Author Archives: randy

“The World is Full of Lost Light” – We grieve for the lost children of Uvalde

City-of-BonesChild cases haunted you. They hollowed you out and scarred you. There was no bulletproof vest thick enough to stop you from being pierced. Child cases left you knowing the world was full of lost light.

Michael Connelly, City of Bones (a Harry Bosch novel)

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I can’t stop thinking about the children lost, and the families grieving, in Uvalde.

The sadness is overwhelming.  The senselessness of it all is so …painful; so…wrong.

Along with many others, I can’t do my normal work, or go about my normal life, with focus and energy.

I have no thoughts to add to the countless articles being written and the numerous interviews with families and loved ones.

The stories of these children are more than any of us can bear.

I feel for those families.

I feel for that community.

I grieve for our country, where these types of mass, senseless, evil deaths keep happening.

In City of Bones, Bosch has been called in because the bones of a child have been discovered.

There will be so many children buried in Uvalde.

The world is just full of lost light.

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As I always do at such moments, I re-read a poem or two:

John Donne, For Whom the Bell Tolls

No man is an island,
Entire of itself.
Each is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thine own
Or of thine friend’s were.
Each man’s death diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee.

And also this, this week:

W. H. Auden, ‘Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone’ 

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,

Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,

Silence the pianos and with muffled drum

Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.

Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead

Scribbling on the sky the message He Is Dead,

Put crepe bows round the white necks of the public doves,

Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.

He was my North, my South, my East and West,

My working week and my Sunday rest,

My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;

I thought that love would last for ever: I was wrong.

The stars are not wanted now: put out every one;

Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun;

Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood;

For nothing now can ever come to any good.

What Groups/Communities are you a part of? Is one of them a Learning Community? – (These two book clubs could be useful)

We are made for human connection, aren’t we?

Regardless of what we do, where we live, what we are interested in, we are people who need people (thanks, Barbra Streisand).

No matter what the activity — from bowling, to hunting, so sports teams, to quilting groups, to work projects – the glue that ties it all together is the relationships we form and the relationships we nurture.

My former colleague Karl Krayer, in a training session that he offered to many organzations, spoke of the four essential elements of groups:

  • Group Goals
  • Individual Roles
  • Processes and Procedures
  • Relationships

Get everything right in a group activity, but leave out the relationship aspects, and it is destined to fail.

Given that reminder, I have a simple suggestion:  among the groups you belong to, may I encourage you to make sure that you are of this particular kind of group:  intentionally join a learning community.

Though most known in academic circles, think of the value of always being a part of such a community throughout a lifetime:

Learning communities connect people, organizations, and systems that are eager to learn and work across boundaries in pursuit of a shared goal.

One such learning type of community is a book club.  Book Clubs are seemingly everywhere.  Here is a description:

A book club is a reading group, usually consisting of a number of people who read and talk about books based on a topic or an agreed-upon reading list.

That would be a great group activity to join.

But I think I have invented a new kind of book club, and have created an opportunity to join a learning community in the process.

In my book clubs, you don’t actually have to read the books.  In fact, most people do not read the books.

{Don’t; get me wrong… It is always better for folks to read books for themselves.  But, let’s be honest:  the busier you are with work and life, the less time you have to read the books you want, or need, to read}.

In my book clubs, I read the books carefully, and prepare and provide multi-page, comprehensive synopsis handouts.  I then present the key elements from these handouts.  People follow along with the handout in front of them, pen in hand.

It really is possible to learn enough of the key concepts from the books that you can discuss the books intelligently, and put some of the lessons of the books into practice into your work life and your personal life.

But – and here is the key point; the big deal – the very purpose of these gatherings is to learn!  You attend with other fellow learners…a learning community!  You follow along with the synopsis, and then you discuss the ideas presented.  You…learn!

My question for you – my challenge to you – is this:  do you have a regular time set aside for learning, with others, in a learning community?  If you don’t, don’t you think it might be useful.

After all, lifelong learning requires time invested in actual learning.

What are you doing to be a genuine lifelong learner?

