Corporations And The Election

This morning I played eighteen holes of golf with a couple of friends. One of them asked me what I thought of a local county commissioner. I told this friend that I do not vote for someone just because the person claims to be a Christian. I will research the background and position of a person and then vote my conscience. I pray for guidance and make my choice. I am not too sure my friend liked what I had to say, but I feel strongly about this.

The fact is, I am at a quandary concerning whom to vote for in the Presidential election. I am positive I am not voting for crooked Hillary. I am positive I won’t vote for Trump either, so where do I go? My conservative friends tell me a vote for anyone but Trump is a vote for Hillary, and my liberal friends ask how can you vote for someone who hates people.

President Obama responded to Trump’s speech at the Republican National convention by saying that our society is not as bad as Trump has described. President Obama said that it is not that bad for most Americans. There are two decisions I have made during this election. Nothing is as a bad or good as each side of the argument has described, and you can’t trust any media outlet to be impartial and without bias. Fox, CNN, and all of the others display micro-aggressions against the other, whoever that other is. Frankly, to join the many college campuses across the United States, I find it offensive. The loser in this election year, if there has to be one, is the American public.

However, William Galston has identified another loser in this process. In fact, Galston says that no matter who gets elected this entity will suffer loss. “We may not know who will win the 2016 presidential election, but we already know who has lost it: Corporate America.”

On the left corporations are vilified being blamed as the “source of all social-ills associated with working and middle-class Americans.” Galston describes what he thinks will happen if a Democratic President is elected. “A Democratic victory in November would guarantee moves to rein in the financial sector, heighten scrutiny of mergers and acquisitions, and put the squeeze on corporations that shift jobs and profits overseas.” If a Republican is elected “there will be a turn away from free-trade and welcoming immigrants” to closed borders and protectionism. Galston adds, “the Corporate sector favors moderation in social policy and steady internationalism in foreign policy.”

I have also seen in my students a chilling to working within large companies. The Pew Research Center has published polls on how Corporations are viewed in our society. In 1999 73% of Americans viewed Corporations positively, while in 2008, after the start of the great recession public opinion had shifted. 47% of Americans viewed Corporations favorably. In 2011 that number dived to 38% in 2011.

Much of the reasons for this loss of love can be squarely placed at the feet of managers who think in short-term, profit motivated, ways. This is also reflected in recent Gallop polls that recognize that American firms are doing a “poor job of balancing the interest of the United States and American workers with the best interests of their company.”

Corporations remind me of men who come home from work one day and their wives tell them that they want a divorce. The men stand there and go why, what did I do that was so wrong? “In a modern Democracy, a stable relationship between citizens and corporations rest on a tacit compact.” If you take care of me, I will support you and give you the freedom you need to be successful. If not then we are going to have issues.

The Social Contract between large companies and the people of the United States has, in the past, been strong which has led to a successful relationship, especially for those who have worked within those large companies. However, many believe this relationship has diminished leading to a distrustful and tenuous affiliation.

Corporate leaders use the global competitive argument for justifying the moving of jobs to other parts of the world. Some of these companies are guilty of what Marx said Capitalism accomplishes, by using subsistent wages, the creation of an army of unemployed workers, dependent on those minimal wage structures, and keep labor demands in check. Galston recognizes this when stating “It is hard not to conclude that many firms have taken advantage of soft labor markets to keep worker’s wages and benefits low.”

The fact is all of the players in this sorted affair are only in it for what they can get out of it. To our politicians it is about power, money, and office. Actually accomplishing something that helps people is an after thought. Corporate leaders are only in it for their bonuses. Who cares about the people of America? Eventually someone is going to need to step and say what about America? John F. Kennedy said at one time, “ask not what your country can do for you, but ask what can you do for your country.” I think that is just as true today as it was in the 60’s.

I think Corporations are necessary for an affluent society, but there needs to be some refocusing of the why behind what they do.

And that is my thought for the day!

Organizational Theory, Cops, and Race

A recent Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll reported that 73% of the electorate “believes the United States is on the wrong track.” This is what Daniel Henniger stated in his opinion piece “A Nation at Half-Mast.” The first thing that came to mind when I read this: what electorate, people that read the WSJ? If so then the data will be skewed to the right. The second thing I thought about was whether the respondents were focused on the election, disliking the choice between crooked Hillary and racist Trump; or the direction of the country as a result of eight years of President Obama and an ineffective congress? Whenever I read something like 73% of people think something, I have to assume there is a purpose for framing the conversation a certain way.

