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Portland Leadership Institute

Nourish the Leader Within You

Leadership for the 21st Century


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Return to Viet Nam

Posted on 16 October, 2014 at 20:02 Comments comments ()
(posted Friday morning, Oct. 17, 2014)

The Vietnamese coffee is great, the jet lag not so.

The lack of Portland drizzle in October is wonderful, the heat/humidity here.....

And we are here for the people, for the students.  So that is what today's blog is about. 

First, why are we here?  This is Eastern International University, a relatively new Vietnamese university in Thu Dau Mot, just north of Ho Chi Minh City.  Loi Nguyen's vision of EIU is to improve his country, do that with education, do that by teaching in English, with English speaking scholars from around the world.  We came for a month in Autumn 2012, and this month Jean is working with the spoken and written language, working to develop a modern English language lab.  My task is simple:  I teach one HRM class, and one Leadership class.  Jeanna is in class with me, telling stories.  She is a storyteller.

Giang picked us up at the airport midnight Tuesday.  A month earlier she had excitedly written to Jeanna when she found that we would return. Jeanna has this impact on people:  they look forward to her words, her touch, her built in gentleness.  Giang and a friend, another former student from our past trip, greeted us, the driver drove to the apartment.  We listened as they explored their dreams of being in the Honors Program, interning in the local hospital, part of the new Health Sciences program here.  We listened as Giang proudly spoke English so much better than when we had departed two years ago.  Her accent:  a purposely cultivated British accent which will suit her for the rest of her life.

Dinner with Loi Wednesday was a trip.  Loi is this bundle of energy who runs the university while flying to Singapore or London for weekend business (he will be in Portland, visiting my PSU class, while I am teaching here!).  Dinner was at the local golf course resort, almost completely empty, we were joined by Hanh, a former PSU HRM student now working here.  Loi was surprised that we preferred Asian food, he having seen most Americans eating western food. 

We spent good time listening to his vision for EIU, listening as he described how his elders had said the dream of an English speaking university was absurd.  I was reminded of how Hewlett and Packard were derided by their elders 75 years ago for stating that the purpose of a business is to improve society.

Giao came to pick us up Thursday morning.  As Loi's secretary, her job is to keep track of him as he juggles all the balls in the air.  She is the kind hearted person who takes care of me in the classroom, makes sure all the background things are carefully prepared so I can perform my magic.  Her smile relaxes all of us, even as I occasionally become frantic when something does not work as I had planned.

At the university An greeted us with a big hug.  She is from here, has her masters degree from Australia, is serious about her teaching.  We brought her books, the best gift possible.  She took us to lunch, listened to our complaints about the heat, bought us a delicious meal, got perplexed when we said we couldn't find real milk to drink.  I woke this morning to find a picture of milk that she bought for us.  My guess is that if the situation were reversed I would be laughing uproariously at the foreigners who could not buy milk.

So we are off for the day.  More in a few days.  And yes, in case anyone cares, I have remembered how to cross streets here.  Jeanna.....?


Millennials: When Will They Stop Picking on You?

Posted on 16 September, 2013 at 4:32 Comments comments ()
It's always open season on the youngest generation.  Whether it's accusing members of a lack of a work ethic, being rude to their elders, or today's favorite word, entitlement, it seems like it is fair game to pick on today's youth.  It's getting annoying.

My earliest presentation on generation differences in the workplace was in 1984, when I joined Jay Shimada and Ken Jenkins in discussing "The New Lifestyle Worker."  I had come across the issue in 1975 as I was preparing to teach my first class at the University of Washington, and my major professor warned me that today's students did not have the same work ethic I had when I was their age.  I was 25; they were 22.

So the Huffington Post, which I generally enjoy, published "Why Generation Y Yuppies Are Unhappy."


Let's get the really picky stuff out of the way first.  The original article comes from an unsigned website, without an author's name.  Who wrote this?  How old are you?

(yes, on this site you can see who I am, and this article allows you to see my age)

And the names:  GenY is a name bestowed on the Millennials by the Boomers.  It implies that GenY is an addon to GenX (nothing could be further from the truth), and that the Baby Boom generation has the right to name this group.  Today's 1980s to 2000s have chosen Millennials; anyone who uses a different name is both disrespectful and disingenuous.

And Yuppies??!?  That's from Jerry Rubin and the Yippies.  Millennials are yuppies?  Where does this come from?

Now to content.  The Huffington article suggests that millennials are unhappy, stressed, delusional, frustrated, taunted, inadequate, and generally miserable.

