Escape Rooms and Team Building few years a new theory is launched on the best way to build cohesiveness among small teams.  It can be things like a ROPES course, role-playing, or even and outing to a sporting event.  One of the latest “experience destinations” is the “escape room.”  A fairly straight-forward event, small groups assemble and are placed in a small rule filled with clues and puzzles.  Their goal is to escape within the prescribed time limit, usually one hours.

More difficult that it sounds, it is easier if you have people who are able to work together.,  Scouring the room for clues to unlock secret cupboards and chests.  The challenge is to find solutions and brainstorm for ideas all while working under a time constraint.  In our recent experience, this limit was one hour, trying to discover the clues to help us unlock 4 digit combination locks.  Our group had to analyze clues, decide on ways to best use our time for trying combinations, and brainstorm to make sense of the few clues we were given.

As important as the team aspects of this event were, the real value is building a history or memories of common experiences.  Teams work together when they have a common thread of events.  This is especially important with remote groups.  The escape room is one great way, but the other could be a service visit that did not go as planned,  a dinner that was not what was expected, or a trip to an art museum together.  All these events build familiarity and commonality that can move a team forward with great speed.

Try the Escape Room in Amsterdam or similar rooms throughout the world.


Lincoln on Leadership Abraham Lincoln appointed the best and brightest to his Cabinet, individuals who were also some of his greatest political rivals. He demonstrated his leadership by pulling this group together into a unique team that represented the greatest minds of his time, according to historian Doris Kearns Goodwin.

Lincoln demonstrated an ability to withstand adversity and to move forward in the face of frustration, said Kearns Goodwin, a keynote speaker at SHRM’s 2008 Annual Conference in Chicago. She identified 10 qualities that made Lincoln a great leader. Ten qualities Kearns Goodwin believes we should look for in our present day leaders.


Capacity to Listen to Different Points of View

While researching her Pulitzer Prize winning book, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln, Kearns Goodwin learned that Lincoln had the capacity to listen to different points of view. He created a climate where Cabinet members were free to disagree without fear of retaliation. At the same time, he knew when to stop the discussion and after listening to the various opinions, make a final decision.

Ability to Learn on the Job

Lincoln was able to acknowledge errors, learn from them, and then move. In this way, he established a culture of learning in his administration, said Kearns Goodwin.

Ready Willingness to Share Credit for Success

In response to concerns expressed by friends about the actions of some of his Cabinet members, Lincoln stated that the “path to success and ambition is broad enough for two” said Kearns Goodwin. When there was success, Lincoln shared the credit with all of those involved.

Ready Willingness to Share Blame for Failure

When mistakes were made by members of his Cabinet, Lincoln stood up for them said Kearns Goodwin. When contracts related to the war effort raised serious questions about a member of his administration, Lincoln spoke up and indicated that he and his entire Cabinet were to blame.

Awareness of Own Weaknesses

Kearns Goodwin noted that one of the weaknesses acknowledged by Lincoln was his tendency to give people too many chances and because he was aware, he was able to compensate for that weakness. As an example, she stated that George McClellan, Commander in Chief of the Union Army, refused to follow directives about the war effort. Lincoln eventually set a deadline and eventually removed McClellan from the position.

Ability to Control Emotions

According to Kearns Goodwin, Lincoln treated those he worked with well. However, he did get angry and frustrated, so he found a way to channel those emotions. He was known to sit down and write what he referred to as a “hot letter” to the individual he was angry with and then he would set the letter aside and not send it. If he did lose his temper, Lincoln would follow up with a kind gesture or letter to let the individual know he was not holding a grudge, said Kearns Goodwin. She noted that one of the letters was released as part of Lincoln’s Presidential papers with a notation that it was never signed nor sent.

Know How to Relax and Replenish

Lincoln understood the importance of relaxation and humor to shake of the stress of the day and to replenish himself for the challenges of the next day. According to Kearns Goodwin, Lincoln had a wonderful sense of humor and loved to tell funny stories. He encouraged a healthy atmosphere of laughter and fun in his administration. He also enjoyed going to the theater and spending time with friends.

Go Out into the Field and Manage Directly

During the Civil War, many soldiers died and there were many ups and downs. Lincoln established lasting connections with the troops by visiting the battlefield and hospitals, which also helped bolster morale.

Lincoln also spent time talking with members of the public, taking ‘public opinion baths’ according to Kearns Goodwin. He held public receptions and made a point of shaking everyone’s hand and speaking to each individual.

Strength to Adhere to Fundamental Goals

In the summer of 1864, said Kearns Goodwin, the war was not going well for the North. Members of his political party came to Lincoln and said that there was no way to win the war and he might need to compromise on slavery. Lincoln held firm on the issue of slavery and turned away from this advice.

Ability to Communicate Goals and Vision

Kearns Goodwin stated that Lincoln had a “remarkable ability to communicate his goals to his countrymen.” He made concepts simple and communicated with an understanding of the concerns of the citizens.

When the war ended and he won reelection, Lincoln did not focus on his achievements said Kearns Goodwin. Rather, in his second inaugural speech, Lincoln focused on bringing the country together as expressed in the following excerpt. “With malice toward none, with charity for all, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.”

Kearns Goodwin ended her keynote address with the following words from Leo Tolstoy about Abraham Lincoln. His greatness consisted of the “integrity of his character and moral fiber of his being.”


