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Why Radical Transparency Is Common Sense

I think it's very hard, when you're at the center of a scandal, to know what to do. Frankly, you're freaking out.

And it is at that unfortunate time that people pile on you. So you get a lawyer. And you do as you are told: plead the Fifth or go silent. 

Which may keep your hide out of jail. But also damages your reputation forever.

Had you been investing in your credibility all along this may not have happened. You would have your ear to the ground. You would sniff out the slightest hint if a problem. You would banish it right away.

You would do many things on the positive side too. To make sure people know that you are on your game, on your guard and no bullshit allowed.

Like with scandals, people get heart attacks and cancer and we don't totally know why. But we know what habits are associated with disease. High stress, processed food, no sleep and little exercise - e.g. the typical person's life. We have to take active steps to avoid and hopefully reverse these.

It's the same with reputation.

Angelina Jolie just got a double mastectomy. She has the gene for cancer. A little pain and ugliness now means a lifetime of - well, living! - with her family, humanitarian work and career after that.

We do not want to go to the negative places. But we have to. When something could possibly go wrong, prevent it by talking about the complexities of reality. Give more information instead of less and make it meaningful, understandable and engaging.

An ongoing conversation is less likely to end in reputation disaster. Once you're a known quantity, people can relate and are less likely to judge you.

If you screw up, say so too. It makes you human. (We are a forgiving people! We like nothing more than to forgive!)

The absolute worst thing a leader can do, in my mind, is to make a habit of clamming up. Quiet leaders generate suspicion, especially when they work in controversial fields. It's like - hey, what are they up to? - even when they're just getting a cup of joe.

The human mind gravitates toward simplicity, story and drama. Tell yours first or you risk having others fit you into their own script. 

One you can never control.

*As always, all opinions are my own.

Start By Firing Executive Bullies

It is a very big leap from the thesis "fire unproductive workers" to the reality of evaluating true productivity. Some employees are productive but not in ways that are listed in their job description - such as those who simply boost the morale of everybody else. Example - Read about "Zach Galifianakis' Red Carpet Date"

Others do crap work that nobody else will do, that doesn't need to get done, but that the organization requires. They are productive in the sense that they create social stability.

Still others are eager to learn and contribute but make too many mistakes to really generate much in the way of results. They will generate results in the future, but not now.

So what about truly unproductive workers?

Perhaps we should consider seriously evaluating those at the top of the pay scale. If they are receiving a disproportionate share of salary they should be held accountable for generating disproportionately high results, productivity or outcomes.

Screenshot via Gawker.

Put simply, what that means is it should cost more to fire them than to have them on board.
Examples of highly productive executives are those who find ways to achieve results innovatively, cut costs, reduce duplication of effort, and eliminate unnecessary processes.

Some executives simply "coast" by, but they are highly productive anyway because their institutional value cannot be replaced and it would cost too much to figure out what they can tell you in five minutes. Or, they are highly networked and can leverage relationships to get things done. Again, a simple conversation that leads to a working relationship can save years of useless effort down the road.

Some people are paid a great deal of money and they are not only unproductive, but they actually detract from productivity. They don't add anything valuable to the organization. They insist on doing things in ways that waste time, effort and sap motivation. And unfortunately sometimes they abuse people in the workplace, leading otherwise highly productive workers to be sapped of morale and causing costly litigation for the organization down the road.

To my mind, if you're looking for ways to eliminate unproductive workers, it makes the most sense to start with highly paid workers that detract from the productivity of everybody else.

Comments On A Difficult Custody Case

Yesterday I read the following article, which has generated a firestorm of controversy, mostly anti-Chassidic. Been following the comments and adding my own., May 20, 2013
By Shulem Deen
Link here.

It's interesting to observe what happens when social media meets insular community. One thing is clear: people want transparency.

Below are my thoughts on reading the various threads. Bottom line: Nobody knows "the truth" except those who were there and information is more helpful than using gossip and hearsay to advance one's personal agenda.


Dannielle (Dossy) Blumenthal on May 22, 2013 at 6:27 am

Those who oppose the ruling and attack the judge are missing the bigger picture.

While it is true that the mother is entitled to be nonreligious, what is in the best interest OF THE CHILDREN?

The children have a right to be raised in a physically and psychologically SAFE environment.

* Physically = no beatings (“corporal punishment”) and no sexual abuse. Clearly the children were put in foster care for their physical safety. People other than the mother reported SOMETHING so the children were removed.

