The Friday Poem – The Purpose of Poetry

On October 26, 1963, less than a month before his death, U.S. President John F. Kennedy visited Amherst College to deliver a speech at the groundbreaking for the Robert Frost Library.

“In publishing the remarks after Kennedy’s murder, The Atlantic noted that he“identified himself, as no president before him has done so poignantly, with ‘books and men and learning.’ ”

Today, 54 years later, rather than a Friday Poem, the text of the address delivered that day by the 35th President of the United States, in recognition of the contribution of Robert Frost and the place of poetry in our national value set. This is what American leadership looks like.

Our national strength matters, but the spirit which informs and controls our strength matters just as much. This was the special significance of Robert Frost. He brought an unsparing instinct for reality to bear on the platitudes and pieties of society. His sense of the human tragedy fortified him against self-deception and easy consolation. “I have been” he wrote, “one acquainted with the night.” And because he knew the midnight as well as the high noon, because he understood the ordeal as well as the triumph of the human spirit, he gave his age strength with which to overcome despair. At bottom, he held a deep faith in the spirit of man, and it is hardly an accident that Robert Frost coupled poetry and power, for he saw poetry as the means of saving power from itself. When power leads men towards arrogance, poetry reminds him of his limitations. When power narrows the areas of man’s concern, poetry reminds him of the richness and diversity of his existence. When power corrupts, poetry cleanses. For art establishes the basic human truth which must serve as the touchstone of our judgment.

The artist, however faithful to his personal vision of reality, becomes the last champion of the individual mind and sensibility against an intrusive society and an officious state. The great artist is thus a solitary figure. He has, as Frost said, a lover’s quarrel with the world. In pursuing his perceptions of reality, he must often sail against the currents of his time. This is not a popular role. If Robert Frost was much honored in his lifetime, it was because a good many preferred to ignore his darker truths. Yet in retrospect, we see how the artist’s fidelity has strengthened the fibre of our national life.

If sometimes our great artists have been the most critical of our society, it is because their sensitivity and their concern for justice, which must motivate any true artist, makes him aware that our Nation falls short of its highest potential. I see little of more importance to the future of our country and our civilization than full recognition of the place of the artist.

If art is to nourish the roots of our culture, society must set the artist free to follow his vision wherever it takes him. We must never forget that art is not a form of propaganda; it is a form of truth. And as Mr. MacLeish once remarked of poets, there is nothing worse for our trade than to be in style. In free society art is not a weapon and it does not belong to the spheres of polemic and ideology. Artists are not engineers of the soul. It may be different elsewhere. But democratic society–in it, the highest duty of the writer, the composer, the artist is to remain true to himself and to let the chips fall where they may. In serving his vision of the truth, the artist best serves his nation. And the nation which disdains the mission of art invites the fate of Robert Frost’s hired man, the fate of having “nothing to look backward to with pride, and nothing to look forward to with hope.”

I look forward to a great future for America, a future in which our country will match its military strength with our moral restraint, its wealth with our wisdom, its power with our purpose. I look forward to an America which will not be afraid of grace and beauty, which will protect the beauty of our natural environment, which will preserve the great old American houses and squares and parks of our national past, and which will build handsome and balanced cities for our future.

I look forward to an America which will reward achievement in the arts as we reward achievement in business or statecraft. I look forward to an America which will steadily raise the standards of artistic accomplishment and which will steadily enlarge cultural opportunities for all of our citizens. And I look forward to an America which commands respect throughout the world not only for its strength but for its civilization as well. And I look forward to a world which will be safe not only for democracy and diversity but also for personal distinction.

Robert Frost was often skeptical about projects for human improvement, yet I do not think he would disdain this hope. As he wrote during the uncertain days of the Second War:

Take human nature altogether since time began . . .
And it must be a little more in favor of man,
Say a fraction of one percent at the very least . . .
Our hold on this planet wouldn’t have so increased.

Because of Mr. Frost’s life and work, because of the life and work of this college, our hold on this planet has increased.”

Listen to speech

Text and recording courtesy of the John F. Kennedy Library and the U.S. National Archives.

 

Visiting Washington, D.C.

We spent most of the past week visiting our nation’s capital, Washington, D.C.. Congress was in session, although from a brief time spent in the Senate Chamber, it didn’t seem much was getting done.

In the gallery we were told to be quiet and observe. A senator from Hawaii was speaking, but no one was listening. A group of pages alternated places, delivering notes, glasses of water, and portable podia in a well choreographed exchange within a mostly vacant chamber. (Think Wimbledon with only ball boys/girls, no players.)