——————–

there is always the right book to learn from

there is always the right book to learn from

About these two book clubs:

#1 – The First Friday Book Synopsis – a book club for Business Books

In our 25th year, I present two synopses of useful business books every month on the First Friday of the month (7:00 am, Central Time). (Sometimes, in July and January, we meet on the second Friday of the Month).

People participate in-person in Dallas, or on Zoom.

You can always find the two book selections on the home page of this web site.

#2 – The Urban Engagement Book Club – for books dealing with issues of Social Justice (Sponsored by CitySquare)

Each month, I present a synopsis of one book dealing with issues of social justice.  This book club has met in monthly sessions for over 15 years.  Currently, we are meeting only on Zoom.  We may go back soon to in-person at CitySquare in Dallas, and also on Zoom.  We meet on the Third Thursday, at 12:30 pm (Central Time).

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(You can sign up for e-mail announcements/reminders for both of these book clubs on the home page of this web site).

Waiting for it to reach crisis point…is a crisis – With Insight from Dan Heath and Jane McDonigal

UpstreamWhen you spend years responding to problems, you can sometimes overlook the fact that you could be preventing them.

We put out fires. We deal with emergencies. …we never get around to fixing the systems that caused the problems.

The US health care system is designed almost exclusively for reaction. It functions like a giant Undo button.
But it’s hard to find someone in the system whose job it is to address the question How do we make you healthier? (As distinct from How can we respond to the problems that make you unhealthy?)

Dan Heath, Upstream:  The Quest to Solve Problems Before They Happen

——————-

We don’t have enough baby formula for the babies in this country.

We knew that was a problem before it became a crisis.

Yet another church (The Southern Baptist Convention) has covered up a problem; and they are about to recognize that they are in the midst of a crisis…

We wait until it hits the crisis point before we act.  Time and again, we do this; throughout society.  Companies do this; schools do this; governments do this… we all do this!  All of us!

This strikes me as a bad way to face such a challenge – such a looming crisis.

I have presented a couple of books that , in different ways, say:  don’t wait until it is a crisis!  Act early; act NOW!

Upstream by Dan Heath is one.  He states that we really should learn to go upstream, and deal with, and stop, a problem before it becomes a crisis.  Here’s how he put it, in his book:

Downstream actions react to problems once they’ve occurred. Upstream efforts aim to prevent those problems from happening. …That’s one of the main reasons I wrote this book. Because, while we have a wide spectrum of available options to address the world’s problems, we’ve mostly confined ourselves to one tiny stretch of the landscape: the zone of response. React, react, react. …My goal in this book is to convince you that we should shift more of our energies upstream: personally, organizationally, nationally, and globally.Imaginable

The other book is Imaginable: How to See the Future Coming and Feel Ready for Anything — Even Things That Seem Impossible Today by Jane McGonigal.  In it, she writes:

Were the most shocking events of the recent past really unimaginable before they happened? Ideas about the future can be useful because they help us prepare for a challenge before it happens; or because they give us time to try to prevent a crisis; or because they open our minds and inspire us to make changes in our lives and communities today.

I think there are three reasons why we put it off.

#1 – We hope that it won’t turn into a crisis. And, sometimes, it doesn’t.  But, if it does, that delay can be very, very costly.

#2 – We think we will save time, money, reputation, waiting until it “has to” be dealt with.  And, sometimes, this reasoning is true. But, if it is not, the reputation damage, and other damage, can be truly devastating.

#3 – (And, the reason I think is the biggest reason) – we are dealing with other challenges, other crises, on our plates right now.  If we can put this one off, that will help us today with other things.

But, if the crisis is big enough, when it does hit crisis stage, that can look like an unwise move indeed.

Whatever else we do, we have to learn to ask this question, over and over again – What are we putting off today that could become a true, gigantic crisis tomorrow?” 

Figure that out. Act on it; act quickly; act now.  It’s the smart play!

My synopsis of The Accommodation: The Politics of Race in an American City by Jim Schutze, is Today, Thursday, May 19, 12:30 pm, over Zoom – Come Join Us – (And, here is my synopsis handout)

The AccommodationA special encouragement to attend today on Zoom:

The book The Accommodation is a classic book on racism in Dallas. And this classic book has special implications for this week, as we cope with another racist-based mass shooting; this one in Buffalo.

