Archive for the ‘Current Affairs’ Category

Mindful Mondays: Love Casts Out Fear June 29 2015 5 responses

obama-charlestonIn a first century A.D. epistle to believers in Ephesus, John the Evangelist wrote that “perfect love casts out fear.” In the United States over the past two weeks, we have witnessed remarkable example after remarkable example of love triumphing over fear. As we begin a new week, it seems worthy to reflect on recent events and how they might inspire our actions going forward.

This extraordinary fortnight began on June 17 with the horrific murders of nine parishioners of Charleston, South Carolina’s Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church by a young white supremacist who sat for an hour in their Bible study before he pulled out his pistol and started firing. Two days later, the family members of those murdered publicly offered their forgiveness to the killer through their grief and tears at his bail hearing. Five days after that, South Carolina governor Nikki Haley stood with other leaders of her state to call for the removal of the Confederate battle flag from the state capitol grounds. In recognition of the pain that the flag represents to African Americans, the governors of Alabama, Mississippi, Kentucky, Virginia and Tennessee soon followed suit and ordered the removal of the flag from state grounds and license plates. Dylann Roof, the confessed shooter in Charleston, acted out of fear. The family members of his victims forgave him out of love. That love compelled public officials to disavow an historical symbol of suffering and fear.

The day after Haley’s press conference, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Affordable Care Act is constitutional as written thereby assuaging the fears of 15 million newly insured Americans that they might lose their health coverage. Reasonable people can, have and will argue over the structure of health care reform, but one can hope that the Court’s ruling will put an end to fear mongering arguments over “death panels” and the “job killing” health care bill and that the conversations and work will continue on a higher plane.

And then, a day later, the Court issued its ruling that all Americans have the right to marry the person they love. As Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in the majority opinion:

“The right to marry is a fundamental right inherent in the liberty of the person, and under the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment couples of the same sex may not be deprived of that right and that liberty.”

In Rose Garden remarks after the ruling was announced, President Obama began by saying:

“Our nation was founded on a bedrock principle that we are all created equal…  The project of each generation is to bridge the meaning of those founding words with the realities of changing times — a never-ending quest to ensure those words ring true for every single American.

Progress on this journey often comes in small increments, sometimes two steps forward, one step back, propelled by the persistent effort of dedicated citizens.  And then sometimes, there are days like this when that slow, steady effort is rewarded with justice that arrives like a thunderbolt.”

How did we arrive here as a country with such relative speed? There are a number of reasons but the biggest is that public opinion on marriage equality shifted as more and more Americans realized that they have family members and friends who are gay and that they want them to have the same right to liberty and happiness that they themselves have. Love won over the fear of change.

And, finally, just eight hours after he delivered his Rose Garden remarks, President Obama stood in the pulpit before 5,000 mourners gathered in Charleston, South Carolina for the funeral of the Reverend Clementa Pinckney, the pastor of Mother Emanuel Church. The theme of the President’s eulogy for Clem Pinckney was grace. (You’ve likely seen the video of him leading the assembled in an impromptu singing of Amazing Grace at the end of his remarks.) The President said a lot worth considering last Friday. He gave a lot of examples of how love casts out fear. This passage in which he refers to the families forgiving Dylann Roof captures some of the essence of what he said:

“It would be a refutation of the forgiveness expressed by those families if we merely slipped into old habits whereby those who disagree with us are not merely wrong, but bad; where we shout instead of listen; where we barricade ourselves behind preconceived notions or well-practiced cynicism…

Clem understood that justice grows out of recognition of ourselves in each other; that my liberty depends on you being free, too.

That — that history can’t be a sword to justify injustice or a shield against progress. It must be a manual for how to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past, how to break the cycle, a roadway toward a better world. He knew that the path of grace involves an open mind. But more importantly, an open heart.”

And, that, an open heart is the prerequisite to love casting out fear. It’s been an extraordinary two weeks in the life of America. We’re unlikely to have many more fortnights that are so supersaturated with import and emotion. Let’s not let that stop us, though, from acting with open hearts this week and in all the weeks to come.

Individual action leads to collective change. What if each of us, in our own ways small and large, acted out of love instead of fear throughout the day? Our workplaces, our homes, our communities, our country, our world, our lives would be different.

It has to start somewhere. Why not with each of us starting today?

Mindful Mondays: Hug the One You’re With May 4 2015 one response

goldbergAs I was skimming through the headlines from the New York Times on Saturday morning, I was stunned to read the news of the death of Dave Goldberg. You may not have heard of him until this past weekend. He was the 47 year old CEO of the online questionnaire company, Survey Monkey. He was also the husband of Sheryl Sandberg, the Facebook COO and author of the mega best-seller, Lean In. Goldberg died while he was on vacation with his wife.

