Another Nothing Burger

Nothing Burger.jpeg

So I’ve noticed that not only in politics–but in life–people are want to throw around a lot of nothing burgers.


This happens when they make vague accusations–incriminating people or groups–but without substantiating what they are saying. 


It’s a way of bullying, discriminating, and hating on others. 


Creating doubt about your victim–keep saying those derogatory, demeaning, and hateful stories–it tarnishes the other person’s image, reputation, and credibility.


Creating an endless aura of fallibility on the other person’s part. 


Here, we go…they screwed up again!


It’s death by a thousand cuts of insults, pot shots, and sucker punches.

It’s a definite form of verbal and emotional abuse and violence. 


Sometimes, there may be something to it–in which case the party that screwed up should take responsibility, correct their mistakes, and commit to sincerely doing better in the future. 


But often, there is nothing there!


And the false accusations are merely a way to cover up (management) incompetency or bias by the accusers themselves. 


It’s a great way to dominate the conversation, but really the people making the stink are simply acting out–and not too flattering as the whiners and complainers.


They point fingers at others, but there are three fingers pointing back at themselves!


Why?


Because it’s another nothing burger meant to deceive, discredit, and retard and take the focus off their own meatless patties!  


Where’s the beef?


The liars and deceivers and propagandists are using you for their own means.


Another nothing burger in the oven and it ain’t kosher! 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Getting To Yes

Customer Service.jpeg

I thought this was a good and important customer service principle:

“Don’t make me go through NO
To get to YES.”


When it comes to customer service, the default for reasonable requests from good customers should always be YES!


We can either make the experience miserable for the customer and leave them fuming, never coming back, and bad-mouthing us or we can make it fair, easy, accommodating, and a WOW experience!


Why not build your customer base and reputation for excellence rather than erode it? 


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

What Do Red Lines Mean Anyway?

Red Lines.JPEG

Whether with chemical weapons or nuclear capable ballistic missiles, we set red lines with Syria and Iran and what happens?


These are weapons of mass destruction we are talking about!


What message do we send our dangerous adversaries, when we say we are going to do something and then we hesitate or don’t follow through?


Respect is earned and without that we are as good as roadkill. 


When we say something is crossing our red lines we ought to “say what we mean and mean what we say.”


Our national security is important, and so are our red lines and follow through actions. 😉 


(Source Graphic: Andy Blumenthal adapted from here with attribution to hobvias sudoneighm)

Live To Live or Live To Die?

Angel

In The New York Times today, David Brooks presents “two sets of virtues, the resume virtue and the eulogy virtue.”


The resume virtues are the skills you need to get ahead in the marketplace, and the eulogy virtues are “whether you were kind, brave, honest, or faithful.”


While we’d like to believe that most feel that being a decent human being is more important than how much money we earn, unfortunately our education and economic systems are geared far more toward the latter, where it’s widely acknowledged that “money makes the world go round!”


In fact, many will often sacrifice the moral high ground for landing on a bigger, cushier hill of worldly possessions and pleasures. 


Interestingly enough, my daughter asked me last week, whether it is better to personally live a happy life but die with a horrible reputation or to live selflessly, struggling with life challenges, but be revered after you die?


To me the answer was simple–live, learn, and grow regardless of momentary personal happiness. Do what’s right, period–honor and chivalry is alive and well. 


But my daughter told me that over 90% of people polled chose their happiness in life as their #1 goal.


I suppose it’s easy to say what’s the point of leaving a legacy if you were not happy living your life every day, but I would counter with what’s the point in chasing life’s daily pleasures, if you were a bum and everyone knows it?


The point isn’t even what people say about us when we are alive or dead, but rather that we know that we tried our best to live as decent, ethical human beings and that hopefully, we left the world a better place than when we got here.


Sure, there is no blessing in being poor or unhappy–but living purely to satisfy one’s voracious materialistic appetite is just being a selfish little pig–come on admit it!


On your deathbed, will you wish you that in your life you had more money and status or that you had been a better, more giving human being? 


