller groups and do something or decide things.” -David Bohm, “On Dialogue”.

Finally Peter Marino corporate trainer wrote on active listening… from Madelyn Burley-Allen and Michael Nichols respectively.

  • Taking in information from speakers, other people, or ourselves, while remaining nonjudgmental and empathetic.
  • Acknowledging the talker in a way that invites the communication to continue.
  • Providing limited, but encouraging input to the talker’s response, carrying the person’s idea one step forward.
    Listening is the art by which we use empathy to reach across the space between us. Genuine listening means suspending memory, desire and judgment, and for a few moments, at least, existing for the other person.

Summary

Religious or not, we can learn something from the actions of Pope Francis and this is coming from a Jewish kid from Co-op City in the Bronx.   We can work on a daily basis to find the space between and make ourselves aware in order to connect with others on a deeper level.  These connections will lend themselves to a more collective intelligence,  if we focus on people through our humanity and not through the lens of our IOS devices.

The 42nd Hour

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It was dark, I was awake but still trying to sleep.   I woke up before the Morning Wake Up followed by “Reveille reveille, all hands heave out and trice up.”    It didn’t  matter if I had slept or not I was still tired.

The room was lit by small red lights, it smelled musty like mold, ass and fuel oil.   Everyone was moving around at the same time and grumbling.   I was on the bottom rack, which mean’t that I had to wait for the two guys above me to get up.   I had to keep my curtain closed because if I didn’t, I would see a sight that for me would be let us say unpleasant.   I actually had an old magazine picture of  Marilyn Monroe on my rack.  She was not of my generation but neither was the Navy.   It was old in this place but new at the same time.

My days and nights were long ,in the vastness of the gray walls of the box I felt trapped in (ship), time was only bound and unbound by the blow of a whistle.  In other words,  work was 24 hours a day every day and rest(sleep) was in two hour increments except on Sundays.   We knew it was Sunday because someone told us.    That was the life of a Damage Controlman or other engineering type.      These seemingly endless days will stay with me forever,  I never expected them to follow me into my civilian life.

Anagnorisis

It is that moment when the main character in a body of work makes a critical discovery.   I had this moment not long ago when I saw the garage door open up.   As it slowly crept up, I saw the shadow of a small figure coming towards me.   It was Sammy, my youngest son “Daddy.. daddy, you’re home.. you’re home!!”

SammyCohenblog42.jpgWhat is more precious than time?    It was the critical discovery that the enemy is me.

The walls aren’t haze gray but I am underway.   I am underway because I am bounded by my own box.   It is work…. and it begins at the 42nd hour.     It was not long ago that I had a dream of having a house to call my own.   It was my goal to have my own place and have the ability to raise my kids in a safer place than the Bronx.    Working hard isn’t the problem.   It is all the sacrifice and loss that is the problem.    It is my goal to create as much stability for my wife and children as I can.   If I can do that, and I can help others along the way, I would pay the price of lost time.    When the garage opens and I am coming from work or a work related trip, it isn’t long before the boys are running out of the garage or down hall of the house to greet me.   It is the best!  For that moment in time, I am a rock star and I love the hugs and kisses.   I know I am working hard for them and it brings me to tears to see them have what they need and maybe a little more.

The 42nd Hour

My work day is pretty normal, at least I think it is normal.   I wake up early morning, get all the morning business taken care of, check my emails , texts and any other messages and get myself into my car.    I plug in whatever audio book I am in the middle of and head out to work.    I may take a call or two on the way to my client site and on arrival on-site find myself in a meeting or three.    Most of my day is answering questions that are mostly random and/or I am in meetings.   I would say that I am productive from my perspective for a very short time in the day.   The day may fly by but it is still a long day,  I get back home and my wife who is a full time mom and student gets us all ready for baseball practice, homework or other activities.    We get to sit down and eat together sometime around the 6 o’clock hour but all the while my smart phone goes off or emails are popping in.     I look up at her sometimes and she just gives me that look which tells me she is disappointed but understanding at the same time.    My kids know that “Daddy has to worK” almost always.    In terms of hours logged, I would say that they don’t exactly line up.   I am almost always on.   When I do take time off, it feels like I am missing something and/or I am going to be overwhelmed if I don’t keep up.   It sort of reminds me of the old Lucy episode when she is working at a chocolate factory.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8NPzLBSBzPI  It isn’t long before you miss something and all feels like it is lost.

This introduces the concept of the 72 hour work week.    HBR wrote an article about this recently http://blogs.hbr.org/2013/09/welcome-to-the-72-hour-work-we/  in context this is more about Executives, Managers and Supervisors.   I am addressing what happens for the rest of us after the 42 hour.

What happens after 42?

I could be into hour 40 by my 3rd work day.   After work and after some home life, there is work.   As a consultant, I have to read, write, and study related concepts, keep my network fresh and up to date and report on all aspects of what I am doing for my business leadership and for my clients.  These reports will look different and feel different to my various stakeholders.    I will have to be a cheerleader, and a rock for some of my team mates and to others I will ask for help and have my own tears for people who may understand how I feel.   In a lot of the work I do, it is a foreign language, it isn’t like I can talk to my family about it and it seems that the more I learn, the more I have to read to either find ways to be conversant in my area of work or find ways to teach what I am learning.    All of this takes me time.    I have seen and heard the horror stories from others as well.  I had a manager who fell asleep in his car driving home late at night and almost got killed in a tunnel.   I have known people who work from their hospital beds and of course those of us work have worked from Disney World (GUILTY).

After the 42 hour the work seems to become more productive because you are not in some unproductive meeting or dealing with a line of people physically demanding your time.   It is also where all of my business ideas and entrepreneurial work takes place.   I have developed more business opportunities at home after 8:00PM than in the office at 10:00AM by far.    Sometimes my team-mate Wendy would come to my house and bring her family while we work on ideas, even on Sunday after she goes to Church.

No Tears But I Wonder..

I recently met with some colleagues whom I consider friends.   I asked “What does the end mean, when I say, begin with the end in mind?”   Jay didn’t hesitate and said “happiness.”   It is what a lot of us want, after all, as I said in the beginning here, it would make me happy to find and maintain stability.   Long gone are the days when you get a job and you work 9-5 for one company until the end of your career.   That being said, companies today seem to expect 60+ hour work weeks.  Even when you make great business strides they look our efforts as a tragic necessity.    With my leadership, I started using the term “after the 42nd hour” in order to differentiate when I am working on after hour but seemingly mandated areas of work.

I am not alone, I have asked others about their work lives.   Organizations are demanding more and giving back less to their employees because employees have fear that if they don’t sacrifice their blood and all of their time that they are disposable and of less value than others who are willing to do more.  Of course you have outliers who just don’t seem to give a shit and work their 42.5 hours but in the end they are viewed as less than stellar performers.

YoungHowieSomewhere between my younger self and today SamBoErin and Me

FamilyCohen I don’t want to lose everything that I started fighting so hard for in the first place.  The things that really matter after the 42nd hour.

Me and E

 

On Forgiveness

What is Forgiveness?

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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