All The Best To Ann Curry

Anyone watching the news, reading newspapers, or looking online will have observed a class act. Ann Curry, long time resident on the Today show, has been reassigned. Previously, Ann had done news reporting until she moved up to the couch. She partnered quite well with Matt Lauer, at least that is what I thought. The reality may have been a little different.

Employee conflict is a reality. Managers need to develop the skill for knowing when and how to take action. Sometimes the conflict can work itself out, while other times the conflict is a bit more serious, and needs to be dealt with quickly and surgically. I am not privy to what happened on the set of Today, but a very nice person paid the price.

Whether Matt Lauer is a high Mach (Machiavellian), where he has no problem stepping on and over people, or a team player, the fact is Ann Curry was dismissed in a manner that was distasteful. If the reports are true that she will be paid $10 Million and given wonderful assignments, then more power to her. But if she was dismissed because that was the only way Matt Lauer would sign a new contract, I think it could of have been handled differently.

The fact is ratings for the Today show have slipped. Who’s fault is it? Lauer’s, Curry’s, Roker’s? I have my opinion. However, when performance begins to dip management needs to adjust. The Japanese have two words for this adjustment, Kaizen and Kaikaku.  Kaizen is a word that means slow methodical change. Maybe you start with a different set design. Maybe you rearrange the furniture. Continuous Improvement is done in a manner that takes time. Kaikaku is a word that means Radical Change.

Sun Tzu tells a story about a man who wanted to be the general for an Emperor in a small kingdom. A larger kingdom wanted to take over his kingdom. The man told the emperor that he could organize his army in a manner that would ensure victory over the larger kingdom. The Emperor gave the future general a task, to get his wives (1,000 women) to walk in formation. If the man could get this task done, then the job as general would be his.

The man assembled the women in the courtyard and gave the order to get in formation. The women giggled and ignored the command. The man then asked the women who the number one and number two wives were. They identified themselves, and the man took them and cut their heads off in front of the other women. After this event the women got into formation and improved their performance.

If the overall performance of the employees on the Today show had slipped and Ann Curry became the scapegoat then she may be the number one wife who paid the price to get every one in line. But,15 years is a long time to be affiliated with a show, and Management needed to handle it accordingly.

If her dismissal is the result of Matt Lauer’s ego, then shame on him. Management should have made him work it out with her. But I have to wonder why Curry is dismissed after a contract negotiation with Lauer.

Another scenario may be that Curry was a fish out of water. If Management recognized that she was a little over her head, and worked to correct the hiring error, then good for Management. This may be the case, if the reports about the payoff are true.

Being a manager is tough. It is not an easy job. But being a dismissed employee who shows a lot of class when leaving, that is even more difficult.   Ann Curry did what needed to be done. She is a class act.

And that is my thought for the day.

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John Roberts: Hero!

Today was a mix of political events. Regardless of how one feels about the specific issues, we have to agree with President Obama when he said we cannot go back to the way it was. However, I disagree with his implication that our politicians can somehow work together now that the constitutional status of Obamacare has been decided. But, I agree with his premise that we cannot continue dysfunctional political partisanship.

The question is can our politicians accomplish this gargantuan task? I don’t think so. An indication of this is how several Democrats walked out of congress in protest of the Eric Holder situation. Twelve Democrats stayed in attendance and the House voted to hold Holder in contempt. If I lived in another country and looked at our political situation I would probably giggle about the incompetence. On the other hand, John Roberts demonstrated integrity with his vote on Obamacare. Although some would call him a traitor, I call him a hero.

I am not saying this because I agree with the intricacies of socialized medicine, I am saying this because he is a man that wrestled with a difficult situation and voted his conscience.

John Roberts is very concerned with the justice system. He is concerned that the Supreme Court is following the partisanship of congress. Legal scholars recognize that if “the court had ruled as the four dissenters would have had it,” it would have been red versus blue. “This would have been a serious threat to the legitimacy of the court.”

I also agree with another comment made by these legal scholars. They think that “Americans are already very skeptical about the rule of law in the United States and believe that the court is essentially a third political branch.” I do remember a comment Roberts made when he stood before the Senate Judiciary Committee. “I come before this committee with no agenda, no platform, I will approach every case with an open mind.”

The federal government is composed of three distinct branches: Legislative, executive, and judicial. They function in a manner that provides checks and balances to our system. Congress creates laws, the President can veto legislation, and the Court can invalidate as unconstitutional any law passed by the Congress. None of these should be the pawn of another.

