Who is Responsible?

The abandoned shopping cart…

It’s the bane of urban existence – grocery store shopping carts abandoned on your property. My partner had I had the unusual experience last week of watching two vagabonds park their “stolen” shopping cart at the edge of our property. No use asking them to take it away, they were clearly done with this conveyance and ready to leave the cart at for the next person (homeless version of ZipCar).

What would you do? What would Jesus do? And for that matter, whose problem is it anyway? This is where the interesting dialogue began in the office. Is it the store’s responsibility? (I won’t mention Sav Mor in Pueblo, Colorado). Well, actually it really isn’t. Think about it. The carts cost approximately $175-$200.00 each and it is in the grocery store’s best interest to limit their losses and protect the carts from theft. They were robbed. Granted, our four calls to the store to come pick up the cart was filed in the “when pigs fly” basket. We did get an assurance that when John came back from vacation next week, they would send him out. But the fact remains that the carts were stolen / borrowed from their store without permission. They did not place the cart on our corner.

We don’t blame the wayfarer who left the cart on our premise. It seems to be a bit of a code of travel these days. You can spot carts conveniently left at all sorts of locations (mostly from California). For those interested, we’re compiling a photo journal of end destinations for carts including river bottoms, school parking lots, churches, at the base of a monument and yes, even the inside median on a freeway. These men and women have some hard ”yakka” moving all their worldly possessions from point “a” to point “b”.

Why did the cart bother us so much? Well, I think (although my partner does not) that one picture really does tell a story and in this case, it’s a story of homelessness and vagrancy. “Not on my doorstep” says the local gentry. Well, yes, on your doorstep. We have an amazing community on the verge of a monumental socio-economic transformation. We have what Justin Holman has coined as the 4 “c”s – climate, culture, cost of living and, Colorado. (check out justinholman.com/2014/01/26/pueblo-4cs/ ). If Justin is correct, and we think he is, the community has to accept responsibility not for shopping carts, but for the attitude behind the issue.

So whose responsibility is it? I don’t have a strict answer for that, but I do have a pretty good answer, thanks to Jeanne Morse. It goes something like this. If you have an opportunity to do what is right – when no one is looking – don’t “just do it”, grab it. The end of story is that we drove our truck down to the office, put the cart in the back and returned it to the store. No fanfare, just dropped it off and put it in the cart return.

The shopping cart is just a symbol. I can hear my friends murmuring now – “if you are doing what’s right when no one is looking / reading/ listening, why did you pen this in your blog?” Good questions, and my only good answer is that sometimes we / I forget the value in doing what is right, whether it be keeping a confidence, showing a kindness to those most in need, and yes, claiming responsibility (when it probably isn’t yours) Thanks Jeanne Morse and Justin Holman. Hopefully this is a part of what is making the community different.

Corporate attitude can be a part of making your business different.  How would you have handled the shopping cart?  Let us know…..

Regulatory Compliance – Small Business’s Biggest Buzz Kill (or is it?)

When we ask clients what wins the prize for providing the most headaches, it’s almost unanimously regulatory compliance. Most comments seem to be something like: “compliance administration take the fun out of being an entrepreneur”. No matter what your business focus, governmental agencies such as HIPAA, Sarbanes-Oxley, OSHA, ADA, FINRA, SEC, etc. will have an impact how you do business.

Don’t get us wrong, we are the first to recognize that regulatory administration plays a vital role in protecting consumers, the workforce and our economy. Unfortunately the task of keeping compliant is onerous – or so we thought.

Dan Heath and Chip Heath had a great piece in Fast Company a few years ago discussing how and why to make corporate training “rock”. The story introduces us to Russ Berland, a man charged with taking a company’s (BearingPoint) compliance training to a whole new level. How he did it was amazing in itself. In one weekend he directed the filming of 10 episodes of compliance 101 for his company Bearing Point.

Getting compliance training down earns kudos – but changing corporate culture hits the ball out of the park. Can you imagine taking topics that most employees ignore or misunderstand, effectively training the same group and finally promoting a closer healthier culture?

That is exactly what Berland did. By taking key topics and setting it to a series (admittedly based on the film “The Office”) BearingPoint’s compliance training became a must see. The videos tailored specifically for the company went viral and for good reason. Every office worker could identify situations and individuals in their own environment. Phrases and situations in the broadcast soon became jargon, employees eagerly awaited next Monday’s new episode. According to Dan and Chip:

“Every business has these “untouchable” issues. They make us uncomfortable, and we usually deal with our discomfort by retreating behind legalistic language. But if we really take these incidents seriously — if we’re committed to putting an end to sexual harassment or improper billing or dishonest communication — then we need to show a little bravery. Our three-ring binders won’t change a thing. But a little humor and humanity might.”