So what does Huffington and waitbutwhy base their statements on?  We have two sources:
  1. Cal Newport, an Assistant Professor of Computer Science, decided in a one year old blog that '“Follow your passion” is an inspiring slogan, but its reign as the cornerstone of modern American career advice needs to end.'  He wrote a book.  What kind of credibility does he have?  A computer science prof??!?  And what's wrong with passion?
  2. Paul Harvey, an Associate Professor of Management, has done significant behavioral and managerial research, published in high quality journals.  Yet his focus is on management, supervision, and entitlement, not on generational issues.  I suspect that this "expert" found an unexpected result about age differences when looking at entitlement, and thought that he saw a true difference in generations.  None of his published articles has the word "generation" in the title.

Let's get to the crux of the issue.  Although there are significant differences in the generations, there are also significant age related differences, not related to a generation difference:
  1. The older generation typically questions the work ethic and "attitude" of the younger generation
  2. The younger generation believes that it can solve the organization's problems, if only the older generation would allow them to do so
  3. The older generation typically believes that the younger generation has an entitlement mentality
  4. The younger generation is convinced that the older generation resists change and stifles creativity
We can go on and on.  The point is that this is not a generational difference, but is a difference of age. 

Tell truth now:  When you were 25, did you not hear this being said of your generation?  Did you not often say this of your seniors?  If you said no to these questions, then you either are the exception, or your memory fails you.

And yes, the younger generation blames the older generation for the mess the world is in.  We (I was born in 1950) blamed the seniors for the Cold War.  We are now being blamed for the economy, among other things.  Youth blames age.

As I say, this is old news.  I recently read "The Swerve," Stephen Greenblatt's wonderful examination of the beginning of the Renaissance.  Greenblatt noted that young authors in 1400 believed Dante to have been not "truly worthwhile."  Talk about a generation difference.

So what do we do?  We need to first have a dialog based on true observation, not on the traditional ageist biases.  The millennials are doing exactly what they are supposed to do, exactly what we trained them to do.  Likewise, the boomers are doing what they are supposed to do.  We need to recognize this.

I am doing what I can.  I give a "Generations in the Workplace" talk about ten times/year.  It gets people talking.

Let's take a realistic look at the Millennials.  I see many of these students as hard working, raising a family, working 30 hours a week at their place of employment while taking a full load of classes, and becoming responsible leaders within their professional organizations.  I also see some barely putting forth effort as they scrape by and get a degree with as little work as possible.  In short, no stereotype describes their work ethic.

Can we make the same type of statements about Boomers?  Probably.

So let's stop the blame game.  Let's get out of everyone's way.  Let's talk to each other at work, find out what our different needs are (e.g., 45 year olds with two kids preparing for college have different needs than single 25 year olds attempting to prove themselves within their organization, yet wanting a long weekend to go skiing).  Let's see how we can help each other become more effective and productive.

And let's stop the critical articles based on specious reasoning and assumptions.

Alex Rodriguez and Arbitration

Posted on 19 August, 2013 at 2:35 Comments comments ()
All right, let's get this straight, let's come clean.
  • I've been a Yankee fan all my life.  I live and breathe Yankees.
  • And Alex Rodriguez (ARod) is a cheat.  But at least he's my cheat.  In the same way that Barry Bonds belonged to Giants fans, Mark McGwyre to his fans, Roger Clemens and Ryan Braun to others, etc. 

Today we get to talk two topics:  arbitration and due process.  A sense of ethics and morality does not matter.  All that matters is one person's reading of the contract.

(to all sports announcers:  it is an arbitrator, NOT an arbiter, who will decide this.  An arbiter can settle disputes, but legally it is an arbitrator who will settle this one.  Hearing the word "arbiter" used gives an indication of the quality of the information being discussed.  Most announcers do not get this right.)

Most of you know the story.  Alex Rodriguez has been accused of using performance enhancing drugs (PEDs).  The current collective bargaining agreement (CBA) for Major League Baseball (MLB) prohibits this through a Joint Drug Prevention Agreement (  The CBA/JDA states the penalty:  a 50 game suspension for a first time offender, with the right to appeal.  As in many CBAs, the employee is permitted to work (play baseball in this case) while the appeal is being heard.  That's due process.

ARod is a pariah; he is alleged to have purchased PEDs from Biogenesis, to have recruited other players to use Biogenesis, to have lied to MLB investigators, to have attempted to purchase and hide evidence as part of a coverup, to have snitched on teammates, and to have committed other similar atrocities.  People are upset over the size of his contract; they are clamoring for his expulsion from baseball.  While most other offenders in the Biogenesis case have been given and accepted 50 game suspensions, ARod was suspended for 211 games.  He has understandably appealed.

