Wednesday, September 7, 2011

First Day of Kindergarten and the Lessons for Managers

Last week my Goddaughter CarlyAnn started kindergarten.  I was so lucky to be able to be able to participate in the first day activities with the family!!

After seeing CarlyAnn get settled in class, we then went to the “Coffee and Kleenex” portion of the morning.   The school counselor had put together a fantastic packet of information for the parents. 

This is the first of a couple blogs that I’ll share with you.  It’s amazing to me that the same information that applies to children also applies to adults.  In keeping with that, it also amazes me how the information given to parents can also apply to management. 

This is taken from the National PTA.  You’ll see my notes on how this applies to managers after each number. 

Feel free to share this with your manager or start doing some of this if you currently manage a team.    :-)  Enjoy! 

Ten Ways to Participate in your Child’s Education
Ten Ways to Participate in your Employee’s Growth

1.    Build your child’s self esteem.  Listen to what they have to say and praise them for the things they do well.  
a.    Build your employee’s confidence in working with you.  Listen to what they have to say.  Reprimand in private and praise in public.   
2.    Encourage your children to talk about their feelings, accomplishments, and problems.
a.    Encourage your employee to have an active and direct conversation with you during 1:1 times or when appropriate.  Validate the feelings, cheer the accomplishments, and coach through the problems.
3.    Be a positive role model for your children. Teach them right from wrong at an early age.
a.    Be a positive role model for your employee.    Your example is being watched and will be followed.  Be honest, be direct, and be nice.
4.    Tell your children it’s all right to make mistakes, as long as they learn from them.
a.    Tell your employee it’s all right to make mistakes, as long as they learn from them.  Make sure you’ve shared what the repercussions would entail should errors continue.
5.    Allow your children to see you read daily newspapers, books, etc.  Read stories aloud and tell them about your culture and heritage.
a.    Keep up with what is going on in your industry and share with the team.  Teach the ones that don’t know the history of the industry how what they are doing fits in to the big picture.
6.    Show an interest in your children’s school activities by helping them with their homework and getting to know their teachers.
           a.    Show an interest in the daily work of your employees.  Understand what they go through on a daily basis.  Get to know the customers/peers/etc they interact with and offer to help when appropriate. 
7.    Take your children to museums, the local library, and other free educational and cultural events whenever possible.
a.    Allow employees to attend trade shows, seminars, and activities that will enhance the work experience.
8.    Ask that report cards and other school documents be made available in both English and Spanish.
a.    When your employees have to attend trainings or have new requirements that come out, make sure they are easy to comprehend and that you are readily available to help them understand the material.  Attempt to review the information ahead of time if available and alert the trainer or leader to any landmines that may exist (appropriately, of course). 
9.    Ask the school to provide a translator for meetings and whether English as a second language classes are available.
a.    Be a champion for your employees to grow professionally.  For example, if a public speaking course would enhance their professionalism, then make that happen.  Get to know what opportunities are out there for growth opportunities for your team.
10.                 Join the PTA or volunteer at your children’s school.
a.    Join local networking groups (and encourage your employees if appropriate) to keep up with the industry and others that manage teams.  Exchange information and seek out ideas that have worked for other managers. Volunteer and give back to the community. 

Next in the series:  What to Expect from a Kindergartner and how this applies to management.  

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Royal Wedding...a nice reprieve

I know there is dissension among the masses on whether or not the 'obsession' of the Royal Wedding is worth our time and attention. 

I'm here on behalf of those that are watching this event from afar with much ado. 

Sometimes, we just need a distraction from our own lives and the crazy stuff happening in the world.  Here are my top 10 reasons why it's OK to get all into this wonderful event:


10.  A-Listers:   Those going and those NOT going.  How GREAT is is that some folks here in America that 'thought' they should be invited simply were not.  *snicker*

9.  Architecture:  What a great time to be reminded of some of the wonderful architecture that is in England. 

8.  Entertainment:  I am loving the magazines with all the fantastic pictures and the story of their romance!  Every day, some great stories come out..did you hear about the guy/gal who (fill in the blank here)?  It's nice to have something new to read. 

7.  British Accent:  How often does walking around practicing your British accent really apply to life?  In my life, only to be made fun of since I'm lousy at fake accents.   Just try it.  Walk up to random folks and ask (in your British accent), "Care to join me for a spot of tea ol' chap?" 

6.  Costume Changes:  Who doesn't love events with costume changes???  All the great concerts have them...and we've been bombarded with all sorts of comparisons between Kate and Diana along with all of Kate's styles through the years.  It's like watching a 'dress up doll' in the media.  Super fun! 

