Thoughts on what to tell children about the US Presidential Election

When the dust settled on the all-nighter that was the US Presidential election, some were wondering “what should we tell our children about this outcome?”

I have a few ideas, and what I would tell my children, were they not already adults:

  • Tell them that this is just an election. It doesn’t signal the end of the world as we know it. It doesn’t mean that things will change dramatically for them anytime soon, if ever.
  • Tell them that change, though, is inevitable in some form or fashion, and there would have been change no matter who won the election. Change is where growth happens.
  • Tell them that they shouldn’t look to Politicians as role models. They have parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, teachers and many others who are much closer to them to draw from.
  • While you’re at it, do the same for actors & actresses, musicians, and athletes. If they want to model how they pursue athletics or the arts after the way professionals perform in those roles, that is a great idea. But, just because someone can shoot a basketball, hit a baseball, play a guitar, sing, pretend on screen, etc., doesn’t mean they know anything about how to live their lives, or what TRULY matters.
  • Tell them that the news they see on television (or on line for that matter), is largely entertainment. That is why advertising runs on it. The goal for any news agency, whether in print, on line, or on TV, is to get people to tune in, buy the newspaper, or read the website. They will write and say whatever brings the most eyes to their place. The days of objective journalism never really existed. If it did, it died when newspapers started selling advertising on the front page.
  • Tell them that anyone who labels a group of people in a pejorative way, for what that group allegedly believes, is a bigot.
  • While you are at it on that one, teach them that should the ever run for office, labeling about a quarter of their intended constituency as “deplorable”, is a really bad way to win their votes and support.
  • Tell them that 60 million people aren’t all wrong, just like the other 60 million people aren’t all right.
  • Tell them that anyone who preaches tolerance at one moment, but cannot tolerate anyone who disagrees with them, wasn’t really all that tolerant to begin with.
  • On the subject of tolerance, tell them that they do NOT have to tolerate everything. Teach them that there are moral absolutes in life. Tell them what yours are. If you don’t think you have any, then you are probably a hedonist or nihilist, and don’t care what is in this essay.
  • Tell them that they will not always get their way in life, and that doesn’t mean the outcome is unfair. Teach them the difference between disappointment over an outcome, and outrage over an injustice.
  • Tell them that a great President once said “We have nothing to fear, but fear itself.” Tell them that those who try to advance positions and ideas by use of fear are manipulating them.
  • Tell them that living in a Country that has freedom of speech as one of its most core, guiding principles, means that sometimes people will say things with which they do not agree. Those people are as entitled to their opinion as anyone else.
  • Tell them that being a responsible citizen means they have the obligation to be an informed voter. Tell them to look past sound bites, headlines, and sensationalism. Tell them to look to the issues, and where a candidate stands on them to help them make their decision on voting day.
  • While you are at it on that one, tell them to beware of “fact checking” articles and websites.Very often those sites are just as flawed as the candidates, and tend to “cherry pick” data to suit their (sometimes unpublished) agenda.
  • Tell them that voting for someone solely on their gender is sexism. Always. It is just as wrong to vote for someone solely for the reason that they are a woman or a man, as it is to vote against someone for that reason. Find out what the candidate stands for to make your decision.
  • For the one above, insert “race”, “religion”, “sexual orientation”, or any other group label you choose for “gender”. The only thing that will change is which -ism applies.
  • Teach them that the form of Government in the United States is not a democracy, it is a Constitutional Republic. If you don’t know the difference, educate yourself.
  • Tell them that peaceful protest is a universally accepted form of expression. Tell them that when a protest devolves into rioting and looting, it is no longer acceptable, it is criminal.

But, at the end of it all, tell them that you are human, and you don’t have all the answers. Many times in life things don’t work out the way you had hoped and planned. That is life. It doesn’t mean you should shut down, and throw in the towel. It means you should continue to work hard, and to consider this quote:

“We but mirror the world. All the tendencies present in the outer world are to be found in the world of our body. If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change.

