Enter With A HANDSHAKE & Leave With A HUG

Hug.jpeg

So after almost 6 years at the U.S. Department of State, I am moving forward in my career to a very exciting role at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. 


As I look back, I have fond memories of the wonderful high-performance division I was part of and the many amazing achievements we had together, and what our Deputy Assistant Secretary called, the “A Team.”


But one thing today is sticking out in my mind and it’s this image.

“Enter with a handshake and leave with a hug.”

On the first days, when I arrived it was all formality and firm welcome handshakes.


We don’t really know you and you don’t really know us, but we’re embarking on this journey together, and where it takes us no one really knows, BUT we wish you the best of luck–now go out and do great things!


Then on the last days, as I was preparing to leave, the formal handshakes were long gone and instead they were replaced with warm heartfelt hugs (and some special emotional words and cards). 


I was no longer a mystery of a person, with just my reputation, coming in to do G-d knows what. 


Now, I was a human being that had a genuine history with them, formed relationships with many, had faced challenges together, and had touched not only minds, but also it was apparent, hearts. 


I will not forget the special people, nor the many times shared, our accomplishments as an organization, and how we grew. 


I am moving forward not only with their tight hugs to more handshakes anew, but also to once again hopefully grow heart-to-heart with people, as further relationships are formed and we make, please G-d, amazing new progress together–for the mission and for the people. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

We All Have It In Us

 

superman-jpegSo this is a very cool sweat jacket with the Superman and all look. 


We all like to think of ourselves as possible superheroes. 


Whether we dress the role or not, the most important thing is acting it. 


Every day, we face circumstances and decisions and we have to decide whether we rise up to the occasion as the superhero or we acquiesce to what’s easy or lucrative and do the villain thing. 


From the time we are kids, we glorify the superheros not just for the awesome cool powers they have, but for doing something amazing to help people and the world with it. 


Somewhere from being a kid to a grown-up, many people end up letting go of that superhero dream as they face the harsh realities of life everyday. 


But deep down inside all of us is that superhero!


Good over evil is not just a story for children’s bedtime or imagination, but it is our battle to be fought and won–that’s what a good life is for those that never lose their fundamental beliefs. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Body of Armor

body-armor

So had some disappointments recently.


Nothing terrible (and for that I am so grateful). 


Just life happening. 


Have to fail and fail and fail {more}…in order to get to that single success. 


Along the way, sometimes it feels like arrows going through your body.


Or as someone said to Tina Fey in a movie we watched yesterday:

“Hearts and minds, the two best places to shoot someone.”


Is that funny? 


Ok, now I know that I am feeling a little down, because even that made me smirk but not fully smile. 


It’s okay.


Life is a series of peaks and valleys. 


Time to climb that next peak. 


I will do it with body armor on and solid. 


Won’t let those arrows pierce me, while I ascend.


I am trying, and learning and growing along the way.


If I am to fall, Hashem, in mercy, pick me up that I may keep doing my mission you have for me in life, so that I may ultimately prevail toward the destiny only that You know and have planned for me, for the good. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Get Out Front Leadership

Leadership.jpeg

Thought this was a good photo of leadership.

I’ve seen other depictions of this such as when the commanding officer leads the charge of his advancing troops versus the other guy yelling orders from way behind the front lines. 

Here the idea of the leader is of being one with his people and helping pull his own weight!

Much more inspiring and effective than “the boss” who is yelling/barking orders at the others from on top the mound of work that the others are trying to move forward, and he is just adding to the weight of the load being pulled.

To really understand the mission or business, the leader has got to get out of his/her ivory tower perch and see things up close and personal on the front lines. 

You can’t really know the enemy you’re fighting or the hill your trying to take if you never even seen it firsthand. 

Leaders aren’t above the job or over the staff, they are effective when they are part of the solution (and not part of the problem) with the people that they are attempting to successfully lead. 😉

(Source Photo of Comic: Andy Blumenthal)

The Federal Island Of Insanity

SOS

So a colleague at work was supposed to get something done. 


Well it didn’t happen, and someone else got left holding the bag–not really very fair.  


Too make matters worse, the guy sort of unapologetically and clouded pops in my door and says to me, “What are we doing here?”


Taken aback and not sure what this guy is talking about, I say “Excuse me?”


He looks up into space for a moment, and turns back toward me and repeats emphatically, “I mean, like what are we e-v-e-n doing here?”


Getting more than a little frustrated at this point, I ask quizzically and with some sarcasm, “You mean on planet Earth?”


