How Solomon Would Choose A Candidate

SolomonIn Proverbs 6 verses 6 through 19, King Solomon wrote:

There are six things the Lord hates,
seven that are detestable to him:
17    haughty eyes,
a lying tongue,
hands that shed innocent blood,
18     a heart that devises wicked schemes,
feet that are quick to rush into evil,
19    a false witness who pours out lies
and a person who stirs up conflict in the community

No matter your political persuasion or party affiliation, King Solomon provides a benchmark against which a candidate can be judged.

Haughty eyes – This is Solomon’s way of describing someone who is arrogant, condescending, and full of self-pride. A wise leader is a humble leader: one who empathizes with those he or she leads, and someone who seeks out and listens to diverse opinions. In Proverbs 11 verse 2, Solomon wrote, “When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.”

A lying tongue – My father used to caution, “A man who lies to you, will steal from you.” There is no such thing as a “little lie.” A liar cannot be trusted, and does not respect those he or she lies to. Solomon also wrote, “A lying tongue, hates those it hurts.” Proverbs, 26 verse 28

Hands that shed innocent blood – It is a leader’s responsibility to care for and protect the helpless and innocent—to ensure that the use of force is justified and judicious. “It is not good to be partial to the wicked and so deprive the innocent of justice.” Proverbs 18 verse 5

A heart that devises wicked schemes – It is detestable for a leader to concoct dishonest plots in order to be elected or enriched. A wise leader cares more for those he leads, than he cares for himself or herself. Solomon also wrote, “A fool finds pleasure in wicked schemes, but a person of understanding delights in wisdom.” Proverbs 10 verse 23

Feet that are quick to rush into evil – An evil person is eager to get into all kinds of mischief—more concerned about his or her “wants” than the needs of those he or she leads. “The wicked crave evil; their neighbors get no mercy from them.” Proverbs 21 verse 10

A false witness who pours out lies – A candidate who spreads lies and rumors about his or her opponent cannot be trusted to govern fairly and wisely.   Solomon wrote, “A corrupt witness mocks at justice, and the mouth of the wicked gulps down evil.” Proverbs 19:28

A person who stirs up conflict in the community – A candidate who is willing to turn neighbor against neighbor, to divide rather than unify, is someone who is willing to forsake leadership for personal gain. Solomon got it right when he wrote, “who plots evil with deceit in his heart – he always stirs up conflict.” Proverbs 6:14

A leader who possesses attributes the antithesis of the preceding 7 things is: humble, honest, prudent, wise, discerning, fair and a unifier—Someone you may disagree with, but someone you can trust.

You Didn’t Need Me then; I Don’t Need You Now

Jobs GraphA national building supply firm decided to no longer solicit business from custom homebuilders. After the collapse of the housing market, when a salesman solicited a former customer’s business he was told, “You didn’t need me during good times and I don’t need you now.”

When I told my father our sheet metal shop was too busy to take walk-in business, he invited me to join him for a cup of coffee.

Over coffee he told of the difficulties involved in opening a business in the midst of the Great Depression: the phone not ringing; no customers coming through the door. He related how he drove around the county, looking for a job to quote; how he worried about making payroll.

He commented on the loyalty of once small, walk-in customers. How a smile and a thank you for a two-dollar order can result in thousands of dollars of business. He declared, “Every customer is precious; you never know where a relationship may lead.” Needless to say, we continued to accept walk-in customers.

During the housing boom, many building material suppliers erected signs discouraging walk-in customers: “Contractors Only,” “No Cash Customers,” “Customers Must Have a Trade Account.” The advent of the “Great Recession” resulted in many of those signs being removed, but the message, “We don’t need your business.” had been delivered. Gone was the opportunity to develop new relationships; lost was the opportunity to grow with customers; and lingering was the bitterness of rejection.