We say “bravo”. Ignorance of regulatory compliance is not an excuse – embracing regulation sets you free!

http://www.fastcompany.com/1460648/how-make-corporate-training-rock https://vimeo.com/7341316

Leadership Lessons from don Francisco

We recently received notice that the popular Latin program, Sabado Gigante will end after a successful 53 year reign.  The program was unique in the fact that its popularity spanned the 160 nations of South and Central America, Mexico and the United States.  There is no doubt the variety show with significant slap stick comedy that transcended all politics and culture was one of the leading reasons for success.  However, the star, and for the last 30 years, producer, don Francisco was the key ingredient.  His following was on both sides of the screen.

So we beg the question – what qualities does Francisco share with other performer/producers who have managed to keep the public loyal and engaged for decades?

Dan Goleman (2004) had an interesting piece in the Harvard Business Review that may shine some light on the long time success of don Francisco and others like him in the entertainment industry (see Daryl Somers – Hey Hey It’s Saturday).

Over the years, don Francisco demonstrated all five components of emotional intelligence at work: self awareness, self regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skills. Rumors may dispute some hallmarks, but in truth, possessing these qualities along with a true love for his business resulted in historical success.

Thank you for your lessons in leadership, don Franciso.


Trust Me, I’m your Manager

We recently spoke to a supervisor who complained that her team had no respect for the job or her authority. What made matters worse was the fact that she felt management neither cared or supported her in her duties. Generating trust and respect of management by employees in the workplace is essential for productivity, team morale, employee retention and development of a positive corporate culture. But it takes time and planning to achieve. In short – you can’t just ask for respect; trust and respect needs to be earned.

There are five never changing guides to follow by supervisors and managers in their quest to build respect and a positive corporate environment are simple. We won’t try to fool you, the hard part is commitment and follow through.

Manager’s Roadmap to Respect:

First, if you want to be respected, you need to respect others. Take time to listen with understanding. Don’t abuse your employees’ time and effort. Don’t ask an employee to perform duties that you would not do.

Second, managers truly do need to lead by example. It’s an old tried and true statement but essential for development of trust. Don’t belittle, gossip, or lie. Be completely upfront and let your team know that what you say, you believe. How you conduct yourself should never be at the expense of another. And the manner you treat others is how you, yourself would want to be treated.

Third, be open about business issues. If restructuring is on the horizon, help prepare your team. If important to the team, news, both good and bad needs to be shared truthfully with the team. You want your team to believe you when you speak.

Fourth, if you’re wrong admit it and if you don’t know, say you’ll find out. Too many times we see managers that feel they need to be right all the time. It just doesn’t happen. We’re human and make mistakes. One of the most respected traits of a good manager is the ability to correct a wrong.

Finally, if you want your team to be loyal show your loyalty to them. Don’t gossip and do not tolerate gossip. Stand up for your team members and team. Make them know their contribution is a priority in the business structure.

Set the tone for your small business or department by demonstrating good character. Avoid lying and spinning company news when under pressure. Admit when you don’t know the answer, and promise to find answers if possible.

Non-Profits and Turf Battles – How can such good people be so devious?

We’ve all seen it. Two very successful and well-meaning non-profits joined in the goal of making their community a better place to live, develop a schism, competing for precious charitable dollars. Perhaps even more detrimental is their development of similar if not identical programs that have no respect for economies of scale. Duplicate summer camps, duplicate fund raisers duplicate personnel resources.

Taken a step further, conflict arises between organizations and individuals over goals and objectives, who is more beneficial, whose donors are whose, and fund-raiser competition for precious time and dollars?

Fast Company had a great article by Robert Herbold on his book outlining the phenomenon called the Fiefdom Syndrome: The Fiefdom Syndrome: The Turf Battles That Undermine Careers and Companies — and How to Overcome Them.*

The problem begins when individuals, groups, or divisions–out of fear–seek to make themselves vital to their organizations and unconsciously or sometimes deliberately try to protect their turf or reshape their environment to gain as much control as possible over what goes on.

