Submitted by Ray Blessman
A local watering hole in my community is part of a regional chain. The owners would bristle at the chain reference because they take great pride in the fact that each location is unique; none of the locations look alike and each management team influences the selection of draft beers they offer. They are progressive in terms of recycling, menu variety, etc. You definitely visit because of the feel, the excellent selection of fresh beer, and the fact that the menu has great and varied selections without being as thick as a 1979 Detroit phone book.
You don’t patronize them for their service, unfortunately. "Spotty" and "inconsistent" are fair assessments.
Having spent years focused on business operations, being an avid Food Channel watcher, and at that time the Duke on Yelp for this establishment, I have tried to figure out the root cause of the service issues. On more than one occasion I've observed the entire waitstaff and those working the host station huddled around an iPad; they appear to be using it to make decisions or maybe they're just trying to find info to help them decide what to do. They're clearly seeking direction from technology.
The thing is, it appears to me that they'd be better served by looking up from the iPad and out into the restaurant. But nobody appears to be empowered to do that. For example, when the table next to us gets seated after us, but receives their drinks before we are even acknowledged, an observant manager might step in to redirect priorities. Clearly the software on the iPad isn't tracking that info. Basic leadership appears to be lacking.
Technology can be a gamechanger, but until it is proven to be a capable replacement for human judgment, human leadership will continue to be in demand. And this works very well for me as I continue my job search.
Guest post from Ray Blessman
Over the course of my career, I have been exposed to many different hiring processes and approaches.
One organization that stands out in my mind combined a mix of traditional tactics like face-to-face interviews with more modern tactics that relied on technology. This employer was upfront about the fact that they were struggling to hire people and achieve their staffing goals despite the fact that their turnover rate was well below the industry average.
I interviewed with this company, and they boasted about one step in their hiring process, the background check. I was provided with a link to access a portal where I was asked to enter information, and then I was told to expect a response within 48 hours. I could imagine the sales pitch made to the IT department: "This tool will reduce labor requirements, and the applicant will appreciate that he or she limits the exposure to the personal information they submit." HR was probably not consulted and unlikely to have vetted possible unintended consequences.
When the hiring manager explained the background check process and provided the link to me, she also told me that the tool wouldn't perform well on a tablet or a smart phone. I couldn't help but think about the impression that comment made on me, and probably more importantly the impression it would leave with Millennial and Gen Z candidates who expect phones to be the platform of choice. Would any of them want to work for a company that couldn't manage the most basic of tasks?
When I attempted to provide the information requested using the device recommended, the dates were rejected, and my session timed out. This required the company rep to resend a link to me, and I feared that I was being perceived as ‘that guy’ that doesn't get things the first time. Thanks to some help from an IT-savvy friend, I realized that a different browser could make a difference, and I was able to complete the task on the second try. But I was left wondering how many other applicants just threw in the towel and went on to the next opportunity.
And the company (especially HR) is left wondering why they can't find more qualified candidates.
Also from Ray:
Years ago, when our kids were little, there was a single moment on a Saturday afternoon that I clearly remember. The house was busy. More than just our kids were running around inside. They were loud. They were hungry. They were thirsty. A glass of milk was spilled. I remember thinking to myself, “I don’t have time for this! I’m trying to get some volunteer work done, and it’s impossible to concentrate and focus with all of this commotion.” My thoughts continued, “How can I get all of these children out of here so that I can help others?” And then it hit me. Like a ton of bricks. One of the kids had survived some traumatic situations in the past. Maybe welcoming him and giving him a little time (like enough to pour a glass of milk or even mop up a spill) was the best way for me to help others. Maybe the people who most needed my time and attention were standing right in front of me at that very moment. How did I miss it? Why wasn’t it immediately obvious? Why couldn’t I see the forest for the trees? That moment changed me. At least a little.
Fast forward a few years, and I still want to help others. Since retiring, it’s been easy to find ways to continue doing most of what I enjoyed doing at work. I send my husband financial reports. I create and maintain web sites. I’m organizing everything. I’ve planned a few events. And there is no shortage of intelligent and engaging people to talk with most days (in person and online). When I left work, my only concern was that I had wanted a few more years to help younger employees realize their full potential in the workplace, and I figured that would be hard to do in retirement. But I also wanted to have more time to do other things, so I left.
I’m convinced that the minute you leave the work world you start to lose touch with it. Changes are occurring every day and you’re not keeping up with them because you aren’t experiencing them. But yesterday morning, after I hung up the phone following a monthly conversation with a former European colleague, and after sending a quick networking note to another young woman whose career was launched only a couple of weeks ago, I had another one of those “Ah ha” moments. I realized that I am helping others with their careers. At least a little.