As with my father and the Great Depression, the lessons of the “Great Recession” are deeply ingrained within many business leaders. They have come to understand the relationships made during the good times, will be needed when the bad times come; and, today’s small customer, may be tomorrow’s prime account.

They Scattered Like Quail

bragg_signIn 1970, I reported for Army basic training at Fort Bragg, North Carolina—home base of the 82nd Airborne and Army Special Forces.

As part of their training, basic trainees were required to guard base warehouses. These unarmed and untrained soldiers provided sport for inebriated members of the 82nd Airborne. The paratroopers would challenge, terrorize and rough up the slick-sleeved guards. To thwart the attacks, the army decided to provide the sentinels with nightsticks—providing the paratroopers with clubs. Later, higher-ups decided the trainees should carry unloaded M-14 rifles—which became souvenirs. Finally, someone got serious and the decision was made to provide the guards with birdshot loaded, twelve-gauge shot guns.

Prior to pulling guard duty, the trainees had to learn how to fire the weapon. No big deal for the boys who grew up hunting; but, a daunting experience for kids who had never seen a shotgun.Shotgun

Trainees were issued a shotgun along with six shells and instructed: “Men, take your shells and load them into the shotgun; then place the safety on; turn down range; chamber one round; and upon command, remove the safety and fire at your target.” Everything went well, until the fellow next to me chambered a round and pulled the trigger. It was like a South Georgia bird hunt: shot rained down as trainees, instructors and drill sergeants scattered like quail. A solid week of kitchen duty taught the premature shooter a lesson about following instructions.

The shotguns proved to be the right tool, when a sentry peppered the backend of a proud member of the 82nd with a load of birdshot. The word spread the guards were armed and the harassment ended.

I learned the importance of providing the right tools and training. Fewer heads would have been busted if shotguns had been provided to the trainees from the beginning. Instead, the Army equipped the sentries with nightsticks and rifles before coming up with the right tool.

Sometimes, we are guilty of expecting first class results with second rate equipment and training. The increased cost to get it right is far less expensive then getting it wrong.

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It Resides Between The Ears



I noticed our dog, Annie, was avoiding our home’s wood floors. Being a cold day, I thought she was warmer standing on a rug.  However, there was more than a chilly floor on her mind as she danced nervously on the rug’s edge, instead of making a mad dash to her food dish.

A strange thought had taken residence between her ears: she is frightened of wood floors.  You can see her trying to figure out how to maneuver from one area to another.  To get to the kitchen she will run from the family room rug to another under a game table, only to realize she is further away; return and try again.

For some reason, the hall between the dining and living room is dangerous but the one from the dining room to the kitchen is okay.  Entering through the front door she rushes to the dining room rug; from there, through the “good” hallway, to the rug in the kitchen; then to the rug under the breakfast table; to the rug in front of the door to the utility room and finally to the utility room and her dinner dish.  With a pause to build courage at each stop, it is a somewhat sad but hilarious process.

Annie is not alone in being afflicted by unshakable thoughts.  My golf game was pretty good until I shanked a short-iron shot.  I realized, not turning my shoulders occasioned the problem so I became conscious about making a good shoulder turn.

The next Saturday, I met my buddies on the first tee and foregoing any warm up, hit a good tee shot. On the fourth hole, while swinging my sand wedge I wondered if I was turning my shoulders.  At that time, I should have quit and gone to the clubhouse for a beer—stick a fork in me, I was done.  Like Annie and the floors, I couldn’t get the thought out of my head.

Fears and beliefs, residing in the mind, can prevent success. Ideas—such as the fear of failure or the mindset of there being just one way to do a job.

I have an acquaintance who hates his job. He complains about his boss, pay, hours and lack of advancement.  He has developed a plan for a new business venture—one I believe will succeed—and funding is lined up. However, as much as he hates his job, he fears failure more.  He hasn’t recognized the misery accruing from failure, could be no worse than the unhappiness he is enduring.

