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Economic (301-320)

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Question: (E-301)
published in Jim Bracher's Integrity Matters newspaper column on August 8, 2007

Many resort to lies in effort to avoid the truth

Why do people lie?

Fear and arrogance motivate liars. Malicious-intent exists, but mostly among criminals. So, let’s focus on folks we encounter, almost daily.

Fear that the truth will upset or possibly even anger someone; run-of-the-mill fabricators color truth with lies. Wanting to sidestep the pain, prevaricators choose to “perfume the pig” by glossing over their disappointing performance, whether regarding a student grade card, quarterly business report or marital misbehavior.  Children do not want their privileges taken away any more than lying adults (or adulterers) want to face serious reprisals from those with whom they work and live. Measuring their responses to skirt the truth, they set themselves up for complicated days of reckoning, somewhere down the road.

“O, what a tattered web we weave, when first we practice to deceive!” Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832) Marmion.

Walter Isaacson’s Kissinger: A Biography suggests: “To withhold information and even allow a listener to be misled . . . comes close to the definition of deceit.”  Those who manipulate others with purposefully-structured inadequate information, and defend their actions, with:  “but you didn’t ask” are wolves in sheep’s clothing. Do business with these folks, only one time. In a more folksy tone; Kin Hubbard (1868 – 1930) – Abe Martin’s Sayings:  “The feller that agrees with everythin’ you say is either a fool or he is a gettin’ ready to skin you.” 

Arrogance encourages the parsing of words, fueling social and economic corruption.  Feeling, or at least acting superior to others, haughty egotists believe their lack of consistency, including truth-telling, follow-though and honoring commitments, will be forgotten, ignored or simply accepted.  Their real or perceived superiority complex, driven by wealth, education or some artificial social-claim, was well understood by 17th Century French author, Francois La Rochefoucauld: “What renders us so bitter against those who trick us is that they believe themselves to be [cleverer] than we are.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson, in 1841, wrote:  “Every violation of truth is not only a sort of suicide in the liar, but [also] is a stab at the health of human society.  In 1647, Baltasar Gracian, wrote in the Art of Worldly Wisdom: “A single lie destroys a whole reputation for integrity.”

More recently, horrible power-brokers, like Adolf Hitler, leveraged the impact of lies, having clearly understood:
”the great masses of the people . . . will more easily fall victims to a big lie than to a small one.” Mein Kampf, 1924. 

Physician, writer and poet, Oliver Wendell Holmes, 1858 offers insight: “Sin has many tools, but a lie is the handle which fits them all.”

Integrity requires relentless truth-telling; so, do your part.  Remember - graciousness is essential when presenting hard-truths.

Question: (E-302)
published in Jim Bracher's Integrity Matters newspaper column on July 25, 2007

Lawmakers should take lessons in civility

What has happened to civility?   July 15, 2007, on Tim Russert’s - Meet the Press – television program, Senators Lindsay Graham and Jim Webb erupted in abrasive arguments regarding the ongoing Iraq war.  Is the US Senate having a collective melt-down?

No, even though the public sees an increasing amount of un-civil behavior among some Senators and Members of the House of Representatives, it is too soon to conclude that civility is dead. However, politicians who justify playing the “gotcha’ game” – fueling partisan sniping with vicious personal attacks - should not be re-elected. 

Macho-bullying has “leap-frogged” from little boys on grade school playgrounds to corporate boardrooms and the hallowed halls of government, involving both men and women.  Mean-streets trash-talk has sullied Main Street. Gross four-letter words and filthy gestures, once the out-of-bounds-behaviors of the crude, criminal and uneducated are now exhibited – indiscriminately - by elected representatives, sports stars, corporate executives and even candidates for the highest of offices. Civility must be restored, everywhere.

Have some members of the upper-house of Congress, the traditional home of dignity, decorum and collegiality, sanctioned rudeness with their shrill behavior?  For some, yes; but for the majority, no!  Arrogant power-brokers willingly violate basic courtesies, promoting self-serving goals, using “litmus-tested” voter-securing sound-bites.  However, rationalizing rude responses is not unique to politics – just read the headlines. Until graciousness re-takes center stage; society is at risk of losing its soul. Competent leaders can disagree, even strongly, without resorting to personal attacks. 

Knowledgeable students of the political process are suggesting that the 2008 Presidential Election will be decided by voters in Ohio and Florida.  Assuming the Blue States stay blue and the Red States stay red, which is plausible – then the battle will be won in two “as-yet-undecided” states. If this turns out to be true, then is the multi-billion dollar Presidential campaign a charade for the voters in the other 48 states?

In spite of low approval ratings for the current President, members of Congress have earned even lower scores.  And, if history serves as any indicator,  perhaps 90% of those currently holding elected positions in the House and Senate will be re-elected; continuing the same stifling, strident, immobilizing behavior in Washington.  Gridlock will flourish while unrepentant, re-elected officials fiddle (with our future) while Rome burns (in pork-barrel legislation and ever-fatter rewards for the political-elite). What might motivate rude elected-representatives to be more civil?

Are you willing to make interpersonal integrity, including character and graciousness, a key factor in determining who gets your vote? Candidates repeatedly exhibiting inappropriate behavior (rude, crude or socially-unacceptable) should be defeated; encouraged to enter a no-nonsense “lockdown-rehab” facility that improves how they live and work with others. Integrity Matters!

Question: (E-303)
published in Jim Bracher's Integrity Matters newspaper column on August 1, 2007

Appropriate behavior rules start with No. 1

You recently criticized leaders, including elected officials, for not exhibiting civil behavior. What can be done to change the culture-wide slide into rudeness?

Look into the mirror and make sure appropriate behavior starts there.  When mistakes are made, apologize immediately, and commit, yet again, to doing better.  Some people say that we teach best what we most need to learn.  Therefore, just about everyone can teach graciousness, since it is too frequently lacking, just about everywhere.

Several years ago, a friend published a book, One Life at a Time: Making a World of Difference.  Ambassador Robert Seiple, formerly the CEO of World Vision, made the case that with millions of starving children, all over the globe, the place to start was one youngster at a time. His personal mission, and that of World Vision, was to “. . . assist 70 million people each year - to end poverty, fight hunger and transform lives.”  Bob, along with those who have followed in his footsteps, know that change occurs – very personally – with individuals and their circumstances.  As a consequence, his book illustrates how each live, are changed, one connection at a time.

And so it is with behavior.  Rudeness and other forms of violence will be reduced, if not eradicated, one life and one interaction at a time. 

When enough adults decide that our dysfunctional culture needs improvement – which will likely be decided only when the financial and emotional pain become intolerable.  Until then, it is important to remind others and ourselves that positive values emerge when individuals walk the talk.  Here are six recommendations: 

  • Be thoughtful - Time, words and opportunity - when squandered – are lost.  