Again, turning and looking oddly away and then back my way, he says, “In this building!”


I must’ve been looking at him at this point like is he on drugs, and I say, “We’ll there are important laws that we’re fulfilling here (implicitly referring to FOIA, Records Act, Privacy Act, E.O. 13526, etc.).”


Unbelievably, he continues, now shaking his head, “Well that’s what I mean…why we need that?”


Having too much work to play out whatever this toxic game was any longer, I’m like, “[if you don’t believe in transparency and safeguarding/security of information,] Maybe you should write your Congressman,” [smile!] and with that went back to the million and one serious work things I still had waiting for attention.


In retrospect, I can’t help but think that incredibly, there are people coming to work here in D. C. that either don’t know why they are there in the first place (but should know!) or don’t believe in the mission or meaning of what they are doing.  


In the private sector, I certainly don’t think this conversation would’ve even gone on as long as it did…the consequences there seeming more pronounced, abrupt, and in a definite way connected with reality. 


With more than 16 years into the Federal sector, I still can’t believe a lot of what goes on–both good and hopeful, and bad and more than a little disappointing. 😉


(Source Photo: Danielle Blumenthal)

Getting Zinged

Bee

So there is the work at work. 


And then there is the behind the scenes people stuff that goes on.


And anyone who has been around the block long enough in organizations know that the people stuff is where all the “craziness” happens. 


A friend told me a story about their colleague.


The colleague sends a trash-talking email about the person at work, but instead of sending it to the presumed audience they instead send to the person himself….oops. 


So the veneer of “how your doing today?” and “hope you have a nice weekend!” is revealed by something else. 


Awkward, no?


Email is generally a positive method of communication, but also can be treacherous and revealing.


No matter at work, the main thing is stay focused on the mission and not to get sidetracked by the zinger of the day. 


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Work For It

Hard Work

This was an astute fortune cookie this weekend:


“The dictionary is the only place where success comes before work.”


It reminded me of what my dad used to tell me that:


“Nothing, in life, is easy.


Or as my mother-in-law says:


“The world owes you nothing!”


Basically, the messages are similar that we have to work hard for what we want in life.


You have to believe in your goals and your mission. 


And follow through with rock solid determination and perserverance.


It seems in life that almost as soon as one challenge is over the next is ready to begin.


Got to have faith, pray for G-d’s guidance, and be strong. 😉


(Source Photo: Dannielle Blumenthal)

CIO, Social Butterfly Or Tyrant

Friends
So I’ve seen it both ways…



There are those who “lead” by friendship, as if the workplace is one big playpen; and the notion is that those who have the most office buddies wins; to them it’s not the mission or work that is important but rather it’s a popularity contest, plain and simple–they are immature and still stuck in the preschool mode of thinking about what leadership is and how to work productively with others. 



Then there are others who “lead” by tyranny–it is a one person show and they are it; no one else has an viewpoint or idea that matters; anyone else who is good to great is a threat to them–they are insecure and narcissistic and the scariest thing in the world to them is to surround themselves with people smarter than themselves or give credit, respect, and honor to others.



Now there is nothing wrong with doing a coffee, lunch, or happy hour, networking, and building relationships with good people…in fact, interpersonal skills is a critical part of the job and of success.



However, those who flutter around smoozing it up with anyone and everyone, and unlike normal working discussions that have a congenial, “how you doing?” aspect and a serious, let’s get down to business part, these social butterflies never get past the game on last night, their trip to Paris, or their one night stand…it’s all personal, conferences, speeches, but no real work getting done (maybe some smoke and mirrors). 



Similarly, there are times, when decisions need to be made and the debate must end, and not everything in the office can be a vote where majority wins–sometimes tough decisions and trade-offs need to be made, authority exercised, and responsibility taken.



Nevertheless, it’s when moderation and good judgement is lost and a person’s emotional issues, personality disorders, and social anxieties take over that they act the fool–and they either rule by shaking hands and kissing babies (or the office equivalent of favors, favortism, and coffee or drinks, I’m buying!) or they are hard-a*sed, prickly jerks who cannot work with anyone that can pull their own weight and instead we see a flurry people make a dash for the exits. 



How do either of these types of people become leaders of anything? Don’t the executives they report see or hear the chaos in the ranks below and the projects going bottom-up, kaput?