Roberts has set an example for the other justices. He has upheld the integrity of the Court.

And that is my thought for the day!

Vladimir Putin: What Not To Do!

Some days there is nothing to write about, and other days there is too much. I don’t know if it is me, or the world, but today is one of those days where there seems to be a cacophony of leadership events that needs to be addressed. Leadership in business and politics is just not getting any better.

The Conference Board has just completed a Survey dealing with job satisfaction. The survey reveals that there has been a change with how people feel about their jobs. 47.2% of the respondents states they were happy with their jobs. This is up from 2010 by about 4.6%. This may seem a bright spot, but when you compare this number with 25 years ago when job satisfaction was at 61.1%, we see the dilemma. How work is designed, and how leaders lead, both have an impact on this number. You would think that with all of the money spent on business classes, where we talk about these topics, that the job satisfaction number would go up. Or maybe, the fact more people are aware of how it should be and experience something different, is why satisfaction is lower?

Even at the ranks of senior leadership there seems to be an issue with job satisfaction. Jim Albaugh, who was the CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplances, has just retired. This is shocking. He has been replaced with Ray Conner. What caught my eye about this was Conner started with the company in 1977 as a mechanic on the 727. I started at Boeing in 1977. I could of been a star. Actually, I am very happy where I am at now.

What really caught my eye today were the several articles in the Journal discussing Russia. My Grandparents escaped from Russia in the early 1900’s and moved to Nebraska. Therefore, I try to pay attention to Russian politics. I traveled to Russia a few years ago, and had the opportunity to meet many wonderful people. When I was there the young people I interacted with kept asking me about Putin. Did the US like him, etc. They were very proud of him. Today it is a different story.

On NPR yesterday they did a story on a Russian Punk band named  _ _ _ _ _ Riot. The blanks represent the first part of their name which I don’t want to use in my blog. In February this “feminist, punk rock, collective” performed a politically motivated prank at the Christ the Savior Cathedral in  Moscow. It was supposed to be a prayer for protection against Putin. The band was arrested for its anti-Putin protest and has been in jail ever since. NPR reported that these young women could get seven years in prison. Russian intellectuals have signed an open letter to the Kremlin crying for the release of the punk rockers. They are charged with hooliganism.

They probably shouldn’t have gone up against the Russian Orthodox Church, but I don’t think what they did warrants seven years in prison. Here is there prayer:
St. Maria, Virgin, Drive away Putin
Drive away! Drive away Putin!

Black robe, golden epaulettes
all parishioners are crawling and bowing
The ghost of freedom is in heaven
Gay Pride sent to Siberia in chains
The head of the KGB is their chief saint
Leads protestors to prison under escort
In order not to offend the Holy
Women have to give birth and to love
Holy _ _ _ _, _ _ _ _, Lord’s _ _ _ _

St. Maria, Virgin, become a feminist
Become a feminist, become a feminist

Church praises the rotten dictators

I am not promoting what this band is saying, I am just accenting the lack of political leadership in Russia. Leadership is not cracking down on pro-democracy movements. It is not murdering people who do not agree with you. And it is not putting young women in jail for seven years for something that we see in this country all the time. Leadership is being able to influence and lead people to a common destiny. Putin seems to have lost this ability.

I have to say I agree with Garry Kasparov when he states, “America should be siding with the Russian people not with Mr. Putin. Russia is not America’s foe. We have much in common – struggles with radical Islam, concerns about Chinese influence and expansionism, real shared strategic interests. Mr. Putin’s Russia, on the other hand, is concerned only with power and the oil and gas profits needed to maintain it. Yes, a free Russia will compete with the U.S. but it will not be an unwavering adversary.”

And that is my thought for the day!

Global Leadership

The other day I was playing golf, and one of the people in our threesome said they loved the many different shades of green in Washington State. I think that is how this person has handled all the rain we have been having lately.

Today I was thinking about the many shades of grey we have experienced this spummer. Hopefully, spummer is going away and now summer will start. In the scheme of things though, the weather doesn’t matter. It is having a purpose. Mine is trying to make a difference in my student’s lives.

The church I attend is sponsoring a leadership seminar in August. I miss this every year because it is the same weekend we go to Ashland for the Shakespearean Festival. This year we will be attending Romeo and Juliet and Media, MacBeth, and Cinderella. It should be a nice combination. However, I am a little sad about missing the conference this year due to the list of speakers who will be presenting.

