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Portland Leadership Institute

Nourish the Leader Within You

Leadership for the 21st Century


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Good Morning, Viet Nam

Posted on 8 October, 2012 at 17:37 Comments comments (93)
We are here.  And very happy.

I am beginning this at 4:00 AM Tuesday; both of us are wide awake.  Through the magic of time travel, it is 2:00 PM Pacific time Monday, so you have to live that day.  We are finished with Monday.

The one problem with time travel is the travel itself.  11 hours on the first plane, 2 hours on the ground, and 7 hours on the second plane, counting the time on the ground.  Including ground transportation, 24 hours from leaving our home until checking into the university apartment.  Apartment is great, 2 bedrooms, living room, kitchen, etc.  We can spread out.

After the usual starts and stops about internet, food, and money, we are off to a good start.  We met with university faculty and secretary yesterday, and go to the university today.  I teach at noon, 43 sophomore students in an intro HRM course.  Will be interesting.  Jeanna meets with the ESL people later in the day to see what she'll be doing.

The basic plan in terms of faculty development is to meet with faculty prior to teaching, teach class, and debrief afterwards.  We'll try that for a few days, see if it works.

We had dinner at the local golf resort with Michael Reardon, EIU Co-President and former PSU Provost and Acting President.  Michael gave us a picture of this place, how it has changed.  We are ~30 km north of Ho Chi Minh City, in an area (Binh Duong) that was 70% agriculture 10 years ago, and 4% ag today.  It is bustling, filled with bicycles and small cars; traffic signs and lights apparently are advisory only, so we cross the streets with great care.  Being New Yorkers is helpful, but we must get into practice again.

Learning more about the differences between the north and the south.  Hope to say more about that later.  58 minority ethnic groups in a country of 87 million certainly makes for interesting politics, food, and culture. 

We'll go to Ho Chi Minh City with Michael for the weekend.  Michael knows what to do, so we've got a great tour guide.  Don't know if we'll be able to blog while we're there. There will be the required trip to the Hard Rock.  Perhaps also to the Mekong Delta.

And yes, it is hot here.  Not oppressive, so we are OK.  We see the runners out early in the morning, in groups, some running, some walking, some barefoot, some doing movement. 

Food is great; this is Monday's breakfast. 

OK, I think that's it for now.  Perhaps try to get back to sleep.

The Father, the Musher, and Denali

Posted on 5 October, 2012 at 2:30 Comments comments (1)
Would you think an American Prof, a Swiss musher, and a Pennsylvanian/Alaskan father could have similar messages?  It turns out that they did, at the 2012 NHRMA Conference earlier this week in Anchorage.  The musher, Martin Buser, was the opening keynoter on Monday, while Father Oleksa got us off to a great start Tuesday.

We've all heard the colloquialisms about treating people like dogs.  Well, I would love to be treated like the dogs Martin Buser works with.  It is no wonder that he has won the Iditarod four times, and finished 29 consecutive times.

Two of Buser's comments strike home to me:
  1. One year, his lead dog got hurt prior to the first checkpoint and had to be sent home.  Buser treated her with loving kindness, making her feel as if she had just won the race.  Do we take an employee with problems and help them to feel good about themselves, or do we make them feel lesser than?
  2. We asked how he treats the "second team," those dogs who do not get to race the big race.  How does he motivate them when they have neither the ability nor the opportunity to perform on the big stage?  While he has other mushers, Buser himself works with the dogs in training, rather than give them over to less experienced people.  Meantime his younger mushers (his son will have a team this year) get to learn from the best dogs.  Wouldn't this be an interesting way to run an office?

And Father Oleksa was equally brilliant.  He has spent his life observing communication and cultural mismatches.  Part of his message:  My cultural pattern is perfect for me, it is what I know, and yours fits you.  It helps explain why some of us are on time, why some of us take an hour to leave a dinner party, and why Americans have exactly an hour for lunch while many Europeans start and end lunch whenever........It also explains more about prejudice/discrimination than the simple belief that one person merely has it in for another group.

A final important message from the Father:  when there is a communication mismatch/problem, the one in the lower power position always loses.  Think about that next time you and I miscommunicate!

My presentation was Tuesday at 1:00, as perfect a time to present as could be.  Titled "Different Perspectives on Leadership:  What You Can Learn from Today's Thought Leaders" I connected thoughts from Teresa Amabile, Jim Collins, Malcolm Gladwell, and Patrick Lencioni into a cohesive set of thoughts about focus and success in 2012.  My focus (pun intended!) was to help everyone either get unstuck, or to help them figure out how to achieve their Big Hairy Audacious Goal.  The enclosed ppt could help you get started on your own journey.