* Psychologically = In most of the United States, parents of varying observance level and even varying faiths is normal. In MONSEY, where the children will be living, consistency is CRITICAL.

Add to the potential psychological damage:

* The mother appears to be engaged in a physical relationship while engaged in divorce proceedings, with small children, with a member of the extended family (“one of the children’s cousins”).

* In ANY family court in America, I would imagine that a judge and/or psychologist would take issue with that.

The options here seem to range between bad and terrible.

–Forcing the children to live with an unstable, violent parent does not seem right.

–But neither does putting them into a situation where they will be told one thing (at the extreme) by the ENTIRE community, IMMERSED in religion – and then with mom, told the complete opposite and in the most hateful and angry way as would be natural after a divorce. Then ADD that she has apparently embarked on a course of action that is far outside the norms of the community.

The children would not have refuge anywhere, even in their minds…how can your most beloved life object, your mother/caregiver, also be the personification of evil? That is a cruelty they can not ever understand, but that a judge can.

This family’s personal tragedy has become fodder for hateful gossip about the father, the mother, the community, the judge, etc. etc. If people really cared as much as they said they did, they would apply the common sense test here.

Most important of all, it seems wrong to use their misery as an excuse for someone’s own personal vendetta, be it for or against the Chasidim. They have a right to live their life their way too. (Even if the insularity they created to protect themselves, has led to more harm than good.)
Dannielle (Dossy) Blumenthal on May 21, 2013 at 11:58 pm
Your comment is awaiting moderation.


Possibly original documents:

Posted By Shauli Gro’s
Excerpts from Kelly Myzner’s court transcripts.

.. With respect to which parent provides for the intellectual and emotional development of the children, the Mother was far more involved and vigilant in identifying the children’s special education needs and issues. She was integral in getting the children help they needed, except for not providing the private school with a copy of ******’* lEP, while the Father was more reserved or perhaps even in some level of denial about his sons’ issues, particularly ******. This Court believes that the Mother spearheaded the campaign to obtain services for ******, and that while the Father was present for the administration of the services, he was much more passive. The testimony of the forensic evaluator regarding the Father’s attention deficit issues calls into questions whether the Father has the capacity to pursue treatment for ******’* needs, but this Court is convinced that overall, the Father has been a caring and responsible parent. The Mother, while the more tenacious parent in securing assistance for the children’s issues, seems to lack insight into how her own choices and conduct, i.e. residing with the children’s cousin in a romantic relationship, stating that she would not have the children observe religious rules in her home, affects the children’s emotional health.

..This Court cannot conceive of how the Mother would think it would be beneficial to her children, who have been raised in a very strict religious manner, to see her living out-of-wedlock..
If the Mother were to ignore the rules and requirements that the children are forced to follow to remain in their current community and school while with the children, it could lead to catastrophic consequences for children who are already clearly struggling with a multitude of issues.

..If she is no longer religious, she may change the children’s conservative attire and grooming, change her appearance when she is with the children, permit the child children to view television and access the internet and permit the children to violate the rules of the Sabbath and the kosher dietary restrictions, all strictly prohibited in the world of Hasidic Judaism.

Given all of the facts and circumstances in this case, the Court awards the Father custody of the children, as joint custody is not possible “because of the antagonistic relationship between the parties.” Chamberlain v. Chamberlain, 24 A.D.3d 589,591, 808 N.Y.S.2d 352 (2dDept. 2005). The Father must keep the Mother informed of his decisions, and shall endeavor toPage: 29 of 32 include her in the decision making process to best of his ability. The Court recognizes that the children are extremely bonded to their mother, and that two of the children expressed that they did not want to live with their father. Despite the children’s expressed wishes, the Court finds that the children are to commence residing with the Father as soon as the Father secures a residence in Rockland County, preferably in the’ former marital home as the Mother expressed her intentions to leave that residence. Given the Mother’s actions in this case, which served to alienate the children from the Father, the Court finds that the children’s time with the Mother should not be extended at this juncture. Perhaps as the relationship improves between the Father and children after a period of time of the children residing with the Father, additional time with the Mother may be appropriate. Further, the Father shall provide the Mother with the rules of conduct that the children’s school requires the children to follow for their continued attendance. The Mother is directed to ensure that the children follow those rules whenever possible when the children are in her care. Indig v. Indig, 90 A.D.3d 1050, 934 N.Y.S.2d 843 (2d Dept. 2011

Dannielle (Dossy) Blumenthal on May 21, 2013 at 7:57 pm

This whole spectacle is so sad. Jew vs. Jew.