As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. This is the divine mystery supreme. A wonderful thing it is and the source of our happiness. We need not wait to see what others do.” – Mahatma Gandhi


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A review of my 2015 goals…

If you are a reader of my blog (back before it went dormant in 2015), you know that I am a goal setter. I like to lay out goals, then make plans to achieve them. Last year, on this date, I set out some goals for myself for 2015. As I said back then, I don’t make “resolutions”. I even remarked that they are all-too-often forgotten before the calendar turns away from January. With that in mind, I set out to make myself some 2015 goals. Today I pulled them out and, well, here is how it went…

Reach my goal weight of 195 pounds, and maintain it. I started the calendar year at 242.8 pounds. By October 23rd I had my weight down to 212.0 pounds. Then I kind of took the 4th quarter off. I had a couple of colds, then the holidays started. I progressively set my goals back from being below 200 at year end, to maintaining my November 20th weight (213.4). I reached NONE of those goals. I ended the year at 225. That is a 13 pound increase from my lowest, and about 12 up from November 20th. For the year I still lost weight (15.2 pounds), which in many years would be respectable, but I didn’t make my goal. As I wrote on my health blog, I am back on track now that the year has turned over.

Scan all of my remaining photos. Yeah, I basically didn’t scan any. I never got started on this one.

Make something useful out of wood. This one I accomplished. I built two 8 foot x 4 foot raised garden beds in which I intend to grow vegetables in 2016. I built them too late in 2015 to make a meaningful run at a late crop. But, they are built and ready to go!

Write 400 blog posts. Back in the Spring, I just lost the thread for writing this blog. My health blog suffered a similar fate later in the year. The goal of 400 posts was based on this one having been updated daily in 2014, and my health blog about weekly. Seemed reasonable. At year-end I wrote about 160 posts combined in the two. Far below my goal

Outline a book idea, and develop another (2 goals). I just never got started on these. Not really sure why, although it was a very busy year.

Visit 10 new lighthouses. I ended up visiting 2 new lights in Northern Michigan, and 2 in Louisiana for a total of 4. Had a great time with the ones I visited. Considering how many I have gone to see, all the easy pickings are done.

Camp 40 nights. This one was always a stretch. We’ve never camped that many nights in a year. For last year I was at 25 nights. Until I retire, I don’t see my wife and I going much above 30, and that would also be a stretch.

Take 15,000 pictures. On my two dedicated cameras I took a total of just over 11,600 pictures. If I had Entered 5 photo contests, or Scheduled 4 hours per month taking pictures, I very likely would have more than exceeded my original goal.

Read 12 books that are not Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader. This one I knocked out of the park. I ended the year by reading a total of 26 books, only one of which was a Bathroom Reader. Here is my list:

  1. The Tipping Point – by Malcolm Gladwell
  2. Killing Patton – by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard
  3. In the Garden of Beasts – by Erik Larson
  4. The Ghosts of NASCAR – The Harlan Boys and the First Daytona 500, by John Havick
  5. Black Noon – The Year They Stopped the Indy 500, by Art Garner
  6. Tom Clancy, Full Force and Effect – by Mark Greaney
  7. The Catcher in the Rye – by J.D. Salinger
  8. Killing Kennedy – by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard
  9. To Kill a Mockingbord – Harper Lee
  10. Killing Jesus– by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard
  11. Dead Wake The Last Crossing of the Lusitania, Erik Larson
  12. How to Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie
  13. Mayflower – Nathanial Philbrick
  14. Bunker Hill – Nathanial Philbrick
  15. Gone Girl – Gillian Flynn
  16. The Last Stand – Nathanial Philbrick
  17. Uncle John’s Canoramic Bathroom Reader – Bathroom Reader’s Institute
  18. The Wright Brothers – David McCullough
  19. Go Set a Watchman – Harper Lee
  20. Endurance- Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage – Alfred Lansing
  21. Great Lakes Serial Killers – Wayne Louis Kadar
  22. Shoeless Joe – W.P. Kinsella
  23. Killing Reagan – by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard
  24. Killing Lincoln – by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard
  25. The Best of Wes – by Wes Oleszewski
  26. Thunderstruck – by Erik Larson