When I started working, my career goal was simple; show that it was possible for a woman to work full time while raising children. In hindsight it seems almost silly, and it even seemed like a modest goal at the time. The thing is, it wasn’t easy. Ever. As I stated in my Stamina blog post, the critical success factor for me was marrying the right person. My husband could not have been more supportive. My goal became his goal, and while there were many challenges, frustrations (and not just Tech Frustrations), and stories that only became funny in hindsight, we pulled it off. One day at a time.
The goal sounded trivial, even in 1985. The implementation of the goal was and is anything but trivial, even in 2017.
Now, when we gather with friends, most of them retired, it’s the stories of the craziest and most hectic days we recall and laugh about. The daughter who cried for at least five days in a row when we picked her up from daycare. The inability to helicopter parent which resulted in my husband exclaiming, “What do you mean you have to memorize the Periodic Table of Elements by tomorrow morning?!” And the annual Halloween costume conversation which started with, “You can be any character hanging in this aisle [at Walmart].”
For those of you parents working and raising kids right now, I think it’s worth clearly stating that what you are doing is hard. And it’ll probably be worth it in the end. You’re showing your "village" that you value the education, upbringing, and guidance they provided. You're showing your employers that working parents can be strong contributors and leaders. You’re showing your kids that hard work is important, it isn’t always easy, and you’re giving them real opportunities to add value around the house which builds lasting self-esteem. You’re showing another generation of young parents what’s possible and hopefully helping them understand that both families and careers are worth the effort.
What you’re doing matters.
If you're a working parent and/or young employee and think that I can help you in any way, please feel free to contact me.
Subscribe or unsubscribe to this blog.
With special guest William M. Timpson, Ph.D.
Technology enables us to learn and connect with each other in ways I never imagined as I worked toward a degree in the leading edge field of computer science “back in the day”. At that time computers were often used for complex computations, a long distance phone call was expensive, and writing letters was time consuming and provided a very slow Return on Investment. Fast forward to 2017. Almost every day I am taken aback by the wide variety of options we have to communicate instantly with almost everyone we know and even some we don't know. Facebook and other forms of social media enable us to easily keep in touch and share the most exciting (and mundane) aspects of our lives with relatives and friends that are near and far; some we may not have seen face-to-face for decades and some who may live on the other side of the world. Twitter lets us receive seemingly unfiltered messages from so many, including the President of the United States. And a plethora of news channels enable us to filter perspectives so that we can customize our impressions of world events and the attitudes of others. Most of the time I think that this is great and that it enriches our lives and improves our relationships. But sometimes it seems overwhelming, my view of the world and current events becomes skewed and distorted, and/or I am left with a feeling that “everyone” else has a life fueled by a steady stream of euphoria and joy while I’m sitting at home doing laundry … again. That can be a Tech Frustration.
Recently, my husband, 21-year-old son, and I watched a video about Millennials in the Workplace. It sparked a great discussion, and let’s just say that the Baby Boomer parents and Millennial son didn’t see eye-to-eye on all of the opinions shared. It was a lively conversation. And it got me thinking about relationships and how they can be enhanced or hurt because of the existence of social media, our attitudes about it, and our determination to use it carefully or treat it casually and/or carelessly.
Through some Restorative Justice volunteer work, I met an interesting and inspirational guy named Dr. William Timpson. Dr. Timpson is a professor in the School of Education at Colorado State University, and he has a fascinating background that includes work in Northern Ireland, South Africa, South Korea, and Burundi. Dr. Timpson and the Restorative Justice program have taught me a lot about listening and conflict resolution. Recently I asked Dr. Timpson how he thinks technology and social media are impacting our ability to strengthen relationships and resolve conflicts. Drawing from his 2002 book, Teaching and Learning Peace (Madison, WI: Atwood), here is some of what he told me.
Dr. Timpson: We all know that good communication can be pivotal in defusing a volatile confrontation. It helps lower emotions and defenses so everyone can obtain better understanding and define peaceful resolution alternatives. This information draws on Tom Gordon’s (1974) Teacher Effectiveness Training to describe three sets of skills that provide an effective model for establishing good communication: 1) Deep Listening, 2) Empathetic Expressing, and 3) Consensus.
Covey, S. (1989) The seven habits of highly effective people, New York, NY: Simon and Schuster.
Gordon, T. (1974) Teacher effectiveness training. New York, NY: Peter H. Whyden.
