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Showing posts from July, 2007

Great Teachers and Learning Organizations

Does your mind ever wander while you are supposed to be paying attention in a class or meeting? Do you ever feel "cheated" by apathetic teachers or managers who can’t engage and organize people? Between fifth and ninth grades I barely made it through school, partly due to clueless teachers, partly due to family problems, and partly due to my sense I lacked control. Then, when I started tenth graded, a light switch seemed to flip on in my brain. I started reading on my own, interested in learning vs. memorizing test material. Math made sense. I loved structuring equations and finding solutions. I loved learning. I read everything available about the power of the spirit and positive psychology. And, I was exposed to my first great teacher, beyond my parents, my head high school football coach, Ted Monica. Coach Monica was a Lombardi disciple. In fact, he helped the Green Bay Packers on draft day for years. He and his football program were highly organized. He wa

Direction

At 1:30 AM Saturday morning a loud rustling in the woods behind our yard woke me. I went to the bathroom window and looked. I was still sleepy, so I shook my head to make sure I was not hallucinating. A large person, with a faint light, was trudging through the woods, just beyond our property line. Every few steps, he, and I knew it was a man by the painful noises he made as he fell onthe brier filled brush, rocks, logs, and stumps. He was moving from my right to left. Just about three feet to his left was our property line, a complete clearing. I know the area well. My back is recovering from clearing the one hundred foot by one hundred foot area between our grassed yard and this wooded nature preserve / wetlands. In 2004 I cut down about eighty scrub trees, grounded the stumps, cut the oak for fire wood, chipped the rest for paths, cleared all the brush with a "Gravely", a monster machine able to clear trees 3" in diameter and less, and herniated a disc. Before I

Ozzie to Ozzie

To help leaders influence and engage people, following please find the organizational needs family sitcoms depicted over the past fifty years. Family is a fundamental team unit. Family sitcoms show how leadership and team needs evolved and changed over the past fifty years. Dynamic units, like families, tend to change non-stop, while bureaucratic organizations like the United States Government, Ford Motor, and the Catholic Church, can become too focused on internal issues to meet audience expectations. When organizations respond to market needs with alacrity, they thrive. It's possible for organizations to change with the times by aligning members around shared values and principles, regardless of members' cultural and demographic differences. The most popular TV show in the 1950's was "I Love Lucy". Perhaps Lucy's popularity was based on her comic antics, and her manipulating Desi. These were welcome diversions from traditional, idealized, 1950'

Father's Day

Father's day is upon us. So much effort is dedicated to creating and finding the right father's day gift. Once I became a father, I realized the best gifts are unintended blessings from my kids. For instance, when our eldest daughter was learning to talk, she and I visited Thayer Street in Providence to pick up some gyro sandwiches at Andreas. Mohawks were popular amongst Thayer's crowd. A young man with foot long spikes walked in front of the car. I watched her eyes follow him up the street. She turned to me and asked: "daddy, is that a dragon?" Our son was going to bed one night when he was four. He looked troubled. I asked if anything was wrong. He said he had a secret. Assuming he'd hidden an accident, or had broken something fragile, I sensed this was my opportune time to build his trust. I said he could share with me. Everything would be OK. I wouldn't be upset. He turned, quietly, and said: "I love toys. I really, really love

Mother's Day

Last week I attended mediation training in Boston. The timing was interesting, with the dates following mother’s day. My mom was a natural leader, and mediator. She stood just five feet, three inches tall. This, combined with her terminal illness, made her physical presence less than imposing. However, her will and spirit, and beautiful face, made her indomitable. She turned every incident into an opportunity to learn, or to help. Growing up in NJ, we had a neighbor named Andre Passamato. Andre drove his Harley Davidson to work when the weather turned nice. He left his home between 5:30 and 6:00 AM every morning, revved his engine, and shot out of the neighborhood like a bat out of hell. As a result, he woke everyone up along both sides of the street. The neighbors were up in arms, tired of waking early and losing an extra hour of sleep every morning thanks to Andre's motorcycle alarm. They feared approaching Andre. He had big tattoos and a Fu Manchu mustache. He

"You're Not Going To Believe This!"

It's been a tough few months. We memorialized another one of Linda's cousins last week. Steven died in his sleep at the age of 47, leaving his wife Maureen and two young children, Tyler and Andrew. Despite Steven's serious job with Gillette, where he managed arbitrage programs allowing Gillette to, by the minute, invest in advantageous international markets, he was the life of any party, with amazing stories. His stories helped me reflect on twists of fate. Below please find a few. A few months back, Tyler said his dad was, as usual, reading on their back porch in Plymouth when he heard, and saw out of the corner of his eye, what he thought was one of the family's two cats walking up the porch steps. Steven continued to read, and clicked his fingers to attract the kitty. He reached to pet the responding animal. The fur was thicker than usual, and the belly much broader. To his horror, Steven looked down at a fat raccoon, now enamored with Steven's hospit

Loss

The fifth year anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks coincides with a unique date for me. I am the exact age today as my mom was when she died in 1979. I was a senior in high school at the time, and the prognosis from my teachers and relatives was not too good. They felt, thanks to my age and transitory place in life, I was more apt than my siblings to suffer long term negative affects from my mom's early death. I always disagreed with this and felt, regardless of someone's age when his or her parent dies, it creates profound change. Yet, this impact does not have to be totally negative. I'd love to be able to update my mom, to fill her in on what's transpired in my life since her death. Even though I can't directly communicate with her, there are signs she's aware. There will be more on these later. But first, this article is intended to help you and folks you know who've lost a loved one young. The Problem: The death of a young parent

Mental Models

Mental Models "We are here (In Zimbabwe) and happy. The sun is shining--we pray for rain in church. Not many look like us so people are especially friendly." Barrett Hazeltine, my friend and Brown faculty advisor, sent this last week. After celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary, and Barrett's 75th birthday, last year, Barrett and Mary decided to return again to Africa to help raise, this time, Zimbabwe's spirits and economy. Rain came a few days later, but not enough to ease farmers' worries. What struck me was Barrett's last line. One of my first friends in this world is Nayan Lassiter. We still stay in touch. Nayan was my next door neighbor in Madison, NJ. His family had a compound with his grandparents, great grandma, and visiting cousins, in one home, and Nayan and his family in another house. They also had a huge patio, studio, and pool. It was a great entertainment center. When we were young, I never noticed Nayan's different ski