Category Archives: Leadership

You mean … me?

   About 7 or 8 weeks ago, I came down with the flu which, after 3 weeks, morphed into a long lasting case of bronchitis. I was taking a mixture of decongestants, mucus thinners, anti-inflammatory steroids and an inhaler. All this medicine kept my brain fuzzy. I am not telling you this seeking sympathy. I am setting up why my mind was fuzzy and I felt exhausted.

   Now the point of the story. My manager called me into his office. He expressed his concern that I was irritable and seemed short with people. He inquired if I was upset with someone or something within the company. He had forgotten that I had apologized to him early on that I needed to concentrate harder to get through the fog caused by the medicines.

   I apologized again for my behavior. I try to be very upbeat because I know that I influence others by my demeanor, as we all do. Just as other’s actions and reactions can affect us, our attitude and candor towards others affect them.

   Even though I do not feel well, my trying to fight through the illness left me vulnerable to agitation. Luckily, my bronchitis is finally clearing. It was a great wake up call from my boss. It was a great reminder that even when we are not feeling well, our actions still have an effect.

   I tried much harder today to be mindful of how I responded to others. It is too easy to be tired and allow our reactions to go unchecked. Sometimes, we need to be reminded that our actions do matter. Yes, even me. And that other guy, you know, the one in my mirror.

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Another Round of Layoffs

Yesterday, I hugged some co-workers  as they were processed out. It was their last day. They were victims of the latest cost saving measures and right-sizing of my employer. A year ago my position was deemed no longer necessary, but fortunately, I was able to move from a management to a non-management position. Although I was not overjoyed at first, it actually has been a blessing. I now have more time to dedicate to projects and get overtime pay for over 40 hours.

I certainly hope that those let go yesterday will find something that they can be passionate about. The transition of our economy to whatever lies ahead is going to be tough. Our parents, grandparents and maybe even great grandparents went through a transition out of the Great Depression. Even though I do not think we will experience the Great Depression as our ancestors did, I still think it will be tough. We have been accustomed to much more than our ancestors had. This will probably lead us to be impacted more as we have to do with less.

These are uncertain times. Everyone knows that there will have to be cuts, now or eventually, but at the same time, no one wants to feel the pain. That is understandable, that is human nature.  I believe that industry and jobs will come back. Will they look like they did before?  I don’t think so. We are a resilient people. We have, and always will have, talented entrepreneurs whose passions will shine. It can be hard to keep positive in our current environment, but keeping alert for opportunities, even from the most unlikely sources, is vitally important. Necessity is the mother of invention, and we definitely need the creativity. My very best wishes go out to those who must start a new chapter.

Exploring Belief

During the last few weeks, I have been attending events at a Unitarian Universalist fellowship. I did not really know what to expect from a fellowship that embraces all beliefs but has no real core doctrine of its own. Although this movement had its beginnings in the Christian faith, this particular fellowship seems to have a humanist slant.

I had the pleasure to attend a speaker event that is held monthly featuring local organization leaders which highlights education of a social need, social justice issue, or exploration of a current event. I enjoyed having the opportunity to explore a current topic and having a meeting of the minds afterwards.

I did attend one of their regular services. The speaker, being sensitive to encompass the varied beliefs of the congregation, gave a diplomatically safe sermon with accompanying readings and singing. I was also very unsure what the symbolism and ritual represented.

As a pseudo-religious group, I believe it may act as a path in one’s wanderings of belief.  Most people who seek religious or faithful fellowship also seek direction. The Unitarian Universalist espouse that each person should find and then follow their own belief system. While there is nothing wrong with that, it does not provide the direction that most people seek.

I enjoyed the exploration of others beliefs and attitudes, which lead to better understanding. This exposure to other ideas is strengthening my own convictions and beliefs which are doctrinally Christian. The other attendants felt free to express and listen to ideas. I did find that refreshing.

I will probably return for the monthly speaker event and possibly their building bridges events. These give opportunities to explore and share cultural ideas.

Downsize Survivor

If you have been following my blog, you might know that my employer has been reorganizing. The results are finally in. I am a downsizing survivor. I am blessed and grateful for continued employment. I am no longer a supervisor or in management, but I am still working.

