Please Look: Why Your Vocabulary Lessons Really Were Important

This just forwarded to me by a member of the related organization and a recipient of the email. This is real; I didn't have the heart to publish the full ID.

Subject: Meeting Cancelled for today October 2nd
Importance: High

Today's meeting has been cancelled, sorry for any incontinence. We will let you know when the next meeting will be.

Thank You

Vickie, I too would feel sorry for any of that. I am wondering, however, where you were seated when you sent the email.

Let's hope things clear up for the November meeting. You can always kick it off with a group Huggie.

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Why You Should Never Answer the Phone at Work

Thank you, dear reader.

The text on Slide 2 was transcribed and forwarded to me by a highly-reliable All Things Workplace  source immediately following the referenced phone conversation.

Names have been changed to protect certain individuals and multi-national corporations.

Although I'm not sure that protection is deserved, I do know that they have more lawyers than I do.

If you are self-employed, this will affirm your decision.

(The text was originally animated. Slideshare  doesn't reproduce the animation).

If you are suffering from the inability to play Flash at your workstation due to oppressive internal regulations, just click below for a copy:

Download RealPhoneCall.pdf


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A Christmas Thought from New York City

Images_8 It's almost Christmas. I am a little sad.

Please hang in there with me. This is not a rant.

Each year I take my family to New York City to see the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center, admire the window displays and decorations, and have family conversation over a nice dinner. This is the 21st consecutive year we've done this.

So what's the problem?

It was clear yesterday that Christmas is no longer allowed.

We walked 5th Avenue from 39th to 60th at Central Park. The window displays at Lord & Taylor had nice, homey scenes of "holidays" past. It was warm and fuzzy but not Christmas. Saks Fifth Avenue continued its recent trend of defying anything remotely related to Christmas and displaying what can only be described as , "Uh, what is that about?!" On to FAO Schwarz for some toys. I love looking at toys at Christmas. There were plenty of toys.


21 city blocks. No nativity scene. No Jesus. Had to search with a magnifying glass for the word "Christmas." And, of course, this has been the case for quite a while now.

It is often said that truth is the first casualty of war. Perhaps this is an example of just that. Perhaps we are in a spiritual war. We are willing to discuss and acknowledge the esoterica of spirituality; we are unwilling to allow the full expression of faith to the extent that there is some discomfort. If someone's belief system appears to have even some small element that we don't understand or like, we declare it "offensive" and therefore a threat. There's enough of that going on in every faith.

The Paradox

spend millions trying to get people thinking outside the box. Every change management program talks about the inherent discomfort that comes when confronting a new opinion, fact, or truth. The foundation of diversity  programs rests on the premise that different kinds of thinking, backgrounds, and approaches will create better workplaces and results. Millions more are spent conducting team building sessions designed to highlight the "truth" that "each individual brings something unique" to the group. The battle cry: "The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Celebrate your diversity!"

The government is made up of elected officials. Campaigns are conducted following demographics and surveys. The principles upon which the country was founded are only trotted out when they make a good sound bite. A person, or group, can claim to be offended at something and thus change the stated position of a candidate. So much for principled leadership.

Two Approaches to Life

1. Fear. When fear prevails we all become defensive. We don't see and hear clearly. We start fighting because we believe there is an enemy. And once the fight starts, we are convinced there is an enemy because we created one. It is self-perpetuating. Pride and self-righteousness erase humility and the search for truth. We try to make ourselves bigger by making others smaller--or eradicate them completely.

2. Love. When love prevails there is peace. With the stillness of peace there is clarity. We listen and we hear. We may not agree but we don't attack. We can acknowledge what is different, listen to new information, and take time to explore what is true and what isn't. Love does not offend. It is a spirit that transcends fear and overcomes irrational anger. We become bigger by actually growing.

What choice are you making?

As I felt my sadness grow yesterday I also realized that I certainly wasn't despondent or empty of joy. To the contrary. I celebrate Christmas daily. The fact that a government or business may choose not to allow that word to be displayed has no impact on its actual existence. It is a futile reaction to fear.

