The 11th Commandment

Please see my new article in The Times of Israel called, “The 11th Commandment.”

How many times do I hear about fellow Jews trying to “out-frum” (i.e. be holier than thou) other Jews: whether it’s in terms of Kashrut, Shabbat or even who stayed up the latest for the Passover Seder. Recently, when it came to coronavirus, I was more than a little shocked to read that someone actually attributed the disease to it being a punishment from G-d because women’s skirts are not being worn long enough. While certainly it’s good to be introspective and there is a strong concept of reward and punishment in Judaism, there is something about us Jews where we tend to want to go a little more and a little farther. In some cases, we are doing “hiddur mitzvah” (beautification of the Mitzvah) which is praiseworthy, but in other cases, we may be adding unnecessary “chumras” (i.e. stringencies) than can backfire religiously. My unequivocal preference is to follow my father’s teaching to me of the Rambam’s “Shvil Ha’zahav” (i.e. the golden path) and not go too far to the left or to the right, but keep a healthy middle of the road approach to life.


In the end, the number of commandments are what they are, and with 613 throughout the Torah, there is enough to keep us all busy going what is right with G-d and our fellow man. While we may like to overachieve in our careers, our education, and our pedigrees, it is not necessary to try to outdo each other religiously. Religion is a matter between us and Hashem and G-d knows what is in our hearts and counts up all our deeds according to His holy Torah with nothing added and nothing subtracted.

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

It’s Just Bling

Crystal Kids.jpegSo sitting in synagogue today, my friend Jacob said something very interesting to me.


He was talking about some very wealthy people with multi-millions and even billions. 


And then he says, you know what the difference is between the rich and everyone else:

“Nothing!”


I asked him what he meant by this.


Then he starts listing off to me like this:

“Well, they live in a home, and you live in a home.
They drive a car, and you drive a car.
They eat food and you eat food.”

And it was amazing how smart his words were, and it hit me how right he was. 


It’s all sort of just in our minds.


Their homes are bigger and nicer; their cars are more luxurious and fancier; their food is better and tastier…but what difference is any of that really.


We both have a roof over our heads to protect us from the elements and a nice place to sleep. 


We both have a car that gets us from here to there and back again. 


We both have food and drink to fill our bellies and nourish us. 


Isn’t the rest just a bunch of bling?


It’s branding and marketing and the sense of luxury that some are better and have more than others. 


But beyond the essentials, we really don’t need any of that!


What we do need is our relationships–people we care about and love and who love us. 


The ability to have a deep impact on others. 


To influence them and make a difference in their lives–in what they do and how they treat others. 


The ability to help people and society. 


The bling is just bling. 


The ability to love and influence that is true wealth. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

It Can Happen To Anyone

It Can Happen To Anyone

Life is unpredictable.

Today, at the pool, someone collapsed.

Looks like a heart attack or something serious.

Most of the people at the pool are in amazing physical condition.

The young folks on the swim team are fast as hell.

The older people, many seem like they never aged and can do still perform adroitly.

I find the whole crew generally quite competitive and if you can’t keep up…you may even get shove to the side.

When I heard the whistle blow this morning, it was unlike the usual stop running or horsing around–this time is was long and shrill.

Everyone stopped and pulled to the ends.

Instead of splashing water, you could hear a pin drop.

Lifeguards started running. One ran back to the control center and I could see him through the glass window dialing quickly on the phone for help.

Another young women was getting help from the pool supervisor–the young one ran, the older one strode sternly to ascertain the situation.

People started swimming in the main pool again, while the collapsed man was out of sight around the corner in another pool area.

The floating lady water runners were kibbutzing about what happened and is he going to be okay.

Eventually the swimming continued, but even then, people were looking around and had those worried faces on.

There was a realization that even with the dozens of people there, this person could’ve been anyone–any of us.

The ambulance and fire truck rescue came, the stretcher was brought in.

I asked the lifeguard with concern what had happened to the man and he said in a monotone, almost practiced voice, “The ambulance is here; everything is okay.”

It sort of sounded like don’t anyone panic and shut the heck up.

Anyway, it was upsetting to see someone up early, getting themselves to the pool, trying to stay healthy and fit, and struck down at the scene, while trying their best.

