My New Year’s Resolution

Eat Less, Exercise More
Watch Less, Write More
Criticize Less,  Praise More
Fear Less,  Pray More
Judge Less,  Forgive More
Talk Less, Smile More
Wish Less, Hope More
Whine Less, Solve More
Regret Less,  Achieve More
Indulge Less,  Help More
Consume Less, Create More
Cry Less, Cheer More
Presume Less, Assume More
Lose Less,  Try More
Hide Less, Reveal More
Panic Less, Prepare More
Obsess Less, Reflect More
Miss Less,  Enjoy More
Curse Less,  Laugh More
Argue Less, Affirm More
Me Less, You More
Happy 2014!

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I Thought Freud Might Know

Freud asked ‘what do they want?’
As if they really know.

As if a simple forthright answer,
would somehow satisfy….
satisfy what?

As if any man or woman really could…
somehow articulate a feeling, an answer, an emotion, a witty retort, an assertion, that might provide peace and resolution.

Resolution to what? Well the only unanswered question I know. And resolve a question that cannot be answered by mere mortals such as me.

Or by Freud. Or by her. Or even God?

Or perhaps His plan all along was to
keep us searching and asking and
attempting in our meager, limited way,
to answer; to satisfy the question…
What does she want?

Perhaps the answer is in the asking.

Tom D

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A Simple Truth by Tom D

Ubiquitous antipathy,
Produces pejorative emnity,
Consequently ambiguously,
We copesetically extenuate,
And serendipitously obliviate.

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Devoured by Tom D

Love devours,
Willing couples,
Who for endless hours,
Forget their troubles,
Through intimate nights,
And devoted days,
Keep their sights,
On each others ways.

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Stack Ranking Is From The Pit of Hell – (Well it’s at least un-American) By Tom D.

rank-and-yank-hrA remarkable and even beautiful by-product of human failure is the capacity of the individual to repent, reform and rebound. Yet many of us don’t just rebound to some former status-quo, but each of us has the potential to blow through our prior state of performance and achieve excellence.

I know a woman who dropped out of first grade. When she was well into adulthood, she achieved her GED, and eventually ended up with a PhD in the biological sciences. Over time she went on to become the Vice Provost and a Professor of a major university. “It can only happen in America”, is more than a slogan in her case. This really only could happen here!

Some have suggested that the United States is the world’s only true “second chance” society. I would challenge the legitimacy of this assertion because in my opinion, we are not just a second chance society, but failed folks are given third and fourth chances or more! In most parts of the world, if you show a lack of academic proficiency at some critical juncture in your life, you are destined and limited at best to a trade or blue collar career. And of course there’s absolutely nothing wrong with a trade, unless it’s not what you choose; and you believe you’re capable of doing many other things. However in other countries, the doors to those options are virtually locked. In the US you can fail middle school, become a carpenter or bus driver for the next 20 years; and yet there are still multiple routes to achieve a PhD at MIT; a law degree at Harvard, or become CEO of a large corporation. This uniquely American phenomenon is sloppy, chaotic and often times unproductive; however it is the essence of the right to the “Life, Liberty and Pursuit of Happiness” DNA which our founding fathers endowed in us. In my opinion it’s what makes us the greatest and most free society in world history.

So what does this have to do with stack ranking, and what is stack ranking anyhow? According to Forbes Magazine, it means that “employees are ranked from best to worst forcing their managers to make hard choices”. This sounds fairly innocuous, and by itself it seems fair, except when the hard choices are formula based. As in, an immediate termination and replacement for the bottom 10% percent of the ranked employees. So much for second chances!