Looking at this list one might be tempted to say I failed at my goals. To be sure, there are many I didn’t reach, but in no way to I consider the year a failure. I purposely set the bar high, and reached for aspirational things that would be difficult to reach. Throughout the year I took on many NEW challenges, both at work and at home. Along the way I picked up two new hobbies to dabble in (gardening and model trains). I had a great year!

Soon I will set the bar for 2016. There will be things on there that are reachable, and there will be some that are aspirational. The important thing to me is that I not stagnate. Only in stagnation and lack of pushing myself to be better today than I was yesterday, will I ever fail.

Posted in Bobby C's Follies, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

What, me worry?

May 13. “Real difficulties can be overcome, it is only the imaginary ones that are unconquerable.” (Theodore N. Vail)

Do you worry? I do. As much as I have worked to eliminate worry from my life, it persists. Among all the unproductive things I may do in a day, worry has to rank near the top.

Recently I was talking to a friend who was under a lot of stress, worrying that she wouldn’t accomplish all of her obligations. She was frazzled to be sure. We talked for only a few minutes, but in that time I encouraged her to talk through what was on her mind. She quickly spit out a relatively short list of items that needed her attention. As she talked, she started formulating actions for each of the items. In less than 5 minutes she had gone from a frazzled state to one where she had an action plan. She thanked me for my help. I graciously accepted her thanks, but really I had done nothing, except encourage her to put words to her fears.

When we worry, when let problems rattle around in our heads, we give them far more life than they deserve. I see this for myself often. A work assignment or problem is dropped in my lap. Maybe it is at the end of the day or work week. It doesn’t need attention immediately, so off I go. While I am home I start to turn the issue over in my mind, and sometimes that issue starts to grow.

Last year I was managing the budget of a multi-million dollar project. One Thursday afternoon one of my team members brought me a problem. He’d discovered what appeared to be an error in a vendor payment. He wasn’t overly concerned about it, and said that he needed to do more investigation, but wanted to keep me informed. I went away for a long weekend soon after the conversation, and was out of communication.

Well, that weekend I fretted and feared. What if we’d broken policy? What if the payment shouldn’t have been made at all? Could I be in trouble? Might my company be out thousands of dollars? All weekend long I allowed this worry to fester. What started out as a brief conversation blew up in my mind. By the time Sunday night came, I was unable to sleep. I arrived extra early on Monday morning, my stomach in knots.

Later that morning my team member came in. Soon after logging in he came to my desk, all smiles. The “problem” had been a simple error in calculation. He had just verified that all was well, and no issue existed. I sighed, and went for a 10 minute walk to burn off my stress.

What had I done there? I had taken a simple, low-level warning of a possible problem, and blew it up in my head. I lost sleep, reduced the enjoyment of my weekend, and burdened myself unnecessarily. All because I let worry get in the way. Had I followed the original advice of my team member and just enjoyed my weekend, all would have been well. Even if the items I imagined had been remotely true, we would have handled them on Monday.

No one in the history of humankind has ever worried their way to the solution of a problem. It is only through action that solutions come. Getting the worries out of my mind, and into action is always the most productive way to go.

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May 12 – Kick starting my writing

May 12. “Writing is a form of prayer.” (Franz Kafka)

A while back I wrote about, and talked about, how I was in a funk. I had hit a plateau in my weight loss, and my life in general seemed to be in neutral. At times I was even teetering on the brink of depression. That funk lasted a while, and I am happy to say that it has abated some.

