The week@work: Broken Models

 

This week@work the majority of the stories fell into one category: broken models and attempts to create band aid solutions.

As we’re living longer, the traditional cycle of study, work, retire has been rendered obsolete. We may blame technology for disrupting our work lives, but it’s the human decisions that are realigning the workplace.

In the talent wars, employers entice employees with the opportunity to work ‘out of the office’, yet tether them with ‘workations’. Teachers lacking sufficient wages and benefits participate in the ‘sharing’ economy and solicit donations of vacation days to cope with serious illness. And a university will offer their current and future students a full tuition scholarship to address the burgeoning cost of medical school.

IMG_8767.jpgWe spend our days trying to figure out new ways to extend our lives, maintain our looks and yet we seem to have ignored the reality that our work life might also extend beyond traditional retirement age.

Pavel Krapivin explores ‘The Study, Work, Retire Model Is Broken As We Live Until 100’.

“Much of life over the past century conformed to the three-stage model of study, work, retire. It’s a model that was predicated on reasonably high levels of stability, both in the skills required in the workplace and also the labor market itself.  Training in one field and then having one or two employers for the majority of your working life was commonplace, but it’s a model that is increasingly being challenged.

Rapidly changing technologies have rendered the shelf-life of skills shorter than ever before, while medical advances mean that the majority of children born today will live to 100 years of age.  This longevity will cause ruptures in the three-stage model that dominates the Western world and predicate a transition towards a more multi-stage life that will see working, learning and resting blend into one.”

He identifies six core challenges that set the agenda for future organizational planning: “managing mature workers, flexible working, a multi-generational workforce, a world of options, learning how to learn and a less rigid path.”

grand central.jpgUnfortunately, we’re not doing a very good job of coping with current organization dynamics. Human resource professionals rarely have a seat at the strategic planning table. Each of these challenges involve people.

Louis Hyman identifies human choice as the primary factor in workplace disruption.  ‘It’s Not Technology That’s Disrupting Our Jobs’

“…when we talk about today’s economy, we focus on smartphones, artificial intelligence, apps. Here, too, the inexorable march of technology is thought to be responsible for disrupting traditional work, phasing out the employee with a regular wage or salary and phasing in independent contractors, consultants, temps and freelancers — the so-called gig economy.

But this narrative is wrong. The history of labor shows that technology does not usually drive social change. On the contrary, social change is typically driven by decisions we make about how to organize our world. Only later does technology swoop in, accelerating and consolidating those changes.

…it reminds us that far from being an unavoidable consequence of technological progress, the nature of work always remains a matter of social choice. It is not a result of an algorithm; it is a collection of decisions by corporations and policymakers.”

Again, the human factor. We have a choice.

Our attempts to adjust to change are ‘band aids’, attempts to cover the wounds of a painful workplace structure. Three stories that just made my blood boil this week@work described the concept of ‘workation’ and the continuing plight of underpaid teachers in the U.S.

IMG_2532.jpgTake a minute to view the video segment from Sunday Today, describing the new trend of ‘workations’. Basically you can work anywhere on the planet as long as you meet your goals. The segment, sub-titled ‘Flexible ‘workcations’ let employees stay connected far away from the office’, profiled one professional who has opted to participate in a Friday remote working option offered by her employer.

“The turning point was when I realized my client doesn’t know the difference. As long as I’m answering my emails on time, I’m answering their calls, I’m accessible, they don’t know if I’m in California or if I’m down the street in New York.”

Billed as a way to meet the challenge of providing workplace flexibility, I wondered, as I watched her walk along the beach in California, how many of her colleagues had the financial resources to access this option.

And then there were the two stories of folks who go to work educating our children.

la school.jpgAlia Wong reported ‘Low Pay Has Teachers Flocking to the Sharing Economy’.

“Airbnb, the popular platform that lets people rent out their homes and apartments, released the results of a volunteer survey this week containing the striking statistic that nearly one in 10 of its hosts in the United States is an educator. In some states the trend appears to be even more pronounced—more than a quarter of all Airbnb hosts in Utah and Wisconsin, for example, work as teachers or in education (the company includes in that category administrators and college professors). This is especially noteworthy given that an analysis of census and National Center for Education Statistics figures suggests that just less than 2 percent of adults in the country work as full-time K–12 teachers.

Many of these 45,000-plus educators in the U.S. are presumably using Airbnb to supplement their regular income, as teachers struggle with stagnant, if not declining, pay. The average annual salary for K–12 public-school teachers is roughly $58,000, and they typically spend a sizable chunk of that on classroom supplies integral to their jobs.

The typical teacher host earned $6,500 through Airbnb last year—hardly a negligible boost for financially strapped educators. And for many teachers, that boost is far more appealing than other means of supplementing their incomes.”

Pair that with the story this week of the Florida history teacher diagnosed with cancer who had exhausted his supply of sick leave before his treatment ended. Did his employer step in to help? No, he used social media to request donations of sick leave from colleagues, and was overwhelmed when the response far exceeded the 20 days he had requested.

Understand why my blood is boiling? Not only are teachers using their creativity to supplement their income in order to live, they are now forced to beg for supplemental benefits from other teachers. And that folks tells you a lot about our priorities.

The last story is good news for the medical students at NYU. In a pioneering effort, the school will offer full tuition scholarships to current and future students.

participants-at-nyu-school-of-medicine-2.jpg“The announcement from the medical school’s trustees, leaders, and faculty was delivered this morning to first-year medical students and family members as a surprise ending to the annual White Coat Ceremony, where each new student is presented with a white lab coat to mark the start of their medical education and training.

