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Showing posts from 2016

Why Be Happy In The Rain

Yesterday I went to New York and was so happy to be there I didn't mind walking blocks and blocks in the rain just to see Times Square.

It was as though my feet were as light as air, and I didn't have a care in the world. All the troubles and the worries on my mind virtually melted away, as I visited this place I have always loved and enjoyed so much.

Thinking about it on the way home, I realized that it doesn't do any good to be depressed, anxious and worried--about anything. While it's true that negative emotions can be useful in signaling that something is wrong, there also comes a point where you can lean on the emotion as a substitute for action.

In other words, your mind engages in the cognitive fallacy of telling itself that feeling upset about a thing is your duty as a concerned individual and even acts as a means of changing whatever in the world is wrong.

But the reality is, that's just not true. The only way to actually influence a negative reality is to ph…

I'm Gonna Get That Armrest

They created a new executive position and my colleague got the position.

"Work for me, it will be fun," she said of the new department. (It was called Strategic Communications.) "You're strategic."

"I don't know." I had a sinking feeling.

But I did it, because I'm stupid. Left the one boss, who headed up the original department, to go and work for the second.

Why was I stupid?

Because the first boss knew how to fight for territory.

The second one was honest, and she liked to share.

"Here, please take my information," she used to say enthusiastically. "How will we succeed if we don't collaborate?"

It wasn't three months, of course, before I had to get information from the old boss.

"What do you want?" She eyed me warily from the corner of her eye. "Don't look at those papers over there."

"Uh, uh, uh," I stammered.

"Hurry up!"

"Uh, I was just wondering, do you have the researc…

PR Has To Pass The Smell Test

Previously I argued that propaganda is not a good use of organizational resources. In fact it is counterproductive, because today's information consumer is savvy enough to seek alternative versions to any manipulated version of the truth.
But public relations remains useful. The profession can broadly be understood as "portraying the organization in its best possible light," balancing truthfulness with a commitment to advocating their particular point of view. (See the values statement of the Public Relations Society of America.)
Sadly however I frequently find that PR efforts don't live up to the values they should. And this isn't because its practitioners lack expertise, although of course some do. Rather, nine times out of ten the fault lies squarely in the lap of the client.
Let me explain. Most of us, as consumers of information, can readily tell when something "smells." In particular, the vicious U.S. presidential campaign of 2016 forced all of us in…

Idiocracy 3.0

One day when she was five, my daughter looked up at me and asked, "Mommy, was the world black and white when you were growing up?"

Right or wrong my kids were both raised with lots and lots of TV time. And watching some of the innocent old shows, like I Love Lucy and My Three Sons, she had come to the obvious conclusion.

I was talking with a colleague about how much TV we were raised on, as well. I confided that the moment my parents brought home the huge brown boxlike structure in approximately 1979 was one of the happiest days of my life.

Today of course it's a big taboo for kids to watch TV without parental monitoring, if they are allowed to at all. Introducing myself to the mother of a toddler at synagogue, I asked her what type of shows he likes, and her response was, "We don't have a TV."

"Then what do you do with him all day?"

"Uh, play."

Well that was an awkward moment. But apparently I am not the only lousy parent in synagogue; accord…

Software Is Not a Substitute for Brains

Yesterday at the holiday lunch, a colleague told us about his background.

"I used to jump out of planes," he shared.

"That's pretty impressive," someone said. "You were a paratrooper?"

He laughed. "In the Marines, we just called it jumping out of planes."

In a nutshell, that's how I feel about the term "employee engagement." Because a paradoxical thing has happened by virtue of using this term.

While paratroopers will always jump out of planes, the term employee engagement itself has become a kind of substitute for action.

In other words, we talk about it and talk about it, and we throw a lot of money at it, but very few companies actually do it in a way that is successful. As of January 2016, according an article in Gallup Business Journal called "The Worldwide Employee Engagement Crisis," just 32% of U.S. employees are engaged in their jobs, and on a global level this percentage is a miniscule 13%.

Obviously this is not a …

Maximize Your Most Valuable Asset

Whack-a-mole is a game where you stand over a machine with a bunch of holes on the bottom. Faces pop up really quickly, and you smash them down as fast as you can.

It's fun. As adults we experience whack-a-mole all the time, except that the reality of it is not so fun.
Overwhelmed by problems, some expected and most of them not, we bring that mallet down on the board. Faster, faster, we tell ourselves, hoping the timer won't run out until we're ready.
What can we do to make our lives easier and more manageable? How can we reduce the onslaught of tasks, requirements, challenges, puzzles, deadlines and demands that seem to have no end?
The answer might lie in the way we think about "problem" and "solution."
Chris Argyris was a pioneer of "double-loop" learning for organizations, which he developed as a way of helping them transform from dysfunctional and "stuck" to agile and adaptive--in essence, to help them learn.
The task as he saw it …

How To Identify #FakeNews

This morning an article ran across my feed that was pretty attention-getting, to say the least. It purported to "prove" that during the Presidential campaign, the Clinton camp had paid some high-profile Republicans off to trash Donald Trump.

