Books, Shams, and Beauties

Hello everyone!

My “main” post for this week will run tomorrow. It has to post on April 7 or later.

However, I haven’t missed a Sunday in years so will share a couple of quick updates and ask you to come back and visit my Shot at Life-related post tomorrow.

It was a frenetic week for the Spin Sucks Ambassadors and me as we supported Gini Dietrich in her efforts to get Spin Sucks (the book) onto the New York Times Bestseller list. We won’t know the results for a week (at least) but it’s so much fun to be “with”  (virtually, not in person usually) enthusiastic, energetic, bright people working together for a shared goal. Click here for one of the book’s many reviews (by Adam Toporek) or here for my Amazon review.

The proud author with her creation!

The proud author with her creation!

I also reviewed another fantastic book, The Idea Driven Organization, by Alan Robinson and Dean Schroeder. Click here for my Amazon review of it.

idea driven org

The saga of the sham ended!!! Thanks to Linda MacLeod and several dedicated SteinMart employees, Tenley now has a completely matched bedroom linen set. Thank you, SteinMart!

sham

Tenley went to her Leon High School Senior Prom. It took everything I had not to come home from the send-off and post sappy, sentimental quotes all over social media, but I (mostly) refrained. She and her friends seem to have moved warp speed from elementary and middle school little girls to self-assured, beautiful young women. They all make me proud (and wistful).

TK Prom Solo

Senior Prom
April 5, 2014

 

Tutus, BS, and Crisis Management (A Book Review)

monika tutu

Monika Allen (right) and her friend run as superheroes.

My social media stream was flooded Thursday (3/27/14) with the story of how Self Magazine offended a runner (Monika Allen) by putting a picture of her, running in a tutu, in its “BS” section which ridiculed the growing number of tutu wearers in races. Self had secured her permission to use the picture, but had not explained that the picture was being used in a piece that derided her choice. The final straw on the back of this ill-fated situation was the fact that the runner (who creates tutus as her business, Glam Runner) was wearing it as part of a Wonder Woman costume to demonstrate an intent to vanquish her brain cancer.

Having recently reviewed Spin Sucks: Communication and Reputation in the Digital Age as a “Spin Sucks Ambassador,” (my review available here) I thought I would see what principles I learned in the book that could have made a difference in this Self Magazine situation.

To skip ahead to the “punch line,” Self wouldn’t be in this position had there not been a lack of understanding of the magazine’s mission among the staff who prepared the “BS” piece or perhaps Self simply didn’t have a clear mission at all. As Gini Dietrich writes when discussing the ways in which communication has changed:

“In the good ol’ days … every person inside your organization was trained to say the exact same thing when talking to anyone about what you do. Your customers believed what you had to say about your product or service because you were the only one telling your story. Now all it takes is for one person to have a bad experience doing business with you, and you’re finished. No amount of PR messaging can counteract that one person’s negative experience.”

It’s good that a staff member contacted Monika for permission to use her picture but what about the internal climate, mission, and vision at Self led anyone to believe that a runner would willingly let her picture be taken to make fun of runners who love running (in tutus, in fishnets, in military fatigues, in whatever the heck they want to run in?).

In the case of the Self/Tutu issue, it wasn’t just one person having a bad experience. It was one person with a legion of fellow runners racing rapidly and vocally to her defense. What could Self do?

In the chapter on Crisis Communications, Spin Sucks details tips for managing a crisis. Gini Dietrich writes, “When the media finds out about your issue and they tell your story, you almost always end up with a crisis.”

Act Swiftly I saw the story early in the morning of March 27. I did see an apology the afternoon of March 27 (maybe six hours later?). Although six hours is better than six days, the preponderance of coverage I was still seeing 24 hours later was the accusation, not the apology.

Address The Problem The first “clarification” I saw regarding the tutu crisis stated, “we didn’t know Monika was doing this for her health” (the original text ridiculed runners who “think tutus will make them run faster”). Ultimately, the editor’s apology was longer, clearer, and announced that Self Magazine was making a donation to Monika’s charity. The editor’s announcement itself was, I thought, well crafted.

Back Down When You’re Wrong Self was wrong with the choice to publish this picture, in this way, in this magazine. They did eventually concur that they were wrong. Time will tell whether or not their readership embraces that.

In Spin Sucks, Gini Dietrich writes, “Customers are now in control. They control how they interact with your brand, what they tell their friends and families about your brand, and even how they give you information about their experience with your brand. Sometimes it’s annoying , and other times it’s pretty enlightening.”

In the case of Self, a legion of worked-up runners rose up almost immediately to control the message: Ridicule a runner for her choice of costume, especially when she is doing it in support of the disease she is fighting (and when she is donating her profits to a good cause) and lose subscribers. Were there annoyed Self Magazine staff when the pushback started occurring (and the “tutu” issue was uniformly plastered all over their Facebook page)? Probably. That annoyance was a warning flag. Is Self now enlightened enough to avoid a similar situation in the future?

