The Friday Poem ‘The Way It Is’ by William Stafford

“There’s a thread you follow.” opens this week’s Friday Poem, ‘The Way It Is’, from poet, writer, and photographer William Stafford.

As a conscientious objector during the second World War, Stafford worked in civilian public service camps for the U.S. Forest Service in Arkansas and California. In 1948 he moved to Oregon to teach at Lewis and Clark College.

In 1963 he was selected to receive the National Book Award from a group of nominees including William Carlos Williams and Robert Frost. He served as Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress in 1970, a position that today carries the title of Poet Laureate.

In addition to his 65 volumes of poetry and prose, he left a collection of 16,000 photographic negatives to the archive at Lewis and Clark College. In a 2014 interview for Oregon Public Broadcasting, his son, Kim Stafford commented on his father’s discomfort with the spotlight. “When he became famous, the camera allowed him to leave the center of the circle and document the other writers.”

His lifetime spanned decades of dramatic change, and yet he stayed true to his values. His accomplishments and awards did not distract. “…You don’t ever let go of the thread”.

The Way It Is

There’s a thread you follow. It goes among
things that change. But it doesn’t change.
People wonder about what you are pursuing.
You have to explain about the thread.
But it is hard for others to see.
While you hold it you can’t get lost.
Tragedies happen; people get hurt
or die; and you suffer and get old.
Nothing you do can stop time’s unfolding.
You don’t ever let go of the thread.

William Stafford   ‘The Way It Is’   Graywolf Press, 1999

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Photo credit: Kim Stafford

The week@work – “and the winner is…”, transition@the Met, stress@work, and ambition

The week@work started with ‘the mistake’ at the end of the Oscars ceremony, and continued with a visible transition at the top of the most prestigious U.S. art museum. On the job ‘burn-out’ continues to take a toll on all @work, and may explain the recent Uber executive’s meltdown. And, a leading fashion designer is launching a campaign to ’embrace ambition’.

When we make a mistake @work, we typically don’t have an audience 32.9 million folks watching. But that’s what happened Sunday evening when the wrong envelope led to an ‘epic fail’ in the announcement of Best Picture winner. The New York Times film critics shared their reactions.

“…in its own way, last night’s spectacle — so relatively smooth, until all of a sudden it was anything but — represents a Hollywood watershed or, at least, like the original “Bonnie and Clyde,” the arrival of a new generation. The envelope mix-up was painful, but it brought to the stage two directors in their 30s with five features between them and reminded the audience that Damien Chazelle and Barry Jenkins are not enemies.  A.O. Scott

“Honestly, I don’t know. But something happened that seemed to simultaneously tell us who we were, are, believe ourselves to be. This is, what, the fourth time since November that the country has gathered for an evening of live television, only to be part of a rug-yanking ceremony. After Sunday night, the presidential election, the Super Bowl and, to a different but related extent, the Grammys, I’ve officially come down with outcome-oriented post-traumatic stress disorder — Ooptsd, as in upside my head.”  Wesley Morris

And from Hollywood, where the trade publication Variety’s cover seemed to mirror the events, Claudia Eller, co-editor in chief provided context for the ‘morning after’ cover.

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“The high stakes and cutthroat tactics enlisted during Hollywood’s annual award season have long rivaled those of hard-fought political campaigns. But this year’s race showed the entertainment community at its absolute best. This was not a case of winner-take-all, but rather — as our cover story hopefully and joyfully exemplifies — proof that contenders share similar dreams, struggles, and frailties, and in fact can show respect and a generosity of spirit toward one another, whether they win or lose.”

On Wednesday morning I received this email from Thomas P. Cambell, Director and C.E.O. of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

“I write to share the news that I have decided to step down from my role as Director and CEO of The Metropolitan Museum of Art. It is not an easy choice to step away, especially at such a transitional moment. That said, the Museum’s current vitality is what makes it the right moment to do so. For the next stage of my career I look forward to new challenges beyond The Met, always in service of art, scholarship, and understanding.”

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What now? From Margaret Lyons on Twitter, “Please, someone: Set a prestige drama among the employees of a world-class museum.”

Maybe the Met could use a ‘Mozart in the Jungle’ treatment. Are you listening Jeff Bezos?

Holland Carter offered ‘How to Fix the Met: Connect Art to Life’

“What I can talk about is art, and how a museum can make people care about it. If historical art is now a hard sell, and it is, learn to sell it hard. That means, among other things, start telling the truth about it: about who made objects, and how they work in the world, and how they got to the museum, and what they mean, what values they advertise, good and bad. Go for truth (which, like the telling of history, is always changing), and connect art to life. Mix things up: periods, functions, cultures. (You can always unmix them.) Let audiences see that old is always new, if viewed through knowledge.

