Monday, March 23, 2015

Values and Behaviors in Sixth Grade Language: Teamwork

I'm continuing my series of posts where I start translating the observable behaviors associated with my organization's core values into simpler "sixth grade" language. Doing so will hopefully make them more memorable--for my team, yes, but more importantly for me, who has an obligation to reinforce their important role in our organization by calling out instances in which people are and are not acting in accordance with them.

I've already tackled Leadership, Enthusiasm, and Integrity. Last up is Teamwork, which we define with the statement, "We work together to deliver exceptional service." It has seven observable behaviors associated with it, and here is a chart where I'm attempting to show a before-and-after comparison after applying the "sixth-grade" test to each one.


TEAMWORK
We work together to deliver exceptional service.

BEFORE
AFTER
1
We understand and can describe how our work supports organizational objectives.
We know our part in the big picture.
2
We seek to understand our members, the world they live in, and the problems they face.
We understand our members' world.
3
We are responsive to inquiries, and are available when traveling or out of the office.
We make ourselves available.
4
We share information openly and proactively, demonstrating an understanding that our actions impact others.
We share before being asked.
5
We participate productively in team discussions, collaborating to determine the best ideas, helping to clarify needed actions, and respecting the role of the team leader.
We're good team members and good team leaders.

6
We take responsibility for our tasks and hold others accountable for theirs.
We do what we say we'll do.

7
We value and build long-term relationships.
We value our relationships.


Now, as I did with Leadership, Enthusiasm, and Integrity, I'm going to try and boil things down even more. Seven behaviors are going to be hard to remember and keep track of, no matter how simply they are described. As I look through the new list of Teamwork behaviors for common themes, I can see the following actions that would be preferable in almost any situation we find ourselves in.

1. Actions that demonstrate respect and consideration of others. Isn't this the very foundation of good teamwork? People who are selfish, or who only think about themselves, or only connect with others to the degree that it helps them accomplish their goals; they cannot in any way be described as a team player. By way of contrast, people who value the success that comes with teamwork think and act with an understanding of the team dynamics and their role within it. They share information, they keep their commitments, they act in ways that values not the short-term goal, but the long-term relationship.

2. Actions that show an understanding of organizational objectives. Acting in alignment with the bigger picture is absolutely vital. There is a certain amount of "top-down" communication that is required for this. For the staff to understand the organization's objectives, the CEO must communicate them. But success on those objectives only comes when that communication is met with a equal measure of "bottom-up" alignment. In other words, I can tell you what it is we want to achieve, and I can even suggest some ways that you can help us make that happen, but only you a align what you do with that overall objective. The first step is the mental buy-in. You must commit yourself to the task. But the second and more important step is the decision-making. What are you going to stop doing because it doesn't support our organizational objectives, and what are you going to start doing because it does? These are the actions that people who understand teamwork will take.

There. That's all four of our core values. Now, next week, I'll compare each value's short list of actions and start looking for even more consolidation.

Stay tuned.

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This post was written by Eric Lanke, an association executive, blogger and author. For more information, visit www.ericlanke.blogspot.com, follow him on Twitter @ericlanke or contact him at eric.lanke@gmail.com.

Image Source
http://www.betterphoto.com/gallery/big.asp?photoID=11803691&catID=&style=&rowNumber=2&memberID=251445


Saturday, March 21, 2015

The Accidental Superpower by Peter Ziehan

I’ve heard Ziehan speak at some of the conferences I attend. In fact, we’ve had him speak at one of the conferences my own association manages. He’s insightful, opinionated, and entertaining. A great combination, if you ask me, for any conference speaker.

In The Accidental Superpower, Ziehan puts all three traits on display. The book is almost a manifesto, describing from a very deep well of geopolitical knowledge and analysis the factors that make “the countries that rule the world the countries that rule the world,” and why America is and will continue to be the pre-eminent superpower for generations to come.

The balance of transport determines wealth and security. Deepwater navigation determines reach. Industrialization determines economic muscle tone. And the three combined shape everything from exposure to durability to economic cycles to outlook. The Americans have been remarkably fortunate in that their geography is the best in the world for all three factors, and beginning in 1890 they finally started leveraging that geography to become the world’s superpower.

America’s geographic superiority is so strong, Ziehan frequently argues during that book, that even incompetence can’t keep it from being a superpower.

