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Thursday, March 22, 2007

Impact Reflections

My favorite hot spot is near a large university. Because of that, I've become accepted as one of the "regulars" among the students who use it for the escape from home place in order to study efficiently. And the other "regulars" are typically graduate students. I say all of that prefatory information by way of setting the scene. We're nearing the end of Spring Break and there's a noticeable calm that's settling in as students finish mid-terms, final defenses, and submit theses, graduation speeches, and term papers or presentations.

As these months have passed, we've had two-second "hoorahs" for published articles of mine or significant site visitor URLs. Thus, my fellow "regulars" have come to know my involvement in the employment industry. They trust me. A few have visited the website and the blog to see what's offered. They've reached the point of looking around the room to see whether or not I'm present. A few have asked for sporadic advice.

Over time, I've worked with a few on making a better presentation on their resume, editing the cover letter, and general coaching in various areas. This is merely as the subject comes up; it isn't something I've pressed on them. I've provided leads and introductions. I've encouraged where the listener is a hard learner, but charming and full of potential. I want to see all of them graduate. I've become invested in them and them in me. And when they graduate, I know that my time at this hot spot will have come to a conclusion and my endeavors need to grow rather than become rooted and stagnant.

But there's a little breathing room for me now that a couple of deadlines are completed. There's time to see how my being part of the environment has made an impact on these and other people in my various habitats.

One thing that may seem insignificant had a big impact on me. A couple of weeks ago, one of the prospective graduates wrote a graduation speech and asked me to critique it before it was submitted to the Graduation Committee. It was inspiring and eloquent. I believe the student came within a hair of being one of the top contenders. I asked to hear the version that was finally submitted to the Committee. There were some significant changes from the first version. However, the thrust of the speech was retained and focused on the growth that challenge and failure affords us. And the ultimate focus was that failure is definitely not the same as defeat.

It's so true. Failure is not defeat. Failure is the act of having tested one method in order to learn what will happen. Having gone through that test, we learn and develop creative and critical thinking skills by coming up with an idea of how to obtain the same goal but by way of another route. And if that route doesn't work, then we use yet another. We need to be creative in how we achieve our goals. The only failure is not attempting to reach the goal and only ruing the fact that we have not attained it or, worse, resenting that others have but we have not.

So there are two things that I want to share with you in this posting.

First, it's the little things that can and do make a difference in a person's life as we work with them. Even though we may not be making the placement, our providing the proper guidance and leads builds on our reputation. That person's success is a testament to what we are capable of doing. It's the little things that count. The development that blossoms into fulfillment means we are socially better for the past support.

Second, just because the endeavor didn't work today (using ethical means to achieve it) doesn't mean we throw out the effort or the ethical tools. We just figure out another way to get there after examining why the initial attempt was not workable. It's room for growth and development.

And There's the Acceptance Factor

And you know what? Another reason I like using this hot spot is because of the acceptance. There are students of all ages, from all scholastic disciplines, and at diverse levels of study. They look at me and ask, "Are you a student or are you a professor?" Which means, they do NOT see some old woman looking for some creative way to handle too much time on her hands while she waits to die. They see a mature woman striving to stay abreast of today and reaching toward tomorrow's horizon. They see a productive person who is making a contribution to the environment. They see value.

It makes you wonder who is encouraging whom.

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Aptitude Tests, Personality Tests, Occupational Interest assessments.

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Author: Viva    in: Training
Sunday, March 11, 2007

Handling the Harasser

It's interesting that we talk about harassment. It's interesting because we simply do lip service to the matter. When it comes down to the nuts and bolts of the thing, few actually do anything about it.

At last year's ERE Expo, a fellow attendee and I shared a bench outside one of the workshops. As we traded quips about the few words of the presenter that oozed into our space, we also talked about many things. One was how to identify the abuser. He said there was a pre-screening test being developed that seems to hold a high degree of accuracy in identifying the abusive personality.

In the years that I've been developing expertise on this subject, I've started seeing how the abuser turns the tables so that it appears their target is the offender. They then gain sympathy from their audience and support. The outside parties then join, in some way, the punishment and add to the persecution.

So well do I remember the words of one supervisor who told their employee to simply ignore the abuser and not to have any contact with them, not to even talk about them. (I guess the situation was supposed to evaporate.) There was never an investigation. There was no attempt to get to the truth of what was happening.

Yet another situation arose where a worker was extremely poor at communication and even worse at follow through. They would promise to do something and then simply wander off into the ethosphere. They would return and follow up on what was supposed to be done; but instead of within the designated timeframe, performance was delivered some 8 hours (or two or three days) later. Meanwhile, the person relying on the promise to perform missed some personal and business deadlines, some of which became life threatening. Again, the supervisor defended the lackadaisical worker and blamed the one who relied on promised performance. No investigation was made into what happened. Excuses were made to endorse the failed performance.