“Thanks to the extraordinary generosity of our trustees, alumni, and friends, our hope—and expectation—is that by making medical school accessible to a broader range of applicants, we will be a catalyst for transforming medical education nationwide,” says Kenneth G. Langone, chair of the Board of Trustees of NYU Langone Health. The yearly tuition costs covered by the scholarship are $55,018.”

The hope is to diversify the composition of the student body as well as the choice of specialty after graduation.

If we’re now reflecting on our work/life cycle in terms of a century, we’ll need the expertise of these educators and medical professionals to provide the support to achieve success. Perhaps it’s time to reorder our priorities.

This week@work consider the complexity of a 100 year lifetime and imagine what innovations you could apply to replace the broken models.

 

Photo credit: LA Unified courtesy KPCC, White Coat Ceremony courtesy NYU School of Medicine

 

 

 

 

The Friday Poem ‘Theme for English B’ by Langston Hughes

The headlines of the past week included coverage of the school teachers’ strikes in Oklahoma and Kentucky, and the 50th anniversary of the death of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Often these events seem remote, not touching our daily lives. But they do.

The Friday Poem this week is ‘Theme for English B’ by author and poet Langston Hughes.

At the time Dr. King emerged onto the national stage, Langston Hughes was more well known. Until 1960 the poet and civil rights activist maintained a close friendship, ending when rumors of Hughes being a communist sympathizer appeared to threaten the future of the civil rights movement.

Theme for English B

The instructor said,

     Go home and write
     a page tonight.
     And let that page come out of you—
     Then, it will be true.

I wonder if it’s that simple?
I am twenty-two, colored, born in Winston-Salem.
I went to school there, then Durham, then here
to this college on the hill above Harlem.
I am the only colored student in my class.
The steps from the hill lead down into Harlem,
through a park, then I cross St. Nicholas,
Eighth Avenue, Seventh, and I come to the Y,
the Harlem Branch Y, where I take the elevator
up to my room, sit down, and write this page:

It’s not easy to know what is true for you or me
at twenty-two, my age. But I guess I’m what
I feel and see and hear, Harlem, I hear you.
hear you, hear me—we two—you, me, talk on this page.
(I hear New York, too.) Me—who?

Well, I like to eat, sleep, drink, and be in love.
I like to work, read, learn, and understand life.
I like a pipe for a Christmas present,
or records—Bessie, bop, or Bach.
I guess being colored doesn’t make me not like
the same things other folks like who are other races.
So will my page be colored that I write?
Being me, it will not be white.
But it will be
a part of you, instructor.
You are white—
yet a part of me, as I am a part of you.
That’s American.
Sometimes perhaps you don’t want to be a part of me.
Nor do I often want to be a part of you.
But we are, that’s true!
As I learn from you,
I guess you learn from me—
although you’re older—and white—
and somewhat more free.

This is my page for English B.

Langston Hughes   ‘Collected Poems’   1994

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Image: Pastel Portrait Winold Reiss, National Portrait Gallery

 

The week@work: the crisis of civic education, karoshi, unemployment & the future of office attire

This week@work stories examine the role of education in creating civil discourse, the consequences of karoshi, the impact of weather on unemployment and the future of office attire.

While walking through the U.S.Capitol Visitor Center last week I encountered a group of junior high school students who were shrieking at each other as they reported a sighting of House Speaker Paul Ryan as if he were a chart topping rock star. What if the majority of junior high and high school students had the opportunity to walk the halls of Congress and observe the process of governing?

Harvard president emeritus, Derek Bok examines ‘The Crisis of Civic Education’.

“Schools have long been the primary source of civic education in America. As an early champion of public education, Horace Mann, pointed out more than 150 years ago: “One of the highest and most valuable objects to which the influences of a school can be made conducive consists in training our children to self-government. Yet schools cannot accomplish this task by themselves. Many studies have pointed to the difficulties that hamper their efforts, including inadequate funding and pressures on teachers from school boards, parents, politicians, and textbook publishers. In view of those problems, it is not surprising that the National Assessment of Educational Progress, which periodically evaluates the knowledge of America’s schoolchildren, concluded in 2010 that more than two-thirds of high-school seniors scored below “proficient” in their knowledge of civics and government.”

Once the American high school senior transitions to college, there is no imperative to incorporate “essential courses to equip them to perform their civic functions more effectively” into their curriculum.

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“While many colleges claim to be preparing citizens…and although they offer many classes and activities that can contribute to this end, few provide any required courses aimed at achieving that result. Instead, learning to become an active and informed citizen is simply treated as an option — much like preparing to be a doctor or a lawyer or a business executive — even though becoming a citizen is not a choice but a status acquired automatically by the vast majority of undergraduates.”

Bok suggests a number of approaches: linking community involvement experience with academic coursework; connecting the dots between the activity and public policy, engagement with student government and establishing multi-cultural residence halls.

Colleges have a responsibility to lead on this issue. Colleges own this one. If not here, where?

“In today’s diverse and highly partisan society, it is particularly important to teach undergraduates to take account of contrary opinions and arguments and to discuss such differences respectfully. Most campuses are well positioned to encourage these habits…The recent election underscores the importance of extending such efforts to encourage interaction among classmates with different political ideologies and socioeconomic backgrounds.”

Walter Sim reported on ‘Death by overwork: Will Japan finally face up to ‘karoshi’?