It took drastic action to convince an employee there was more than one way to a job. A mechanic in our sheet metal shop invented excuses not to use a new piece of equipment. Accustomed to the old machine, he did not want to change. To no avail, I begged, I cajoled and I threatened.  One night, using a length of chain and a padlock, I rendered the old machine inoperable; forcing him to use the new device.  A few days later, he thanked me for making his job easier.

Behavior, how someone responds to problems, challenges and opportunities, is part nature and part nurture. Some people are bold and fearless; while, others are timid and cautious. A bold/fearless person, might have a tendency to make precipitous decisions; while a timid/cautious person might miss out on opportunities.

An understanding of behavior, allows one to adapt his or her responses: a person who understands his tendency to make precipitous decisions will be cautious; conversely, a person who understands he might miss an opportunity due to his tendency to be cautious, will be bolder. An understanding of one’s behavior can be obtained through experience. Another, and often less painful than experience, is through a behavioral analysis, such as a DISC profile.

Success in life, work and relationships stems from understanding and having a sense of self—of deeply comprehending who you are, what you do and how you do it.

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Can Leadership Be Learned?

Are leaders “born to lead?” Is it part of their DNA?  Or, can a person learn leadership?  I believe the latter—the attributes and skills that make a leader can be learned.

The attributes necessary to leadership are those that define how a person deals with his or her responsibilities, organizations, followers, and others.  These attributes can be described by 5 words,all beginning with the letter C—the 5 C’s.

Also, necessary for leadership is an awareness of one’s behaviors and motivators.  Understanding these factors, leads to the skill being able to adapt to the differing behaviors and motivators of others.

The 5 C’s

Effective leaders possess 5 key attributes: convictions, courage, commitment, consistency and connecting.  Collectively, these make up the “5 C’s” of leadership and are essential to leading through influence rather than by authority.

Convictions are one’s firmly held beliefs.  Effective leaders practice truthfulness, honesty, loyalty and exemplary behavior.  They not only “talk the talk,” they “walk the walk;” and, by doing so they set the standard for their followers.

Courage is the ability to act despite fear.  Possessing courage of their convictions, effective leaders stand fast in difficult times.  They have the courage to innovate; to take risks; to think “outside the box.”  Their courage emboldens and empowers their followers to act courageously.

A commitment is a pledge to serve organizations, people or activities.  A leader does not take a commitment lightly—through good and bad, he or she “stays” the course; doing whatever is necessary to achieve success.

An effective leader is a consistent leader: not hot today, cold tomorrow or allowing differing standards and rules for different people.  Followers know his or her expectations and understand the consequences of not meeting them.  By being consistent, leaders create a level of fairness that permeates an organization; setting the standard for how people deal with others.

Effective leaders understand the importance of and work at connecting with others.  They practice listening; they manage by “walking around; they take time to recognize achievement and praise success.  Effective leaders are empathetic; willing to share joy, disappointment and sorrow.

Practicing the 5 C’s of leadership is observable behavior.  People see that a leader has convictions, possesses courage, is committed, consistent and knows how to connect with others.  Seeing is believing; believing is doing.  How a leader conducts his or herself, sets the pattern of behavior followers will adopt.

Behavior and Motivation

“Behavior” refers to HOW people do what they do. When people are unaware of their “natural” behavior, they can clash with people whose behavior differs: a confident person dealing with a shy person; or, a neat person working with someone who is messy.  Behavior is how people respond to:

• Problems and challenges

• Influencing others

• Pace of environment

• Rules and procedures

Behavioral research suggests that the most effective people are those who understand themselves, both their strengths and weaknesses, so they can develop strategies to meet the demands of their environment.

Whereas Behaviors illustrate the HOW of our actions and decision-making, Motivators explain the WHY behind your actions and passions.

