Solving problems

I have several groups of friends that I have little in common with, philosophy-wise. Yet, we always have fun, enjoy each others’ company, and have interesting conversations. I may not agree with all (or even a few) of their political or religious views, but I like them anyway. And I think they like me. I truly believe that if we were all in Congress together, we could come to some sort of agreement about what is best for the country. It may not be exactly as I would want it to be, or exactly what they would want it to be, but it would be reasonable, fair, and future oriented. Probably it would make things better.

In my opinion, members of Congress have been hanging out with their own kind at the exclusion of all the other kinds for so long that they can no longer imagine what others think or feel or need. Maybe they don’t care, but I do not believe that is true. We all want what is best for this country.  Now we just need to get the members of Congress talking with one another honestly, without hidden agendas and gamesmanship, and with the future of our country in mind. Much like my friends and I do. You don’t have to have anything in common with one another to have an impact on the world.

You just need to decide that the impact will be a positive one and that nothing will get in the way.

Lust

The Sandusky trial and verdict (GUILTY!) got me thinking about the deadly sin of LUST.  Now there are hundreds of adjectives and emotions that come to mind when I think of the whole Sandusky mess, but in terms of my “seven deadlies” theme, lust is the one.

I find that words escape me when trying to describe my reaction to what Sandusky did, what he got by with for so many years, what Penn State ignored, what they rationalized, and most significantly, what he did to those poor, vulnerable victims. What altered state of mind allowed Sandusky to think that what he was doing was okay?  And in what state of mind did the Penn State administrators who looked the other way not stop to think about the victims.

Back to Lust.

Lust was the deadly sin that was committed, but there were lots of omissions, too. Where was the empathy? What about the awareness, kindness, even chastity?  And shame – where was the shame?

From Sandusky’s horrible crimes must eventually come healing. Penn State will certainly need to take a leadership role in that, but so should the other systems which allowed this to happen for so long. And Penn State may be the one getting all the attention these days, but there have been so many others – even in that safest of places, the church.  How can we protect our children from the predators that are among us?  One way is for all of us to take responsibility for others. We must all be alert to things that just don’t seem right. And we must all speak up for those who can’t – or won’t – speak for themselves.  That won’t rid the world of the Sanduskys among us, but it will definitely keep them from exacting the harm that this most evil and famous Sandusky has done.

The bottom line is that our acts and our in-actions have consequences. When we act, or when we fail to act, we must ask ourselves who or what is affected. If we ALWAYS consider the consequences before the act, our decisions will be ones that we can be proud of. And the world will be a much better place.

The Seven Deadly Sins

I was on my way to work this week, listening to NPR, as is my practice every morning. The local portion of the news came on, announcing yet another development in the Fen-Phen Case that has been captivating Kentucky for years. For the uninitiated, this was a class action suit brought by people who were harmed by the drug combination, fenfluramine/phentermine, usually called fen-phen. Fen-phen was an anti-obesity treatment that was popular for a time in the 1980s. At the time, many thought that this was the great magic cure for obesity. Trouble was, it was soon linked to heart problems and some people got sick, so a bunch of people sued.

Why has this case captivated Kentucky? Well, three Lexington attorneys joined together for a class action law suit, representing hundreds of victims, and achieved some humongous verdict on behalf of their clients. Trouble was, they decided not to tell the victims the magnitude of the settlement, and devised a plan to keep the money for themselves. Nice, huh? Well, they got caught, and a bunch of other folks were implicated, too, including a judge and a prominent attorney in Cincinnati. Two of the attorneys are now in jail, one is facing disbarment, the judge resigned, and maybe is in jail, too, I can’t remember.

Back to the radio story, though. The two attorneys are being required to turn over their homes to be sold to compensate the victims. They already had to sell their race horse (yeah, I know, right!), but now the court is seizing SOME of their other property in payment of an amazing $127 MILLION they owe in restitution. The list of property: six homes (who needs six houses?); seven (!) vehicles, and a dozen financial accounts. Hard to say whether this will satisfy the debt, but since they are in jail for a bunch of years, they certainly don’t need this stuff (nor deserve it, BTW). Presumably the victims do, since it was supposed to be theirs in the first place.

This whole piece, and the hundreds of stories I have heard in the five years this case has been proceeding through the courts, got me thinking about the Seven Deadly Sins. You remember them, don’t you: Lust, Greed, Sloth, Wrath, Envy, Pride, Gluttony.

At least half the items on this list figured into the Fen-Phen saga. Greed, obviously. (Six extra houses. Really?) Gluttony, of course, which created the demand for Fen-Phen in the first place. The victims, most of them anyway, simply could not stop eating and get moving to lose that weight, so they sought the easy, take-a-pill, route. Kinda relates to Sloth, too, doesn’t it. Envy certainly played a role, wanting what others had – houses, money, a thin body. That’s four of the seven.

So, I am going to look for the “seven deadlies” in my news browsing over the next several weeks. I bet I will find at least a couple in most news stories. I imagine if I look, I will find some version of them in misbehavin’ I witness, too. Do management problems have their root in the top seven? What about our nation’s political problems? Or our current economic mess? Worth exploring, so stay tuned.

Where are the statesmen?

This debt crisis thing has the Democrats and Republicans playing a very dangerous game of chicken with our economy and the future of our country. Neither wants to be the first to give in, and both think they can hold out the longest. That does not seem to be very sound thinking, when so much is at stake.