Alaska is nothing without scenery and adventure.  I spent two days in Beautiful Downtown Talkeetna, the starting point for Denali adventures.  After a Saturday filled with clouds and beautiful snow, Sunday dawned bright and shining.  And 25 degrees.  After breakfast I dashed out of town, nearly hitting a moose (sorry--no pictures.  It all happened too fast, as I watched him cross the street in front of my car), and headed to Denali.  From 42 miles away it took over the horizon.  It was all I had expected.  It truly is the Great Mountain.

The night concluded with my first sighting of the Northern Lights.  Again, no pictures.  The pictures are all in my head.  As is the scream from my friend Jenn when she first saw the lights.  (:-)

Next stop, Viet Nam (with apologies to Country Joe).  Saturday at 1:40 PM, arriving Sunday night!  Can't wait!

Ronald Reagan and Roger Goodell

Posted on 25 September, 2012 at 11:45 Comments comments (0)
Ronald Reagan had a strategy.  He merely awaited an opportunity.

When Reagan was elected President in 1980, he had been upset with the state of unionism in the US for years.  Although a former leader of the Screen Actors Guild, he would never have been classified as a union sympathizer.

In the summer of 1981 the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization (PATCO) engaged in an illegal strike.  To the shock of most, Reagan invoked the law and fired the strikers.

President Reagan's strategy was to change the climate of labor management relations in this country.  His goal was to send a message to large and small organizations that the power of unions was no longer to be unfettered, was no longer to be unilateral.  He succeeded.  The labor climate changed forever; the change was as significant as that created by the passage of the National Labor Relations Act during the Great Depression.

No one is sure what NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell's strategy is with the NFL officials.  Some say he wants to break the union; others describe less clear objectives, such as eliminating pensions, saving money, telling part timers that they are not more important than the league, etc.  The point is that nothing is clear.  

It is said that after the PATCO strikers were fired it was not safe to fly for years.  Professionals who understood the situation took long distance trains rather than flying.  One tragic midair collision would have negated Reagan's strategy; he may have been forced to rehire the strikers to again make the air corridors safe.  That collision would have forever changed the course of American labor relations.  That collision never occurred.

Roger Goodell had his midair collision.  When the Seattle-Green Bay game's result was impacted by a decision of replacement officials, the tipping point of public opinion and NFL players/coaches was reached.  As we write this, we do not know the result.

We do know that there is no clear strategic direction.  Effective labor management relations requires a clear strategy, a clear understanding of who has the power, who has the support.  We await a coherent strategy.

Sabbatical 2012-2013

Posted on 25 September, 2012 at 2:07 Comments comments (2)
As many people know, academics have an opportunity that should be available to many, but unfortunately is not.  We have the chance to take a sabbatical every seven years.

The basis of a sabbatical is in the bible, where we are told to leave the ground bare in the seventh year.  The word itself stems from the Hebrew "shabbat," and the Greek sabbatikos, a ceasing.

Although available to faculty members every seven years, I have taken only two in my 32 years at Portland State.   I stayed in town doing research for each.  This time I decided to do something different.

The university requirement (and essentially the biblical requirement) is to enrich oneself.  Jeanna and I will spend our time being of service around the world.

  • First stop:  Anchorage for the Northwest Human Resource Management Association Conference.  On Tuesday, Oct. 2, 2012 I will present "Different Perspectives on Leadership:  What You Can Learn From Today's Thought Leaders."  This will combine some of Teresa Amabile, Jim Collins, Malcolm Gladwell, and Patrick Lencioni in a way that HR professionals will be able to improve their everyday leadership capabilities.  While up there, I'll also spend two nights in the thriving metropolis of Talkeetna, watching the glaciers flow down Denali.  Unfortunately Jeanna will not be with me.

  • Viet Nam is next.  We'll be at Eastern International University for about a month, beginning Oct. 6.  EIU is a new university, a partner to Portland State just outside Ho Chi Minh City.  I will teach HRM while Jeanna teaches English as a Second Language.  We'll also do curriculum and faculty development, and anything else they ask us.  They are some great people, thriving to develop their country, and we truly have the opportunity to be of service.  We'll also visit; having lived through the war 40 years ago, I have need to see what I only saw on TV.

  • China comes next, delivering lectures at the Guangdong University of Finance, in Guangzhou (formerly known as Canton).  In addition to a leadership lecture similar to that presented in Anchorage, I will also discuss HRM Practices in the West.  One lecture is about Hiring and Onboarding, while the other concerns Motivating Employees with Coaching and Rewards.  Our prior Asian experiences told us that these are crucial topics where our information could make a true difference.  In addition to teaching, we're excited to be able to visit Xi'an to see the ancient terra cotta soldiers. 