Once outside, you may encounter the random legislator passing through with a posse of aides. In the capitol rotunda velvet ropes form a temporary corridor for members of congress to navigate through constituents without pause to connect. These are very busy people doing something very important @work.

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The folks we elect to congress are protected by multiple layers of security. I’m not sure how many times I passed through security screenings or how many x-rays my body absorbed in the course of six hours, but it’s clear that we are paying a price for our democracy.

Our elected officials don’t talk to those they represent, because their workplace provides a cocoon from reality. And @work they don’t listen to one another. They don’t even show up to demonstrate professional courtesy when a colleague is speaking.

There are hundreds of twenty-somethings waiting in the wings of congressional office buildings with a vision for the future of our democracy. They hold a glimmer of promise for the future. But the prevailing impression is that no one is home.

capitol2.jpgThis was the week of the Las Vegas horror. If there was a time for leadership and visibility, this would be the moment. But as I walked the grounds on Capitol Hill, all was quiet.

I think, as Americans, we visit D.C. in search of inspiration from the past. Our history is neatly laid out in the geometry of Pierre L’Enfant’s urban design. We remember our fallen in war, recognize our culture in museum exhibits, and honor the leaders whose vision has maintained our democracy.

We stayed at the Mayflower Hotel, just down the hall from where soon to be president, Franklin Delano Roosevelt wrote his first inaugural address on the eve of his swearing in on March 4, 1933.

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As I took off my bracelet, opened my bag, checked my FitBit, and listened to an usher instruct me to keep my views to myself as I entered the Senate Chamber, I realized this is what worried Franklin Delano Roosevelt 84 years ago.

“This is preeminently the time to speak the truth, the whole truth, frankly and boldly. Nor need we shrink from honestly facing conditions in our country today. This great Nation will endure as it has endured, will revive and will prosper. So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance. In every dark hour of our national life a leadership of frankness and vigor has met with that understanding and support of the people themselves which is essential to victory.”

To those of you who go to work every day as an elected official, this is your job description: leadership of frankness and vigor – don’t shrink from honestly facing conditions in our country today.  (and maybe get rid of the velvet ropes in the rotunda)

 

 

 

 

Pictures from the revolution – 1/21/17

I got as far as Pershing Square in Downtown LA. There were too many people to ‘march’ to City Hall. The real estate in-between was occupied by a sea of veteran and newly-minted activists.

Eventually, we headed in the opposite direction along 6th and up Grand to the Disney Concert Hall. The thousands in the ‘tangent march’ I joined never heard the political speeches of the day, but were overjoyed in the surprise of the turnout.

We were a rainbow representation of the California we call home. We were messengers from divergent origin, chanting with one voice. “This is what democracy looks like”.

IMG_8183.jpgThis is what I want you to understand. The result of the U.S. election may have been the catalyst, but this is about families, values and redefining a new American dream. It’s not about following a 70 year old white man into the past, but creating a solid bridge to a viable global future for our children and grandchildren. It’s about legacy, not name calling.

IMG_8149.jpgIf we can harness the energy and creativity that knitted pink pussy hats, and illustrated catchy posters, we can change the world. The present day reality holds enough shock value without piling on with unproductive language that creates a diversion from authentic action.

 We are the parents who are the everyday role models for our children. It’s our lot in life to “go high, when others go low”. We are the adults in the room.

Many doubt our unity. They minimize our resolve. They write we cannot sustain the momentum initiated on 1/21/17.

img_8191How often, as women@work, have we heard those whispered doubts of our ability to get the job done – to compete? Enough.

I have great respect for those who have blazed trails so others might succeed, but it’s time to hand over the power to the next generation of dreamers – to trust their ability to employ genuine entrepreneurial skill to reimagine the future.

They were there on Saturday; on every street, in every city around the world.

IMG_8180.jpgWhere do we begin? Start local. Be a mentor, donate to organizations that support K-12 leadership initiatives. Invest in people.

Take any opportunity to start a conversation, and listen.

Read the constitution. Fill in the gaps in your knowledge of American history. Learn the words to ‘We Shall Overcome’.

Visit the library or local bookstore and read at least one book by an author from another culture.

Go to your state capitol, find your representative, and ask, what they are doing to encourage a new cohort of leaders? Offer to help.

If you have massive amounts of cash, avoid the temptation to create a private label on a building, and put your money toward those who will cement a more permanent legacy through public service.

If you can’t find an organization with a ‘mission match’ to your values, create one. It was one woman’s Facebook post that grew into the Women’s March.