It may be obvious to you that I am probably a Christian. I am, as a result of a personal choice regarding exploration of the evidence and the options. So my heart is invested in the person and teachings of Jesus. It is not invested in "feeling offended" by others or putting down those who may choose to negate Christmas for reasons of perceived profit or votes or their beliefs. I understand all of that.

But I would ask this one question:

"Does the negation of Christmas fill people's hearts with love and joy?"

Ask your friends or even yourself. Is the answer bringing peace, love, and joy in life?

Wherever you are and whatever your circumstances, may you and your family share peace, love, and joy this season.

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Manager's Mood Machine: Duh?

You are in the meeting room with your team. Your manager is in her office with what looks like a lava lamp. You all laugh at a joke. She smiles when her lamp turns yellow. You are happy so she is happy.

GS Yuasa and the University of Tokyo are  a Symbiotic Hosting Online Jog Instrument, or SHOJI, Shoji that supposedly gives a manager--or anyone--the ability to tell what the mood in a particular room is like.  Using LEDs, the SHOJI can determine  the mental condition of the occupants of a room. A single terminal determines the mood in one room (using the sensors and microphones) and transmits it by way of the internet to another room. The LEDs show the final output using color codes for each mood; in this case there is red for anger, blue for sadness, yellow for happiness, and green for peace.

So I'm wondering: what happens if half the room is angry and the other half is happy? Does the manager see orange? And what happens if a decision makes some people angry but gives those in agreement a sense of peace? OK, I think the technology looks like fun. Sort of a high-tech parlor game.

If a manager were to take this seriously--and some will--it's one more way to keep them from actually relating with their people. Instead of gazing at a managerial mood ring, they could say something really profound like, uh, "Hey, how do you feel about the new project software?" Then a real discussion might follow that leads to better implementation of the software or even a different package. Suddenly, the skies would open and a yellow and green glow might naturally fill the room.

In the meantime, I can see a lot of side benefits from having one of these gizmos at the company Christmas party. Unfortunately, it's not scheduled for release until April of 2007 and will cost between US$2,500-3,000.

Until then, "Hi, I'm Steve. I'm an Aquarius and I feel really Yellow about you. I like quiet walks on the beach when I'm feeling Red. Most of all, I hope everyone joins together for World Green."

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Businesses Can't Stalk You. Politicians Can?

It's Saturday morning. Your first thought: "Gee, it's time for a change in government. I hope all of the candidates call me today."

Business people know that folks on the national "Do Not Call" list don't want to be solicited by phone. And businesses can get into some trouble they decide to violate those wishes.New_american_gothic

Apparently politicians believe that the same "Do Not Call" people don't mind if they call. And call often.

I went to the movies last night. When I got home, there was a blinking light on the phone. Thinking that it was a message about my dad (recovering from surgery), I hit the "play" button. It was Pat Boone. Yep, my close personal friend Pat Boone . Pat wanted to tell me about an important issue on the ballot in New Jersey. I was trying to visualize Pat on the other end of the phone wearing white bucks and thinking "Hey, I've gotta call my old buddy Steve Roesler on Friday night to tell him what's on my mind politically."

OK, I confess. It's the only voice message that I let play all the way through. I was sure he would sing "April Love" or the white-guy-cover-version of Little Richard's Tutti Frutti . But no. He just wanted to inform me of the issues. How did they know that the first person I want to consult on an issue of political importance is Pat Boone?

Eric the Swede Weighs In

My first email this morning was from my proud-to-be Scandinavian friend Eric the Swede. Eric was raised in China, the rational-thinking offspring of fine Scandinavian-heritage missionaries. He ultimately became a paid musician (well, trombonist) with a major orchestra. Regardless of that, I still consider him to be my closest and most trusted friend. This leads to:

You Need To Help Eric Today

Here's the text of the email:

    Maybe you can comment on your blog.  Why do politicians not bother to
check if I am on the national do not call list before having their robots
call me?  I know they have the right to call even though I am on the list,
but why would anyone think it was a good idea to harass people who have gone
to the trouble of specifically ASKING to not be harassed?