As I dug into the opinion article it did seem to me his point about gravitas was important, but I also think he tended to push things to the right a bit instead of trying to find some common ground. This is similar to what everyone’s doing today: polarizing around different narratives. In light of today’s event in Florida, where a black man laying on the ground next to a young man who is autistic and is shot by police, we have to say enough is enough. We need to figure out a new way.

Peggy Noonan in her opinion piece on Saturday titled “Three Good Men Talk About Race,” helped me to see how this polarization could be happening. She identified what seems to a big issue in our society, we want to talk, but you need to listen. She rightfully states, “even though everyone on media asks for a conversation about race, most of them don’t really mean it.” Parenthetically, I really think the media is the biggest instigator of racial issues in this country. Keep the situation enflamed so we can have more people watch our shows, use our social media, or buy our papers. Most people who are pointing out the issues of racism on camera just want to yell, not find really compromise and solutions.

The fact of the matter is I have never, nor will be, a black man in the United States. How can I even think I understand what a black male experiences day to day in this country. All I can do is listen. I have never been, nor will I ever be, a policeman walking a beat within the inner city. I don’t know what it is like to walk up to a car in the middle of night not knowing what may happen. But, I do know that I am trying to process racial issues in our country.

Tim Scott, a U.S. Senator who is black, has been pulled over multiple times while in Washington, DC, as many as seven times in one year. I have talked to several black men that I know and each of them had the same experience. In the neighborhoods where they live, driving on I-5 in the state of Oregon, or in Vancouver. I have asked black fathers if they had the discussion with their sons about interacting with the police. Each of them said they have. I know that all of us have conversations with our children about respecting police, etcetera, but the conversation of a black parent with their son could be the difference between life and death.

Police Chief David Brown, Dallas, has recently made some very interesting comments highlighted by Peggy Noonan in her Saturday editorial. Brown stated during a press conference, “We’re asking police officers to do too much in this country. They’re paying the price for every societal failure. Not enough mental health funding? Let the cop handle it. Not enough drug addiction funding? Let’s give it to the cops. Here is Dallas we’ve got a loose dog problem. Let’s have cops chase loose dogs. Schools fail? Let’s give it to the cops. Seventy percent of the African-American community is being raised by single women – – let’s give it to the cops to solve that as well.” David Brown would eventually say, “Society has to step up.”

If there is one thing I have learned as a businessman, entrepreneur, and college professor, there are always two sides to every story. If only we would listen to each other? Maybe we could come up with better solutions than we have in the pas

The last man Peggy Noonan mentioned in her article was Brian Williams. He was one of the trauma surgeons in the ER during the Dallas shooting. This is a man who is used to “multiple gunshot victims.” However, as he noted, “the preceding days of more black men dying at the hands of police officers affected me.” Williams is a black male, and similar to those shot by police, and even this surgeon had been pulled over by police just because he was a black male, “once thrown spread eagle on the hood of a cruiser.”

However, Williams also recognized the plight of the police. “I abhor what has been done to these officers.” He ended up standing in line with the police line of honor for those police shot and killed.

People tell me that it will never change! This has been going on for over 100 years! I have people yelling in my right ear black people kill more black people than the police do. I have people in my left ear telling me that the police are racist. I know police officers and they are not racist. Both of these comments are shortsighted and incorrect. The black community, the white community, and the police all have systems in place, systems that have developed over the years, and these are systems that can change. It will take more than platitudes and assurances. It will take more than empty liberal promises, and it will take more than conservative ignorance. It will take real progressive, not the phony stuff, thinking that has the ability to hear the other. Only then will we be able to make a difference.

Business people know about this. We study change methodology. We study systems thinking. So much of that theory applies to what is occurring. Instead of seeing business as the enemy, why don’t we look into the theoretical foundations of organizational theory and then apply that to our communities. Maybe, just maybe we will be able to create large-scale societal change.

And that is my thought for the day!

Team Literature, Police, and Inner-City Communities

I, like many others, are shaking our heads and going tsk, tsk, tsk over the events occurring throughout our country. Anger is all around us, and the pessimist within me is concerned over the future of our country. However, the positivist within me sees this as an opportunity.

