Published October 31, 2013 by

It’s Up to You, Control Your Mood, Keep Game Face


I was just given an article from “ScienceNordic.”  Not only is this an interesting a website full of thoughtful topics, but they are generally explained simply and briefly.   I like getting insights and reminders of good behavior from all over the world.  Could it be that our Nordic friends have more time and interest on making things simple?   As an American, I sometimes have this vision of everyone hunkered down in their homes during the long winters.  I picture them having more appreciation of the benefits of a mindful existence.

The article has a title that is pretty self explanatory.  “The boss, not the workload, causes workplace depression.”

“The study indicates that a heavy workload has no effect on whether or not employees become depressed. Instead, it is the work environment and the feeling of being treated unfairly by the management that has the greatest effect on an employee’s mood.”

Employees don’t get depressed or disillusioned from having too much work but rather not having a feeling of being treated fairly.  This should not be new news to teachers, managers or coaches.  Our Nordic friends did a survey.

“From the questionnaires, the researchers could determine the sense of justice that the employees felt in their workplaces. The feeling of justice in this context includes the feeling of being heard by one’s manager and the feeling of everyone being treated on equal terms in the workplace.”

““I recommend a management style in which there is a clearly expressed wish to treat employees properly – combined with a transparent organisational structure.”

This may seem like a big “Duh”  to many of you, but in these stressful economic conditions, it is a good time for a reminder.

Son of a Postman


Published October 29, 2013 by

Truancy, Being Present, Guilty As Charged


You just never know.  Try to be mindful of those around you.  I am sure thatmost of my readers are awash with phones, tablets, laptops, and video games. But there are some people who are not so blessed.  Armed with that information, I will make another plea for all of is to be mindful of our constant use of devices especially when in the company of others.

I was coaching a young person recently who had missed three consecutive weeks of school for no apparent reason.  Our conversation was aimed at formulating responses to job interview questions.  As he spoke about himself, he mentioned that he did not have a cell phone, tablet, big headphones or a laptop.  He asked me if I knew how difficult it was to communicate with friends who were all using their devices and not just hanging out enjoying each other’s company.   As I listened, I couldn’t help wondering how much this was contributing to his school absences. I felt sad.

I thought about how I don’t always pay attention to friends, colleagues, and cashiers in stores.  I was reminded of the friends I visited this weekend and how during my brief visit, we spent too much time with our heads cocked forward responding to people located elsewhere.

You have to wonder if you should just always stay home and use Facetime or Skype for your visits.  You could argue that this is a “green” way to visit people!

You do it.  I do it.  Try not to do it.  Just don’t do it so much. To have a meaningful  impact on those you parent/teach/lead, you need to be present and give them 100% of your attention.

Son of a Postman


Published October 28, 2013 by

It’s True, I Live It, Never Give Up

I want to repeat a relevant topic. It is both personal and professional. You might know that I do believe that you can teach old dogs new tricks. I did it with my old dog and I am doing it for myself. I am also starting to find myself giving advice to other old dogs (people). It is great.

This is an important topic for businesses and governments as the world’s working population ages. In Japan they have almost all old employees! In the US, the percentage of Baby Boomers in the work force and staying in the work force continues to increase.

How do you manage those who want to keep their jobs? I once heard a management expert speak about how to deal with employees who want to keep their jobs but are sort of coasting and resisting new things that might be required. Of course this can be a sign of many things other than age, like unhappiness with their role or manager, not being fully challenged, general boredom, and perhaps even personal challenges outside of the work place. Whatever the reason, it the reality of many teachers, coaches and managers.

A good manager should get closer to these kind of employees to get a sense of how they approach the rest of their life. Perhaps the bench-warming employee needs a new challenge or a new role to get excited again. Of course it may be that the employee has just given up and decided to “coast” to retirement. It is important to address these people because the impact of their lethargy will impact the entire team.

I get bored. I always have. For over 30 years in the corporate world, I was fortunate to change my role
every five years within the same firm. It always put a skip back into my step. Today, I am living new things, new people, and new challenges everyday.

All of this reminds me of when I started practicing yoga. I was in my mid 40s and
most people responded with comments like, “You are too old to start that” or “You
might get hurt” or “Aren’t you too stiff for that?” I didn’t listen. 