The persons let go represent not only wonderful human beings but also each was an incredible wealth of knowledge and experience.  The company provided severance pay, some continued benefits and maybe even some outplacement services. It is well and good that the company provides something for the departing individuals. I fear that the survivors may be overlooked.

Immediately after the announcement, I spoke with my employees for a few minutes letting them know that it had been a honor to be their supervisor for the last three years and that they would be working for their new supervisor in a few days.

Even though they were not part of the reorganization this time, they were nonetheless affected by the changes. They were perplexed, maybe a bit angry, and uncertain about the near future. Of course, a situation such as this can also cause feelings of distrust, questions about loyalty, resistance to change, stress and fear. I want to make an effort to help them move through this grieving process. It is grieving. They were close to those who had lost their jobs. Their relationships has been stressed. Duties may change as management figures out who is available to do what and who fits best to do it.

I told my group today that I would continue to support them with my experience, my knowledge and my presence, but could not and would not interfere with management functions. As our new functions fall into place and evolve, I promised my co-workers that I would do my job to the best of my ability. You don’t need to have a title to be a leader. The Tao says in the 66th poem, In order to master people one must speak as their servant; in order to lead people one must follow them.

In Paul’s letters to the Colossians, he reminds us that all we do we should do for the glory of God. “Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to curry their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord  as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” Colossians 3:22-25 NIV Of course, we are not slaves, we are employees, but if even slaves are expected to do their sincere best, then I think we should provide no less.

I will do my very best in my new position and hope to bring glory to God and a certain calmness to those around me. My personal goal is to continue to lead by following and setting a good example. Thanks to all my loyal readers for tagging along with me in this brief storm in this journey called my life.

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Leaving it up to God

My last two weeks have been very eventful. Things seem to be going in every direction and leaves my mind to wandering. A few weeks ago, we were looking for something to watch on Netflix streaming. We chose “Up in the Air”, a movie about a hatchet man starring George Clooney (which I think was the main driver in Theresa picking this movie). Little did I know that I would soon be experiencing the same type of situation last week. When I got the email to attend a meeting and viewed the other participants, I just knew it was a termination committee. Of course, this layoff was not based on my performance but on reorganizing the structure of the company. I basically took the role of the poor soul receiving George Clooney’s character’s straight forward pronouncement.  I felt bad for the others that received the same email that day as well. It was a very sobering day for all of us.

That was the Wednesday before last and the day before my vacation was to start. I looked forward to the time off to be able to assemble my thoughts and decide on my options. On Friday, we drove from upstate NY to Durham, NC so that we could attend an Eagle Scout Awards ceremony. Although I have never been involved in Scouting, I nevertheless understand that it took a great amount of effort and dedication to achieve such an award. It was a very happy moment and a wonderful distraction.  Upon returning from NC, I applied for five open positions within my company both locally and at other locations, deciding that relocation was a viable option. I am quite hopeful for re-employment. Even if I am not successful, I know that I had, at least, tried.

I suppose that I would consider myself an optimistic-realist. I learned a long time ago that I control very little in my world other than my own reactions to it. Because I know that I don’t or can’t control the world, I have very little in the way of expectations. I do hope that things go well but I know that as long as I do my very level best and leave the rest up to God, I can be proud of the man I see in the mirror, regardless of the outcome.

I know people who like to “control” everything, some intimately. I have always noticed that they are frequently frustrated, worried and upset because the rest of the world is not following the “script” that they have so graciously supplied. I was one of those people, maybe it was my nature, maybe it was because I became the “man of the house” at a very young age, maybe because I was just simply immature. I think the Army changed my mind. In the Army, I wasn’t my own person anymore, I was United States government property. I was told when to sleep, when to wake up, when to eat, when to use the toilet, when to stand still and when to march. As terrible as that may sound to a fiercely independent person, it is there that I did much maturing. I could either deal with it or fail miserably.

I am not in control of what happened to me in the last two weeks. I am in control of how I handle it. I discussed the possibility of long-term unemployment with my family. I got out my unemployment plan. Everyone should have an unemployment plan, even if you are currently employed, not just for unemployment but for long-term disability as well. Basically, what would I do if I became unemployed today and could no longer bring in an income? It is actually best to do this while you are employed because you will have more clarity of thought and emotions are quiet.