Let's explain arbitration.  The arbitrator is jointly selected by the two parties, based on their knowledge of the arbitrator's past record.  Arbitrators make decisions based on three factors:  the facts of the case, the relevant contract provisions, and the law.  Nothing else.  Common sense does not matter.  Letters to the editor are irrelevant.  A sense of fairness is not a factor.  The facts, the contract, and the law.  Period.

The CBA and the JDA are specific:  a first time offender receives a 50 game suspension.  If multiple offenses occur simultaneously, the largest possible penalty takes precedence; simultaneous offenses are not cumulative. 

Other than the use of PEDs, none of the list of alleged offenses is identified in the CBA.  No matter how anyone feels about these, they can not factor into the arbitrator's decision.  In the eyes of the arbitrator, they do not exist.

And a positive 2003 test:  this predated the current CBA.  It is excluded.  From the arbitrator's perspective, it did not happen.

You don't have to like this, but the arbitrator has only one option.  Follow the contract provisions and reduce the suspension to 50 games.  This is an open and shut case. 

If you were an employee and your manager punished you more severely than permitted, you would want similar protections and due process. 

What Does it take to get Fired Around Here?

Posted on 10 April, 2013 at 23:06 Comments comments ()
What does it take to get fired around here.  I learned this question from a great friend, a great consultant, Bob Doyle.  I used it again today with a group of CEOs.  The look on their faces was illuminating.

Must someone be guilty of sexual harassment?  What about embezzlement?  Do you have to slug someone?  How about spitting in the pizza you are about to serve customers?  Poor performance?

What does it take to get fired around here?  What does someone need to do in your company to get fired.

Don't tell me about union contracts.  Don't tell me about public sector protections.  The reality is, after nearly 40 years of teaching, consulting, and listening to CEOs, whenever I ask that question (again, thanks, Bob, for the best question a leadership consultant could ever ask), I see ashen looks on the faces of some of the best leaders we could ever find.  Public, private, union, non union.  No difference.

Because they know that they tolerate poor (terrible!) performance.

What does it take to get fired around here?

The leadership and management practices of the sports and entertainment worlds have always been illuminating for us.  Whether you like them or not, they open a window into human behavior.

The last few weeks have given us great examples.  At Rutgers University, the State University of New Jersey, a coach physically, verbally, emotionally abused his student-athletes.  He was suspended; the attorneys said state rules prevented his termination.  Only when the video went viral was he fired.

But here's the kicker:  when the truth came out, and the coach and Athletic Director were terminated (don't say resigned--that is merely a legal fiction), the President remained.  Isn't the legal defensibility of (to paraphrase) "I had no need to see the video" something that may work in court but does not serve the citizens of New Jersey or the reputation of the university?  Didn't the President have a responsibility to ask questions and protect his students?

What does it take to get fired around here?

The head of officiating of the Pacific 12 conference (UO, OSU, etc.) clearly told referees to call technicals and/or eject the Arizona coach in the conference tournament.  Does this violate the integrity of the game?  Is this a bias you want officials, who are assigned to work games ($5000/game) by this very head to hear?

No, this was not enough to terminate the head of officiating.  "He was only joking."  Not enough to fire until the media and social networking heard of this and complained.  Then he got fired.

What does it take to get fired around here?

Learning from the sports world, it's really simple:  do you fire people for poor performance?  If not, then you are as guilty as the Board of Governors of Rutgers.  Do you fire your top salesperson "merely" because she is guilty of sexual harassment?  If not, you are as guilty as the Pac-12.  Do you get rid of your best performer, who just happens to also berate his subordinates and create immense turnover among your newest and best workers?

If you said no to these questions, and offered the usual excuses, you are in the majority.  And you create problems for yourself and every good performer in your organization.

What does it take to get fired around here?  This is a question you must ask yourself again and again.  If you are uncomfortable reading this, it's time for a change. 

When you do not let your poor performers go, when you turn a deaf ear to your discipline tell your best people to start looking for work elsewhere.  They'll go to your competitors.  And your worst people:  the message is that you will tolerate anything.  They will then test you.  Again and again and again.

What does it take to get fired around here?  If you call yourself leader, this is the most important question you can ask.


Posted on 20 February, 2013 at 18:00 Comments comments ()
There is an urge within us, both idiotic and ingenious,
that keeps us locked in place.