Bill Hybels, the Pastor of Willow Creek Church which has created this conference, has written several books on the topic of leadership. I have to say, his book on Courageous Leadership is one of my favorite books dealing with the topic. There were several other speakers though that caught my attention. Seth Godin and Cory Booker were two of the individuals who I want to get to know a little better.

Seth Godin is an Entrepreneur, author, and public speaker. He loves the topic of marketing, but as an educator his comment about problem-solving was the most poignant. He stated that education is not as much about information, as it is problem-solving. I agree and disagree. If problem-solving means critical thinking then I agree. If it is some pragmatic action devoid of theoretical application, then I disagree. But the fact he has a handle on what Business Education is all about makes me want read his books.

Cory Booker is a new name to me. Booker is the Mayor of Newark, New Jersey. Yesterday he posted on Facebook a saying from Norman Allen. “Lord, I don’t ask for a faith that would move yonder mountain. I can take enough dynamite and move it, if it needs moving. I pray Lord for enough faith to move me.” This tells me a lot about the man. He is a man who is serving God in the capacity of his call. This is truly what a leader is, and what my students need to understand.

And that is my thought for the day!

Who Is Our Best President?

Robert W. Merry has written a book entitled “Where They Stand.” It is a book that attempts to rate our presidents. When I read the review in the Journal this morning it got me thinking. Who would I rank as the best President in history? Then I started thinking about what criteria would I use?

What makes a good leader? Obviously vision must play a part. But vision that stands alone does not create goodness. Therefore, there must be an ability to create shared vision, or vision that people can take ownership of and implement. This does not mean that everyone needs to agree with every point, only that consensus is reached to the point where a common direction can be attained.

In the case of our presidents, does the number of terms play a role in whether they are great or not? Is a one termer less effective than a two termer? Or in the case of Reagan maintaining a third term in the form of George H.W. Bush? Who do I think were our best presidents?

My first two choices will go to Washington and Lincoln. In both cases these two men were able to create a vision which people were able to grasp. They started and renewed the union of this country. Not many will argue against this.

When it comes to my next choice, FDR, the debate is furious. Due to the fact that he wanted to redistribute wealth in this country the rich did not like him. In fact, a couple of the rich families attempted to hire a general to overthrow FDR. Butler exposed this, but the rich families were never prosecuted. On the other hand, FDR was able to navigate us through a depression and a world war. Obviously that says something about his ability to lead.

What about the others? Adams, Madison, Jefferson, and Teddy? Obviously Teddy must have been great? His likeness is on Mt. Rushmore. Ultimately this rating is a action that tries to define greatness.

Lets bring it to today’s crop of leaders. Will Obama be up there in greatness? He is the first African American elected president, so that will play a part. However, he has not been able to create shared vision. The partisanship in congress, and this nation, has not been this bad since the time Lincoln had to sneak into Washington for his inauguration. I don’t think Obama will be high on the list. What if Romney gets elected? I don’t think he has the vision to be able to emerge as a top ten president. It is unfortunate that the Republicans have allowed themselves to be defined by what they are against instead of what they are for. Abraham Lincoln was for preservation of the Union. The current Republicans have been defined as being against women and immigration. They too have not been able to create a shared vision.

Who are your top ten presidents?

And that is my thought for the day!

Russian Progress

My mother’s family migrated to the United States in the early 1900’s. They left Russia during the Bolshevik Revolution traveled through England to Canada, and then to Nebraska. My Grandfather was a successful businessman and farmer in Bayard, Nebraska. I am proud of my roots, and my mother-in-law has proof of my heritage dating to the 1760’s in Russia, which is when Catherine the Great moved many Germans to the Volga River area.

Sigrid Weidenweber, who lives in Portland, OR, has written a series of books discussing the Volga River Germans. The first volume deals with a young German princess who married the grandson of Peter the Great and became Catherine the Great who led an amazing transformation of a backward country. She was not a perfect woman, but she did a great job ruling Russia and the people liked her.

Today, Russia is a country of paradox. It was once a world power, but is now seen as on of the BRIC countries with growing economic opportunities. I remember standing in Red Square looking at Lenin’s tomb, the Kremlin, and St. Basil’s Cathedral thinking about the May Day parades of the cold war and wondering where Russia would end up. Would it return to the Communism of the past, or will it continue to evolve into a well functioning capitalist economy? Although I don’t think Russia will ever regress to the old Soviet Union of the past, I wonder where the modern Russian Tsar, Putin, will take it?