I say forget the resume and the eulogy, just think about what will really gives you peace of mind and inner happiness and it’s more than any amount of money can buy or any seduction you can imagine.  😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

You’re Probably Not A 10

If I Want Your Opinion
There is a review online for nearly everything…from sources such as Amazon to Yelp, Angie’s List, IMDb, and more. 



But what you may not realize is that the knife cuts both ways…you are not only the reviewer, but the subject of reviews.



And if you’re not all that…then everyone can know it!



The New York Times has an opinion piece by Delia Ephron about how reports cards are no longer just for kids, and that they are “for the rest of my life…[and] this is going on your permanent record.”



From cabbies that won’t pick you up because you’ve been rated a bad fare to your therapist that says you can’t stop obsessing, restaurants that complain you refused to pay for the chopped liver, and the department store says you wasted their salesperson’s time and then bought online, and even your Rabbi says you haven’t been giving enough to the synagogue lately. 



People hear things, post things, and can access their records online…your life is not private, and who you are at least in other peoples opinion is just an easy search away. 



In Tweets, Blogs, on Facebook, and even in companies customer records, you have a personal review and rating waiting for discovery.



Your review might be good, but then again…you are not always at your finest moments and these get captured in databases and on social media.



Data mining or exfiltration of your personal information is your public enemy #1.



Of course, you’d like to think (or wish) that you’re brand is a 10, but not everyone loves you that way your mother does.  



Too bad you can’t tell them, “If I want your opinion, I’ll ask for it”–either way, your gonna hear what people think of you loud and clear. 😉



(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

What’s Your Information Lifecycle

A critical decision for every person and organization is how long to keep information out there in the physical and cyber realms.

Delete something too soon–and you may be looking in vain for that critical document, report, file, picture, or video and may even violate record retention requirements.

Fail to get rid of something–and you may be embarrassed, compromised, ripped off, or even put in legal jeopardy.
It all depends what the information is, when it is from, and who gets their hands and eyes on it!

Many stars have been compromised by paparazzi or leaked photos that ended up on the front page of newspapers or magazines and even government officials have ended up in the skewer for getting caught red handed like ex-Congressman Anthony Weiner sexting on Twitter.

Everything from statuses to photos put on social media have gotten people in trouble whether when applying to schools and jobs, with their partners, and even with law enforcement.

Information online is archived and searchable and it is not uncommon for parents to warn kids to be careful what they put online, because it can come back to haunt them later.

Now smartphones applications like Snapchat are helping people communicate and then promptly delete things they send.

With Snapshot, you can snap a photo, draw on it, even add text and send to friends, family, others. The innovation here is that before you hit send, you choose how long you want the message to be available to the recipient before vanishing–up to 10 seconds.

Snapchat has sent over 1 billion messages since July and claims over 50 million are sent daily–although forget trying to verify that by counting up the messages because they have self-destructed and are gone!

Of course, there are workarounds such as taking a screenshot of the message before it vanishes or taking a photo of the message–so nothing is full proof.

Last year, according to The Atlantic, the European Commission proposed a “Right-To Be Forgotten” as part of their data protection and privacy laws. This would require social media sites to remove by request embarrassing information and photos and would contrast with the U.S. freedom of speech rights that protects “publishing embarrassing but truthful information.”

Now, companies like Reputation.com even provide services for privacy and reputation management where they monitor information about you online, remove personal information from sites that sell it, and help you with search engine optimization to “set the record straight” with personal, irrelevant, exaggerated or false information by instead publishing positive truthful material.

According to Bloomberg BusinessWeek (7 Feb. 2013), “Ephemeral data is the future,” but I would say comprehensive reputation management is the future–whether through the strategic management of permanent information or removing of temporary data–we are in a sense who the record says we are. 😉

Those In The Know, Sending Some Pretty Clear Warnings

Listen

There have been a number of leaders who have stepped up to tell people the real risks we are facing as a nation.

They are not playing politics–they have left the arena.