Idiotic, because it keeps us stuck and will not look
beyond its comfortable mud hole and move on.

Ingenious, because to defend its muddy fortress
it will summon a myriad of excuses: 
society, luck, incompetent teachers, lazy co-workers,
accidents, unfit parents, low self-esteem, bad management, etc.,
to avoid making significant change.

......Every excuse but the real one:
Its instinctive obstinacy
to remain in the mud hole it knows so well.
---paraphrased from the Lubavitcher Rebbe

The concern is an old one: 

I'm stuck and don't know how to get out

We first read about being stuck in college, when "everyone" was reading Robert Pirsig's Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.  Although at times dense, it is one of the most brilliant treatises about what happens to us when we can no longer move.  It is a book about quality, quality in one's own life.  And the search for answers nearly drove Pirsig insane.

I once spent a day meditating by the side of the White River on Mt. Rainier, watching hikers stop at this log bridge.  Some simply could not get started.  One group, on a long hike and with full backpacks, retreated.  Going around would add a day to their trip.  They were stuck.

At the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam the brochure tells us it was Van Gogh's brother who suggested that the 27 year old Vincent become a painter. 

"At the time Vincent....had succumbed to a paralyzing sense of futility.  No one could have foreseen that from such seemingly hopeless beginnings the black sheep of the Van Gogh family would develop within a decade into an artist whose name would be known throughout the world."

What happens to us; what are we to do?  Our most recent blog was on focus.  Focus is a way out.  It is a key to beginning to move.

Therese Amabile has done significant organizational research on how movement commences.  After focusing her own work on creativity for many years, she turned to the question of Are You Making Progress?  Not surprisingly, her new book, The Progress Principle, finds relatively simple solutions.  

The question, of course, becomes one of what we do to get going.  Are you tired of the prescriptions to take baby steps, that a journey of a thousand miles begins with but one step, and all the other cliches?  We have heard these all our lives because, in fact, they actually work!  Amabile takes these to a different level, giving  research specific results.

In the years when I did significant running I always had my running journal.  Every mile was logged, who I was with, how I felt, where I went.  I kept score; I could measure today against last year, knowing that today's run would also serve as a milepost for the future.  There were times that the logbook was the only thing pushing me out the door for that day's run.  And I got out the door.

Amabile suggests that we do the same in other aspects of our life.  Develop the focus of the hedgehog (there's Collins again), look at purpose and quality (Pirsig), and use signs to keep track of our progress, to ensure that our successes continue.  The wonderful folks at Apple give us the perfect tool:

When you've made progress, pull out a green card and give it to yourself.
If you're not sure, you get a yellow one.
And when you're stuck.........

When you choose to be leader, you choose to step up, to move out of your comfort zone, to help others achieve what they need.  You have chosen to push yourself. 

It is part of the human condition to be stuck.  The great leaders go beyond this, they focus like hedgehogs, they move others to achieve their goals. You choose to be a leader, or choose to leave yourself behind.

Lincoln, LBJ, MLK, and Your Personal Focus

Posted on 17 February, 2013 at 16:51 Comments comments ()
We saw Lincoln a few weeks ago.  Aside from some minor historical inaccuracies, it was an incredible story of vision, perseverance, and focus.

For those who knew of Honest Abe only from childhood stories or history classes, Lincoln might have been a shock.  While the movie exhibited his passion for the common person, we also saw a hard driving politician, willing to use some of the same hardball tactics, including buying votes, we abhor in our politicians today.  Those who have studied Lincoln closely, perhaps reading a biography (I am partial to Doris Kearns Goodwin's Team of Rivals:  The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln) found little surprise here. 

You may recall a prior essay we wrote about LBJ and MLK, based on a play we saw at the Oregon Shakespearean Festival in Ashland.  Although reinforcing perceptions about LBJ, it showed MLK in a new light, casting him as a single minded leader, bent on sacrificing whatever it took in order to achieve his goals.

Lincoln achieved the 13th Amendment.  MLK and LBJ the Civil Rights Act.

Focus.  What does that really mean?

Jim Collins (Built to Last; Good to Great; Great by Choice) has used his career to tell American leaders about focus.  Much of my recent international teachings have built on Collins' work.

Collins takes a simple Greek quote from Archilochus, "the fox knows many things; the hedghog one big thing," and ties it to the concept that the cunning fox cannot catch the simple hedgehog because of the one big thing.  The stodgy hedghog puts its protective spikes out and the fox cannot successfully attack.  The hedgehog survives, and the fox goes hungry..