Time will tell. Self hasn’t cleared all the hurdles in this race yet.

Have you ever been responsible for responding to a communications crisis? What would you have advised the Self management?

4.1.1

Spin Sucks is available at Amazon (via this link) among other book retailers. If you buy the book by April 5, send Gini Dietrich your receipt (gdietrich (at) armentdietrich (dot) com) and you’ll receive free content such as eBooks and webinars)!

There’s also a great giveaway going on until April 5!! Click this link for the opportunity to win fab prizes including a 1 hour consultation with Gini Dietrich, a free webinar, and other Spin Sucks swag!

The proud author with her creation!

The proud author with her creation!

Note: I received advance galleys of this book for review purposes. The opinion here is all my own!

 

For This Customer, A “Sham” Would Be Relevant (A Book Review)


blasingame

Jim Blasingame has news for businesses: it’s a new age in the business world. Control in the marketplace is shifting from the seller to the customer. In “The Age of the Customer: Prepare for the Moment of Relevance,” Blasingame stresses that timing, access, and convenience are prime relevance expectations in the new customer-driven age.

In January, I received an item I had ordered from a retailer. Well, I didn’t receive the item I had ordered. I had ordered a pillow sham and ended up with a throw and socks. The package included this lovely note from the CEO:

steinmart

Although I am grateful for the note, I’d be more grateful to get the right product, and this vendor’s timing, access, and convenience have been lacking.

The Email Exchanges with SteinMart

1/13/14 Message from Me to Vendor:

Questions & Comments:  I received an entirely different item than the one I ordered (I ordered a pillow sham and got a throw/socks) :-). I would like to get the item I ordered originally, and can I return the throw to my local Steinmart (b/c I don’t want to spend $7.50 to ship it back to you …..). If you could let me know how to handle, I’d surely appreciate it!! Thanks.

1/14/14 Message from Vendor to Me:

Dear Paula,

Thank you for contacting Customer Service at www.steinmart.com.

Please accept our sincere apologies for the recent difficulties you have experienced with your order 0004100004687701.  A prepaid return label will be sent to your email address within 48 hours, so the throw may be mailed back at our expense. Please print this label out, and affix it to your package. Items can be returned online for a refund within 60 days from date of purchase. Once received by our warehouse, the credit for the order will be issued back to your PayPal account within 5-10 business days.

In order to receive the Luxury Sham – King, a new order will have to be placed. We will be more than happy to provide free standard ground shipping on the reorder. to take advantage of this offer, please contact us at 888-STEINMART (888-783-4662) for assistance with replacing the order. We are available Monday-Saturday 8:30AM-Midnight EST and Sunday 12:00PM–9:00PM EST for your convenience.

Unfortunately, the land based store will not be able to accept the return for the throw due to the item not being on the invoice.

Again we would like to apologize for any inconvenience you have experienced. We greatly value all of our customers and look forward to our next opportunity to serve you.

Please let us know if there is anything else we can do for you, and thank you again for contacting Customer Service at www.steinmart.com.

Sincerely,

The Customer Service Team

Customer Service at www.steinmart.com

This is not a pillow sham!

This is not a pillow sham!

1/31/14 Message from Me to Vendor:

I appreciate your help.

However, I am still having difficulty.

I got the prepaid label so I will return the throw for credit — thank you.

However, I can no longer find the sham I originally ordered online.

Can someone check and see if it is still available somewhere?

I know this is kind of a “first world” problem but having a complete set was important to my daughter; it was the main part of her Christmas gift.

Thanks,

Paula Kiger

2/1/14 Message from Vendor to Me:

Dear Paula,

Thank you for contacting Customer Service at www.steinmart.com.

We apologize again that you did not receive the sham you ordered from order 0004100004687701. Unfortunately, we are sold out of that sham on our site. We regret that we cannot check store inventory, however you can have a local store check for you. Please click the link below to view our store locator.

http://www.steinmart.com/storefinder

Our retail stores can check the inventory of all Stein Mart stores for the item you are looking for through their merchandise locator. Our retail stores also have the ability to bill and ship most items directly to you.  We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause.

Please let us know if there is anything else we can do for you, and thank you again for contacting Customer Service at www.steinmart.com.

Sincerely,

The Customer Service Team

Customer Service at www.steinmart.com

2/1/14 Message from Me to Vendor:

Guys, I am sorry to be a smart aleck about this because again, I know it’s a small thing in the scheme of things but of course I know where my local store is (so I don’t need the store locator) – the whole reason I ordered the sham in the first place is because it was not AT my local store — where we went ahead and bought the rest of the set.