Originally posted on

17 Field Service Stats ron palinkas field service


We’re living in a world driven by futuristic devices and instant customer service expectations. Just look at the swift rise of Uber, Amazon Prime Now, or Facebook’s Oculus Rift. Customers have more to expect from companies. One thing is certain; field service will look much different in a few short years.


Facing all this new technology can seem daunting to field service professionals. But hey, we’re a tough lot. We can handle just about anything, right?  You might be trying to convince your boss to adopt new technology. Or maybe you’re just keeping up with all the trends this year. Either way, 2017 is shaping up to be a big year in field service management. Here are 17 stats and trends to fuel an unbeatable 2017 field service strategy.

1. 76% of field service providers report they are struggling to achieve revenue growth.

Increased competition and technology expectations from customers have squeezed revenues of field service providers. The field service winners in 2017 will deliver faster resolution times. They will also deliver the right customer experience and have smarter uses for technology.

2. Maximizing satisfaction with customer journeys has the potential to lift revenue by up to 15% percent while lowering cost of serving customers by as much as 20%.

Source, McKinsey.

Personalization is increasingly important in our economy. Field service providers must know their customers well and provide a just-right experience. These providers will see their revenue bounce back in 2017.

3. 97% of consumers said customer service is important to their choice or loyalty to a brand.

Source, Microsoft.

In a world with more and more choices, the true field service differentiator is service. This means customer-centric field service organizations will pull even further ahead in 2017.

4.58% of field service pros report their top pressure is competition in product and service.

Source, Aberdeen.

It will be more important to offer the best possible service and the most up-to-date products for field service success. With access to more information online than ever before, should customers expect any less?

5. Best-in-class field service organizations are 72% more likely than peers to utilize visual collaboration tools.

Source, Aberdeen.

We’re facing more information than ever in field service management. The smartest field service pros will get visual with route planning, dispatch management, and more.

6. 64% of consumers have switched providers in at least one industry due to poor customer service.

Source, Accenture

According to Accenture, we’re living in an era where customer loyalty is at an all-time low. Most customers will leave after a single bad experience. It’s crucial that field service organizations focus on their tech’s role. This should grow their customer base in 2017.

7. 73% of consumers say valuing their time is the most important thing a company can do to provide them with good service.

Source, Forrester.

Many customers still face four to eight hour service windows. To pull ahead in 2017, organizations must communicate exact customer times. And they should value customer time by resolving jobs faster.

8. 84% of millennial customers have used a self-service portal for customer service.

Source, Microsoft.

Millennials have come to see self-service as mandatory. Your organization should provide information to help millennials resolve their problems faster. Otherwise you’ll likely face a drop in these customers in the coming year.

9. 68% of 18 to 34-year-old consumers have stopped doing business with a brand due to a single poor customer service experience.

Source, Microsoft.

18 to 34-year-olds value experiences above products, brands, or services. Field service organizations with expert customer service will build a base of young customers next year.

10. 72% of best-in-class field service companies use customer feedback to measure service and employee performance.

Source, Aberdeen.

Customer feedback is crucial to any business. But are you using it to get specifics about service and employee performance? Smart field service companies will be quick with this data. They will check in on techs more often with performance data.

11. 92% of executives feel they must adapt service models to keep up with customers’ needs.

Source, Salesforce.

Executives are feeling the heat from customers. The best among them in field service will do what they need to survive. They will adapt.

12. 52% of companies are still using manual methods to handle field service.

Source, Salesforce

This number will fall in 2017 as more organizations realize the potential of automation.

13. The field service management software industry has grown 12.6% annually from 2011 to 2016.

Source, IBIS World.

Software continues to offer field service organizations help in a variety of areas. The biggest winners in 2017 will install software that can be quickly scaled. This software must also streamline their most time consuming tasks. This will free up their most talented employees and allow them to focus on the customer.

14. There will be 50 Billion internet-connected devices by 2020, a 100% increase over 2015.

Source, Cisco.

Mobile will be key to field service in 2017. Customers will come to expect consumer-like experiences with their devices. The field service organizations that offer top-notch experiences will pull ahead.

15. More than 62% of field service leaders leverage some level of a BYOD (bring your own device) strategy.

Source, Aberdeen.

Most field service organizations do their best to accommodate BYOD culture. The top players will install strategies that ensure employee devices are secure and perform well.

16. In a recent study, field service accounts receivables error rates averaged 53%, but just 14% among providers utilizing cloud-based accounts receivables software.

Source, Aberdeen.

Organizations that use cloud-based software in key business areas should pull more cash from their customers.

17. 88% of customers use at least 1 online channel while prospecting (shopping) and 40% want more digital interaction than what companies are providing.

Source, Accenture.

Customers have gone digital, but can field service keep up? Customers in 2017 will demand to have their service questions answered in their most convenient channel. This could be Twitter, on the web, or at a customer’s doorstep. No matter what, the best field service organization will be waiting with an answer.



15 Diseases of Leadership Francis has made no secret of his intention to radically reform the administrative structures of the Catholic church, which he regards as insular, imperious, and bureaucratic. He understands that in a hyper-kinetic world, inward-looking and self-obsessed leaders are a liability.