Solnit, R. (1994) Savage dreams: A journey into the landscape wars of the American West. New York, NY: Vintage.
Timpson, W. (2002) Teaching and Learning Peace, Madison, WI: Atwood.
Subscribe or unsubscribe to this blog.
Recently a couple of people mentioned that conversationally I like to “throw things out there” and/or “mix it up”. The comments surprised me because I often feel like I’m holding back by raising “hot button” current event topics very selectively and only within small circles of close friends or trusted relatives. Given the gravity of many current events, I feel a desperate need to understand what others think, especially when they have a different perspective. I want to discuss and debate the issues, consider various perspectives, and test my ideas within a safe space where people understand my intentions.
Occasionally people will say things like "Why talk about this? None of us are going to change our minds.” But I beg to differ. I change my mind all of the time. If you take the time to educate yourself and/or engage in meaningful discussions with smart people, how can you not change your mind? If you’re not changing your mind about important issues, are you fully informed? Are you listening? Are you thinking?
Having raised two kids under pretty similar conditions, I’ve concluded that some people are wired to enjoy discussing controversial issues and others aren’t. Some prefer tackling issues in solitude, and others seem to avoid thinking about them at all. I get that each of us has different strengths and interests, and I suppose it's why we’re likely to find a caretaker around when we’re sick, a protector around when we’re scared, and a party planner around when it's time to celebrate. (i.e. If we're lucky.) Each of us plays a different role as we strive to hold our society together.
One of the great things about social media is that it can illuminate issues and perspectives we might not encounter otherwise. Conversely, it can also wall you off from certain perspectives. If a friend posts an article, I know that issue is very important to them, and I try to read and acknowledge it. This is a great use of technology (IMHO), but one Tech Frustration that arises is that sometimes, even though I’m troubled and concerned, I literally don’t know how to help. I want to help, I’m just not sure what I can or should be doing to make things better. Thanks to technology, those of you who care so much about these issues can give me some suggestions.
When it comes to the scary and hateful political rhetoric, I think we can all help to be sure that reasonable debates remain productive by striving to keep them fact-based and respectful. De-escalation is usually more productive that escalation. But there are other issues that concern me, and I am literally feeling stuck. As my friends figuratively scream about their concerns, I am listening and thinking, but the answers to these problems aren't clear to me. Or maybe it's more accurate to say that I'm just not sure what I can do to help. You have my attention, but not my involvement. I need more guidance. Below is a list of issues that concern me, but I'm unsure about what I could be doing to help resolve them in a meaningful way.
Ideally I'd like to help eliminate the need to work on these issues completely, but in the meantime, I want to invest some time and energy to at least help to reduce their severity. If you have ideas about how I can help, please pass them along in a comment or private email message.
Subscribe or unsubscribe to this blog.
Sometimes I wonder if I’ve learned more about history from book clubs than formal education. Hopefully this means that I am a “Lifelong Learner”. When a story is linked to people, even fictional characters, it becomes so much more compelling and memorable and makes me want to learn more.
I just finished reading The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen. This book about the Vietnam War (or the American War if you live in Viet Nam) made me realize how little I knew about this war. And some of what I thought I knew was wrong. Nothing, or next to nothing, about this war must have been included in my American history classes because I’m sure I was seeing some familiar words for the first time in print. These words dominated TV news in the ‘60s and ‘70s. Seeing them written down was a surprising jolt. Additionally, I’ve never encountered more unfamiliar (English) words in a single book, it was not an easy read, and the story was often uncomfortable if not downright disturbing. I didn’t like it much until the very end, and now I am so glad I read it. It’s one of those books that provides a perspective that I hope makes me a better person and a better citizen. It wasn’t boring or hard to understand, it’s just that I wasn’t the only person in my book club to comment about the fact that I didn’t feel compelled to pick it up most days. In order to complete it on time, I ended up creating a strict reading schedule that included frequent breaks and periodic chocolate rewards.
It's also worth mentioning that I read the book instead of listening to it. Listening is my new preference because it enables me to move while making progress, my house is way cleaner when I listen, and I sleep better when I’ve moved more during the day. Some friends tell me they can’t listen because their minds wander, and I get that. It happens to me too. But I’ve learned that if I am doing something very mundane like cleaning the kitchen, doing laundry, weeding, walking, or even painting a room, the time flies by, and I am transported into the story. And whatever I’m working on turns out cleaner, neater or nicer in the end. Most recently I painted a wall … in Paris (as I listened to America’s First Daughter by Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie).