Focus.  The Hedgehog.  Lincoln, LBJ, MLK.  What does this mean for you?

For a leader we have translated Collins' works into three questions: 

What does this mean for any leader, Lincoln, King, Johnson, or you?  Lincoln is the perfect example:

  • He was born to free the slaves.  Regardless of whether this was his intent (historians debate the issue) no one before him had this passion.
  • Skills?  No doubt exists here.
  • Demand.  1861-1865 was the time.  Both the decreasing financial dependence on slavery and the ethical changes in the north demanded that this was the time.  It couldn't wait. 

So now it's up to you.  What are you supposed to do within your organization, within your life?  Leaders throughout history, perhaps beginning with Hillel 2100 years ago, have asked two simple questions:  "If not us, who?  If not now, when?"

What are you to do, when should you do it?

What is your Big Hairy Audacious Goal?  How will you find the focus to begin this work.  

Both life and leadership become simple when you find your sweet spot..

Travel throughout the World: Returning Home from France

Posted on 2 February, 2013 at 15:31 Comments comments ()
Travel and transportation:  just one way we are all different from each other.

I was scheduled to return home on Monday, Jan. 21, 2013.  Taxi to the airport in Lyon, early morning flight to Amsterdam, non-stop flight to Portland.  Pretty simple, right?

However, Sunday 9:00 PM E-mail from KLM:  "your flight, Lyon to Amsterdam, has been canceled.  We apologize for any inconvenience."

Inconvenience!!?!  I'm not getting home Monday!  Oh well, the sun will shine in Lyon, the extra day will be wonderful.  So with Jeanna's help from the US, me skyping her while she speaks directly to KLM, we reschedule for Tuesday.

The problem is the weather.  London, Paris, and A'dam airports are smothered in snow.  It's on TV and everyone's minds.  I soon find on Monday that Tuesday's plane is canceled also.  What gives?

KLM tells me they are compelled to cancel 40% of their flights due to the weather, so they choose to cancel the local flights and retain the international flights.  Well, that does me no good.  I'm stuck.

But I just finished teaching my leadership class, with the final session focusing on being stuck.  So I check and I check, looking for options, searching for clues, again going to the KLM ap.  What do I find?  The train!  Yes, the train from Lyon to Paris, non-stop flight to Seattle, then Horizon (always with free micro brews!) to Portland.  I'm in luck.

So why is this blog about transportation differences?  This solution is not available in most places in the US, certainly not in Portland. 
  • My KLM air ticket has the train ticket embedded in it, including boarding pass, as if it were another flight.  In the US?  Non!
  • Lyon->Paris airport is ~300 miles.  With two stops we do the trip in two hours, arriving 8:00 AM.  I sleep most of the way.  US?  Uh uh.
  • Arrive in Paris:  I ride the escalator up two flights, and suddenly I am no longer in the train station.  I am at Charles de Gaulle airport!  I go through customs and security, and check in for my flight.  In Portland?  After arriving at the train station, it would be a few blocks walk or taxi to light rail, then a 45 minute ride to the airport.  Not quite the same.

Over the years we have observed so many travel differences throughout the world.  Here are some more:

Driving cars
  • throughout Europe the standard speed limit on autoroutes is 130km, 81 MPH, with most cars driving ~140.  Germany has no speed limit, and 100 mph is the norm.  The "old ladies" lane is typically 80 mph.  Slower is unsafe.
  • Left and center lanes in Europe are for passing only.  99.5% of all drivers immediately go into the right hand lane when they are not passing.  Thus a three lane highway has three usable lanes, and there is never a need to pass a slower car on the right.
  • Driving 100 MPH is like a video game, a potentially lethal video game.  Simultaneously watch all three lanes in front of you, and the middle and left hand lanes behind you.  Watch traffic signs and the quickly moving and talking GPS to see where you go next.  Always be careful of the big black Mercedes bearing down on you at 140 MPH in the left hand lane; this is when you suddenly floor it to 120 to pass the middle lane car poking along at only 95 MPH.
  • Traffic signals and stop signs in Greece and other parts of southern and eastern Europe are treated as if they are "advisory only."  Everyone is on alert at all times.
  • Asia (our experience is Bali, Korea, Viet Nam, China):  Anything goes.  Just don't hit another car or a pedestrian. 
  • One way streets and sidewalks:  if it's necessary to go where you "shouldn't" (wrong way, sidewalk, etc.), just make sure it's safe.
  • Gas costs ~$6.00/gallon.  Affordable?  Absolutely.  Because their cars get 40-60 MPG.  How do they do this?  Everyone drives a stick shift (why did the US move away from this in the 1960s?), and diesel is the standard.  Diesel is cheaper than regular when mass produced, gets better gas mileage, and is cleaner/better for the environment than regular unleaded or electric cars.  The extra tax money goes into improving the roads so you can drive faster.  And yes, a stick shift is better for us, cheaper to produce, and more fun to drive.