By all accounts, most especially Sandberg’s in her book, Dave Goldberg was a great guy. It appears he was one of those people who spent his life encouraging others while doing interesting things himself.

It’s a tragedy when anyone dies unexpectedly in the prime of life. What literally took my breath away when I read the news of his death was the stark reminder that tragedy can happen to anyone at any time. Power couples don’t get much more powerful than Sheryl Sandberg and Dave Goldberg. Wealth, fame, friends, access, interesting work, a beautiful family, a vibrant marriage – they seemed to have it all.

None of that, of course, could protect them from the tragedy of sudden loss. When it comes to that, we’re all in the same boat.

I’ve written a lot about being present in these Mindful Monday columns over the past month. What Are You More Likely to Remember? and What Do You Have to Share? are the two most recent examples. The subject of today’s post is one more reminder to be present with the people you care most about.

Take some time today to hug the one you’re with. There’s not going to be a better opportunity than the one you have today. Don’t wait.

Mindful Mondays: What Do You Have to Share? April 27 2015 one response

nepal-eqThe news from the devastating earthquake in Nepal this past weekend is tragic and heart rendering. It’s a natural impulse at times like this to want to help. Most of us, of course, are not qualified to offer help on the ground. Fortunately, there are organizations with volunteers who are. If you want to contribute to their efforts by sharing some of your own resources, this link provided by the New York Times will provide you with the donation links for over two dozen organizations that are moving to help the people of Nepal.

Tragedies like the one in Nepal spark our desire to share what we have with those in need. On a day to day basis, you likely have other causes that are important enough to you that you share your time and resources with them.

As we begin another week, I’d like to encourage you to also consider what you have to share with the people you come in contact with everyday. I’m talking about the people you live with, work with and come in contact with in the normal course of life. The situations I’m thinking of aren’t particularly dramatic; they’re just little opportunities that make a difference. They don’t require special skills or heroic efforts. We just need to be mindful enough to be aware of them and intentional about acting on them.

For instance, you might spend some time caring for a sick friend or family member. You might take a few extra moments to really be present and offer encouragement for someone going through a tough time. You might share what you’ve learned about working through a challenging experience that someone else is just starting. You might share your appreciation with someone who does an everyday job in an exceptional way.

Interested in investing a few minutes of your time that will practically ensure that you and some of the people in your life will have a qualitatively better week? Before you move on to the next thing on your to-do list, take five minutes to make a list of what you have to share this week. It could include time, money, encouragement, appreciation, care, compassion, knowledge, connection, coaching – your list will be uniquely yours. After you’ve come up with a list of what you have to share, make another list right beside it of the people with whom you want to share. Then, connect the dots – match what you have to share with the person you want to share it with.

As you go through your week, act on at least one opportunity each day to share what you have to share. As you do, I’d love to hear through your comments on this blog about the difference it’s making. Happy sharing.

Mindful Mondays: Considering Spock’s Legacy and Ours March 2 2015 one response

spock1When I looked earlier this morning, more than 1,000 people had left comments on The New York Times obituary of Leonard Nimoy, the actor who played Mr. Spock. Obviously, I haven’t read all of them, but I have looked at a few dozen. Many of them are quite moving in the way that they describe the impact that Nimoy’s portrayal of Spock had on their lives. Susan in Madison wrote that she’s a scientist at a major university and that as the news of Nimoy’s death spread:

“faculty office doors quietly closed for five to ten minutes, and then reopened, its occupant looking a little sheepish and bleary-faced. The role of Mr. Spock meant so much to many of us. Mr. Nimoy’s character made science cool, made being a scientist cool. Countless colleagues are STEM professionals because of him.”

A reader named Ron wrote that Spock “so inspired me as a child that I later went into nuclear submarines to do acoustic research then got my pilot’s license and flew for many years.”

Reading about Nimoy’s life and the impact that Spock had on so many leaves me thinking about the legacy we create with the life we live. The biggest insight for me on this came from Nimoy himself in a video interview he did for the Yiddish Book Center Wexler Oral History Project in which he describes the origin of the Vulcan salute (most often presented with the phrase, “Live long and prosper.”) You can watch it on the Times web site and you should because Nimoy tells the story masterfully.

It turns out that Nimoy first saw what became the Vulcan salute when he was a young boy taken to synagogue by his father and grandfather. The elders of the congregation conducted a mystical ceremony that ended with them extending their hands forward with the middle and ring fingers separated to make a V shape. It made a very strong impression on young Leonard.

Years later, Nimoy was shooting a Star Trek episode in which Spock was going to interact with other Vulcans for the first time in the series. He said to the director that they should have some kind of special greeting that Vulcans do. As he recalled in the interview, “Humans, we have these rituals, these things that we do. We shake hands, we nod to each other, we bow to each other, we salute each other. What do Vulcans do?”