Post the public information so that we can see what was said.

If the judge did the wrong thing then investigate that.

But don’t use a marriage gone wrong as an excuse to rail for or against G-d, Judaism, men, women, or the moon.

We have not learned anything from all these years in Golus unfortunately…it does not help to spread hatred.

Dannielle (Dossy) Blumenthal on May 21, 2013 at 1:26 pm

Before saying anything I want to comment that any child who has been assaulted or sexually abused by a parent should immediately be removed from that parent no questions asked.

Having said that – there are two sides to every story and I would like to see the public record too. While everybody reading this is familiar with religious extremism by Satmar, and they are extreme and crazy  (look at Weberman’s victim, look at Deborah Feldman’s experience) her side of the story doesn’t ring true completely.

For example, she says she changed her views on religion AFTER splitting up rather than BEFORE. Usually a breakup is the culmination of a lot of fighting, negativity, etc.

Also, and I don’t know the law on this, she did choose a community that is very insular and different than the rest of the world. It is more than confusing to take a child out of that world – it can be shattering. I was Modern Orthodox and basically gave it up for being Conservadox, and that was extremely tough on my family. To go from Chasidish to secular is much more extreme.

Instead of scapegoating Satmar (doesn’t that seem a little too easy) how about people look at the facts, go by the facts, and try to do right by everyone here.

(Someone just read this and made a billion dollars.)

There is a converging body of thought suggesting that the workplace of the future will not wait for leaders to find experts   - hierarchy is old school and so is matrix management - too slow, too complicated, impossible to administer.
Rather we will assemble "flash mobs" of talent as a job needs to be done, then dissolve them afterward.
"In the traditional company -- and agency -- structure, multiple layers of personnel exist for a purpose that often amounts to moving information around...Under the emerging new approach, "what you see happen over and over that you just don't have those middle layers"..."What happens when you release information [is that] people on an individual level create their own networks outside their offices," said Karina Homme, senior director of social enterprise transformation at "People can now create communities around their interest areas."
In the new world it will be the networkers who survive.
The litmus test for success will be 360 peer feedback.
"Just about every company has its own version of a 360 degree feedback process. Nevertheless, Vineet saw several problems with HCLT’s off-the-shelf approach. First, it didn’t focus explicitly on how managers were impacting those in the value zone. Second, employees fearful of retaliation often pulled their punches when reviewing their supervisor. And third, the fact that feedback could only come from one’s immediate colleagues tended to reinforce long-standing organization silos. Today, HCLT employees are able to rate the performance of any manager whose decisions impact their work lives, and to do so anonymously."
I would not be surprised if eventually there were a website that followed you across the span of your whole career (possibly appended to LinkedIn) where people who had worked with you, and whose identities could be verified, then rated your skills and expertise. Like your avatar.
(Someone just read this and made a billion dollars.)
The other thing is that people who are proficient and engaged on networks like Yammer, GovLoop, etc. are going to be the ones called to join project teams.

A Comment On "So Good They Can't Ignore You" by Cal Newport

Check out this interesting book, here, and discussion at GovLoop.
This is a very good example of someone making money off of intentionally controversial hype.
The author takes a nugget of truth and blows it up into advice that could seriously harm people.
The nugget of truth is that employers reward skill not passion. Passion in fact can get in the way of career success. Why? Because it blinds your judgment when you get emotional about the work.
The harmful part is that YOU cannot go to work without some form of motivation. Lots of things are motivating -- subsistence, engagement, meaning, control and empowerment (see Penelope Trunk's excellent blog post here).
Work about which you feel passionate is also motivating.
When I was young, I studied what I was passionate about - writing - and I have never, ever been sorry about that. I went to a college where I could create my own courses, shape my own major and eventually got a scholarship to study sociology, which is endlessly fascinating to me and turned into marketing.
My advice to young people is:
There is enough time to be practical later on - the marketplace will reward you for the things you are good at. But don't start out cynical and trying to "work it" just to make a buck. You will be miserable.

How Authorities & Experts Can Get Along

What are the rules for an effective working relationship between authorities (leaders and managers) and those with authoritative knowledge (technical experts)?

