The CEO and The Janitor

Janitor.jpeg

Wow, I heard a powerful story from a colleague that I wanted to share.


The colleague’s father was a industrial psychologist and he would go into some relatively big organizations to improve the functioning and culture. 


One of the things that he would do is get the CEO and the janitor in the same room together. 


And he would say:

“Both of you have vital jobs in the organization and you need to appreciate each other!”


At this point, the CEO and the janitor would be looking around the room super quizzically.


And the psychologist would to the janitor and say:

“The CEO’s job is critical, because without the CEO, we wouldn’t have the leadership and vision for the organization to be successful, and you wouldn’t have a job and salary.

 

Then he’d turn to the CEO and  explain:

The Janitor’s job is critical, because without the janitor, we wouldn’t have a clean and functioning building and facilities for everyone to do their jobs and be successful, and you wouldn’t be able to come to work ever day.”

 

It’s really amazing that despite all the fancy titles, corners offices, and rich compensation packages for some, really everyone in the organization is vital in their own way!

 

We need to remember that when we deal with others that they are human beings–in the image of G-d–and we need to treat all with the utmost dignity and respect for both who they are and what they contribute. 😉

 

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Our Lives Matter

birth-jpeg

I thought this saying by Rabbi Nachman of Breslov was very profound. 

“The day you were born is the day G-d decided that the world could not exist without you.”

We all need to know that our lives have a purpose and meaning.

…that it’s not all in vain that we live and toil.

There are many such notions tied to this:

– Jewish blood is not cheap.

– Black lives matter and Blue lives matter.

But the question is why do our lives matter? 

Kurt Vonnegut has an interesting piece on this:

“In the beginning, God created the earth, and he looked upon it in His cosmic loneliness. And God said, “Let Us make living creatures out of mud, so the mud can see what We have done.” And God created every living creature that now moveth, and one was man. Mud as man alone could speak. God leaned close to mud as man sat up, looked around, and spoke. Man blinked. “What is the purpose of all this?” he asked politely. “Everything must have a purpose?” asked God. “Certainly,” said man. “Then I leave it to you to think of one for all this,” said God. And He went away.”  

So the answer is that we bring purpose to life. 


In what we learn, and do, and how we grow…this is our purpose. 


For each of us, it’s different.


G-d created us in “His cosmic loneliness” to think on this and make meaning from the lives that he so graciously granted to us. 


Now we must go and do something positive with it.


Because G-d decided the day you were born that “the world could not exist without you.” 😉


(Source Photo: Forwarded to me by Michelle Blumenthal)

Meeting The Boss, John Kerry

Secretary John Kerry and Andy Blumenthal.jpeg.jpg

What an awesome day today getting to meet Secretary of State, John Kerry. 

It is truly very cool to work for the Federal government and to be part of something much bigger than ourselves.

Meaning, purpose, contribution, service, and constant learning–that is a lot of goodness and opportunity to receive in one’s career. 

Thank you G-d for the amazing moments as well as the daily grind to work through it all. 😉

(Source Photo: Colleague)

The Pen From A Puddle

Pen
You know how ideas just sort of come to you…



Well, major innovations that have changed the course of history haven’t really happened that way. 



All innovation and development start from somewhere–usually where G-d or someone else has left off–and then we take things a cycle forward. 



In the Wall Street Journal, James Ward describes how the simple yet profound ballpoint pen was invented. 



Not until 1899 was it founded giving everyone the ability to write away with a ball at the point (a ballpoint) that rolls and dispenses the ink with ease. 



The ballpoint pen was invented by Liszlo Biro of Budapest. 



Observing that in printing presses the machine cylinder could only roll ink back and forth, however for everyday writing people needed an all-directional mechanism. 



So what happens…



Sitting at a cafe and thinking, he sees children playing with marbles.



And one child’s marble rolls through a puddle of water. 



The marble leaves “a line of water in its wake.”



Boom…the idea for the ballpoint bearing comes in being with “minute grooves” in the pen head to draw the ink to the tip and unto the paper. 