  • Exercise self-control - Anger, pride and un-forgiveness destroy people.

  • Represent constructive values - Hope, peace and honesty create effective individuals.

  • Support others with attentive listening - Love of family and friends strengthens society.

  • Humility is never out-of-style - Fortune, success and dreams can be uncertain.
  • Do the right thing! - Commitment, sincerity and hard-work are hallmarks of integrity.

Don Adams, comedian-actor, starred in the weekly, short-lived Get Smart television program.  There was little to commend the show except for a few one-liners that captured the attention of folks over the age of 45.  More important than “missed it by that much” or “would you believe?” is his summary of the mission of CONTROL, the national security organization for which he worked.  Maxwell Smart’s sole purpose was to end the nastiness of the adversarial and evil organization called KAOS – by replacing bad behaviors with “niceness.”  Integrity, civility and “niceness” begin one person and one interaction at a time!

Question: (E-304)
published in Jim Bracher's Integrity Matters newspaper column on August 15, 2007

Don’t overlook value of failure

Is there one key to success that does not compromise integrity?

No, there are several, but, let’s focus on one: the value of failures.  The positive impact of failures rests solely with the individual who is able and willing to face disappointments, learning how to avoid repeating the same mistakes.  Those who deny personal or organizational failure by passing the buck or rationalizing poor performance seldom improve results.  Stuck in a cycle of self-congratulatory “voodoo” economics, they squander golden opportunities.  Motivated and talented employees exit while they thrash-about until they run out of money or opportunity, or both.  Success is not for the inattentive. 

For alert individuals, eager to learn from potentially-devastating mistakes: 

  1. Failure teaches humility – critical for working well with colleagues. Learning how to live with disappointment, one’s own and the short-comings of others, can pave the way for strengthening personal and organizational impact through supportive communications.
  2. Failure identifies flaws in any number of strategic business functions.
  3. Failure encourages listening to external counsel regarding more effective ways to:
    • Plan
    • Organize
    • Staff
    • Direct – and,
    • Control
  1. Failure builds relationships with others who have faced their own disasters, having overcome adversities, to become even more effective (and successful) because of them.

Transforming failure into success was illustrated by my friend, The Rt. Reverend William E. Swing, retired Episcopal Bishop, San Francisco, California, during his Baccalaureate Address, at Stanford University, on June 16, 2007.

Over a quarter of a century ago, I received an honorary doctorate from Kenyon College, my alma mater. Three people were invited to return to campus for a couple of days – to teach classes, meet students and faculties, and to receive hoods at an honors assembly. I was one. The head of the Peace Corps was the second. And the third was Jonathan Winters, the comedian.

On the night before the big event, we were talking over dinner, and I said, ‘I don’t know about you guys, but I’m kind of embarrassed about walking up on that stage tomorrow. I wasn’t a good student. As a matter of fact, the faculty encouraged me not to return after my second year.’

One of the leaders of the Peace Corps, Kevin O’Donnell, said, ‘I’m glad you said that. I only lasted one year at Kenyon.’

Jonathan Winters said, ‘I’m glad you guys said that. They kicked me out in February of my first year.’

We looked at each other in wonder. Of all the students who were straight A’s in Math, or English, or Political Science, why did they invite three dummies to return? So we spent some time pondering that mystery. Why were we there? Actually we came up with two thoughts.

One! Isn’t it great to fail when you are 19-years old in front of your parents, peers and professors, and then discover that life goes on, that the sun comes up again, that there is much more ahead of you? Some people don’t conspicuously fail until they are 45 years old, and it devastates them. That’s what I want to tell you graduates. Fail early and get it all over with! If you learn to deal with failure, you can raise teenagers, you can abide in intimate relationships, and you can have a worthwhile career. You learn to breathe again when you embrace failure as a part of life, not as the determining moment of life.

There was a second learning that the three of us thought was worth knowing. We commented on how great to spend a lifetime working firsthand on one’s own passion, rather than working secondhand or third hand on somebody else's.  Whether comedy, faith or youthful idealism - whatever, be an apprentice in something that beckons your heart to pursue with endless fascination. None of us was an expert in many things, but all three of us were passionate about one unique thing. My advice to you is to stay with things that draw you like a magnet. Trust your DNA. Pay attention to your daydreams.”

Failure becomes a stepping stone to success for those who are alert and receptive.

 Question: (E-305)
published in Jim Bracher's Integrity Matters newspaper column on August 22, 2007.

It requires good planning to make your retirement a creative transition 

What is the “right” way to retire?

If by retirement, one means:  “to give up or withdraw from an office, occupation or career, usually because of age” – then those retiring will respond in a certain way.  They are tired, worn out and ready for a break from “the routine” - away from stressful people, organizations and activities.  And, after so many years on the merry-go-round, why not!  Wanting time to rest, heal or simply adjust to the unknown aspects of retirement, many choose to withdraw from the “grind” – even if it was pleasant and rewarding, waiting for the “right” signal to re-enter the fray.

Choosing to pronounce the term in a hyphenated way, emphasizing the “re” of re-tire; other retiree’s think of themselves as race cars, stopping for a brief pit-stop at age 60-something, to acquire fresh wheels, additional fuel and a cool drink, so that they might get out on the track again.  No longer driving at breakneck speeds, yet still eager to discover what four new tires will do for their outlook, especially as they think about ways to capitalize on their decades of experience, they are ready to “re-invent” their careers.  Embracing new activities, they pursue additional learning and acquire new skills. 

Health, energy, economic circumstances and opportunities impact how individuals choose to live out the “golden” years, but one thing is clear:  attitude determines not only altitude, but also vitality and life-expectancy.  If age is a state of mind, then the wise elect to “burn-out” instead of simply “rust-out.” 

Retirement from work affords creative transition for those who plan ahead.  There comes a time when everyone must step aside, allowing the next generation to shoulder additional responsibilities.  The passing of the baton can be smooth or unpleasant depending upon the substantive succession planning of the “retiring” generation.  It is not if it will happen, rather, it is about how effectively retirement will be managed.  Proper prior planning prevents pathetically poor performance in and around retirement.

Constructive retirement can take many forms; leveraging well-developed skills, contributing to society, while minimizing feelings of isolation and/or irrelevance.  :

  1. Learn to communicate in a new language and serve as an interpreter.
  2. Read to young children, at home and in and through schools and libraries.
  3. Write your autobiography, and share it with family members and friends.
  4. Submit your thoughts, in writing, to newspapers, magazines, and elected officials.
  5. Teach others what you know and love:  dancing, singing, cleaning, speaking, sports, photography, gardening, sewing, hunting, stamp and coin collecting, bird watching, and the list goes on. 

Re-tire by taking more spins around the track; continuing your positive impact; as long as possible.

