Compromise = Winning

So this shutdown has really been an education in political dysfunction, bickering, and childish behavior. 


But when President Trump yesterday went on the air and provided a compromise solution whereby he gets funding for a 200 mile border wall/barrier and the Democrats get money for humanitarian relief at the border, high-tech sensors, and years of protection for 700,000 children that came to this country illegally (DACA) and another 300,000 for immigrants from designated countries that prevent their sage return (TPS)–it seems like everybody would come out a winner!


That’s negotiation.  That’s compromise.  That’s diplomacy.  


When President Trump did this, I thought he really won the day, especially when the Democrats rejected his proposals and offered nothing in return or as an alternative. 


Even if the other side disagrees with the solution, they can and should offer what their version of a compromise/agreement would be and so on between the parties–this way, they can negotiate until both sides get to the magical compromise that everyone can agree to and live with. 


What I learned from this is that regardless of your political leanings, the side that shows flexibility and compromise and the desire to get something done, is the side that wins the argument, period. 


Those that want it all or are simply obstructionist and haters are the big losers in the debate. 


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Alternatives Are More Valuable Than Criticism

So one lesson of life that I have learned is about criticism. 


It’s easy to criticize, but tough to come up with real solutions. 


Criticizing someone else, does not usually provoke a good response. 


UNLESS, you can provide a bona fide better alternative in a loving way. 


It’s important to solve problems and not just create new ones. 


Criticizing without an alternative just causes anxiety and frustration in the other person. 


But when you says something isn’t right and why, and provide a better alternative, now the other person can see concretely what you are talking about, and they know they have options and that you are trying to help. 


No one wants to be told they are no good or their choices are no good. 


But people don’t mind and perhaps may even embrace being told that there is even something better for them out there.


Don’t criticize, instead give alternatives that are good for the other person. 


That’s real love without being a jerk. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Fruitful Discussions

I liked this guidance from Dr. Britt Andreata on addressing conflict through managing difficult conversations


Here’s how the typical bad scenario unfolds:


1. Problems begin with another person (e.g. annoying or unwanted behaviors).  


2. People start building their cases – listing the wrongs done to them, collecting corroborating evidence, and seeking validation from others.


3. There is a tipping point in terms of frequency or intensity of the problems that lead to a confrontation where accusations are made and blame is attributed. 


4. Then the aftermath in terms of a animosity, loss of trust, and a damaged relationship.


Here’s a better way to deal:


1. Problems begin with another person.  


2. People spend some time reflecting on why the behavior is affecting you, getting clear on what you want to correct it, and trying to see from the other person’s perspective. 


3. The tipping point is sooner in terms of the frequency and intensity of the problems–so you nip it in the bud earlier–and you have a conversation with the other person where you have reframed the other person from an adversary to a partner (e.g. you’ve questioned the facts, assumptions, conclusions along with your emotions, beliefs, and actions–and you’ve looked at alternative narratives to these) and you take responsibility for your part, share your experience and goals to improve things, invite their perceptions, and “co-create solutions.”


4. Follow through with the other person to work together, implement the changes, and hold each other accountable to address the issues. 


The amazing thing about this approach to conflict management is that assuming the other person isn’t truly bad, evil, or gunning for you is that we can look at things from constructive perspective where we own our part, and they own theirs, and together we work together to make things better for everyone. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Everything Else Is Anticlimactic

VeteransDay
We went to a Veterans Day Concert yesterday, and it was quite moving.



Before the music–60’s and 70’s (and some dancing)–started, there were a number of heartfelt speeches by distinguished veterans of the Vietnam War.



One lady was a nurse in Saigon working 16 hour days tending to the wounded and dying from the battlefield. She joined the army after 8 of her high school friends from her small hometown were killed in the war. The nurse told us how on the flight to Nam, they were told to look to the person on the immediate right and left of you, becuase one of you will not be coming home.



Another speaker was a special forces Army Ranger who was fighting in North Vietnam on very dangerous covert missions. He led many draftees, who he said had only minimal training, yet fought bravely on missions with bullets flying overhead and mortars and rockets pounding their positions. He described one situation where he knelt down to look at a map with one of his troops, and as they were in that psition half a dozen bullets hit into the tree right above their heads–if they had not been crouched down looking at the map, they would’ve both been dead. 