And finally, about a year ago, I was challenged by one of my Labrador’s inability to control his pee pee emissions. People told me, “You will never get him to use wee wee pads! He is too old! You will
need to use diapers.” Again, I didn’t listen, my boy figured it out and continued his new “trick” until his death last week.

I was so proud of my old boy. I was always giving him positive feedback. I patted him on the head. You should do the same with those you manage – give feedback. Also, give them straight talk on what is expected and if the “cheese” has been moved, let them know that they too can get there.

Son of a Postman


Published October 25, 2013 by

Mindfully Pick, Have A Conversation, Paying It Forward

Today I am giving you an assignment.  If you are a parent, teacher, coach, manager, or CEO this is for you.  Identify a child, student, team member, or employee and have a spontaneous conversation with them without an agenda.   Pick someone or a few individuals that you tend to avoid. Go for the marginal player or struggling student, the one who is difficult to engage in a conversation.

We all avoid these interactions because they can be a challenge.  I have always found that the time I spent dreading such conversations was far more taxing on my overall effectiveness than the actual conversation.  I also found that when I assigned my self this project, the results were very satisfying.   I didn’t always change my mind about the individual or what I could do to help, but I always felt real good about the plan I devised for future conversations.

I am not a parent, but I like to believe that most parents are good parents.  What I find interesting is that parents and non-parents alike are not necessarily good coaches, teachers, or mentors.  Don’t people realize that their skills are transferrable outside the home?

In organizations both large and small, Mentoring is so important.  It is important not only for the individual’s growth, but crucial for the success of any business.  If all the little ships don’t rise together, the big ship won’t either.   I have always been surprised to find people who have an attitude of “what can you do for me” as opposed to “what can I do for you to help all of us succeed.”

I had the great fortune to work for a firm that did a reasonably good job of creating an environment of Mentoring.  They had Mentoring programs, information on their websites, and periodically mandated every senior person to sign up to be a mentor.  It was good and much better than most corporations, but I wasn’t always so sure it was effective.  Because people were busy, it often turned into a somewhat helpful periodic lunch date between the mentor and the mentee.

My best mentor relationships have been those that have evolved naturally.  I can name about five people who have been very instrumental in my growth and success.  These are not necessarily people that I worked for, but people who took a genuine interest in my development.  It was what I call “organic” Mentoring. We all need to figure out a way to make these relationships evolve naturally and broadly. They can start to develop with a simple conversation.
Son of a Postman


Published October 23, 2013 by

Life Events, Taking Risks, Getting Reassurance

I recently wrote about a friend and former colleague who is now an accomplished playwright.  We worked closely together for many years toiling away in the financial industry.  My friend always made it clear that his true passion was acting and writing.  He worked his “day job” for many years until one day he made the break and took the risk.

He has successfully made the transition while still working the odd “day job” so as to support himself and now his wonderful wife and newborn son.  At one point, he even taught drama in a very rough NYC public school.  Whatever it took, he did it.

For years, I admired his passion and life planning and my admiration grew greater as I watched him follow his dreams.  Of course,  he did make many sacrifices along the way but they were carefully considered and timed.  Truly a stellar self-manager.

I thought of my friend as I read a recent issue of my favorite magazine called MONOCLE.  ( Monocle Magazine )  Each issue covers all sorts of world news in a unique style.  Each issue also has a monthly theme and recently the focus was centered on following your passion, making life changes, and helpful advice to guide you on your way.   Given all the recent big changes in my life, I studied their insights with great interest.  (Monocle Magazine Issue 66 – “Do Your Own Thing”)

“Maybe everyone does have a book in them but MONOCLE readers definitely have a business idea filed away for an “I resign” day.”

So true!!   Among other great insights, the front of the issue offered a simple list of things to keep in mind.

“Ignore them.  You don’t need an exit strategy before you’ve ever sold your first cake/pair of shoes/bicycle. Create a business you love, that you want to nurture and that you care about.”

“Face it, you might not be rich……This is about the joy of creating something that’s all about you.”