Graciousness is first step toward integrity
published in Jim Bracher's Integrity Matters newspaper column on September 5, 2007.

Question: (E-306)
Where is integrity displayed?

The overwhelming majority of people, imperfect as they might be, still live with integrity. They rear responsible children, do their jobs with enthusiasm and serve their communities while passing on positive values to those with whom they come in contact.

Why all the fuss about a minority of egotists, hedonists, slackers and hackers who make things worse for the majority?  Negative stories sell newspapers and excite loyal viewers. 

In contrast, appropriate behavior strengthens society!  Case in point: a powerful, second-generation CEO of a large regional bank, a “would-be” hypnotist and hundreds of semi-regular church-goers in Terre Haute, Indiana.  Their purpose was to raise money for a worthy cause.  As some of you know, prior to founding Dimension Five Consultants, our executive effectiveness firm, nearly 28 years ago; my career centered in church leadership, as an ordained clergyman. 

So, picture it: a fund-raising dinner in the ballroom of a local hotel with hundreds eager to enjoy an “in-house” talent show.  The entertainment ran the spectrum:  singing, instrumental music, a magic show and the “center-ring” extravaganza: a hypnotist.  Everything was going smoothly until the main act – the hypnotist - began to flop. 

One after another of the volunteers were asked to leave the stage, having failed to succumb to the “spell” of the hypnotist.  Failed hypnosis candidates returned to their seats and anxiety crept in.  What if our “star” didn’t work out?  The damages could be serious.  But, “graciousness” and “courage” emerged in the tall, reserved, dignified, very proper and private banker, who stood up, walked to the stage and waited his turn to be hypnotized.

His unusual “front-and-center” position brought a hush to the proceedings. Under the spell of our hypnotist, the banker, John N. Royse, told funny stories from his childhood, some of which made him the butt of jokes.  The audience roared with laughter, and our evening was a success.  And, John returned to his seat, red faced with embarrassment.

Not until last week, 32 years after his being hypnotized, while visiting the Midwest, had John and I ever discussed the evening.  But, one nagging question remained.  Did John place the dignity of another individual and the success of a church event above his own ego?  So, I asked him:  “John, did you “take one” for the team that night with the hypnotist?”  “Well,” he said, “they thought I was hypnotized, didn’t they?  Shouldn’t that be enough?” 

Only two words seemed appropriate:  Thank You.  Graciously and humbly, John Royse had salvaged the dignity of another human being while supporting his church’s fund-raising event; never once asking for recognition.

Integrity is exhibited in many ways and placing others first, graciously, is often step one.


Pay child support or no passport
published in Jim Bracher's Integrity Matters newspaper column on September 12, 2007

Question: (E-307)
Do you support the U S Passport’s decision to deny travel to those who are in arrears on child support?

Yes. How great that our government is taking action to protect those who cannot protect themselves?  Criticizing legislative regulations, often overly-complex, is easy.  But, praising the system is also appropriate when positive results occur as a consequence of thoughtful and powerful regulations.  The Passport Denial Program is making a culture-affirming difference.

According to Kevin Freking, writing for the Associated Press, “The price of a passport [became] $311,491 in back child support payments for a U.S. businessman now living in China.”  “The new passport requirements that have complicated travel this summer also have uncovered untold numbers of child support scofflaws and forced them to pay millions.  The State Department denies passports to non-custodial parents who owe more than $2,500 in child support.  Once the parents make good on their debts, they can reapply for passports. Now that millions of additional travelers need passports to fly back and forth from Mexico, Canada, the Caribbean and South America, collections under the Passport Denial Program are on pace to about double this year.”
Again, from Feking’s article: “In one case last year, a man got his parents to pay his overdue child support of $50,498 to the state of Illinois.”

Further, “[It’s] been amazing  to see how people who owe back child support are able to come up with good chunks of money when it involves needing their passports, said Adolfo Capestany, spokesman for the state of Washington’s Division of Child Support.”

Deadbeats must be made to pay child support.  Fortunately, our democratic process has discovered an effective method for enforcing integrity. Officers of the court can demand “child-support” compliance, but according to my sources, regarding implementation and follow-up, there remains more work to make the collection process effective. 

Integrity, as it relates to family responsibilities, including child support, is non-negotiable.  Several of our Eight Attributes of an Integrity-Centered organization apply:

  • CHARACTER: consistency between word and deed.
    Are parents exhibiting congruence between what they say and what they do, as well as what they say about what they did? Are parents paying child-support in a timely way?
  • HONESTY: truthful communication.
    Do you have confidence that these parents would never engage in or sanction misrepresentation?
  • OPENNESS: operational transparency.
    Is appropriate information about finances readily available so that families are protected, financially?
  • PARTNERSHIP: honor obligations.
    Do all parties involved pride themselves on timely fulfillment of all commitments, including child-support payments?

Because family is the foundation of healthy societies; it is important to replace financially- irresponsible parenting, that destabilizes that building block, with integrity. 

Teacher committed to excellence
published in Jim Bracher's Integrity Matters newspaper column on August 29, 2007.

Question: (E-308)
What makes certain teachers effective with students and parents?

One answer came from a parent, from one of the suburbs, in Missouri, just outside St. Louis.  This story was related to me by a very happy and appreciative parent.  

When asked what made her daughter’s public school, fifth-grade teacher, Mr. Chris Chisholm, such an outstanding educator; she offered the following description of what he had provided to all students in his classroom: 