Now, to later collect a reference check from these managers, it would appear that the dim light bulbs were stellar performers. On the other hand, the other worker involved in the situations was a problem and caused undue hardship on the other. We have a responsibility to make certain of the veracity of references and the validity of the one giving the recommendation. It could be that the evaluator has an agenda.

It seems that harassment and abuse are to be tolerated and even accepted in recruiting offices. (Both of the above scenarios were in a recruiting industry environment.) They are part of the standard culture for the recruiting industry. So much for duty to maintain a safe work environment. It appears recruiters are exempt from negligence laws.

I don't understand this. We have AB 1825 that talks about training supervisors (albeit in companies of 50 or more) and staff about harassment. And the harassment issues are more than just sexual harassment -- it's all forms of the abuse. Yet we simply cannot bring ourselves to face the fact that it exists in this industry. Apparently this is part of the "big game" and no matter where a person goes, it's expected that abuse and harassment will thrive, like mold and fungus in a shower, and just take over anything and everything.

It's also difficult to understand how individuals in this profession who choose to overlook abuse and harassment can truly deliver on the promise of presenting a qualified candidate, especially one of executive skills, if the recruiter is not capable of discerning that the candidate should not be a person who will drive away (or kill) the team instead of the enemy. If we in the recruiting industry cannot keep hostile, inept, and toxic personalities out of our own offices, how in the world can our clients expect us to do so for them?

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Small Business Health Insurance Quotes

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Author: Viva    in: Ethics

Modified on March 11, 2007 at 10:56 PM
Recruiting and Presenting Immigrant Candidates

Around mid-day, I had the opportunity to talk with a couple of paramedics about my ancestors who immigrated to the United States. In particular, there is the some-degree great-grandfather who came to the United States from France. The story goes that he overheard the children running through the house playing, joking, and teasing one another in French. Good Franco that he was, he demanded that they stop. "In this house we do not speak French. We live in the United States and in the United States the language is English. We only speak English in this house. We are American!" It's my understanding that was the day the Mother Tongue died in the LaRose family.

So many immigrants come to these United States of America in search of freedom to:

  • pursue the work they desire to do;
  • earn a livable wage for their families;
  • provide a good education for their children;
  • seek and hold public office without retribution because of their heritage;
  • say what they want without fear of persecution (or death squads).
They have freedom and are told there is no discrimination. The propoganda is that they may compete on an equal footing with others who are of other colors, height, gender. Some have language difficulties, some more pronounced than others. Some have great fluency.

Some of these immigrants come here with advanced degrees. Yet they cannot work in their chosen field because they have not earned the requisite license or their language skills are a barrier to the performance they could make in their own tongue. Thus, they do work far below their skill levels in order to earn a living and survive.

It makes me reflect on how many of us actually make the effort to hear the message instead of the verbal missteps that are genuine efforts to converse in the language of the land. Even more, it causes me to reflect on how well I would fare in their land (or anywhere else) if confronted with the same challenge. I dare say, I would not do well.

It was not my intent to write an article, nor a blog post. But having the meeting with the paramedics today caused me to reflect on so many things. That, also, was interesting. It was a team comprised of a Latino and a white of unrecognizable descent. But as I spoke of the immigrant's dreams and the lure of America, both of them developed wistful looks and fully comprehended the false promises of America's freedom and opportunity. Did I see one or both of them nod in agreement? Hard to say.

September 11 changed many things about how we function in this society. I listen to the Computer Guy on the weekend news and repeatedly hear him disparage those who do not have English as a first language and realize he is quite bigoted. It's a certainty that he would not admit that fact, though.

Do we allow the immigration status or the freshness of citizenship to influence our hiring and presenting determinations? I believe there are subtle influences on us, all of us. And I believe we need to recognize those subtleties and then make a sincere effort to overcome them or push them aside as we evaluate the skills the person has compared with those needed for the job in order to make a genuine good match for the client.

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Find professional and technical books on employment law

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Author: Viva    in: Diversity
Monday, February 12, 2007

Advancement Acknowledgement

Issues of ethics seeps into all aspects of our lives. It's part of dealing with ourselves and dealing with others, no matter what the environment.

Focus was recently turned toward the ethical side of meteoric advancement and the complementary acknowledgement of those who were part of the impetus. There was also focus on whether the one who has attained a new status has an obligation to assist their former peers in getting to a similar status.