I saw an interesting sign on a church marquee, “Faith gives you the ability not to panic.” I like that. I will wait for the eventual outcome of this, knowing that I have reacted rationally and with the best intentions. I know I am not in control. I know that I and all people have free will. I am subject to the consequences of my decisions and am subject to the decisions of others.

God will open doors for me. I have to pay attention and not only look for those open doors but have the faith and courage to walk through them. I have tried my very level best and will continue to do so. I will leave the rest of it up to God. If you are also looking for work, look for the doors that are open to you. Humble yourself to walk through doors that may lead to opportunities never before imagined.

Take care, stay well and be safe.

P.S. When I went to YouTube to see if I could find an appropriate video, God took me directly to this one by Tracy Lawrence called “Up To Him”. I listened to it twice and I cried. It so much speaks to what I am going through right now and how I feel about it. God is truly amazing. The sentiment in the song as to working as if it is all up to me and pray as if it is all up to Him is what started my tears. I believe this song speaks to many of us. Enjoy the video.

 

From Mess to Message

   As I watched Dancing With The Stars, I wondered what had happened to J.R. Martinez to cause the scarring on his face. I did a search on the internet and found a wonderful article by BooksGalore on Hubpages.  He was badly injured in Iraq in 2003 when the Humvee he was driving ran over a land mine. Trapped inside the vehicle, he received burns over 40% of his body.

He spent three years in an Army hospital with his mother by his side. He endured more than 30 operations consisting of facial surgery and skin grafting. One of his ears was missing. He was devastated with his new face and lost his will to live. He began to view his life more positively with the help of his mother. He now is a national spokesman for the Coalition to Salute America’s Heroes, an organization that serves veterans seriously wounded or disabled. The article quoted him as saying, “I was a mess, but now I’m a message.”

This story is incredibly inspiring to me. It shows that J.R. and many like him prove that we cannot know what we are capable of enduring until faced with great challenges. I think this story can be applied to many, many people. Although maybe not as extreme as J.R.’s example, can you think of anyone who has survived and overcome great challenges, maybe even not so great challenges? How about the single mother who works a job while attending nursing school so that she can provide a better life for herself and her children? How about the woman who survived breast cancer and is confident in her beauty despite suffering a double radical mastectomy? How about the physically challenged child who competed their first Special Olympics and was awarded with smiles, hugs and kisses?

Like J.R., they all can have a message. That message is, but certainly is not limited to, “I am someone special. I am strong in my own way and can overcome. I am worth it.” They teach us to see around our obstacles and to reach beyond our limits.

American Idol – Happy Father’s Day

As always, I think there is a difference between a Father and a Dad. My father became more my Dad in my later teens. When I think about some of the special things that Dad’s do, it makes me smile. Dad is the one who chases away the monsters who live under your bed. Dad is the one who coaxes you up the ladder but holds his arms out reassuring you that he will catch you if you fall, while your Mom frets for your safety. Dad is our family and spiritual leader. Dad represents authority that is loving, gentle, strong and sturdy. Dad teaches us to take reasonable risks. Dad makes us believe in ourselves. Dad is the wonderful balance to our Mom. Mom is delicate, nurturing, safe. It is the influence of both parents that loan balance to our lives.

When Dad is in our life when we are young, we tend it idolize him. That is not altogether a bad thing, because of what Dad represents to us. When Dad provides for the family, we are free to play and learn, not worrying about where the next meal will come from. Dad and Mom help to insulate and protect us.

My father is gone now. He died five years ago this weekend. He had a difficult time saying “I love you” until his final weeks, then the words came easy. I love him deeply and miss him very much. Happy Father’s Day to all you Dads, past present and future.

I am attaching two video clips, A Real American Idol and The Box.

Government Budget Blame Game

Who is to blame for the budget troubles our nation faces? It is not an easy question. The current budget problem took decades to create. It is a result of mostly good intentions, compassion and over-promised services. It is easy to blame politicians but the will of the people generally dictate how they act. They hear what we say.  We say, “I want cuts in the budget as long as the things that benefit me aren’t cut. I think taxes should be raised just not my taxes. I want things to be different just not different for me. I don’t want less, I want more.”

We reward those politicians that promise us more, that give us more. We punish those that might want to take anything away. Politicians know this. It is the nature of the beast, they do what needs to be done in order to be re-elected.

