The Case for Customer Service Workers

 

ron palinkas national service manager

In the emerging experience economy, the proper management and handling of customer conversations is suddenly one of the most important functions a company has. And just as suddenly, that makes customer service agents among your most important employees. Here are five ways to make these agents your company’s competitive advantage.

1. Let go of the past.

For the last quarter of a century, customer service departments have been cost optimized to the point of diminishing return. Customer service agents have been stripped of their personalities and problem-solving skills in order to adhere to arbitrary service protocols that are out of step with the experience economy. Common practices include: Getting customers off of the phone quickly; re-verifying customers who have already been through multiple layers of identification; using call scripts and workflows in conflict with customer preferences; sitting through quality-control sessions with supervisors that scrutinize every utterance of their interactions; and finally being judged on a satisfaction, effort, or a promoter score that was assigned by a customer which they had little ability to directly influence. Step one is take a giant step back from this. And let most of it go.

2. Balance technology with humanity.

In the experience economy, the retooling of customer service becomes the first place to start in order to create a sustainable competitive advantage, attract the best customer service talent, and figure out how to actually deliver customer experience at a scale unlike ever before. And technology is the first place to look to enact such a change. There is no shortage of new and innovative technologies that will be central to those experiences, especially in a world where devices and customers are connected in powerful new ways. However, there is something more fundamental than the technology: It’s how the agent and the technology come together that creates the “secret sauce” that customers are looking for — and willing to pay a premium to get. Find the right mix.

ron palinkas national service manager3. Build connected experiences.

Finding the right mixture of technology and humanity is critical, but the other half of this equation is to build seamless, connected experiences for your customers. Connected experiences empower service agents to be at their very best when a customer needs their expertise. They “set the table” for agents in ways that allow them to impute expertise at the right moment in a given customer’s journey. A connected experience is transparent, knows customer preferences, supplies agents with complete 360-degree customer data, and anticipates escalation paths. Giving customers a connected experience is a crucial element in keeping them from feeling alienated and dehumanized. Give them a smooth ride instead.

4. Let your agents solve problems.

This sounds simple but it is not. A conscious decision must be made to enable your service employees to apply unique insights and problem-solving skills with the best information available to them, every time. Rather than merely following scripts and protocols, customer interaction in the experience economy demands the precise application of human interaction at the appropriate moment — not simply when something has gone wrong and a customer needs someone to gripe to. Unleashing service employees to provide the kind of help they want to provide — when they might be limited by service protocols or company standards — is critical to enhancing their ability to effectively solve problems in a time-sensitive manner. Let them do their job.

national service manager ron palinkas5. Let your agents be human.

The best service agents, like anyone doing something they love, have a genuine caring nature and passion for helping people. They will tell you that’s why they come to work every day. And that’s why they feel fulfilled at the end of every day too. When a company taps into that potential, it unleashes the most powerful, authentic form of service possible. This is what customers crave in the experience economy. Moreover, it brings a sense of pride, ownership, and empowerment to the service workers who deliver customer experiences every day.

In March, an Accenture study cited that companies lost $1.6 trillion last year alone due to customers switching providers because of poor customer service. Moreover, the study went on to reveal that customers prefer to deal with human beings instead of digital channels. This underscores the need to optimize the role of the customer service agent. Retooling for the new experience economy might start with technology, but more than ever it also embraces human input. And this starts with the customer service agent. Releasing them from antiquated protocols, balancing technology with humanity, connecting them like never before, and then empowering them to solve problems as only empathic human beings can will deliver a competitive advantage unlike any other.

 

Original Posthttp://salesforce.com

How To End An E-mail if You Want A Response

https://www.rivaliq.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/Email-Marketing.jpg ron Palinkas Director of ServiceI’ve always thought of obsessing over your email openings and closings as a bit like obsessing over your outfit – not worth it.As long as you don’t do something outrageous – say, sign an email to your CEO with “xoxo” or show up to a job interview wearing a clown costume – you’ll be fine with whatever you choose.

I was wrong.

According to a new analysis from Boomerang, an email productivity app, different email sign-offs yield different response rates. And woe to the unappreciative emailers among us: The analysis found that the best way to end an email is with gratitude.Specifically, results showed that the most effective email sign-off is “thanks in advance”.

For the study, Boomerang looked at closings in over 350,000 email threads from mailing list archives in which, they wrote in a blog post, many emails involved “people asking for help or advice, hoping for a reply”.