It depends on the emotional maturity of the person who shot forward so quickly. They, alone, know how much work it took for them to make the inroads. They are intimately aware of most of the people who helped them get to that level of attainment in one way or another. It is appropriate to acknowledge them in some way, with a "Thanks for your help," or acknowledging them as being mentors. A comment such as, "It would have been difficult without the help of George[ia]," is very appropriate.

Getting to their level of attainment came in many ways. Networking is the obvious. Education is yet another obvious way. Diligence, attention to details, dependability, just plain hard work, and intelligence are still other ways. But beyond knowing someone who can connect you with someone else is knowing someone who had the tip, the words of advice, the critical thinking conversation, the joke that was something of a parable. The emotionally mature person acknowledges much of these back scenes supporter efforts (some being overlooked because of lack of knowledge or lack of recollection, but never intentionally). They definitely do not minimize any of the things their supporters have offered them. And they may keep quiet about the identities of the supporters lest those who would destroy their accomplishments do likewise with the support system. Here, silence is governed by the level of competitiveness in the culture.

There are those who leap out of the crowd but do so as a child would. They are in the minority as far as those who do remarkable things and gain advancement. They have little of their own to offer and much of what they have heard from others but have not yet understoood; that is what they used to get ahead. These people need to claim the limelight. They have not earned it but their insecurities and many other factors spur them to do unflattering things that cause their audience to sigh in exasperation. These are the ones who minimize the efforts and contributions of others. These are the ones who forget the comrades who helped them climb the ladder. They will fall, eventually, and the chasm into which they fall may be extremely deep -- too deep to climb out.

These unsophisticated advancers (not to be confused with youthful) will have their day in the sun. But the sun rises and falls. When they learn to give credit where it is due, their sun will rise again. Until that enlightenment comes, they will not appreciate that they have a duty to share their knowledge with those who assisted or are part of their past.

Here, it's less a question of ethics and more a question of maturity.


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ShareBuilder.com

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Author: Viva    in: Ethics
Friday, February 9, 2007

A Few Words of Apology

There comes a time when a business must make certain announcements in order to take responsibility for occurrences or to explain what has happened. That time has come for The Desk [of Yvonne LaRose, Consultant]. Those of you who know me realize this is the nature of the owner.

A curious thing started happening a few months ago. As I examined the site reports on who was referred and what referred them, I would click on the referring link in order to gain better understanding of what had appeared on someone else's site that caused the interest. By the time I reached the referring site, there was absolutely no reference to "The Desk" or "Yvonne LaRose" or to the web address. But on one occasion in December, I finally opened the page Source Code and did find this site's URL. The HTML for the link was complete but there was no content for it. It was a bit like that notorious hanging chad.

The prevalence of these referrals and missing information accelerated until last week. Then I reviewed the same reports but found that I had made an error in protecting my site visitor privacy. The instrument that causes the reports to be collected for me was open to the public. By clicking on that link, quite literally anyone could see all of my reports.

The fact that the links on referring sites were being removed was reported to the hosting site. The tool that allowed access to the site information has been closed to public view. Your privacy is restored.

To those who had linked to this site or content in it, I apologize for the intrusion that others visited upon you and caused you to remove the links. I sincerely appreciate your interest in the content and your desire to refer others to it.

I hope this message reaches the affected individuals and that you will feel at liberty to return and to engage in posting comments to the various thoughts and articles posted here.

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Gateway Deal of the Week!

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Author: Viva    in: The Desk
Thursday, February 1, 2007

Is There Really Defamation?

There's the general term "defamation" that covers two separate trains of thought. One is slander, which is spoken diminishment of a person's character. The other is libel, which is the written (literary, if you will, in order to understand the difference) destruction.

From a January 2006 article about Britney Spears, "libel" is defined as:

"The law defines libel as a false statement of fact, made with the requisite state of mind, that causes harm. In the case of a public figure like Spears, the state of mind is 'actual malice' - defined in Supreme Court precedent as a subjective awareness that the statement of fact is probably false. (Is Federline a 'public figure'? Probably - though it seems somewhat unfair if celebrity spouses become automatic public figures. . . ."

In further explaining that the person who made the statement about Spears is probably shielded by her "public figure" status, the writer says:

"In short, defamation defendants can luck out, if their coverage just happens to be more or less true. That's because a defamation case against a public figure like Spears or Reid requires not only that the publisher of the statement believe the statement was probably false, but also that the statement was actually false."