When I consider myself and ascribe characteristics to my personality, I often will say that I am an optimist. I think that is because I want to be an optimist. I truly desire to see the positive in life, to see the beauty surrounding me, to see hope and possibility. Some who know me will raise their hand and agree that I can be a font of positivity. Others who know me, perhaps more intimately, would say that there is another side to me, a side that broods. Sometimes I can be downright dour. When I find myself in that state, it makes me want to be different, to re-embrace the optimism. The problem is that sometimes I don’t realize I’ve fallen into that particular rat hole.

While working through my recent funk, and in the few weeks since, I have been wondering what changed. I have been wondering what were the contributing factors that led to my being so down. Being a person who thrives in summer, the fact that winter was ending and spring was beginning should have been cause for my mood to rise. The fact that it didn’t meant that something else was in play.

There are many reasons I have discovered and pondered that got me into a funk. As mentioned above, my weight loss stalled and put me into a different phase of my Journey towards better health. I was approaching the month of May, which, despite the weather, has been a month that historically has included loss in my life. I am working through these factors and others.

One thing that jumped out at me is that I stopped writing. In 2014 I wrote nearly every day. I took on a project to write about an inspirational quote each day, and to publish it on my blog. When the new year came, I reached the end of the book that had been providing the quotes. I felt a sense of relief and accomplishment. I continued to write almost every day, and even took on a new project. From February 21 to April 3, I wrote a series of 30 posts about the book How to Win Friends and Influence People. I really enjoyed writing that series, but two things happened to my writing. First, I stopped writing every day during the project. Because I wanted to make sure that kept up a particular timing, and because each post directly related to a chapter from the book, I tended to write the articles in spurts, usually on the weekend. I wasn’t rising daily to write. The other thing that happened was that when the project came to an end, I stopped writing almost completely.

My wife and I were talking about how I stopped writing when I reached the end of the project on How tin Win Friends and Influence People. As we were discussing it I realized that part of the reason I stopped writing was that I had looked upon it as a project. As a project manager, I know that any project has a beginning and an end, and I had let my writing end.

All of this is a long way around to say that I need to write again. I chose the Kafka quote above because I do believe that for me, the act of writing is about reflection on myself. It is about prayer in the form of working to be a better person. When I write, I think, and when I think, I grow.

When I was in the 365 project last year, I wrote most of my entries in a Microsoft Word file called “Inspiration”. Today I opened a new file called “New 365”. My intent is to get back to daily writing. I don’t intend to use a book to guide me through quotes this time, and I may not always write about inspirational quotes. Last year when I was working through that project there were times when I wanted to write about other things, but they didn’t fit the quote of the day. This time I am going to allow my own spirit to guide me through the writing. At times I will write about quotes. Other times I will write about current events and my take on them. Still other times I will just write what is bouncing around in my head. But, I will write.

For me writing is prayer, on that point Kafka is correct. And it’s high time that I got back to that particular form of prayer.

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Where have I been?

As I was heading here to write this post I noticed that my last post was published on April 3, when I finished the series on How to Win Friends and Influence People. Truth be told, I actually wrote that post on the Monday before it published, so it has been almost 4 weeks since I wrote anything here.

When I started my blog, I read a blog on how to blog that said one should never apologize for the frequency of their posts, so I make none here. When I finished that series I felt like I had finished a lot of what I had to say for a while. Since that post I have had a few days where I felt inspired to share, but nothing that actually got me to the computer to compose.

I have been playing around with a few ideas for posts or series of posts. One idea that my wife has suggested a few times, is to do a series on the book How to Stop Worrying and Start Living, by Dale Carnegie. She thinks it would be a nice follow up to my last series. I agree that it would be a good and interesting project, so look for that in the coming weeks. As it turns out, there are 30 principles in that book as well. I haven’t decided if I am going to write that series in one burst, or if I will make it more of a weekly or bi weekly series until it is all written. Stay tuned on that one.

I also want to get back to writing about inspirational quotes. Again, not sure if I will do that daily, or on some other regular basis.

Generally, what I am saying is that I am back. I wasn’t ever really very far away, the words just weren’t flowing. Look forward to more from me in the coming days and weeks. In closing, I will just say that getting up and writing this morning felt very good indeed.