And as we know, it is much easier to be rosy and optimistic–let’s face it, this is what people want to hear.

But these leaders–national heros–sacrifice themselves to provide us an unpopular message, at their own reputational risk.

That message is that poor leadership and decision-making in the past is threatening our present and future.

Earlier this week (15 May 2011), I blogged about a documentary called I.O.U.S.A. with David Walker, the former Comptroller General of the United States for 10 years!

Walker was the head of the Government Accountability Office (GAO)–the investigative arm of Congress itself, and has testified before them and toured the country warning of the dire fiscal situation confronting us from our proclivity to spend future generation’s money today–the spiraling national deficit.

Today, I read again in Fortune (21 May 2012) an interview with another national hero, former Admiral Mike Mullen, who was chairmen of the Joint Chiefs (2007-2011).

Mullen warns bluntly of  a number of “existential threats” to the United States–nukes (which he feels is more or less “under control”), cyber security, and the state of our national debt.

Similarly, General Keith Alexander, the Director of the National Security Agency (NSA) and the head of the Pentagon’s Cyber Command has warned that DoD networks are not currently defensible and that attackers could disable our networks and critical infrastructure underpinning our national security and economic stability.

To me, these are well-respected individuals who are sending some pretty clear warning signals about cyber security and our national deficit, not to cause panic, but to inspire substantial change in our national character and strategic priorities.

In I.O.U.S.A., after one talk by Walker on his national tour, the video shows that the media does not even cover the event.

We are comfortable for now and the messages coming down risk shaking us from that comfort zone–are we ready to hear what they are saying?

(Source Photo: here with attribution to Vagawi)

Goldman Sachs Reputation Sacked?

Sacking_of_rome

When Greg Smith published his editorial in the New York Times (14 March 2012) on the alleged debased culture and greedy exploits at Goldman Sachs, this was far from surprising after the many misdeeds of Corporate America over the last decade that saw the rise of Sarbanes Oxley in 2002 and the massive financial bailouts in 2008, which does not represent who we really are and can be.

It’s not that Corporate America is bad, it’s just that they frequently get rewarded for doing the wrong things.

All too often, promotions, corner offices, year-end bonuses, and stock options are the rewards for racking in profits, but are not necessarily tied to innovation and/or customer satisfaction.

I believe over the years this has taken many word forms from snake oil salesman, charlatans, spoilers, and many others.

Greg Smith who worked for a dozen years at Goldman–in of all things “recruiting and mentoring”–described the venerable Goldman Sachs as a place where:

– “Interest of clients continue to be sidelined”

– “Decline in the firm’s moral fiber represents the single most serious threat to it’s long-term survival.”

– If you make enough money for the firm…you will be promoted.”

– At sales meetings, “not one single minute is spent asking questions about how we can help clients.”

– Leaders callously “talk about ripping off clients” and call their clients “muppets,” a British slang terms for “idiots.”

The funny-sad thing is that after all these horrific accusations, Goldman has not come out and full-on-full repudiated these claims.

On March 15, the Wall Street Journal reported “Goldman Plays Damage Control” saying that “it will examine the claims.” 

Rather than denying the accusations in specific ways and pointing out their true moral fiber, the Chairman in a memo to employees chose to downplay the accuser calling him only one “of nearly 12,000 vice presidents” of 30,000 employees. In other words, this is just the opinion of a lone wolf.

More generally, the Chairman wrote coyly that this does “not reflect our values,our culture, and how the vast majority of people at Goldman Sachs think of the firm and the work it does on behalf of our clients.”

In another article, in Bloomberg BusinessWeek (19-25 March 2012), it states similarly that “Goldman Sachs would have you believe it’s learned from the financial crisis. Don’t be fooled.”

The article goes on to list a scathing history of scandal from Goldman Sachs Trading Corporation that “blew up” after the stock market crash of 1929 to Goldman’s settlement with the SEC for a whopping $550 million in 2010. Further, it describes a current conflict of interest case with El Paso and Kinder Morgan that they call a Goldman “heads-I-win, tails-you-lose approach.”