Now this is assuming that statements have been made about a real public figure, a celebrity. There are limited-purpose public figures such as those who are known in their industry as a profound expert, and the industry is especially small. If you're working with just such candidate, it would do you well to be very cautious about the references you colllect and pass along. Probe very carefully the statements (especially negative or cloudy or tend to insinuate) made by a manager, minister, lawyer or any other person who normally is accorded the golden word syndrome of all truth spoken. Make certain there was no pre-textual agenda on their part nor some vindictive, retaliatory motive.

You may want to discuss some of the comments with the candidate. Some candidates, even when confronted with knowledge of the negative things being said about them, will still remain silent, feeling that to say anything in their defense is to speak negatively of the former employer (or reference) and thus take on extra negative baggage. Help them overcome this. Get them to explain what was happening from *their* perspective (the source). Also, make certain you're listening with a critical ear to determine where the truth starts and stops (if there is a continuum).

Finally, there is the "substantial truth" matter. Again, quoting from the January 2006 article:

"Moreover, the substantial truth doctrine is a fairly innocuous case of the general phenomenon of First Amendment rights being broadly interpreted to protect even some statements that would otherwise be deemed defamatory: In our hypothetical Reid case - and all those falling under the "substantial truth" doctrine - the false statement was, by definition, no more hurtful than the truth."

Did your candidate have some type of negative information about them (a defamatory statement) posted on a website? Was it on MySpace or Facebook or wherever -- on the Net? A December 2006 article discusses what recourse the candidate has:

"In holding in favor of the defendant, the court made crystal clear that someone who is the target of Internet defamation has only one legal recourse: To go after the "originator" of the publication - meaning, typically, its author. The California Supreme Court didn't applaud this state of affairs from a policy perspective, and it's true that Section 230 could always be amended at some future date, but the court was quite unequivocal as to the broad protection afforded to defamation defendants under current law."

There are some things that are flat out defamatory. This is also known as "per se" defamation. A blogger's FAQs regarding online defamation pretty much tracks the case book definition:

When libel is clear on its face, without the need for any explanatory matter, it is called libel per se. The following are often found to be libelous per se:

A statement that falsely:

  • Charges any person with crime, or with having been indicted, convicted, or punished for crime;
  • Imputes in him the present existence of an infectious, contagious, or loathsome disease;
  • Tends directly to injure him in respect to his office, profession, trade or business, either by imputing to him general disqualification in those respects that the office or other occupation peculiarly requires, or by imputing something with reference to his office, profession, trade, or business that has a natural tendency to lessen its profits;
  • Imputes to him impotence or a want of chastity.
It pretty much boils down to whatever is said tends to discourage people from associating, defer doing business with, look down upon the affected individual. As you're interviewing, make certain the reference nor you tread into this territory.

Speaking of online or blogger defamation, even if the online pronouncement is discovered and the one affected decideds to sue, the next issue is where to sue. Not all countries have the same rules relating to defamation. Australia is more stringent than the United States and other countries have other perspectives, as well. Should the case be taken to the U.N.?

These are the U.S. pronouncements on defamation. It would be wonderful to hear from those of you in other countries to learn how the practices compare and what is done to verify information received. I've found resources that discuss the Canada, and Ireland. Those are pretty much steeped in the British style of jurisprudence. Hearing about the Far East interpretations, Middle East, African, South American, and Baltic/European versions (along with reasonings) would be enlightening.

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Background Check - US SEARCH

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Author: Viva    in: Ethics

Modified on February 3, 2007 at 6:15 PM
Tuesday, January 16, 2007

In Search of the Qualified Candidate

Let me begin by saying this is my annual tribute to Martin Luther King, Jr. Let me continue by saying that this is another year when I will not look at the man and the principles he strove to bring to bear on our society. (In actuality, any time we consider issues related to diversity, we remember the forerunner, Martin Luther King, Jr.) There was one year in which I recognized those who went against the grain. In a sense, this is yet another of those types of years. It is because of King's efforts, and those who joined him, that we celebrate and encourage others to accept and allow diversity to become the way that society operates. And that is what should impact today's observations -- acceptance of diversity for the expansiveness it allows.

Women

With the rise of Nancy Pelosi to the third-highest office in the United States, several discussions sprang up. The focus is on why there are not more women holding C-level positions. Statements are made that hearken the age-old myths about women's being flickering personalities in the workforce compared with the assumed constancy of their male counterparts. There are the usual objections to putting women into positions of responsibility or hiring them for such. Those objections focus on the child bearing and child rearing functions that usually befall women. More objections arise in relation to absence from the office for delivery of the child.