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And so it begins…

Photo credit- Downtown LA – LA Mayor’s website 

 

 

 

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

The week@work – the value of cross-functional experience, empowering introverts, economic recovery, and a new leader @librarycongress

It turns out that the path to leadership is paved not just by elite MBA degrees, but also with experience across a range of business functions. Once you arrive in the ‘C Suite’ it’s to your advantage to pay attention to the introverts in the room.

In other stories this week@work, evidence shows an increase in middle class incomes, there’s a new Librarian of Congress, and can you remember Oprah’s first book club pick 20 years ago?

Generalize or specialize? That is the question Neil Irwin answers in ‘A Winding Path to the Top’ for The New York Times.

“How does a person get to be the boss? What does it take for an ambitious young person starting a career to reach upper rungs of the corporate world — the C.E.O.’s office, or other jobs that come with words like “chief” or “vice president” on the office door?

The answer has always included hard work, brains, leadership ability and luck. But in the 21st century, another, less understood attribute seems to be particularly important.

To get a job as a top executive, new evidence shows, it helps greatly to have experience in as many of a business’s functional areas as possible. A person who burrows down for years in, say, the finance department stands less of a chance of reaching a top executive job than a corporate finance specialist who has also spent time in, say, marketing. Or engineering. Or both of those, plus others.”

Many corporations, in the past, had institutionalized ‘rotational assignments’ in a variety of business functions under the aegis of ‘leadership development programs’. When ‘shareowner’ value became the primary measure for CEOs, these internal employee development initiatives were shut down. But the need for cross-functional expertise never went away.

“To be a C.E.O. or other top executive, said Guy Berger, an economist at LinkedIn, “you need to understand how the different parts of a company work and how they interact with each other and understand how other people do their job, even if it’s something you don’t know well enough to do yourself.”

Developing multiple areas of expertise provide a pragmatic workplace foundation for the aspiring entrepreneur, the Fortune 500 CEO, and the variety of public and private leadership opportunities in between.

You learn the language, make life-long career connections, and maintain contact with your customer.

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Location seems to influence opportunities as well. Take note, all you folks who hesitate to relocate.

“Beyond the results on job functions, the data from LinkedIn shows some trends for which the explanations aren’t completely obvious. For example, former consultants who lived in New York or Los Angeles had higher odds of ending up with a top job than people in other large cities like Washington or Houston. A former management consultant with 15 years of work experience in six different functions and an M.B.A. from a top school had a 66 percent chance of becoming a top executive if he lived in New York compared with a 38 percent chance in Washington.”

Bottom line, moving out of you career comfort zone, whether that means function or city, holds long-term implications for career success.

The second story this week@work comes from the print edition of The Economist, ‘Shhhh! Companies would benefit from helping introverts to thrive’.

Most companies worry about discriminating against their employees on the basis of race, gender or sexual preference. But they give little thought to their shabby treatment of introverts.

The recent fashion for hyper-connectedness also reinforces an ancient prejudice against introverts when it comes to promotion. Many companies unconsciously identify leadership skills with extroversion—that is, a willingness to project the ego, press the flesh and prattle on in public.

What can companies do to make life better for introverts? At the very least, managers should provide private office space and quiet areas where they can recharge. Firms need to recognise that introverts bring distinctive skills to their jobs. They may talk less in meetings, but they tend to put more thought into what they say. Leaders should look at their organisations through the introverts’ eyes. Does the company hold large meetings where the loudest voices prevail? That means that it is marginalising introverts. Does it select recruits mainly on the basis of how they acquit themselves in interviews? That could be blinding it to people who dislike performing in public.”

Jim Tankersley reported for The Washington Post Wonkblog, ‘Middle class incomes had their fastest growth on record last year’.

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“Middle-class Americans and the poor enjoyed their best year of economic improvement in decades in 2015, the Census Bureau reported Tuesday, a spike that broke a years-long streak of disappointment for American workers but did not fully repair the damage inflicted by the Great Recession.

Real median household income was $56,500 in 2015, the bureau reported, up from $53,700 in 2014. That 5.2 percent increase was the largest, in percentage terms, recorded by the bureau since it began tracking median income statistics in the 1960s.

In addition, the poverty rate fell by 1.2 percentage points, the steepest decline since 1968. There were 43.1 million Americans in poverty on the year, 3.5 million fewer than in 2014. The share of Americans who lack health insurance continued a years-long decline, falling 1.3 percentage points, to 9.1 percent.