While I have always respected the likes of Goldman Sachs for their unbelievable brainpower and talent,the accusations against them and by extension against others in Corporate America is very concerning.

The notion that customers are but idiots for Corporate America to pillage and plunder is not democracy and capitalism, but greed and evil.

When we no longer value a creed of service above pure profiteering then moral bankruptcy is just a prelude to financial bankruptcy.

No company can stay afloat and be competitive over time, if they do not work to strengthen their balance sheets, income statements, and cash flows.

However, at the same time, no competitor can thrive for long on a culture of greed and duplicity that sees people as victims to spoil, rather than as customers to serve.

While I do not know the details of Greg Smith’s accusations, this last part I know in my heart to be truth.

(Source Photo: here)

>Why Reputation Is The Foundation For Innovation

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Toyota is a technology company with some of the most high-tech and “green” cars on the planet. But right now Totoya’s leaders seem to lack integrity, and they haven’t proactively handled the current crisis. As a result, everything they have built is in danger.

Too often, IT leaders think that their technical competency is sufficient. However, these days it takes far more to succeed. Of course, profitability is a key measure of achievement and sustainability. But if basic integrity, accountability, and open and skillful communication are absent, then no amount of innovation in the world can save you.

Looking back, no one would have thought that Toyota would go down in a flaming debacle of credibility lost. For years, Toyota ate the lunch of the largest American car manufacturers—and two of the three were driven to bankruptcy just last year. Moreover, they had a great reputation built on quality – and that rocketed Toyota to be the #1 car company in the world.

A reputation for quality gave Toyota a significant edge among potential buyers. Purchasing a Toyota meant investing in a car that would last years and years without defect or trouble—it was an investment in reliability and it was well worth the extra expense. Other car companies were discounting and incenting sales with low or zero interest rates, cash back, and extended warranties, and so on. But Toyota held firm and at times their cars even sold for above sticker price. In short, their brand elicited a price premium. Toyota had credibility and that credibility translated into an incredibly successful company.

Now Toyota has suffered a serious setback by failing to disclose and fix brake problems so serious that they have allegedly resulted in loss of life. Just today, the Boston Globe reports that Toyota has been sued in Boston by an individual who alleges that “unintended acceleration (of his Toyota vehicle) caused a single-car crash that killed his wife and left him seriously injured.” The Globe goes on to report that “dozens of people reportedly have been killed in accidents involving unwanted acceleration.”

While nothing is perfect, not even Toyota engineering, in my opinion the key to recovering from mistakes is to be honest, admit them, be accountable, and take immediate action to rectify. These are critical leadership must do’s! Had Toyota taken responsibility in those ways, I believe their reputation would have been enhanced rather than grossly tarnished as it is now, because ultimately people respect integrity above all else, and they will forgive mistakes when they are honest mistakes and quickly rectified.

Unfortunately, this has not occurred with Toyota, and the brake problems appear to be mistakes that were known and then not rectified—essentially, Toyota’s transgression may have been one of commission rather than simply omission. For example, this past week, the CEO of Toyota, Akio Toyoda, testified before Congress that “we didn’t listen as carefully as we should—or respond as quickly as we must—to our customer’s concerns.” However, in reality, company executives not only didn’t respond, but also actually apparently stalled a response and celebrated their success in limiting recalls in recent years. As Congressman Edolphus Towns, chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, stated: “Toyota’s own internal documents indicate that a premium was placed on delaying or closing NHTSA investigations, delaying new safety rules and blocking the discovery of safety defects.” (Bloomberg News via the Austin American Statesman)

In other words, Toyota strayed from its promise to customers to put safety center stage. Rather, profit took over and became the benchmark of success.