Last year, just before Christmas, the Pope addressed the leaders of the Roman Curia — the Cardinals and other officials who are charged with running the church’s byzantine network of administrative bodies. The Pope’s message to his colleagues was blunt. Leaders are susceptible to an array of debilitating maladies, including arrogance, intolerance, myopia, and pettiness. When those diseases go untreated, the organization itself is enfeebled. To have a healthy church, we need healthy leaders.

Through the years, I’ve heard dozens of management experts enumerate the qualities of great leaders. Seldom, though, do they speak plainly about the “diseases” of leadership. The Pope is more forthright. He understands that as human beings we have certain proclivities — not all of them noble. Nevertheless, leaders should be held to a high standard, since their scope of influence makes their ailments particularly infectious.

The Catholic Church is a bureaucracy: a hierarchy populated by good-hearted, but less-than-perfect souls. In that sense, it’s not much different than your organization. That’s why the Pope’s counsel is relevant to leaders everywhere.

With that in mind, I spent a couple of hours translating the Pope’s address into something a little closer to corporate-speak. (I don’t know if there’s a prohibition on paraphrasing Papal pronouncements, but since I’m not Catholic, I’m willing to take the risk.)

Herewith, then, the Pope (more or less):


The leadership team is called constantly to improve and to grow in rapport and wisdom, in order to carry out fully its mission. And yet, like any body, like any human body, it is also exposed to diseases, malfunctioning, infirmity. Here I would like to mention some of these “[leadership] diseases.” They are diseases and temptations which can dangerously weaken the effectiveness of any organization.

  1. The disease of thinking we are immortal, immune, or downright indispensable, [and therefore] neglecting the need for regular check-ups. A leadership team which is not self-critical, which does not keep up with things, which does not seek to be more fit, is a sick body. A simple visit to the cemetery might help us see the names of many people who thought they were immortal, immune, and indispensable! It is the disease of those who turn into lords and masters, who think of themselves as above others and not at their service. It is the pathology of power and comes from a superiority complex, from a narcissism which passionately gazes at its own image and does not see the face of others, especially the weakest and those most in need. The antidote to this plague is humility; to say heartily, “I am merely a servant. I have only done what was my duty.”
  1. Another disease is excessive busyness. It is found in those who immerse themselves in work and inevitably neglect to “rest a while.” Neglecting needed rest leads to stress and agitation. A time of rest, for those who have completed their work, is necessary, obligatory and should be taken seriously: by spending time with one’s family and respecting holidays as moments for recharging.
  1. Then there is the disease of mental and [emotional] “petrification.” It is found in leaders who have a heart of stone, the “stiff-necked;” in those who in the course of time lose their interior serenity, alertness and daring, and hide under a pile of papers, turning into paper pushers and not men and women of compassion. It is dangerous to lose the human sensitivity that enables us to weep with those who weep and to rejoice with those who rejoice! Because as time goes on, our hearts grow hard and become incapable of loving all those around us. Being a humane leader means having the sentiments of humility and unselfishness, of detachment and generosity.
  1. The disease of excessive planning and of functionalism. When a leader plans everything down to the last detail and believes that with perfect planning things will fall into place, he or she becomes an accountant or an office manager. Things need to be prepared well, but without ever falling into the temptation of trying to eliminate spontaneity and serendipity, which is always more flexible than any human planning. We contract this disease because it is easy and comfortable to settle in our own sedentary and unchanging ways.
  2. The disease of poor coordination. Once leaders lose a sense of community among themselves, the body loses its harmonious functioning and its equilibrium; it then becomes an orchestra that produces noise: its members do not work together and lose the spirit of camaraderie and teamwork. When the foot says to the arm: ‘I don’t need you,’ or the hand says to the head, ‘I’m in charge,’ they create discomfort and parochialism.
  1. There is also a sort of “leadership Alzheimer’s disease.” It consists in losing the memory of those who nurtured, mentored and supported us in our own journeys. We see this in those who have lost the memory of their encounters with the great leaders who inspired them; in those who are completely caught up in the present moment, in their passions, whims and obsessions; in those who build walls and routines around themselves, and thus become more and more the slaves of idols carved by their own hands.
  1. The disease of rivalry and vainglory. When appearances, our perks, and our titles become the primary object in life, we forget our fundamental duty as leaders—to “do nothing from selfishness or conceit but in humility count others better than ourselves.” [As leaders, we must] look not only to [our] own interests, but also to the interests of others.
  1. The disease of existential schizophrenia. This is the disease of those who live a double life, the fruit of that hypocrisy typical of the mediocre and of a progressive emotional emptiness which no [accomplishment or] title can fill. It is a disease which often strikes those who are no longer directly in touch with customers and “ordinary” employees, and restrict themselves to bureaucratic matters, thus losing contact with reality, with concrete people.
  1. The disease of gossiping, grumbling, and back-biting. This is a grave illness which begins simply, perhaps even in small talk, and takes over a person, making him become a “sower of weeds” and in many cases, a cold-blooded killer of the good name of colleagues. It is the disease of cowardly persons who lack the courage to speak out directly, but instead speak behind other people’s backs. Let us be on our guard against the terrorism of gossip!
  1. The disease of idolizing superiors. This is the disease of those who court their superiors in the hope of gaining their favor. They are victims of careerism and opportunism; they honor persons [rather than the larger mission of the organization]. They think only of what they can get and not of what they should give; small-minded persons, unhappy and inspired only by their own lethal selfishness. Superiors themselves can be affected by this disease, when they try to obtain the submission, loyalty and psychological dependency of their subordinates, but the end result is unhealthy complicity.
  1. The disease of indifference to others. This is where each leader thinks only of himself or herself, and loses the sincerity and warmth of [genuine] human relationships. This can happen in many ways: When the most knowledgeable person does not put that knowledge at the service of less knowledgeable colleagues, when you learn something and then keep it to yourself rather than sharing it in a helpful way with others; when out of jealousy or deceit you take joy in seeing others fall instead of helping them up and encouraging them.
  1. The disease of a downcast face. You see this disease in those glum and dour persons who think that to be serious you have to put on a face of melancholy and severity, and treat others—especially those we consider our inferiors—with rigor, brusqueness and arrogance. In fact, a show of severity and sterile pessimism are frequently symptoms of fear and insecurity. A leader must make an effort to be courteous, serene, enthusiastic and joyful, a person who transmits joy everywhere he goes. A happy heart radiates an infectious joy: it is immediately evident! So a leader should never lose that joyful, humorous and even self-deprecating spirit which makes people amiable even in difficult situations. How beneficial is a good dose of humor! …
  1. The disease of hoarding. This occurs when a leader tries to fill an existential void in his or her heart by accumulating material goods, not out of need but only in order to feel secure. The fact is that we are not able to bring material goods with us when we leave this life, since “the winding sheet does not have pockets” and all our treasures will never be able to fill that void; instead, they will only make it deeper and more demanding. Accumulating goods only burdens and inexorably slows down the journey!
  1. The disease of closed circles, where belonging to a clique becomes more powerful than our shared identity. This disease too always begins with good intentions, but with the passing of time it enslaves its members and becomes a cancer which threatens the harmony of the organization and causes immense evil, especially to those we treat as outsiders. “Friendly fire” from our fellow soldiers, is the most insidious danger. It is the evil which strikes from within. As it says in the bible, “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste.”
  1. Lastly: the disease of extravagance and self-exhibition. This happens when a leader turns his or her service into power, and uses that power for material gain, or to acquire even greater power. This is the disease of persons who insatiably try to accumulate power and to this end are ready to slander, defame and discredit others; who put themselves on display to show that they are more capable than others. This disease does great harm because it leads people to justify the use of any means whatsoever to attain their goal, often in the name of justice and transparency! Here I remember a leader who used to call journalists to tell and invent private and confidential matters involving his colleagues. The only thing he was concerned about was being able to see himself on the front page, since this made him feel powerful and glamorous, while causing great harm to others and to the organization.