Thanks for the help; I wish I could say I was very very pleased but I’m honestly not at this point.

But I do appreciate the prompt response.

Paula

2/1/14 Message from Vendor to Me:

Thank you for contacting Customer Service at www.steinmart.com.

We apologize that we did not have the information you needed regarding the sham. Unfortunately, we are not able to check store inventory, as they use a different ordering system than the online store. If the item is not available at the local store, they can check all of the stores, nationwide, to see if any store has it. They can then place the order for you and have that sham sent directly to you.

Please let us know if there is anything else we can do for you, and thank you again for contacting Customer Service at www.steinmart.com.

Sincerely,

The Customer Service Team

Customer Service at www.steinmart.com

Subsequent Activity Post 2/1/14:

I did call my local store (Tallahassee). They were very helpful and gave me phone numbers of several stores that appeared to have the sham still in stock. I called a store in Jacksonville and the representative asked me several times what color I wanted (I replied that it is only available in one color, and what that color combination is). The representative kept asking about the “Mandala” sham and I kept repeating “Magnolia.” I eventually came to the conclusion that they didn’t have it. Then I tried the Ocala store but it appears to close around 8:30 p.m. so I couldn’t speak to them. Then I gave up, returned again to the state of having no time to resolve this, no access to the solution, and the utter inconvenience of having to make all these calls myself.

Is this a routine customer service gone wrong story, or is it an example of the switch Jim Blasingame describes from the age of the seller to the age of the customer? I still have to believe Steinmart can send an email blast to all their stories to see who has this in stock (technology) and combine that with old fashioned customer service to delight me and maintain a forever customer. That would be a highly relevant solution, if you ask me.

Jim-Blasingame-Headshot-243x300

 

Jim Blasingame is one of the world’s foremost experts on small business and entrepreneurship, and was ranked as the #1 small business expert in the world by Google. President and founder of Small Business Network, Inc., Jim is the creator and award-winning host of The Small Business Advocate® Show, nationally syndicated since 1997. As a high-energy keynote speaker, Jim talks to small business audiences about how to compete in the 21st century global marketplace, and he talks with large companies about how to speak small business as a second language. A syndicated columnist and the author of three books, including Small Business Is Like a Bunch of Bananas and Three Minutes to Success, which have sold almost 100,000 copies combined; his third book, The Age of the CustomerTM, launched on January 27, 2014.

**I was provided a complimentary copy of this book for review purposes.

EPILOGUE:

The sham was delivered to me on March 31! Here’s my Facebook screenshot thanking Steinmart!

sham

It’s Not About The Money (A Love ‘Em Or Lose ‘Em Post)

Love 'Em or Lose 'Em

Love ‘Em or Lose ‘Em

I am happy to share my thoughts on Love ‘Em or Lose ‘Em: Getting Good People to Stay by Beverly Kaye and Sharon Jordan-Evans.

I find it so fun that the concepts in this book are presented as “ABCs” of leadership. For instance, “A” is for “Ask” which reminds leaders to ask themselves, “Do you know what they really want?” The book leads us through “D” for “Dignity” (In how many ways do you show you respect them [your employees]?), “P” for “Passion” (Do you know what gets them up every morning?”) through, finally, “Z” for “Zenith” (How will you sustain your commitment to engagement?).

I could write an individual post on each letter of the alphabet and its related leadership parallel, but based on the comments to my post last week, I think it’s best to expound tonight on the idea that money isn’t the primary reason people stay at an employer.

One of the first exercises I participated in when I began the Certified Public Manager program was one that focused on ranking my personal values. Once I had done that, the group compiled all of their responses to this exercise. Although our “number ones” differed from one another, in almost all of the cases, “money” or “salary” was five, six, or lower. Most attendees were surprised at this answer.

In this book, Kaye and Jordan-Evans cover the topic of pay in the “A” for “Ask” chapter. They note that “pay” is number seven on a list of reasons people give for staying in their organizations (exciting/challenging/meaningful work is number one)*.

LoveEmOrLoseEm_1

This is certainly true for me. You know those people who say, “going to work doesn’t feel like going to work because I love it so much”? There’s something to that. I see it in the acting community … in the people who show up, completely for free, to volunteer on a set, to be an extra, to do a favor for a producer who needs a certain line said or role played. Sure there are actors who make big money, but in many cases I dare say they would do most of what they do for free, just because it brings them joy. It’s why I get up early and connect via Twitter as “The Optimism Light.” It’s why I write blog posts for various causes I love, not because I get compensated financially but because it brings me joy to “connect the dots” between people, causes, and themes.