    I just got a call from the National Right to Life PAC, and in spite of
the fact that I agree with them, I am ticked off at them for calling me
using a prerecorded harassment robot.

    Businesses have the right to call people with whom they have "an
established relationship." However, I can't remember the last time a
business used that loophole and called me with a sales pitch. They seem to
have figured out that "do-not-call" means "I will be pissed off at you if
you call". Are politicians and non-profits just dumber than businesses?


Please let Eric know what you think about this and Comment below. He has lots of time to read the responses. He is a low brass player.


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Stringless In Seattle: "My Cellos Can Beat Up Your Tuba"

At best, Bad PR.  At worst, Dysfunctional Organization.

Here is a situation for you managers, board members, consultants--anyone interested in organizational analysis. It contains conflict, power, harassment, an Executive Director revolving door, inability to influence. . .

The Seattle Times reported a story titled Vandalism, threats strike sour note in SeattleSeattle_frontpage Symphony. If you want to join in the organization analysis, read the full story and we'll continue.

Got it? We need to start with one assumption. Since we don't have the ability to go into the situation and do a proper diagnostic, let's first take the report at face value. Looking at some common diagnostic areas, here's what we might surmise:


The governance/management situation seems out of balance.  Does the structure actually support a strong Executive Director or does the Board make all of the managerial decisions?  The allusion to a 56-2 vote would indicate the latter, although on issues of Conductor tenure the Board would, in fact, be the deciding body. If all decisions are taken in that manner it would be more difficult to get a new coffee machine for the musicians' lounge than it would to have a small country admitted to the European Union. If I'm reading this correctly, are there really at least 58 people on the Board? Nice perk for big donors, unwieldy to govern in any meaningful way.


How are things supposed to get done? Is there a system in place that allows the orchestra (musicians) to be heard on issues that impact performance, including leadership and colleague behavior?  If there is, it would seem ineffective at best. I'm not sure what to make of the "survey" issue, but I can say this: It is the norm--and for most consultants an ethical "must"--to provide respondents with survey results. If the surveys are done using interviews the actual quotes don't have to be presented to protect anonymity. But the thematic issues do need to be fed back. The absence of this step discourages people from future participation ("Why bother?") and raises the question "What was so bad that we couldn't see it? (negative fantasy). "If we didn't see it, who did? And why them and not us?" The list could go on.

Note: The nature of the music world normally has musicians represented by a union. Not sure yet where their representation is on this one.


This can be a catch-all phrase. In this case, don't we have to wonder how this ended up in the newspaper? It seems that there is a clearer channel between someone(s) within the Symphony and the media than there is within the organization itself. If there is a communication system within the organization, who is responsible for accuracy, timeliness, and coordination? Does everyone get the same information at about the same time? Or are there some things left dangling so that different constituencies have to "fill in the blanks" on their own. They will. The world abhors a vacuum. In this case, the symphony may need a vacuum cleaner.


Judging from the article, the Board exercises some of the leadership normally performed by an Executive Director. Not sure why there is turnover--that would be an area to explore. Experience with similar organizations has shown me that there are inherently different focal points for the internal constituencies. The musicians are concerned about performance quality, sitting under an effective conductor, tenure, and workplace issues: travel schedules, rehearsal schedules, and administrivia that can impact them.

Boards are concerned about generating revenue, endowments, reputation, etc.  They are frequently composed of donors (nothing inherently wrong with that) who are interested in the organization.

An effective Executive Director really manages the constituencies and keeps operational rules and guidelines as well as cooperative communication on track. This role is key to the healthy and successful functioning of this type of organization.

What if?

The above represents some stream-of-consciousness diagnostic thoughts, by no means complete. But  let's knock off the serious, navel-gazing stuff. There are some factors here that could lead us elsewhere.