“The highest income growth was in the bottom fifth” of workers, “which is very welcome news,” said Lawrence Mishel, president of the liberal Economic Policy Institute think tank. Furman, of the White House, credited wage-boosting policy initiatives for some of that increase: “The fact that millions of workers have gotten a raise, as states have raised minimum wages, has definitely had an effect there,” he said.

All told, the gains brought median incomes nearly back to their levels before the recession, after adjusting for inflation, though they remain below 1999 levels. Bureau officials said the 5.2 percent growth rate was not statistically distinguishable from five other previous increases in the data, most recently the 3.7 percent jump from 1997 to 1998.”

On Wednesday, Carla Hayden was sworn in as the 14th Librarian of Congress“Hayden, the first woman and the first African American to lead the national library, was nominated to the position by President Barack Obama on February 24, 2016, and her nomination was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on July 13.”4532.jpg

Baynard Woods covered the appointment for The Guardian, ‘Carla Hayden: new librarian of Congress makes history, with an eye on the future’.“Even though librarianship is one of the four what they call feminized professions – social work, education nursing, and librarianship – where 85% of the workforce is female, there haven’t been an equal amount of women in the leadership positions,” Hayden said in an interview.

Hayden is also only the third Librarian of Congress to actually have training as a librarian.

“There have been lawyers and politicians, historians, scholars, librarians, and I think at this time it’s not a detriment to have a librarian be librarian of Congress,” she said.

The librarian of Congress oversees the world’s largest library system. As the name indicates, one of the main roles of the library is to assist Congress in the research it needs in order to pass bills. It also oversees the US copyright system, names the poet laureate, and preserves historical documents and books.

Hayden first came to national prominence in 2003 when she spoke out against certain elements of the Patriot Act as the head of the American Library Association. Attorney general John Ashcroft attacked Hayden for sowing “hysteria” about the provision of the act that would allow the government to search library and bookstore records.

Hayden shot back.

“We are deeply concerned that the attorney general should be so openly contemptuous of those who seek to defend our Constitution,” she said. “Rather than ask the nation’s librarians and Americans nationwide to ‘just trust him,’ Ashcroft could allay concerns by releasing aggregate information about the number of libraries visited using the expanded powers created by the USA Patriot Act.”

At the time, there was political risk in such statements, but Hayden said she never considered that.”

In history@work this week, September 17 marked the 20th anniversary of Oprah Winfrey’s Book Club. Do you remember the first pick? Jacquelyn Mitchard‘s ‘Deep End of the Ocean’.201603-ep521-own-watn-9-949x534.jpgOprah’s Book Club quickly became a hugely influential force in the publishing world, with the popular TV host’s endorsement capable of catapulting a previously little-known book onto best-seller lists.

When Oprah’s Book Club first launched, some in the publishing world were skeptical about its chances for success. As The New York Times noted: “Winfrey’s project—recommending books, even challenging literary novels, for viewers to read in advance of discussions on her talk show—initially provoked considerable skepticism in the literary world, where many associated daytime television with lowbrow entertainments like soap operas and game shows.” However, the club proved to be a hit with Winfrey’s legions of fans, and many of her picks sold over 1 million copies. (She earned no money from book sales.) Winfrey’s ability to turn not just books but almost any product or person she recommended into a phenomenon came to be known as the “Oprah Effect.”

Celebrate this week@work with a selection from Oprah’s long list of book recommendations.

 

Photo credit: Carla Hayden by Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP

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”. 

The week@work: Olympics close: memories remain, the power of vulnerability, workplace lessons from the cineplex, and Seattle’s millennials @work

This week@work the world’s best athletes headed to the airport and the rest of us, mere mortals, returned to our workplace. A CEO discussed the benefits of embracing vulnerability and a movie critic found workplace advice at the multiplex. In Seattle, the most recent additions to the workforce ‘gig’ their way to dream jobs.

As the Olympics came to a close on Sunday evening, there were three stories that continued to resonate from the ‘workplace’ of track and field.

‘That girl is the Olympic spirit’: After colliding, runners help each other cross finish line’ Marissa Payne for the Washington Post

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For track and field athletes, the Olympics offers the biggest prize of their careers. A gold medal is a tangible symbol of years of hard work and dedication. But on Tuesday, long-distance runners Nikki Hamblin of New Zealand and Abbey D’Agostino of the United States proved hardware doesn’t always trump heart.

After the two collided on the track during the 5,000-meter race, resulting in a bad leg injury for D’Agostino, the two urged each other on and both eventually were able to finish the race, albeit seemingly sacrificing their chances at a finals berth along the way.