Only the United States could engage in a war as dubious as Iraq or roll out a social policy as byzantine as Obamacare and walk away largely unscathed. In most countries, suspect leadership is often rewarded with national destruction. By contrast, the United States is so huge and so far removed from the world and has such deep reserves of national power that highly questionable or even failed policies can lead to a second term.

I love this perspective. The dynamic Ziehan is describing, I think, leads directly to the paradox of American exceptionalism. As a nation, the United States can be incompetent. But it is also so rich that its incompetence is not capable of bringing it down. In some respects, the nation itself is like the billionaires living in horse-blinded gated communities that are so often parodied in its media. Blind to their own ignorance and incompetence, they have the money they need to solve any problem, and eliminate any threat--or at least build a taller wall around themselves to hide the more disturbing realities of the world from their view. We are the best country in the world, they proclaim, but because of their wealth, they really have no objective standard by which such a comparison could be made.

Another underlying premise of Ziehan’s thesis is that the United States is the imperial power it is, not because an unbroken succession of Ceasars have occupied the White House, but because of something called Bretton Woods--a conference of world leaders held in the wake of World War 2 in which the United States agreed to guarantee the safety of the seas for global trade. That’s a stark contrast to some of the libertarian-themed books I’ve been reading lately, in which the growing imperial power of the American president is only a repudiation of the nation’s founding principles and an irrevocable slide towards despotism and chaos. Maybe it is that, but Ziehan’s perspective gives a much less nefarious motive to that trend.

Looking at American power projection through this lens allows Ziehan to paint a much different picture than the one I’ve been looking at as of late.

American involvement in the Persian Gulf has not been in order to secure energy supplies for the United States, but instead to supply energy for its energy-starved Bretton Woods partners in Europe and Asia. Put more directly, the Americans do not protect the Persian Gulf kingdoms and emirates so that the Americans can use Middle Eastern oil, but so that their Bretton Woods partners in Japan, Korea, China, Taiwan, Thailand, India, and Pakistan can.

But Ziehan only describes the world this way to make the larger point that all that is going to change in the next ten to twenty years. The stirrings of that change are already being felt. The cause is bred into our very culture, which has been shaped by generations of insulated plenty. Ziehan describes this reality of the United States of the past and the near future like this.

Every culture has a certain personality impressed upon it during the first century or two of its existence as geography and history intermingle to shape exactly who the people in question turn out to be. The formative period for American culture was the pioneer era. Consider the time frame:

While Napoleonic France was reintroducing Europe’s peasant armies to the horrors of war, famine, and massed relocations, American freeman were happily pushing west to settle some of the world’s best lands. Within a year of breaking ground, all could--via the world’s best maritime transit system--sell grain on global markets for hard currency.

It is largely irrelevant that the Americans’ ability to collectively capitalize upon its advantages was due more to an unplanned confluence of unprecedented factors--the arrival of millions of Europeans anxious to escape Europe’s wars, the largely completed genocide of the natives, the ease of accessing the Ohio valley, the presence of the world’s best natural waterway network, the availability of the world’s largest contiguous piece or arable land--rather than some grand scheme. But such a phalanx of coincidences does not diminish one bit that the Americans’ frontier period was the largest and fastest cultural and economic expansion in human history. And it held for five generations: The Americans found more and better lands, serviced by more and better waterways. It may have been accidental, but it held for so long and was so core to the lives of so many Americans that as a national culture Americans came to think of such an upward trajectory as normal. Ordained even. God shed his grace on thee indeed.

But what happens when things do not get better each and every year? What happens when the Americans suffer a stinging, public setback? What happens when the rest of the world reaches out and touches Americans on terms other than America’s?

They panic. They panic with the desperation of a people who have no sense of balance, no perspective, no understanding of context, no sense that not everyone in the world wins every time. And then they fight back with everything they have. Were the United States a small country such overreactions would be odd, perhaps even comical. But the United States is the global superpower and its overreactions typically reshape both itself and the wider world.

These overreactions have happened before. Sputnik and the resulting space race. Vietnam and the resulting hyper-militarization. Japanophobia and the resulting technological revolution. September 11 and the resulting change to a continual and pre-emptive war footing.