“With her mobile phone in hand as if waiting for her next assignment, a 31-year-old political reporter with broadcaster NHK died of heart failure in her sleep in July 2013 after clocking nearly 160 hours of overtime the month before.

Two years later, on Christmas Day, a rookie at advertising giant Dentsu leapt to her death after being subjected to a gruelling schedule and harassment at her workplace.

Osaka Sphere Building

The statistics nationwide are quite startling. Japan’s second annual karoshi White Paper, released last Friday, said there were 191 work-related deaths and attempted suicides in the fiscal year ending March 2017. This was two more than the previous year. In the same fiscal year, 498 cases of mental illness, such as depression, were deemed work-related.

And from January 2010 to March 2015, 368 suicides – 352 men and 16 women – were deemed as karoshi.”

Patricia Cohen reported ‘U.S. Lost 33,000 Jobs in September; Unemployment Rate Dips to 4.2%’.

“Staggering from the impact of hurricanes that walloped Texas, Florida and neighboring states, the economy lost 33,000 jobs in September, the first monthly decline in employment in seven years, the government reported on Friday.

But economists discounted the discouraging report, describing it as a blip in a job market that was fundamentally strong.”

Wondering what to wear this week@work? Jessica Holland asks ‘Are tracksuits and trainers the future of office attire?’

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“They were all wearing trainers and layers of black,” says Evelyn Cotter, a career coach based in London. She’s describing a recent public speaking conference she attended, where the crowd of ambitious young professionals were dressed in a uniform way.

“Everyone had come straight from work, they were wearing black jeans and smart sneakers, but it definitely felt professional,” adds Cotter. “It’s a conscious style choice. It’s not just what you throw on to play with your dog in the garden.”

“The industry of ‘athleisure’ – sporty clothes and shoes that people don’t necessarily wear to play sport – grew by a staggering 42% between 2008 and 2015, according to Morgan Stanley research. More recently, its influence has begun to creep into offices, where workers’ clothing is becoming increasingly relaxed and designed for comfort. The Society for Human Resource Management, an international organisation, tracks how many employers allow workers to dress casually every day, and that figure rose from 32% in 2014 to 44% in 2016.”

Before you head out to your favorite ‘athleisure’ retailer, check the culture and style of your employer. On days when you are meeting with clients, it’s always a good idea to mirror the style of your customer. (or their expectations)

The last story this week@work, was the first story breaking on Monday morning. Folks taking a break from work at a music festival on a Sunday evening in Las Vegas became targets of a mass shooting. In twelve minutes 58 people between the ages of 20 and 67 were murdered; 489 were injured. On Wednesday, the citizens of Manhattan Beach, California gathered on a pier overlooking the Pacific to mourn two of the victims: Sandy Casey, 35, a special education teacher at Manhattan Beach Middle School and Rachael Parker, 33, a records technician with the Manhattan Beach Police Department.

1005_nws_tdb-l-mbvigil-carr01-1.jpgThis week@work consider how you might do more than send thoughts and prayers.

 

Photo credit: Manhattan Beach vigil, Steve Carr for the Daily Breeze/ Office Attire, Sykes London for British Vogue

The week@work – The ‘Fallows question’, flexibility@work and the long term impact of student debt

On Saturday Night Live actor Cecily Strong delivered a line that summed up what many of us are feeling this week@work, “I want one day without a CNN alert that scares the hell out of me.” 

It got me thinking about the question Facebook COO, Sheryl Sandberg posed to the Barnard Class of 2011, “What would you do if you weren’t afraid?”

This week@work The New York Times Op-Ed Columnist David Brooks posed ‘the Fallows question’“If you could move to the place on earth where history is most importantly being made right now, where would you go?”

“James and Deborah Fallows have always moved to where history is being made…James and Deb have an excellent sense of where world-shaping events are taking place at any moment — and a fervent commitment to be there to see it happen.

If you want to “observe” history, the Fallows say, go to Washington. If you want to “participate,” go elsewhere.”

If you weren’t afraid, and could pick up and move to where the action is, where would you go? Brooks offered a few destinations to start, but just maybe, this week@work you might spend some time considering a temporary relocation “in search of history”.

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Folks@work are moving forward, finding ways to succeed independent of national politics. Some voice concern about the potential impact of new policies on their workplace, while others seek ways to express a response in their work. For many, the challenges of the gender gap and student debt remain a constant, often extending into retirement.

Claire Cain Miller examined the tension in employer expectations between flexibility and presence@work in ‘How to Close a Gender Gap: Let Employees Control Their Schedules’.

“The main reason for the gender gaps at work — why women are paid less, why they’re less likely to reach the top levels of companies, and why they’re more likely to stop working after having children — is employers’ expectation that people spend long hours at their desks, research has shown.

Flexibility regarding the time and place that work gets done would go a long way toward closing the gaps, economists say.

A new job search company, Werk, is trying to address the problem by negotiating for flexibility with employers before posting jobs, so employees don’t have to.”

And then there are the financial pressures; spanning generations from twenty-somethings being subsidized by parents, as their grandparents face social security payment garnishment to repay outstanding student loan debt.

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Quoctrung Bui reported on ‘A Secret of Many Urban 20-Somethings: Their Parents Help With the Rent’.

“According to surveys that track young people through their first decade of adulthood, about 40 percent of 22-, 23- and 24-year-olds receive some financial assistance from their parents for living expenses. Among those who get help, the average amount is about $3,000 a year.