A third speaker was a veteran who had been been hit by a “million dollar shot” from the enemy–one that didn’t kill or cripple him, but that had him sent him to a hospital for 4-6 weeks and then ultimately home from the war zone. He told of his ongoing activities in the veterans community all these years, and even routinely washing the Veteran’s Wall Memorial in Washington D.C. 



Aside from the bravery and fortitude of all these veterans, what was fascinating was how, as the veterans reflected, EVERYTHING else in their lives was anticlimactic after fighting in the war. The nurse for example read us a poem about the ladies in hell (referring to the nurses caring for the wounded) and how they never talked about the patients in Nam because it was too painful, and when they returned home, they had the classic symptoms of PTSD including the hellish nightmares of being back there. 



Indeed, these veterans went through hell, and it seems that it was the defining moment in (many if not most of) their lives, and they are reliving it in one way or another every moment of every day. 



Frankly, I don’t know how they did it being dropped on the other side of the world with, as the special forces Vet explained, maps that only told you in very general terms wherer you even where, and carrying supplies for at least 3 days at a time of C-rations, water, ammo, and more–and with the enemy all around you (“there were no enemy lines in this war; if you stepped out of your units area, it was almost all ‘unfriendly.'”). One Vet said that if you were a 2nd Lt., like she was, your average lifespan over there was 20 minutes. 



The big question before we go to war and put our troops in harms way is what are we fighting for and is it absolutely necessary. For the troops being sent to the battlezone, everything else is just anticlimactic–they have been to hell. 



(Source Photo: Dannielle Blumenthal)

We Don’t Accept You Here

Kids_diversity_in_art

A number of years ago I had received an interesting job offer–not actually for a job I had applied to, but for “something else”, and apparently the job was supposed to come without any questions asked. 

Because when I asked about the typical things that you like to agree on before you start a job, I found that it wasn’t going to work out then for this executive because of “cultural fit.”

At the time, it was quite clear that cultural fit was just another term used to discriminate not those that could do the job well from those that couldn’t, but rather those who would be too thoughtful, innovative, or even challenging to the (failing) status quo. 

In this particular case, the leadership was highly corrupt (in more ways than one) and it came out in front-page investigations and findings not long after, with the actual sacking of many of the head honcho bunch.

When it comes to hiring, it is challenging for many leaders to not just punch the checklist for diversity, but too really embrace it, and this stems from many reasons including fear, bias and hatred of cultures that are different than our own, but also the need for highly insecure leaders to singularly “rule the roost” without any challenge of opinion. 

These leaders think that if everyone fits their mold and subordinates themselves to them alone, then they are by default always right–regardless of the actual consequences of their decision-making.

The problem is that there is no one to vet issues with, play devil’s advocate or give an alternate viewpoint–and the insecure leadership with their minion of look-alike, think-alike followers will often drive the train over the cliff–without anyone so much as saying a boo. 

This last week, when a record number of women Senators (20) and congresswomen (82)–were sworn in to the 113th Congress, there was hope of their bringing to the old political mix a new sense and style of collaboration that could help the nation resolve the many issues that we are embroiled in heated negotiation and impasse (e.g. the debt ceiling, the national deficit, the budget, immigration, and more).

Similarly, Bloomberg BusinessWeek (3 January 2013) published an article called “Only BFFs Need Apply”–about how job applicant’s cultural fit often trumps their actual qualifications.

BusinessWeek sums up the dilemma with hiring based on cultural fit: While it “may summon up obnoxious images of old boys clubs and social connections…a cooperative, creative atmosphere can make workdays more tolerable and head off problems before they begin.” Put another way: the “American ideals about team diversity collide with the reality of building a cohesive, practical staff.”

However, the problem with relying on cultural fit is not only that you don’t often get the best candidates, but that it is used not just to describe common values and work ethics, but rather inappropriately “as an excuse for feelings interviewers aren’t comfortable expressing” such as not being able to accept a person’s accent or that they cover they head for religious reasons. 

While hiring lackeys may have a short-term benefit of cohesion, in the long-term, the lack of diversity may result in groupthink and even that “the one person who has a different thought could have saved a business.”

Of course, there is also legal prohibitions against discrimination in hiring and personnel management, as well as the ethical issue of hiring unfairly and what that does to the moral fiber of the organization and its people–it’s corrosive to their values and capabilities and will lead to the revulsion and loss of good employees, customers, stockholders, and others over time.