  1. His commitment to engage and consider the needs of each of his students as individuals. This was true of his concern for our daughter, Chaney, before he had even met her. Because of our mid-year relocation from Colorado to Missouri, she began school at Henry Elementary in early November.  Adding a new student required adding a new desk.  All the desks in the classroom were dark brown. The only desks left to add to the class were a light wood color. Rather than have a new student have the only desk that was a different color, our daughter’s teacher swapped out a half dozen or so of the desks in his classroom so that Chaney’s desk would not stand out.  Thoughtful and gracious, her entry was made a little easier.
  1. Mr. Chisholm is an avid reader and desires to pass that passion onto his students. To this end, he created reading lists for his students. The lists contained a couple of dozen suggested books, fiction and non-fiction, from various genres of literature (biography, fiction, non-fiction, poetry). What was remarkable, however, was that each list was unique. Most of the books on the list were at the student’s current reading level, but each list also suggested a few challenge books.  Even more impressive was that each list was tailored to the interests he had observed in the student for whom it was created. I can’t imagine the amount of time and effort he must have put into this project. And yet he made the time in spite of having a new baby and a 3-year old.  Commitment to excellence is another of his attributes.
  1. His report card comments also reflected how carefully he observed each student’s progress. Far from the “good work in math” or “making progress in reading” his comments were detailed and creative. The first report used an analogy of a phoenix to describe Chaney’s progress. (Chaney has become like the phoenix of our classroom burning so bright with effort and desire that everyone has begun to notice. Of course, unlike the phoenix, I do not expect Chaney to burn out any time soon…). Encouragement comes from legitimate, positive and realistic observations – including expectations.
  1. This creative and fun twist to what can often be dry and rote comments reflects one of his great strengths. His teaching is playful. He shows his respect for his role of teacher by wearing a tie each day. However, the ties he wears are bright, colorful and often sport various cartoon and movie characters. The girls competed to see who would get to select the tie he wore each day. When the class was training in PE for their required one mile run, he joined them. He would “confiscate” items left out or in the wrong place. The next day, boys would discover their items had been placed in the girls’ restroom and vice versa. The only way to get them back was to get a class member of the opposite gender (horrors!) to retrieve it for you. Class resources left out were placed out of circulation on a specific shelf (the students spent a good part of their last day returning these items to their proper place in the classroom). Respect and relationships often grow with mutual support and the pursuit of common objectives.
  1. Quick math was his creation to help the students to learn their basic math facts. It was a big day the first time Chaney completed all 28 additions, subtraction and multiplication equations in the one minute time limit!  Extra recess was won when the students defeated the teacher in a math version of 20 questions. At the same that student were learning a great deal, they had a great time in the process. Creating a climate of supportive competition enhances team spirit, while simultaneously facilitating increased speed and confidence in problem-solving
  1. Chris Chisholm also helps students to grow as responsible, thoughtful people.  For him, it is true that “integrity matters” all the time. In an era where there is so much pressure on teachers to teach to standardized exams, he is unwilling to limit his vision for his students to their Missouri Assessment Program (MAP) scores. My favorite example of this commitment was his Christmas break assignment. Chaney came home from school with three sealed envelopes with a date on the outside. She was very excited to discover what was in the envelopes even though “she was sure that it was homework.” And indeed, two of the three envelopes did contain homework assignments.
  • The first envelope, dated the first day of break, presented each student with a challenge. He acknowledged that he didn’t know how long the assignment would take because it would depend on what the student chose to do, but over the break he asked each student to think of something they could do that would make them a better person and then to write a page about the experience.
  • The second envelope was dated January 1. The students were asked to reflect on what they had accomplished thus far during the school year and consider their goals for the remainder of the year.
  • The last envelope, dated for the day they were to return to class, was a personal letter. He wrote a note to each one of his students, telling them what he appreciated about them, strengths he recognized in them, and what he hoped for them for the rest of the school year.
  1. That was not the only letter (always hand written) that Chris Chisholm wrote to Chaney. Periodically through the year she would find personal notes of encouragement left in her agenda. She received two thank you notes during the following summer acknowledging an gift certificate given to him as an end of the year gift from our family. The first was a thank you. The second told her how he had used the gift. He also wrote about his lifelong fascination with China and how he hoped that she would share some of her experience from our family’s summer trip to China. And his commitment to his students didn’t end when the school year ended. Right before this current school began there came yet another note. He wrote:

Dear Chaney,
Only two weeks of summer left, huh? It seems like all this time went pretty fast, though it was about 10 weeks. Think of all we could have done in school during that time!  I hope you had a great trip, as I am sure you did. I’d love to see some pictures when we return to school. Maybe your new teacher, whoever that may be, will let you stop by for a visit or two. I know you will have another great year at Henry School – in great part thanks to your great attitude and effort, as well as your willingness to always do the right thing.
Have a great year,
Mr. Chisholm

I am deeply grateful that our daughter, Chaney, had the experience of a teacher who was as dedicated, talented and creative as Chris Chisholm. Not only did she receive a strong academic foundation for future learning, she also grew in inter- and intra-personal skills that will help develop into a strong, thoughtful and responsible young woman. Continuous improvement is frequently a by-product of those who are engaged in the same process of continuous improvement themselves.

I hope that these reflections were what you had in mind. I did ask Chris’ permission to write about him to you. He was pleased and willing to grant his permission.  Thank you for you interest in his story. He has made, and continues to make, a difference in our lives.
Excellence and positive impact in education, and in lots of other places, is about preparation, dedication and genuine concern for others. 

There's nothing wrong with 'Average Joe' tag
published in Jim Bracher's Integrity Matters newspaper column on October 3, 2007

Question: (E-309)
Certain political leaders, celebrities and other power-brokers, like bankers and wealth managers, condescendingly call the great majority – at least in the United States -“everyday” and  “little” people.  I do not think of myself in this way.  Talk shows and news programs reference “common” people and the “average” American.  But, who wants to be one of them? 

I do!

Being neither royalty nor slave; I am middle class. Cultural distinctions started with Cain and Abel and the “club” mentality continues. Unfortunately, cliques judge and ostracize others, leveraging differences - social, political, economic, cultural, racial and even religious.  However, in the United States, my “middle-class-ness” probably places me along side the vast majority of folks who have earned their way to whatever level of success they enjoy. Being healthy, energetic, educated, alert, hard-working and involved with and for others – my demographics place me in the mainstream – at least in the USA; not necessarily prominent, but certainly important.

Beginning at age 13, my “work-for-pay” included: newspaper delivery, fast food, grocery store, cleaning crews, school bus driver, assembly line, fork-lift operator, shipping clerk and administrative assistant.  Each job taught me to respect the hard work of others.  My “money-making” assignments assured me that I was definitely – everyday, little and average.  At least, that is what some callous and self-obsessed individuals communicated, appearing to look “down their noses” at my humble labor.  Even worse are those with “invisible” jobs, especially evident to employees who escort individuals using wheel chairs in airports and hospitals. 

Thankfully, snob-like insensitivity taught me the value of taking time with others, in all walks of life, getting to know about them, confirming their importance.  To strengthen society, including those in the workplace; you can:

  1. learn how others spend their time when they are otherwise engaged, and not driving a taxi, shining shoes, bussing tables, picking up trash, cleaning homes and offices, holding a flag along a highway construction project, unclogging a water pipe, carrying a golf bag, serving coffee, writing a speeding ticket, putting out a fire, driving an ambulance, - and the list goes on;
  2. acknowledge the worth and dignity of services provided by offering thanks for assistance in locating illusive items - especially at groceries and pharmacies; and,
  3. motivate others by passing along the good will you might have received earlier in your life; sometimes countering discouraging comments, which you successfully overcame to become the person you are today.

From Oliver Goldsmith’s The Deserted Village:  “But a bold peasantry (read: middle class), their country's pride - when once destroyed, can never be supplied.”  The middle class, with its integrity, is the foundation of any healthy society, with or without being prominent.

'Wooden bowl' model shows that actions speak louder than words
published in Jim Bracher's Integrity Matters newspaper column on October 10, 2007

Question: (E-310)
What is an “integrity-centered” way to treat elderly parents?