To present art this way — to pitch it, advocate it, make it snap to life — is to rethink the basic dynamic of a museum, turn it from passive to active, from archival to interactive, while letting it be all of these. This is the work of curators, and the Met has some fantastic ones. But to do their job boldly and radically, they need the attentive, encouraging permission of an alert director, probably meaning one who isn’t also saddled with being the company’s chief accountant.”

Rachel Feintzeig asked ‘Feeling Burned Out at Work? Join the Club.’

“Stress and anxiety are cited in 70% of the calls placed to phone-counseling lines at Workplace Options, a provider of employee-assistance programs; in 2014, 50% of callers complained of those feelings. Total calls to those counseling lines reached 42,500 last month, an 18% increase from 2016’s average.

Gallup’s most recent large-scale survey about burnout in the U.S., conducted in 2012, found that more than 40% of workers were so stressed at work they felt burned out. A more recent survey of German workers, conducted in 2015, found that nearly a quarter felt burned out.

Workers aren’t “assertive about their boundaries because they fear for their jobs,” said Alden Cass, a Manhattan-based clinical psychologist who treats patients with high-stress jobs. Burnout begins when a worker feels overwhelmed for a sustained period of time, then apathetic and ultimately numb, he said.”

Not sure if Travis Kalanick of Uber is suffering from burn-out, but last week’s viral video arguing with one of his employees was the culmination of a series of PR nightmares for the executive. Adrienne LaFrance reported ‘As Uber Melts down, Its CEO Says He ‘Must Fundamentally Change’.

“It took eight years and at least as many back-to-back-to-back-to-back controversies to break Travis Kalanick.

After a stunning month of scandals at Uber, Kalanick, its founder and CEO, sent an emotional and uncharacteristically apologetic memo to his employees Tuesday night. “This is the first time I’ve been willing to admit that I need leadership help,” Kalanick wrote. “And I intend to get it.”

The final story this week@work comes from the fashion pages and reporter Jacob Bernstein who asks ‘When Did ‘Ambition’ Become A Dirty Word? to introduce the story of designer Tory Burch and the most recent effort of her foundation.

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“There is nothing particularly fiery about Tory Burch…the issue of ambition, and the way it is used to defame women, is nevertheless personal to her.

In 2009, Ms. Burch started the Tory Burch Foundation and, through a partnership with Bank of America, saw it grow to an organization that ultimately gave more than $25 million to female entrepreneurs around the world.

Many of the recipients of these grants had experienced the same kind of sexism she faced. They were called too hungry, too intent on power, too ambitious — code words used in place of the more vulgar expressions that men (and sometimes women, too) used when they were out of earshot.

“There was a harmful double standard,” she said.”

The global campaign, ‘Embrace Ambition’ launches with a PSA in conjunction with International Women’s Day.

This week@work I encourage your ambition, and wish you a speedy recovery from “Ooptsd”, NYT film critic Wesley Morris’ appropriately new acronym for our times – “outcome-oriented post-traumatic stress disorder”.

 

 

 

 

What if you lost 25% of your organization on one day?

When we talk about corporate culture today we talk about change. What would you do if you lost 25% of your population in one day? In three months you can expect replacements for the 25% to arrive at your doorstep. The only complication is that the newbies lack the experience of the folks who left. One more thing. An increasing number in this group will never visit a physical location of the organization, communicating solely online.

Shall we have a conversation about ‘disruption’? What resources would you require to manage the scale of change?

This is the continuous management challenge for colleges and universities. And yet, those on the corporate side often discount the ‘unreality’ of the campus workplace, while those working in academia are suspicious of those in ‘the real world’.

Today is a good day to imagine this scenario as thousands of freshman arrive on campus or sign in to their first online course.

It’s time for business schools to take a look at what’s happening on their campuses and take the lead to cross-pollinate the lessons learned across the great academic – corporate divide.

When we talk about the 25% we are talking students. It doesn’t include the annual turnover in faculty and staff.

How do you manage the expectations of this diverse group that the organization (college) is hesitant to refer to as customer, many of whom have a team of consultants (parents) directing every move? How do you create a culture that is sustained through significant population shifts?

Start with the leaders?

The academic career path that leads to the university ‘C Suite’ rarely includes leadership training. The more enlightened college presidents invite the feedback of consultants, but the majority rely on the belief that they have always been the smartest person in the room and lead accordingly.

The realities of economic viability challenge the most effective leader to balance donor pressures with cultural continuity.

The job description has changed. It’s not just faculty and students anymore. The leadership portfolio may include a multi-million dollar entertainment complex (football), a multi-billion dollar health care campus, major real estate redevelopment and significant political lobbying.

College presidents once occupied a place of influence in the national conversation. They have been replaced by political voices who view universities as the sanctuary of the elite.

University presidents are running cities within cities. They are the guarantors of our civic future with their link to generational and social change.

I have worked in both corporate and academic environments. I am aware of the wall of bias that separate the two worlds. No one benefits from this insularity. Each could gain from the leadership lessons of the other.