What I would like to do with this blog today is apply elements of team management to the events occurring between the African-American community and the police. I do think this relationship, which is tenuous at best, is indicative of our country as a whole. Liberals are demonizing conservatives, conservatives are demonizing liberals, cops are feeling picked on, and the African-Americans are feeling attacked. It seems like there is a line drawn down the middle of our country and we are choosing up sides.

The first thing we do is try to fix blame. It’s Mr. Obama’s fault. I am amazed that the author that said this described President Obama as Mr. Obama. I think that was on purpose, and very disrespectful. Whether I agree with President Obama or not, he is my President. I will respect his title.

We can blame the cops. We can call them racist, and with the amount of police throughout this country, I would assume there are racist cops, but I can also assume there are racist African-Americans, as well as white people. So trying to fix blame on either cops violence, or black-on-black violence, is counter-productive.

Or what about inflammatory language? There is no accountability for what we put out in social media. We post crazy stuff, thinking there is no ramifications, and then complain because people use language that is hurtful.

During a segment on Good Morning America, several panelists were discussing next steps, as a result of Dallas, and all of the steps began with recognizing what the other is saying. Until we stop talking past each other we will never change. Bottom line, I think there are lessons to be learned from team literature that could help.

There are a plethora of team theorists to choose from, so when I say there are six elements that affect team performance I am giving my opinion. I do believe that Leigh Thompson is correct when describing the context leading to successful teams. It starts with the organizational context. The environment involves policy, infrastructure, and skill needed for teams to thrive. If an organization wants successful teams then a culture must be developed to allow those teams to emerge. Before we an even begin to discuss how change occurs we need to change the context.

I am an older white male. I have spent the summer thinking about what I, as a Christian, should do regarding race in this country. I had a friend tell me one time, “why is it that the only people who complain about racism in the United States is black people?” I am not saying this to put that person down, but I share that to indicate the lack of understanding within certain segments of our community.

I am a white male who lives in the suburbs. I have no idea what it is like being a young black male growing up in the inner city. I have been semi-mugged, but I have never experienced serious violence. I have been in fights before, but never life threatening. So I don’t know what it is like to experience that in school and on a daily basis. I don’t know what it is like to have someone look at me and crossover to the other side of the street because of my color.

As an old person, I have experienced other people’s assumptions. It really irritates mean when someone assumes I drive slow, or I can’t hear, but that is nothing compared to the institutionalized assumptions some people have about African-Americans. So, my conclusions over the summer include to decision that white privilege is a reality. Now what do I do with it? Let me go through the six elements that I think are important to successful teams to describe my conclusions about how team literature can apply to the negative relationship between the police and the African-American community. I know there are many others more qualified to discuss this, but I am a businessman and I think that communities are organizations too, just larger and more diverse.

First, for a team to be successful there needs to be a clear charter, not one that is just handed down by management, but one that has resulted from open dialog and analysis. The open dialog allows for the team to make sure there is a common language within the team that defines the assignment in common language. Seems to me that for racism to be conquered in our nation we need to have the uncomfortable conversations. I have had them in my classes and it is not comfortable for me, but I think it is important.

Second, there needs to be clear metrics. In any organizational situation if one does not know what needs to be done, then nothing gets accomplished. The concept of Management By Objective (MBO), states the best objectives are jointly developed between management and employee. I think this concept can be applied to our communities. The police and the community come together to decide how measurements will be developed and monitored.

Third, the dialog must be continuous, and there must be training. For teams to flourish they need time to develop. This is where organizations often fail. Management doesn’t allow the team to take the time to develop the common language and measurements. Our community needs to see change, but it needs to recognize that change takes time. Often helping people to see short-term gains is a good way to create patience.

Fourth, in organizations expansion of responsibility is a result of good performance. When teams take responsibility and demonstrate good decision-making they are rewarded with an expansion of decision-making freedoms. This would be an interesting concept applied to inner city law enforcement. Hmm, I’m going to have to think about that a bit.

Fifth, for any team to be successful, any employee for that matter, there needs to be rewards. These rewards are critical to the productivity of an organization. So how could that work within a community? If the community team meets is goals, whatever those are they get more money for schools? Health care? I do know that when communities become safer business begins to move into those areas, and people get better jobs. I don’t know what those rewards could be, but the community teams could develop those rewards.

Sixth, remember how I discussed culture above? An open culture, with a foundation of trust, is critical for the advancement of a team. Everything I’ve read about the police and the African-American community tells me the trust between those players is non-existent.