Herbold give the example in his experience with Proctor and Gamble when the heads of the sales organizations in the various countries eventually positioned themselves as president of the company in their respective countries. And clearly a president needs his own finance, HR, and IT personnel. Before long, they were developing their own marketing efforts, often out of sync with the overall strategic and marketing direction of Procter & Gamble’s products and services…

Subsidiaries came up with their own ways to analyze their business, methods that tended to emphasize how well they were doing. They institutionalized those new measures and used them to report on their business.

Let’s apply this to the non-profit world. We’ve mediated two cases (successfully) centered on “fiefdom” issues with non-profit agencies. Quite frankly, we’re surprised we haven’t seen more. Why do intelligent agencies build competing fiefdoms? As Herbold’s read pointed out: competition fueled by the need for survival and breakdown in communication lays fertile ground for turf wars.

Non-profits do so very much good in our communities for so many citizens. The price tag to replace these organizations by government services would be absolutely staggering. We need service organizations to keep our community safe, and functioning on an optimum level. Our message is one of hope. The CEOs of two of the organizations we worked with now have coffee every Friday morning. They readily admit that some Fridays they don’t even mention their organizations. But when they do, it tends to be problem sharing usually followed by some brainstorming. Our thought is that even those weeks without business talk, the friendship that has evolved is a more powerful business tool.

If your non-profit is fighting a critical turf battle, it may be productive to build some bridges. Coffee every Friday is a good start!

Robert Herbold. The Fiefdom Syndrome: The Turf Battles That Undermine Careers and Companies — and How to Overcome Them.   (2005)


Non-Profits and Turf Battles – How can such good people be so devious?

Happy Presidents Day – Remembering John F Kennedy

In observance of Presidents’ Day – Remembering a perceived irreconcilable conflict.

Jeff Sachs – “Lessons in Peace Making” seems an appropriate tribute to this Presidents Day.

It was the Cuban Missile Crises of 1962. For any of you Boomers out there, you’ll remember you and your family sitting in front of the black and white Motorola for the 6:00 news, listening to Chet Huntley and David Brinkley painting a picture of mounting doom between two superpowers:  the Soviet Union and the United States of America. Escalation of threats and missile escalation seem inevitable when air photography proved soviet arms were strategically placed in Cuba.

The key take away from this great read is that when the majority of decision makers felt that proliferation had reached a point of no return and that peace could not be achieved, President John F Kennedy’s vision was different. According to Sachs, Kennedy understood that tension came from hard liners on each side and that each action of aggression produced an immediate and more severe reaction. Just as interpersonal conflict may easily blossom into an upward spiral. Is there a point where peace becomes impossible?

Not according to Kennedy. Of conflict, Kennedy noted in his famous peace speech that “too many of us think (peace) impossible. Too many think it unreal. But that is a dangerous, defeatist belief. It leads to the conclusion that war is inevitable, that mankind is doomed, that we are gripped by forces we cannot control. We need not accept that view”. (Our emphasis).

Kennedy’s claim that both the Soviet Union and the U.S. had a mutually deep interest in a just and genuine peace and in halting the arms race. This very precious and powerful revelation earned quite an outstanding response from Nikita Khrushchev when he reported to the US envoy that the speech was the finest by any American president since FDR.

Negotiations followed and the result was the Partial Nuclear Test Ban Treaty which was followed five years later by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

We like to use this illustration when conflicts escalate and agreements seem impossible. And on this Presidents Day celebration, we give thanks to the leadership and vision of John F Kennedy.


Give Peace a Chance

In July 2013, Rotary International, the century old service organization added their peace initiative to the 4 Avenues of Service. What a profound statement. The presiding RI President, Sakuji Tanaka proclaimed “our business is peace”. An extremely powerful objective.

In his statement, Tanaka noted that peace is more than the absence of conflict – it brings freedom, security, and happiness. Going further, he noted that peace is the enemy of persecution and instability. We’ve made a study of Rotary’s efforts and it’s remarkable. Keep in mind there are 1.2 million Rotarians around the world representing 34,000 clubs. Peace efforts are as small and contained as a sponsored elementary peace day and as large as an international sponsor of Peace Fellows (600 to date who are world leaders).

One of the leading questions worldwide is what is the greatest impediment to peace? Is it generational misunderstandings, global politics, wars? According to Jessica Tuchman Mathews, president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, bad governance tops the list. As noted by Mathews, a government that does not care about its own people feeds anger. Coupled this issue with hunger, disease, and fear fueled by lack of safety and the multi-dimensional components of hatred unfold.

Bravo, Rotary International for adopting this important avenue of service. All Rotarians are encouraged to:

  1. Educate their clubs about Peace Centers and member fellows.
  2. Enlist community partners involved in peace efforts such as the Red Cross or Doctors Without Boarders
  3. And finally – use their social media to share information on peace initiatives. Rotary International’s website is a rich resource for projects around the world.