  • in Portland and Seattle (and much of the western US) walk as slowly as you can, stopping as much traffic as possible, because you have the right of way
  • in China, put your head on a swivel, watching for anything come at you in any direction, and dash across whenever necessary.  Be certain to look for bikes and mopeds also.
  • in Viet Nam (we've said this in a previous blog), decide when you will cross, look for an opening, and carefully go out into the street.  Walk at a brisk and careful pace, be predictable, don't stop or retreat, and the vehicles will evade you.  If you are an American, use a little old lady to help you cross.
  • In NY or Lyon combine the best of China and Viet Nam.  I found Lyon traffic and pedestrians to be closer to my native NYC than anywhere else in the world.  Remember that vehicles have the right of way, but that they will respect pedestrians who are respectful of drivers and move rapidly when taking chances.  I truly enjoyed walking in Lyon.

Bicycles, motorized bikes, and mopeds
  • they are at a mature level in Europe and Asia, coexisting peacefully with pedestrians and automobiles.  It is said that there are 1.3 billion people in China, with 1.1 billion bicycles.  We believe it. 
  • In much of the world, cars, bikes, pedestrians all look out for each other, have few run-ins with the other "species."  They don't block the other, don't yell at or hit the other. 
  • In much of Asia these are the prime form of transportation; cars are too expensive.  In Bali, outside the major city, it felt as if the ratio of two-wheelers to cars was 10:1. 

The rest of the world is a walking and train driven world. 
  • Pedestrian Malls.  This is the enormous downtown difference between the US and Europe/Asia.  We have never been in a European city without a significant pedestrian mall in the heart of the city, giving people free reign.  The impact on city life is enormous.
  • Parking and driving restrictions abound in Europe.  For American driving visitors this is challenging, especially when the GPS says "drive here," and "here" is blocked by a post that requires a local security card.  But this keeps the inner city clear, which is truly what the aforementioned American longs for.
  • I landed in Lyon at 5:00 PM on a Saturday and was told to take the express train to the main train station and then walk 1 km to my hotel.  However, after a long day I was exhausted, so went to the taxi stand.  No cabs!  After waiting 10 minutes I took the suggestion of my hosts.  I had a great conversation on the train, was shown where to walk to my hotel, and arrived refreshed.
  • Throughout my time in Lyon I walked everywhere, even bypassing the Metro.  Again, completely refreshing.
  • Lyon is the size of Portland, with a mature bus and light rail system, a la PDX.  However, it also has the metro.  I don't know how many US cities of its size also has a subway system. 

We thoroughly enjoy European travel, even with its ups and downs.  Asia has always been more challenging (we'll probably never drive there), although we find it easy to get around.  And there is no travel that I enjoy as much as the Autobahn.  However, at 100 MPH the world goes by quite fast.

Executive Programs in France

Posted on 18 January, 2013 at 19:41 Comments comments ()
I am nearing the end of two incredible weeks teaching in France.  What a time!

I was invited to teach in two programs at Université Jean Moulin, IAE Lyon, Ecole Universitaire de Management.  Wow, that's a mouthful.  Suffice to say, IAE Lyon is a great Management School.

International Week has more than 40 guest professors visiting from 25 or so nations.  Each course is a three day course (Mon-Wed or Thurs-Sat) taught over 17 hours.  This means the first two days were 9:00-12:30 and 2:00-5:30, with a final day of 9:30-12:30.  Wow.  Most of us had never taught so much in such a short time period.  And there were great research symposia Wednesday afternoon.

The students were great.  They were part of IAE's regular MBA, taking courses that fit directly into their programs.  We taught electives, special topics students would not otherwise receive from professors they would otherwise not have access to.  Though relatively young, they were highly motivated to study and learn what we had to give.

Perhaps the best part of International Week were the interactions among faculty members.  First, their topics were incredible; mine, "Leadership for the 21st Century:  What is Your Style?" (I did it in both sessions) was one of the most mainstream.  Others included
  • Green Marketing
  • Post Crisis International Marketing Investment Decision Making
  • The Eurozone Crisis
  • Two Speed Europe--a Reality Already
  • Developing Women Leaders
  • Crisis Management
  • The Empire of Cash:  an Exploration of the Morality of Capitalism
  • Social Media Marketing and the Internet Media Plan

My faculty colleagues were just as interesting as their topics.  Our conversations ranged from ethics to the Euro to American-European relations to Collegiality at Work to .....  to just about anything else political, religious, or economic.