5.  History:  This is another moment in history we get to witness.  In addition to that, our country is just too young to have such a grand legacy.  Let's just appreciate all the pomp and circumstance.  

4.  Cheesy Paraphernalia Being Sold:  Some of the stuff that is being sold with the images of Kate and Will is just hilarious.  Plates, cups, coins...come and get 'em!!  They are even selling "Royal Wedding Condoms".  Seriously.  No, really.  I'm not kidding. 
Crown Jewels, Condoms of Distinction
Don't believe me?  Go to the Google.  Even I can't make this stuff up. 

3. Excuse to have a party:  Those in my circle know I'll throw a party just because the day ends in 'y', but I can't wait to create a cool memory with some friends at my BYOT party. That's right folks: Bring Your Own Tiara and have a jolly good time watching a wedding over tea and crumpets!

2.  Opportunity to wear a tiara:   My daily regime does not entail polishing my tiara and donning it for the day.  Friday, however, I shall bring out my best tiara and don it to celebrate the idea of true love and the fact that a commoner will be an actual princess.  Wow.

Finally, the #1 reason why it is OK to get carried away:

Friends, we have some bad things going on in our world today.  Countries are at war with each other, gas prices are taking huge chunks out of our accounts, unemployment rates are still a problem, our economy has not made it's way out of the toilet yet, there are children and families that may not have food today or tomorrow, and the list goes on. 

All of that will still be there on Saturday.  Let's just take one day to celebrate love; one day to celebrate hope; one day to don a tiara and leave our own worries at bay.  

Until next time...Cheerio Mates!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Metaphorical Tornadoes

Tornado:  noun /tôrˈnādō/ 

A mobile, destructive vortex of violently rotating winds having the appearance of a funnel-shaped cloud and advancing beneath a large storm system.
Does it really matter if it's predictable or not? 
Having just got my power back from the most recent North Carolina Tornadoes, I am tad behind in my internet reading.  Meteorologist Mike Smith has criticized some news media for claiming that tornadoes are unpredictable and that Saturday’s deadly twisters in North Carolina were a “surprise.”

He demonstrated the National Weather Service highlighted the high risk for a dangerous tornado outbreak more than twelve hours in advance. He also showed the NWS issued a rare “particularly dangerous situation” tornado watch more than a hour before the first storm touched down. The National Weather Service said the average warning lead time for the tornadoes was 20-30 minutes.

Most probably didn't even hear the warnings and those that did, most likely did not heed the warnings.

This made me many tornadoes (real or metaphorical ) happen in our lives where we were given fair warning but chose to simply ignore it? 

I believe that if I had $1.00 for ever time I've uttered a phrase like this: "son of a gun...I should have seen that coming",  I would be writing this blog from the coast in my fully paid beach house and not my 4x4 cubicle.  Oh, I mean, my couch since I'd certainly never use company time to rant.  Check the time....definitely AFTER business hours somewhere. 

Back to the question..."does it matter if it's predictable?"  I'd like to think that I've learned my lesson(s) and would take a different course of action if faced with a predictable tornado.  However, I think we all know that is not the case.  And, I know a few of you who have been in that very same boat with me. Let's travel down memory lane....

Welcome aboard!  I'll be your cruise director for this storm...ahem...trip.  I think we all know that most bad decisions have a lot of the same scenery.  Think of a time when you made a decision you wish you could reverse. 

Stop #1:  Right here on board the ship!  That nagging feeling you had in your gut.  The one where you knew it was too good to be true.  The one you ignored.  If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. 

Lesson from that stop:  Don't ignore that nagging feeling!!  It's there for a reason (most of the time).  You have enough life experience to know when something is not right.  

Stop #2:  Off to the right.  See all those people waving?  Those are your closest confidants that gave you some pretty good advice that you didn't take.  Isn't it ironic....don't ya think?

Lesson from that stop:  It's like good advice that you just didn't take.  Let it go, but c'mon, let's pause next time and not blow them off so quickly. 

Stop #3:  What's that ahead?  A big RED flag.  So big that it just caressed your cheek as we passed right by it.  Hold on, there's another RED flag.  And another....

Lesson from that stop:  Every time you see a red flag, say to yourself "Danger, Danger Will Robinson!!"  Really take the time to explore the possible outcomes.  Perhaps spend some time in meditation and prayer even when it may be uncomfortable.

 Whew...that's enough with traveling down memory lane.  Back to the Aloha deck for some dancing and drinks with cute little umbrellas in them.  Friends, we are all going to spend some time in the storms, regardless of whether or not we should have seen them coming. 

Stock up on some candles and canned goods.  Make sure your life preserver doesn't have any holes and hold on.  Just like the tornadoes...they blew in and blew right back out.  The tornadoes going on in your life will do the same.  You may have to go without power for a few days and need to replace a few shingles. 

