ear Friends

Welcome to Two Sides, ONE Coin.

Quote of the Week comes from Albert Einstein

"We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them."

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Leadership: Economy of Thought Part 1

Language as the means of communication can be a powerful tool or a debilitating enemy. We think in pictures as children but are taught to use our words as we grow. Many adults eventually think only in words, while dreaming replaces “thinking in pictures”. When it comes to business affairs, Leaders are often required to think in terms of red or black ink; the bottom line is either positive or negative; decisions are made between this thing or that thing. Apparently, this often required line of thinking has become always required. And required for all things, required for every thing. We fail to see in the full colors of the spectrum nowadays, reducing all we see to shades of black or white. We are compelled by some need to speed up decision making. Have we gone too far with our economy of thought and thinking?

The world at large has followed the mindset and example of our Leaders and subsequently we have all been taught to think in similar decisive and numeric terms that extend well beyond the reach of the military or the stock market. Sons and daughters killed in action are referred to in the news as the number of casualties sustained, so named by willful design. Casualties sounds so, well, casual; like something easy or relaxed, that it’s hard to imagine we are referring to the death and dying of our youths.

The real meaning of what is being said is camouflaged and diluted, intended to breed a sense of complacency.  Casualties invokes a much lesser emotional charge than thoughts of death or dying. We tend to forget the casualties we are talking about were real living, breathing people who sacrificed their very lives for us. We forget that other real people around the world who are just like us are now mourning the loss of a father, mother, sister, brother, or friend. We isolate the pain of war to those who suffer a direct loss rather than sharing the loss between us, even though the sacrifice of life was made for all. Militaries around the world have their reasons for desensitizing us to the numbers of dead and dying, as well as plausible reasoning whereby some swift decisions are clearly essential and necessary.

The prevalent thinking today is that we should use this same restrictive, limited (and often misleading), thriftiness in thought to define ourselves and each other, and further, to allow these thrifty thoughts to govern all of our endeavors - not just wars. (Did we get what we paid for?) The dehumanization of our vocabulary , borrowed from the military and applied to economics (meaning the work place), has brought us daily estrangement from our emotions for most of our waking hours.  Worse yet, this constant estrangement eventually  supplants the voice of our conscience, the heart of our values. It needs to when we are required to kill our enemies in battle.  Does it also need to in our places of work or of leisure? Don't we also stifle creativity, strangle innovation, and diminish all joy, if we lose these vital connections within ourselves?

We are not free to be free-thinkers anymore. We are collectively imprisoned and confined to a very small thinking box consisting largely of active verbs and a hefty measure of numbers. What seems lacking in economic thinking is some evidence of any human virtues - particularly those that might be born of kindness or compassion. The pace at which we operate and move from thing to thing leaves little time to pause or to reflect. The application of Pace and Command leadership styles are also borrowed from the military. Are we, perhaps, causing ourselves greater harm, than greater good, with this militaristic economy of thought applied to the office and our business affairs?

Why would we want an economy of thought about anything we thought was important? Why not an abundance of thinking, expansive thinking, unlimited thinking? And particularly expansive for what is important? Are we so far removed from reality with our present way of thinking that the lost lively-hoods of millions of people now seems unimportant to all but those directly affected? Has our thinking “progressed” so that these hardworking mothers and fathers have merely become nameless and faceless "Ranks of the Unemployed"; our latest “casualties” of war? What is this new civil war and who’s on what side? And why?

Don't we all agree that unrestricted and thoughtful consideration, ensures a lesser likelihood that we have overlooked or disregarded relevant information (that might prove critical to our decisions) as we head on down these roads? Fail safe contingency plans, for example? How many things in life are really so important that the fast choice is better than the right choice, carefully considered, within a broader context? Is the entire world out there a battle-field where instant decisions spell the difference between life and death or are we simply thinking and acting “as if” they do? When should we stop pretending as if and collectively face some truths of the real world results of applying an economy of thought to all things?

Monday, August 2, 2010

Leadership: Fear and Uncertainty in the Headlines Today

We read a lot about fear these days. Fear of the growing deficit. Fear of new regulations. Fear of government interference. Fear of socialist policies. Each day we are introduced to something else that we should fear. Millions of unemployed Americans are told there are no new jobs being created in spite of renewed profitability because Business Leaders are fearful and uncertain. And we are told that the fears of these Leaders should be ours.

From the Main Street point of view, it seems only fitting, maybe karmic, that the perpetrators and perpetuators of widespread fear begin to taste the bitter fruits of their labors, as only they have enjoyed the sweet. Last week, during heated discussions surrounding 10 years of major Business tax cuts (that added billions to the deficit), news headlines across the country threatened that “The last thing we want is for the wealthy to feel fearful!“ Are the headlines true? Is that the last thing, or the first thing, that we want?