I’m a little shaken and am still hearing the whistle in my head. :-0

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Watch Out For Organizational Psychopaths

Wathc Out For Organizational Psychopaths

Ever feel like this at work?

The knives are flying and you’re the target–where’s the next one going, the heart of head?

Harvard Business Review has a telling blog about bosses at work that are borderline psychopaths.

Hard to spot because of their “chameleon-like qualities,” they are:

– “Self-serving”–basically they have what I call the selfish disorder, they want power, money, and status but don’t really care about the organization, mission or people, just themselves!

– “Manipulative personalities”–they hide their agendas, but work over others with charm, favors, even pretend friendship to get what they want.

– Domineering–corporate psychopaths are bullies, who assert themselves over others; they are insecure and endlessly competitive and abuse the people that work for them rather than recognize and reward them.

– Win-lose—they play corporate gamesmanship, appearing collegial enough, but really are always trying to get one up on their colleagues, staff, and even their bosses.

-“Unburdened by the pangs of conscience”–they don’t care what it takes to get what they want for themselves: they will lie, cheat, steal, and try to get rid of the competition (even if that is everyone that works for them or around them).

Estimates are that “perhaps 3.9% of corporate professionals” have these psychopathic tendencies–With all the crazies out there, that seems on the low side. What do you think?

Thank G-d, however, that there are some good bosses out there–seek those people out who act like mensches, who elevate others and do not treat them like the enemy within–those people are true gems. 😉

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Who’s The Boss (The Good and Bad) ?

Who's The Boss (The Good and Bad) ?

Harvard Business Review had a helpful list of 8 leadership types:

1. Strategists – (Chess game) – provide vision, strategy, enterprise architecture.
2. Change agents – (Turnaround expert) – reengineering the organization.
3. Transactors – (Deal-maker) – make deals and negotiate positive outcomes.
4. Builders – (Entrepreneur) – create something new.
5. Innovators – (Idea generator) – solve difficult problems.
6. Processors – (Efficiency expert) – run organization like a well-oiled machine.
7. Coaches – (Develop People) – get the best out of people for a high-performance culture.
8. Communicators – (Influencer) – explain clearly what (not how) needs to be done to succeed.

I would say these are the positive archetypes of leadership, but what about the negative leadership models?

Here’s a shot at the 8 types of awful leaders (and wish they throw in towel and go away):

1. Narcissists – (Self-centered) – focused on stroking their own egos and pushing their own agendas, rather than the success of mission and people.
2. Power mongers – (Domineering) – Looking to grow their piece of the corporate pie, not the pie itself.
3. Competitors – (Win-Lose) – deals with colleagues as enemies to defeat, rather than as teammates to collaborate with.
4. Micromanagers – (My way or the highway) – doesn’t delegate or people the leeway to do their jobs, rather tells them how to do it the right and only way.
5. Insecure babies – (Lacking in self-confidence) – marginalizes or gets rid of anyone who is a challenge to their “leadership,” rather than valuing and capitalizing on diversity.
6. Sadists – (Bullying) – use their leadership pulpits to make others squirm under their oppressive thumbs and they enjoy it, rather than using their position to help people.
7. Thieves (Credit grabbers) – steal other people’s ideas and recognition for their own self-promotion, rather than elevate others for their contributions.
8. Biased baddies – (Whatever I want) – manage arbitrarily by subjective management whim and playing personal favorites, rather than through objective facts and maintaining equity.

How many of you have dealt with the good as well as the bad and ugly? 😉

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Your Leadership Ticket Is Waiting

Ticket_office

A lot of colleagues tell me that they hate office politics, and for many it represents their one-way ticket to ongoing bickering, infighting, and a virtual endless cycle of unsatisfied wants and unhappiness.

 

Office politics is where the interests of multiple parties either converge or collide–where convergence occurs through feelings of interdependence (i.e. enterprise) and acts of teamwork, while collisions predominate by stressing independence (i.e. isolationism) and head-butting.

 

This is where good and bad leadership can make a huge difference.

 

– One one hand, a bad leader sees the world of the office as “us versus them”and fights almost indiscriminately for his/her share of scope, resources, influence, and power.

 

– On the other hand, a good leader looks out for the good of the organization and its mission, and works to ensure the people have what they need to get their jobs done right, regardless of who is doing it or why.