Recently a group of university women had an informal discussion about the factors that vitiate their opportunities for having a meaningful impact in their chosen fields. They discussed the traditional argument about how they are supposed to leave the workforce for several years in order to bear and raise children. They considered the objections they will face if they accede to the brainwashing -- that they will no longer be in touch with current practices nor be aware of current trends and changes that occurred during their absence. They considered how to overcome that and the complementary objections. One pondered whether it's actually worthwhile to pursue a career given how many objections women will encounter compared with men.

They considered how women are discouraged from being in a laboratory and therefore do not earn the lab hours needed to reach their objectives. They also discussed the clever tricks the male students use to make it appear they are working harder than their female classmates.

The other matter the group of women considered is how women are not equally compensated for similar or the same work. They weighed the fact that girls and women are discouraged from studying and becoming an integral part of the sciences and the universe of computing, as well as their being made to feel inadequate in those areas. Ms. Foundation's initial Take Our Daughters to Work Day, that as of 2002 became gender inclusive, was intended to help girls overcome exactly those barriers that created the imbalance in so many work arenas. There are now many women in all facets of the computing industry. In medicine, the number is also extremely close to 50/50.

Go to a medical clinic and you're more likely to find a female, compared with a male, doctor. In the computing industry, the pay difference is more than the national average of 20 percent less than the male's salary. However, women gain something more than just the dollars (although dollars is the currency that manages financial obligations). They get satisfaction from finding the solution, doing the better job, putting in longer hours for better results. As the group of young women asked, is it worth it?

Those who raise the gender objection because of child bearing and rearing speak of the period of pregnancy as a time when a woman will deliver inadequate performance. They object that the maternity leave (six weeks, sometimes less) will be business time lost, as well as lost revenues due to compensating for the absence with contract workers. Allow me to pose the idea that a maternity leave can be planned and accommodations made for it. What of the employee who suddenly has a heart attack (due to overwork?) and is hospitalized, then put on leave for a protracted period? Let's say the employee is a man. The absence will be longer. Apparently we should view the man's absence in the same way (if all things are measured equally). We should see that he returns to the workforce after recovery with less value because he's not networked with other professionals. He has not maintained his industry knowledge nor technical expertise. And it will take an enormous amount of time for him to re-orient himself to the environment. Using this one example seems to help us see the flaws in the gender and child rearing/bearing argument.

A person's brain doesn't stop working when they've been put on "time out" because of having a child or having surgery on a limb or body part. It is entirely possible to continue to read. If they are a professional, we have so much adaptive technology that it's nearly impossible to not write and publish. Likewise, adaptive technology allows us to speak and communicate. Even if there is an injury that impairs a person's ability to speak, they can still (during recovery period) produce a webinar. And networking can occur via online contact. If the person is a professional, they will not lose their skills because of a temporary absence. The objections are not legitimate.

And There's Still the Race Issue

Even though this is 2007, we still sit around and feel perplexed about which of the two equally qualified candidates should be hired. Perhaps the obvious difference is gender. Perhaps the obvious difference is race. But theory says they are equal in every respect and sometimes it simply comes down to tossing a coin. Claptrap!

Not long ago, I left a social setting and felt ashamed of myself. There was a conversation among three of us, the other two were both professional men from different disciplines. Both are very qualified in their own area. All three of us are educated. All of us are desirous of being more aware and exposed to more situations in order to achieve that awareness. The two men are well traveled. They have visited some of the same countries. I listened as they shared their respective stories of their travel experiences and their impressions. I was ashamed because I began to consider the exchange we had and compare the two men. Yes, I sinned. I compared. But in retrospect, I realized it was more of a consideration of the two values and how those values could be brought to bear in different ways.

The men had been in some of the same cities, they used some of the same airports to make their journeys. Yet the experiences were dramatically different because they did not follow the exact, same footsteps. Their backgrounds are different. That caused their interests to be shaped in a particular way. Therefore, one took particular note of certain things while the other absorbed a different set of impressions.

While one was in the country for business purposes, it was from the artistic perspective whereas the other was there for corporate endeavors. The environments they saw were different and populated by different spectrums of people and professionals. They are experienced professionals. They have been to the same countries. They speak of different faces and facets of those countries.

They then shared their experiences of cities in the United States. Again, they saw two completely different environments. One has intimate knowledge of the racial segregation of several cities. He demonstrated the quadrants where certain races live. He discussed the timetable of another city and what types of races and workers can be seen going through the downtown sector at certain times of the day. There was a sharing of expected shock if the routine is broken. Two of us were amazed at these revelations.

The thought then arises as to whether one is more of a professional than the other because of the lack of experiences or because of the experiences. In this situation, they are not equally qualified for two reasons. First, because they are from different disciplines. Second, because their experiences are not equivalent, that is to say, corporate business to corporate business compared with artistic business to artistic business.