People respond to different motivators.  For example, some people are motivated by money; others by recognition and others by learning.  Motivators are:

  • The personal drivers, the “WHY” of what we do
  • Influence our decision making
  • Are our way of perceiving value, our filters and biases

Motivators are the windows through which an individual views the world. These intrinsic motivations explain the key forces driving someone’s on-the-job performance and why they act a certain way.

An understanding of behaviors and motivations helps to: increase efficiency in teams, reduce turnover, improve communication, reduce workplace conflict and stress, identify best employees and grow them, and hire people ideally suited to the job — creating job match that pleases employers and employees, too.

It’s not easy, but with coaching and training leadership can be learned.

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Enhanced Interrogation and Johnathan Gruber

The recently released Senate Intelligence Committee report on the use of torture subsequent to 9/11 and the uproar over Jonathan Gruber’s remarks about the necessity of subterfuge to pass the affordable care act, remind us there are people who believe an end may justify the means.

Gruber’s remarks expose the use of subterfuge to subvert the political process.  He admits, if it were known how the act would affect most people, the legislation would have never passed.  He concedes the law was written in a “tortured way” to hide tax increases and other defects.

Abraham Lincoln famously stated, “You may fool all the people some of the time; you can even fool some of the people all the time; but you can’t fool all of the people all the time.”  Unfortunately, many politicians believe they can fool all the people all the time.  There are politicians—liberal, conservative, independent, of all stripe—who utilize misinformation, innuendo and fear to win votes and pass legislation.  They use taxpayer money to pay “experts” and “learned people” to provide support for their causes.  They believe the means they employ are justified by the outcome they seek: sometimes public policy; other times filling their own coffers.

The Senate report on enhanced interrogation techniques forces a national debate about our beliefs and convictions.  Pricking our conscience, it occasions us to examine whether the end justifies the means.  It makes us focus on the kind of people we believe we are and the kind of values we will pass to further generations.  However, a lack of context undermines the effectiveness and calls in to doubt the intent of the report. 

To be relevant, any examination of an action must include the perspective under which the action was taken. To not do so, leaves out the precipitating cause and impedes a discussion as to what action should be taken in a similar circumstance. 

The enhanced interrogation techniques as described in the senate committee report were in response to the attacks of 9/11.  When viewed in the light of what occurred, it is understandable why good people permitted their use.

At the time, there was an expectation of further attacks.  Fear ruled the country: airports, train and bus stations were patrolled by armed soldiers and it took courage to attend a public event.  Bolstered by reports of anthrax filled envelopes, we were horrified at the concept of an imminent biological attack.

Our country’s leaders shouldered a grave and heavy responsibility for protecting the people they served.  The president was soundly criticized for lacking the covert intelligence that could have thwarted the attack.  From both sides of aisle, members of congress called for an increase in obtaining operational information. 

The people who were interrogated were not combatants fighting on a field of battle.  They were evil men who conceived and instituted a plan designed to purposefully kill or maim innocent people. Their involvement and guilt was beyond question; as was a certainty they possessed information that could prevent further attacks.

No, the end does not justify the means.  To believe so is to head down the slippery slope where the benefits of “outcomes” are exaggerated and “means” become more appalling. This understanding must apply to all circumstances: enhanced interrogation, as well as, political manipulation.  It is intellectually dishonest and hypocritical, to point your finger at one but because you agree with the outcome, to accept the other.

Enhanced interrogation techniques in the aftermath of an attack that killed over 3,000 people and the use of subterfuge and lies to insure the passage of legislation.  Both were means to an end: one to derail an attack and the other to pass legislation that otherwise would not have done so. When viewed in context, the report on enhanced interrogation techniques will give rise to a moral debate on whether we should sacrifice beliefs and values to prevent a deadly attack. While the other—purposefully misleading the people to achieve a political end—if left unchecked, will eventually lead to the demise of our democratic institutions.

Tweeting and Posting

My dad told me, “Fools names and fools faces, always appear in public places.”  Advice to consider prior to tweeting or posting.