Until then, I have extra candles if you need them.  

Monday, January 17, 2011

Inspiration from a King and a Katt

"Let no man pull you low enough to hate him."  Martin Luther King Jr.  once said this.  I stumbled across this nugget as I was preparing my opening thoughts for my Toastmasters meeting.

As I was ruminating about brought back to mind something that inspired me back in December.  I had the opportunity to re-watch a Katt Williams comedy routine.  Within that routine, Katt talks about getting in touch with your "star player".

Take some time to really get in touch with your star player:  YOU.  We've got a lot coming up against us this year and if you're not in touch with what really matters, it will consume you. There are forces and people out there that will try to bring you down.   Think about many times have you told someone good news about an issue in your life and they immediately said something disparaging?   Grrrr...

Unfortunately, haters are everywhere and they want you to be miserable.  Don't allow them to pull you down.  Smile, nod and make the mental note.  Then, put them out of your mind.  No need to hate them.  Just recognize that they are not in a good place and looking for company.  Let's do our part to pull THEM UP, but not to the detriment of the star player.  Some people just like to live in misery. 

All star players have a team around them.  Who is on YOUR team?  Who can you count on to help you defend against the haters?  We're not always going to get it right.  We WILL make mistakes. Take a few minutes and think about who those people are for you, those that stand up for you, even when you may not get it right. 

Who would you want to take into battle with you?  That's right folks.  BATTLE.  This is the year we stop letting the haters have their way with us.  This is the year we put them in their place for that crap.  Are you with me? 

Oh, I know who's with me. 

If you're going to ask people to go into battle with you, it's important you be ready to go into battle with them as well.   I have polished my armor, warmed up my battle muscles, and there's plenty of horsepower in the chariot.  Friends, I'm ready to do battle with you.  

Let's lift each other up this year and keep the haters back behind the walls.  After all, "in the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends."  (Martin Luther King Jr). 

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

When Did Your Eyes First Open?

I remember a time when I was pretty naive about the world.  Do you remember that time in your life?  It hits everyone at a different age and time.  You know what I'm talking about...the event(s) that you either witnessed or experienced that opened your eyes for the first time to the tragedies that exist in our world.

For me, the 'opening of my eyes' was during an internship in college.  As I was cleaning off an old computer (by 'old' I mean one that had Windows 98 on it), I came across a paper that a friend of mine wrote in 2003 as a class assignment for college.  It is about part of my experience on the Cherokee Reservation back in the early 90's when I interned as a Guardian Ad Litem.   

While I was re-reading this for the first time in 7 years, there were a few things I was reminded of:

1.  I was/am very blessed to have a wonderful set of parents and a great childhood.
2.  If you think a swat on the butt of a child for misbehaving is abuse, you are mistaken.
3.  It's important to take good notes.
4.  There are things you will never be able to "un-see".
5.  A good cry cleanses the soul.

To understand, read below: 

Meredith Threatt
Advanced Comp
September 2, 2003
Kathy Crowley: Guardian Ad Litem

“Is it ok for my daddy to touch me…down there?”

The question hit Kathy across the face as it leapt from the lips of a normally shy twelve-year-old Native American girl whose brother was already one of Kathy’s cases.  Kathy’s defenses went up immediately. 

Her initial panicked thoughts of “how do we get this child out of that house?” had to be replaced by the rules her training had ingrained in her:

#1: Stay calm.
#2: Don’t ask too many questions.
#3: Call in a professional.

After all, Kathy was not a professional.  She was an intern. 

