Sunday, October 22, 2017

Solving Very, Very Difficult Problems

On the first page of the book Dispatches from the Culture Wars: How the Left Lost Teen Spirit, Danny Goldberg writes the following, “A political ideology whose purpose is to help and empower ordinary people is often directed by leaders and strategists to whom the public is an alien beast and to whom young people seem to be, astonishingly, irrelevant.”  That book was written in 2003 and describes a current reality where young people are marginalized at best.  What follows are multiple examples of  how young people are in fact having a powerful impact on our world.

Courtney E. Martin’s brilliant book Do It Anyway: The New Generation of Activists is a must read for anybody who is despairing about the state of our world, looking for real examples of positive changes that are being made, or is interested in what those under thirty-five are doing to have a positive impact.

A major advantage regarding how Courtney E. Martin has written this book is the fact that she is brutally honest about the realities we are facing and the challenges that confront anybody who endeavors to create positive change. This is no fairy tale about simply needing to envision change and it will happen; this is a hard-hitting book full of concrete examples about what real people are doing about real problems. The author states this focus quite clearly in her introduction, “Activism is a daily, even hourly, experiment in dedication, moral courage, and resilience. This book is an exploration of that effort.”

The author writes about eight individuals and the changes they are making. The stories are quite different regarding the details of each act of activism since she is telling the true stories of a peace activist, prison reentry social worker, veterans’ activist, filmmaker, radical philanthropist and others. Because of the diversity of individuals under thirty-five who are honored, each story is a deep learning experience.

The author’s concluding chapter provides the reader with well thought out ideas about how to positively move forward broken down into five ways of acting that are practical and relevant. The multiple pages of resources include organizations, readings and films that are comprehensive and diverse in their perspective about the realities of activism.

A second book about amazing changes being made by young people is titled, Real Kids, Real Stories, Real Change: Courageous Actions Around the World by Garth Sundem.
 
This book provides thirty examples of young people from sixteen countries, who have had a very positive impact on their country and in many cases the world. These stories are real, and every one of them involved young people identifying something that they felt was wrong and then doing something successful about it. Not one of the examples was easy. This was not young people going to their parents and their parents taking over. In many cases their parents were an obstacle. It was young people doing something that many said could not be done.

It is organized by the nature of the projects described in each chapter. The five chapters are Kids Saving the Environment, Kids Standing Up for Themselves, Kids Helping Others, Kids Overcoming Challenges, Kids Using Talents and Creativity. The stories are short and very easy to read, with pictures and graphics that help the story move ahead. There are Fast Fact boxes that provide information about the country where the action is occurring, or the kid taking action, or the success of the initiative. There are also Get Inspired postcard images in most chapters that provide information about how the reader can get involved in efforts that promote the initiative that has been described in the chapter.  This is is an energizing and at the same time very informative book for anybody interested in identifying ways to improve our world while finding the resources that support that goal.

I have been lucky to have worked with and learned from strong young people who are having a positive impact like those mentioned in these two books.  Here’s one example.  Years ago, well-intentioned adults were working to get rid of cigarette vending machines in our town, machines that allowed anybody of any age to buy cigarettes.  We had sought out ideas from young people in our town about how to most effectively make this happen.  These efforts culminated in a meeting in front of the town council.  Two of the adult leaders of our group spoke first without much of a reaction from the council members.  Then an 8th grade member of our team took the floor.  In ten minutes of impassioned, logical and compelling rhetoric she explained that if the town council did not respond positively to our requests, some of her friends were going to die as her mother had, from smoking cigarettes.  She explained that no matter what the town council's vote was, she would continue to do everything she could do to keep that from happening to those she loved.  Our efforts succeeded and when the council members were interviewed after the meeting they said, to a person, that the reason that they had decided to support our initiative was because of the presentation by that 8th grade girl.

Many of the young people who worked on the initiative I just described were doing it because a parent or grandparent or other loved one had died from smoking cigarettes.  Both my parents had died from smoking as well.  As I continued doing career counseling with individuals of all ages I heard repeatedly that they had gone through the depression connected to a loved one having died from using tobacco related products.   A second very negative reality that many of the individuals I coached had dealt with was having been sexually assaulted by family members, friends, “responsible” members of their community and others.

These conversations led me to write two novels, Dawn of Hope, and Dawn of the Tobacco Wars: The Sequel to Dawn of Hope.  Both novels follow the exploits of Dawn Mortenson, a female teenage activist who has as her mission the lessening of the instances of sexual assault and bullying on and use of tobacco products by young people.