But the granddaddy of overreactions is yet to come, and one of its core stimulants are the lop-sided generational demographics that are facing the United States and most of the world’s democracies. In most places, there are already too many old people and not enough young people to support them. As a result:

Governments the world over will have to make ever more difficult decisions. One route is to placate the aged with the levels of income support and health care that they have been promised, but to do so by increasingly taxing an ever-shrinking pool of workers and therefore enervating the economy. The other is to dispossess retirees in an attempt to husband the economy’s every-shrinking size and strength, not a likely outcome considering that most of the world’s democracies are aging into gerontocracies. Regardless of path, lower standards of living will be on deck for most segments of most societies. ...

And that inevitable contraction will have a ripple effect across the global economy. Ziehan describes it like this:

… The international economy will spasm and contract. The loss of the developed world’s capital surplus as well as the developed world’s consuming demographics will force harsh decisions on every economic entity, whether state or private, across the world.

Consumption of both raw commodities and finished goods will plummet. Countries dependent upon exports for their livelihood will suffer immeasurably. Lower demand for finished good in the developed world will leave droves of firms and workers in both the developed and developing world destitute. But lower demand for the inputs that go into the infrastructure and industry that make global manufacturing possible will not necessarily reduce their price, just their sales volume. Without the rubric of the free trade order or the active management and protection of U.S. forces [withdrawn because the U.S. will no longer be able to afford nor see a need for it], the shipment of commodities will no longer be a risk-free venture. Between higher capital costs and higher insurance costs, only the lower-cost producers will have a relatively secure place in the market, and that assumes that either they or their clients are able to guarantee passage. The stage will be set for lower and more erratic supplies of industrial commodities, but not necessarily at lower price points. ...

It’s a bleak picture that Ziehan paints. One that this Gen Xer would prefer to blame on the selfishness of the Boomers, but that is probably too simplistic a construction. Even if the aging population is force to tighten its belt, the effects Ziehan predicts are sure to come about since they will not be part of the world’s “consuming demographic”--the young people building lives by buying houses and raising children. But, in this dark future…

… The one exception to the rule will be energy supplies sourced from shale in North America. The mix of local political stability, local supply, and local demand will prove the magic mix to uncouple North American oil prices from global pricing patterns, much in the way that the early years of the shale revolution did the same for natural gas prices.

In many ways, Ziehan argues, energy from its own shale deposits is the factor that almost guarantees the continued ascendancy of the United States. Dependent on no other part of the world for its energy needs, able to easily trade with its giant neighbors to the north and south, there will be some suffering in America as the rest of the world remakes itself, but not nearly to a degree that will cause anything here to topple over.

Unless, that is, you start thinking about the coming drug war. Not the one the federal government is waging in Central and South America, but the one the drug cartels are already beginning to wage on the streets of many American cities. And their fuel, according to Ziehan, is not spoiled and addicted Americans who demand their product, but the legions of undocumented immigrants that they can force and extort into working for them.

Because illegal immigrants are undocumented, they have difficulty gaining access to the basic pieces of modern society, including identification such as driver’s licenses and financial access such as bank accounts. That has far more damning impact than it may seem at first blush. With limited access to the banking system, illegals operate in the cash economy--they are far more likely to have significant quantities of cash on their person or in their home at any given time. Since illegals fear being discovered and deported, they often do not contact law enforcement when such inevitable attacks occur. In the modern age of credit cards and PayPal, that makes illegals a far more lucrative target for robbers and muggers than even rich Caucasians. There is a term for areas where people who live outside of normal social support networks exist: ghettos. Unique among American immigrant communities, Mexican and Central American illegals live in ghettos.

And, it is in these ghettos that the drug cartels are finding the Spanish-speaking population that it needs to take over not just the delivery of illegal drugs to the United States, but the distribution of those substances in many American cities.

The American method for “managing” its illegal population has created a large community in each major city that lives outside the protection of local law enforcement and financial monitoring. The cops’ patrols are less effective without the illegals’ active participation. The Fed has no data bank to work from. The illegals speak the same language--and often come from the same country--as the cartels’ front men. It is a community setup that is perfect for the cartels to recruit from and ultimately control.

Ziehan tips his hand when he refers to the American method for “managing” its illegal population, for his prescribed solution to this vexing problem the United States will face in its near future is for legalization.