Friends, these diseases are a danger for every leader and every organization, and they can strike at the individual and the community levels.

Duty and Marines years ago, two Marines from two different walks of life who had literally just met were told to stand guard in front of their outpost’s entry-control point.Minutes later, they were staring down a big blue truck packed with explosives. With this particular shred of hell bearing down on them, they stood their ground.Heck, they even leaned in.I had heard the story many times, personally. But until today I had never heard Marine Lt. Gen. John Kelly’s telling of it to a packed house in 2010. Just four days following the death of his own son in combat, Kelly eulogized two other sons in an unforgettable manner.From Kelly’s speech:

Two years ago when I was the Commander of all U.S. and Iraqi forces, in fact, the 22nd of April 2008, two Marine infantry battalions, 1/9 “The Walking Dead,” and 2/8 were switching out in Ramadi. One battalion in the closing days of their deployment going home very soon, the other just starting its seven-month combat tour.

Two Marines, Corporal Jonathan Yale and Lance Corporal Jordan Haerter, 22 and 20 years old respectively, one from each battalion, were assuming the watch together at the entrance gate of an outpost that contained a makeshift barracks housing 50 Marines.

The same broken down ramshackle building was also home to 100 Iraqi police, also my men and our allies in the fight against the terrorists in Ramadi, a city until recently the most dangerous city on earth and owned by Al Qaeda. Yale was a dirt poor mixed-race kid from Virginia with a wife and daughter, and a mother and sister who lived with him and he supported as well. He did this on a yearly salary of less than $23,000. Haerter, on the other hand, was a middle class white kid from Long Island.

They were from two completely different worlds. Had they not joined the Marines they would never have met each other, or understood that multiple America’s exist simultaneously depending on one’s race, education level, economic status, and where you might have been born. But they were Marines, combat Marines, forged in the same crucible of Marine training, and because of this bond they were brothers as close, or closer, than if they were born of the same woman.

The mission orders they received from the sergeant squad leader I am sure went something like: “Okay you two clowns, stand this post and let no unauthorized personnel or vehicles pass.” “You clear?” I am also sure Yale and Haerter then rolled their eyes and said in unison something like: “Yes Sergeant,” with just enough attitude that made the point without saying the words, “No kidding sweetheart, we know what we’re doing.” They then relieved two other Marines on watch and took up their post at the entry control point of Joint Security Station Nasser, in the Sophia section of Ramadi, al Anbar, Iraq.