Then they picked out the eight email sign-offs that appeared over 1000 times each and figured out the response rate linked to each sign-off. Here’s what they found:

  1. “Thanks in advance” had a response rate of 65.7 per cent
  2. “Thanks” had a response rate of 63 per cent
  3. “Thank you” had a response rate of 57.9 per cent
  4. “Cheers” had a response rate of 54.4 per cent
  5. “Kind regards” had a response rate of 53.9 per cent
  6. “Regards” had a response rate of 53.5 per cent
  7. “Best regards” had a response rate of 52.9 per cent
  8. “Best” had a response rate of 51.2 per cent

The average response rate for all the emails in their sample was 47.5 per cent.

The Boomerang blog post also cites 2010 research from Adam Grant and Francesca Gino, which found that participants who received an email from a student asking for feedback on a cover letter were twice as likely to help when the email included the phrase, “Thanks so much! I am really grateful.”

Interestingly, three separate etiquette experts previously told Business Insider that “best” is the most appropriate way to end an email. And one such expert said that “thanks” is “obnoxious if it’s a command disguised as premature gratitude”.

The Boomerang analysis didn’t measure how recipients felt about the sender – just whether they responded. It also didn’t measure the power dynamics at play. Maybe your boss signs their emails “best” and they always get an answer.

Bottom line: If you want a response to your email, it can’t hurt to end it with an expression of gratitude. Thanks for reading!

by Shana Lebowitz

Read more: http://www.afr.com/leadership/

“The Night Watch” by Rembrandt

https://c1.staticflickr.com/7/6180/6175115377_b05549d36a_b.jpg ron palinkasCompleted in 1642, Rembrandt van Rijn’s The Night Watch is not only a highlight of a career that spanned over 600 paintings, but also acclaimed as arguably the greatest portrait of the Dutch Baroque era.

1. ITS ALTERNATE TITLES ARE MUCH LONGER AND MORE SPECIFIC.

There are several, including: Officers and Other Civic Guardsmen of District II of Amsterdam, under the command of Captain Frans Banninck Cocq and Lieutenant Willem van RuytenburchMilitia Company of District II under the Command of Captain Frans Banninck Cocq; and The Shooting Company of Frans Banninck Cocq and Willem van Ruytenburch.While the details vary, the key thing was that Cocq (wearing a red sash) and Ruytenburch (in yellow beside Cocq) get their recognition. Still, it’s little wonder the nickname The Night Watch caught on.

 2. THE NIGHT WATCH IS NOT SET AT NIGHT.

Over the next hundred years, the nickname Night Watch became more popular than the painting’s cumbersome monikers. However, Rembrandt’s painting was set in daytime. The dark background mistaken for night’s sky was actually a varnish turned dark with age and dirt. During a restoration in the 1940s, the varnish was removed, but the name stuck.

3. IT’S A CELEBRATED EXAMPLE OF CHIAROSCURO.

Italian for “light-dark,” the term refers to works that play dramatically with shadow to create volume and a sense of three dimensions.

ron palinkas global technical services manager4. REMBRANDT MAY HAVE A CAMEO IN THE NIGHT WATCH.

You’d likely miss him amidst this bustling company of distinguished men, but in the middle of the painting, behind a man in green and a guard with a metal helm, you can spot a barely-there man. Only his eye and a beret are visible, but this elusive figure is believed to be how Rembrandt wedged himself into his most famous work. 

5. THAT LITTLE BLONDE GIRL ISN’T MILITARY—SHE’S A MASCOT.

This seemingly misplaced moppet carries a chicken with pronounced claws and a pistol called a klover. Both were symbols for the Kloveniers, Amsterdam’s civic guard, a guild that commissioned the painting for their meeting hall.

6. IT WAS MEANT TO BE PART OF A CONTINUOUS PANEL SERIES.

Rembrandt was one of six artists the Kloveniers hired for group portraits of their members. He, Pickenoy, Bakker, Van der Helst, Van Sandrart and Flinck were each charged with creating a piece within specific parameters so they could be displayed side by side as an “unbroken frieze of large paintings, each matching the other and fixed in the wooden paneling of the room to form a meticulously designed total interior concept.” But Rembrandt strayed from what was expected in both composition and color.

7. THE NIGHT WATCH BROKE FROM MILITARY PORTRAIT TRADITION.

Countless captains, colonels, and cadets had been painted in portraits of a static nature. Rembrandt broke from convention by showing his military men in apparent motion.