This is a very long lead in to some questions. Have you heard of archive.org? My latest reading assignment is 11/22/63 by Stephen King. I have about three months to “read” 849 pages. I’d rather listen! It’s not available via my local library audiobook sources (Hoopla and Overdrive). I’m willing to buy it via either Audible.com or Audiobooks.com, but while searching for it last night, I stumbled across a free audiobook version via Archive.org, and I also stumbled across another source of free audio books called LibriVox. Without any help, I was able to start listening to 11/22/63 on both my computer and phone, and I also downloaded the Archivist app onto my phone. With a little help from my husband this morning, I now have the Smart Audiobook app loaded onto my phone which provides a friendly interface for listening to the downloaded book. Here’s what I’m wondering; is listening this way legal? It’s a Tech Frustration because I know that just because I can do something, doesn’t necessarily mean that I should do it, and finding that answer isn’t easy. The last thing I want to do is to deny Stephen King any income he’s rightly earned. My husband did a bit of research and said the answer wasn’t immediately clear to him either. I’m also wondering if anyone has used LibriVox. I haven’t checked it out yet because I have 849 pages to read. And my kitchen is a mess.
Tell me what you know! Thanks, and happy reading.
P.S. Listening to snippets of an NPR TED Radio Hour show Can Ordinary People Become Leaders? yesterday inspired me to keep blogging. It was pretty entertaining. Who knows what it will inspire you to do.
Nineteen months ago State Farm notified us that we might need to replace the 21-year-old wood shake roof on our house in order to “continue serving our insurance needs”. The deadline provided was August of this year. In April, a roofer told us that our roof is old, but sound for now. After a few conversations with State Farm, we went in search of a new insurance provider and started by contacting an insurance brokerage claiming they are “almost always able to find the best product and the best price” for you. Imagine our concern when they reported back: You are “ineligible with our carriers” (because of the roof).
So, it seems we need a new roof. The thing is, we think we want to install some solar technology at the same time, and we want to be sure we do our research first. Technology is changing fast, and we don’t want to rush into it. And having just completed some other home improvements, we were hoping to relax and enjoy the summer. Quietly. We weren’t sure it was even possible to research, decide and complete the installation in only two months, given all the relaxing we have planned.
Between the two of us, my husband and I have many years of being taught to persist, push and get creative when resolving problems. So I decided to continue the search for an insurer … at least a little longer. I started by asking my Facebook friends for advice, and the comments poured in. One friend, a local woman I have known since elementary school (when we both lived 1,267 miles from here), suggested that one of her friends, a Farmers Insurance agent, thought he could offer us a policy. Fast forward two days and we have a quote! We haven't signed anything yet, but we are hopeful we've found a solution. That is the power of social networking and is why we are fiddling on the roof today. Figuratively speaking, of course.
Now to start that solar research since we know our roof’s days are numbered. Hopefully we can do it from the front porch at a thoughtful and leisurely pace.
The topic of Tech Frustrations appears to have run its course or will have soon. So on a totally opposite note, here is a super cool web site that another friend shared with me yesterday. You may enjoy a virtual trip to the destination of your choice as you play around with it.
Thank you, friends! Facebook rocks and so do you.
Back in one of the Feb 2017 Tech Frustrations blogs (From Start to Finish) I mentioned that I was still mourning the loss of the SpringPad app which was discontinued about three years ago. Since no replacement app appeared visible on the horizon, I settled on using Wunderlist to replace the “To Do” list functionality within SpringPad. Begrudgingly. While the functionality is pretty good, the “look” of the app doesn’t appeal to me. In fact I really don’t like it. And I’ve determined, right or wrong, that matters to me. I want my phone to “spark joy” when I look at it. On the bright side, the functionality is pretty good, and my husband and I have worked into a rhythm using the shared list functionality to manage a joint list of stuff that needs to be done around the house. He said he likes the fact that I can tell him what I need him to do without talking to him. That’s probably not a very positive statement about our marriage, my communication style, or both. But I digress …
Imagine my surprise when a headline popped up on one of my newsfeeds recently announcing, “Microsoft to shut down Wunderlist in favor of its new app, To-Do”. I couldn’t believe it. Apparently Microsoft purchased Wunderlist when I wasn’t looking. After expressing frustration and sentiments about my status as a victim, I decided to download and look at the To-Do app while my husband researched the acquisition terms. Within the first few seconds of using it, I liked it. A lot. And now I love it. It’s just what I wanted in terms of good looks and basic functionality. It does lack a lot of the Wunderlist functionality I like (and sometimes even need) like the ability to create folders and the ability to share lists between people, but I’m optimistic that this functionality will be added in the future since we’re told that the Wunderlist team is creating the To-Do app. The import (from Wunderlist) feature is slick, and I’ve already transferred all of my non-shared lists over.