I’ve heard it in organizations. If only we got a 5% raise this year. If only my performance were recognized with a bonus. A person with two degrees is making more than me even though she does half the work. It’s not fair. People in private industry have so many more perks. Or, conversely: People in public service have the thrill of a cause to work for. In my opinion, although there is some truth to all of those statements, a “Love ‘Em” leader can dig a little deeper and find some other motivator that would retain the individual or at least to understand what issues are behind the person’s “if only” statements. And a manager who becomes adept at doing that is a manager who is less likely to “Lose ‘Em.”

What keeps you at an employer? If you are a supervisor, what strategies have you found to ascertain what makes employees “tick”?

It is good to have money and the things that money can buy, but it’s good too, to check up once in a while and make sure you haven’t lost the things money can’t buy.

-George Lorimer

*For the complete “what kept you” survey data, visit www.keepem.com and click on the “What Kept You” link.

I received a complimentary copy of Love ‘Em or Lose ‘Em for the purpose of this review. The opinions expressed here are my own.

The Heart of Leadership (A Book Giveaway)

cropped HOL

Three weeks ago, I wrote a blog post about Mark Miller’s new book, The Heart of Leadership (you can read the post here). I hope this isn’t a spoiler, but the book follows a young man named Blake through his own process of figuring out what makes a leader. He discovers five traits that represent the “HEART” of leadership:

H   –   Hunger for Wisdom

E   –   Expect the Best

A   –   Accept Responsibility

R   –   Respond with Courage

T   –   Think Others First

I have encountered three things that especially highlight the heart of leadership over the weeks since I wrote the original post.

For “A” (Accept Responsibility), there is a phrase I heard in the heat of a tense conference call that demonstrated why quiet and measured can be as effective a leadership technique as loud and aggressive. The context doesn’t matter so much — just picture clients unhappy with vendors and very worried about goals that had not been met and the very real possibility of children being adversely affected. When one party wanted “pants on fire panic,” the other party responded, “If we panic, we probably won’t solve it as efficiently.” For 19 years, I have been the client and not the vendor, which is almost certainly “easier.” I respect a vendor who had the discipline to not sound defensive, but to sound responsible.

For “R” (Respond With Courage), I read a concession message by Noam Branson, a candidate for political office, that really vibrated with courage and selflessness. The closing paragraph states, “And if I can leave you with just one request, it is not let the disappointment of a single evening discourage you from remaining engaged. For all the superficiality and theatrics of politics, there is also at its heart a majesty that is worth fighting for. Our values do not rise and fall on one victory or one defeat, they endure and take new form in every season and every debate. And the cause for which every one of us worked will be just as important tomorrow as it is today.” (Read the full statement here.)

For “T” (Think Others First), I would like to share the efforts of a young man here in town named Garrett. He and his mom Robin are working together to make a difference this Thanksgiving with “28 days of Thankfulness.” They are collecting items for Second Harvest of the Big Bend as well as for a local nursing home.  For Second Harvest, any non perishable food would be appreciated but canned fish and meats are especially good for the protein as well as whole grains (white/brown rice, steel cut or rolled oats, and whole grain pastas). For the nursing home, Robin (who is familiar with this population) recommends light blankets, socks, puzzles (can be used), sweatpants,  costume jewelry (like from Country Dollar), and stuffed animals. Please contact me and I will either get items from you or provide you the information regarding how to deliver them directly to Garrett. (Donations have been lagging a bit and we really want him to see that people will step up!) Kudos to Garrett for, as a young person, “thinking others first.”

Garrett  Bag

This Bag Is Ready For Donations!

As you can see, I didn’t list an “H” thing or an “E” thing. Would love to see your contributions in the comments regarding ways you have seen the heart of leadership exemplified.

For every comment I receive, I will enter you to receive a copy of The Heart of Leadership. It’s a great read! I will choose the winner next Sunday (11/17/13) at 10 a.m. EST. 

*I received a complimentary copy of the book The Heart of Leadership for the purpose of this giveaway.

Invisible No Longer (A Book Review)

I participated in a campaign on behalf of Mom Central Consulting for Jericho Books. I received a product sample to facilitate my review.”

My morning yesterday started with two “first world” traffic situations within a half hour of leaving the house. There was the motorist who tailgated me even though I was already going 50 in a 45 mile an hour zone. Then there was the motorist who threw up his hands at me because we were in a relatively unmarked lot and I was coming toward him. I was tempted to tweet my frustrations away.

Thebarge-TheInvisibleGirls-book-large-345x525

In her book, The Invisible Girls, Sarah Thebarge introduces us to two decidedly UN-First World problems and leaves the reader appalled, empathetic, hopeful, and dumbfounded. This was the first book I have been unable to put down in a long time.

In “The Invisible Girls,” Sarah encounters Hadhi, a Somali refugee with five young daughters, who had been abandoned by her husband after the family had arrived in the United States (they had fled the political instability of Somalia and spent time in a Kenyan refugee camp before an aid organization helped them fly to the United States where, according to Thebarge, “they were allowed to stay as political refugees.”)