There is new talk about making tough decisions, but yet I am still unsure. The entitlements will demand more and more of our budget until there is very little for anything else. The government will have to borrow more and more until it is unable to even pay the interest on the money that it owes. Our government will loose the respect and admiration of the global economy. I am very much afraid that the U.S. dollar may fall away from being the reserve currency of the world. That would be devastationg to our economy and lead to runaway inflation.

I sincerely hope that it never comes to this. I believe that we should gradually reduce entitlement provisions over the next 20 years. It will be painful but not as painful as the implosion of our economy if we do not take action soon. I hope that we will have some young, idealistic leaders who will manage to make tough decisions regardless of the political fallout, or maybe it will be the mature politician who wants to leave a mark on history and save the world from itself.

We are a resilient people. I believe our leaders will make the tough decisions and preserve the future not only for ourselves but for our children and our grandchildren.

Fukushima 50

In most tragedies, there arises those tremendous souls whose bravery, unselfishness and sheer determination allow them to rise from the ashes like a phoenix. During this latest tragedy in Japan which suffered one of the world’s worse earthquakes and its subsequent tsunami, there are 180 men called the Fukushima 50. They are called that because they work in shifts of 50 each. They have either been asked by Tepco, the energy company that operates the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, or have volunteered. They are technicians and older men who have either already retired or about to retire. They were not chosen because they are expendable or because they have more knowledge and skilled, but their age will protect them from the long term effects of radiation. It could take 20 to 30 years for radiation related cancer to set in and many will probably die from old age before then, a lesson learned from the Chernobyl disaster in 1986.

From the articles and news feeds I have read, five of these brave men have died, two are missing, and 21 have been injured.  Japanese Prime Minister told the volunteers that they were the only ones who could resolve the crisis and that retreat was unthinkable. The Japanese media have heard from some of the families of these incredible men. One daughter tweeted that she was very proud of her father. Another tweeted “Please, dad come back alive.”

These men are heroes. They are facing high levels of radiation to cool down reactors and stabilize the plant to protect their families, their countrymen and possibly all the citizens of the planet. And let’s not forget the other heroes that roam the debris, looking for survivors, wrap blankets around the homeless and providing other needs. Even in the midst of tragedy, we can see the hope, the strength, the incredible beauty of the human spirit. We can see the grace of God. No matter how much we may feel we have evolved, or how sophisticated we might become, we are humbled by the incredible forces of nature.  My prayers and admiration go out to those brave men of the Fukushima 50. I pray for them to be strengthened by their courage and love for their families.

Life is Like a Cup of Coffee

   I had dinner at a family restaurant this weekend. At the table there was a booklet of trivia. On the back of the book of trivia was a parable entitled “Life is Coffee.” I agreed with the parable and thought to myself that it woud be very much like something I would write. I searched the internet and found it at http://www.spiritual-short-stories.com. The booklet did not include the name of the author and I only found that the author is unknown.

Life is Like a Cup of Coffee

   A group of alumni, highly established in their careers, got together to visit their old university professor. Conversation soon turned into complaints about stress in work and life.

   Offering his guests coffee, the professor went to the kitchen and returned with a large pot of coffee and an assortment of cups – porcelain, plastic, glass, crystal, some plain looking, some expensive, some exquisite – telling them to help themselves to the coffee.

   When all the students had a cup of coffee in hand, the professor said: “If you noticed, all the nice looking expensive cups have been taken up, leaving behind the plain and cheap ones. While it is normal for you to want only the best for yourselves, that is the source of your problems and stress.

   Be assured that the cup itself adds no quality to the coffee. In most cases it is just more expensive and in some cases even hides what we drink. What all of you really wanted was coffee, not the cup, but you consciously went for the best cups… And then you began eyeing each other’s cups.

   Now consider this: Life is the coffee; the jobs, money and position in society are the cups. They are just tools to hold and contain Life, and the type of cup we have does not define, nor change the quality of life we live.

   Sometimes, by concentrating only on the cup, we fail to enjoy the coffee. Savor the coffee, not the cups! The happiest people don’t have the best of everything. They just make the best of everything. Live simply. Love generously. Care deeply. Speak kindly.

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