Dawn of Hope is this week’s Amazon Book of the Week.  In the appendix of the book are a list of organizations that help individuals who are dealing with a loved one who is smoking or the depression attached to a loved one having died from a tobacco related illness.  I have also listed organizations that help individuals who have, or are currently dealing with, sexual assault and/or bullying.


Amazon Featured Book of the Week


Here’s this week’s Featured Book-of-the-Week available now on Amazon.com!

Dawn of Hope
by Peter Prichard
(4.5 Stars – 35 Customer Reviews)
Price: $14.95
Peter Prichard’s “Dawn of Hope.” Dawn had chosen to fight the town’s acceptance of the bullying and sexual abuse of young women by confronting Drew Winston, the school’s All-American quarterback. Her battle against the status quo lands a number of friends and enemies either in the hospital, in jail, or in an early grave. With a combination of personal courage and mental toughness, she vows to change the town forever although at a huge personal cost.

 Learn More 




Dawn of Hope 
Amazon Review – In the tradition of novels like Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Prichard addresses some of the major social injustice issues of our time.
Amazon Review – Dawn of Hope by Peter Prichard isn’t a must read.  It’s a HAVE to read!!  Once you open this book, it will grab you and hold you down on the edge of your seat and you will just watch those pages turn and turn some more until you get to the last page…I appreciate that Peter Prichard gave me this book to read and review.
Amazon Review – Dawn Mortenson is the person we all aspire to be.  She has the courage of her convictions-even when standing alone.
Amazon Review – Bring this unique book to your book club.  Peter Prichard’s first book is a thought provoking page turner and a superb choice for stimulating conversation in book clubs.
Amazon Review – Young actresses should start lining up to play Dawn Mortenson, the feisty, determined and very timely heroine of Dawn of Hope.
Amazon Review – In Dawn of Hope we meet a passionate, intelligent, and courageous young woman who will be an inspiration to everyone who reads this dynamic book.



My experience with and writing about sexual assault and bullying led me to meet another amazing young person doing inspiring work.  Sarah Beaulieu is an experienced advocate on sexual violence working with both survivors and the broader community.  While at the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center she served as a medical advocate and survivor speaker.  She is the founder of The Enliven Project, a campaign to bring sexual violence out of the closet and lift survivors to their full potential.  Sarah's emerging nonprofit, The Uncomfortable Conversation, Inc.: www.theuncomfortableconversation.org - is currently seeking partners for a ground -breaking video campaign designed to support practical conversations about sexual violence among Millennial men (ages 15-25).  This campaign will help advance the dialogue about sexual assault and abuse, inspire support for survivors and change the culture that allows sexual violence to take place at all.

In conclusion, if towns, cities, states and countries do not embrace what their young people have to teach them, as demonstrated by the examples and books provided in this article, our world will move toward being an even more dangerous and unhealthy place to live.  My website www.workforthecommongood.com provides dozens of additional resources for people who want to have a positive impact on our world.