It’s a stark reminder that social and economic mobility continues past grade school, high school and even college. Economic advantages continue well into the opening chapters of adulthood, a time when young people are making big personal investments that typically lead to higher incomes but can be hard to pay for.”

On the other side of the generation spectrum, The Editorial Board of The New York Times identified an emerging trend threatening older Americans, ‘Haunted by Student Debt Past Age 50’.

“The experience of being crushed by student debt is no longer limited to the young. New federal data shows millions of Americans who are retired or nearing retirement face this burden, as well as the possibility of having their Social Security benefits garnished to make payments.

Americans age 60 and older are the fastest-growing age group of student loan debtors. Older debtors, many of whom live hand-to-mouth on fixed incomes, are more likely to default. When that occurs with federal loans, as happens with nearly 40 percent of such borrowers who are 65 and over, the government can seize a portion of their Social Security payments — even if it pushes them into poverty. About 20,000 Americans over the age of 50 in 2015 had their Social Security checks cut below the poverty line because of student loans, with poverty-level benefits falling even further for 50,000 others, according to a recent report by the Government Accountability Office.”

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The last story this week@work, highlights the importance of art@work and in our lives. The Metropolitan Museum of Art announced the next step in their digital evolution – open access to over 375,000 archive images. (Monet’s ‘Garden at Sainte-Adresse’, 1867 above)

The week@work – the top stories of ’16, a new year, the eternal optimist’s talking points, French workers get the right to disconnect, and leadership lessons from Michelle Obama

Happy New Year! This week@work we take a final look at the top stories of 2016, and the stories from the first week of 2017. On the work-life balance front – French workers now have the legal right to disconnect from the office. The U.S. unemployment rate is at 4.7%, with hourly salary earnings rising 2.9%. And for women@work, an article considered the future of women in this new year, as First Lady Michelle Obama delivered her final formal remarks on Friday, giving us a parting gift – a model for what a leader looks like.

The Economist’s top ten most read stories of 2016 centered on the U.S. election and Brexit. In the U.S., NPR’s top 20 did not include Brexit, but the question of how Donald Trump will govern, led the list. “The top 20 most popular stories from the past year ranged from fact checks to mosquito bites, from Aleppo to taxes, and how to raise kids who will thrive, whatever the future brings.” 

There were many stories about work and the workplace, but most became a subset of the larger stories. Susan Chira reflected on ‘What Women Lost’.

“This was supposed to be the year of triumph for American women.

A year that would cap an arc of progress: Seneca Falls, 1848. The 19th Amendment, 1920. The first female American president, 2017. An inauguration that would usher in a triumvirate of women running major Western democracies. Little girls getting to see a woman in the White House.

Instead, for those at the forefront of the women’s movement, there is despair, division and defiance. Hillary Clinton’s loss was feminism’s, too.”

2017 will be the year we ask, what are the long term implications for women@work? On January 21, in Washington, and cities around the country, women will have an opportunity to reinsert themselves into the national conversation.

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For additional reading @year end:

‘The Echoes of 1914’ by historian Margaret MacMillan for the BBC. She responsed to a query about which year in history most closely resembled 2016.

“I wish I could stop, but I find myself thinking of 1914. The world then had seemed so stable, so manageable. Crises – political, social, economic, military – came and went but “they”, bankers, statesmen, politicians, always managed them in the end.

Yes, there were grumblings – from the working classes or women, or those who were losing their livelihoods because of free trade or mechanisation.

And there were some strong emotions about: fears of rapid change, passionate nationalisms that meant love of one’s own country and hatred of others. Ominous in retrospect because we know what happened. But at the time there was a complacency – it would surely all work out all right.

That confidence was dangerous because it meant that people didn’t take the warning signs seriously enough.

I wish I could stop making the comparisons.

In ‘1999 Was The Last Time Everything Was Fine’ BuzzFeed Culture Writer Doree Shafrir revisited her first year@work.

“I had no job and almost no money. My parents had given me the security deposit on the apartment as a graduation present, but now I was on my own. I was entranced by the classifieds section of the New York Times, with its pages and pages of appeals for secretaries and programmers and architects and retail store managers. I didn’t really know what I wanted to do. I knew I liked to be around words, but I wasn’t sure what that meant in terms of actually making money. Maybe now was the time to try something new. Maybe I could close my eyes and point to something on the page and that would be my destiny.

That was how 1999 felt, like anything was possible.”

Artist Tucker Nichols created a rainbow rendering of an ‘Eternal Optimist Talking Points for 2017’ as OpArt for The New York Times.  A sample of musings: “Somehow not as freaked out by scary clowns anymore…Midtown traffic has always been pretty jammed up…Smog makes great sunsets…Still a chance it’s a very long dream.”

On January 1, a new law in France went into effect allowing workers to ‘disconnect’ from their workplace.

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The BBC reported on France’s implementation of a law to protect work-life balance.

“Companies with more than 50 workers will be obliged to draw up a charter of good conduct, setting out the hours when staff are not supposed to send or answer emails. France has a working week of 35 hours, in place since 2000.”

And then there was this from the professionals who go to work every day in U.S. Intelligence Services.IMG_8057.JPG

On Friday afternoon, First Lady Michelle Obama gave a memorable farewell speech at a White House event honoring the 2017 School Counselor of the Year. The text set an aspirational vision for all Americans and provides all of us with a lesson in leadership.

“…for all the young people in this room and those who are watching, know that this country belongs to you — to all of you, from every background and walk of life. If you or your parents are immigrants, know that you are part of a proud American tradition — the infusion of new cultures, talents and ideas, generation after generation, that has made us the greatest country on earth.”