My response was shaped by this anonymously-written “wooden bowl” illustration.

A frail old man went to live with his son, daughter-in-law, and four-year old grandson. However, the elderly grandfather's shaky hands and failing sight made eating difficult. Peas rolled off his spoon onto the floor. He frequently spilled milk on the tablecloth. Irritated with the mess; the son and daughter-in-law decided to do something about father because they’d had enough of his spilled milk, noisy eating, and food on the floor.

So the husband and wife set a small table in the corner. There, the grandfather ate alone while the rest of the family enjoyed dinner, together. Since Grandfather had broken a dish or two, his food was now being served in a wooden bowl.

When family members glanced in Grandfather's direction, sometimes he had a tear in his eye as he sat alone. Still, the only words the couple had for him were sharp admonitions when he dropped a fork or spilled food.

Their four-year-old watched it all in silence. One evening before supper, the father noticed his son playing with wood scraps on the floor; asking, "So, what are you making?" The son said, "Oh, I am making a little bowl for you and Mama to eat your food when I grow up."

The parents were speechless. Tears streamed down their cheeks. Though no word was spoken, both knew what must be done. That evening the husband took Grandfather's hand; leading him back to the family table. For the remainder of his days he ate every meal with the family. And for some reason, neither husband nor wife seemed to care any longer when a fork was dropped, milk spilled, or the tablecloth soiled.

Human beings tell others a lot about themselves by how they handle many things; including: rainy days, the elderly, lost luggage, crying children, a poor golf shot, rude service people and tangled Christmas tree lights.

Every day offers opportunities to reach out, including to the elderly.  And one of the most important forms of outreach begins with listening, seeking to understand and support other people – often when they are least able to help themselves; including aging parents.

People love that human touch, especially genuine recognition and appreciation.

What we do speaks louder, and more powerfully, than what we say.  Great wisdom says to “preach positive values, using words only if you must.”

Current and future generations emulate what they see in the ways adults treat others. Bottom line: good things happen to good people who do good deeds, demonstrating that integrity is contagious – and this includes the treatment of elderly parents.

Apply the rules to spying coach
published in Jim Bracher's Integrity Matters newspaper column on September 19, 2007

Question: (E-311)
On Sunday, September 9, 2007, a member of the professional football world, National Football League (NFL), the New England Patriots organization, was caught shooting video of the New York Jets' bench as the team sent in defensive signals. NFL security confiscated the video camera and videotape, and shipped it to Commissioner Roger Goodell, who, in turn, invited Patriots head coach Bill Belichick to New York to discuss the situation. Goodell concluded the Patriots violated rules about which all teams had specifically been warned.
This leaves a cloud hanging over what the New England Patriots franchise has accomplished in recent years, including a nasty stain on this century's first professional football dynasty. Was Coach Belichick a genius or was he operating on an unfair playing field?  What is your response to the costly cheating penalties handed out by the NFL Commissioner?  New England Patriots’ Coach Bill Belichick was required to pay $500,000 for his violations and the team even more money.

If I were NFL Commissioner, my actions would be shaped by my knowledge of golf – where - if you engage in cheating, even when you “blow-the-whistle” on yourself, you are disqualified, immediately.  In the case of the New England Patriots’ clear violation of league rules – the consequences must be clear:  loss of game.  End of discussion.

Instead, the Commissioner’s response was to assess a seemingly expensive fine – that turns out to be little more than a financial speed-bump in the multi-billion dollar professional sports world.  This slap on the wrists is unlikely to discourage dishonesty.  In the modified words of former United States Senator from Illinois, Everett Dirksen “. . . a million here and million there, pretty soon it adds up to real money.”  However, an inconsequential fine – at least for very rich sports franchises - sends a negative, integrity-eroding message to fans, including impressionable children:  “If you can do the time, then feel free to commit the crime.”

Translation: if you can afford the fine, then “go-ahead” and cross the line!  Consequences are secondary, in greed-driven societies, where winner takes all, re-confirming that “the end justifies the means” – and that integrity becomes little more than a catch-phrase for suckers.

Unfortunately, both the actions of the Patriots and the response of the Commissioner confirm what too many cynics have already concluded:  “It is not how you play the game, but only that you win.” 

Please, Commissioner Goodell, re-think your position and implement behavior-changing consequences for rules violations.  Convicted cheaters cannot be allowed to simply look the other way; “winking” at rules of fair play. Society desperately needs positive role models and adults are responsible for setting and enforcing positive standards – with integrity.

You can learn a lot from dogs, Yogi
published in Jim Bracher's Integrity Matters newspaper column on October 17, 2007

Question: (E-312)
Where does one learn about integrity?

Everywhere and any time individuals pay attention.  Here are two examples: wisdom from the behavior of dogs and insights from retired baseball professional – player and coach – Yogi Berra.

Dogs know that –

  • When loved ones come home, they run to greet them.
  • When others are having a bad day, they remain quiet, sit close and nuzzle gently. 
  • If what they want lies buried, they dig until they find it.
  • Dogs are loyal; never pretending to be something they are not.
  • They avoid biting, when a simple growl will do.
  • They stretch when they rise, and they take naps.
  • Dogs let others know when their territory has been invaded.
  • No matter how often they are scolded, they do not buy into the guilt thing or pout. Rather, they run right back and make friends.
  • They thrive on attention, allowing others to touch them.

Hall of Fame catcher, Yogi Berra, also provides dog-like wisdom: "You can observe a lot just by watching." Dogs get that, and so should we.

Berra said:  “When you come to fork in the road, take it.”  And he probably meant: have the courage to choose, move on and live with the consequences.  He is also remembered for uttering the seemingly contradictory phrase: “Good pitching will beat good hitting and vice-versa.”  Use the best you have; expecting that when it is your turn, you will prevail.  Sometimes you get the bear and at other times, the bear gets you. 

One of my personal favorites, perhaps because it reassures me that my ability to get lost in a telephone booth is not unique, refers to proper planning:  "I knew I was going to take the wrong train, so I left early."  Expect delays and surprises, even mistakes, and plan accordingly. "Baseball is 90% mental -- the other half is physical.”  Which means:  you need to have your head in the game, with the right attitude, and then be confident that even though others might be stronger, with more talent, you can still prevail.
On the subject of listening, really taking the time to engage with others, he said: "It was impossible to get a conversation going; everybody was talking too much."  Families and friends would be better for one another if they listened more than they talked.

About taking things too personally, and not being able to separate on-field performance from who someone is, he offered this:  "Slump? I ain't in no slump. I just ain't hitting."

Dogs and Yogi – simple and straightforward – are clear – remain focused on others; winning respect, gaining power and earning success.