Seriously, this synopsis today will help you think through some important and critical issues.

Please join us. All details below.

Randy


Click join synopsis handout cover image to download the full handout

Click 0n synopsis handout cover image to download the full handout

If you have an open lunch time window Today, Thursday, May 19, 12:30 pm (CST), I am presenting my synopsis of:

The Accommodation: The Politics of Race in an American City — Seacaucus, New Jersey.  Citadel Press (1986). by Jim Schutze — (Reissue: La Reunion Publishing. September 28, 2021)

Today, Thursday, May 19, 2022 at 12:30 (CST) for the Urban Engagement Book Club, sponsored by CitySquare, on Zoom.

This is a significant book about racism in Dallas; and its lessons are helpful to think about racism in all American cities.

I encourage you to download my synopsis handout, print it out, and follow along.

Come join us on Zoom.

Urban Engagement Book Club
Thursday, May 19, 2022 – 12:30 pm (CST)
The Accommodation
by Jim Schutze.

Synopsis presented by Randy Mayeux
We conclude shortly after 1:30.
(This event is free).

Here is the complete lineup of books selected for 2022. 

And, here is the Zoom link to join our gathering. 

Randy Mayeux is inviting you to a scheduled Zoom meeting.

Topic: Urban Engagement Book Club, 2022
Time: May 19, 2022 12:30 PM Central Time (US and Canada)

Join Zoom Meeting

https://us02web.zoom.us/j/81668108641?pwd=bXFlMkxBbTAvMDRHanFoZ2VhSmZVQT09

Meeting ID: 816 6810 8641
Passcode: 237130

—————————-

Here is the more complete Zoom info.

Randy Mayeux is inviting you to a scheduled Zoom meeting.

Topic: Urban Engagement Book Club, 2022
Time: May 19, 2022 12:30 PM Central Time (US and Canada)
(Every month on the Third Thursday, until Dec 15, 2022)

Join Zoom Meeting

https://us02web.zoom.us/j/81668108641?pwd=bXFlMkxBbTAvMDRHanFoZ2VhSmZVQT09

Meeting ID: 816 6810 8641
Passcode: 237130

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Maybe call it the Empathy/Human Concern Gap? – A Leadership Reflection — Part 2

Leadership Strategy & TacticsFirst of all, not all leaders are good leaders.

Jocko Willink, Leadership Strategy and Tactics: Field Manual

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More on the empathy/human concern gap… (Read part 1 here).

The business literature has no shortage of books describing the personal traits of individual leaders who were great at getting results…but, were quite a jerk in the midst of their greatness.

In my own life and experience, I have had leaders fail to correct me; leaders who corrected me very badly, leaving a pretty wounded soul behind in the process; and a couple of leaders who corrected and shaped me with the right kind of empathy and understanding in the process.

(I suspect that I have made some pretty bad moves in earlier chapters in my life also…).

No surprise:  those empathetic and understanding leaders are the leaders that I most appreciate.  And, I also think those leaders did the best job at helping me make needed changes.

In the book Radical Candor by Kim Scott, she states that good leaders have to do two things well:  Care Personally, and Challenge Directly.

They must first care personally – i.e., treat you with empathy, and like a human being.

But, if they genuinely care, they will also challenge directly.  If they do not challenge directly, their care does not run deep enough.  To care is to help; and thus to care is challenging directly the people they lead to make progress and improvement while correcting mistakes and flawed approaches.

Now, back to those leaders who are jerks:  I won’t list the specifics, but there are some rather well-known leaders who were known for their lack of empathy.  Steve Jobs; Lee Iacocca; Elon Musk; among others.  In many ways, these were great leaders – great as in getting great results.  But, they did not seem to nurture people all that well.

And this took away greatly from their greatness.