Having personally managed hundreds of sales, administrative, technical and training professionals throughout my career, I have often witnessed many under-performers eventually become exceptional. In one company where I was a manager, I had a young woman working for me who was rated dead last by group of managers within a very large sales peer-group. And to no one’s surprise, she had a few rocky months. I began to wonder if I did indeed need to make a change, but gradually she improved. Twenty years later, she was receiving an award for being that company’s all-time leading sales professional. Under the more rigid versions of stack ranking, we would have jettisoned her early on, and I’m sure we would have replaced her many times over with less worthy performers

I’m not suggesting that we never fire anyone who we believe to be under-performing. What I am instead asserting, is that we not be arbitrary in making those delicate and mission-critical personnel decisions. Management by stack ranking is the epitome of being arbitrary. It’s also very unprofessional. Managers should make decisions based on a variety of factors based on personal involvement with their “underlings”, and not just whack off the bottom 10% or so, based on some cold, statistical criterion.

I’ve known managers who try to be completely “metrics”- based in their decision making. I cannot name one that was any good, nor sustained any success with their teams. However, I do know managers who are involved and communicate with the people who report to them as often as possible. They understand their strengths and weaknesses, where they are growing, and where they are not. When they see weaknesses, their job is to coach, mentor and lead by example. They are professional managers, not bean-counters who hover over a spreadsheet and “right-click and delete” anything that looks troublesome. These are the managers who usually experience consistent, long-term success.

Some would call stack ranking lazy. Some would call it insidious. I believe just its un-American. Someday when SkyNet takes over and we all live in the Matrix, then robots and supercomputers will have no other way than a “binary” way to make difficult decisions. Until then, my suggestion is that we use our eyes, minds, hearts and even some metrics; and manage like professionals, not like machines.

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Success

We measure success in large part according to our parents yardstick. But as corny as it sounds, I’ve come to the conclusion that the American founding fathers had it right when they penned the phrase “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”. Two nouns and a verb, yet they embody the very essence of what success is.  Although achievement of success is nice, the active pursuit embodies true success; which is unattainable apart from life and liberty. So let’s all stay active.
Tom D.

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My Memory About Martin Luther King’s March on Washington (repost) By Tom D

DrAll weekend I have been thinking about Martin Luther King’s birthday and the historic March on Washington. I am also reminiscing about where I was when he gave the “I have a dream speech”. Yes I am old enough to remember! At the time I was around 8 or 9 years old and visiting my grandparents’ home in Cooper Texas. Cooper is a mostly pleasant and small Northeast Texas town. It’s safe to say that it was not known for being all that racially open-minded in the 60s. In fact, I vividly remember the segregation around town, including schools, public places, the movie theatre and etc. So on the day of the famous march, I was in my grandparents’ den watching Dr King on TV when Zola, their black maid, walked in and paused a bit from her house cleaning duties. They called them ‘coloreds’ back then, and to my grandmother’s credit she would not allow anyone to ever use the “N Word”, even though I often heard it in other parts of Cooper. So Zola and I watched and listened to the speech together on an old black and white TV in the otherwise empty house. And Zola could not contain her excitement! She was shouting excitedly at Dr. King on the TV as he spoke so eloquently. You could see, hear and feel the joy she was experiencing. At last, someone was fighting for the coloreds! I will never forget those twenty minutes or so. At that age I was somewhat indifferent to all the excitement of the march, but I became totally caught up in her exuberance; her hope; and her sheer joy.

As a child I was certainly aware that the whites and blacks had radically different ‘places’ in American society. But as with so many children, I assumed this was the way the world was, and would likely always be. However, on that day I was so happy for Zola. It was as if someone had thrown her a surprise party!

I doubt that Zola ever really experienced the positive results of the Civil Rights movement in her life as domestic servant in that small Texas town.  On subsequent trips to Cooper, I do recall noticing the slow crumbling of segregation. One  bit of evidence to this improvement was the fact that the old Sparks movie theater finally allowed blacks in; as long as they sat on the far right side of the auditorium. My hope is that Zola’s children and grandchildren were eventually able to have the same opportunities as the whites in that community.

I think most would agree that since the 1960’s, racial opportunity and equality have vastly improved in Cooper, as with the rest of America. I believe that is exactly what she and I were cheering and hoping to one day see as we listened to Dr. King’s dream.

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