Posted in Reflection and Inspiration | 3 Comments

The capstone principle for Human Relations

“Happiness…consists in giving, and in serving others.” (Henry Drummond)

We are near the end of a long journey of discovery with these 30 Human Relations Principles. We have started out by eliminating criticism, condemnation and complaint. We have wended our way through the idea of avoiding arguments, and avoiding telling people they are wrong. In these last 9 principles we are are working our way through the process of learning How to Change People Without Giving Offense or Arousing Resentment. Finally we are at principle number 30, and Dale Carnegie tells us to Make the other person happy about doing the thing you suggest.

Some of the principles we have discussed can be executed all on their own. I can smile more, give more honest and sincere appreciation, an increase my interest in other people. Any of those can be individual endeavors. This last principle, though, is not one that I can just set out to do independently of all the others that proceed it. In fact, I would go so far as to say that it is impossible to execute this principle, unless we have walked this fine path.

When we, as leaders, focus our attention on the service of others, we take on a different mentality than if we were autocratic chess players, simply moving the pieces about the board. In these last 9 principles, which are subtitled “Be a Leader”, we have done our best to make the person we are leading or changing feel empowered. We are building them up by initiating the process with praise, we are humbling ourselves by showing that we have made our own set of mistakes along the way, and we have simplified the problem so that they can more easily address it. Now we are setting them out on their way, and we do so cheerfully.

The fact is that if we have executed these principles well, then this last one becomes a natural conclusion. Because we have respected the individual, and because we have patiently taken the time to help them achieve, they will most certainly be happy to do what we ask them to do.

In the closing paragraphs of How to Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie offers these 6 guidelines that any effective leader should keep at the font of mind when it is necessary to change attitudes or behaviors:

  1. Be Sincere. Do not promise anything you cannot deliver.
  2. Know exactly what it is you want the other person to do.
  3. Be empathetic. Ask yourself what is it the other person really wants.
  4. Consider the benefits that person will receive from doing what you suggest.
  5. Match those benefits to the other person’s wants.
  6. When you make your request, put it in a form that will convey to the other person the idea that he or she will personally benefit.

In order to effectively execute these 6 principles will take time and effort. We’ll need to call on the skills we learned in the first 9 principles in order to know the other person’s ideas and desires. Our genuine interest in them will pay off here. We will have to be diplomatic in asking, and we will have to set them up for success.

This 30th principle is really the capstone of the entire set. It is here, if we have done well with all that come before, that we can achieve the success as leaders, and as people who truly wish to both Win Friends and Influence People.

Work hard in your career to learn, master and apply the Human Relations Principles, and you will most definitely…

Principle 30 – Make the other person happy about doing the thing you suggest.

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Don’t over complicate things

“Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.” (Confucius)

For the last 15 years my primary job at work has been Project Management. One could argue that for 5 to 10 years before that I was doing the same thing, just without the title. I also spent 5 years as a process improvement specialist, helping people find ways to do their jobs with fewer needless steps. One thing I have learned in over two decades of project management and process improvement is that any task can be broken down into smaller chunks that are easy to understand and execute. And, once you do that, all jobs can seem much easier.

Back in the 1990s I was asked to head up a team to update all of the computers in our building. I’m dating myself a bit, but we were installing a new version of Windows (maybe 3.1, maybe newer, I don’t remember). Back then we didn’t have the tools to push updates over the network, so updating the 1,000+ computers in the building meant that we had to visit each computer and start a process that would take upwards of an hour.

At that time few of us had ever been trained on formal project management. There were a large number of things that had to come together in order for this project to complete on time and on budget. Several organizations had to work together, some technical issues needed to be solved, there was testing to do and so on.