“Don’t be a loner.  Pull in talent.  Pay them with equity -or beer.”    “There is a new world of shared workplaces……[that] introduce you to  like minded people and offer advice.”

“Be Brave……success only comes with risk”.

Above is just a sampling of advice from MONOCLE that not only stuck with me, but reassured me to keep moving forward with my plans.  No matter how confident we are, how connected we may be, or how many resources we have, we all need a little reassurance from time to time.

Don’t roll your eyes at me, you too can do it!

Son of a Postman


Published October 21, 2013 by

Letting Go, Acceptance, Breathing

For some time, I have been meaning to write a blog post about letting go of things, acceptance, and things like that.  My thoughts for such a post were going to be about how I am navigating the many changes in my life.  I have some pretty funny stories about the dreams I continue to have about my former colleagues.  I wanted to share some of the ways to manage change and some of the great advice I have gotten from others.  Alas, you will need to wait for all those insights.

Today, I have begun to manage a significant change in my life that I sort of anticipated, but the reality of accepting this change will take some time.   Both my my old Labradors left me this past Saturday and went to join my Kitty who left me a few months ago.   All three of my companions lived very long happy lives.  They definitely lived more charmed lives than most people I know.  

They ate fancy food, had a Country House, visited with Chiropractors, Physical Therapists and Reiki Masters.  They had an Acupuncturist visit them weekly at their fancy New York City Apartment.   I learned so much from them about valuing simple things.  I learned how to be more grateful for all that feels good.

If you are not a pet person, it might be a struggle to grasp how I am to manage the days ahead.  If you are a pet person, you know this is not fun but you also know how you remember how happy these “kids” like mine can make you, and how grateful you feel for having had them in your lives. 

Nancy, my friend and editor, has been with me this weekend and is keeping me busy working on this elusive book.  We are really truly almost at the publication finish line.  I am not sure how I would be handling all of this if Nancy was not here with me.  Accepting support from others is so important and helpful.  Some of us think we are so “tuff” but still we need support.  Lots of long deep breaths are helping as well.

If only I could get just one more cuddle.

Son of a Postman


Published October 15, 2013 by

Managing Students, The Real World, Compelling Movie

A “Tweet” of Mine.  I want to share.  I like to share.  Watch it.

@THENEWPUBLICmov shows the challenge managing a school.  How do you measure a student’s success?

Son of a Postman


Published October 14, 2013 by

A Great Play, So Many Messages, Dangerous Metrics


I have a very good “friend” who used to be my “colleague.”   My friend is now a father, husband, and an accomplished playwright.   Last night I went to the opening of his latest play titled “And Miles To Go.”  (Partial Comfort Production – “And Miles To Go”)

This play is about a school teacher who questions it all after 40 years of teaching in the NYC public school system.  The school is being evaluated by the district authorities and fighting to stay open based on various district mandated metrics.   I found relevant for many reasons especially the discussion and criticism of the “metrics” that are used to measure success. 

What parent, coach, teacher, or business leader doesn’t spend countless hours on developing and evaluating how they measure “success?”   How many businesses create success metrics that result in behaviors that are not necessarily good for the long term success of the business?  How many educational systems create metrics and an over reliance on various test scores that may not accurately measure the probability of a student’s future success?

Ironically, I have a “friend” and former “colleague” who wrote a compelling book on this issue as it applies to Corporate success titled “The Money Makers: How Extraordinary Managers Win in a World Turned Upside Down” by Anne-Marie Fink.    In her book, my friend discusses may of the metrics that corporate CEOs have and need to consider.  There are so many allegiances that are often not compatible. There is a constant struggle to balance short term metrics with their long term responsibilities.

I believe that everything should be about the long term.  We get as much education as we can so that we set ourselves up for long term success and happiness.  It is rare that a short term quick fix creates long term happiness. Nothing worthwhile is sustainable long term if it is nothing more that a short term fix.

So many people I have worked with just don’t get this.  They live for the moment or for only this years rewards.  Life, success, and relationships are all a marathon and never a sprint.   Those of us who parent, teach, coach and manage others need to remember this.  (I also hope that someone noticed that I mentioned that I have two “friends!”)

