Portland Leadership Institute
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Leadership for the 21st Century
|Posted on 16 November, 2012 at 2:43||comments (2)|
These five weeks were among the most extraordinary of my life. This was some of the most important work I have ever done.
(First, let me apologize for the lack of writing in the last few weeks. Teaching got crazy, we spent much time focused on Hurricane Sandy and our relatives back east, and I lost control over time. I expect to write a number of messages about Asia in the next week or so.)
It is difficult to describe what teaching in Asia, especially Viet Nam, meant to me. The focus here is on Viet Nam, because we had 4 full weeks there. I taught two hours each day (the typical PSU course is four hours/week). I believe that China would have had the same impact; however, all I had there were three two-hour lectures.
It was amazing what the students learned. We were told that these students were the best in their program, and they did not disappoint. They were learning English and HRM simultaneously, so I covered less than I would normally cover in a similar PSU course. However, focusing and concentrating did wonders to their work. Their projects were commensurate with what our juniors would do, all being clearly acceptable or higher.
Their verbal abilities increased amazingly over time, especially as Jeanna spent more and more personal time with them. We put a money jar in the room, required them to contribute 1000 Vietnamese Dong (all of 5 cents!) toward the final day's party whenever they spoke Vietnamese. It was a badge of pride to not contribute! I forced the microphone in their face, and they had no choice but to speak.
And then there was Jeanna's work with them, sometimes in small groups, often one-on-one. She coached and nurtured them. Where I can be intimidating, she was everyone's friend. She got the best out of them. The results showed.
We also worked on their study skills. They began with a different perspective on taking notes, one that may have worked for them so far, but that would not lead to the results we desired. It was as simple as telling them to take notes on project work that they performed in class, project work where they began writing their final reports in class. They had to keep track of what we did in class; most had never done this previously. We had to teach them to do it. They learned quickly.
Their final oral reports were incredible. They had the necessary HRM content, their language skills had clearly improved, and many of them projected their voice to the back of the room. We were quite pleased.
Some of the groups used video; we are enclosing one for you. Although not directly HRM related, it shows the job they analyzed (bartender in a coffee shop), and is an example of the flair and humor many of them had.
I can't say enough for what happened in our four weeks in Viet Nam. Their development was enormous. They worked hard, soaked up what we gave them, retained interest. They jumped higher than we had ever seen with any group. We are excited for them. We'll be back.
|Posted on 27 October, 2012 at 5:42||comments (126)|
If you grew up in the '50s and '60s you probably revered Ike, JFK, or both. You heard great tales of Truman, and of some of the great generals. Yet after all these years, I wonder: what could they have been thinking.
Let's cut to the quick.
A modern external army could never win a war in Viet Nam unless they were prepared to lose an indefinite number of men. The heat here is unbearable, the rain ruthless, the jungles formidable. When I put air conditioning on in university buildings to make myself comfortable, the locals put on their sweaters. Live here all your life and you become used to the heat. After three weeks here my energy is sapped. Were we not doing what is important, what we truly love, and what feeds our soul, we wouldn't be here.
Be 18 years old and come here to fight a war? The jungles of the Mekong Delta must have been awful. Day after day after day of inhumane conditions. How could any of our generals (Westmoreland, of course, is at the top of the list, but he didn't lead us until 1964) have thought we could have won? What could they have been thinking? Had they emerged from WW II and Korea thinking we were invincible? Korea?
We've been in Viet Nam for 3 weeks. We've been pampered, driven, taken care of, and received whatever we've asked for. Our hosts are extraordinary. We are here at the end of the rainy and hot season, so it is becoming marginally comfortable during the day, pleasant at night.
Yet this is Viet Nam, folks. When it is hot, you can not imagine it. My t-shirt gets soaked in ten minutes outside. The air is so thick that we rarely see Ho Chi Minh City from our 9th floor apartment, only ~30 miles away.
If you've been reading the blog you saw the pictures and commentary from the Mekong Delta, and you've seen the videos of the downpours. And the rain is letting up now. Wait till rainy season.
What could they have been thinking?
Truman, Eisenhower, and Kennedy, while all military men, acted with political interests (domino theory, Russians, etc.) while President. That's the job of the President. They have military commanders who give military guidance. Famously, Truman fired MacArthur when he wanted to escalate the Korean conflict. Later on, however, someone forgot to act as President when he should have.