The circumstances that brought Sarah to be on a train in Portland, Oregon, where she ended up making eye contact with a young Somali child (Hadhi’s daughter) with a heart for play despite her difficult situation, were not simple. She had battled breast cancer at the age of 27 and after being broken up with by her boyfriend and simply needing a new start, had decided Portland sounded good.

The two points about this book that stuck out to me (and there were many more than two) were:

  • How utterly daunting it must be to be plopped down in the United States after a lifetime in a culture such as the Somali one. Hadhi’s struggles reminded me of Ping Fu’s story about her entry into the United States when she was ordered to leave China.
  • I especially related to and loved Sarah’s observation that the Somali family’s processing of things was very complex (whereas their inability to communicate in English fed the assumption that they were “simple). Sarah writes, “It was easy for me to make the atrocious assumption that because they couldn’t articulate sadness, helplessness, discouragement, or other emotions in English, they must not feel them.”

The only disappointment of this book for me is the inability to know more, to “fix it,” to see the girls and their mother flourish and to know Sarah’s health stabilized. For the girls, it is possible to contribute to their trust fund by utilizing the information in this link: http://sarahthebarge.com/theinvisiblegirls/. (But seriously — I have to admit I want (perhaps selfishly) to know more — did they assimilate into their American schools? Are they still crazy about Justin Bieber? Did their father end up supporting them emotionally and/or financially once he came back into their lives? Not sure if those questions will ever be answered but I like the idea of a whole community of readers wanting them to have the means to go to college).

And as for Sarah, I was almost gaping-mouthed at her descriptions of her medical experiences, and at the disappointments her support network handed her (especially the ex-boyfriend). I have to hand it to her for the way she continues to share about her experiences with breast cancer at such a young age (such as this post about The 31 Ways To Help A Friend With Breast Cancer). I want to take her out to coffee and do some of those 31 things.

In closing, hopefully I’ve conveyed my enthusiasm for the book. When Sarah was being interviewed at Yale for their Physician Assistant program, the admissions committee asked her why they should let her into the program. She responded “Because I’m going to change the world. And I’m giving you the chance to say, ‘We knew her when.'”

I think she’s well on her way to making that change. At least one mom and five little girls think so.

cropped somali women

From www.fineartamerica.com

Resources

Sarah’s Website:  www.sarahthebarge.com

To Purchase the book on Amazon, click here.

Sarah can be found on Twitter by clicking here.

Sarah can be found on Facebook by clicking here.

Information about the issues facing girls and women in Somalia can be found here.

 

The Heart of Leadership (A Book Review)

This week, I am happy to join other readers in discussing “The Heart of Leadership,” Mark Miller’s new book about “becoming a leader people want to follow.”

cropped HOL

I enjoyed the way Mark structured the book, following “Blake” through a journey of transformation that starts with a performance review in which Blake’s supervisor tells him that he is not performing to his potential. Although he is tempted to react angrily, he takes the time to think through his supervisor’s contention that “leaders are different” and decides to seek help in understanding what it is that makes leaders different.

As he speaks with various people who volunteer to help him navigate the path toward being a more effective leader, he is given some truly valuable pieces of advice. One of my favorites was:

Your missed opportunities are often no big deal in isolation.

They are, however, cumulative.

This is an area where I have struggled. When I supervised people, I know I lost opportunities to address issues when they were small. Dealing with a big issue that has mushroomed takes away time from getting the organizational mission accomplished and harms morale.

Another principle that is a thread woven through all of the people Blake speaks to on his path toward deeper understanding is “Think Others First.” I saw this concept in action last night when I watched Florida State Quarterback Jameis Winston being interviewed after FSU defeated Clemson (a very big win!). I have been somewhat out of the college football pocket for a good bit of this season and had missed seeing any of Winston’s performances this year. I had seen the social media frenzy touting him as Heisman material, the best thing to hit our football field in years, a phenom. I have to say he made that impression on me last night as I watched the game. But it was the post-game interview that really caught my attention.

After citing his religious faith, Winston repeatedly spoke of the support of his teammates, of what a great job they did, of the unity this team felt. There was not a single word in which he bragged about his outstanding performance. Jameis Winston echoed what one of Blake’s leadership mentors said: “Leadership character, once established, is hard to hide.” Winston’s leadership was shining through his words and his demeanor. (Here is another interview after the game that captures much of the same tone.)

HOL cropped two

The Heart of Leadership is a manageably brief book to read, and it’s packed with great ideas. Aren’t you curious to know how Blake worked it all out? If so you can purchase the book through Amazon here.