Here’s the enterprise architecture slant on this topic: “you have to decide if you’re hiring for the culture you have or the culture you want.” 😉

(Source Photo: here with attribution to Tobucil and Klabs)

When Technology Fails, People Can Succeed

Sun_trolley

We were really happy to find the Sun Trolley in Ft. Lauderdale.

For 50 cents a person, you can ride between the beautiful beaches and downtown Las Olas Street where there are wonderful art stores, cafes, museums, and shopping. 

One day, riding the bus though, there was a technology failure that really made we think about the relationship between man and machine. 

On the bus, there was a elderly couple with a teenage girl and a young boy, who was in a wheelchair.

Driving along the beach (and hotels), the couple indicated to the driver that they wanted to get off (these buses don’t stop at pre-assigned stops, but rather wherever people say they want to get on or off). 

The bus pulls over and the driver gets up and goes to the back of the bus, and he starts trying to work the device that make the bus wheelchair accessible.

But despite the driver trying to get the device to work, nothing happens.

The women and girl had already left the bus and where standing on the sidewalk waiting. The other people on the bus were waiting to get to their destination as well. And the man and the boy in the wheelchair seemed both embarrassed at the scene, but also worried how they were going to get this heavy wheelchair off the bus. 

The driver pulls out some metal pole contraption and is trying to free the wheelchair accessibility device on the stairs–again, over and over–but still can’t get the device to work. 

I thought about this poor family, but also about how dependent we are on technology and when it doesn’t work–very often we are not sure what to do, because we just assume it will (like it always does, or is supposed to). 

When I saw that the driver was not going to be successful with getting the device to work, I got up and said to the man–can I help you (i.e. to help him with the wheelchair and boy).

Not sure how this elderly man and I would do it, I was glad when another man came forward and offered to help as well.

Between the three of us, we carried the boy and wheelchair down the stairs and off the bus, being careful that the boy was safe and comfortable. 

I was glad that we were able to help this family, but also continued to think that technology never will really be a substitute for people, because technology is not only developed, operated and maintained by people, but also that technology invariably can fail, and people must step up when it does. 

Technology is great when it works, but it is never failproof, so we had better be prepared for those days when systems go down and we must carry on. 😉

Finding Better Ways

Why_do_we_do_it_that_way

Saturday Night Live had a funny skit last week about people in the future looking back at us in 2012 as “digital pioneers”–and how silly many of the things we do today looks from the outside.

Here are some examples that may resonate with a lot of you:

– Driving–We drive 1-4 hours a day and “are okay with that.”

– Email–We boot up our computers, go to the Internet, log unto to our accounts, and send an email and think that “was so easy, fast, and convenient.”

– Clothing–We get dressed in underwear, shirts, pants, belt, socks, shoes, tie, and wrap it all under a jacket and feel that it’s “not way too many pieces.”

– Bathrooms–We have bathrooms in our homes and have it close to where we eat and that “seems smart to us.”

There were other examples making fun of us eating fruits and vegetables, keeping domesticated animals in our homes, and thinking that living to the age of 91 is old.

While we don’t know exactly what the future will look like, when we look at our lives today “under the microscope”–things really do sort of appear comical.

I believe that we really do need to look at ourselves–what we do, and how we do it–with fresh eyes–and ask why do we do that? And are there alternatives? Is there a better way?

Too often we believe that the way things are–“is simply it”–when if we would just think how this would look to someone 100 years from now, perhaps we would be quicker to open our eyes to other options and innovations.

It reminds me of the story in the Torah (Numbers 22) where Balaam is sent to curse the Jewish people but ends up blessing them. In this story the donkey that he is riding on refuses to proceed, because it sees an angel in front of them. Balaam does not see the angel and beats the donkey thinking that was the right thing to do. G-d then miraculously gives the donkey the power of speech and the donkey complains about the harsh treatment from Balaam, and G-d opens Balaam’s eyes to see the angel, at which point he understands that the donkey really saved his life.

This Biblical story is similar to our lives where we go along sort of blind to the realities right in front of us, and not only that but we keep pushing forward along the very same route not seeing the obstacles or other alternatives that may be better for us.

While we (generally) don’t have donkeys talking back to us with feedback or the ability to see angels, I think by sensitizing ourselves more, we can open ourselves up to question the status quo and break the paradigms that we just take as givens.

So when we do get to the next 100 years out–it’ll truly be a lot better than today and without the traffic! 😉