Be Present…that Person Could be Playing a Stradivarius

Respect

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I heard a story that the Washington Post conducted an experiment. Apparently they had a man with a violin go down to the subway and play music. It was rush hour and thousands of people zoomed by while he played. I guess some people threw money at him but mostly people just ignored him. When he finished he just walked away.

No one knew that the man playing the violin was one of the world’s most renowned violinists, Joshua Bell. He plays to sold out concerts around the world and he was playing one of the most complex concertos on a $2 million dollar Stradivarius.

In the work place it is easy to rush by people and ideas. If we allowed ourselves to be present more (e.g. put away the smart phones when interacting with others) to be in the moment, we would be able to take in more. Be present, someone around you may be playing a Stradivarius.

with Character,

Lorne

Kickin’ ’em You Know Where?

Accountability Personal leadership

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Thomas L Friedman, NYT columnist and author of The World is Flat, writes in his June 11 Sunday “Week in Review” op-ed, an interesting piece. He refers to a personal letter by a friend of Tom’s, sent to the editor of The Beaufort Gazette in South Carolina, which states essentially that the Gulf Spill ultimately comes from choices you and I make. Blaming BP, the government or any other group for the macro issue is fruitless. That may sound ridiculous when we think about how far removed the vast majority of us are from drilling a well thousands of feet deep. However, we the people established the conditions where we frankly have been and continue to be committed to living off the cheapest oil we can get as our primary source of energy. Of course we expect people to execute the energy supply chain responsibly but our unwillingness to really change the oil paradigm is a bilateral fact. Friedman makes the self accountability argument. We need to take control over what and how we personally take action. Some of it is smaller and in our immediate sphere (e.g. getting rid of our gas guzzlers, planting a garden, supporting the buy local/slow money initiatives). Other action is less direct but equally important, demanding that we pass an energy reform bill that dramatically reduces dependence on Mid-East oil.

The above is not a political argument for one thing or another but a plea for self accountability and forward action. Blame by itself changes nothing and we end up getting kicked where it hurts.

with Character,

Lorne

Irreplaceable Mary – Quiet Leadership

Contribution Personal leadership Respect

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Mary is 68 and recently retired. She was a bench technician and has worked in our facilities in both North America and Europe. Before her retirement a new team member pointed out that Mary was the first to come up and welcome her. As well, she noticed that Mary quietly picked up after a number of people; put the dishes away and wiped the lunch tables. No drama; just did it because she wanted to and could.

We will miss Mary, not just for her technical skills but because she has a perpetual smile, a twinkle in that Irish eye, and awareness of her value as a team mate. She treats others with respect and care. She is a leader by quiet example and giving of herself every day. (I know a little about Mary and she has had enough personal challenges that would “justify” her feeling sorry for herself and bitter about the cards dealt her.)

Mary is unique and irreplaceable in a personal way. But the attribute of quiet leadership and respectful giving is open and available to us all. We can all be like Mary. Thank you for quietly setting an example and caring every day.

with Character,

Lorne

Stage Right: You and Me

Abundance Books Gratitude

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Tom Peters relays an interesting story in his latest book The Little Big Things, 163 Ways to Pursue Excellence. He tells of a situation where a professor was presenting from the bottom of a bowl-like classroom. Without this teacher knowing, the students were instructed by an organization psychologist conducting an experiment, to nod (noticeably but not in unison) when the professor moved stage right. And, not to nod when he was in the center or stage left during his lecture. As the story goes, the prof was soon pasted to the corner of stage right and stayed there most of the class. Peter’s point: such is the power of deliberate positive reinforcement.

Encouragement and positive recognition usually helps people move forward. You and I can do that right now. We don’t have to have a certain title, minimum salary grade, or academic certificate to spread it out genuinely and freely. Offering a “Thanks” or “nice job” is so easy. We don’t have to be over the top. Even a smile, small pin, $5 dollar Starbucks card, or a shoulder hug counts. Be a leader and offer it up. Be self accountable to be abundant. Ok now everybody…move someone to stage right!

 with Character,

 Lorne

Self Accountability, Booze, and Kids

Accountability

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The MIT economists Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo found that the world’s poor typically spend about 2% of their income educating their children and often a larger percentage on alcohol and tobacco. It may feel politically incorrect but the blunt and ugly secret, supported by UN studies, is that if the poorest families spent as much money educating their children as they do on wine and cigarettes, their children’s prospects would be transformed. 

My intent with the above is not to get into a political discussion on a very complex problem. However, one of the foundations for self accountability is honesty and acceptance. Once we face the truth, it is possible to move forward. Often times the challenges we face seem out of our control. But when we step back and take an honest assessment, there is usually much more we can do. It takes the will to change, and belief that we can change things for the better. The alternative, accepting victimization and the consequences, is in my opinion the far worse alternative.

Altering where and how we apply our personal resources, however meager, often can lead to profound change. Try a few percent here instead of there …it is a great feeling to embrace self accountability.

with Character,

Lorne

Self Accountability, Wishing, and Lying

Accountability Authenticity

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Bella DePaulo, a psychology professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara, noted (in a New York Times Maureen Dowd column May 23, 2010) that “…lies are like wishes. So when you wish you were a certain kind of person that you know you’re not, and maybe you’re not willing to do what it would take to become that person, or can’t go back, then it becomes very tempting to lie.”

We are so human that it is hard sometimes not “go with the misinformation flow” because as DePaulo notes, “Your lies often reveal who you wish you were.”

Dowd’s article refers to Richard Blumenthal, the Connecticut Attorney General, with an incredibly impressive resume, who allegedly misrepresented his armed service participation in Vietnam. He is in the public eye and scrutinized by the media. You and I are mostly scrutinized by ourselves. In the past, I have made the mistake of letting an exaggeration go on. It was wishful thinking and not being honest first of all with myself. I’ve learned from it.

It is liberating to understand the psychology behind it and I believe useful to remind ourselves that self accountability is based on the honesty of asking ourselves what and how we can move things forward and not just wishing we could.

with Character,

Lorne