“Everyone wants to win and everyone wants a medal. But as disappointing as this experience is for myself and for Abbey, there’s so much more to this than a medal,” Hamblin told reporters after the race.”

‘This Great-Grandmother Coaches an Olympic Champion. Now Let Her By.’ Karen Crouse for The New York Times

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“The great-grandmother who could pass as Barbara Bush’s kid sister waded through the stands at Olympic Stadium on Sunday night, trying to get close enough to congratulate the South African runner Wayde van Niekerk, who had just captured the gold medal in the 400 meters and broken one of the oldest world records in men’s track and field.

This is Botha’s first Olympics. She competed — without distinction, she said — in the sprints and the long jump when she was young and began coaching in 1968 while living in her native Namibia, then a territory under the rule of South Africa. Her first athletes were her son and daughter, but when they reached a certain level, she passed them off to other coaches, she said, “because I feel that’s not always a good thing as a parent to coach your own children.”

The woman who didn’t believe it prudent to coach her own children has earned the trust of her athletes by treating them as family.

“She doesn’t see us as athletes or as people; she sees us as her children,” said van Niekerk, who asked Botha in late 2012 if he could train under her at the University of the Free State, where she has been the head track and field coach since 1990.

Van Niekerk won the race from Lane 8, considered a disadvantageous position. Botha said it didn’t bother her that he was in an outside lane. “Because every lane is the same distance,” she said.”

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Can Ashton Eaton Save the Decathlon?  Mary Pilon for The New Yorker

“Ten years ago, Tate Metcalf, a high-school track coach in Bend, Oregon, was trying to find a college that would give one of his athletes a scholarship. Ashton Eaton was a talented sprinter with a fierce long jump, but Metcalf received mostly lukewarm responses. His coach felt that Eaton would have the best shot at getting into a Division I college if he competed in one of track and field’s multi-event disciplines, like the heptathlon or the decathlon. Metcalf knew it would make Eaton, who was raised by a single mother and had never had any private coaching, one of the first people in his family to go to college. So he suggested it. “Sure,” Eaton replied, as Metcalf recently recalled. Then Eaton said, “What’s the decathlon?”

Eaton, who is twenty-eight, is now the defending Olympic gold medallist and world-record holder in the event. “He’s the face of track and field,” Metcalf said, sitting underneath a giant banner of Eaton draped over Hayward Field, in Eugene, Oregon, at the Olympic trials earlier this summer. “But nobody knows it because he’s a decathlete.” It’s true: though he has a gleaming smile, press-perfect interview skills, and historic talent, Eaton has remained virtually unknown relative to his Olympic-champion counterparts and even some of his decathlete predecessors. The one place he’s remained indisputably famous is Eugene: here, his face graces billboards and bus signs; the local minor-league baseball team recently distributed Ashton Eaton bobblehead dolls as part of a tribute night to him. “I haven’t seen them yet,” Eaton told me. “It’s a little weird.”

The decathlon hasn’t always been a path to athletic obscurity. Many consider the winner of the event, which can trace its origins to ancient Greece, the “world’s greatest athlete.”

On Thursday evening, after two days of competition in ten events, Olympian Ashton Eaton repeated as gold medalist in the decathlon. He continues to hold the title of ‘the world’s greatest athlete’.

One of the best series in journalism is Adam Bryant‘s weekly column in The New York Times, ‘The Corner Office’. Bryant poses five or six questions to a selected CEO, and their responses appear in the Sunday Business Section. This past week, Christa Quarles of Open Table shared ‘early leadership lessons’.

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“The importance of embracing vulnerability. Early on, especially when I worked on Wall Street, God forbid that you declare any granular weakness, because people would pounce on it.

But the paradox of owning what you know and what you don’t know is that you actually seem more powerful as you expose more vulnerability. I’ve become more comfortable with exposing my vulnerability and not being afraid to go there.

When I give criticism now, I’ll talk about how I failed in a similar situation. I try to humanize the criticism in a way that says this is about an action, it’s not about you as a person. I want to make you better. If somebody feels like they’re in a safe place and they can hear the message, they’re more likely to change.”

Theater critic A.O. Scott may seem an unlikely source of management wisdom. This week he suggests ‘Even Superheroes Punch the Clock’.

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“This summer, your local multiplex is home to an extended business seminar. There are sessions on crisis-management and how to deal with office romances (“Star Trek Beyond”); on office rivalries and mission-statement drafting (“Captain America: Civil War”); on start-ups (“Ghostbusters”) and I.T. disasters (“Jason Bourne”). Every action movie is a workplace sitcom in disguise.