A few minutes later a large blue truck turned down the alley way—perhaps 60-70 yards in length—and sped its way through the serpentine of concrete jersey walls. The truck stopped just short of where the two were posted and detonated, killing them both catastrophically. Twenty-four brick masonry houses were damaged or destroyed. A mosque 100 yards away collapsed. The truck’s engine came to rest two hundred yards away knocking most of a house down before it stopped.

Our explosive experts reckoned the blast was made of 2,000 pounds of explosives. Two died, and because these two young infantrymen didn’t have it in their DNA to run from danger, they saved 150 of their Iraqi and American brothers-in-arms.

When I read the situation report about the incident a few hours after it happened I called the regimental commander for details as something about this struck me as different. Marines dying or being seriously wounded is commonplace in combat. We expect Marines regardless of rank or MOS to stand their ground and do their duty, and even die in the process, if that is what the mission takes. But this just seemed different.

The regimental commander had just returned from the site and he agreed, but reported that there were no American witnesses to the event—just Iraqi police. I figured if there was any chance of finding out what actually happened and then to decorate the two Marines to acknowledge their bravery, I’d have to do it as a combat award that requires two eye-witnesses and we figured the bureaucrats back in Washington would never buy Iraqi statements. If it had any chance at all, it had to come under the signature of a general officer.

I traveled to Ramadi the next day and spoke individually to a half-dozen Iraqi police all of whom told the same story. The blue truck turned down into the alley and immediately sped up as it made its way through the serpentine. They all said, “We knew immediately what was going on as soon as the two Marines began firing.” The Iraqi police then related that some of them also fired, and then to a man, ran for safety just prior to the explosion.

All survived. Many were injured … some seriously. One of the Iraqis elaborated and with tears welling up said, “They’d run like any normal man would to save his life.”

What he didn’t know until then, he said, and what he learned that very instant, was that Marines are not normal. Choking past the emotion he said, “Sir, in the name of God no sane man would have stood there and done what they did.”

“No sane man.”

“They saved us all.”

What we didn’t know at the time, and only learned a couple of days later after I wrote a summary and submitted both Yale and Haerter for posthumous Navy Crosses, was that one of our security cameras, damaged initially in the blast, recorded some of the suicide attack. It happened exactly as the Iraqis had described it. It took exactly six seconds from when the truck entered the alley until it detonated.

You can watch the last six seconds of their young lives. Putting myself in their heads I supposed it took about a second for the two Marines to separately come to the same conclusion about what was going on once the truck came into their view at the far end of the alley. Exactly no time to talk it over, or call the sergeant to ask what they should do. Only enough time to take half an instant and think about what the sergeant told them to do only a few minutes before: “ … let no unauthorized personnel or vehicles pass.”

The two Marines had about five seconds left to live. It took maybe another two seconds for them to present their weapons, take aim, and open up. By this time the truck was half-way through the barriers and gaining speed the whole time. Here, the recording shows a number of Iraqi police, some of whom had fired their AKs, now scattering like the normal and rational men they were—some running right past the Marines. They had three seconds left to live.

For about two seconds more, the recording shows the Marines’ weapons firing non-stop…the truck’s windshield exploding into shards of glass as their rounds take it apart and tore in to the body of the son-of-a-bitch who is trying to get past them to kill their brothers—American and Iraqi—bedded down in the barracks totally unaware of the fact that their lives at that moment depended entirely on two Marines standing their ground. If they had been aware, they would have know they were safe … because two Marines stood between them and a crazed suicide bomber.

The recording shows the truck careening to a stop immediately in front of the two Marines. In all of the instantaneous violence Yale and Haerter never hesitated. By all reports and by the recording, they never stepped back. They never even started to step aside. They never even shifted their weight. With their feet spread shoulder width apart, they leaned into the danger, firing as fast as they could work their weapons. They had only one second left to live.

The truck explodes. The camera goes blank. Two young men go to their God.

Six seconds.

Not enough time to think about their families, their country, their flag, or about their lives or their deaths, but more than enough time for two very brave young men to do their duty … into eternity. That is the kind of people who are on watch all over the world tonight—for you.

Santa’s Location and NORAD

This Christmas Eve people all over the world will log on to the official Santa Tracker to follow his progress through U.S. military radar. This all started in 1955, with a misprint in a Colorado Springs newspaper and a call to Col. Harry Shoup’s secret hotline at the Continental Air Defense Command, now known as NORAD.  Shoup’s children, Terri Van Keuren, 65, Rick Shoup, 59, and Pam Farrell, 70, recently visited StoryCorps to talk about how the tradition began.  The Santa Tracker tradition started with this Sears ad, which instructed children to call Santa on what turned out to be a secret military hotline. Kids today can call 1-877 HI-NORAD (1-877-446-6723) to talk to NORAD staff about Santa’s exact location.

Courtesy of NORAD

Terri remembers her dad had two phones on his desk, including a red one. “Only a four-star general at the Pentagon and my dad had the number,” she says.”This was the ’50s, this was the Cold War, and he would have been the first one to know if there was an attack on the United States,” Rick says.The red phone rang one day in December 1955, and Shoup answered it, Pam says. “And then there was a small voice that just asked, ‘Is this Santa Claus?’ ” His children remember Shoup as straight-laced and disciplined, and he was annoyed and upset by the call and thought it was a joke — but then, Terri says, the little voice started crying.“And Dad realized that it wasn’t a joke,” her sister says. “So he talked to him, ho-ho-ho’d and asked if he had been a good boy and, ‘May I talk to your mother?’ And the mother got on and said, ‘You haven’t seen the paper yet? There’s a phone number to call Santa. It’s in the Sears ad.’ Dad looked it up, and there it was, his red phone number. And they had children calling one after another, so he put a couple of airmen on the phones to act like Santa Claus.” “It got to be a big joke at the command center. You know, ‘The old man’s really flipped his lid this time. We’re answering Santa calls,’ ” Terri says.