MarkMiller_About_179x240_050813

Mark Miller, well known business leader, best-selling author, and communicator, is excited about sharing The Heart of Leadership: Becoming a Leader People Want to Follow with those who are ready to take the next step. You can find it on Amazon and in bookstores everywhere.

*I received a complimentary copy of The Heart of Leadership for review purposes. The opinions expressed here are my own.

 

Lean In (A Book Review)

I finally read Lean In.

Lean In

After refraining from commenting on the book until I had read it, I’m ready.

After reading the book, I jotted down the first four things that had stood out to me. They were:

  • Lice
  • The concept of “bringing our whole selves to work”
  • How I’d rather stand straight up than lean in or out
  • The necessity of having a global perspective

Lice

Let’s just get the lice issue out of the way. In Lean In, Sheryl Sandberg discusses the time she was traveling to a conference with other corporate executives, and the chairman of eBay offered for her and her young children to fly with him on the corporate jet. After enduring a 2 hour wait while some mechanical issue was handled (and keeping the kids shushed during the wait), they boarded the plane. Within minutes of boarding the plane, Ms. Sandberg’s daughter pronounced, “mom, my head really itches” while furiously scratching her head. Ms. Sandberg was mortified, somehow managed to conceal the issue of her daughter’s newly diagnosed lice infestation, and made a hasty detour to a pharmacy for the proper lice treatment rather than joining the others on the way to the hotel after the plane landed. I have been there and done that (the lice issue, not the private jet). Years after dealing with a lice outbreak at our house, I still remember crying in my car when for the third day in a row the school nurse thought she “still saw something.” Our county has a “no nit” policy and calling my boss to advise that I wouldn’t be coming in (again) was a call I hated making. (Wayne was in the middle of legislative session and couldn’t help at the time.) This little scenario made me feel like Ms. Sandberg may be able to relate to some of my working parent stresses.

The concept of bringing our whole selves to work

Ms. Sandberg says in Lean In:

It has been an evolution, but I am now a true believer in bringing our whole selves to work. I no longer think people have a professional self for Mondays through Fridays and a real self for the rest of the time. That type of separation probably never existed, and in today’s era of individual expression … it makes even less sense.

I wholeheartedly believe that our workplaces will be more humane and more productive when we recognize that the men and women who walk through the workplace doors (or log in to the workplace remote system) bring the joys and stresses of their personal lives to their desks. And while some people may manage to leave the work joys and stresses behind, speaking only for myself I can say my work is with me (emotionally) on Saturday afternoon and in the amalgam of things that parade through my mind as I fall asleep. I am concerned about the messages my children have gotten about “what work is” through the things I have said, the “vibes” I have given, the “frame” I have put around “what work is.” Perhaps more universal acknowledgement of “the whole self” will change the image we portray of work to our children (for those of us who have kids).

I’d rather stand straight up than lean in or out

I understood how the admonition to “lean in” made sense in the context of Ms. Sandberg’s book. Female executives should take advantage of an empty seat at the main table instead of settling for a seat against the outer wall. If an opportunity comes their way, they should assume themselves worthy and chase it. I really, really loved her description of the decision to go to work for Google. She talked about how it was a small, disorganized organization with unimaginable potential. Although the position she was offered wasn’t a perfect match for her skills, “When you get a chance to ride on a rocket you don’t ask your seat assignment, you get on the rocket.”

The thing that kept reverberating through my head listening to the audiobook of Lean In was “why does there have to be ‘leaning’?” For me, it’s often more a matter of standing up straight, for myself at times; for coworkers at times; for ideas that matter that do not have champions yet.

When faced with an executive director who proposed to me, “I just am not sure you aren’t more committed to your family than to your job,” the challenge wasn’t whether to lean in or out, it was to stand up straight, look him in the eye, and say, “my family will always be my primary commitment. Can you show me in a measurable way how that commitment has detracted from my performance? Because if my performance is not an issue, then bringing the topic of my commitment to my family into the discussion wastes valuable time when we could be planning how to make our organization its most effective.”

The necessity of having a global perspective

Of all the people I know who have read Lean In, the demographics are somewhat homogenous: well educated people, working people, Americans and Canadians (for the most part). While I don’t expect Sheryl Sandberg to solve global women’s issues in one book, I can’t forget the woman in Guatemala who met with our group when we visited in July 2011, who had no shoes. The child we sponsor in Guatemala who is trying to learn Spanish to augment her indigenous language, who will be way ahead of the game if she makes it past 3rd grade. The question my teenager asked about the women in Guatemala (“why do they keep having babies if they can’t afford them?”) and my fumbling attempts to explain cultural pressure to procreate. The men in Guatemala who struggle to feed their growing families in a “work a day eat a day” society that is getting more and more complicated as large corporate interests make the environment harder for the lesser educated. These people have an issue different than “will my employer create close parking spaces for pregnant women?”. Until girls around the world can literally survive and be educated, our “first world problems” remain exactly that.