Friday, October 6, 2017

Mission Statements Fuel Peak Performance

In my years of experience as a career and leadership development consultant there are two books that I have referred to hundreds of individuals I have coached that speak brilliantly to the topic of this article. The first is, Peak Performance: Mental Training Techniques of the World’s Greatest Athletes by Charles Garfield Ph.D.  A world class weight lifter, Garfield provides solid research and first-hand experience with peak performing athletes. The second is the world-wide best seller by Stephen Covey titled, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change
Both best-selling authors write about the importance of having a mission statement in order to be a highly successful peak performer. Dr. Garfield writes, “With few exceptions, peak performers are highly motivated by a deep and personal sense of mission, which is distinctly different from the highly specific and measurable goals each person may set…Mission is a passionate belief in a personal philosophy that establishes the basis for setting goals.” 
Stephen Covey in his chapter on his second of seven habits – Begin with the End in Mind -  writes the following, “The most effective way I know to begin with the end in mind is to develop a personal mission statement or philosophy or creed.  It focuses on what you want to be (character) and to do (contributions and achievements) and on the values or principles upon which being and doing are based… But fundamentally your mission statement becomes your constitution, the solid expression of your vision and values.”
What follows are five steps outlining how to create a mission statement.  There are three free power point presentations and planning guides on the homepage of my website www.workforthecommongood.comCareer Exploration & Job Search: For Any Job in Any Sector - - - How to Make the Most of Your 2nd Fifty Years - - - How to Work, Live and Lead for the Common Good -  - - that expand on how to create and implement one’s mission.
Step OneGive serious thought to what you want to be; those values and principles that you need to have as a central part of how you show up every day.
Look back over any values exercises that you might have taken during your life.  Look at the key decisions you have made and determine the values that were central to those decisions.  I wrote a previous LinkedIn article titled Looking at Career Options? What’s Your Anchor? That article described Edgar Schein’s Career Anchors Inventory, an instrument that measures how your values relate to your career choices.  The planning guide for the Career Exploration & Job Search: For Any Job in Any Sector program mentioned above includes an exercise that helps you identify your Career Anchors.
Step Two: Identify what you want to do that allows you to live the foundational values and principles that you identified in Step One.  Once you have a sense of the values and principles that would define a positive direction for you, give thought to what you would want to be doing that would demonstrate those values.  What follows is a powerful question from the book by Bernstein & Trauth titled Retirement Your Way.  Although this book is about retirement this question has relevance for any adult.   
- “Think back to those environments or situations in which you felt most creative, when you felt completely satisfied doing what you were doing and time just flew by.  List as many as you can remember; be expansive…Once you have written down all the answers to that question, look at what you have written and pick the most satisfying and write a short story about what it felt like to be in that positive situation.  When you are finished writing ask yourself what does what you have written tell you about your interests, style, needs, skills, values, and/or situations in which you would flourish.”  Keep this document and build on it as you move forward.
Step Three: Write an initial draft of a mission statement.  Based on what you have learned through this self-evaluation, or what you already know about yourself, write a draft of a mission statement, what Charles Garfield described above as “a passionate belief in a personal philosophy that establishes the basis for setting goals.”
Step Four: Identify where you want to do what you have identified as how you want to be.  Or as Covey stated above, “the solid expression of your vision and values.”  An outstanding resource to use during this phase of reality testing the draft of your mission statement is the website www.job-hunt.com. It provides dozens of resources for identifying what you want to do and where you want to do it.
Identifying where you would most effectively live your mission statement helps to provide clarity about the accuracy of your mission statement draft.
Step Five: Once you have gone through these four steps, sit down and write a next draft of your mission statement.  Using this as a guide as you explore career options and places you might work gives you a solid advantage over those who do not have a sense of mission as a guide to career choice and job search actions.  The creation of a mission statement does not usually happen overnight which is why I have suggested starting with a draft, then reality testing it by researching where you would want to make your mission statement happen.  Stephen Covey underscored this reality in 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, “A mission statement is not something you write overnight.  It takes deep introspection and often many rewrites.”  

Whatever you choose to do or move toward, having a mission statement that you expand on and revise as you grow can provide focus, as Stephen Covey said above, “on what you want to be (character) and to do (contributions and achievements)” in this crazy world in which we live.  

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Looking at Career Options? What's Your Anchor?

There are literally thousands of resources designed to help individuals figure out their career direction and the next steps they might take. One of the most popular, easiest to use and understand, and impactful is Dr. Edgar Schein’s Career Anchors questionnaire.

The Pfeiffer Career Series revised edition of Career Anchors: Discovering Your Real Values by Dr. Schein is a book "designed to help you to identify your career anchor and to think about how your values relate to your career choices...Your career anchor is a combination of perceived areas of competence, motives, and values that you would not give up; it represents your real self."

I have used Schein's questionnaire with individuals of all ages who are looking at what they are going to do in the next stage of their career. A powerful advantage of the book is that it includes the questionnaire, with the results of your answers telling you what you have said about what you would not give up. You receive answers about what your high and low scores are on the eight career anchors. You follow that by having a career anchor interview with a partner. This could be a family partner, a long-term friend; someone who knows you well and who you trust to be candid in discussing the eighteen career interview questions in the book with you. 

These questions span your career, whether it has been long or short, starting with, "What did you concentrate on in school?" The questions then move to ones like, "As you look ahead in your career, what are the things you are especially looking forward to?" The eighteenth and final question is, "As you think over the answers you have given, what patterns or themes do you see?" The patterns and themes come from the descriptions of the eight career anchors that are: Technical/Functional... General Managerial... Autonomy/Independence... Security/Stability... Entrepreneurial Creativity... Service/Dedication to a Cause... Pure Challenge... Lifestyle.

What follows are examples of how these statements of what you would not give up shaped the career decisions of two separate people to whom I was providing career coaching.