About Rotary Peace Centers:

Each year, up to 100 Rotary Peace Fellows are chosen to participate in a master’s degree or certificate program at one of our partner universities. Fellows study subjects related to the root causes of conflict and explore innovative solutions that address real-world needs. We have peace centers around the globe at:

  • Chulalongkorn University, Thailand (certificate program)
  • Duke University at Chapel Hill USA
  • ,International Christian University, Japan
  • University of Bedford, England
  • University of Queensland, Australia
  • Uppsala University, Sweden

Attention all Organizations – Train your Managers to be Mediators!

We were recently directed to an article by Lisa Dunbar by New Directions Consulting (Vermont and New York) entitled “Conflict Management – the Manager as Mediator”.  It holds an important message for any organization that emphasizes the benefit of team building.  What we like, is the discussion on the need for our managers to recognize their potential role in conflict resolution.  We’ve dealt with several organization that have experienced inter-departmental conflict that was allow to grow simply because the manager sent all complaints to HR.

How does a department get to this point – where managers know when to step into their role as mediator?  The article points out three areas of potential:

  1. First and probably most typical, is any informal problem solving or group/team discussion where conflict surfaces
  2. Customer interaction where the customer is upset (internal or external)
  3. Staff member to staff member conflict where they are unable to reach resolution themselves

We would like to add one more area:  conflicts involving employee and manager.  At first it would seem counterintuitive.   Mediators, the role held by managers,  by definition must be unbiased.  It seems a stretch to expect this from a manager who has been drawn in to a conflict situation.  However, we see the manager’s role easily moving to one as mediator/facilitator in these types of situations.

Allow us a brief example.  Manager A is dealing with a belligerent employee that has taken the opportunity at reviews to complain about how he/she is being treated in respect to other employees (requested time off, work load, advancement opportunities).  Does the manager have the skills to remain neutral in this situation?  Probably not, but the manager certainly would have the ability to facilitate communication that is open and on track.

By having a structured process in place, managers do have the tools to identify and deal with conflict before they reach the critical stage.  Dunbar’s article identifies the need for a clear process to guide managers.  Elements include:  preparation, examine all points of view, uncover what is really important to employee as well as manager, brainstorm / search for options and finally commitment by both manager and employee to a plan that includes follow-up.

Not all managers have the talents necessary to objectively look at both sides and treat the complaining partner with respect. But, our suggestion is that all managers, regardless of personality or attitude would benefit by structural training.

The important message is that managers need to be given tools through training and staff development to function in a mediator role.  Have a structure in place that includes training and reinforcement.  The stakes for business efficiency are too high to be held ransom to conflict gone unchecked.

Good quick read:  http://www.newdirectionsconsulting.com/leadership-engagement/conflict-management-the-manager-as-conflict-mediator/#comment-633345

What to do when an employee sees red –

Dealing with anger in the workplace is one of the most difficult and awkward processes a supervisor/manager/director must face. Depending upon frequency, subject of anger and team dynamics, reactions may range from ignoring the problem to full scale outside intervention. Managers we speak to often lament the trend to give legitimacy to trivial complaints. Ignoring the problem and hoping it will go away, is seldom – if ever a valid approach. Herein lies the problem.

We suggest 5 steps to deal with anger in the workplace. Once again, much depends upon the issue, the participants and the history. Using the following 5 steps will go a long way to helping the office work through anger issues.

Acknowledge the Anger. It can be as subtle as asking “what’s going on?” Be sure to frame questions as open ended that will open the way for conversations. Asking “are you going to be okay?” will give you a yes or no answer and discussion will probably end there.

Find the Source of Anger. When anger has been allowed to continue and build. Anger outbreaks may not necessarily represent the real issue. Spending time sleuthing the underlying issues will provide a good starting point for discussion.

Make Communication a Priority. Not everyone finds conversation about anger comfortable. Letting participants vent, not placing blame and simply listening is powerful. Foster communication.

Problem Solving. Get input from all participants. Sometimes you will be amazed that answers may be more similar than not. Treat the interaction as a problem solving venture. Once again – don’t let blame be a component of the process.

Clarify Expectations. Staff needs to know your objectives for office behavior. Identify your expectations and let them be known – and reminded.

We won’t kid you – there will be times that issues will be best served by outside help. Always keep in touch with your HR department. Never let anger run your office.