What is “Suicide Squad”? A bad movie, to be sure — and yes, I’m aware of opinions to the contrary (thanks, Twitter) — but also a movie about difficult personnel issues….The central problem of “Suicide Squad” is one that bedevils department heads and midlevel employees in every corner of the modern economy: team building.”

The last story this week is journalist Kirk Johnson‘s profile, ‘Debt. Terror. Politics. To Seattle Millennials, the Future Looks Scary.’

“Part of Jillian Boshart’s life plays out in tidy, ordered lines of JavaScript computer code, and part in a flamboyant whirl of corsets and crinoline. She’s a tech student by day, an enthusiastic burlesque artist and producer by night. “Code-mode” and “show-mode,” she calls those different guises.

This year she won a coveted spot here at a nonprofit tech school for women, whose recent graduates have found jobs with starting salaries averaging more than $90,000 a year. Seattle, where she came after college in Utah to study musical theater, is booming with culture and youthful energy.

But again and again, life has taught Ms. Boshart, and others in her generation, that control can be elusive.

Even for someone who seems to have drawn one of her generation’s winning hands, it feels like a daunting time to be coming of age in America.

“I don’t just expect things to unfold, or think, ‘Well, now I’ve got it made,’ because there’s always a turn just ahead of you and you don’t know what’s around that corner,” she said.”

A final thought this week @work – When we find that ‘dream job’, in an uncertain global economy, we realize there is more to what we do than the compensation: money or medals. The Olympics is our quadrennial reminder to honor our values. Thanks to @abbey_dags and @NikkiHamblin.

 

Photo credits: ‘Fireworks explode during the Rio 2016 closing ceremony’   Robert Gauthier Los Angeles Times, ‘Abbey D’Agostino and Nikki Hamblin’ @NCAA, ‘Ashton Eaton’ Matt Slocum for AP, ‘Ans Botha and Wayde van Niekerk’ Twitter, ‘Suicide Squad’ courtesy of Warner Bros.

‘Other duties as assigned’- In search of a congressional job description

Last week members of the U.S. House of Representatives staged a ‘sit in’ on the House floor – #NoBillNoBreak and then went home. In London, Members of Parliament argued the outcome of the #Brexit vote, trying to gain a foothold in a new world order. It got me thinking. With all this visibility, maybe more folks would be interested in a career as a congressman/congresswoman or MP.

Like any job seeker, I decided to look for a job description. You know, one of those outlines of responsibilities and ‘other duties as assigned’. I started my research where we all start, on Google.

For the UK, it was quite easy to come up with an ‘MP’s generic job description’ on the official UK Parliament website. Although it seems not to have been updated since 2001, it clearly sets out the scope of the job.

Job purpose

Represent, defend and promote national interests and further the needs and interests of constituents wherever possible.

Principal accountabilities

1.Help furnish and maintain Government and Opposition so that the business of parliamentary democracy may proceed.

2.Monitor, stimulate and challenge the Executive in order to influence and where possible change government action in ways which are considered desirable.

3.Initiate, seek to amend and review legislation so as to help maintain a continually relevant and appropriate body of law.

4.Establish and maintain a range of contacts throughout the constituency, and proper knowledge of its characteristics, so as to identify and understand issues affecting it and, wherever possible, further the interests of the constituency generally.

5.Provide appropriate assistance to individual constituents, through using knowledge of local and national government agencies and institutions, to progress and where possible help resolve their problems.

6.Contribute to the formulation of party policy to ensure that it reflects views and national needs which are seen to be relevant and important.

7.Promote public understanding of party policies in the constituency, media and elsewhere to facilitate the achievement of party objectives.

It’s even written in clear ‘accomplishment’ language that can easily transfer to a resume or CV.

Next, I searched House.gov, the official website of the U.S. House of Representatives. This is what I came up with.

What is a Representative?

Also referred to as a congressman or congresswoman, each representative is elected to a two-year term serving the people of a specific congressional district. Among other duties, representatives introduce bills and resolutions, offer amendments and serve on committees.

Not very accomplishment oriented.

Maybe I was using the wrong search terms. Following logic, I decided to check if there was a ‘new employee handbook’. There is – a ‘Members Congressional Handbook’ that spells out, in painful detail, staff categories, office expenses, communications, travel and House Documents. Still no job description. But clearly, you need to hire folks, budget, manage a staff, talk to colleagues, travel and submit expense reports.