The Challenge

The next day, the corporate of the pair challenged me in a conversation about hiring women over men. The challenge was, as above. Let us say you have two equally qualified candidates. They are equal in every way except one is a man and one is a woman. Which will you hire? The man is more likely to have staying power. There will be no employment interruptions that cause fluctuations in your business process. The man will have continuity of knowledge and information. Which would you choose between the two for the sake of a smooth running, profitable business?

It seems to me that his challenge could be posed in regard to the race question as well. Let us say we have two equally qualified candidates. One is white, the other is of color.

Yes, the two are definitely going to have different experiences. My choice is going to be determined based on what my corporate goal and branding are. When all is said and done and all of the technicals are equal, my toss of the coin will be based on which one will have the personality that appeals to my target audience and my corporate brand as well as help me produce quality product.

So as we remember Martin Luther King, Jr. and the things he strove to lead us to as we climbed to the mountain top, let us remove the blinders that cause us to select out because of gender and lose valuable talent. And as we continue that climb, let us remove the blinders that cause us to choose based on the coincidence of color or skin (which is not really indicative of one's race) and thereby lose the appeal to our target audience and the profits we aspire to earn. Let us remember the man and the principles: equality is not based on gender or color.

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Author: Viva    in: Diversity
Thursday, January 4, 2007

Breaking the Marble Ceiling

It was inspiring to allow myself the time this morning to listen to the activities leading up to and the installation into office of Nancy Pelosi as Speaker of the House. Of course it was observed that she is a precedence setter in many regards. That was the explanation of the four days of celebrations in her honor. She is the first woman from California to be Speaker, in addition to being the first woman Speaker. She is the first Italian American and the first grandmother (while I really don't think we needed that added to the list), and so on.

However, the most significant factor is that although we've had women in the Cabinet, as ambassadors, as Secretary of State, there still are no women of color serving in the Senate. There is only a small percentage of women in any major corporations who hold C-level positions. And we still look forward to the day that govenance in the Congress, as well as the Board Room, approximates 50/50 representation.

The elections of 2006 not only sent a message to Bush about how the people want their government run, with indicia of matters relating to his administration that are growing in distaste. In fact, the elections of 2006 were yet another watershed moment in our history of the electorate's weariness with "as we've done it" and "my way or the highway." The elections produced The Woman of the House -- Pelosi.

How interesting it is that in order for this nation to be formed, the women of Pennsylvania sacrificed their suffrage. Women have taken a back seat to meaningful positions in business and industry ever since -- nearly 300 years later!

Slowly but surely, women have regained their right to compete and stand shoulder to shoulder with their counterparts. We have notables such as Albright, Thatcher, Ghandi (Endira, that is), Elizabeth, and several others whose names I cannot recall who were from other countries and times. These were not timid individuals. They realized they were not dealing with play toys and that the stakes were very high in regard to what they were doing and the effects they had on outcomes.

These women knew that in order to be taken seriously, they had to be firm, confident, and clear. There was no room for timidity. And if a mistake was made, the lessons that go with all mistakes were learned, quickly I might add, and there was forward movement. These women developed about them trusted advisors and resources, people who have through the years and experiences proved their selves and judgment to be valuable and reliable in many respects. These women knew how to stand for the fight without trembling from fear of defeat. Women have always had these merits. Why American women have been deterred from exercising them for the public good is a mystery.

As I listened to Pelosi repeating the words to the Oath of Office for Speaker of the House, the realization came to me that we will have a woman president by 2010. That's as far as I'm willing to venture into this particular forecast. But the Year of the Woman is 2007.

Pelosi's acceptance speech was inspiring. Her style was enjoyable as she broke with the professional speaker facade to stop in the middle of her prepared script to accept the applause and acknowledge their meaning. She would also spontaneously break away from her words in order to enlist the audience in recognizing a particular group or fact. It was refreshing that she reminded both The Congress as well as the Nation that she and her colleagues are the servants of The People of these United States of America. She serves the will and desire of her constituents. And those words seemed to serve as an admonition to the President, a reminder that it is the will of The People, not the will of the office holder, that takes precedence. That is the determinant of how the Nation is run.

Is it really necessary to spell out the correlation that politics and governance has to corporate management and recruiting? It is the C-level officers who operate the business for the benefit of the shareholders. These executives are supposed to have the knowledge and expertise to know how to effectively manage the affairs of the business, lead teams, delegate responsibilities, and call on trusted advisors and counselors in matters outside their scope of expertise. These corporate leaders need to be stalwart and visionary, capable of sending a message that instills confidence in them from those whose will and needs are served.