With further experimentation, the famous Bic (Cristal) pen named after Frenchman, Marcel Bich, was born in 1959.  It has a “hexagonal body (inspired by the shape of aa traditional wooden pencil) and instantly recognizable lid”–since it’s launch, more than 100 billion of these pens have been manufactured and sold!



By the way, remember the hilarious commercial for the Bic Banana Ink Crayon Pens (watch here to laugh a little).



So in both instances of the invention of the pen, the developers found other things in their environment from which they learned and then they applied it to something new (in one instance the child with the marble and water, and in the other the shape of the good ‘ol pencil). 



Lesson learned here: 



Watch, learn, experiment, learn, apply — change the world! 😉



(Source Photo: here with attribution to photosteve101)

The Lights Never Really Go Off

Light Switch

It was interesting at work recently, when a colleague was contemplating what to do about some key person being out of the office and unavailable…



And they go: “Next man or women up–last one flips off the light.”



In other words as they say, the show must go on!



So hurry up and let’s get the person’s deputy, “second,” or the next one on the ladder read in and working on this. 



When it comes to work, we can’t stop because someone is “out of pocket”–the job presuposes any particular person or persons.



While many peope think (or wish) they are irreplaceable, the truth is that with the exception of your closest family and friends, we are all just shy of, “Okay, whose up next?”



I remember a friend who told me many years ago that he believed that the whole world revolved around him (yes really), and that everyone else was “just a figment of my imagination.”



Ha, I’m pretty sure that a lot of people have had a similar thought or sentiment about themselves. 



But the truth is that while everyone is unique and invaluable–there are over 7 billion of us out there and growing–so there is always someone else waiting in the wings to jump on an opportunity to fill someone else’s shoes (no matter how big). 



It is a harsh world and reality–but we are here as long as we are here, and then there are others who come after. 



In a sense, this is a good thing, because as mere mortals, we don’t want everything to depend on us–we are frail, we get sick, we die–but by having others who can step in and carry the flag forward, our efforts do not end with us. 🙂



(Source Photo: here with attribution to Niklas Morberg)

Teats Or Not

Bull

So I heard a new phrase from one of my colleagues recently…


He goes on about somebody (or something) being like “2 teats on a bull!”


I’ve always wanted to spend some serious time on a farm…but never really have had the opportunity to learn about that whole rural world, and I’m like what????


But I got it, and didn’t really like it. 


Sort of a harsh way to call someone out as a useless piece of [you know what]!


I’ve heard kids joke about “man boobs” and I sure you can guess what those unflattering things are on a male.


Too often, we write people off without giving them a real chance!


While perhaps, there can be useless appendages through genetics or illness, there are no fundamentally useless people (although maybe some can be troubled, dejected, in a bad fit, etc.).


More often, there are unflattering comments from others who don’t appreciate differences or see clearly what each person can “bring to the table.”


Let’s just say, if G-d created someone, there is reason and purpose to their lives, and we need to understand and appreciate them for their value. 


It may take (some) exploration, but everyone has strengths (as well as weaknesses–we’re all human) and we can find what each person is good at, cultivate it, and leverage it for the good. 😉


(Source Photo: here with attribution to Carol Von Canon)

How To Give Employee Feedback

Poop Free Zone
Finally some realism about how to conduct employee evaluations…



The Wall Street Journal reports that in the past employees could expect that “we would bring them in and beat them down a bit.”



But now, managers are expected to “scrap the negative feedback” and “extol staffers strengths” (accentuate the positives).



Companies are realizing that negative feedback does “more harm than good.”



– You tick off the employee and ruin any positive relationship and trust. 

– The employee feels unappreciated, hurt, and in jeopardy. 

– Employees project their hurt feelings and accuse you of being the problem. 

– The deteriorating state makes them fear that you are working against them and they become unmotivated to try to do better.

– Instead, they spend their time working against you (and the company), and looking for another job. 



There is an old saying that you don’t sh*t where you eat, and so it is with employee performance evaluations.



In over 25 years, I have never seen negative employees reviews produce positive results!



However, I have seen that sincerely praising everyones’ best efforts, leveraging their strengths, and being thankful for what each person contributes makes a high performing team where people are loyal, want to work, and contribute their best. 