And then there is the fundraising. A CBS 60 Minutes segment examined another ‘job requirement’ – telemarketing – for 30 hours a week.

“The American public has a low opinion of Congress. Only 14 percent think it’s doing a good job. But Congress has excelled in one way. Raising money. Members of Congress raised more than a billion dollars for their 2014 election. And they never stop.”

Check the box on fundraising, but 30 hours?

Here’s my question. How can we measure our representatives without a job description? We think they’re not doing a good job, but where in that short paragraph does it spell out how a member of Congress ‘serves’ the people.

In the UK, elected leaders are beginning a process to decouple from the European Union, not because they want to, but because the democratic referendum requires them to proceed. They have a job description that clearly guides their actions.

In the U.S. if you are 25, a U.S. citizen for seven years, and a resident of the district you wish to represent, you can begin the process to run for election. But what are you running for?

I think it’s time to create a few goals for our elected leaders; not political, but aspirational. For example – at the end of your two year term you will have effectively represented your constituents by visiting, listening and communicating their hopes for this country to your colleagues. You will represent the interests of your party as long as they coincide with the interests of your district. And when your personal views contradict those you represent, you will have the courage to be a servant leader.

We all operate in a workplace where half our day is spent doing things outside our job description. The point is, we are compensated for what we were hired to do. When the ‘other duties as assigned’ overwhelm our original purpose, it’s time to redefine the scope of what we do.

It’s time for a job description for Congress.

 

 

 

 

We need a ‘sense of urgency’

Has a ‘moment of silence’ replaced a ‘sense of urgency’? In a time when we’ve run out of words, maybe we can find a path to action in the advice of a leadership guru.

I was in Lancaster, Pennsylvania this past weekend, at a retreat with a group of ‘millennials’ whose common bond is a college scholarship financed by an amazing philanthropic couple.

Early Sunday morning, there was news of a shooting in Orlando. With few details, numb to the continuing violence in our country, we joined our small group discussions, formulating solutions to the most challenging problems for the next president. We did not discuss gun safety.

As I drove home Sunday afternoon, through the farmland and burgeoning developments that dot the Pennsylvania landscape, I listened to the story emerging from Florida, in the unsteady voices of seasoned journalists who were reporting one more time from a scene of unimaginable violence.

Early Sunday morning another group of millennials, whose common bond was their identity as LBGT, celebrated life in a club, ‘Pulse’, in Orlando. Many did not return home through the central Florida landscape of Universal and Disney.

I have watched too many news reports over the past 48 hours. I finally turned away after watching Anderson Cooper of CNN deliver a heartbreaking narrative of those who lost their lives.

Enough.

We should be safe @school, @work, @home and @play.

I want our leaders to pause for a moment of silent remembrance, but I also want them to be leaders. I want them to represent their special interests, their constituents.

And I want millennials to assume ownership, set the agenda, and take action; before more members of the most promising generation are lost.

We need a sense of urgency. Professor of Leadership Emeritus at the Harvard Business School, John Kotter‘s 2008 advice to business leaders has equal resonance with our challenge today, “create a sense of urgency by getting people to actually see and feel the need for change. Why focus on urgency? Without it, any change effort is doomed by insidious nature of complacency in all its forms and guises.” Step One – “overcome the fear and anger that can suppress urgency.”

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The week@work – leadership lessons from Leicester City, #TonysSoDiverse, exit strategies & the April jobs report

This week@work we visit Leicester, England (think Wichita,KS) to uncover a story of unlikely success, celebrate the diversity of the Tony Award nominees, grasp the value of a positive employee exit process, and review the April jobs report.

At the beginning of the English Premier League season, Ladbrokes, the world leader in gaming and betting set 5000/1 odds that Leicester City would win the title. On Monday, the team beat the odds to hoist the trophy and celebrate their marvelous win.

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There were hundreds of news articles published over the past week, covering the story from every possible angle. Here are a few, examining the business applications and social impact.

‘What do the foxes say?’, The Economist’s take on the champions suggests a future in business school and corporate conference engagements for club manager, Claudio Ranieri.

“In footballing terms, Claudio Ranieri, an affable Italian, has found a way to turn water into wine. Mr Ranieri manages a club in England, Leicester City, which historically has not been very good. On May 2nd his team were crowned champions of the English Premier League, a competition more watched than any other on the planet, and reliably won—including in every one of the preceding 20 years—by one of four much bigger clubs.

…Leicester’s triumph will also spark inordinate interest in the world of business, which has long looked to sport for lessons on management and leadership.