Col. Harry Shoup came to be known as the “Santa Colonel.” He died in 2009.

Courtesy of NORAD

“The airmen had this big glass board with the United States on it and Canada, and when airplanes would come in they would track them,” Pam says.”And Christmas Eve of 1955, when Dad walked in, there was a drawing of a sleigh with eight reindeer coming over the North Pole,” Rick says.”Dad said, ‘What is that?’ They say, ‘Colonel, we’re sorry. We were just making a joke. Do you want us to take that down?’ Dad looked at it for a while, and next thing you know, Dad had called the radio station and had said, ‘This is the commander at the Combat Alert Center, and we have an unidentified flying object. Why, it looks like a sleigh.’ Well, the radio stations would call him like every hour and say, ‘Where’s Santa now?’ ” Terri says.

“And later in life he got letters from all over the world, people saying, ‘Thank you, Colonel,’ for having, you know, this sense of humor. And in his 90s, he would carry those letters around with him in a briefcase that had a lock on it like it was top-secret information,” she says. “You know, he was an important guy, but this is the thing he’s known for.”

“Yeah,” Rick says, “it’s probably the thing he was proudest of, too.”

Produced for Morning Edition by Jasmyn Belcher Morris.

Original Story on NPR

Lincoln’s Tomb; Good Leadership and Good Luck

ron palinkas ron palinkas ron palinkas abraham lincoln's tomb




This past week I had the opportunity to visit Abraham Lincoln’s Tomb in Springfield, IL.  It was a convenient detour and an opportunity to reflect on the period of Lincoln’s Presidency.  I like to contrast current events with the events of his period.  One can imagine the amount of pressure on him as he listened and tried to reach a compromise between sides.  One can also appreciate the amount of resiliency that it took to make a decision and steer a course, knowing well the consequences that would follow.



There are few other examples of such a long term commitment to a widely unpopular course of action.  A few of my favorite quotes:

ron palinkas ron palinkas ronpalinkas national service manager abraham lincoln“Courage is not the absence of fear. It is going forward with the face of fear.”

“You cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today.”

“Adhere to your purpose and you will soon feel as well as you ever did. On the contrary, if you falter, and give up, you will lose the power of keeping any resolution, and will regret it all your life.”

“The best way to predict your future is to create it.”

ron palinkas ron palinkas ronpalinkas national service manager





(I did rub his nose for good luck)


4 Metrics That Matter for Service

performance conceptual meter indicate maximum, isolated on white background

It’s now possible for service organizations to collect more data than ever – from workforce performance figures to customer satisfaction rates, to cost per job and more. But often the data comes in various forms and from numerous sources. It is therefore understandable that only 18% of companies believe they have the skills necessary to turn the vast quantity of data they have into useful insight.

But it is important that we find ways to utilize the information because, used wisely, analytics can greatly improve business performance.

The first step in delivering valuable insight is to identify the key metrics. These will vary depending on what success looks like for your organisation, but there are some common measures that you should probably track regardless:

1. Business process – optimized business processes are at the heart of service delivery so should be continually assessed. The goal will be to reduce the number of steps in a process to in turn minimize the opportunity for delays and bottlenecks. The main unit of measure for process is time: time to complete the process, various steps in the process and delays in the process.

2. Service delivery – whether providing a service to an external or internal customer, service delivery metrics need to be recorded. To get a true picture, you will need to match customer metrics against cost. After all, exemplary customer service is something to aim for but not at any financial cost. It is also critical to capture time-to-resolution and downtime.

3. Customer service – the metrics for customer service are closely related to service delivery metrics and some may in fact feed into both. The difference is that customer service must be viewed from the customer perspective and the handling of customer communication, the severity and quantity of complaints, and customer satisfaction scores and feedback. Combined, these factors can give a deep understanding of how your customer service is perceived and enjoyed by your customers.

4. Efficiency – this measure offers a broader snapshot of your service operations. The factors you choose will vary as efficiency is very subjective. Ultimately it will come down to how you define success. But one measure which should be consistently captured is around process delays – so the number of times an alert is raised, the number of reminders and the number of staff involved in a particular process.

Each of these metrics should unlock more in-depth measures for further analysis. Clear actionable insights will be revealed as part of the analysis from which you can make evidence-based decisions and improve the process associated with that measure. It’s important that this exercise isn’t a one-off; to be effective it should be a constant cyclical review process and an integral part of your continuous improvement strategy.

Discover more about the role analytics could play in your organisation by downloading our white paper: The Metrics that Matter: How actionable analytics can transform field service management performance.