Let's backtrack for a brief history lesson. (note that anything I say could be wrong. I am an HRM Prof, not a historian. What I write below is pieced together from anecdotes and my own reading. I like to think it's accurate, but....)
Many others, most notably the Chinese and the French, have ruled Viet Nam for long periods in the recent past. The French arrived in the middle of the nineteenth century and did not want to leave. Who would; if you but visited Saigon once, you would not want to leave either. The French legacy: traffic circles, baguettes, and drink.
Prior to Sept. 2, 1945, the US gave tacit support to Ho Chi Minh in the battle for freedom. However, when Ho declared independence, the French wanted to stay. The US: support our long time ally. Ho went Communist; he became the enemy.
The French lost the next war (1945-1954--google Dien Bien Phu for details) but we called it a tie! Rather than allowing a free Viet Nam, we divided the country, promising free elections. We then installed the ruthless Ngo Dinh Diem, who canceled the elections. We assassinated Diem. OOPS! War was on.
By this time LBJ was President. He knew from the first that this war would destroy him. He had to move on the Great Society and Civil Rights as fast as possible. Fortunately he was successful on those fronts. His days, however, were numbered.
Sidebar: Revolutions are started by those who feel oppressed. The leaders use the working poor, the underclass, to fan the fire, to fight the oppressors. 1775 George Washington is no different from 1959 Fidel Castro (yes, there were significant differences later; I'm only talking about the actual revolt).
What was happening on the battlefield? Jeanna and I received our best analysis from our tour guide in the Mekong Delta, a young woman with no axe to grind.
She made it clear: in the 1950s and 1960s the wealthy wanted the status quo. In different wars they were with King George and Batista. Here they wanted the French, and later became one with Diem.
The poor were with Ho.
After the war American soldiers complained: "we were fighting for their freedom. All we wanted was for them to let us know that an ambush had been set down the road. They knew, and just let us walk into it."
Yet it was only in our eyes that we were fighting for their freedom. The villagers who allowed our soldiers to be ambushed were with Ho! Communist Ho Chi Minh, Ho Chi Minh who never trusted the Russians or the Chinese, Ho Chi Minh meant freedom from oppression.
The villagers couldn't care less about communism.
Our generals: what could they have been thinking? First and foremost, Americans from New York, Portland, Tuscaloosa, and Des Moines, no matter how well prepared and equipped, were ill-suited to fight in the jungles and humidity of this country.
What could they have been thinking? Our idea of freedom was so far removed from that of the villagers who had their own meaning of freedom.
And finally: yesterday I posted pictures of my class on facebook. A friend said, "they look so young. Were we ever that young?"
Their grandfathers, at their age, were fighting for their freedom. They were fighting us, they were fighting each other. 18 year old baby faced boys, five foot four inches, even smaller than I am, carried rifles and were killed. Because our generals thought we should be here and could win a war to save the world for democracy.
This war ended Sept. 2, 1945. Ho knew that we would not have the resolve to continue, that he was right. The war was over Sept. 2. But it took 30 more years for it to be complete.
What could they have been thinking?
|Posted on 23 October, 2012 at 12:27||comments (108)|
|Posted on 23 October, 2012 at 11:10||comments (2)|
|Posted on 21 October, 2012 at 8:47||comments (0)|
|Posted on 16 October, 2012 at 13:20||comments (1)|
We grew up in New York. For 25 or so years we thought we knew how to drive, how to cross streets. Don't cut off a cab driver, run whenever you can, be in as much of a hurry as anyone else. And by all means, when you're driving, stop at most red lights, stay off the sidewalks and don't drive the wrong way.
Then we moved to the Northwest. In Seattle they gave out tickets for jaywalking, whether there were cars around or not. Cars waited patiently for people crossing the street, no matter how much it backed up traffic. How bizarre. They called it civilized, lauding everyone's behavior. Portland was no better. I wanted my NY license plates back, so people knew what to expect of me.
What are the rules in Viet Nam? Quite simple:
1. Bigger is better. The larger vehicle always has the right of way.
a. People have the right of way over vehicles. Apparently it is bad karma to hit pedestrians, so that doesn't happen. People are watched as they cross, but never hit. And no one blows their horn at pedestrians.
2. Except in the rare case of a traffic light, don't stop. Even that's not always the case. Don't stop applies to pedestrians as well as vehicles.
3. Join the party. Regardless of how many motorbikes or people, continue into the intersection or circle. The Viet Nam dept of transportation built the road for you, so use it. Use it now!