The first individual was a front-line manager at a nonprofit agency. She had been in the role for four years and was seriously questioning whether to stay in the nonprofit field. After she took the Career Anchors questionnaire she saw that her two highest scores were in Service/Dedication to a Cause and Lifestyle. She agreed with the scores, saying that she would not give up the opportunity to pursue work that achieves something of value, such as making the world a better place to live which is the definition of Service and Dedication to a Cause. She also agreed with the fact that she would not want to give up the Lifestyle that her job affords. Lifestyle involves being in a situation that permits you to balance and integrate your personal needs, your family needs, and the requirements of your career. Based on the conversation that was had about the fact that her job was really meeting her values, she talked with her boss and was able to shift some of the responsibilities that had been making her so unhappy in a way that had her feeling much more positive about her situation.

The second example involved a very bright double PhD scientist who was a Vice-President in a pharmaceutical company. His lowest score by far was on the General Managerial competence and his two highest scores were on Autonomy/Independence and Pure Challenge. It turned out that he had gotten advanced very quickly in his career because of his brilliant mind, engaging personality, the respect that his colleagues had for his work ethic and his ability to get results.

The problem and reason that he had asked for an executive coach was that he hated to manage others and only wanted to be left alone to focus on the very complex molecules that would save many lives. Based on the conversations that we had around the results of the Career Anchors questionnaire he sat down with his boss and told her that he was willing to take a pay cut and a step back in the organization so that he could focus on the research he loved. After multiple conversations, the organization allowed him to make that move without his having to take a pay cut.

To be very clear, both of these talented individuals knew about much of what the Career Anchor results showed them, but had never put those factors together in a way that allowed them to come up with a plan for moving ahead effectively with their career at their current employer.

I mentioned in the second paragraph of this article the book that provides a full program for how to gain information from completing the questionnaire to having a structured eighteen question conversation with someone who knows you and who you trust having a confidential conversation about your career that ties into the questionnaire results. If the way I have described Schein's model interests you I encourage you to purchase that book. It is the most comprehensive way to gain information about your Career Anchors.  I obviously do not receive any remuneration from the publisher if you do that.

I use Schein's model as one of multiple self-evaluation resources in a free thirty slide program I have presented to the public called How to Make the Most of Your 2nd Fifty Years. You don't have to be over fifty to gain valuable career information from viewing that program. It is free to download off my website www.workforthecommongood.com.  You will never be approached by me or anybody else if you choose to download that program.


Monday, September 4, 2017

The Power of the Humble Leader

Jim Collins – www.jimcollins.com -  is one of the most respected researchers on the topic of leadership and the author of the international bestseller Good to Great.  His website is an extremely rich resource into his 25 years of research into what makes good organizations tick.

Since all my articles deal with how to work, live and/or lead for the common good, defined as - any idea, plan or actual deed that will benefit a community and not just help a select few -  his work is appropriate considering what he and his team have found out about the characteristics of the most successful leader; the Level 5 leader.
 
That person “Builds enduring greatness through a paradoxical combination of personal humility plus professional will…They were self-effacing individuals who displayed the fierce resolve to do whatever needed to be done to make the company great.  While Level 5 leaders can come in many personality packages, they are often quiet, reserved and even shy.  Every good-to-great transition in our research began with a Level 5 leader who motivated the enterprise more with inspired standards than inspiring personality." 

Collins goes on to observe, “It didn’t matter whether the company was consumer or industrial, in crisis or steady state, offered services or products.  It didn’t matter when the transition took place or how big the company.  All the good-to-great companies had Level 5 leadership at the time of transition… Given that Level 5 leadership cuts against the grain of conventional wisdom, especially the belief that we need larger-than-life saviors with big personalities to transform companies, it is important to note that Level 5 is an empirical finding, not an ideological one.”

Individuals like those described as Level 5 fit the common good definition as benefiting a community and not just helping a select few.  The four levels leading up to Level 5 are Level 1, the highly capable individual, the Level 2 contributing team member, the Level 3 competent manager, the Level 4 effective leader with Level 5 being the executive.

There was definitely an empirical focus in the research of Collins and his team.  In Good to Great his team identified companies that made the leap from good results to great results and sustained those results for at least fifteen years.  These eleven companies were compared to a carefully selected control group of companies that failed to make the leap, or if they did, failed to sustain it.

For those who are interested in further study regarding leadership and the Collins 5 level model will find a free Where Are You on Your Journey from Good to Great: The Good to Great Diagnostic Tool on the Collins website.