My daughter Tenley meets our sponsored child Estela and her mother in Guatemala.

My daughter Tenley meets our sponsored child Estela and her mother in Guatemala.

I am glad I read “Lean In.” I believe that, like people who commented about Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother without reading it, we owe each other the effort to read before ascending any pulpits. Except for the “get on the rocket and then figure out your seat assignment” line, nothing in the book made a light bulb go off over my head. I did feel a little bit of “I can relate to that” (with the lice, with some of the work/life balance scenarios) and a lot of “wow we have a long way to go still.” Kudos to Sheryl Sandberg for her professional achievements, for being a wife and mom to a family she treasures, and for championing the idea that we all bring a “whole self” to work.

In closing, I’ll leave you with one of Sandberg’s concepts that proves itself to be truer and truer as our world hurtles toward its next configuration:

“Careers are a jungle gym, not a ladder.”

I’ve already written almost 1300 words without really getting into how I wanted to be a stay at home mom OR the “fun” of responding to emails one-handed while keeping a breast pump suction cup firmly affixed to the correct body part. For a great discussion of the jungle gym analogy, I encourage you to visit Gini Dietrich’s post about Lean In.

jungle gym

 *Note: I read the book on audio, so it’s challenging to go back and obtain direct quotes. If I have paraphrased anything incorrectly, I apologize!

Where Does Innovative Service Begin?

I am grateful that Chip Bell shared a book (The 9 1/2 Principles of Innovative Service) with the world that fits in well with these harried first few weeks of school (for those of us in the U.S. south, at least!). In addition to the start of school, I have also been juggling a procurement at work, a freelance editing project, a father-in-law with health challenges, and various demands of life that all seem to be screaming, “If you haven’t noticed, summer is over!!” This book is readable, piercing in its intensity, and positive.

Innovative Service

As I was considering incidents in my life that exemplified the service Chip highlights, I kept going back to the pharmacy staff at the Publix used by my in-laws. Due to a stroke and some other complications, my father-in-law is on a lot of medications. My mother-in-law has her share of prescriptions, too. They are “regulars” at that pharmacy. One day, my father-in-law had already been driven to Publix to pick up the latest refills (he no longer drives), only to discover upon getting home that one needed medication was not there. When my mother-in-law called to ask about it, they noted that it was now ready. “But I can’t get to Publix now,” she shared (she is blind and does not drive either). A staff person from Publix delivered the medication to their home.

pills

But I witnessed something else at a different Publix today (I spend a lot of time at Publix!) that I just have to share. It may be a stretch to work it in to a blog about innovative service but let’s see if there’s a way.

A parent was berating her son. I didn’t look closely but I think the child was somewhere between 15 and 20. Apparently she had been trying to call him via cell phone in a different section of the store and he had not answered quickly enough. She was being so angry and loud that I honestly was wondering if I was on one of those shows like “What Would You Do?” that was assessing if people would step in and intervene if a child was being verbally abused. The line I remember most was:

“You are about as ignorant as can be.”

Now, I have my own “confrontation in Publix” story that doesn’t put me in a nice light at all. It is such a traumatic story that it hasn’t yet seen the light of day (and it happened when my high school freshman was in kindergarten). I also know that parenting is stressful and I do not walk in this lady’s shoes. All I know is being treated like that (and whatever happens at home out of public earshot) isn’t the kind of stepping stone that a human being needs to grow into someone who provides “innovative service.”

In his chapter called “The Fly-Fishing Principle,” Chip Bell quotes Theodore Roosevelt’s “Nobody cares how much you know until they know how much you care.”

My heart still hurts vicariously for the kid who tonight was told “you’re as ignorant as can be.” As a parent, as a member of teams of various kinds, as someone who has supervised people, I am reminded that respect starts early. Before innovative service shows up at the office or on the showroom floor, some parent, babysitter, or caring adult takes the time to demonstrate it long before ROI is even a consideration. Thank you, Chip Bell, for a book that reminds us just how far respect can go if we incubate it lovingly in the first place.

Source: The Shelby Report

Source: The Shelby Report

Note: I received a complimentary copy of this book for review purposes.

 

The Chesed of “Not Heroes” (A Book Review)

Quite a few years ago, I ran across this radio interview of Mark Klempner, about his book, The Heart Has Reasons: Dutch Rescuers of Jewish Children During the Holocaust. I began an email correspondence with the author, partially to ask if he could be a resource for my daughter who was writing an essay about the Holocaust. Throughout the ensuing years, we maintained a “social media relationship” but, for reasons that absolutely confound me now, I did not read the complete book.

I am happy to report that is no longer the case. I have finally read the book, and I encourage you not to make the same mistake I did and let years elapse between hearing about it and reading it.