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“If your family doesn’t have much money, I want you to remember that in this country, plenty of folks, including me and my husband — we started out with very little. But with a lot of hard work and a good education, anything is possible — even becoming President. That’s what the American Dream is all about.

But I also want to be very clear: This right isn’t just handed to you. No, this right has to be earned every single day. You cannot take your freedoms for granted. Just like generations who have come before you, you have to do your part to preserve and protect those freedoms. And that starts right now, when you’re young.

Right now, you need to be preparing yourself to add your voice to our national conversation. You need to prepare yourself to be informed and engaged as a citizen, to serve and to lead, to stand up for our proud American values and to honor them in your daily lives. And that means getting the best education possible so you can think critically, so you can express yourself clearly, so you can get a good job and support yourself and your family, so you can be a positive force in your communities.

And when you encounter obstacles — because I guarantee you, you will, and many of you already have — when you are struggling and you start thinking about giving up, I want you to remember something that my husband and I have talked about since we first started this journey nearly a decade ago, something that has carried us through every moment in this White House and every moment of our lives, and that is the power of hope — the belief that something better is always possible if you’re willing to work for it and fight for it.

It is our fundamental belief in the power of hope that has allowed us to rise above the voices of doubt and division, of anger and fear that we have faced in our own lives and in the life of this country. Our hope that if we work hard enough and believe in ourselves, then we can be whatever we dream, regardless of the limitations that others may place on us. The hope that when people see us for who we truly are, maybe, just maybe they, too, will be inspired to rise to their best possible selves.

So that’s my final message to young people as First Lady. It is simple. I want our young people to know that they matter, that they belong. So don’t be afraid — you hear me, young people? Don’t be afraid. Be focused. Be determined. Be hopeful. Be empowered. Empower yourselves with a good education, then get out there and use that education to build a country worthy of your boundless promise. Lead by example with hope, never fear. And know that I will be with you, rooting for you and working to support you for the rest of my life.”

We work in the context of global events, as responsible citizens. Our role in our workplace is to reflect the best in human and organizational values. In this new year@work, stay focused, be determined and lead by example with hope, never fear.

 

Photo credits: New Year’s Eve London – Ben Cawthra/LNP, Michelle Obama – BBC.com

The Friday Poem ‘Voice’ by Jeffrey Brown

 

Walking west on 40th Street, between 7th & 8th, you pass the entrance to the CCNY Graduate School of Journalism. In the space of a city block, those aspiring to pursue a career reporting the news, cross paths with the the best in the field @work in The New York Times building.

There was a time when the most trusted man in America was a television journalist. Today, journalists across the globe find themselves at risk when reporting the truth. ‘Fake news’ sites proliferate where fiction replaces fact.

Lost in the cacophony of the latest news cycle is the value professional journalists provide in our society; collecting and communicating information that empowers the rest of us to make the best decisions.

This week, The Friday Poem is for those who follow their dream to newsrooms around the corner, and around the world. ‘Voice’ was written by NPR journalist and poet, Jeffrey Brown.

Voice

for Robert MacNeil and Jim Lehrer

There are those with a voice so rich,

so bell-strong, time chiseled, and alive

they can read the phone book and

you will hear the deeds and failings

in every name, the laughter and wailing

of ghosts who inhabit each address,

the infinite possibility

 

in every number. There are those

with a voice that rich, he says –

the lucky ones. But that is not us.

We open our mouths and out comes a

small, high sound, cracking midsentence,

straining to tell the story we know

to be true. There are things you can do:

 

Learn to breathe. Stand up straight and

let the air flow through you, belly to

chest and into the mask of your face.

Take a bit of chocolate, sip on your

coffee – excite the senses. Imagine

the people in their hoes hungry for

dinner and for news of the world.

 

Underline phrases, emphasize what

should be emphasized, diminish

the less important. Decide what is

important. Be sure you understand

the meaning of what you are to say.

Do not yell, do not whisper, look ahead,

not down, fill your lungs, open your mouth

 

and speak. The Zen master says “You

find your voice when you find yourself.”

But that, too, is not for us. (Who knows

What else you’ll find there? he laughs).

Better to listen to that voice

as though from afar, as though it

is not yours. Then speak again.

Jeffrey Brown from ‘The News:Poems’ 2015

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‘Why do I have an intern?’ Learning from the most junior person in the room

What did you learn from your intern this fall? That is the question. If an answer doesn’t come quickly to mind, you may want to ask ‘Why do I have an intern?’ before you hire a new one for spring.

One of the most disappointing, dispiriting experiences of my time mentoring university students employed as interns came at the end of the semester when we asked employers to submit an evaluation of the intern’s performance. Most had to be tracked down via text,  email, and voice mail before a perfunctory form was returned with a checkmark for ‘exceptional’, ‘good’ or ‘needs improvement’. It was the rare manager (1 in 50) who would actually take the time to share valuable, actionable feedback.

At the beginning of each semester, concurrent with the start of a new internship, you could illuminate a major city with the energy emanating from students about to embark on a new experience. As the weeks went by, the lights dimmed, as one by one, intern’s dreams fell short when tested in practice. In many cases it seemed that the intern was a ‘vanity’ addition to one’s entourage vs. a potential contributor to a strategic mission.