Apparently they have reached a deal, finally. In my experience, an eleventh hour decision is usually full of mistakes. That remains to be seen in this situation, but it does seem to be full of distrust for the other side. How have we descended to such depths!

What happened to civility? What happened to doing the right thing? What happened to compromise?

Where are the statesmen?

In times like these . . .

Just like many people around the nation, I am getting fed up with all the negativity, political one-up-manship, and – to use a phrase we have heard a lot this week – vitriol.  We don’t need people from the left blaming the right for the acts of a madman. We don’t need the right inflaming the left by labeling their agenda or leaders as job-killing, anti-American, or socialist.

What we need is a statesman – or several of them. It might seem odd to quote Mikhail Gorbachev in a post about what we need in the U.S. but he summed it up  quite well. He said, ” A statesman does what he believes is best for his country, a politician does what best gets him re-elected.”

We need our political leaders to view the country’s problems according to what is best for its citizens rather than what is best for their party or what is most likely to get them re-elected.  Sometimes leaders have to make unpopular, but wise, decisions that are simply the right thing to do.  Even if it hurts their friends (or contributors). Even if it gives their opponents good fodder for the next election cycle.

We’ve been talking a lot about corporate social responsibility in the last few years, and are doing a much better job of holding businesses responsible for being good citizens. Corporations are talking about being more environmentally friendly, more animal friendly, more socially conscious about the workers. We still need to do better with this, but we’ve come a long way.

Now if we could just get our politicians to do the same. Congress is talking about requiring all bills to have the constitutional reference included.  What about the socially conscious references?  What will their bill do to the health and well being of our citizens, our natural resources, our grandchildren?  And not just their friends, either. They need to be thinking about the people on “the other side of the track,” too.  What about them? Those invisible Americans that have no voice but who need one now more than ever.

Where are all the statesmen?

Things I believe

I was reading the excellent blog of Bob Sutton recently, and in the left hand column, he had a list of 15 things he believes (about organizational life.)  His list is astute, but it got me thinking about things I believe – in general.  Here’s a start on my list.

1.  People are intrinsically good. They mean well, want to do right.  I have certainly witnessed many behaviors to the contrary, which I guess are the exceptions that prove the rule, but I believe that most people most of the time want to act morally and ethically.

2.  Positive thinking really works.  Henry Ford said, “whether you believe you can or not, you are right.” Or something like that.  The other thing about positive thinking is that it is much better than the opposite.  When I’m around negative people I feel the weight of all their negative energy dragging me down.  It’s easy to fall victim to that mentality, so I much prefer to surround myself with positive thinkers, people who believe in themselves and others.

good shepherd3.  It pays to be nice to Mother Nature. We owe it to our children and to our parents to respect the earth.  Recycle, even when it is a lot of trouble.  Plant a tree (or a flower).  Set a spider free. Feed the birds. Don’t kill honey bees, even if you are afraid they will sting you. Use less energy.  The list could go on forever, but you get the idea.

4.  Indolent is worse than stupid.  People can’t help the brains they were born with.  Well, maybe they can read more, study harder, apply themselves to improving the use of their brains, but basically either you’re smart or you aren’t.  But indolent is another thing all together.  In my 25 years or so of management, I have run across a lot of indolence – people just not caring about the quality of their work, their output, their attention to detail, their general usefulness to their employer.  That I cannot tolerate. Ignorance is understandable, indolence is not.

5. People should be more considerate of each other – friends and strangers alike.  It feels so good when someone lets you out in traffic, or when I see someone pick up trash in the street, or when the guy behind you in line gives you the nickel so you don’t have to break a $20.  As a society we do not pay enough attention to being considerate of our fellow citizens.  Being considerate of friends and family is definitely important, but  that is sort of expected.  But strangers?  No one expects us to be nice to strangers, really,  which makes it all the more special and important.

Expectations

Someone on my staff said to me the other day that she would hate to be one of my kids, that I had such high expectations, they would never be able to live up to them.  Well, I guess I do have high expectations of people around me – my kids, my husband, my staff.  I gave up on the wider world awhile ago, but I still have HOPES that they will all see it my way, just not exepctations any more.

High expectations, she said. I really think I am a good mom to my kids.  I think I have always let them be what they wanted, how they wanted.  I express opinions sometimes, keep them to myself more than I want to (especially with my daughter), listen to their ideas, try to set a good example.  We didn’t have to be particularly strict when they were growing up, because they were good enough/smart enough not to need a close watch. They got love, support, lots of opportunities to explore who they were, safety.

My kids have turned out just about perfect.  I enjoy their company.  They’re funny.  They choose their friends wisely.  They’re smart.  They have ambitions and goals.  They are democrats.

Would I change anything about them?  Maybe a few little things, but none of the things that matter.  I wish my son would drink fewer soft drinks.  I wish my daughter would take things less personally. But on the big things, they are Mary Poppins perfect. Was it because I had high expectations?  Perhaps. Or did they just come that way? 

My husband is different in the way he interacts with them. He tends to do too much for them.  He has yet to see any fault in about anything they have done.  He is their biggest fan (mine too).  His example has not been as good as mine, IMHO. But they have learned a lot of good things from him, too. Unconditional love, for one.  And that is important.

If it’s high expectations that made my kids who they are today, then that is a good thing.