Not only was the talent wonderful, the administration ran a program that  motivates everyone to return.  I was one of the few rookies; many have been returning for five or more years, some for the entire period of the program.  Some have set up similar programs at their home institutions.  We had incredible opportunities to interact with each other

  • breakfast was always in the hotel and very French
  • the entire program had coffee breaks from 10:00-10:30 and 3:30-4:00.  1000 students met (and smoked!) in the courtyard.  Faculty met in our room for coffee, chocolate, and conversation.
  • lunch was 12:30-2:00 (or so....Manuel rang a bell and reminded us that it was time to return; that's Manuel moving rapidly in the faculty room).  For a few days it was a lavish box lunch with wine, and then it became a full 4 course meal with wine and espresso.  Yes, before returning to the classroom.
  • Dinner was anything from heavy hors d'oeuvres with caviar at a penthouse suite with business leaders of Lyon, to a trip into Vieux Lyon for dinner prepared by a world renowned chef.

Sad to be finished with this Saturday afternoon last week.  I left for 5 days in south France (perhaps I will post on that later). 

I returned Friday Jan. 18 to teach in the Executive MBA program (IMBA).  They had previously received the first half of their leadership program, a great approach to leadership.  Today I began filling in the details.  These students are local executives with experience from throughout the world.  Today we spent eleven hours together, teaching 8:00 AM-1:00 PM, walking to lunch together, then doing it again 2:00-7:00.  Tomorrow is only eight hours, because the university closes at 5:00 on Saturday.  We push each other, get all of us ready for our futures.

And the most special non-academic part of this class?  Watch the video.

I've never taught 18 hours in two days anywhere.  Do you think it is worth it?

And I had never previously taught in France.  I may be back!

Spas and American sensibilities

Posted on 8 December, 2012 at 18:12 Comments comments ()
We've been in Germany for a week.  It's been incredible.  Many ups and downs; what an interesting country, in an enormously different way from Viet Nam or China.  Their roads and speeds are beautiful, they worship the wrong football, their Christmas Festivals are incredible, their taxes are too high, their health care is wonderful, and it's downright cold.  But tonight's story is about their spas.

(spoiler alert:  some of you may be disturbed by what I have to say.  Oh well......)

Europeans and many others have figured out one obvious fact that we Yanks should have realized centuries ago:  the human body is merely a flesh bag, a cover for all that is inside.  Wash it, take care of it, keep it the right temperature, use it to keep the innards sacred.  But don't get uptight about it.

From when we arrived in Heilbronn we looked forward to the first night we would have a chance to go to the local spa.  We of course changed together, walked upstairs to the spa together, preparing to choose between five or more different saunas and steamrooms and various hot and cold pools. 

Wait a minute--did I say change together?  I must have been mistaken.  I meant disrobe together.  And go into the pools as you are.

The piece de resistance in Heilbronn is a large semi-circular sauna, four levels high, seating a minimum of 20 at a time.  No one wears anything.  Actually, that's not true.  After a while a somewhat zaftig German woman, fully clothed in sweats, comes in with a towel attached to a stick, like a flag on a pole.  She adds water to the hot coals to get a bit of steam going, then moves around the room waving the towel in front of everyone.  She makes a few rounds, adding more water to the coals until her bucket is finished.  At the conclusion she bows to a round of applause.

What a delight.  The Romans did this thousands of years ago.  Why not in Portland?

However, if you really want the spa experience, Baden-Baden is the place to go.  For us it was a snowy Friday afternoon, only about 80 MPH on the autobahn, our rear wheel drive BMW not able to get up the final hill to the hotel.  But trudge on we did, unpacked, and walk down the hill to Friedrichsbad,

First, and the absolute most important thing for me to say here:  if you love your body, if you want the ultimate pampering for your body, you must go to Friedrichsbad in Baden-Baden at least once in your lifetime.  End of conversation!

It begins with me gingerly holding a sheet around my body as a women in a white uniform (yes, they all wear white here) tells me what my next few stages are to be.  I realize that she doesn't give a rip about my body.  I drop my sheet.