On a side note, while researching this “situation” I happened across this article about how Bill Gates didn’t let his kids get cell phones until they were 14. The thing that intrigued me most was the family photo included in the article. It seems that the richest man in the world’s family doesn’t look too much different from my own. At least when they visit the Grand Canyon. That surprised me.
If you want a pretty To-Do list, which I’m hopeful will become more robust soon, give Microsoft To-Do a try.
“Loving would be easy if your colors were like my dreams” – Boy George
One great thing about meeting people from all over the world is the exposure to ideas and perspectives I may have otherwise missed. Like the concept of Karma. When I learned about it (which I loosely translate as “what goes around comes around”), I started to find examples of it in my life. And sometimes frequently. One friend and co-worker told me that it’s very unusual to experience Karma in a single lifetime. If that’s true, I must be very unusual.
The first time I recognized Karma it hit me over the head like a two-by-four. It was back when my kids were young, and I needed to be in California at 8:00 am on a Monday morning. That meant Sunday travel. Life was crazy busy, and the loss of a weekend day felt like a sacrifice. In an attempt to get into a positive frame of mind, I tried to convince myself that the travel could be like a little vacation; I’d have time to myself in the car, on the plane, and a quiet evening to myself. It worked, and a relaxed me checked into the hotel on Sunday evening.
As I entered my room, I flipped on the lights, and, wowsa, they were bright! And harsh. After inspecting the bulbs, I determined that they were those (new at the time) compact fluorescents. How was I going to have a relaxing evening in a room lit up like an operating room?! I’m a little embarrassed to admit that I called down to the front desk to ask for a room with better lighting, but the fact is I made that call. They informed me that all of the rooms had the same lighting, so I unpacked my bags and settled in. Now, every time I adjust the lighting at home, I think about that experience. My husband will tell you that there is no sneaking new bulb technology into the house. If they are not warm and inviting, I catch ‘em every time.
And now the Karma connection. The next evening, when I stopped at my hotel between business meetings and dinner, you can probably imagine my surprise when I walked into a dimly lit lobby only to find a long row of flashlights sitting on the front desk. Apparently there had been a power outage … and that meant, among other things, no light in my room. Having hoped to freshen up with the help of a mirror and lights, I suddenly found myself yearning for those harsh bulbs. I think that’s Karma.
Fast forward about 15 years, and we find ourselves updating the lights in our kitchen. Long story short, we added LED “puck lights” in some glass-front cabinets, and they look blue and harsh. They clash with the under-cabinet lights (also LED) which are a bit warmer thanks, I now know, to their lower "color temperature". I’d been through enough of these experiences in the past to know that there was probably a solution out there, but I also knew that it might be expensive and might consume a lot of my time and take advantage of my husband’s good nature. (At this point I really wished I'd read this Choosing the Right LED Bulbs article before selecting the lights.)
The good news is that, with help from many sources, the problem was solved within 24 hours! Here’s how. After realizing that the LED puck lights where so bad I’d rather leave them off permanently than ever turn them on, I remembered that when I had taken the “Underground Fort Collins” tour with my daughter’s Girl Scout troop many years ago, they showed us how they turned some sidewalk lights different colors; they simply put colored cellophane over the fluorescent light fixture that lit the lights from under the sidewalk. So I opened the flashlight app on my cell phone and turned the light to a warm (orange) color and placed the cell phone (with the flashlight app running) into the glass-front cabinet. That confirmed that the right light provided the affect I was seeking. The next morning my good-natured husband dashed to Hobby Lobby to retrieve yellow and orange cellophane wrapping. We put squares of it over the puck lights, experimented with color combinations, and as of right now think we’ll go with two layers of orange over each 2700K LED. That makes the color as warm as a campfire under a starry sky. (Notice the one unfiltered light on the left in the photo above.)
While this trend toward LED lights is a source of many Tech Frustrations around our house, I get that it is good for the environment and my budget and now understand a lot more about how to pick them in the future. Thanks to info gathered from the Internet, technology in my cell phone, and the patience and perseverance of my husband and dad, all’s well that ends well. And the solution only cost $6.34!
If you are also particular about lighting and have learned anything interesting, please share! I found the new Philips Hue lights intriguing, but am really only interested in the warm colors and a bit put off by the high price tag. I may eventually upgrade the homemade cellophane filters to correction light gel filters and found this Ikea Hack article interesting too.