 

Thus, good leaders inspire trust and confidence, because they, without doubt, put the mission front and center–and egos are left at door.

 

Harvard Business Review (January-February 2011) in an article called “Are You A Good Boss–Or A Great One?” identifies a couple of key elements that inherently create opposition and competitiveness within the enterprise:

 

1) Division of Labor–This is the where we define that I do this and you do that. This has the potential to “create disparate groups with disparate and even conflicting goals and priorities.” If this differentiation is not well integrated back as interrelated parts of an overall organizational identity and mission, then feelings of “us versus them” and even arguments over whose jobs and functions are more important and should come first in the pecking order will tear away at the organizational fiber and chances of success.

 

2) Scarce Resources–This is where limited resources to meet requirements and desirements impact the various parts of the organization, because not everyone’s wishes can be pursued at the same time or even necessarily, at all.  Priorities need to be set and tradeoffs made in what will get done and what won’t. Again, without a clear sense of unity versus disparity, scarcity can quickly unravel the organization based on people’s  feelings of unfairness, dissatisfaction, unrest, and potentially even “mob rule” when people feel potentially threatened.

 

Hence, a bad leader works the system–seeing it as a win-lose scenario–where his/her goals and objectives are necessarily more important than everyone else, and getting the resources (i.e. having a bigger sandbox or “building an empire”) is seen as not only desirable but critical to their personal success–here, their identity and loyalty is to their particular niche silo.

 

However, a good leader cares for the system–looking to create win-win situations–where no one element is better or more important than another, rather where they all must work together synergistically for the greater good of the organization. In this case, resources go not to who fights dirtier, but to who will most benefit the mission with them–in this case, their allegiance and duty is to the greater enterprise and its mission.

 

HBR states well that “In a real team [with a real leader], members hold themselves and one another jointly accountable.They share a genuine conviction they will succeed or fail together.”

 

Organizations need not be snake pits with cut throat managers wanting to see others fail and waiting to take what they can for themselves, rather there is another way, and that is to lead with a shared sense of purpose, meaning, and teamwork. 

 

And this is achieved through creating harmony among organizational elements and not class warfare between them.

 

This type of leader that creates unity–builds enduring strength–and has the ticket we need to organizational success.

 

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Raise Your Glass To Great Bosses

Raise_your_glass

It’s a funny time of year. Folks are celebrating the holidays, and for some of them the traditional office party is full of cheer, while for others it’s a nightmare.

In a way it’s a paradox for some that they have a holiday party with the same bosses that treat them otherwise badly the rest of year!

This reminds of some of the worst traits a boss can exhibit–here’s a “top 10”:

1) Selfishness: Every day it’s all about the boss–their power trip, their ego, their next promotion–instead of about the mission and the customers.

2) Amoral: To some, integrity and business do not go together.

3) Discrimination: They tolerate or in too many cases, even exhibit blatant discrimination themselves.

4) Disrespect: This can be overtly or implicitly, hurting the employee professionally and personally as well.

5) Inconsistency: Flip-flopping is not just something that bothers people about politics, but it makes for a bipolar work environment, where employees are damned if they do and if they don’t, but the boss can always say, “I told you so (and the opposite).”

6) Favoritism: Plays favorites instead of judging employees only on the true factor, merit. This causes workers to become demoralized as they see people hired and promoted for all the wrong reasons.

7) Insecurity: They are threatened by seemingly everyone and everything–can’t give anyone else credit or recognize the good around them–a one-person team who sees anybody else’s success as implying their own failure.

8) Competitive: They have to be the smartest person in the room, and innovation and objectivity is squelched–no risk is worth the wrath of “boss Khan.”

9) Stealing: If someone else does have something of value to contribute, this boss just steals it and presents it as their own (attribution or recognition, what for?)

10) Micromanagement: Looking over your shoulder every minute, redoing your work, not trusting you, they are control freaks, a complete nightmare to work for.

Bosses come in all shapes and sizes. I’ve been fortunate to work for some of the best, and I hope that I do them justice with my own employees over the course of my career.

Here’s hoping that at your holiday party, you were able to raise your glass with a boss who makes you feel valued and respected–that’s a holiday party to really celebrate!

(Source Photo: here)