As Nancy closed her speech, I wondered whether Yvonne Braithwaite Burke and traveled to Washington, D.C. to revisit her former environs and join the celebration of the new groundbreaker. I listened carefully to those closing words and can honestly say I join Pelosi in the sentiments she exclaimed. This landmark event is definitely for the daughters and their daughters, the election of a woman to the office of Speaker of the House.

Indeed, the marble ceiling (as well as the glass one) is broken!

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Author: Viva    in: Leaders

Modified on January 11, 2007 at 9:54 PM
Wednesday, January 3, 2007

Profile of a Typical Leader

In just one very short week, we've witnessed the passing of three very distinct leaders. In a span of three days, we've buried all three, one very quietly. This is indeed a particular juncture in history wherein we have an opportunity to consider what makes a leader and if there is any common denominator that creates that designation.

Godfather of Soul

On the one hand, we have the musician born of a rugged beginning, whose life was epitomized by struggling against staggering odds by using wits and other street skills. But the things that earned him a position in leadership were the things that came of determination. Because of the "mother wit" and abilty to study people, he learned what people want. If that meant gaining a positive position for himself, there was an exchange.

James Brown took his acceptable trade to ever increasing heights in order to distinguish himself and his style from others in the landscape. He was adventurous. He explored many types of music. In doing so, he created a signature that many could not find the ability to tailor into their own style. So he became the man to emulate. And in capturing so many through his hard work and endurance, he gained a reputation.

He was a teacher. He was a mentor. He succeeded in communicating with people in order to convey the concepts he had for how the music was to be delivered. Unfortunately, he was also difficult to work with and kept driving people away. But as they left, they took with them the lessons that had been drilled and hammered into them by The Godfather. They were changed musicians, better musicians, for the experience.

So perhaps those are part of the leader recipe: Communication, drivenness, striving for excellence, charm, understanding, insightfulness, mentoring, teaching.

The Rock

Just two days later, we examine the next leader to slip out of sight. At first blush, they appear to be complete opposites. Yes, there was a lot of public flair with James Brown. But who expects strobe lights and glitter in the White House? Gerald Ford brought us back to the solidity and formalism of leadership that we grew to expect under Eisenhower, Kennedy, Roosevelt, and Hoover.

In order to win a position or gain an ally, he studied the situation, listened to the other arguments, considered the possible alternatives, moved steadily toward his objective. There was no glitz with Ford. He was pragmatic. He was not a man of the masses. He did not thrive on crowds as did Brown. Instead, Ford preferred more intimate settings.

This man did not labor under the trappings of his beginnings. In fact, his history was one of flowering opportunity, formal education and training in diplomacy and speech, rank and stature. There were moments where difficult choices and situations confronted the man. However, he met each of them head on with quiet resolve.

This makes the portrait of a leader more a matter of certain core efficiencies tempered by personality. Ford was an excellent communicator. He was driven but in a quiet, behind the scenes style in the doggedness to gain as much insight as possible before making his next move. Thus, the next move was deliberate and focused on the success he sought. He was an educator in the small setting.

A King

Finally, there is the characteristic of a leader that we both admire in those who have captured our admiration and detest in those who are counter to our ideals. That characteristic is steadfast confidence. Even though captured three years ago in a spider hole, surrounded by American troops bearing rifles aimed at him, and creeping to the surface with hands in the air while his hair was a confused, matted mess and his entire being was covered in dirt, he emerged proclaiming himself to be the president of Iraq. Throughout his trials, he proclaimed himself to be the current leader of Iraq. And even as he stood on the trap door of the gallows, his proclamation of being the leader of Iraq was cut off by the dropping of the door, leaving him dangling with a broken neck at the end of a rope.

Going hand in hand with confidence is the ability to focus on what is fair and just compared with what will please the people for the sake of that simple commodity, popularity. In the long run, popularity will fade to disgust when there is little rhyme or reason and little to no focus, no vision about the welfare of the population and how to achieve it.

Hussein had vision. It was of a new Iraq restored to the glory of ancient Babylon. He strove to make that a reality. But his drive was to make the new Iraq from a lavish display of wealth and spending to the detriment of his people's welfare. Unfortunately, his vision was also frequently obscured with paranoic delusions of plots against him. And these dark moments drove him to making foolhardy decisions with regard to large pockets of the populations that were manifested as persecution and terrorism. He was an example of determination taken to the extreme, much like Nixon.