So there you have it. I am tired of the current rhetoric. If we are to rise above the problems facing us collectively, then we need to work at this collectively. I do think it is possible, and we have come a long way, but we have so much farther to go. As a Christian, I do believe it is what we are called to do, among other things.

And that is my thought for the day!

Introduction To My Book

Introduction: Business and Personal
This book has evolved out of a desire to make a difference. I began my career in 1969 at a Chain Saw manufacturer in Los Angeles, California, and have worked in industry for almost 50 years. During that time I learned many lessons, ones that I would like to pass on to my readers. Somewhere along the line I figured out that I would need to get an education, which I did, and have been blessed through the process. I went back to school in 1988, and continued my studies for about 16 years, from certificate to doctorate, finishing my degrees in 2003. During this time I was many things, father, husband, to a couple of wonderful ladies, Pastor, employee, manager, and Professor. The consistent message I heard through all of those roles was the message of relationship.
I have continued to reinforce this truth in my role as professor and department chair. I have been teaching adult business classes since 1997 and traditionally aged students since 2006. Adult students return to school for various reasons, but one that seems prevalent is the desire to be a better manager than what they had experienced. Many of them have not been managers at the time of their pursuit of a degree, but the desire for promotion was there. Many had experienced poor leadership and wanted to do something different; something that not only made their career more enjoyable, but also the life of their employees.
A While back I heard a speaker say that he had over 7,000 books. This was amazing to me, until I heard that Pope Francis has over one million books. My meager 1,500 seems insignificant, but reading these books have given me a level of understanding that I would never have developed if I had not read them.
Through my pursuit of knowledge, my desire has been to discover what it means to lead and manage well as a practitioner, and pass that knowledge on to my students, and now my readers.
Many statistics are reported on how well, or not so well, organizations are led or managed. Some say that 60% of all employees feel their organizations are not well led, others report different numbers. My experience within the workplace, and listening to my students, demonstrates that the number of bad leaders within organizations is pretty high, which, with all the money that organizations pay to educate and train leaders, seems tragic to me.
Within this book I will explore what I think the reasons are for this reality, and then argue why good business, and leadership for that matter, requires good relationships.
I thought of this the other day when I caught the end of Liam Neeson’s movie Taken. There is this great scene where Neeson’s character has broken free from his capturers and confronts the man who has just sold his daughter to a wealthy sheik. The man who had sold Neeson’s daughter states rather mournfully that it was just business, and as Neeson shoots this man he states, “to me it was all personal.” All of a sudden I saw the essence of the tension we are experiencing. To leaders and managers it is just business, but to the people affected by these changes it is all personal. This tension is why organizations appear to be poorly led.
In Europe people are protesting the reduction of pensions and the increase in retirement age. In Wisconsin people are protesting reduction of wages. Both are the results of austerity needs in response to bloated budgets created during boom times. Governments operating with higher tax revenues due to better economic conditions were able to offer contracts to people that were generous. Money was plentiful, which was like floating a boat down a river. The water was high, therefore all the rocks were covered and the leader could navigate the ship freely to its destination. However, when the water level was reduced, recessionary tax revenue reduction, all of a sudden the rocks are exposed. What we are observing is the result of the lowering of available money. Now we see all the rocks, all the problems of overspending and mismanagement. To me these events illustrate the importance of operations management. Organizations (for profit, not-for-profit, NGO’s, or governmental) need to be run well. Efficiency and effectiveness is just as important today as any time in the past. However, as we move down this road of economic adjustment we need to remember that organizations are made up of human beings: human beings that are afraid of the future. During this chaotic moment of change, managers, leaders must remember to care; let me emphasize this, they must never forget to care.
This book is about how to lead an organization in a manner where people feel valued, instead of exploited. Karl Marx’s critique of Capitalism argues that the process of gaining profit encourages the Capitalist to exploit the Proletariat, the worker, to gain surplus profit. This exploitation has been expressed in many different ways throughout history. The most recent would be sweat shops, etc. But the fact is, exploitation is still prevalent in this country.
The enlightened manager takes this reality seriously. They don’t just want to get the task done, they want it to get done well. To get the task done well, means people engaged within the process to complete the task well. Exploitation won’t accomplish this, but coaching and support will.
Good leadership is not about making business decisions that hurt people, good leadership is about creating good relationships with all stakeholders associated with the organization. That is what this book is about. How to accomplish this!