Here’s the thing. Most of these students were committing 10-15 hours of ‘unpaid’ time to their internship. In the majority of cases interns were balancing a full course load of 16-18 credits and a part-time paid position. Social life was the first casualty, but a worthy trade-off for the opportunity to gain valuable, ‘career related’ work experience.

With this level of commitment, why is there such a major disconnect in expectations between employers and interns?

In many cases the ‘unpaid’ label results in a lack of respect. Little thought goes into anticipating and planning the internship assignments.

A successful internship program/relationship is built on clearly communicated expectations and on-going follow-up/ feedback.

Why do you hire an intern? Perhaps to breathe some fresh air into the room. Maybe to keep you aligned with your values. Most important, to help you connect with your emerging customer cohort.

Victor Ho, C.E.O. of FiveStars was interviewed by Adam Bryant for his weekly ‘Corner Office’ column in The New York Times. Reflecting back on his experience, he shared

“…the strongest lesson I learned at McKinsey that I now share with every single new hire is what they call the “obligation to dissent.” It means that the youngest, most junior person in any given meeting is the most capable to disagree with the most senior person in the room.

So if I hire an intern, that intern is the most qualified person in the company to say, “Victor, I heard this was your mission, your values, and these things are off.” That’s just because the more removed you are, the less you drink the Kool-Aid. You have a fresh perspective.”

Before your fall intern departs, skip the cake, and use the the time for a face to face conversation about what you both learned over the past four months. Offer feedback that will guide your intern through to the next step in their career.

When you are interviewing your spring candidates, look for the most qualified person with “the obligation to dissent”.  Ask yourself ‘How can I structure the experience to maximize individual contribution and encourage interaction?’

Why do I hire an intern? To learn, and reconnect to the core aspirational organization values.

 

The week@work – good lives without good jobs?, good vs. great leaders, Yahoo hacked, and are university rankings hurting higher ed?

The workplace is changing, and politicians are beginning to recognize the impact of the shift on long term policy planning. This week@work a ‘think tank’ fellow considered the possibility of good lives without good jobs, a professor found leadership is not a continuum, Yahoo announced 500 million users accounts were hacked, and Irish universities missed the top tier of international schools for the first time, generating a debate on the value of global rankings.

New America Fellow, Michael Lind suggested “Politicians should tell working Americans what they need to hear, not what they want to hear. And what they need to hear is that it is possible for all Americans to have good lives, even if they can’t all have good jobs.”

Writing in The New York Times Sunday Review he asked, ‘Can You Have a Good Life if You Don’t Have a Good Job?’

“…the political problem remains. Even if center-left and center-right policy wonks agree that the goal should be good lives for all workers, even those with bad jobs, many Americans do not agree, to judge from the rhetoric of politicians, who know their audiences well. The replacement of a world in which one or a few lifetime jobs in a paternalistic company that provided benefits during your working life and a pension after your retirement by a future in which individuals struggle to survive by piecing together “gigs” and “tasks” with a bewildering variety of federal, state and local social programs may strike many workers as a dystopian nightmare. The price of increased flexibility may be increased stress.

The unelected policy experts who envision a future of multiple job types and a greater, if hidden, role for government in maintaining minimum incomes and providing health and retirement benefits are essentially right. The elements of a “good job” — adequate income, health insurance and retirement benefits — that were once combined in the package that a Detroit automobile manufacturer provided to a unionized male steelworker in 1950 are likely to be provided, for most American workers now, by some combination of employer and government.

Until most American workers are persuaded that they will not be worse off in a system characterized by flexible work arrangements and partly socialized benefits, they may continue to make unrealistic demands that 21st century politicians restore something like the occupational structure of the 20th century.”

Which of the folks vying for U.S. President will have the courage to deliver this message? It may depend on their leadership style. Professor James R. Bailey of George Washington University’s School of Business examined ‘The Difference Between Good Leaders and Great Ones’ for HBR digital.

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“That anyone can develop as a leader is not in question. What I dispute is the stubborn resolve that great and good are points along the same stream. That just isn’t so. Great leadership and good leadership have distinctly different characteristics and paths. Leadership is not one-dimensional. It can be great and good, or one but not the other, or neither.

The tug between great and good leadership is one of perpetual and dynamic coexistence. There is great — a force that is often inexplicable, occasionally irrational, and, importantly, intermittently ungovernable. Then there is good — a direction that is north-star true, providing the point of values of mutual benefit.

It’s natural to think of leadership as running from one end to the other. To do so, though, is to mistake what great and good leadership are. They’re fundamentally different. Separating them, thus upending the ever-convenient continuum, seems counterintuitive. But it’s absolutely necessary for understanding the very elements that explain leadership’s operation and impact. Great can be vital but destructive; good can be compassionate but impotent. The coexistence of the two is the best hope for leadership — without good we should fear.”

Switching gears, to privacy – it came as no surprise when Yahoo announced a massive data breach. Kara Swisher reported for recode in advance of the public disclosure.

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“Earlier this summer, Yahoo said it was investigating a data breach in which hackers claimed to have access to 200 million user accounts and one was selling them online. “It’s as bad as that,” said one source. “Worse, really.” 

…this hack, said sources, which became known in August when an infamous cybercriminal named “Peace” claimed on a website that he was selling credentials of 200 million Yahoo users from 2012 on the dark web for just over $1,800. The data allegedly included user names, easily decrypted passwords and personal information like birth dates and other email addresses.

At the time, Yahoo said it was “aware of the claim,” but the company declined to say if it was legitimate and said that it was investigating the information. But it did not issue a call for a password reset to users. Now, said sources, Yahoo might have to, although it will be a case of too little, too late.”