Fear is an emotional response to a perceived threat. Wikipedia describes fear as “ a basic survival mechanism occurring in response to a specific stimulus, such as pain or the threat of danger”. What is it that incites fear in the hearts of the wealthy – the millionaires and billionaires? How fearful could, or should, they be when they are sitting on $1.3 trillion dollars in profits to date (an amount that rivals our national deficit)? Are their fears surrounding deficits, new government regulations, an end to estate taxes, or an end to their last 10 years of tax cuts, threatening their personal survival? Definitely not.

Millions of Americans would love to tell these CEO’s and shareholders about the REAL feeling of fear . What it is to live moment to moment, hour by hour , with great uncertainty - about their ability to survive. Beginning with the day they lost their jobs and could not find another.

Fear , by biological design, is intended to be a very short term state, sending a powerful stream of signals to our brain, triggering a fight or flight response. Millions of Americans now live in a constant state of fear – an ongoing, never-ending, response to the struggle of the fight for their day to day survival. 4 million people in America lost their only source of income last June (UI) with another 50,000 more people added to their numbers every passing day – the long term unemployed.These numbers represent the previous wage earners(not dead-beats) for their families – mothers and fathers all across America, desperately trying to find ways to feed and shelter their children. Another 10 million previously hard-working Americans are barely scraping by, spending only on life’s necessities through a combination of Unemployment Insurance and the depletion of their life savings. Another 15 million people here find themselves under-employed – earning too much to be eligible for assistance but not enough to pay all their bills.

The real numbers of people affected by the loss of employment stretches far beyond the numbers of the Unemployed. If the average wage earner supports a family of 3, then the 4 million who were cut off from UI last June, has really left 12 million people facing the very real fears of homelessness and starvation.

Businesses have now amassed $1.3 trillion in profits. largely through cost-cutting measures. They appear to have no problem boasting about how they are increasing their incomes by reducing ours - through the conscious and deliberate elimination of the paychecks of millions of Americans.

Downsizing is no longer a necessary response to a poor economy as profits are being reported in billions of dollars and bonuses are paid in the millions. Yet downsizing continues with more planned for upcoming months. Essentially a sizable chunk of the current and projected profits and payouts, then, owe themselves to nothing more than the elimination of some persons, actually millions of persons, former paychecks – maybe our mothers, our brothers, our nieces, our friends or our neighbors . The suicide rate among the long-term unemployed is now reported as showing a 75% increase as more and more people continue to lose hope. Are we all OK with profits becoming just a new form of “blood money” ? Ironically, rather than feeling any shame or remorse concerning their strategies, these Business Leaders tout these lean, mean company machines as an example of the success of “strong Leadership”, one that their smaller competitors are soon likely to follow.

Over the last 10 years, Corporations have successfully slashed and outsourced workforces and have been handsomely rewarded with bulging corporate coffers and exceedingly decadent personal life styles. Officer and executive salaries jumped from 30 times to 300 times that of their average worker. 1500 times is not uncommon. (Whatever happened to piercing the Corporate veil/evil because a company was top-heavy? Is there anything but top-heavy anymore?)

But now the wealthy tell us they are fearful for tomorrow (not today) . They whine that the future is uncertain. They want Main Street to join them in repealing everything that’s new, everything that changes their present way of “doing business”. They sit on their fortunes because they say they are unclear about the direction our nation is moving. Somehow protecting their own asses and a trillion dollars in assets is viewed as the better choice between employing another million persons from the millions they unemployed. That’s the wealthy party line - even as they’re amassing billions more!

So why should our wealthy Business Leaders be spared feeling fear when millions of their former employees live in nothing but constant fear - 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, with no hope in sight? Our Business Leaders do not live in fear as Main Street lives in fear but it is clear that their assets are being threatened. They are threatened because the profits they show today are simply not sustainable and so their future is uncertain too.

A major difference between the wealthy and Main Street however, is that much of their uncertainty comes by their own hands and because of their own strategies. You can only cut a workforce so far before it becomes largely dysfunctional or non-functioning. Like it or not, Business Leaders need employees to run their businesses and we are nearing the end of the line on just how much further they can reduce personnel. Largely diminished quality control (Toyota), diminished attention to safety (BP), and a marked decline in B2B and customer service – (everywhere), are already showing symptoms of the quickened pace, shortened work hours, and the “double duty-nose to the grindstone” now expected from their remaining employees. Cost-cutting strategies are limited in what can be cut and how deeply it can be cut. The strategy of cutting costs to increase profits is only sustainable so long as cost-cutting actively continues. So, what is the next cost-cutting/profit making strategy? Continue to aggressively outsource jobs to foreign countries offering cheaper labor.

Main Street - do you really think these Business Leaders are going to give you back your jobs when you give them carte blanche to do only one thing (make profits) and to do it however they want?
Should we be terribly concerned about this small percentage of people who are, directly or indirectly, busy throwing people off company payrolls and exploiting the remaining workforce just so they can stockpile another trillion dollars in profits? Or should we listen to their self-serving fears and then cast our votes against whatever they favor? And in favor of whatever they fail to support ?