We’ve got to get along and nothing wrong with work friends, but we are here to do a job and do it well and for that we need to come together as decent human beings who treat each other with respect, dignity, and where everyone can make a valuable contribution–CIO social butterflies and inglorious tyrants begone! 😉



(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Govgeddon Is Not An Option

Govgeddon Is Not An Option

Interesting article in the Wall Street Journal about how the Federal government is falling to attract young people.

“Employees under the age of 30 hit an eight-year low of 7% in 2013…[while back in 1975, more than 20% of the federal workforce was under 30.”

Conversely, 45% of the federal workforce is older than 50.

Moreover by September 2016, a quarter of the all federal employees will be eligible to retire–that the retirement wave we’ve been hearing about for years, but never seems to really come (because of the economy).

Without “a pipeline of young talent, the government risks falling behind in an increasingly digital world.”

It’s not the older people can’t learn the technology, but rather they aren’t digital natives as those born in the later part of the 20th century.

To see just a glimpse of the digital divide, you need to go no further than when many of these folks snicker at us for even just sending emails–something so uncouth to the younger crowd.

With years of salary freezes, no awards, benefit cuts especially for new hires, and shutdowns, the federal government which used to be “an employee of choice,” is “now an employee of last resort.”

Further, “the reputation for bureaucracy and hierarchy is driving away many workers.” People want to be productive and get things done, not spin their wheels.

Yet, the government offers so many exciting jobs performing critical missions in everything from national security, diplomacy, law enforcement, and so much more, it is ironic that we cannot attract young people, who are often the most idealist.

Diversity in the federal workforce means that people under 30 are not a rarity!

Everyone–no matter what age, sex, race, religion, and so one–provides an important contribution, so that the sum of the parts is greater than the whole.

We need people to clearly feel the honor in public service, to see the importance of the missions performed, and to be treated like valued workers and not political pawns in partisan showdowns and Washington shutdowns.

Let’s actively recruit with an attractive smorgasbord of enhanced salary and benefits, especially in critical fields like cyber security, information technology, biotechnology, aerospace engineering, and more.

It’s time for the federal government to become attractive for young (and older) workers again, and not apologetic for providing important jobs in service of the nation.

The federal government needs to compete for the best and brightest and not resign itslef to second-tier, ever.

Our young people are an important pipeline for fresh ideas and cutting-edge skills, and we need them to prevent a govgeddon where we can’t perform or compete with the skills and diversity of workforce that we must have. 😉

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Will You Take The Next Exit Or Not?

Will You Take The Next Exit Or Not?

I’m not really into the psychic stuff.

First, I learned in Yeshiva that we are not supposed to divine the future.

Second, I don’t think we’re supposed to know what we’re not supposed to know–it take the edge of the challenge in life (almost like trying to gain an unfair advantage in going through life’s ups and downs, which is how we learn and grow).

Third, I think there are a lot of charlatans out there (not everyone, but a lot).

But one idea recently, from Sylvia Brown, has got me thinking.

The idea is that we each have Exit Points in our lives–“precise times and ways when we’ll leave here and go Home again.”

Brown says we each have 5 of these exits planned in our lives–“and we can use any one of the five we want, as we go along, depending on whether or not we feel we’ve accomplished enough of what we wanted from this lifetime to begin with.”

Thinking back to my own life, I can clearly see times when it seemed like my number was up.

Each occurrence was dramatic and looking back now, sort of surreal.

During these exit points, I know that I was just inches from death and that G-d brought me back.

This is where I differ from Brown, I don’t think it was my choice to live or die, but I think it was a time of judgement, when G-d decided whether to let me live on (although, perhaps, I had some input as far as G-d is concerned).

The exit points are not escape hatches like from the Matrix, where we can choose to stop or “exit program,” but rather times in our lives when we are given the opportunity to go on or not.

Also, I think the decision of whether we stay or go is based in part on whether we’ve accomplished our mission, but also on those around us who will be impacted–that’s why it takes G-d to figure out all the combinations and permutations to make the call.

Bad things happen and people die suddenly and violently or even excruciatingly slow and painful deaths–and in other cases people survive to die another day–we really don’t know what is going to happen.

Part of not knowing tests us–sometimes to our limits and perhaps for some even beyond (although I was taught in Yeshiva that G-d never gives us more than we can handle).

We live, we die, and perhaps we live again i.e. through reincarnation–a mechanism of ultimate justice and learning.

Will G-d permit us to continue as ourselves in this go around, to come back as another in a future spiral, or is it really “game over”?

I thank G-d for letting me live to continue my journey–I still have so much to learn here and now–what the future brings, only the merciful Almighty knows. 😉

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)