Everyone has weaknesses and problems, and frankly most people when they are being honest with themselves, know what their issues are. Pointing their face in it, doesn’t help. (Have you ever told a fat person that they need to lose a few pounds?)



One idea that I did like from the Journal is called “feedforward,” where you ask “employees to suggest ideas for their own improvement for the future.”



This way each person can be introspective and growth as they mature and are ready, but not under threat, rather with support and encouragement. 😉



(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

The Power Of One, Many, And G-d

Voice
I took this photo at Broward College in Fort Lauderdale. 



I like how they took the pictures of the professors, administrators, and students and wallpapered it outside on the facade of the building. 



It says, “I am the voice of innovative education and civic engagement for the 21st century.”



It’s a cool idea showing the individuals and the power they have to make a difference as well as the aggregate of the photos, as a group, displaying that we are somehow all in it together. 



We can’t just rely on others, and we can’t take it all on ourselves…progress is a shared responsibility. 



We do our part and contribute to the greater group–it takes a variety of talents to get things done, so we leverage everyones strengths for the good of the team. 



Education is one part.  



Experience is another.  



Engagement is a third



And all these ingredients only come together with divine providence and the good fortune from the Almighty.



This last one is the secret sauce as they say. 😉



(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Everyone Participates

Suggestion Box
So very infrequently do suggestion boxes actually work. 



In the office, I remember when the suggestion box was put out and the biggest suggestion put into the box was to bring paper towels back to the bathrooms after these had been replaced months before with hand dryers, so the toilets wouldn’t get clogged up!



Most of the time suggestions boxes like meetings don’t get the participation and input needed. 



Today, in the New York Times, Phil Gilbert says that in the meeting room, “You’ve got the extrovert, the introvert, the know-it-all and the ambitious steamroller. No matter what the mix, there’s always someone who dominates the discussion, and others who defer to that person out of frustration–or worse, complacency.”



Truthfully, I think Gilbert misses the point–most people don’t speak up not out of frustration or complacency–but rather from fear…fear of sounding stupid, fear of people disagreeing with them, and fear of management retribution for saying the”wrong” thing.



In any case, his reflection on how some at IBM deal with this is helpful (although frankly I’ve heard this approach before and it was from a strategic planning class I believe, and not from IBM):



– Everyone writes their input on sticky notes.



– You go around the room where everyone contributes an idea and posts their note to the wall or board (and you keep doing this until ideas are exhausted). 



– The facilitator groups like ideas/sticky notes to start to form common theme and direction. 



– The group may go out and come back again for another round of ideas and input.



The point is everyone contributes to the discussion…no idea is a bad idea…and not one in the room is left to sit idly in the corner playing with their smartphone, daydreaming, or picking their noses. 



Through vetting and discussion, the best idea(s) become evident. 



I like how Gilbert ends his article emphasizing the importance of getting everyone’s ideas out there…”Once you know something, you can’t unknow it–you have to act.”



Knowing what everyone really thinks is half the battle. 



The other half is executing on the really great ideas that people come up with (Gilbert doesn’t address this). 



And again for that you need EVERYONE to contribute their talents…big mouths, naysayers, and do nothings begone! 😉



(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Waiting For You To Succeed

Waiting For You To Succeed
I love this on the sidewalk this week. 



“The World is Waiting for you to SUCCEED!”



Encouraging, inspiring, motivational, hopeful, purposeful, future-oriented, and more. 



Too often we can focus on the negatives–how hard things are and can be; how many obstacles and challenges there are to getting somewhere; the many failures along the way; the bullies, naysayers, competition, and power-mongers who don’t want us to succeed.



But think about it…



When we overcome all these (with G-d ‘s help), the world is waiting for our success–our contributions, our building blocks, our ideas, inputs, innovations, and creations.



When we succeed in advancing things (and not just doing for self), the world benefits!



We can have a purpose and meaning to our lives–we are part of something bigger and greater than ourselves and our mortality. 



Everyone has to do their part for the world to succeed. 😉



(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)