Nimoy drew on the legacy that his father and grandfather bequeathed him and decided that the Vulcan salute would be a raised hand with the third and fourth fingers separated in a V.

In finishing the story, Nimoy recalled that:

“That just took off. It was amazing. Within days after it was on the air, I was getting it on the street. It’s been that way to this day. It’s almost 50 years later and people are still doing it. It just touched a magic chord. Most people to this day still don’t know what it’s all about. People don’t realize they’re blessing each other with this.”

Being present and paying attention – as a young boy and as an adult – enabled Leonard Nimoy to fully embody a character that changed lives in ways big and small. Some people chose career paths because of Spock, others have spent time extending a blessing to others without knowing it.

All of us, through being present and paying attention, have the opportunity to create legacies that can change lives. Sometimes we’ll clearly see the impact of that; most of the time we won’t. Some of us will have big platforms like an iconic television show to multiply the impact of our legacy; most of us won’t. All of it matters though.

As Spock himself might have said, live long, prosper and leave your legacy.

Angela Merkel Shows Leaders How to Lean In February 12 2015 no responses

angela-merkelGerman Chancellor Angela Merkel deserves to take the weekend off. As I write this, the outlines of a cease-fire in the Ukraine have been announced following an all-night negotiating session that Merkel and French President Francois Hollande mediated between the Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and Russian President Vladimir Putin. The agreement wraps up more than a week of non-stop shuttle diplomacy on Merkel’s part that took her to Moscow, Washington and various other locations in Europe. Her schedule has left me wondering how she’s gotten any sleep.

Given his track record, it’s hard to be optimistic about the efficacy of any agreement that Putin signs on to, but you have to admire Merkel for pushing for a diplomatic solution to a dangerous situation. After all, what’s the alternative? Someone had to take the lead and Merkel leaned in.

I’ve been in Germany twice this month for business and have mentioned Merkel’s efforts to a number of German colleagues I’ve met. To a person, they all appreciate what Merkel has been doing. Several of them commented that while they didn’t support her when she first became chancellor they’ve grown to respect her seriousness of purpose and resolve.

Angela Merkel may not be the flashiest leader on the world scene today but she commands and, I think, deserves respect and admiration. She’s diligent, persistent, well informed, reaches out, is cool under pressure and makes her positions and priorities clear. In short, she shows leadership by leaning in and sticking with the issues that she thinks matter the most.

If you’re looking for a leadership role model, Angela Merkel strikes me as a good place to start.

Three Interesting Reads from the Week of January 26 January 30 2015 no responses

ereading1As the week wraps up, I thought I’d share three articles that have caught my eye and made me think this week. Here’s the list:

Bitcoin and the Digital Currency Revolution:  A couple of weeks ago I was talking with a CEO who told me that Bitcoin puts a lot of companies in the same position that Kodak was in at the beginning of digital photography. This essay from the Wall Street Journal is the best article I’ve seen for an explanation of how Bitcoin works and why it could be a game changer.

10,000 Hours with Reid Hoffman: What I Learned:  Ben Casnocha is a bit of a prodigy who wrote his first book, My Start-Up Life, while he was in college and has co-authored two more books with Reid Hoffman, the founder of LinkedIn. For the past three years, Casnocha has been in the room (or on the private jet) pretty much constantly with Hoffman while serving as his chief of staff. In this long write-up on his personal blog, Casnocha shares in bite size chunks 16 things he’s learned from working with Hoffman. My favorite: Reason is the steering wheel, emotion is the gas pedal.

A Note to My Readers:  Fifteen years ago, Andrew Sullivan started writing The Daily Dish, his blog of political and cultural commentary.  He was in the blogging game early and had a huge influence on how the form developed. In “A Note to My Readers”, he’s announcing that he’s quitting the blog and explains why. It’s a beautifully written rumination on choice and opportunity cost.

What have you read this week that expanded your perspective?

Mindful Mondays: What Do We Agree On? January 12 2015 2 responses

parismarch1Yesterday, millions of people in Paris and around the world marched in solidarity against hate and for human rights. In Paris, the march was led by 40 heads of government from around the world. On the front line, spaced four people away from each other, were Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel and the President of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas.

By marching together, these two leaders along with the 38 others and millions of citizens in Paris and around the world showed a lot of mindfulness. They were all aware of the import of the moment and intentional in demonstrating a strong and clear stand for common values. Netanyahu and Abbas put aside deep and long standing differences to show their support for what they agree on.

All of those who marched on Sunday offer a perspective check for the rest of us. As we begin a new week and a new year, let’s stop and consider how we can work with and build on the values we agree on.