He was a mentor. According to a New York Times account, "Some of his former American guards, interviewed for a July 2005 story in GQ magazine, said he acted in a fatherly way, offering advice on finding a good wife — “neither too smart nor too dumb, not too old nor too young” — and invited them to hang out in one of his palaces after he was restored to power." He was a speaker who played to the masses. He had insight. Where the first two examples of leadership were men who were able to create concensus on the areas of their expertise, Hussein created division among his populace.

Three Different Portraits

Three different portraits in five days of men who were known as leaders. There are commonalities. The differences are pronounced. The thing we can take away from this very brief study is that it is not the collection of the traits but how they are packaged and played that make the person a leader. There is much, much more that goes with the designation. Suffice it to say after this brief analysis, there is no typical leader profile.

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Author: Viva    in: Leaders
Thursday, December 28, 2006

Taking Time to Teach Acceptance

There's a commercial on the airwaves these days that talks about a home for the holidays. It's actually a contest where the contestant can win a house, prize money eligible to be paid toward the downpayment on the house. As the commercial progresses, the narrator talks about how "you" have your first home and have invited an assorted number of more than 20 people over for the holiday festivities and meal.

It's a good commercial. It takes into consideration the many dimensions of what makes the picture of a typical family, its friends, and the gathering. There's mom and stepdad as well as dad and stepmom. There are siblings and their offspring. Crazy Cousin Harold, uncles and aunts (with respective boyfriends and girlfriends), grandparents. There's also the older couple from down the street that you don't yet know, the pet dog, and a few other assorted visitors. The commercial, at no point, recites the race or cultural influences that impact the gathering. It's "the gathering" where the usual sounds emanate. The laughter, the talking, the racing through rooms and sounds of things falling, the constantly ringing doorbell.

Ages are insinuated. There's nothing about who may have a physical impairment (although just about every family has some health issue impacting it). There's nothing about who may be adopted and who is the birth relative. Yet a few days ago, there was a judge from the Los Angeles Family Court who presides over adoptions who acted as a guest on a radio news segment. He provided answers to listeners about their adoption concerns. One caller raised a compelling matter. He wants to adopt but has specifically asked the administrators to exclude a particular race from adoption consideration for him and his wife. His reasoning was that he simply doesn't have time to learn and then teach the cultural issues associated with that race. He's heard nothing from the agency, yet it's been months since he filed his adoption papers.

Donal Carbaugh has studied the means of creating racial acceptance among "Native Americans (primarily Blackfeet), Finns, Russians when interacting with 'middle Americans.'" His findings indicate the means to achieving acceptance is essentially to look at the members of the group in much the same way that we view and accept the "home for the holidays" setting. There is no race. All are gathered as a collective in order to focus on a particular initiative. And the thing that matters most is who among the number is most adept.

Jarrett and Quay of Georgia State University found that gender, and not race, was the more determinative aspect of who was selected as a friend in the kindergarten and first grade setting. Race was not as high on the preference selection menu as were other factors.

In another study, it was found that race preference and acceptance was a learned matter. Further, a study done by Watt found that it was outside influences and pressures that caused consciousness of race and sex identity.

A very revealing study was conduted over an 18-month period among a diverse population at University of Southern California by Pena, Besimon, and Colyar, "Contextual Problem Defining: Learning to Think and Act." A very brief summary of their findings was that it is necessary for individuals to become aware of the social issues impacting those they serve and to become aware of the fact that they need to be aware before positive solutions can be formulated and constructed. But these findings were based on the fact that the professors had already been treating students of color differently than their white counterparts because of the learned "baggage" they brought to the table.

Looking at these professional studies, it becomes documented that in order to be successful at creating a positive racial environment, it is necessary to be open-minded. It is important to not see color as much as seeing an accepted member of the association or community, otherwise known as the family. Racial prejudices are learned in very subtle suggestions and lessons. They happen over time and are reinforced with each new encounter of the "unprivileged" class, whether the encounter proved to be the exception to the ongoing lessons or not. The more these subtle lessons are rejected and the health of "the family" is promoted in every context, the more we move toward a fully integrated environment.

It doesn't matter that the prospective adopted child is of a particular racial group. The cultural influences from the child's ethnic background are situational. Each person comes to the business world with a collection of influences from their family, their socioeconomic situation, their exposure to a broadened world, and their education.

Perhaps the caller with the adoption problem works for himself and has no employees. He has no office into which customers come to do business. All of his work is done via the Internet or by phone. So he has little to no contact with others and therefore has the misperceptions that he does. Whatever the case, the only cultural issues he needs to teach his adopted child are those of his family and that acceptance of others is a healthy thing because it brings to bear the opportunity to avail oneself of the most positive aspects of the community's participants.

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Author: Viva    in: Diversity
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