On the other hand, there are leaders who get results while leaving the people they lead feeling…appreciative; and more capable.  Here is a description of such a leader from Jocko Willink, from his book Leadership Strategy and Tactics:

At the end of each day, he would take out the trash. This was a tangible and physical action that represented pure humility. Delta Charlie was the most senior man in the platoon; he also had the most experience. But there he was, taking out the garbage. And yet I was too good to do it? …And while Delta Charlie was a phenomenal tactician, an incredible planner, and a gifted operator, it was his humility more than anything else that drove the platoon to want to do a good job for him. We didn’t want to let him down. We didn’t want to disappoint him in any way. …The core of what Delta Charlie taught me was the importance of humility. He had all that experience and all that knowledge and the rank and the position; he had every reason to elevate himself above us, every reason to look down on us, every reason to act as if he were better than everyone else, but he never looked down on us at all. The fact that he didn’t is what made us respect him and want, truly want, to follow him. I still try to follow his example to this day.

Humility in a leader keeps that leader human.  And being human – remembering that you too are human — is the foundation for having empathy.

Here’s a thought:  people do not see their own flaws all that well.  This is why the top leaders might need to hire a coach; a coach who observes them in action.

The world will not change until the leaders who are lacking in humility, and empathy, and human concern, learn to accept leadership from a leader they follow – a leader who will Care Personally, AND Challenge them Directly about their own flaws.

In other words, the best leaders know they still have some learning to do; including some learning regarding how they interact with the people they lead…

Yes, it is possible to get results and nurture people at the same time.  We should demand nothing less from our leaders.

Maybe call it the Empathy/Human Concern Gap? – A Leadership Reflection — Part 1

I have written many times on this blog about the “knowing-doing” gap.  It is a real gap; a serious gap; we “know,” but we do not do.

But, there is another gap – a gap I don’t quite know what to name.  Maybe call it the Empathy/Human Concern Gap?

It is this kind of gap: the books say this, but the folks out in the real world ignore and/or contradict what the books say.

Let’s start with modern-day leadership books.  There is a long list of books that speak of the value of empathy, of treating all of your employees like human beings, of seeking to truly engage your workers so that they stay loyal to the organization, thus greatly reducing turnover.

The wisdom in these books is clear.  It makes sense.  It sounds right; it feels right.

And, yet…the stories of leaders, especially CEOs who ignore such leadership principles and approaches, is legion.

These leaders get things done, no matter the human cost.  They don’t seem to really care about the human needs of the people they “lead.”  Maybe, they don’t lead “people,” they lead companies to attain results, and they view the people as utterly replaceable; disposable.

And, here’s the truth; though we do admire those human centered leaders, and we certainly admire the authors who write of such leadership (Brené Brown, Hubert Joly, among others), we seem to want to buy stock in the companies that see the best results.

Here’s just one example: Amazon is what you might call a true American success story.  It did not exist, until not too long ago, and as of now it is the fourth most valuable company in the country.  Do you know their turnover rate for their workers in their fulfillment centers (warehouses)? – it is well more than 100% per year.  Read this:  Investigation into Amazon raises questions about workforce turnover, HR errors – Marketplace:

David Brancaccio: Among warehouse workers at Amazon, attrition for workers is how high?

Karen Weise: Roughly 150% a year. It’s actually so high that Amazon tracks it weekly. It’s about 3% a week. And this is much higher than the warehousing and retail industry is broadly.

Brancaccio: More people leave Amazon warehouses in a year than if you add up all the employees that are employed at Amazon warehouses?

Weise: Exactly, it’s the equivalent of having to replace the entire workforce every eight months. 

And, how does Amazon, especially Jeff Bezos, feel about this?  Actually, pretty good:

Part of what was so interesting, Kantor told “Marketplace Morning Report” host David Brancaccio, was that Amazon has long seen high turnover as a good thing — and has deliberately encouraged it through various internal policies.

“Bezos really wanted turnover. He was afraid of a stagnant workforce — what he would call a ‘march to mediocrity,’ ” Kantor said.

In other words, in the case of Amazon’s mindset, such a very high turnover keeps the company from stagnating.

And they do produce results, don’t they?!

So, not much empathy; not much human concern; but plenty of results.

So, what do we make of all of these books calling for human concern and empathy?

I realize that for some, this is not a good and proper question to raise; but, maybe there is more to life than results? 

I’m not sure I want to live in a world where leaders have so little empathy; so little concern for human need.  Do you?