Developing Global Leaders

world-flags-globe ron palinkasGlobalization in business means that the world is shrinking – and that leaders need to be well equipped to manage a wide swath of employees, policies and cultural differences. According to a report on strategic leadership development by The Conference Board, the top five traits ranking most important now are: leading change, retaining/developing talent, global thinking/mindset, collaboration and integrity. And the five most important traits over the next five years are: leading change, global thinking/mindset, retaining/developing talent, learning agility and creativity.

An incredibly demanding role, it’s clear that global managers must think both intuitively and analytically in order to produce sound decisions that inspire global teams to yield widespread results. Valerie Keller, the CEO of Veritas, recently said at a conference for global young leaders: “[Global] leadership doesn’t happen in a vacuum; it must have context. Leaders need to be flexible and resilient; they need to be generals one day and consensus builders the next.”

The emergence of global managers is changing how companies train leaders, but learning these skills requires time and experience. Certainly highly valued global leaders share common inherent traits and competencies but that does not preclude their development in others. Here are three tips for developing truly global managers:

  1. Train early

Leadership training for the global stage should begin sooner in the average management-track employee’s career. Instead of intensive training in their early 40s, companies should instead offer global mobility and leadership training to staff members a decade younger who are entering supervisorial roles. This provides them with both necessary training and direct experience in other countries, which will prove invaluable as they later transition into global managerial roles.

And while there are costs associated with transporting, subsidizing and training employees for an overseas assignment, the payoff can be substantial when they transform into capable global leaders. It’s especially attractive for millennials who often crave experiences over large paychecks and are willing to immerse themselves in other business cultures and languages.

  1. Encourage collaboration and communication

Global managers must develop an “us” perspective among global team members. If a manager is handling 50 employees ranging in age from 25 to 65 who live in 14 different countries, then it’s imperative to encourage sharing and collaboration. Managers should encourage team members to talk about their cultural differences as they apply to their work in order to develop understanding and connections.

A next step is to present unified goals. The successful global manager will relate each individual’s work to the company’s overall global goals; however, it’s important to remember that global goals and values translate differently across cultures. For example, while “competitiveness” might translate to a goal of “aggressively seeking revenue opportunities in all markets,” that wording would not sit comfortably across all cultures. The balancing act of the global manager is to link global, team and personal goals in a way that is understandable and comfortable to all.

Personal communication is essential for global leadership, despite the challenges of time zones and some language barriers. Successful global managers will take the time to reach out with phone calls to develop a trusting relationship and further team building. This is especially true if the manager expects similar communication among the team. If the expectation is for the developers in Moldova to talk frequently with the Australian design team, then the global leader in New York needs to set the right example.

The manager must understand that “leadership” looks different across the world. The western style is top-down, with leaders pushing down messages that they expect will be followed. Outside of the west is a more consensus-driven approach, where the group agrees to a goal and then develops a corresponding strategy.

Managers also need to adapt their speaking style to accommodate non-native language team members. For example, they should remove slang terms or any pop culture references, and instead speak slowly and clearly. Managers should also encourage staff members to speak up if something isn’t understand, instead of allowing “lost in translation” moments to potentially disrupt important projects. The manager and the team members must learn from one another over time by explaining cultural differences

  1. Encourage international assignments and multicultural teams

Exposure to multicultural teams is also an excellent way to develop managers that can understand different cultural perspectives and styles. Through such work prospective global managers develop the need for geographical context, where they better understand specific markets as well as the corresponding initiatives to reach those audiences.

Global managers also need to develop their communication skills to properly connect with different generational and geographic groups. For example, staff members in their 40’s and 50’s might be more receptive and used to a “command and control” style of interaction from their management teams. Millennials often prefer a softer style that seeks to challenge and inspire them without being autocratic. Effective global leaders will understand how to switch gears quickly between various styles, understanding they need to convey leadership while tailoring interactions for optimal results.

Take another cue from effective politicians such as Hillary Clinton who adjust their style of language depending on the audience. For example, she might utilize more inclusive phrasing such as frequent “we” sentences when trying to build a feeling of unity, and then a more “I” focused language when projecting strength, such as during contentious foreign affairs discussions. Global managers must understand how to shift gears quickly to both give firm direction and build a consensus among disparate groups that must come together.

Encouraging and leveraging diversity is crucial for global managers, as well as their ability to flexibly tackle problems. There is evidence that shows the most highly effective teams are those that leverage diversity—whether its cultural, gender or age based. The least effective teams are homogenous teams or those that minimize or ignore diversity. The most successful global leaders embrace diversity and develop a sound process for the team, one that overcomes any language or cultural barriers and relies on open and frequent communication.

Being a truly global manager and leader requires a lot of effort. Companies that want to thrive in the international arena need to conduct early-stage training of their top performers in order to give them the skills to operate everywhere from the skyscrapers of Singapore to the growing marketplaces of Tunisia. Through training and direct exposure to foreign markets, these managers will understand how to encourage team-building, effectively communicate across various barriers, and how to adapt on the fly to cultural differences.

Even with globalization and the international growth of many businesses, there remain significant cultural differences in both the ways people work together and what is important to local consumers. The idiosyncrasies between various regions are critical, and the best managers will embrace and leverage those differences – not push them to conformity.

joanne-danehl ron palinkas


Joanne Danehl is practice leader for Global Intercultural and Language Training at Crown World Mobility. In this role, Danehl is responsible for leading the Crown intercultural and language training team, and working with Crown clients to incorporate language and cultural training solutions to meet both their corporate goals and the needs of their international assignees. Crown World Mobility helps corporations manage global talent and talented individuals perform on the global stage.