Not of drugs, but of immigration. Opening the border with the issuance of worker and travel permits would with the speed of a printer transform America’s Hispanic ghettos into areas where people have legitimate identification and store their money in banks like everyone else. Cooperation with police would no longer be perceived as a sharp negative, and the Federal Reserve’s anti-money laundering tools would suddenly have data to work with. Most of all, the cartels would lose their fertile rest-and-recruitment grounds north of the border. Legalization wouldn’t solve everything, but it is the single biggest step that the United States could take.

Ziehan’s book is filled with insights like this. Prescriptions that, out of context, may sound ludicrous to those steeped in the political currents of the United States. But with Ziehan’s searing analysis, many of them seem not so crazy after all.

His whole take on China is an exemplary case in point.

China is the country that has benefited the most from the American Cold War strategy of market access and defanging the various maritime powers, and therefore has the most to lose. In the imminent future, the Chinese face three crushing challenges. First, Japan is likely to start acting less like an NGO and more like the Japan of ages past. Second, China’s geography is nearly as riven as Europe’s, with the great myth of Chinese history that unity is normal soon to give way to a more complex and messier reality. Third, everything that made the Chinese economy a success, everything that has put cars on the road, roads on the map, money in the citizens’ pockets, and food in their mouths, is completely dependent upon an international economic and strategic environment wholly maintained by a country that doesn’t like China all that much.

Indeed, his perspective that the ascendant China of today is an aberration, not a preordained dynasty, seems to be becoming more and more credible every day.

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This post was written by Eric Lanke, an association executive, blogger and author. For more information, visit www.ericlanke.blogspot.com, follow him on Twitter @ericlanke or contact him at eric.lanke@gmail.com.


Monday, March 16, 2015

Values and Behaviors in Sixth Grade Language: Integrity

I'm continuing my series of posts where I start translating the observable behaviors associated with my organization's core values into simpler "sixth grade" language. Doing so will hopefully make them more memorable--for my team, yes, but more importantly for me, who has an obligation to reinforce their important role in our organization by calling out instances in which people are and are not acting in accordance with them.

I've already tackled Leadership and Enthusiasm. Next up is Integrity, which we define with the statement, "We act with honesty and professionalism in all our relationships." It has eight observable behaviors associated with it, and here is a chart where I'm attempting to show a before-and-after comparison after applying the "sixth-grade" test to each one.


INTEGRITY
We act with honesty and professionalism in all our relationships.

BEFORE
AFTER
1
We have a calming influence in stressful situations.
We keep things calm.
2
We are tolerant and understanding of people’s differences.
We accept others for who they are.
3
We treat people with respect independent of their role or disagreement with us.
We respect others.
4
We listen to other perspectives, and focus on resolving rather than blaming.
We solve problems together.
5
We address conflicts openly and with tact, directly with the people concerned.
We seek to resolve conflict.

6
We speak with candor, saying what we think even if it is controversial.
We share what we think.

7
We concede when we don’t know something, are receptive to constructive criticism, admit our mistakes, and are the first to apologize.
We need others to help us improve.

8
We question actions that are inconsistent with our values.
We help others live up to our values.


Now, as I did with Leadership and Enthusiasm, I'm going to try and boil things down even more. Eight behaviors are going to be hard to remember and keep track of, no matter how simply they are described. As I look through the new list of Integrity behaviors for common themes, I can see the following actions that would be preferable in almost any situation we find ourselves in.

1. Actions that address rather than avoid conflict. When it comes to professionalism, this may be the granddaddy of all possible behaviors. Acknowledging that it is one of the most difficult things to do in any relationship--business or personal--it is still the undeniable hallmark of professionalism. When conflict is creating a barrier to progress or success, the person with integrity will calmly, tactfully, and respectfully address the actual issue with the people involved. And if those people have the same commitment to integrity, they will recognize what the instigator is doing and embrace a productive process of resolution.

2. Actions that humbly seek mutual growth. People with integrity know that they are not perfect. They also know that the people around them are not perfect, either. And they know that these imperfect people are functioning in an imperfect system. With all of these barriers and limitations, their response isn't selfish. It isn't focused on their own growth and rewards at the expense of others. Their response is fundamentally humble. They need to grow and so does everyone else around them. If there is a way for everyone to do that openly and together, then that is going to add the most value to themselves, their relationships, and the organization.

That's as far as I'm going this week, and I'm going to tackle the remaining value in a similar fashion before coming back to compare each value's short list of actions for even more consolidation.

Stay tuned.