It was the summer of 1993, the summer before Kathy Crowley went back to West Carolina University to complete her four-year degree in criminal justice.  It was also the summer that changed her views of the world and of parenting.  And after a particularly trying case, it would be the summer that altered Kathy’s career path away from criminal justice altogether. 
On a tip from a college advisor, Kathy discovered an opportunity to be a summer intern with the Guardian Ad Litem program in Asheville, NC.  A Guardian Ad Litem is a volunteer who acts as a child’s voice in the criminal justice system.  As an unpaid volunteer, Kathy would spent her summer counseling children, investigating reports of child abuse and juvenile delinquency and occasionally making court appearances on behalf of children too young to testify for themselves.  Since Kathy’s major required an internship and she was already leaning toward a job with juvenile services, the position seemed like an exciting opportunity.  So early in June, Kathy packed her bags and moved onto the Cherokee Reservation to begin her work as an Ad Litem volunteer.
          The first case Kathy was given involved a young boy with deep scars on his right shoulder.  Kathy’s heart ached when she discovered the scars were from cigarette burns.  Apparently the young boy’s father had been careful to put his cigarettes out high enough on the boy’s arm that his T-shirt would conceal the wounds.  Teachers and friends were oblivious to the torment the young child endured at home.  To her dismay, Kathy soon discovered this sort of case was typical in her new role.
As the summer progressed, Kathy found herself working on the case of another young Native American boy.  This time it was the stepfather who was the abuser and he was beating his stepson.  While working on the case, Kathy visited the boy’s home and eventually met his siblings.  There were two younger sisters and a younger brother in the house.  The older of the two sisters was Anita (name changed for her privacy).  Anita was just twelve years old.  She was that same twelve year old girl that walked into the office and asked the question that sent Kathy reeling: “Is it ok for my daddy to touch me…down there?” 
As Kathy sat looking into the large brown eyes of the young, slightly overweight girl, she struggled to wrap her mind around Anita’s question.  Kathy gently explained that it is ok for daddies to hug their children and asked Anita to explain her question further.  While Anita tried to explain exactly what she meant, the training started to kick in and Kathy moved quietly to a phone.  She tried to keep Anita calm and at ease while she called in a professional detective.  It was imperative to keep Anita feeling safe enough to keep talking without letting her say too much before the detective arrived.  This part of Kathy’s training had been explicit.  While Kathy kept Anita occupied with toys and games, a detective slipped into the room and joined their conversation.  Kathy looked reassuringly into Anita’s eyes and asked the young girl to share her story with the detective.  As Anita talked, Kathy’s heart sank.  She realized the stepfather she was already investigating for beating his son had also had sex with his daughter.  What she did not know at the time was that Anita’s brother had seen it happen. 
A physical exam soon revealed that Anita, just twelve years old, was pregnant.  Later, DNA tests confirmed that her stepfather was to blame.  Kathy was appointed Guardian Ad Litem in the case.  She would be the young girl’s voice in this trial.  From that moment forward, every move was critical.  Every conversation was recorded in explicit detail.  Care was taken to follow the law to the letter.  And as each day brought them closer to trial, Kathy’s thoughts echoed in her head, “I can’t screw this up.  If I screw this up this father will get away with it.  If I don’t do everything right, he’s going to go free and that will be my fault.”
Kathy did do everything right.  Though the case didn’t make it to court until after the summer was over and Kathy had already returned to West Carolina to tackle her senior year, her case notes were entered into evidence on Anita’s behalf.  The evidence Kathy had gathered was impeccable and overwhelming.  Despite Anita’s mother constantly swearing it never happened, a federal court and a ton of scientific evidence convicted Anita’s stepfather of incest and sent him to prison.  Anita’s mother was ordered to receive counseling to, as Kathy puts it, “help her see that her alliances should be with her child.” 
News of the verdict did not reach Kathy until midway through the fall semester.  It came by phone.  The director of the Guardian Ad Litem program called Kathy’s dorm room to give her the good news.  Kathy was elated.  As she hung up the phone, she ran into the hallway looking for someone to help her rejoice in the victory.  Sorority sisters gathered round as Kathy explained the story and trumpeted the news of the stepfather’s incarceration.  The young women in Kathy’s dorm exalted with her.  But as the joyful celebration subsided, Kathy’s thoughts returned to Anita.
The twelve-year-old had suffered so much at the hands of her stepfather.  The trial that had offered a sense of closure and relief for so many did not end Anita’s suffering.  Anita was still carrying her father’s child.   Anita’s mother tried to force her daughter to have an abortion, but the unborn baby was considered evidence in the case and so its life was spared.  On a number of occasions, Anita had talked with Kathy about the baby.  The young girl wanted to keep the baby and raise it.  Kathy suspected that more than anything Anita simply wanted something of her very own.  But Anita wasn’t allowed to keep the baby.  Once it was born, Social Services forced Anita to put her baby up for adoption.  Anita, on the other hand, was never removed from her home. 
Ten years have passed since that arduous summer.  Kathy graduated from West Carolina University with a degree in criminal justice and started her career in that field.  After a few years as a parole officer in Georgia, Kathy opted to take a job in management with a large computer company.  Kathy still considers the Guardian Ad Litem program an exceptional experience and believes it is an important part of the criminal justice system.  But the abuse she witnessed proved to be something she couldn’t bear to see every day for the rest of her professional life.  Kathy is grateful that her experience with the Ad Litem program came when it did.  She says, “If I had seen the things I saw when I was just a year or two younger, before I knew all the theories on child abuse and before I had become firm in my religious beliefs, I’m pretty sure I would have gone the other way.  It would have driven me away from God and away from prayer, instead of solidifying my spiritual beliefs the way that it did.”

Take a couple minutes to say 'thank you' for the good things in your life.