How to Improve Global Collaboration

globe-460437_960_720 ron palinkasHow to Improve Global Workforce Collaboration

One of the signature challenges of large organizations today is the unique set of issues they face when trying to improve the way their workers interact, communicate, and collaborate together. The collaborative environment in a typical enterprise is complex: A dozen or more time zones, vast distances between offices, regional cultural differences, corporate politics, bureaucracy, and differing technology capabilities all make it very challenging to improve the status quo.

Even though increasing the effectiveness of collaboration is an activity that is highly likely to provide significant gains to how a business operates, it’s typically a fraught process. Fortunately, updating collaborative methods to meet the dynamic needs of the changing workforce — as well as meeting the needs of the business — is one of the top priorities of digital transformation these days.

It also doesn’t help, however, that some of the highest value collaboration scenarios are typically cross-border: Workers with business partners and suppliers, or workers with customers. That’s typically because the constrained visibility required to protect corporate data in such scenarios is counter to many of the newer, more open techniques, such as social collaboration. In large organizations, this is typically exacerbated by multiple divisions and subunits, many of which have different sets of collaboration platforms and techniques.

In short, driving successful collaborative improvements in the workforce seems counter intuitively more difficult in today’s market precisely because it is saturated with supporting tools, techniques, and too many choices. This often causes analysis paralysis. That means often little changes except the introduction of some easy-to-roll-out generic tooling such as an enterprise social network, a video conferencing capability, or new virtual meeting space. However, without closely tying collaborative processes to the value chain of the organization, it is a long, slow road to reaping benefits through hit-or-miss usage and largely accidental organic returns.

Connect collaborative processes directly to high-value outcomes that create significant business impact.

workforce_collaboration_value_chain ron palinkas ron palinkas national service manager


Of course, like many things that are worthwhile, this is quite a bit easier said than done. For one, global workforces are made of people. And people, even when they want to embrace change — in this case, adopting better practices, tools, and techniques for collaboration — need time and help to do so. Not surprisingly, the more help they get, the more rapid and impactful the outcome is.

To help understand and build a mental model of how better to directly connect collaborative improvement to business value, it’s helpful to look at what I call the workforce collaboration value chain.

Yes, it sounds like corporate speak, but it’s also a powerful way of mapping the array of inputs we have to bring to bear on collaboration, along with tools, activities, and desired outputs. By understand all of our collaborative assets to their fullest extent, only then do we have the best chance of producing results that really matter.

Workforce Collaboration: High Value Requires High Impact

When we look at the collaboration value chain we can see five key elements (see visual above), a careful focus on understanding of which is required to ensure you aren’t engaged in what’s a highly visible, enterprise-wide improve effort that’s also largely tactical exercise and will therefore under perform.

  • Inputs. To develop and realize a successful collaboration strategy that delivers desired results, means tapping into the full wealth and richness of the organization’s resources. This includes existing interaction processes, collaboration projects (and their existing knowledge and assets), work artifacts, corporate structure, language, culture, overall business objectives, known collaborative constraints (something will I cover in detail in a future post), internally respected measures of performance, and governance. This is the full palette from which a meaningfully impactful workforce collaboration strategy must draw.
  • Tools. Collaboration can be greatly improved by the right supporting technology, which has been true since at least the advent of the telephone. But we’ve come an enormous way since then, and today’s digital collaboration tools have consistently been able to support double digit returns in performance, and sometimes more. You can certainly improve collaboration without tools to help — and collaboration is always about people in the end — but you’ll also leave much of the gains behind.
  • Activities. Understanding how you collaborate and on what is absolutely key to driving performance gains. An effective collaboration strategy will map existing collaboration models onto new ones and identify a process of getting to the target approach over time, using specific methods that are known to drive behavior change in an organization.
  • Output. Managing the structure and processes of collaboration so that desired outcomes take place is the key to the whole exercise. Most organizations are looking for specific benefits, even though they’re often highly emergent as well with today’s approaches, which will spin off many important 2nd order results. These benefits typically are gains in measurable workforce productivity, capturing of tacit institutional knowledge, employee engagement, corporate efficiency, cost reduction (travel especially), business agility, and better cross-divisional corporate alignment.
  • Impact. Of course, specific collaborative outputs lead to more strategic benefits for our enterprises as well. This includes often hard to quantify outcomes like better responding to changing markets(because collaborative workforces are more amenable to adopting change), creating more innovative products and services (because you can tap into more and better ideas over open networks), addressing competition, and creating resilient and sustainable new institutional practices that are self-organizing and perpetuating (again, though mass connectedness, collaboration, and peer production of said practices via better collaborative methods.

How can we build our own version of this value chain for our organization? It’s not difficult but it does require planning and critical thinking. While some organizations today still eschew strategy, such exercises, as long as they aren’t overly massive and rigid constructs, greatly aid in understanding the promise, value proposition, and often most importantly, the hidden obstacles that — if you only understood them upfront — would help you understand how to move ahead confidently and with least risk.

The simple fact is that our workforces are the single biggest investment that most businesses have. Better collaboration is the key to unlocking the untapped value and innovation in them, which we know is considerable.April 4, 2014