Over 500 million accounts have been reported hacked…about that earlier article on good/great leadership and “another blemish on the record of CEO Marissa Mayer”.

On campus, this week@work, university presidents and deans awaited the verdict of the annual ‘World University Rankings’.

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Grainne Loughran reported on the implications of the new rankings for The Irish Times.

“Another week, another set of university rankings as the Times Higher Education releases it league table. It follows others recently published by Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) and the Academic Ranking of World Universities (Shanghai).

The organisations may differ, but the pattern is broadly the same: Ireland’s best higher education institutions are in free-fall.

The decline in rankings has been alarming university presidents for the past six years. But while rankings are of significant reputational importance worldwide, they only take into account a tiny proportion of the picture of how universities stand.

Lack of understanding of what they actually measure has resulted in the rankings gaining an unwarranted notoriety and position to influence policy, with the potential to harm higher education institutions in Ireland and worldwide.

There are about 20 global rankings of higher education. All have varying methodologies and in some cases give vastly different weightings to the factors they have in common.”

This week@work also marked the anniversary of ‘The Death of the Phone Call’. Timothy Noah looked back on a moment in history.

“The phone call died, according to Nielsen, in the autumn of 2007. During the final three months of that year the average monthly number of texts sent on mobile phones (218) exceeded, for the first time in recorded history, the average monthly number of phone calls (213). A frontier had been crossed. The primary purpose of most people’s primary telephones was no longer to engage in audible speech.”

Also this week@work – two stories from Silicon Valley:

‘Zuckerberg, Chan Start $3 Billion Initiative to Cure Disease’ Sarah Frier for bloomberg.com “Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, are pledging to spend more than $3 billion over the next decade to work on curing diseases.

“Can we work together to cure, prevent or manage all disease within our children’s lifetime?” Chan said Wednesday onstage at an event in San Francisco for the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative. “Mark and I believe that this is possible.”

‘How Tech Companies Disrupted Silicon Valley’s Restaurant Scene’ Nicole Perlroth for The New York Times “All told, more than 70,000 square feet of Palo Alto retail and restaurant space were lost to office space from 2008 to 2015, as the tech bubble drove demand for commercial space downtown.

It is a story playing out across Silicon Valley, where restaurateurs say that staying afloat is a daily battle with rising rents, high local fees and acute labor shortages. And tech behemoths like Apple, Facebook and Google are hiring away their best line cooks, dishwashers and servers with wages, benefits and perks that restaurant owners simply cannot match.

Silicon Valley technologists love to explain how they have disrupted the minutiae of daily life, from our commutes to the ways we share family photos. But along the way, they have also managed to disrupt their local restaurant industry.”

Finally, from The New York Times Magazine survey (September 18): “In an eight-hour workday, how much time do you spend actually working? 44% 4-6 hours, 43% 7-8 hours, 7% 1-3 hours, and 6% less than an hour.”

 

Photo credits: Yahoo, Lisa Werner/Getty for Wired

A college degree in sports? No.

An essay published in The New York Times print edition yesterday argued for the establishment of a college degree in sports as a means to bring athletics closer to the academic mission of a university. I disagree.

The way to integrate athletics into the academic mission of the university is to ensure student-athletes have every opportunity to earn the college degree of their choice, engaging in all aspects of the academic enterprise: academic advising, interaction with faculty, collaboration with fellow students, and internships.

University of Colorado professor Roger Pielke Jr. asked “Why Not a College Degree in Sports?” Drawing on previous arguments, Professor Pielke suggested an inherent bias on campus against athletics.

“Widespread prejudice and legitimate resentment against athletics remains in academia, and no wonder. The $6.9 million annual salary of Nick Saban, the head football coach at the University of Alabama, is equal to the combined average salary for nearly 100 assistant professors at the school, according to the most recent data available. And beyond such economic disparities, class distinctions of 19th-century England still shape thinking about sport: Classical music is valued by high society, while sport is for the masses.”

Many have voiced concerns about the consequences of the money being thrown at ‘big time’ athletic programs and it’s appropriate to question a football coach’s salary that far exceeds a university president’s compensation.

But what is missed, always, is the student-athlete. And this is where I disagree with Professor Pielke’s proposal.

Students choose a college or university based on a number of factors: ‘fit’, financial assistance, choice of major, access to faculty, availability of internships, and career aspirations. The student-athlete’s choice includes all of the above, plus the chance to compete in their sport at the highest level.

Suggesting student-athletes enroll in a sports degree program, administered by an athletic department, fortifies an existing boundary; discouraging student athletes from developing key relationships with university academic advisors, faculty, administrators, and non-athlete students.

The college experience serves as a bridge to workplace reality. Isolating student-athletes eliminates access to ‘real world’ campus connections critical for career success.

If a student wants to pursue a career in sport, there are a variety of options in the liberal arts, journalism, business and law.

Rather than reinforce the existing ‘athletic department silo’ with a new curriculum, we can initiate these changes today:

A student-athlete should be able to select a major and complete their degree without influence or interference from their coach.

Practices should not conflict with class schedules.

A student-athlete should have access to all career planning activities including internships, networking events, and on-campus recruiting interviews.

A student-athlete should never have to choose between an academic commitment and their sport.

Coaches should venture beyond the venues of comfort and take opportunities to network with faculty.

We don’t need an ‘academic athletic department’. We need the adults on campus to refocus the debate without prejudice to the students.