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This post was written by Eric Lanke, an association executive, blogger and author. For more information, visit www.ericlanke.blogspot.com, follow him on Twitter @ericlanke or contact him at eric.lanke@gmail.com.

Image Source
http://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/integrity.htm

Monday, March 9, 2015

Values and Behaviors in Sixth Grade Language: Enthusiasm

I'm continuing my series of posts where I start translating the observable behaviors associated with my organization's core values into simpler "sixth grade" language. Doing so will hopefully make them more memorable--for my team, yes, but more importantly for me, who has an obligation to reinforce their important role in our organization by calling out instances in which people are and are not acting in accordance with them.

I've already tackled Leadership. Next up is Enthusiasm, which we define with the statement, "We are excited about growing as individuals and about growing the organization." It has eight observable behaviors associated with it, and here is a chart where I'm attempting to show a before-and-after comparison after applying the "sixth-grade" test to each one.


ENTHUSIASM
We are excited about growing as individuals and about growing the organization.

BEFORE
AFTER
1
We identify gaps in our knowledge and skill set, and take actions to correct them.
We want to learn.
2
We look for and accept new challenges.
We push ourselves.
3
We are willing to experiment and try new ways of doing things.
We try new things.
4
We apply gained knowledge and openly share the results.
We teach others.
5
We bring energy and fun to the workplace.
We have fun.

6
We care intensely about our success, celebrating wins big and small.
We want to succeed.

7
We inspire others with our positive attitude, enjoying the journey as well as the goal.
We like our work.

8
We display tenacity, pursuing the course of action and identifying the resources necessary to do the job right, and asking the questions necessary to get root causes.
We don't give up.


Now, as I did with Leadership, I'm going to try and boil things down even more. Eight behaviors are going to be hard to remember and keep track of, no matter how simply they are described. As I look through the new list of Enthusiasm behaviors for common themes, I can see the following actions that would be preferable in almost any situation we find ourselves in.

1. Actions that demonstrate a commitment to growth and development. There may be no simpler way to say it. Enthusiastic people are always looking for ways to improve their knowledge and skills. And the process that is determining what work to do and doing it provides them with the ideal setting for that growth and development. Those who always stay within their comfort zone can be reliable performers, but they won't open themselves or their organizations up to the kind of breakthrough developments that are increasingly needed for success. Figure out where you can improve and pursue it in the context of the work you do.

2. Actions that show enjoyment of the work. And have fun doing it. Enthusiastic people don't succumb to the drudgery or the difficulty of the tasks that must be performed. To them, the journey is just as much fun as arriving at the destination. They have an intense desire to succeed, but they're going to make sure they have fun getting there.

That's as far as I'm going this week, and I'm going to tackle the remaining two values in a similar fashion before coming back to compare each value's short list of actions for even more consolidation.

Stay tuned.

+ + +

This post was written by Eric Lanke, an association executive, blogger and author. For more information, visit www.ericlanke.blogspot.com, follow him on Twitter @ericlanke or contact him at eric.lanke@gmail.com.

Image Source
http://teamfamilyfitness.com/the-three-es/

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides

Already latent inside me, like the future 120 mph serve of a tennis prodigy, was the ability to communicate between the genders, to see not with the monovision of one sex but with the stereoscope of both. ...

This, to me, is the most interesting and most accomplished aspect of Jeffrey Eugenides’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, Middlesex. In offering the reader his intersex narrator Calliope (or Cal) Stephanides, Eugenides has created something approaching the unique in the world of fiction.

… So that at the makaria after the funeral, I looked around the table at the Grecian Gardens and knew what everyone was feeling. ...

A narrator that, being both sexes, can authoritatively live inside the heads of both genders.

… Milton was beset by a storm of emotion he refused to acknowledge. He worried that if he spoke he might start to cry, and so said nothing throughout the meal, and plugged his mouth with bread. Tessie was seized with a desperate love for Chapter Eleven and me and kept hugging us and smoothing our hair, because children were the only balm against death. Sourmelina was remembering the day at Grand Trunk when she’d told Lefty that she would know his nose anywhere. Peter Tatakis was lamenting the fact that he would never have a widow to mourn his death. Father Mike was favorably reviewing the eulogy he’d given earlier in the morning, while Aunt Zo was wishing she had married someone like her father.