One afternoon I gathered a team of people together in a conference room with a roll of masking tape, a stack of index cards, and a marker. We started just naming all the things that had to be done, and writing them one to a card. As we went along we taped them to the wall and put them in the order that they needed to complete, and used other strips of tape to show dependencies. Soon we had the plan all laid out. As I said, none of us had any formal PM training, so this was done on the fly. When we started the meeting there was much trepidation about how we’d be able to get it all done. When we finished, we had a plan.

The reason the creation of that plan was successful was that we broke it down into smaller pieces. Each card represented something that someone knew how to do, and knew how long it would take.

A couple of years ago we were trying to get purchase orders processed for a project. They always seemed to take more time than we expected, and it seemed we were always finding out new “secret” steps to the process that we hadn’t known before. I decided to employ the same technique I had nearly 20 years before to uncover what was happening. This time we used a white board, but otherwise we did the same thing. We listed all the steps in the process that were done by the various groups. When we finished we had a picture that we could share with our management to show them how things got approved, and where the bottlenecks were in the timing. After that, we still had some problems with orders, but when we did we knew right where we were in the process and could address them.

This next principle talks about making things seem easy to correct for those that we lead. The truth is that this works because most problems are easy to correct. That is especially true for us because we have the advantage of additional experience, and an overall view of the system. Those we lead might be doing this for the first time, or making their first sets of mistakes. Since we’ve already let them know that we have made mistakes in the past, it seems only natural now to share with them how we solved them.

When we make things easy for the other person to correct, we aren’t waving a magic wand. We are simply helping them to see what we had already discovered in our hard work earlier.

So, when we are looking to help others to succeed, where maybe they have failed in the past, let’s remember

Principle 29 – Use encouragement. Make the fault seem easy to correct.

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Make people believe in themselves, and they will not disappoint you

“Build your reputation by helping other people build theirs.” (Anthony J. D’Angelo)

While thinking about this next principle, I looked up quotes about reputation. Many of them dealt with the idea that it takes a long time, and a lot of work to build one up. Henry Ford said “You can’t build a reputation on what you are going to do.” (I added the italics). And, he is right, of course. My reputation is the summary of perception of all my past actions. I cannot think my way into one, or talk my way into one, I can only act my way into one.

I remember when I was first starting out with my wife, and we needed credit. It was hard because banks and department stores didn’t want to give us credit because we didn’t have credit. It was like we were in a classic chicken and egg situation. Eventually we opened a Sears credit card by purchasing our refrigerator and stove. That company, because they were selling us some appliances, were willing to take a risk on us. Good credit is a representation of a person’s track record on paying things back, and Sears was willing to actually give us a reputation even though we hadn’t yet earned it.

The same is true when we are leading and developing people. A person who is new to a job that they have not previously held elsewhere, will necessarily come in without a reputation, without a track record for that job. They will be tentative at first because they are finding their way, and if not treated with care, they can be squashed by the expectations of those around them. When we are developing new employees, we have to give them a line of credit to earning their reputation. That’s how we can help them to progress.

In this section of principles, we are working to Change People Without Giving Offense or Arousing Resentment. We have talked about the need to address concerns with our existing people, and how we are working to change what they do. We are very near the end of the process, and we need to make sure that they are set up for success. In this principle, we are granting them a line of credit to that success. We are letting them know that we believe that they can do it, even if they have never done it at all before, and even if they have done it poorly. They are looking to us for support, and if we will give it to them, if we will put our faith in them, they will work hard.

It’s a funny thing about giving someone a reputation before they have earned it. When you do that, most people will not want to disappoint you. They will work up to the reputation you set.

I have often said that there is really only one thing that an effective leader needs – followers. Without followers, I am not a leader, I am just a dude out walking around. But, if I cultivate an environment where people are set up for success, where they know that I believe they can achieve, then they will follow.

If you want people to believe in themselves, and achieve, then by all means…

Principle 28 – Give the other person a fine reputation to live up to.

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Give praise – SINCERELY

“Sandwich every bit of criticism between two layers of praise.” (May Kay Ash)

Many of you who read these articles might, like me, be parents. And probably all of you have been around toddlers at some point in your life. Think about how we teach very young children how to do something as basic as walking.