 

 

The week@work – Grad students win right to unionize, the changing conversation about the economy, why America’s leaders fail and the story of Luke’s Lobster

Academia was in the headlines this week@work with the Tuesday announcement from the National Labor Relations Board, voting 3-1 to overturn a 2004 ruling allowing graduate students to form collective bargaining units. A Pew Research Center survey detected a shift in election season conversation from the economy (2012) to keeping the U.S. safe from terrorism. What conversation? The system isn’t working, and it may be we don’t have leaders who view their ‘calling’ as a ‘vocation’. And finally, a career transition story – from investment banker to ‘lobsterpreneur’ for this last week of summer.

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‘Ruling Pushes Door to Grad-Student Unions ‘Wide Open’ Peter Schmidt for The Chronicle of Higher Education

“Many more private universities can expect to see their graduate employees move to form unions in the wake of Tuesday’s National Labor Relations Board decision on such an effort at Columbia University.

The federal labor board’s 3-to-1 ruling resoundingly overturned a 2004 decision involving Brown University. In the Brown ruling, the board asserted that graduate employees should not be allowed to form unions because their doing so would intrude into the educational process.

In Tuesday’s decision, the majority held that such a belief “is unsupported by legal authority, by empirical evidence, or by the board’s actual experience.” It not only rejected the Brown precedent, but also overturned a 1974 ruling that had declared research assistants at Stanford University ineligible to unionize based on a belief that such research is part of the educational process.

The board’s decision in the Columbia case says graduate students employed by a private university are as eligible as any other type of worker to form collective-bargaining units under the National Labor Relations Act.”

In a letter to the Columbia University community, Provost John H. Coatsworth reiterated the long-held view of university administrators.

“Columbia and many of our peer universities have challenged this position. Nearly all of the students at Columbia affected by this decision are graduate students. We believe that the daily activities and the advisor-advisee relationships involved in the scholarly training of graduate students define an experience that is different from that of the typical workplace. Being a graduate student can take many years of intense research, teaching and study. But unlike university employees, graduate students who serve as teaching or research assistants come to this institution first and foremost to acquire through that work the knowledge and expertise that are essential to their becoming future scholars and teachers.”

The world of academia is changing, and with it the profile of the teaching community. As more adjunct faculty assume the classroom role, it may be harder to differentiate the job description of part-time faculty from that of grad assistant.

To be continued…

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‘Since 2012, The Economy Has Changed — And So Has The Conversation’ Marilyn Geewax for NPR

“Ah, 2012. You seem so long ago.

Back then, the economy was the star of the presidential election season, with more than 9 in 10 voters ranking it as Issue No. 1.

Voters worried about scarce jobs, expensive gasoline and a huge federal deficit.

Candidates proposed detailed solutions…

This year, the political conversation is very different, with much of the focus on non-economic issues: Republican Donald Trump’s temperament and Democrat Hillary Clinton’s trustworthiness.

And a Pew Research Center survey showed that the issue voters want to hear about most in a presidential debate is “keeping the US safe from terrorism.”

Of course, economic issues remain extremely important, but they are different from 2012. This year, the hottest money topics involve income inequality, trade deals and immigrants.”

Why are we focused on temperament and trustworthiness while the ‘big problems’ that effect our daily lives are ignored? David Brooks thinks it’s about career vs. calling, and he may be right.

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‘Why America’s Leadership Fails’ David Brooks for The New York Times

“Over the past few decades, thousands of good people have gone into public service, but they have found themselves enmeshed in a system that drains them of their sense of vocation.

Let’s start with a refresher on the difference between a vocation and a career. A career is something you choose; a vocation is something you are called to.

A person choosing a career asks, How can I get the best job or win the most elections? A person summoned by a vocation asks, How can my existing abilities be put in service of the greatest common good?

A career is a job you do as long as the benefits outweigh the costs; a vocation involves falling in love with something, having a conviction about it and making it part of your personal identity.

A vocation involves promises to some ideal, it reveals itself in a sense of enjoyment as you undertake its tasks and it can’t be easily quit when setbacks and humiliations occur. As others have noted, it involves a double negative — you can’t not do this thing.

I do think there’s often an arc to vocation. People start with something outside themselves. Then, in the scramble to get established, the ambition of self takes over. But then at some point people realize the essential falseness of all that and they try to reconnect with their original animating ideals.

And so I think it possible to imagine a revival of vocation.”

The last story this week@work is an ‘end of summer’ career transition feature.

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‘A Restaurant’s Sales Pitch: Know Your Lobster’  Janet Morrissey for The New York Times

“It was a steamy summer day in New York in 2009 when Luke Holden, an investment banker, had a craving for a lobster roll. Not just any lobster roll, though. He longed for the “fresh off the docks” taste he enjoyed growing up in Cape Elizabeth, Me.

After an exhaustive search on New York’s streets, he came up dissatisfied and disappointed.

“Every lobster was served over a white tablecloth, extremely expensive, drowning in mayo and diluted with celery,” he said. “I wondered why all the great chefs in this city had screwed this up so badly.”

So that year, Mr. Holden decided to open an authentic Maine lobster shack in Manhattan. To replicate that fresh taste that he remembered, he would need to oversee, track and, where possible, own every step in the process.

Today, he owns 19 Luke’s Lobster restaurants, two food trucks and a lobster tail cart in the United States, and five shacks in Japan.”

If you only  read one of these this week, spend some time with David Brooks…and reconnect with your “original animating ideals” and begin a “revival of vocation”.