Ride with police officer opens eyes
published in Jim Bracher's Integrity Matters newspaper column on September 26, 2007
Question: (E-313)
What follows is a personal story, about my “Ride-Along” with the Salinas Police – on September 11, 2007.  Learning about the work of multi-tasking peace officers, their real-time computer links along side radio communication, collaborative efforts with colleagues, mutual support and respect and most of all their professionalism – confirms, clearly, the service-excellence of public servants.

The calm confidence of Officer Adam Shaffer and his colleagues made a powerful statement creating a reassuring environment, as I rode along; accompanying an officer in multiple situations.   Training excellence and professional preparation were evident; enabling officers to effectively and efficiently address issues on the streets of Salinas. For those of us who are “laypeople” – having minimum contact with the world peace officers monitor – those who are serial lawbreakers and live with a violence that destroys individuals, property and society - seeing a small sampling of what these law enforcement professionals face, all the time, is a healthy reminder to appreciate the work of peace officers.

Because of being able to shadow an officer, in various situations including domestic violence, self-destructive acts, drug abuse and those who cause chaos in neighborhoods, I was reminded of the intensity of police work.  What stood out for me, after reflecting on the events of the evening was just how quickly, and without warning, officers can be called into harm’s way. Eye-opening was Officer Shaffer’s description of the evening as basically: quiet.  Even so, when a handcuffed individual, on his way to County Jail, in the backseat of Officer Shaffer’s vehicle, was asked where he lived and he said, “transient” followed by who to contact in case of an emergency, he responded, “no one” – it was clear that life, for those our police encounter, is a far cry from what should and could be the basis for living.  How tragic!

When citizens pay more attention to their behaviors, in cars, at home and in all public places, and operate within the law, then even more time is available for peace officers to address the social ills that plague our society.  When individuals, who are not routinely arrested for improper behaviors, practice even more self-control, then already-strained tax dollars, carefully allocated for crime reduction, can be more constructively deployed.  And, that includes time for peace officers to build relationships in all neighborhoods, with everyone, beginning with children.

Thank you, Officer Shaffer, for exhibiting the utmost in professionalism and commitment to excellence and to Salinas Police Chief Daniel Ortega, for allowing me to Ride-Along and experience, first-hand, the positive difference peace officers make. To protect and to serve – the mission of law enforcement – is always about social, economic and cultural integrity – for everyone.

Watch out for boss with the big ego
published in Jim Bracher's Integrity Matters newspaper column on October 31, 2007

Question: (E-314)
When does the dynamic ego of the leader become destructive?  Asked differently, can a boss be too charismatic?

Yes! One of my mentors said that a man’s ego is his most expensive attribute.  He was careful not to say the same about women.  Regardless and no matter who you are, male or female, over-the-top self-centeredness is or will be very costly.

Those with the “dynamic” ego demand lock-step loyalty, creating fear, uncertainty and doubt, discouraging independence, while destroying initiative.  Phrases like “my way or the highway” are easily wrapped into their operating principles, confirming the deep-seated insecurity of these electric personalities. Their dynamic approach causes rapid change – which can be simultaneously both constructive and destructive. 

So, how is one to identify these overly-charismatic before they harm you?

Domineering individuals, control-freaks, work-a-holics, perfectionists, over-achievers – those who attract and motivate others – even for positive reasons – risk long-term failure, damage innocent by-standers, and organizations, along the way.  They create, all too often, “burn-out” for themselves and those who support them.  Their vibrant personalities generate activity – much like a whirling dervish – exhausting all but the strongest-of-the-strong.

To avoid charismatic chaos – whether you are hiring a manager or seeking to work with or for someone, be on the look out for certain tell-tale signs of the “big” ego.  These dynamic-types will often -

  • Use “I” and not “we” in how they speak and write.  They are essentially – “I, me and my” people, because, in their minds, life is about them, not the team. 
  • Focus on “battle” language in describing conflict resolution, in contrast to seeking clarity and building consensus.  Life is about win-lose versus win-win.
  • Describe past accomplishments in terms of their impact and not the efforts and insights of those with whom they worked.  They prefer being in the limelight; seldom sharing it – unless it relates to blame.
  • Seek “yes” people - regardless of what they say about wanting others to be direct - and confirm same by their “negative-speak” regarding suppliers, competitors and customers. If, in the interview, they speak more than 40% of the time, are routinely sarcastic or negative about others, then they are very unlikely to be superior listeners or excellent leaders.

When you perceive that the person you are interviewing is self-centered pattern, strongly consider ending the conversation.  Look elsewhere – if possible.  You will be better off working with those who are “wired” in more positive “team-centered” ways.

Effective “integrity-centered” leaders recognize and reward the contributions of others with gracious encouragement.  Not only do they praise publicly and criticize privately; but also they immediately own organizational failures personally and give credit and praise to others for successes.

Final lecture creates lasting legacy
published in Jim Bracher's Integrity Matters newspaper column on October 24, 2007

Question: (E-315)
If you knew you only had one more opportunity to pass along important values, such as integrity, what would you say? And, when would you say it?

The answer varies, from person to person.  However, in Jeffrey Zaslow’s Wall Street Journal story, about Carnegie Mellon computer-science professor Randy Pausch, the question isn't rhetorical.  Dr. Pausch, the 46-year-old father of three, has pancreatic cancer and expects to live for just a few months.

In addition to displaying his own integrity in front of 400 students and colleagues, his “final lecture” has created a permanent legacy for his three young children, ages 5, 2 and 1.  Here are some of Dr. Pausch’s “most important” thoughts -

  • Recall your childhood dreams.  His were to win giant stuffed animals at carnivals, walk in zero gravity, design Disney rides and write a World Book entry.  His suggestion was to determine how many you were able to experience.
  • Pay tribute to your background, which in his case was “as a techie.” Honor your history.
  • Reflect on the setbacks, remembering that: "Brick walls are there for a reason. They let us prove how badly we want things."
  • Be patient with others. "Wait long enough, and people will surprise and impress you."
  • After showing photos of his childhood bedroom, decorated with mathematical notations he'd drawn on the walls, he said: "If your kids want to paint their bedrooms, as a favor to me, let 'em do it."
  • He saluted his parents, who let him make his childhood bedroom his domain, even if his wall etchings hurt the home's resale value. He knew his mom was proud of him when he got his Ph.D, despite how she'd introduce him: "This is my son. He's a doctor, but not the kind who helps people.”
  • While displaying photos of his bosses and students over the years, he said that helping others fulfill their dreams is even more fun than achieving your own.
  • Considered one of the nation's foremost teachers of videogame and virtual-reality technology, Dr. Pausch helped develop "Alice," a Carnegie Mellon software project that allows people to easily create 3-D animations. It had one million downloads in the past year, and usage is expected to soar.