Everyone showers together with great big overhead showers in an open room with about 8 showers.  Then into the first warm air bath (#2 on the map; note that the map has men's and women's facilities, for the days when man and women bathe separately), 130 degrees, for 15 minutes.  Then the hot air bath, lying down for 5-10 minutes at 150.  We come out to a shower and then get our entire body scrubbed (choose between a soft and a hard brush).  Then another shower and two steam baths, first around 110 degrees, then 120, sitting on a mat in a wonderful marble room.  This is all, of course, fed by the natural hot springs.

Now that an hour has passed, the rest is all play.  We can return to any of the previous rooms, but there is no need to do so.  We only have 3 1/2 hours here.

We go into the warm bath (#9) and play for a bit.  #10 is a bit cooler and has jets that you can sit on with bubbles surrounding you.  The round pool is most interesting; it is cool, but if the right people are there, a group will swim in a circle, creating a current as we all work it.  Invigorating. 

Another shower, then I dived into the cold water at #13.  OUCH.  But necessary for me and wonderful.

Then we dry and give each other a cream massage.  A guy (he actually spent some time living in Corvallis) takes us into a room, lies each of us on a bed, and wraps us from head to toe.  Jeanna says I was snoring almost immediately; she woke me when she thought it was time to go.  After a while sitting in the reading room, we were ready to go to the Christmas Market.

3 1/2 hours for 35 Euros.  WOW!

So why don't we do this in America?  Would you indulge yourself in the company of complete strangers, all clothless or workers in uniforms?  Would you look or be looked at, immediately realizing that no one, including you, is looking? 

We have learned something in the US that is different from what those around the world do.  I have had female bathroom attendants clean toilets next to me while I was standing at a urinal; I have had women give me towels for showers while I was waiting in my birthday suit.  While I admit that the first time it happened I was more than mildly surprised, I quickly realized that it was normal in the part of the world I was visiting.  And yes, the worker did not care about my body (another shock for the modern American male!).

Friedrichsbad.  Where the Romans bathed.  Can't wait to return.  How about you?

Teaching in Asia, II: China

Posted on 20 November, 2012 at 3:47 Comments comments ()
China was a different story, just as interesting. 

We taught at the Guangdong University of Finance (GDUF) in Guangzhou, a small town of 16,000,000 that we grew up calling Canton.  Prof. Yan met us at the airport, and for the 45 minute drive to the university I peppered her with questions about what I would be doing.

Yan teaches HR, so we were on the same page immediately.  She had many of the students in her classes previously, although there were also to be new students.  All students (150-175) in my classes were volunteering to spend their time listening to me; this was not part of a regular class. 

After a delightful lunch in the university cafeteria, we went to our first class.  Expectations were already shot to ribbons; my formal suit left me terribly overdressed, and I would not need to be glued to the podium and lecturn.  WHEW.

When we taught in Suzhou in 2005, it had all been quite formal.  I spoke for six hours at a time, and could do very little to get them to participate.  This time was different.

These students were bright, young, motivated, and participative.  Each of my lectures (two in HRM, one in Leadership) was formally structured, more so than in Viet Nam.  We pushed them, and they pushed back.

As in Viet Nam, students here were young and relatively inexperienced.  They came as a result of the attached poster (about 2' x 3'; 15 of them on campus, including one outside the classroom!) and were motivated to learn.  They asked questions and responded to mine.  I again used the microphone trick from Viet Nam (just give it to them or put it in their face!), which they relished. 

Most interesting was the unstructured question session at each day's conclusion.  Someone asked about the use of the tai chi symbol; I thought that this was the yin yang, and I quickly got an education.  Others wondered about the importance of personal relationships in American business situations, noting the greater importance of these in China. And yes, some questions focused directly on HRM or Leadership.

Jeanna was partner to this.  She responded to questions, some as a result of my request, some when she simply had to take the floor.  After the first lecture, she spoke with them for the first 5-10 minutes of the other lectures as I set up the technology.  She was the practitioner clarification to my organizational theory.

One of the final questions on the last day told us that we had succeeded.  Jeanna had opened the day with an emotional story about performance reviews.  At the conclusion that day a student stood up, took the mike, and said "I would like to hear another story from Mrs. Jean."  I found an easy chair in the back, sat, and listened.

This was such a different experience from Viet Nam.  While we didn't have the time to become directly involved in the Chinese students' lives, they let us know in many ways what our impact was.  We posed for pictures, stayed after class, responded to private questions about leadership, career, and philosophy.  As a result of great local faculty, these young students were starving for more knowledge from the American faculty member.

We have a responsibility when we teach overseas.  The students continue to educate us on this.