1. The issue is about the continuance of the conductor. Conductors often leave or are asked to move on after a reasonable amount of time for creative reasons. In a creative industry you just need to renew your own batteries or bring someone else in to spark the creative juices. There is a time and a season for everything.
2. According to the article, the conductor hired the Principal Horn who is a main figure in this soap opera. If the conductor goes would he go, too? One of his colleagues notes that Principal Horn has a high self-opinion but that it is justified, implying that he is a good player. (For our readers in the U.S.A., this would equate to American footballer Terrell Owens with an embouchure).
3.  Principal Horn-guy is the only one being vocal about this "terrorism." The other alleged victim has refused comment.
4. Alleged acts that supposedly include razor blades and attack-by-killer-coffee-cup have not been reported to the police. But they have been reported to a reporter. I don't know about you but if I am being "terrorized," my first phone call isn't to a journalism school graduate.

And so on. Now I'm thinking:

What if this whole thing is really about trying to keep the conductor and keep one's job. What if the orchestra members don't have the kind of union representation that can actually give them collective clout when it comes to their collective wishes? What if the absence of a proven, trusted Executive Director produces enough of a leadership vacuum to allow mischief to get played out through the media instead of managed through a legitimate process.

The only thing that seems clear is that there is no honest, legitimate, and internally accountable management process to deal with this in an upright way.

The good news: Jerry Springer is tied up on "Dancing With The Stars." We won't see any white tie, tails, oboes, and flying coffee cups on our local stations.

Your armchair analysis is invited. Please don't key the blog.


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Is Cheating Being Taught?

Tshirt I think so. But not by enrolling in Cheating 101. It's more powerful than that. It's being taught in the most effective way: by role models.

When the Hewlett Packard story broke I wrote a post that I called Cartridgegate. The first part was serious; the second was tongue-in-cheek and pointed readers to the latest amateur spy tools. That was my way of coping with one more dark cloud over the business world--the world in which I spend most of my professional time.

Now I'm even more concerned as a result of research that you may also have seen. The headline in the Financial Times reads:

MBA Students Are 'Biggest Cheats'

The reporter writes: "MBA students are the biggest cheats of all graduate students, with 56 per cent admitting to misdemeanours such as using crib notes in exams, plagiarism and downloading essays from the web.

The statistic comes from a survey of graduate students to be published in the Academy of Management Learning and Education journal. The report is based on data from about 5,300 survey respondents at 54 colleges and universities in the US and Canada, including 623 students in 32 graduate business programmes."


There are probably multiple reasons. Apparently the conviction and sentencing of people like Bernie Ebbers and Jeffrey Skilling aren't deterrents. Martha Stewart's brief jail time was covered as a celebrity event. She returned to her company and TV as somewhat of a heroine. She was even allowed to leave her home while under house arrest to receive two awards. I especially like how the Washington Post dubbed her 'America's perkiest ex-convict.'

An American Management Association study showed that the top 3 causes of compromising one's ethical standards are:

1. Pressure to meet unrealistic business objectives and deadlinesCheatcellphone_2

2. A desire to further one's career

3. Desire to protect one's livelihood

You may be able to get a copy of the survey by emailing Rick Keller at or visiting his fine Ethics Global Study  weblog post.

An Educator's Observation

I recently had a phone conversation with Howard. Howard is the now-retired Superintendent of Schools from my hometown. We talked about old times and I asked him what he thought was the most noticeable change in education over his 40+ year career. His response was telling.

"When you were in school and we had to call a parent to come in and discuss their kid's behavior, it went like this:

1. Before anything was said, the parent reprimanded the student for causing disruption and dishonor to the family.

2. I would sometimes intervene on behalf of the student and say to the parent, 'Take it easy--it wasn't that bad!'

3. I seldom had to enact any formal discipline. What they got at home far outweighed the impact of anything we would do.

4. And the scenario was the same regardless of the family's financial, ethnic, or religious background.

At the end of my tenure the same situation with the parents went this way:

1. What do you mean I have to come to school?

2. When the parent arrived, the first statement was often 'I know our rights. You can't (fill in the blanks)...'

3. When discipline and consequences were introduced, so was the concept of 'our lawyer.'

A fundamental issue at the end of my tenure was the absence of 'personal responsibility' and the introduction of 'personal rights.' The issue of right and wrong became 'relative'."