There are two Harvard Business Review articles that I have given to hundreds of leaders in all sectors as resources to help them understand and move toward being concerned about the success of those around them versus being focused totally on their own success.  Collins’ article Level 5 Leadership: The Triumph of Humility and Fierce Resolve in the July-August 2005 issue of Harvard Business Review is one of those articles.  The other, Leadership That Gets Results by Dan Goleman in the March-April 2000 issue of Harvard Business Review, talks about the importance of emotional intelligence – the ability to manage ourselves and our relationships effectively.  A key point in that article, which is critically important for anybody wanting to become a Level 5 leader, is the importance of Self-Awareness.

I have found in my leadership coaching that individuals who do not have “a realistic evaluation of their strengths and weaknesses combined with an ability to read and understand their emotions as well as recognize their impact on work performance and work relationships,” the definition of self-awareness derived from the study of 3,871 executives selected for the article, do not have much chance of being a Level 5 leader.  Self-awareness is a key toward understanding if you are being humble in your actions.


There are additional resources in www.workforthecommongood.com regarding leadership and the common good.  Forthcoming articles will focus on the importance of emotional intelligence as it relates to one’s ability to have a positive impact on those around you, whether or not you are in a leadership role.  I will be writing another article on the work of Jim Collins represented in his monograph Good to Great and the Social Sectors.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Your Ten Second Moment of Positive Impact

This column is for people of any age and background who want to have a positive impact.  It will provide very concrete and actionable ideas about how to do that.  It will focus on how to find work that allows you to have a positive impact, and how to act at work in a positive way.  It will give examples of how to live your life in a way that has a positive impact.  Finally, it will provide examples of how to lead others in a way that has a positive impact on them.  This blog is supported by the website www.workforthecommongood.com. 

We are focusing in today's blog on how to live a life that has a positive impact on others, and how a ten second action done repeatedly for the right reason can impact large numbers of people in a very positive way.

The phrase "random acts of kindness and senseless acts of beauty" is attributed to Anne Herbert.  The book Random Act of Kindness was published in February 1993 by The Editors of Conari Press. That book was updated in 2013 as Random Acts of Kindness Then and Now: The 20th Anniversary of a Simple Idea That Changes Lives.  Both books provide many examples of these kinds of acts.  

The two key ingredients in a random act of kindness are that it is being done spontaneously and without the thought of receiving anything in return.

The Random Acts of Kindness organization - randomactsofkindness.org - provides research examples that show the benefits of performing acts of kindness with people.  Here are two of the many examples they provide on their website:

-Witnessing acts of kindness produces Oxytocin, which aids in lowering blood pressure and improving our overall heart-health.  Oxytocin also increases our self-esteem and optimism, which is extra helpful when we're anxious or shy in a social situation.

-Stephen Post of Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine found that when we give of ourselves, everything from life satisfaction to self-realization and physical health is significantly improved.  Mortality is delayed, depression is reduced and well-being and good fortune are increased.

Another valuable resource for specific examples of how kindness can increase one's mental and physical health can be found at The Greater Good Science Center - www.greater@berkeley.edu.

The idea of acting kind is not some squishy do-gooder way of looking at life.  It is a way of life that has benefits for many.  It has also become a global movement.

The Australian Kindness Movement - www.kindness.org/au - provides information about the World Kindness Movement that was formed during a conference in Tokyo in 1997 hosted by the Small Kindness Movement of Japan.  "The 'declaration of kindness', signed by representatives of the countries present at the 1997 conference, reads as follows:

In acknowledgment of the fundamental importance of simple human kindness as a basic condition of a satisfying and meaningful life, we hereby declare the establishment of the World Kindness Movement."

The Kindness Organization concludes with the following, "Kindness is a 'heart to heart' communication, and experience that many people hunger for.  Mother Theresa pointed out that 'there is hunger for ordinary bread, and there is hunger for love, for kindness, for thoughtfulness; and this is the great poverty that makes people suffer so much.'  As the reality of being kinder to each other spreads throughout the world under the auspices of the World Kindness Movement and other kindness organizations, the character of people will change to express a more friendly and positive relationship.  The heightened sense of relating to others will help dissipate the meanness created by our competitive, greedy, and materialistic society."

In conclusion, if you are currently or decide in the future to open yourself to the power of a brief, spontaneous act of kindness as those opportunities present themselves, that way of acting has the potential to help you, the recipient and those who witness the random act of kindness to feel better and possibly be healthier