Two variations of the headline are out there:

"6 Republicans Who Took Secret Payments From Clinton To Destroy Trump (All-New Wiki Leak)""Wikileaks Latest: Podesta Emails Show 3 PROMINENT Republicans On Clinton Payroll"
The content repeats on a variety of alternative news websites.

"Alternative": Because this adjective is such a hot-button for many people, and is frequently equated with "fake news," let's clarify a few things now:
The word "alternative" means "independent of the mainstream media." It is not synonymous with fake news, which is generated by the mainstream media and the alternative media. Fake news is generated both overtly and covertly, by making stuff up; omitting …

What Donald Trump Is Doing Wrong

If you have worked in or near Washington, D.C. for any length of time you have at some point been exposed to the Hillary Clinton method of leadership.
And while we can talk about the bad stuff, I don't really want to do that right now.
The point is, there are things that she did well, and did extraordinarily well. She looked and sounded like a President. She projected strength and resolve. She embodied the idea that women are people first, not sexual objects. She talked about empowering women and children. And she could, in any situation, somehow figure out how to say the right thing.
In addition, she built a strong and resilient network of loyal, intelligent, thoughtful, innovative and above all knowledgeable people. 
The strengths that Hillary Clinton brought to the table were so strong, in fact, that I think it is fair to say not a single person here believed she would actually lose the election.
When you consider the amount of negative baggage associated with her, this is an unbeli…

How To Understand The Breakdown Of Civil Discourse

People have trouble understanding each other.

When people identify with a certain group, and need to understand the opposing point of view, often an intermediary is required.

The intermediary, who understands both sides, has a critical social function, is not reducible to a diplomat or a mediator.

The diplomat's function is to work with people regardless of whether they truly understand their culture or not. The mediator's job is to bring two opposing sides to some sort of consensus agreement, even if each will never be able to fathom what makes the other one tick.In contrast to both of the above, the intermediary creates empathy between the two sides. They do this by providing insight into what makes each one tick, speaking in the native language of the audience.

In the professional world, an intermediary may have any number of job titles. But all of them act as some sort of liaison. 

The liaison comes from both Group A and Group B. This gives them substantial knowledge, footing a…

How to Comment on Social Media

Some people get stuck with the concept of commenting on social media.

Commenting and writing are really two different things. There are lots of books, articles, presentations and 1-2-3 posts that will tell you how to build a professional presence online. The general idea on that point is to build a body of work that proves to the world you are a credible, trustworthy presence in whatever sphere you claim to operate in.

Yes, commenting is a form of "writing," but the emphasis is much different. After all, comments are a reaction, they are in a sense defensive, whereas the act of putting something out there is proactive, creative, it takes initiative, and it is fundamentally offensive, not in the warlike way but in the sense that you are moving first.

By their very nature--at the risk of repeating myself--comments put you on the defense. So you have to have good reason for saying what you have to say; in a sense your words are an interruption.

We are living in defensive times, any…

The Most Troubling Thing About "Fake News"

As a professional communicator, I am well aware that our primary social institutions both make and distribute fake news.

Politicians do it. What is political messaging, really, if not the promulgation of a narrative that twists the facts in service of an agenda?

Governments do it. It's called "disinformation," "psychological operations," and "propaganda."

The news does it. We don't need to go into that. Survey after survey shows that only a minute percentage of Americans actually trust the mainstream media.

The alternative news does it too, on both sides. Let's be honest; just because a "citizen journalist" produced a story, that doesn't make it more believable.

Magazines do it. Who do you think is promoting "new and stylish" products but corporate sponsors, working through celebrities who in turn hire very cool PR people?

Music promoters do it, obviously. As beautifully as you sing in the shower, just being good at what you …

When It's A Bad Idea To Mistrust The Government

Today my Twitter feed is alive with concerns about H.R. 6393, the Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017.

This is the bill that authorizes a year of spending by U.S. intelligence agencies, including The Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI); the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA); the Department of Defense; the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA); the National Security Agency (NSA); the Departments of the Army, Navy, and Air Force; the U.S. Coast Guard; the Departments of State, the Treasury, Energy, and Justice; the Federal Bureau of Investigation; the Drug Enforcement Administration; the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO); the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA); and the Department of Homeland Security.

A couple of examples: "If Senate Passes H.R. 6393 it will Declare Alternative Media Illegal! No more Infowars, Drudge, many Others!" Another: "WAPO is the symptom, H.R. 6393: Intelligence Authorization is the problem - get ready for…