I've learned to trust Howard over the course of a lifetime and his comments have prompted me to offer the following:

Some Thoughts to Consider

  • I've seldom seen anyone fired for lack of skill. It's almost always a lack of character.
  • Character is built in part as a result of watching how the adults in one's life behave and then doing the same things.
  • When a CEO or boss says firmly that no goal will be considered successful if it was achieved by cheating, spying, or bribery, then people will learn what kind of character the company values. But only when someone caught violating it is disciplined.
  • Good character is built as a result of continually doing the right thing as well as admitting wrongdoing, accepting the consequences, and then doing the right thing.
  • Celebrity--whether in business, sports, or entertainment--is not designed as an indicator of good character. It is an indication of good media buzz. Good character is often quiet and humble.

Find a student and tell them what you've learned about temptation and consequences in business. Take them to lunch. Nurture their character. Your own character will grow in the process.

Is cheating being taught? Yes, and in more powerful ways than one could ever learn in a classroom. It's being taught by example.

Can we change it? Yes, I believe it can be changed to a significant degree.

How can that happen? You and I can provide examples of character that are more compelling than those now being followed.

Let's do it.

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Cartridgegate: What to Take to Your Next H-P Board Meeting


That's what I've decided to call it. Hewlett-Packard's Chairwoman resigned after it was discovered that her efforts to stop informational leaks to the media turned into a campaign of spying. Now there are criminal and congressional investigations that will tie up H-P's resources and cost it a bundle of money in legal fees and goodwill.

This is sad in many of the same ways that Enron and the others were sad. Proud employees are going to hear cynical one-liners from their friends. Honest Board members and executives will be subjected to investigations and forced to give lengthy depositions. Costly hearings will be held. And new oppressive legislation will no doubt follow, causing companies to spend more of their time and money filing paperwork and hiring auditors instead of doing the work that that they and their shareholders want done. (Think Sarbanes-Oxley).

I always thought that there are more than enough laws in place that clearly delineate "right" from "wrong." It seems to me that if someone is prosecuted, found guilty, and actually sentenced under existing laws, then maybe people would at least think twice before doing something stupid--and criminal.

Fortunately, the actions of the Chairwoman don't reflect the actions of the majority. But the majority ends up paying for it. Somehow that has to stop or else well-run companies will reach the point where the "legal" cost of doing business will put some of them out of business.

There's also a nice, brief commentary at the Goliath Ate David blog.

That's my own brief, but serious rant about the issue. Since today is Saturday, I've decided to go where my weekend mind has taken me on this issue:

What to Bring to Your Next H-P Board Meeting

Deluxe Rearview Spy Sunglasses

Let's say the Boardroom is set up in a way that seats you somewhere in front of the Chairwoman. The wrap around windows in the room are creating a sun glare that makes you retinally-challenged. This is the perfect opportunity to avoid being stabbed in the back by the Countess of Cartridgegate. SimplySpyglassesrearview don your rearview sunglasses and you will look very chic while covering your corporate behind. Available in your choice of Black from .

Phone Tap Detector

So you excuse yourself to make a business call on the cell phone. You don't want her to know that you're really ordering a large-with-extra cheese-and-pepperoni to take home to the family. This nifty Phonetapdetector number will ensure that your subversive activity goes undetected. (And if you have teenage children, you might want to...oops. Wouldn't that be the same as...?). Available in your choice of Black from .

Spy Mouse

Even Board members are known to bring their laptops to a meeting. That way they can do real-time tracking of the company's stock price, act as if they are taking notes, watch the latest YouTube uploads, or order a "large-with-extra cheese-and-pepperoni" to take home to the family. How do you doSpy_mouse all of that and still stay on top of what's actually happening at the meeting? We've got you covered with  the Endoacustica Spy Mouse. Available in your choice of White. Caution: *Exterior look and specifics are subject to change without warning." No kidding; it's actually on the ad.

I hope that these prove helpful in your quest for Boardroom security. I tried to score a free extra-toppings coupon for you from Dominoes but they tracked our IP address and found out that our cat nipped the delivery guy last week. We were punk'd. Sorry.

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The Steve Roesler Group
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