Holocaust RemembranceThe book profiles ten Dutch people who saved children during the Nazi occupation of Holland. The three things that struck me most about these accounts were:

Persecution’s Insidiously Subtle Beginnings

Rescuer Kees Veenstra recounted that at first the Germans “said to the Jews, ‘Nothing will happen to you. You only need to register.’ This didn’t seem unreasonable, because non-Jews also had to register. But when you registered, they would stamp a big black J on your identification card, and once that was on there, you couldn’t possibly get it off.”

Rescuer Hette Voûte says, “Early in ’42, I remember suggesting to one couple that they go into hiding, and they said, ‘No, we’re young. If we have to work in Germany, it won’t be a picnic, but we’ll get through it.'”

As history demonstrates, the subtle beginnings bloomed into full-scale persecution, death, and cruelty. By protecting Jewish children, who were often literally handed to them by their fleeing parents, these ten people saved lives.

This Is Not Heroism

The author puts this “not heroism” in an easily understandable term when he says, upon meeting one of the rescuers (Gisela Sohnlein) to begin the interview, “my ‘ego-meter’ registered zero.”

I was struck, in so many of the book’s passages, by the rescuers’ insistence that they were not heroes.

When asked “Why did you help the Jews?” Heiltje Kooistra responded, “Would I have done the same for another group? One helps where there is a need.” Similarly, Clara Dijkstra responded to the same question by saying, “It was only human.” Kees Veenstra insisted, “Just because I risked my life a few times does not make me a hero.”

Mieke Vermeer, discussing her teen years when her mother was the first of her parents to decide to help, said, “She believed she had a duty to care for not only her own children, but other people’s children, too, if they were in danger.”

Rut Matthijsen says, “before the war, we didn’t give much thought to what religion someone followed. We were all just people, Dutch people. Then the Germans came and made a strict division between Jewish and non-Jewish. Years later, when I went to Israel to receive the Yad Vashem award, I was asked, ‘Why did you help the Jewish people?’ the emphasis being on the word Jewish. But that was Adolf Hitler’s emphasis. I helped them because they were people.”

Why Doing Nothing Was Something

To be absolutely, perfectly, completely honest, one of the reasons I feel so strongly as a parent about Holocaust education is that I want to raise children who grow into adults who would “do something” in the face of persecution, cruelty, and evil of any kind. One concept that appeared several times in The Heart Has Reasons, however, was the fact that not everyone “does something” and that “not doing something” is not always a disservice. One rescuer pointed out that someone without the courage to take risks, who tried anyway, could end up endangering sophisticated rescue operations.

Mark Klempner coalesced some of the rescuers’ opinions regarding the “view that the inaction of their bystander neighbors possessed some merit. If someone suspected that you were harboring Jews and yet did not inform the Nazis, that person was, in a way,  helping the Resistance.” Other examples included a baker who gave extra bread to one of the rescuers to feed the people she was hiding, as well as policemen who warned rescuers of raids.

Having pointed out those three observations, I have a few closing thoughts:

One word stuck with me between the day I finished this book and tonight when I sat down to blog about it. It’s a word I would probably pronounce wrong, a word I was not familiar with until I read this book, but now will not leave me or my consciousness: chesed.

Chesed is a Hebrew word meaning lovingkindness. Dutch rescuers, represented by these ten individuals, demonstrated chesed in the most practical and life-affirming of ways, sacrificing their safety and, at times, their lives, in a manner that Mark Klempner describes as “righteous, but not self-righteous.”

Rescuer Mieke Vermeer quotes Solzhenitsyn: “the line separating good and evil doesn’t move along national borders, or between political parties, or social classes. It passes through every human heart — through all human hearts.”

The Heart Has Reasons makes it simple to keep sight of the line of “good” and “chesed” passing through ten human hearts. It’s a line I hope to carry forward in the way I live and parent.

ADDENDUM 3/24/13: In correspondence with the author about this post, he pointed out that the way people who did less than they could have was seen by the rescuers through the rescuers’ particularly non-judgmental filters. He wrote me: “the rescuers’ generous positive regards towards people who did just a little bit says more about the rescuers than about the almost-bystanders. To me, it indicates how appreciative and grateful the rescuers are/were. As for those almost-bystanders, I would hope they have asked themselves, “Why didn’t I do more?” The rescuers let them off easy because the rescuers are very loving, non-judgmental people. But considering the enormous number of innocent people who were slaughtered, historians tend to judge them more harshly. But one of the great lessons meeting the rescuers reinforced in me is that loving not judging is really where it’s at.” The last thing I want to imply is that doing nothing in the face of atrocity is advisable. And I appreciate Mark Klempner’s additional clarification.

Holocaust RemembranceHolocaust Remembrance