If the world were to end tomorrow, at Noon, who would you contact and what would you say?  Because life itself is always uncertain, why wait any longer to tell “your” special people that you care about them.  Obviously your purpose is to pass along your wisdom, intended to help them to live more productively and positively.  Think about your “final lecture” and share it soon. Why not now?

Take a page from the Playbook of the Giants
published in Jim Bracher's Integrity Matters newspaper column on November 7, 2007

Question: (E-316)
Can a strategy for winning embrace integrity?

Yes, and many organizations, public and private, depend upon doing the right things, for the right reasons – and they succeed.  One professional football organization, the New York Giants, offers constructive behaviors for mature, effective and responsible adults.  Intending no singular credit to one team over another, here is what the New York Giants place in front of their players and coaches, inside their locker room:  Blame no one!  Expect nothing!  Do something!

Blame no one!  Effectiveness and impact are the responsibility of individuals, one at a time.  Accountability is personal.  When things go well, just about everyone wants credit and praise.  Those who consistently test the wind to see which way it is blowing, before they offer an opinion or decide to back and idea, choosing only later to jump on board, can be called fair-weather friends and part of the bandwagon crowd. Their fear of failure, painstakingly analytical methods, and even their lack of courage, confirm that they are, essentially, reluctant heroes, seldom taking chances.  However, in contrast, the “wing-walkers” – those who appear to throw caution to the wind – others delight in little study of risks, rejecting the more scientific, analytical approach.  Their zeal can save time, energy and money – or create expensive disasters.  Wise and successful decision-makers know their limitations; proceed with vigor, refusing to blame anyone, regardless of the consequences.

Expect nothing!  Winners go about their jobs, at just about any level, perform at the highest levels, and enjoy the fulfillment that comes – from within, not depending upon approval, awards or recognition from others.  If the accolades come, they graciously acknowledge them, but avoid becoming addicted to the self-defeating process of gratification-dependence.  When praise and recognition are offered, smile and say thank you

Do something!  Find a need and fill it.  Reach out.  Encourage others. Listen.  Refuse to lose.  Take the high road.  Clean the sidewalk. Clean the carpet. Pick up the broken pieces.  Help others back on their feet. But, no matter what, don’t stay on the sidelines and whine. Remain positive. Keep a healthy distance from those who stew, bicker and backbite; remembering that they are like Hollywood critics; who are never recipients of the ultimate award – Oscar.

Doing the right things, for the right reasons, in the right ways – these are the right rules to teach, by example – in conversations, during competition and in the midst of conducting capitalistic commerce.  Trustworthy leaders attract followers and win.

As my mother often repeated: play nicely with others. Genuine integrity involves treating others as they would want and need to be treated –both personally and professionally – all the time. And, yes, nice folks do finish first!

Be at your best, kindest – anyway
published in Jim Bracher's Integrity Matters newspaper column on November 14, 2007

Question: (E-317)
How ought leaders behave in hard times to gain success?

There are two schools of thought in this area:  ruthlessness versus respect.

Allow me to make the case for each – first, ruthlessness.

A brutal operating style is, for many, the “new” admonition managers employed by the “macho” private equity firms.  In the November 5 issue of Business Week, the counsel is ruthless:  “Only the most tenacious executives can survive private equity’s rigors.  Steven Kaplan, a professor of finance and entrepreneurship at the University of Chicago’s Graduate School of Business, studied 150 private equity CEO’s, based on assessments from a leading recruiter, Geoffrey Smart, confirming that CEO’s who bring ‘hard’ qualities such as aggressiveness, persistence, insistence on high standards, and the ability to hold people accountable are significantly more likely to succeed.  Those who offer primarily ‘soft’ skills that are often effective at public companies – like listening, developing talent, being open to criticism, and treating people with respect – are unlikely to work out. Successful private equity CEO’s are cheetahs.”

Top level performance standards are demanding and uncompromising.  Profits and not people are  often the focus.  Unfortunately, what is being proclaimed as the effective way to operate, in these early years of the 21st Century may be an early warning of what might become the acceptable, even preferred operating system that will be required in other business activities – extending into the public sector.  Fulfilled promises, commitments, underscore that performance is key – regardless of the human toll.

Short-term forcefulness, combined with interpersonal insensitivity, is being proclaimed as the right way to generate monthly and quarterly returns, whilef burning out “expendable” colleagues; risking longer-term organizational viability.

In contrast, others who have created successful track records profess that respect, strengthening relationships, is a key to building and sustaining productive organizations – in both public and private sectors. These “old-fashioned” thinkers understand that graciousness is the best policy, in the context of integrity-centered leadership.  They know that “in the final analysis” - as formulated by Dr. Kent M. Keith  in - The Paradoxical Commandments

People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered.
Love them anyway.

If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives.
Do good anyway.

If you are successful, you will win false friends and true enemies.
Succeed anyway.

The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow.
Do good anyway.

Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable.
Be honest and frank anyway.

The biggest men and women with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest men and women with the smallest minds.
Think big anyway.

People favor underdogs but follow only top dogs.
Fight for a few underdogs anyway.

What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight.
Build anyway.

People really need help but may attack you if you do help them.
Help people anyway.

Give the world the best you have and you'll get kicked in the teeth.
Give the world the best you have anyway.

Fired execs could share golden parachutes
published in Jim Bracher's Integrity Matters newspaper column on November 21, 2007

Question: (E-318)
With the recent high profile departures of CEO's in the banking industry, I wonder what is appropriate for exit packages for these powerful managers.  Extravagant exit packages are reason enough not to trust large corporate leadership. Right?

Not necessarily!  Throwing good money at failed managers is wasteful.  However, attracting talented leaders is expensive and creates a complicated situation in which two operational themes are intertwined: unintended consequences along side negotiated outcomes.

First, from the negotiated outcomes, the CEO's who are departing are doing so, often abruptly--and at their Board's request.  They have been fired for taking the very risks that made their shareholders a lot of money over a number of years.  And with risk, comes risk.  Taking risks works most of the time, or some of the time, but not always.  Risk-taking managers negotiate an exit package, even before they start.  When these power-players get fired – for cause, for underperformance, they are entitled to what they have already negotiated.  And boards go along so that the “exiting” executive will leave quietly. 

Secondly, unintended consequence emerges because investors, and now boards, demand CEO's perform at an above average level, all the time, on all metrics.  They have few if any opportunities to recover from mistakes, or more correctly, from the probability that not all risk-oriented investments will consistently work out positively. The truth for CEO’s is that a risk decision that turns out badly can cost them their jobs.  Suddenly, a perfect management storm is created by an impatient, naïve and greedy investment community.  The average CEO lasts less than 5 years under this perfect storm.  The unintended consequence from the unrelenting demands of above average performance, always, is that these “hired guns” must take enormous risks and their golden parachute contracts are the ugly, and costly, result. 