4. Motorbikes use the right side of the road, autos the left. Turn right from the left side. Not a problem. The only vehicles in the right are bikes (smaller; see rule #1), so they give way.
5. Blow your horn to let others know where you are and what you might do. As a New Yorker, I am particularly fond of this one. Portland drivers are much too polite.
6. Are you set to enter a road, yet need to go the other way on a one way street? No problem. Either
a. drive the wrong way on the street, knowing that no one will get in your way (see this at the 22 second mark in the enclosed video), or
b. drive on the sidewalk.
7. Crossing streets:
a. wait for a slight opening. Any opening will do. Waiting for a large opening may take 3 days.
b. walk at a slow measured pace. You may want to look at the traffic, but that is irrelevant. They will look for you.
c. do not run. Running will surprise drivers, who can no longer predict where you will be.
d. do not walk backwards. This is the worst thing you can do, because they have already planned how to cross behind you, missing you by six inches.
e. do not stop. This is not as bad as walking backwards, but still frowned upon.
f. remember: we're not in Kansas any more, so cars and bikes will not stop!
This is a much smoother traffic flow than in America. If cars had to stop whenever people crossed the street, no one would ever get anywhere.
Hopefully this gives some idea of the street game here. In case you need more, Jeanna took a video just for you, from a circle opposite the market in Ho Chi Minh City. Note how all the rules are in play; traffic blends, a bike goes the wrong way, and during the final 30 seconds you can see how to cross the street. I'd love to bottle it and bring it to Portland.
So how did we get to the center of the circle? We waited for a little old lady. We got on each side of her, staring at her, ignoring traffic, and doing exactly as she did. We crossed, thanked her, and she smiled at us. Yes, a little old lady did her good deed for the day, walking two hapless Americans across the street!
|Posted on 13 October, 2012 at 4:05||comments (0)|
This is just a short one. We are in Ho Chi Minh City/Saigon, which is absolutely amazing. Will write more later.
However..........the skies just opened up. Jeanna and I took a video from the balcony of our room. When you hear a gasp it was when a gust of wind came up to us. Enjoy!
And as soon as the rain stops, it immediately becomes hot and muggy.
|Posted on 12 October, 2012 at 19:23||comments (1)|
One more thing about time and the modern world. Fabio is housesitting for us. Fabio is a post-doctoral student from Italy; one of our faculty members met him when she recently taught in Italy. We skyped Fabio yesterday. He needs three clocks: one for where he is in Portland, one for his family in Italy (nine hours time difference for him), and one for us in Viet Nam, ten hours the other way. So we are only five hours away from Italy. Go figure.
I am reminded of the beginning of Camus, The Stranger: "Mother died today. Or yesterday, maybe." So now I am sitting in Saigon, 6:00 AM Saturday, watching last night's baseball game. Today or yesterday?
|Posted on 11 October, 2012 at 22:24||comments (80)|
We are watching the Vice Presidential debate, starting at 8 00 AM Friday. In Portland you are watching it at 6:00 PM, Thursday.
Today's 4 baseball games began at midnight. Actually they are not today's games; they were yesterday's. If they happened yesterday, shouldn't I already know who won?
I watch a sports talk show called Mike and Mike in the morning. I saw Thursday morning's show on Wednesday night, while Mike and Mike were in bed, preparing for the next show.
What time is it? What day is it?
My class begins at 12:30. Every day. When do the students arrive? When I walk into the room at 11:45 half of them are there. By 12:15 they are all there. Do they know what time it is?
I take a break and ask them to return in ten minutes. At PSU I would be happy to have them back within 15 minutes. Here? They're all back within 7.
What time is it?
Class ends. At PSU they start packing up 5-10 minutes before class ends. Here? I can teach as late as I want, and they are happy to soak things up. They are in no hurry to leave. It's called respect; it's called being a bit more relaxed about time.
However: If the bus is scheduled to pick us up at 7:00, we need to be there by 6:50. Because by 7:00 it might have left.
Time is a funny thing. We time travel to get here, and we will arrive in PDX a few hours before we leave China next month. We in America are in a hurry to get places, and things begin when they begin. Here: it's more relaxed, but on time is often 5 minutes early. Except when it isn't.
It's all called culture. We are who we are, and so are you.
|Posted on 9 October, 2012 at 21:09||comments (2)|