We do know that later this year Russia will be joining the World Trade Organization. This means that Russia will need to “establish predictable tariff rates, ensure transparency in the publication and enactment of laws, and adhere to an enforceable mechanism for resolving disputes.” Hillary Clinton wrote about this event today in the Wall Street Journal. She argued that Russia joining the WTO will be an opportunity for businesses in the US. Currently American exports to Russia represents about 1% of our global exports. This means that improved trade opportunities with Russia will represent an opportunity for increased exports. However, this can only happen if we make Russia a normal trading partner.

The Jackson-Vanik amendment restricts US trade with countries that restrict emigration rights. It was created in the 1970’s to help thousands of Jews to leave the Soviet Union. Hillary is calling for this to be repealed, thus creating a normal trading relationship with Russia. As a result of Russia joining the WTO its markets will open, and just like how our current tax system hamstrings our commerce, we will miss an opportunity for increased trading.

I agree with Hillary. She states, “Russia’s membership in the WTO will soon be a fact of life. Failing to extend permanent normal trading relations will not penalize Russia, nor will it provide a lever with which to changes Moscow’s behavior. It will only hurt American workers and American companies. By extending those trading relations, we can create new markets for our people and support the political and economic changes that Russia’s people are demanding.”

I met a plethora of young people when I visited Russia. All of them had hope for the future. I think Hillary is right. We need to continue to develop our relationship with Russia. Thomas Friedman has a theory. He calls it the McDonald’s Theory. He proposes that two countries will never go to war if they both have McDonald’s restaurants. It other words, they do business together. I can’t believe that I agree with Hillary.
And that is my thought for the day!

The Decline Of Democracy

I was driving back from the golf course today listening to NPR, and heard a particular report discussing the current crop of conservatives. The program is called Q, and originates from Canada. It has become one of my favorite radio programs. The report started with a clip from Russ Limbaugh’s show where he called a college student a slut and prostitute. The announcer then interviewed a real conservative who is a friend of Ann Coulter. He proceeded to explain that radio conservatives are only in it for the money. To get the money they have to be provocative, but don’t necessarily have to stand for anything. It was very thought provoking, especially in light of Bill Maher’s liberal show that does the same thing only from the left.

Like it or not, what we are experiencing is Democracy. Churchill once said that Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those others that have been tried. Democracy is messy, but I would not have it any other way. However, sometimes we get a result that is not the best. The first free election in Egypt has been nullified by the ruling Military junta. The people of Egypt elected a person from the Muslim Brotherhood as president. The Military junta did not like the people’s choice, and nullified the vote and dissolved the freely elected parliament. The military was a little concerned about where the people wanted to take the nation.

The Greeks just had an election where they chose a road of austerity and a new leader. Bret Stephens , in the WSJ, stated that the person the Greeks chose was supposed to be a responsible choice. However, Samaras received less than 30% of the popular votes, while the rest were split between six other factions. As much as this seems chaotic it is Democracy.

What I really liked about this article this morning was Stephens’ definition of post-liberalism and pre-liberal democracy! He did a good job of clarifying where some of the issues are today.

Classical liberalism focuses on individual liberty, limited government, property rights, and democratic sovereignty. What Stephens calls post-liberalism is what liberalism has come to mean in our new world. “In practice post-liberalism is a giant wealth redistribution scheme, focused on social rights, social goods, intrusive government, and transnational law.”

The author explicitly argues that post-liberalism is what is bankrupting Greece, and ultimately Europe. If we, the US, are being led down the road of European transnationalism will our bankruptcy be that far behind?

On the other hand, pre-liberal Democracy is a Democracy “shorn of the values Westerners typically associate with it: free speech, religious liberty, social tolerance, equality between sexes and so on.” However, in this type of society it is the leaders who take advantage of the people in order to maintain the status quo.

As much as I like to complain about our political system, it is Democratic. It is not pre-liberal, but well thought out by our fore fathers. If we pay attention it will stay Democratic. It is only when we stop paying attention the wacko’s on both sides take over and we lose who we are. I don’t know about you but I don’t want to see the decline of Democracy. Therefore, I am going to pay attention because I want a true liberal America based on individual liberty and justice for all. All being the operative word.

And that is my thought for the day!