So, how might this “extravagant exit package” mess be made better?  Self-serving, handsomely compensated, management stars, who lose their positions, are missing incredible opportunities to take the high ground, by donating part of their exit package to worthy causes. Since most of these “celebrity executives” are already rich, they can behave caringly by passing along on millions of dollars that would routinely be paid in taxes, to help legitimate non-profits, coming across as responsible and generous citizens. Obviously, these talented managers negotiated their settlements and are legally entitled to them.  However, giving something back would be excellent public relations, probably prudent tax planning – along side residual goodwill that would reflect positively on the individual and the organization that initiated the exit process.  Integrity – in how dollars are spent – really does matter, to everyone.  One “integrity-centered” executive superstar could impact millions of lives.

Strong managers needn’t follow ‘fads’
published in Jim Bracher's Integrity Matters newspaper column on November 28, 2007.

Question: (E-319)
My employees say they want a different kind of leadership.  Seems my style is now out of fashion. Should I change my operating style with every new fad?

Chances are pretty good, that if you have been in business successfully for at least 15 years, then you have developed sound business practices, despite any flaws in your personality or management style.  Without belaboring the obvious, most folks don’t change a great deal, so you are likely to continue to leverage the skills that enabled you to operate effectively.  Regarding your changing to every new “management” fad, just remember, sound principles last a long time.  Passing fads don’t!

Who is to be in step with whom, in the workplace, in your organization?  The answer is everyone who intends to remain on the team.  The difficulty of maintaining intensity, focus, interpersonal ease and social sensitivity was never more apparent than today when pressures to perform – especially for owners and senior leaders - are approaching the nearly-impossible, if not simply the unreasonable. Be careful not to stray too far from the operating principles that brought you the success you have already experienced.
The New York Times, on Saturday, November 10, suggested that the newest effective boss should be a team captain.  Seems the previous “modern” ideal models – the Empire Builders of the early 90’s - are no longer acceptable.  Chief executives like Disney’s Michael Eisner, General Electric’s Jack Welch, Time-Warner’s Gerald Levin and Citigroup’s Sandy Weil – once were the talk of the town, are now fallen stars.  They were replaced by the Repair Experts – the new-new brand of organizational saviors, who were lower key and came in to repair the excesses and mistakes of their predecessors. Examples of these “fixers” include Charles Prince III of Citigroup and Richard Parsons of Time-Warner.  But, alas, they too outlived their celebrity status.

Management experts suggest that current economic and operational demands are attracting yet another kind of chief executive:  the Team Builder.  The new-newest ideal leader, will, according to Nelson Schwartz’s article, “C.E.O. Evolution Phase 3” – be or become - “someone who can assemble a team that functions as smoothly as a jazz sextet.” This seems reasonable.  But let’s dig a little deeper into yet another intellectually-attractive model.

Playing jazz smoothly suggests that each participant is competent, pays attention to colleagues, cooperates seamlessly and takes direction from the leader – whoever that happens to be.  So, “boss-with-complaining-employees” – are you confident that those who want something different from you are not simply making noise – about your imperfections - to distract attention from their own substandard performance levels?  If change is required, do so. If not, hire more competent colleagues.

Debate is a great diversion and frequently masquerades as participative management.  Many folks learn the skills to avoid work, or in the case of a few sixth graders in 1957, at Clark School, in Boonville, Indiana, to delay study and paying attention to our teacher, Mr. Harry Anson.  We, that’s right, yours truly was in the middle of this chaos, knew that if we asked our teacher, Mr. Anson, about the Brooklyn Dodgers, he would wax on for 15 minutes about having sat at Ebbets Field, watching Jackie Robinson and Roy Campnella, two of his favorites, wowing the crowds.   And, if we wanted an even longer respite from math or science, we would ask about the United States Navy, where he had spent many years, on a Destroyer.  Over and over, we “engineered” the classroom conversation to these topics, so that we would be “safe” – from hard work, tough questions and accountability.

Sometimes, loudness is a cover for insecurity.  And, in other cases, lazy workers – including the staff on the Titanic - would prefer to re-arrange the deck furniture, even after the disastrous hole in the ship was discovered.  After all, it just might be hard and dangerous work to fix the real problem – plugging the hole in the sinking ship.

Here are 5 tips to help find that perfect job
published in Jim Bracher's Integrity Matters newspaper column on December 19, 2007

Question: (E-320)
How does one go about finding an emotionally-satisfying job?

Usually, Integrity Matters columns are written for a general readership; however, this week’s response is directed to young people looking for the right place to work.  And, what makes this column so special relates to my emerging role as the newly-appointed Director, Executives-in-Residence, at California State University, CSUMB, Seaside, California.  Among other executive-effectiveness activities, my accountabilities include career-path and leadership counsel.

Here are five “gotta’ haves” for serious job seekers.  These predictors are powerful because they come from those who hire people and survive and prospered because they hire wisely.  Review these five essentials and where prudent, “beef-up” vulnerabilities.

  1. Enthusiasm is genuine commitment and zeal for the tasks that are integral to the job being sought.  Talking about passion is fine, but avoid the term as the catch-all cliché for personal interests and trivial activities. Invoking “passion” for cheering a favorite team, simply because it evokes emotion, cheapens the true value of loyalty and dedication. Prospective employers want and need a candidate’s genuine and informed exuberance, the genuine enthusiasm which is essential for selling, teaching, negotiating or whatever captures someone’s spiritual core.  Since you can’t fake legitimate fervor, don’t try.
  1. Determination is an uncompromising approach to achievement – reflected in how one thinks, writes, speaks, dresses, prepares a resume or accommodates the schedules of others.  Confidence is never bluster or arrogance; but instead reflects unrelenting courage along side a willingness to “do what it takes” to get and keep the job – obviously and clearly never at the expense of core values or laws.
  1. Joy is the pleasure and happiness of those who believe they get back more than they give, personally and professionally, most of the time.  Individuals, with real joy, seldom discuss the costs of their work-activities, in either time or energy.  Successful people seek neither recognition nor reward, but are driven by an internal gauge that registers high marks for doing what they genuinely like to do. Joy shows in one’s eyes and comes from the heart.
  1. Self-discipline is an inner voice that knows the difference between satisfaction and satiation, between doing well-enough versus creating excellence.  Integrity is no where more evident than when the time, space and culture - of others - are consistently and seamlessly accommodated, with elegance and grace.
  1. Faith is the calm-confidence that circumstances, regardless of complications, will work in ways that are positive, purposeful, productive and profitable. Bottom-line, you “gotta” be optimistic – with a “can-do” attitude.

How many of the “gotta’ haves” do you have?  Which ones need strengthening?  Emotionally-satisfying jobs are for those who consistently exhibit the “gotta haves.” 

Remember: integrity remains the unnamed winning ingredient!



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