And the prompt for the question is that this traditionally decent relationship has deteriorated.

Reasons for that disconnect:

1. When younger more inexperienced people manage older experienced people

2. When politicals manage civil servants

3. When external factors prompt a rush to change established norms and safeguards

The step by step deterioration usually goes something like this:

1. Expert sees problem that leader or manager does not OR leader or manager makes unrealistic demands or does something inadvisable

2. Expert tries to bring it to leader or manager's attention

3. Expert is ignored

4. Expert blows whistle

5. Expert suffers retaliation

...and at that point it can easily tip over into an ugly, costly, public, drawn-out legal matter, fodder for the headlines.

From my own observation here are some things that authorities and authoritative experts can do to eliminate the disconnect:

All Parties:
1. Have respect for what the other person can do - these are different skill sets

2. Appreciate the pressure on the other person

3. Focus on fixing the problem, don't make it a power struggle

4. Insist on having a process, even if the process is to suspend process - minimize chaos and confusion

5. Make it a practice to consult formally or informally with third party experts outside the immediate work unit - don't fall into the insularity trap, where your world becomes the whole world

For leaders & managers:

* Call on the right person to do the right job - never work with an expert through an expert's boss and never randomly assign a task to someone who is expert in a very particular thing

* Give experts special projects - they actually like those, it's not a negative thing

* Verbalize to the expert how much you appreciate their skills in XYZ - and be very specific about those skills, experts hate phony b.s. talk and meaningless compliments; praise the in public

* Give them a wide swath of control over the work, their time, their personal space

* Don't turn experts into project managers, they are not administrative types and they are not team thinkers either

* Leave the expert alone unless you need them - do not take up their time needlessly; never micromanage

* Do not make a big deal about every little thing - know when to let things pass; avoid needless confrontation

* Treat the expert as a peer

* Never ask an expert to do something you know is wrong.

For experts:

* Respond to requests for help right away - pick up the phone, answer the email

* Work extremely hard and produce - don't just spin your wheels

* Do a great job at whatever THEY need - understand that there is political and cultural stuff going on all the time, and you are a part of that show - it's not always going to make sense to you

* Be proud of what you know, but keep the ego out of it - you're not the only expert in the world

* Tone down the language, e.g. be diplomatic

* Talk about evidence not opinion

* Offer solutions that can be implemented, not pie in the sky

* Make the authority look good where possible

* Say: I am going to speak truth to power - then say it respectfully (never mouth off)

* Never go along with wrongdoing.

Marketing:Branding = Microphone:Fingerprint

Marketing consists of all activities associated with creating a customer for your product. So in business marketing is everything, really: "Business exists to create a customer" said Peter Drucker. It's like a microphone in that it builds awareness.

Branding is a subset of marketing, a meta-technique applied to all the assorted activities done in marketing's name. It's what makes you unique - your fingerprint. Branding is "the way we do things," "who we are," "our personality."

Branding is the long-term action of creating perceived value: adding value to your product over and above commodity.

Branding activities have less short-term ROI but they function as long-term insurance when the product is getting best up by the market.

You don't abandon your friends easily.

Think of marketing as generating positive attention for your product and branding as building a cushion underneath it. An insurance policy.

That cushion is that people want to buy from someone they know and trust - and that is a sense you build through branding.

You do both at the same time: Marketing and branding activities overlap and integrate.

The influence of branding is to integrate  disparate marketing activities into an overarching message. When activities are coordinated the message is more powerful.

Branding enhances marketing when the message is focused, differentiated, relevant, and consistent. And of course credible.

Marketing techniques typically include: advertising, PR, trade shows, social media, word of mouth, product placement and employee-focused or internal communication. It also includes research and development.

When you do marketing absent branding the message does not stick.

Example: Mouthwash

Branding activity: Create a personality around the mouthwash such that kids want to integrate into their daily lives and even pay double the price of generic.

Marketing activity: Get the mouthwash in front of kids in an appealing but safe way. Make it indispensable.

Ideally there is one person (a benevolent dictator) whose vision runs the whole show. That way the focus is truly singular.

* The above was originally posted as a response to a request to differentiate marketing and branding, posted on

How To Lose An Interview In 30 Seconds Or Less

Interviews are a contact sport, where verbal sparring replaces fists. Don't ever walk into one unprepared. If you don't know what you're doing, you will get slaughtered.