Seven Things Leaders Can Learn from Bill Clinton About Connecting with People November 13 2014 9 responses

bill-clinton1Delivering his monologue after the midterm elections last week, David Letterman was talking about President Obama’s low approval ratings and landed a great line:

“Take a look at this: gas under $3 a gallon – under $3 a gallon. Unemployment under 6%, whoever thought? Stock market breaking records every day. No wonder the guy is so unpopular.”

As Letterman said, before delivering his punch line, being President of the United States is a “lonely, lonely gig.”

Being an ex-President of the United States? Not so much. According to Gallup, the most popular ex-Prez is Bill Clinton. His approval rating earlier this year was 64%. There are probably a lot of reasons for that. Most Presidents are more popular out of office than in. In Clinton’s case, he likely gets a lot of credit for the work he’s doing through his Foundation. He also does a lot of public appearances and is a master communicator and connector.

Earlier this week, I got to see exactly how much of a master he is when President Clinton spoke to a packed house for the Los Angeles World Affairs Council. For just under 90 minutes, Clinton held an audience of 1,500 people rapt as he answered questions on everything from Ebola to education to Putin to what his most favorite thing was about being President (that last question was submitted by the moderator’s 4th grade son).

There were a lot of things I noticed Clinton doing that makes him world class at connecting with an audience. There were a lot of lessons that leaders can use to connect with their people. Here are seven of them:

What Leaders Must Learn from the NFL Fiasco September 18 2014 one response

nfl-logoThe speed and volume of the emerging fiasco facing the NFL has been breathtaking. In the first football weekend after the League’s response to the video of Ray Rice punching his fiancé, there were players with similar charges against them scheduled to play on Sunday. One was pulled just before game time; the other played.

The Vikings’ Adrian Peterson was suspended for Sunday’s game because he was indicted for child abuse a couple of days earlier. After the Patriots beat the Vikings soundly without their star running back in the game, the team reinstated Peterson for this week’s game. Then Radisson, one of their corporate sponsors, suspended their support. At 1:30 am the following morning, the team suspended Peterson again.

Meanwhile, a star player with the Arizona Cardinals has been arrested for domestic abuse, the NFL has recruited four prominent women to advise them on how to move forward and Tuesday night they staged a fashion show in New York complete with models from Victoria’s Secret to promote their new line of women’s apparel.


There are so many things that leaders can learn from this fiasco. The dangers of hubris, the need for transparency in the age of social media, the challenges of becoming huge in a relatively short amount of time all come to mind. All good lessons for sure but there is one lesson that I think leaders must learn and take to heart from the events of the past couple of weeks. It’s the requirement that leaders and their organizations be consistent.

The NFL Shows That Culture Change (Or the Lack of It) Starts at the Top September 12 2014 one response

uphillclimbIn the annals of interesting timing, it doesn’t get much better than an article that ran in the Financial Times this past Monday morning. It was a piece titled, “The HR Guy Cleaning Up NFL Locker Rooms” and described how the League’s new head of HR is on a mission to get rid of bullying, homophobia and racist language in the workplaces of the NFL’s 32 teams. As the new NFL CHRO, Robert Gulliver, said in the article, “Football is special and important, but this is also a workplace and we have to reinforce the idea that there are certain standards of workplace conduct.”

Nice sentiment. And then, as anyone who was exposed to cable news or the internet over the past week knows, on Monday afternoon the celebrity gossip site TMZ released the video of Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice knocking out his then fiancé (now wife) in an elevator. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell had suspended Rice for two games a few months ago when another video clip showed him dragging his fiancé out of the elevator after knocking her out.  Hardly anyone felt like a two game suspension was enough punishment but Goodell stuck with his decision on Rice. He stuck with it until the second video of the punch became public. Within hours, Rice was cut from the Ravens and suspended indefinitely from the NFL. And now we’re down to a case of what did Goodell and the League know about the Rice case and when did they know it? The timeline will be investigated by a former director of the FBI.

Which brings me back to the Financial Times article. In opening the piece, the columnist Andrew Hill writes that “even by the thankless Sisyphean standard of such culture-change programs, the National Football League is beginning at the foot of the hill.” Later, in summing up the task before the HR chief Gulliver, Hill writes, “So if you are standing at the bottom of the mountain, worrying about the long ascent, remind yourself that the worst thing you can do is to delay starting the climb.”

Fair enough, but you can’t expect to make the climb by yourself. The challenge facing Robert Gulliver or anyone else responsible for a culture-change program is that there has to be alignment between what you’re asking people to do and what those same people see from the top leadership. The hypocritical, craven way in which the NFL has handled the Ray Rice domestic abuse case renders any meaningful chance of culture-change mute. Culture change doesn’t start with a program, it starts with top leadership. And, in that respect, the NFL is sorely lacking.

What’s your take?