At first we hold them under their arms and get them in the position. We giggle with them as their chubby feet dance around. Soon they are tentatively putting their weight on their own legs, and they might even bounce up and down a bit as the giggles and smiles continue from both us and them.

As they progress we progress. Where once we held our hands under their arms, we now hold them by their two hands as they learn to put one foot in front of the other. Eventually that becomes a one-handed assist from us. Then that magic day comes when they take that first, tentative step. Most of the time that first step ends with a plop onto their padded behinds. But, do we scold them? Do we tell them that they should have done better? Of course not!

At every step of the way we praise them lavishly. We cheer for them, we applaud for them. Our faces light up with even the slightest improvement.

As these children progress through their development, our praise starts to wane a bit. When they reach their school years, and they progress through their studies, we come to expect that they will always improve, that they are always working to learn.

By the time they get to their first job, they have forgotten the thrill of being praised for small improvements. How sad.

Am I suggesting that we should stand and cheer every time one of our team members improves slightly? Probably not, that would seem very fake and tiresome. But, what would happen if you doubled, tripled, or quadrupled the amount of times that you praised someone at work for making an improvement. If you presently never give that kind of praise, then you’d still be at zero, so you have to start somewhere. But the truth is that if we increased the amount of praise we gave for improvements we would get….are you ready for it?…. MORE IMPROVEMENTS!

There is an old saying in economics that you always get more of what you subsidize. The more people realize there is something to be gained from a certain behavior, the more of that behavior you will get. If you praise improvements, you get more improvements. But the converse is true also. If the only time your people get your attention is when they make mistakes, then you will get more mistakes.

In this series I have talked often about the need to be sincere in all our actions. In this principle, where we are praising improvements, it is as important as ever. Dale Carnegie realized this as well, and saved this chapter to remind us:

“Remember, we all crave appreciation and recognition, and will do almost anything to get it. But nobody wants insincerity. Nobody wants flattery.

Let me repeat: The principles taught in this book will only work when they come from the heart. I am not advocating a bag of tricks. I am talking about a new way of life.”

These are powerful words, saved for late in the book. Dale Carnegie knew that this principle can be a fulcrum, a turning point in your relationship with those you lead. He knew that if done right, the sky is the limit, but if handled poorly, could cause your demise.

We have been working, in this section of principles, to improve the performance of one of our people, without arousing resentment. As we see them making the effort to improve, we must remember with great sincerity to…

Principle 27 – Praise the slightest improvement and praise every improvement. Be “hearty in your approbation and lavish in your praise.”

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Maintaining a person’s dignity encourages loyalty

“When it comes to human dignity, we cannot make compromises.” (Angela Merkel)

As we are working through these principles on how to improve the performance of our people, you might be tempted to wonder whether it might not be better to replace them. To be certain, there are times when the best course of action is to part ways with a person in our organizations. Some people are just not a good fit for a job, and sometimes a person’s behaviors and mistakes can be so great as to be a detriment to the overall organization. We aren’t talking here about those kinds of performers. In this set of principles, we’re looking at people who are doing a basically good job, but either have some holes in their performance, or have made mistakes. They might even be your stars, or rising stars, that need some additional coaching and counseling.

Before going down the path of replacing someone, consider the cost. When you have to replace an employee (for any reason), there will be lost productivity, the cost of doing a job search, training costs, and so on. I have seen estimates that range from 15% to over 200% of the original employee’s pay. (That’s not a typo. In the case of an employee who is earning$250,000 per year, the cost of replacement can run as high as $532,000 according to Corter Consulting). In most organizations, and for most of the people we are looking to replace, the cost is around 20%. That 20% represents over 10 weeks of a year, or between 2 and 3 months. That is a steep price to pay to replace someone. If the person is doing a basically good job, isn’t it in our best interest to help them to succeed?