Even the company’s own managers acknowledge the deep wound that this scandal has inflicted on the company, and have doubts about its leadership. According to the Wall Street Journal, a midlevel manager stated, “Mr. Toyoda cannot spell out how he plans to alleviate consumer worries….it is a recall after another, and every time Mr. Toyoda utters the phrase ‘customer first,’ it has the opposite effect. His words sound just hollow.’” Said another, “The only way we find out anything about the crisis is through the media….Does Mr. Toyoda have the ability to lead? That’s on every employee’s mind.”

Indeed, the Journal echoes these sentiments, noting that under Toyoda’s leadership, there was a focus on “getting the company back to profitability, after the company last year suffered it first loss in 70 years.” In other words, in an attempt to “reinstate frugality,” it appears that CEO Toyoda went too far and skimped on quality—becoming, as the saying goes, “penny wise and dollar foolish.” We will see if this debacle costs Toyota market share and hurts the bottom line over the intermediate to longer-term.

In recent times, we have seen a shift away from quality and credibility in favor of a fast, cheap buck in many sectors of the economy. For example, I have heard that some homebuyers actually prefer hundred-year-old homes to new construction due to their perception that the quality was better back then and that builders take shortcuts now. But somehow Toyota always stood out as a bulwark against this trend. It is therefore deeply disappointing to see that even they succumbed. While the company has a long road ahead to reestablish their credibility and rebuild their brand, I, for one, sincerely hope that they rediscover their roots and “do the right thing.”

>Speaking with Integrity

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At work, there is often a lot more talking going on than just work issues. There is the office politics and the chatter about staff, colleagues, management, stakeholders, and so on.

“Oh by the way, have you heard what John said to Mary this week?”

Rumors easily get started about office indiscretions, “dumb mistakes,” bad decisions, injustices, nepotism, and even office romances.

Yeah, it goes on everyday.

Some of it is true, but more often than not, a lot is exaggerated, taken out of context, only one side of the story, or just plain B.S.—but for many, it makes for interesting conversation nonetheless.

Speech is a true gift. It enables us to easily communicate with each other and to share feelings, thoughts, and form meaningful relationships.

But speech is also something that needs to be guarded, because words misused or abused can hurt others—their feelings, their reputation, their future prospects, and even their basic human dignity.

There is an old saying that G-d gave us two ears and one mouth, so that we could listen twice as much as we speak. In other words, our speech should be carefully thought and wisely used.

I remember this Talmudic story going something like this…there are various parts of the body arguing about which is the most important—the legs said without me you couldn’t walk, and the eyes say without me you could not see, and so on and so forth. But the mouth says, I am the most important because with just one (or a couple of) word(s), I can get you in trouble and even killed. And sure enough, on some pretense the man is called before the king and from the man’s mouth comes some insulting words to the king who orders that the man be executed for his insolence.

Indeed our words are very important—they can harm and they can heal.

I was reminded of this just recently, a young adult was telling me that a boy in her high school class made fun of her “in front of everybody” and she broke out crying—deeply hurt and humiliated. Sometimes, these are the events that can scar a person long after the event is over and seemingly forgiven and forgotten. Perhaps, this was just another person’s insensitivity or their misguided thinking that they are elevating themselves by putting down someone else, but either way, their words cut like a knife.

I ran into another example of this recently, when I heard of a Star-Trek fan who questioned whether artificial intelligence (e.g., like the character Data) could be considered human, “just like Jews and Blacks.” Whatever the intent, it was a shockingly racist and hurtful use of language.

Words can and do hurt others, and people should be careful with their speech as well as with their actions.

On this topic, I read this week in the Wall Street Journal (6 January 2009) about a movement to get people to stop gossiping—like the Jewish prohibition against lashon harah (evil language).

Essentially the mantra for better speech is kind/true/necessary. Before we say something, we should ask ourselves:

· Is it kind?

· Is it true?

· Is it necessary?

And “every word we utter should pass through [these] three gates.”

One organization called WordsCanHeal.org advocates for this and asks that people take a pledge, as follows:“I will try to replace words that hurt with words that encourage, engage, and enrich.”

This is a great and worthwhile endeavor for us all in the workplace and in our personal lives.