Mixing them so seamlessly in the mind’s eye of the reader that, eventually, we forget which gender is speaking to us, and allowing us to project the unique mixture of masculine and feminine that lives within our own gender identity onto the text.

There are moments in the text, usually at the beginning of chapters, when Cal, the adult Cal, not the child and teen whose story makes up the bulk of the novel, but the reminiscing narrator, living in Germany, who has been both a girl and a boy and who now has the sensibilities of both, speaks to us about the strange and bifurcated world that he sees and that everyone else takes for granted.

Leaving, riding through the streets, I was hailed by the intergalactic streetwalkers. In their Manga suits, their moon boots, they tossed their teased doll’s hair and called, Hallo-hallo. Maybe they would be just the thing for me. Remunerated to tolerate most anything. Shocked by nothing. And yet, as I pedaled past their lineup, their Strich, my feelings toward them were not a man’s. I was aware of a good girl’s reproachfulness and disdain, along with a perceptible, physical empathy. As they shifted their hips, hooking me with their darkly painted eyes, my mind filled not with images of what I might do to them, but with what it must be like for them, night after night, hour after hour, to have to do it. The Huren themselves didn’t look too closely at me. They saw my silk scarf, my Zenga pants, my gleaming shoes. They saw the money in my wallet. Hallo, they called. Hallo. Hallo.

And as these passages build up, you come to realize that Cal is the best of all possible protagonists, because he is someone that every reader can identify with. Masculine, feminine, or some idiosyncratic mixture of both, Cal is someone any reader can get behind, can root for, can empathize with, can see themselves in.

Or is he?

I’m quickly approaching the moment of discovery; of myself by myself, which was something I knew all along and yet didn’t know; and the discovery by poor, half-blind Dr. Philobosian of what he’d failed to notice at my birth and continued to miss during every annual physical thereafter; and the discovery by my parents of what kind of child they’d given birth to (answer: the same child, only different); and finally, the discovery of the mutated gene that had lain buried in our bloodline for two hundred and fifty years, biding its time, waiting for Ataturk to attack, for Hajienestis to turn into glass, for a clarinet to play seductively out a back window, until, coming together with its recessive twin, it started the chain of events that led up to me, here, writing in Berlin.

Because Cal’s story is a difficult one. It’s difficult from a pre-destined point-of-view, as shown above. Unless your mind bends that way, you’re likely to have trouble with the fatalism that clings to the narrative. At times, it is almost like the genes that make Cal the way he is are characters in the story--bending events and their trajectories towards the inevitability of Cal’s unlikely existence.

But primarily Cal’s story is difficult because of the way it puts our common understanding of gender through a meat grinder. The reminiscing adult Cal is one thing (a kind of wise uncle who wants to stretch our understanding but who is also willing to be gentle with our sensibilities) but the Callie turned Cal that greets us four-fifths of the way through the novel is something altogether different.

At restaurants I began to use the men’s room. This was perhaps the hardest adjustment. I was scandalized by the filth of men’s rooms, the rank smells and pig sounds, the grunting and huffing from the stalls. Urine was forever puddled on the floors. Scraps of soiled toilet paper adhered to the commodes. When you entered a stall, more often than not a plumbing emergency greeted you, a brown tide, a soup of dead frogs. To think that a toilet stall had once been a haven for me! That was all over now. I could see at once that men’s rooms, unlike the ladies’, provided no comfort. Often there wasn’t even a mirror, or any hand soap. And while the closeted, flatulent men showed no shame, at the urinals men acted nervous. They looked straight ahead like horses with blinders. ...

Cal’s collision of competing identities is a violent one--inevitably so, I suppose, given the culture he lives in--and we are drawn helplessly along with him for the highs and the lows. As with the vivid descriptions of his gag-inducing experiences in the men’s room, we are introduced to both the outright perverts and hidden angels that he encounters in the spaces between our socially-constructed gender roles and identities. Some, I believe, will be fascinated by this sideshow, while others, perhaps too many, will struggle with accepting it as an allowable construct for drama and fiction.

But throughout it, the laser-like insights into the things that make some of us men and some of us women remain.

... I understood at those times what I was leaving behind: the solidarity of a shared biology. Women know what it means to have a body. They understand its difficulties and frailties, its glories and pleasures. Men think their bodies are theirs alone. They tend them in private, even in public.

In the end, Eugenides tries to bring to all home.