8. REMBRANDT GOT STIFFED ON HIS COMMISSION. 

After The Night Watch was finished, Rembrandt entered into a decade-long period where he stopped producing portraits and scaled back painting production dramatically. It’s long been assumed that the guild members who were supposed to pay for these portraits didn’t feel they were given enough spotlight, and refused to ante up their fair share, with this discontent ruining Rembrandt’s reputation. But more modern scholarship indicates that the Kloveniers were happy with the unconventional painting and displayed it in the hall. As for Rembrandt’s post-Night Watch funk? It may just have been that he felt he had overstretched the bounds of his art and needed to reset.

ron palinkas ron palinkas global technical services manager9. IT’S BIGGER THAN YOU’D THINK …

In addition to being Rembrandt’s most famous painting, at nearly 12 feet by 14 feet, The Night Watch was also his largest one.

10. … WHICH MEANT THE VERSION YOU KNOW WAS EDITED.

Seventy-three years after its creation, the massive painting was moved to Amsterdam’s town hall. However, it was too big to fit the wall where it was meant to hang. As was common at the time, the painting’s canvas was cut to better accommodate its new home. In this edit, the top of the arch, the balustrade, and the edge of the step were lost, along with two figures on the left side.

Thankfully, a small copy of the painting made by Gerrit Lundens gives a clear idea of the original’s composition.

11. THE PAINTING CONTAINS ITS OWN CAPTION KEY.

Rembrandt was long dead when The Night Watch was transferred to the town hall and trimmed for the occasion. But this wasn’t the only unapproved revision made to his piece. An unknown hand added a shield to the archway—the script on the shield contains the 18 names of the featured Kloveniers.

12. THE NIGHT WATCH HAS ITS OWN PERSONAL ESCAPE ROUTE.

Museum fires have caused the loss of great works of art, so Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum has gone to great lengths to protect Rembrandt’s masterpiece. To preserve The Night Watch in emergencies, the Rijksmuseum installed a trap door complete with escape slide in 1934.

13. THE NIGHT WATCH HAS BEEN ATTACKED THREE TIMES.

On January 13, 1911, a down-and-out navy cook slashed The Night Watch with a knife, reportedly as a protest against his unemployment. A second knife attack occurred on September 14, 1975, this time courtesy of a Dutch schoolmaster who believed destroying it was his divine mission. After that, the painting was put under permanent guard. Nevertheless, an unemployed Dutchman sprayed concentrated sulfuric acid on the piece on April 6, 1990. Each time, restorations were able to repair the damage, with barely a battle scar remaining.

14. IT HAS LONG BEEN THE HEART OF ONE OF THE WORLD’S GREATEST GALLERIES.

In 1885, the construction of the Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum was centered on exhibiting Rembrandt’s massive masterwork. Nearly 120 years later, the museum underwent a decade-long renovation. As the museum’s director Wim Pijbes prepared for its reopening in 2013, he proudly declared, “Everything has changed, the only thing that hasn’t is The Night Watch. It is the altarpiece of the Rijksmuseum, the whole place is arranged around this beautiful masterpiece.”

15. ITS RETURN TO PUBLIC DISPLAY WAS CELEBRATED WITH A FLASH MOB.

Originally posted by www.mentalfloss.com/article

Escape Rooms and Team Building

https://escapefactory.nl/en/home/Every 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

http://baylorlariat.com/2015/09/14/honest-abe-on-display-poage-library-sheds-light-on-life-of-president-lincoln-with-on-campus-exhibit/President 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 http://hr.blr.com

17 Field Service Stats

https://www.google.com/search?hl=en&site=imghp&tbm=isch&source=hp&biw=1731&bih=839&q=statistics&oq=statistics&gs_l=img.3..0l10.1993.5465.0.5656.11.8.0.3.3.0.231.578.7j0j1.8.0....0...1ac.1.64.img..0.11.583.EixuaG-ygcE#imgrc=k9aTPAbVoyGkHM%3A 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

https://hbr.org/2015/04/the-15-diseases-of-leadership-according-to-pope-francisPope 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.

 

http://hbr.com/leadership

Duty and Marines

http://www.wearethemighty.com/articles/everybody-should-read-general-john-kellys-speech-about-two-marines-in-the-path-of-a-truck-bombEight 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.

http://www.wethemighty.com/marines

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.

http://media.cleveland.com/nationworld_impact/photo/norad-santa-tracker-christmasjpg-ed175de5349e9e43.jpg“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)