  • After China we'll come home for a few weeks to recover.  Then it's off to Heilbronn Germany, to the Duale Hochschule, Baden-Wurttemburg in early December.  We have worked with our friend Uli many times.  In addition to me teaching Leadership, Jeanna will again teach ESL.  It will be interesting:  for the first time ever, Jeanna and I will teach the same students, at different times.  They will get the true Benevento/Cabelly experience.  We'll come home from Germany by way of Iceland, hoping the clouds clear enough to see the Northern Lights.

  • Finally, after a few weeks home for the new year, we'll go to Lyon France, teaching one week in their international program, and one week in their intense executive program.  The application process for this one was competitive, and it will be interesting to work with the other faculty, all of whom will be outsiders.  We'll have a few days off between sessions, and will either revisit the Cro-Magnon cave paintings near Les Eyzies, or spend a few days on the Riviera.  In January!

We'll keep everyone informed of our actions. We expect that some of our musings will be of the leadership variety, some of the international culture variety, some will be about teaching and the people we meet, some of course will be about food, and the rest?  Who knows.  But stay tuned; the ride is always exciting.

LBJ, MLK, Henry V: What is there for us today?

Posted on 23 September, 2012 at 14:37 Comments comments (214)
This was an extraordinary year in Ashland, at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. 2012 combined Chekhov, Marx (Groucho, not Karl), ancient Japanese mythology, and the Black Panthers. The Very Merry Wives of Windsor brought Falstaff to Iowa as a defeated and broke presidential candidate, suffering the pangs of defeat in the caucuses. And one utterly bizarre and incredible play was titled Medea/Macbeth/Cinderella. You figure it out.

But the biggest leadership lessons came from "All the Way" with LBJ (you remember the 1964 Presidential campaign slogan, don't you?) and Henry V, starring the unforgettable John Tufts, playing Prince Hal/Henry for the third consecutive year in the trilogy.

Putting it simply, "All the Way" was about The USE OF POWER by someone who has groomed himself his entire life for just this moment.

LBJ was pure power manipulation, pure force and ingratiation, combined with a knowledge of how to get to everyone. Beginning in November 1963 LBJ had to show that he could become trusted on Civil Rights, when everyone was unsure whether he meant what he said. He worked with MLK and against J. Edgar Hoover, both of whom had surprisingly similar leadership styles. All three formed coalitions and occasionally, in today's language, threw a trusted ally under the bus.

Henry V: The USE OF POWER by someone who has been groomed all his life for just this moment. Henry V had to show that he too could become a leader. He had to prove himself. He had to throw his old friends, chiefly Falstaff, the court jester, under the bus in order to prove his own worthiness.

50 years later we remember only the good of MLK, and much of the negative of LBJ. Each reached his peak in 1964, each fell in 1968.

500 years later we see Henry V and Richard III in similar veins, Henry good, Richard evil. Both kill without mercy, create havoc, then woo the innocent girl.

Tufts thinks the distinction is Honor vs. Power. Henry kills out of a sense of honor, to do better for England. Richard kills only for power. Richard tells us that he will do bad, and he revels in having us see him be evil. We want to watch Henry develop,but we have a subtle satisfaction in watching Richard snarl as his evil was ignored.

Yet the true characters have little that is different between then. It is Shakespeare's propaganda that makes the difference. Richard was not as bad, Henry not as good as Shakespeare made them. Was old Will the first media spin doctor, exemplifying honor in one, power in the other, when they were actually relatively similar?

And what does this mean for leaders today?

As Henry began a process of self discovery as a youth, so did LBJ upon winning his first congressional election before the age of 30. Henry IV usurped the crown when Prince Hal was 14, turning Hal's life upside down.  He had to face his new reality as the future Henry V. This happened to LBJ, Nov. 22, 1963. Preparing, not quite ready.

So often this is how it is for many great leaders. Leadership is thrust upon them.

And yes, there is a cost of leadership.   Expectations are placed on them, but they pay prices to achieve those goals.  There is compromise, loss of colleagues, loss of minor goals.

On Nov. 21, 1963, LBJ could go to his ranch and pull his dog's ears with no one caring.  It all changed the next day.  He, as Henry V and MLK and everyone else before and after them, worked on creating his own legend.

When we have opportunity to see a leader from afar, we are permitted to view the personal journey.  In order to see the full picture and learn from their successes and tragedies, we need to see what they have paid, where they have lost.  We recognize that often there is little difference between them and us.


Time for a blog

Posted on 22 September, 2012 at 14:49 Comments comments (0)
We've been here for a while now, so it is time for the blog.  After all, what leadership site in 2012 can exist without one.  There will be musings, thoughts, unsubstantiated items, notice of our schedule and travel, and, well, just about anything we think should go in.  And often we'll let you know what's coming next.  So first up will be Leadership, Manipulation, and Shakespeare.  There will be a bit of MLK, LBJ, Henry V, and Richard III.