Son of a Postman


Published October 10, 2013 by

Some Suggestions, My Techniques, Your Entourage


My last blog was about excess meetings.  I suggested everyone listen to an insightful TED talk about excess meetings and their impact on productivity.  (Jason Fried: Why work doesn’t happen at work)   My previous note focused on the negatives of too many “M&Ms; management interruptions and too many meetings.  As promised, today I want to give you both the constructive suggestions made by Mr. Fried in his TED talk, and some of the practices I preferred when I was both a manager and a meeting maker.

Three things suggested by the TED talker:

“How about “no talk Thursdays?”  How about pick one Thursday once per month and cut that day in half and just say the afternoon?”  “Just silence, that’s it.  This is when people actually get things done, is when no one’s bothering them, no one’s interrupting them.

“You can try switching from active communication and collaboration. “Now some people might say email is really distracting and IM is really distracting…..but their distracting at a time of your own choice.”  You can put these things away, and then you can be interrupted on your own schedule, at your own time, when you’re available.”

“Just cancel the meeting.” “Just don’t have it.  I don’t mean move it. I mean erase it from memory, its gone.  And you’ll find out that everything will be just fine.”

Now you have three suggestions from my “colleague” from TED.  I have a few simple suggestions that I would add to this.  These usually worked for me although only when I was the one responsible for the meetings.

1) No meeting should be longer than an hour.  I don’t care what anyone says.  If a longer time is required then it isn’t a meeting it is a conference or an offsite or some other clever moniker for a forum for people to talk too much.

2) Insist that the participants at the meeting come prepared.  This means they need to do the work that was necessary prior to the meeting.  Publicly thanks those who do this and publicly reprimand those who do not.

3) Only have the real “players” at the meeting.  You want people to speak up, disagree, debate and make decisions.  If you have all sorts of “ladies in waiting” attend every meeting then things get stifled.  It used to make me crazy when everyone who thought themselves important insisted on attending every meeting with an entourage that made the self-important feel even more important.  It is just a waste of money, slows productivity, and stifles getting work done.  I always felt as though the entourages could be more productive getting some real work done outside of the meeting.

You know what people used to say about those who drive Corvettes?  Well, I think people who feel they need to travel with an entourage have the same issue.  Just Sayin!

Enough advice for one day.

Son of a postman


Published October 9, 2013 by

Too Many, Not Productive, TED Agrees


I have always had a issue with meetings.  When I worked for a large corporation there were too many of them, too many people in attendance and typically little got accomplished.  What I found particularly unnerving was when participants at meetings were unprepared and did their preparation during the meeting.

Admittedly, I was one of those people who over-prepared for each meeting giving me  even less patience for those who improvised.   I admit that my tendency to be over-prepared was not always necessary and a function of my strict Catholic school education.   I was always fearful that a nun would smack me in the head or yank at my ear lobe!

There were colleagues (friends!) who knew of my meeting aversion and often entertained themselves watching me squirm in my seat.  Others would comment to me that I often looked disengaged.  Its not that I wasn’t interested in getting things done. I just wanted to be efficient, decisive, and move on.

I had little patience for those people who drone on with repetitive points or unnecessary chatter.  There are always a few people who just like to hear themselves speak.  There are those insecure types who insist on paraphrasing the relevant and conclusive point that someone else has already made.   There is a whole chapter in my book about these “Fluffers.”

Well, I am happy to report that TED, my current colleague and friend, agrees with me and has scientific proof!   You should listen to the TED Talk titled  ” Why work doesn’t happen at work” by Jason Fried.    Mr Fried has an entertaining TED talk with his basic conclusion being that “the real problems are what I like to call the M&Ms, the Managers and the Meetings.  Those are the real problems in the modern office today.  And that is why things don’t get done at work…”  

‘And managers are basically people whose job it is to interrupt people. That’s pretty much what managers are for. They’re for interrupting people.”

“But meetings also procreate. So one meeting tends to lead to another meeting and tends to lead to another meeting. There’s often too many people in the meetings, and they’re very, very expensive to the organization.”

There are so many good lines delivered in this TED talk.  It is entertaining and insightful.  If you can’t listen you can also read the transcript.  There are some suggestions for solutions to the meeting issue which I will share with you tomorrow.

Son of a Postman