Consider also the cost to the remaining organization if you fire someone. If the person you fire was of the kind I mentioned above who is almost toxic to the organization, then that firing might actually boost the morale of the remaining group. But, even that is not certain. If the person is doing a job, their departure is sure to cause issues in productivity for their co-workers. That’s likely bad enough if they leave on their own for greener pastures. If they left because you fired them, or demoralized them in the way you handle their issues, then it can be compounded in the organization.

In this section of principles, as we are working to become better leaders, we are learning How to Change People Without Giving Offense or Arousing Resentment. We know that we are looking to resolve some kind of an issue with someone, most often performance related. We’ve started by giving some praise and appreciation, we’ve been gentle in our approach, we’ve let them know that we also make mistakes, and we have used open-ended questions to help the person see the errors of their ways. This principles is, in my opinion, about helping the person we’re correcting maintain their dignity.

In my 3 decades of working in various companies and organizations, I have had my share of experience being the person on the side of the table receiving some negative feedback. I have seen my share of good and bad practices when it comes to these instances, so I know how both will feel to the person you’re coaching.

One team I lead many years ago had quite a strong comradery that included going to lunch together, and recognizing each other’s birthdays. We were an operational group, which meant that someone always had to be nearby tending the phones (before the days of ubiquitous cell phones, or even pagers). Usually we would rotate who stayed behind when we went out to lunch, which meant someone was always excluded – but not always the same person. To compensate for this, we would occasionally order in our lunch, so we could be near the phones, but still have some time together.

On one of these occasions, we were also recognizing birthdays, and the newest member of our team, who happened to be a bit quiet and shy, was in charge of bringing the cake we were all going to share. When she revealed the cake, she triggered what can only be described as an “inside joke” among several of us who’d been working together for a long time. I was a new leader at the time, and I wasn’t sufficiently aware of things. I missed the fact that this person was crushed by our laughter, thinking that we were ridiculing her in some way.

The next day, a Thursday, I was called to a conference room by my boss. He handed me a typed statement where he tore me apart for the incident. He was harsh in his criticism, and demeaned me as a leader and as a person. Let me be clear, I was wrong in how I had handled the original incident. But in his severity of dressing me down there was no way I could see that, let alone admit it and work to improve. He completely demoralized me.

Another time I was working on a team that had to manage finances for a large project. I and another member of the team made a mistake in our math as we were calculating what had already been spent, and it was the kind of mistake that made it look like we had more money left than we really did. We caught our own mistake, and corrected it as quickly as possible, but even that took a week or two. The manager who received the news called me into his office and lambasted me for a good 30 minutes. I hadn’t misspent any company funds, I had just made an error in calculation. We had been managing the funds for this project for over 4 years without a significant error. This time I earned a severe tongue lashing that lasted for days, even weeks.

A third time, much earlier in my career, I was working on a help desk. One of the people I was helping was the secretary for a high level manager. While I was trying to help her fix a problem, I made a mistake that ended up costing her several hours of work. It was purely my mistake. This customer and her boss had a reputation of being loud complainers when things didn’t go well, and they lived up to their reputation with a call to my boss. When he called me into his office, I knew the reason, and walked in with a bit of dread.

He and I discussed the problem, and he let me know that I had erred greatly. But he did so in a way that allowed me to keep my dignity. He didn’t attack me as a person, and he didn’t make it seem as though I had caused the company to come to a grinding halt. After our meeting I went about correcting the error, and repairing the relationship with the customer.

In one of those 3 examples, I remained loyal to my manager until he retired. In two of them I came to revile my manager’s very existence and looked immediately to change positions and leave their group. Can you guess which one received my loyalty, and which two bore the cost of replacing me? If you guessed that I remained loyal to the person who helped me keep my dignity, you are correct. I have often said that manager was one of the smartest people I ever had the privilege to work for, and that incident is one example of why.

When we are working to improve the performance of a person on our team, it is always important to remember to…

Principle 26 – Let the other person save face.

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