The BBC’s Robert Plummer shared six of ‘Leicester City’s business secrets’. “You don’t need to throw money at the problem. Get the right people around you. Create the right culture. Do the maths. Create the right incentives. Don’t forget your mum’s birthday!”

For a literary, fan perspective, Booker winning author, Julian Barnes wrote ‘My Stupid Leicester City Love’.

“I haven’t always been a Leicester City supporter: there was a time before I could read, or knew how to tune the Bakelite wireless to the voice of Raymond Glendenning on Sports Report. But from the moment I became sportingly sentient – say, the age of five or six – I have been (as they didn’t much say then) a Fox. So, six and a half decades and counting.

To be a lifelong supporter of Leicester is to have spent decades poised between mild hopefulness and draining disappointment. You learn to cultivate a shrugging ruefulness, to become familiar with the patronising nods of London cabbies, and to cling to an assortment of memories, of pluses and minuses, some comic, some less so. Yes, we have won promotion to the top division every so often; but the fact of promotion logically implies an earlier relegation. Yes, we did win the League Cup; but what burns the soul are the four times we reached the FA Cup final and the four times we lost.”

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ESPN’s Wright Thompson introduced readers to the diverse “salad bowl” that is Leicester, England, in ‘We’ve come to win the league’.

“This is the first city in the United Kingdom with less than 50 percent of the population identifying as “white British,” which some people see as the inevitable destiny of an island nation that tried to conquer the world, while others see it as a sign of the apocalypse. People here of different faiths and races seem to get along; Narborough Road, one of the main avenues into the city, was named the most diverse street in Britain by researchers. Shopkeepers and small business owners from 23 nations work there.

John Williams lives on a park near the local university where he teaches…He studies the sociology of football and has written many books on the subject. Whenever someone wants to understand the subtext of life on the pitches and terraces of Leicester, he’s often the first call.

“It was a very white space,” Williams said. “It had a sense of foreboding and exclusion about it. The new stadium has none of those memories. Everyone starts with a clean state at the new stadium because you have to make the history. This is a new history being written.”

Janan Ganesh shared ‘Lessons for everyone from the rise of Leicester City’.  “There is more of the Enlightenment than of romance about this story.

Foreign owners, a foreign coach, a polyglot squad, a laboratory of a training ground: far from mounting a stand against the modern world, Leicester is the modern world. Do not hold out against change, this season teaches us, absorb and master it. The lesson is not just for other clubs but also for modest cities adapting to globalisation and for individuals navigating an insecure world.”

And while we are on the topic of diversity, the Tony Awards were announced last week, recognizing the best of the American theater over the past year. Katherine Brooks sent a message to the left coast, ‘Dear Hollywood, Let Broadway Show You What Diversity Looks Like’.

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“The nominations for “Hamilton,” along with other plays and musicals like “The Color Purple,” “Eclipsed,” “On Your Feet!,” and “Shuffle Along,” reveal a picture of Broadway far more diverse than seasons before it. These shows feature actors of color in lead roles, highlight the experiences of women and minorities in the U.S. and beyond, and empower writers and directors breaking barriers in their categories. They prove, along with a litany of shows that weren’t nominated, that this year was a different kind of year for the Great White Way.

…critics across the Internet are using a different kind of hashtag ahead of the theater world’s version of the Academy Awards: #TonysSoDiverse.”

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Heather Huhman addressed the importance of ‘last impressions’ in an article for Entrepreneur. Building and maintaining a positive reputation is key to recruiting talent. How an employer treats people throughout their ‘on the job life cycle’ is often chronicled in social media. Thinking strategically about the exit process can reap long term benefits.

“…the process for offboarding employees should be just as important as the onboarding one, and that companies neglecting the former, integral process may experience negative impacts. Here are a few things to consider, to ensure your formal offboarding program is successful: make saying goodbye positive, go beyond the exit interview, turn exiting employees into brand ambassadors and use past employees in your referral program.

Go beyond the exit interview to establish and continually improve the offboarding process to include exit surveys, strong communication throughout an organization and a plan to stay connected to departing employees.”

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Eric Morath analyzed the recent jobs report for the Wall Street Journal.

“U.S. companies slowed the pace of hiring in April while paying workers only slightly more, signaling a softening of the labor market…

…an increase in wage growth and a pickup in the number of hours worked across the economy could signal solid underlying income growth for workers that would support stronger consumer spending in coming months.

…the easing of job gains could also suggest the economy reached a level where firms will provide workers better pay increases and more hours, rather than hiring new employees.”