Here are 10 tips to help you keep your reputation alive, even during the most brutal of Q&A sessions:

1. Know your subject matter cold. There is no such thing as "winging it." Study up. Get coached. Read. This should be happening far out in advance of the interview, because for the 24-48 hours beforehand you won't be able to retain any information by "crashing." If you are very knowledgeable and not just dancing around the facts, people will get that from the ease with which you speak (note they probably won't be able to follow the subtleties nor will they really care).

2. Know the interviewer or reporter. Everything is online nowadays. Study the kinds of questions they tend to ask, the articles they write, their point of view and interests, their interactive style, everything you can know you should know. Know who they are writing for. Know what their interests and equities are. Take their ideas seriously. You may disagree, but that doesn't mean you should ignore.

3. Know the context or environment. Go there early. Get comfortable. Look around you. Test the microphone. Mechanical difficulties make you look like an idiot, even if it's not your fault. Stand close to the camera, away from the camera, sit high and sit low. This is not vanity. This is practicality.

4. Dress intentionally. Look at your outfit. Don't wear weird ties with patterns that will glow or reflect. Wear appropriate clothes in flattering colors. Be extremely harsh and objective about this. Sometimes fashionable is good, sometimes classic is good. Note you don't have to be thin. You do have to wear clothes that fit. Some will judge the interview based solely on how you look.

5. Lower your voice and slow down. If your voice is high-pitched, nasal, or you talk too fast, the viewer will get turned off. You can get a vocal coach, you can get your best friend. A bad voice can ruin anybody's day.

6. Look at the host or the camera. The other day I watched an interview where the guest looked down at her notes. It was terrible. She seemed ill-prepared, untrustworthy, and lacking in confidence. She lost, totally. Don't do that. Smile. Laugh. Be at ease. You're fantastic! You aren't going to die. This is a moment to remember - you're on stage. If you can't handle being on stage, get off and let someone else handle it.

7. Don't talk off-mic. This is an easy mistake to make. The interviewer wants you to say something unguarded, controversial, and headline-grabbing. They ask you a question before or after the interview. It's supposed to be tangential to the story. It ends up leading the story.

8. Don't lose your cool. It's the interviewer's job to provoke you and sometimes to distort things. Don't be provoked. The only time you should act angry is when you're trying to send a message that is based on known fact. I cannot emphasize enough that you should only make statements based on what you absolutely 100% know to be true. If you do not know, do not say.

9. Don't disrespect, dismiss or invalidate the host or the question. If you are being asked to explain something that is of serious concern to the audience, and you do any of these things, it shows that you are arrogant and out of touch. If you are asked a purposefully combative question, simply call attention to the fact that the question is purposefully combative. For example: "I understand that you are trying to ask me a controversial question, but the reality is XYZ." Don't blame someone else. Don't deflect. Don't run away with your body language or with your words. Simply walk into the challenge and walk out the other side.

10. If you are wrong, admit it. This does not make you look bad. This makes you look honest. You don't have to beat yourself up. You should simply and objectively hold yourself accountable. If you find yourself going down a bad road - maybe you're talking too much or saying the wrong thing - simply stop. Of course, don't dwell on or end with negativity. State what you are doing to improve, increase, enhance the quality of your work and results.

Messaging, Helpful and Not

A response to someone's comment about the Sunday talk shows, and learning nothing from them:
  • Messaging is useful when it helps the subject matter expert (SME) put their response in context rather than having the interviewer create the context for them. SMEs need to have that power because otherwise they are at the mercy of everyone else's agenda, axe to grind, point of view, ideology, etc.
  • Messaging is not useful when it is used to distort or suppress the truth or to propagandize. Not only don't those techniques work, but they have the opposite effect of destroying the speaker's credibility.
  • Over the past 10-15 years or so, coinciding with the rise of branding as a "mass" tool (meaning that everyone "gets" it and uses it for their own gain) -- we have seen the rise of phony marketing speak as a substitute for actual substantive responses to questions. Like others, I find it completely frustrating to watch a TV interview and feel that the speaker is somehow trying to hide, evade, manipulate, project an image, etc.
The solution to all this is not to throw out the baby with the bathwater. Dense jargon, words with no framing or anchor or context, and simple avoidance would be the result. Rather communicators really have to up their game and understand that the audience to whom they speak is every bit as smart as them, maybe smarter.