After I returned from San Francisco and started living as a male, my family found that, contrary to popular opinion, gender was not all that important. My change from girl to boy was far less dramatic than the distance anybody travels from infancy to adulthood. In most ways I remained the person I’d always been. Even now, though I live as a man, I remain in essential ways Tessie’s daughter. I’m still the one who remembers to call her every Sunday. I’m the one she recounts her growing list of ailments to. Like any good daughter, I’ll be the one to nurse her in her old age. We still discuss what’s wrong with men; we still, on visits back home, have our hair done together. Bowing to the changing times, the Golden Fleece now cuts men’s hair as well as women’s. (And I’ve finally let dear old Sophie give me that short haircut she always wanted.)

The message seems to be that we don’t need to be strictly male or strictly female. Like Cal, we can be one, or both, or neither. As long as we have people to love, and people to love us, everything else will take care of itself.

The Writer Peeking Through

I love catching little snippets like this.

From an early age they knew what little value the world placed in books, and so didn’t waste their time with them. Whereas I, even now, persist in believing that these black marks on white paper bear the greatest significance, that if I keep writing I might be able to catch the rainbow of consciousness in a jar.

I couldn’t have said it better myself. Although I have tried.

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This post was written by Eric Lanke, an association executive, blogger and author. For more information, visit www.ericlanke.blogspot.com, follow him on Twitter @ericlanke or contact him at eric.lanke@gmail.com.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Values and Behaviors in Sixth Grade Language: Leadership

Five months ago, I concluded a short series on this blog in which I self-examined the core values of my association through the lens of six rules for living your organization's values, which were authored by a successful executive of a pharmaceutical company. In the concluding post to that series, I identified a handful of actions I planned to take; things I believed would help me and my organization better live the values we had defined.

One of those actions was a commitment to phrase our values--and the observable behaviors associated with each that would help us understand when we were living up to them--in simple, sixth grade language. Doing so, I said, would make them more memorable--for my team, yes, but more importantly for me, who had an obligation to reinforce their important role in our organization by calling out instances in which people were and were not acting in accordance with them.

Well, it's five months later, and I haven't yet made good on that commitment. I've meant to. Multiple times. It's been on my to-do list, and I've sent myself numerous reminders, but I haven't yet forced myself to sit down on do it.

Until today, that is.

Here's the way I figure it. As long as I'm already taking an hour or so each week to think about and write one of these blog posts, and as long as one of the purposes of this blog is to "work out loud," a reflective and community-engaging analysis tool that helps me do my job better, than what better idea could there be than to do the work here, leveraging the time I'm already dedicating to this task. So, here goes.

Our first core value is Leadership, which we define with the statement, "We lead the organization in creating new value for our members." It has eight observable behaviors associated with it, and here is a chart where I'm attempting to show a before-and-after comparison after applying the "sixth-grade" test to each one.


LEADERSHIP
We lead the organization in creating new value for our members.

BEFORE
AFTER
1
We are concise and articulate in our speech and writing.
We are brief and to the point.
2
We minimize complexity, and look for efficiencies that can be shared across the organization.
We keep things simple.
3
We bring purpose and understanding to complex and uncertain environments.
We find paths for others to follow.
4
We engage others in iterative processes that result in higher levels of value and engagement.
We engage others in our work.
5
We think strategically, make wise decisions despite ambiguity, and act with intention.
We think about the big picture.

6
We challenge prevailing assumptions, suggest better approaches, and create new ideas that prove useful.
We try new things and keep what works.

7
We exhibit a bias towards action, and avoid analysis-paralysis.
When uncertain, we act.

8
We take smart risks, learn from our mistakes, and share lessons with others.
We take risks and share our mistakes.


Okay, you caught me. I did some of this work in a previous blog post. But I have made some refinements since then. And I am going to tackle one of the other three values in each of the next three weeks.

Reviewing my work on Leadership, I think I need to boil things down even more. Eight behaviors are going to be hard to remember and keep track of, no matter how simply they are described. But the simple language does make it easier to identify common themes, and from those common themes, I think I can begin to see a very short list of actions that would be preferable in almost any situation we find ourselves in.

For Leadership, that short list of actions might be:

1. Actions that seek to engage others, simply and clearly, in the work of the association. Leaders do this effortlessly. They tear down barriers to engagement and shine a light on the path people need to travel to find value. Their communications are brief and to the point, and the steps they ask people to follow logically flow from one to the next. Drafting a Board meeting agenda, selecting speakers for a conference, providing resources through a website--whatever the task, the goal is the same. Make it easy for people to connect to the value we're providing.

2. Actions that demonstrate an awareness of our larger mission, and attempts to better connect our activities to it. Leaders take risks, but those risks are always tempered by honest attempts to fulfill a larger purpose. A risk that has no potential of contributing to the mission is not worth taking, and actions that only serve the needs of a certain segment may not provide the leverage an organization needs for sustainability. New courses of action are to be encouraged, especially when the way forward is unclear, but people must be able to explain how the new action serves our mission, or multiple stakeholders.

I could go on in each of those areas, but I think that's all I'm going to do this week. It may be better to tackle the remaining three values in the same fashion, and then come back and compare the different short lists for even more consolidation.

Stay tuned.

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This post was written by Eric Lanke, an association executive, blogger and author. For more information, visit www.ericlanke.blogspot.com, follow him on Twitter @ericlanke or contact him at eric.lanke@gmail.com.

Image Source
http://blog.hellersearch.com/blog

Monday, February 23, 2015

Values Advice for New Employees: Teamwork

Three weeks ago, I starting sharing the advice I gave to my association's newest employee, who had recently passed her three-month anniversary with our organization. The advice was focused specifically on our core values, and I offered it to her three-months in (rather than on her first day) on the presumption that it might have more meaning and impact for someone who had spent some real time in our organization.

I've already talked about our core values of Leadership, Enthusiasm, and Integrity. This week, let me share what I told this person, new both to our organization and to the world of associations, about our final core value: Teamwork--where each individual must work with others to deliver exceptional service.

This one may seem like it goes without saying. Is there an organization out there that doesn't rely on effective teamwork to serve its customers and achieve its other objectives? Maybe not, but we included it as one of our four core values because of how critically important it is to us and our environment. Every association I know of struggles with a mismatch between how it organizes itself internally so that it can get the work done and with how its members want to interact with its programs and services.

What do I mean by that? Well, we, almost by necessity, create silos in our organizations. Sometimes they're called departments. Sometimes they're called project teams. Sometimes, and at their most fundamental level, they're called job descriptions. We create task lists, and give people, teams and/or departments responsibility for doing them. And those people, teams and/or departments often do them with diligence and high levels of competency.

But inevitably, a member, in any single interaction with the association, will need to tap the resources of more than one silo in order to receive the service they expect and deserve. They're registering for the conference, but they want to make a donation to the Foundation. Or they have a question about the industry statistics we just released, but really need to reference one of our published standards in order to find the answer. Or, often most perplexing of all, they want something the association doesn't currently provide, but which could be developed by more than one silo.

The challenge, of course, is that the member has no idea how the silos in our organization are organized. Nor should they. It's incumbent upon the organization to coordinate effectively with itself to deliver the information the member needs, regardless of how many people, teams, or departments need to interact seamlessly with one another in order to do it.

So that's the reality of our world. What should a new employee do to survive and thrive in that environment? Two things.

1. Be curious about the work that other people do. We've already put you into a silo. Hopefully, it's made out of glass so you can see what's going on around you, and hopefully, there's a door that will let you get out and visit some of the other silos from time to time. Do that. Don't install a lock on your door and paint your windows black. Learn as much as you can about what the other people, teams, and departments in the organization are doing, and the kind of resources and solutions that they offer our members. Members are going to ask you questions that you won't be able to answer unless you know how we've organized our silos and what kind of value can be found within each one.

2. Offer to help before you are asked. In my experience, this is the single most important thing that breeds effective teamwork in an organization. Everyone needs help, but human nature sometimes keeps us from asking for it. Maybe we're making a decision without a critical piece of information that is buried deep in another silo. Maybe we think we are the only person who knows how to do a certain task. Maybe we're convinced that our value to the organization is defined by how much work we can get done. It doesn't matter why we're not asking for help. When you see someone who needs it, give it to them. No strings attached.

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This post was written by Eric Lanke, an association executive, blogger and author. For more information, visit www.ericlanke.blogspot.com, follow him on Twitter @ericlanke or contact him at eric.lanke@gmail.com.

Image Source
http://resourcefulhumans.blogspot.com/2013/09/culture-of-teamwork.html