Posts Tagged ‘solid thinking corporation’

Leader driven Harmony #42: Working in the Big City

by Mack McKinney on October 29, 2011

It seemed like a small thing but once I finished it, I realized that it was actually a really big deal!  A friend recently left her job in New York City (NYC) and moved to a much smaller city in the southern US.  Today at lunch I saw her file in my Outlook Contacts and when I opened it, noticed that her NYC work address was still there.  As I deleted that address, one character at a time on my Blackberry, I got the most delightful feeling of relief when the last number of the NYC zip code disappeared into the ether!  It was as if I closed a chapter of her life.

I recalled the stress that the City levies on her residents, the constant fear of violent street crime, the challenge of grocery shopping without a car, just the general uneasiness my friend seemed to have whenever I visited her there or we talked on the phone.  She and I watched a drug deal go down across the street from her apartment one summer night.  And the cost of living in Brooklyn was surprisingly high – – -it took almost everything she made to buy the $5 boxes of cereal and the $3 quarts of milk.  And she was always sick.  Sinus infections, a bout of MRSA in a knee that she nicked shaving, a chest cold that wouldn’t go away: There was always something going on with her health.  A physician’s assistant friend told her “Yep, you’ll STAY sick for your first year in NYC because of all the germs that exists there and nowhere else, and the constant influx of immigrants from all over the world – – – nobody has immunity when they first arrive and it takes at least a year to build up a resistance to the bugs”.  We will never know if that would have been true in my friend’s case because she left at the one-year point.

She said the idea of renewing her apartment lease and living another year there was not at all appealing.  She enjoyed the work there as a TV producer and she really liked the company she worked with.  And she liked most of the social life and she loved the restaurants.  But she said the final straw for her was being so tightly packed in a subway car one morning that, with every breath, she inhaled into her mouth the stranger’s hair in front of her.  And she was too tightly sardined to move.  Turning her head helped a little but she apparently made a decision to change jobs (and cities) that morning.  I don’t blame her at all.  I wouldn’t have lasted a month there.  Maybe not a week.

So here’s the deal:

  1. Have some respect for people who endure the City.  They put up with a lot.  And if you need them in your business, as a supplier to you for example, or a customer, be thankful they put up with life there.  It isn’t easy.
  2. Try it yourself sometime.  If your industry/career values time spent in a major metro area, consider NYC for a 6-18 month stint.  You might even like it.  And lastly, well, I don’t have a third point – – –  I’m just VERY glad my friend is out of there and in a friendlier, slower-paced city in America’s southland.

No place is perfect, there is some crime everywhere and she may have issues what some facets of life in Charlotte in the years ahead but the big cities come with their own challenges, which sometimes, get the best of even the bravest and the most enduring!

In Summary: When you conduct business with what seems to be someone who is a little irate, or cold or unapproachable… be patient; you never know what they have endured just to get to that meeting or to make to that conference call…

Copyright: Solid Thinking Corporation

Mack McKinneyMack McKinney is on a personal crusade to eliminate conflict and stress in our lives. Mack’s mantra is “People treat you like you TRAIN them to treat you!” His company Solid Thinking Corporation teaches creativity, concept development, relationship management and high-performance project leadership to major US corporations and the US government
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Leader driven Harmony #41: Read a Book, ANY Book!

by Mack McKinney on October 14, 2011

Have you Gen-Yers noticed how seldom any of your friends mention a great book they have read?  Not an online article or a short news article but a real, honest-to-goodness BOOK?  Not very often, huh.

I know.  Why bother?  You can learn everything you need to know about most any subject with just a quick search on Google or Wikipedia, right?

Wrong.  An insidious, sneaky thing is happening to us.  We are losing the ability to read.  Book sales have plummeted in just the past 5 years.  This is more common among young people than middle-aged and older people.  And here is the danger – – – if you don’t read books at all, very soon you’ll notice that you NEVER read books anymore and now here is the contentious question:  WHY is that?  Why do we stop reading books?  Several respected studies and books conclude that the reason is as follows:

  • When we read short articles, and get quick answers, two things happen – – – 1) our brain gets a shot of the feel-good chemical dopamine as a result of our completing the research task we assigned ourselves and 2) our attention span shrinks just a bit.
  • Soon we are more comfortable tackling short-duration tasks and so we do just that – – – every study task becomes a short-duration task as we force the problem-solving job to match our now-shrinking attention span.
  • We are almost never required to consult a book to solve a problem or learn a new skill since someone else usually has developed the Cliff Notes © version which spoon feeds us ONLY what we must know to gain a basic familiarity with any new subject, computer, phone, TV, etc.
  • Eventually, we no longer have the patience to tackle a thick book with its slower progress and less fulfilling (no dopamine) effect on our minds.  The lure of the quick fix has dominated our actions for so long that any process that requires deep, detailed, significant thought will be avoided in favor of a shorter, more intense-feeling approach. And since we lose what we don’t use, before we even know it has happened to us, we no longer CAN read a book on a complex subject that requires deep thinking, introspection and internal debate.

Multiple studies are showing that it is just becoming extremely hard for young professionals to force themselves to read a book, ANY book, even on subjects of great importance to their chosen professions.  Begrudgingly, they will read a book when assigned by their boss or as part of a course of study but not otherwise.

We get best at the things we do most frequently.  If we never read deeply, many of us lose the ability to think deeply especially over a long period of time, which is the very type of thought required to solve tough problems in life, to make decisions about courses of action (one career vs other candidates, where to live, etc.).  If we ONLY make decisions quickly, after little/no deliberation, several things can happen and most of them are bad:

  • We start to view ALL problems as being relatively simple, lending themselves to knee-jerk solutions.
  • We lose the ability to stay engaged in a course of study over a long period of time, without getting bored.  So we begin to avoid making decisions about any problem whose solution is not apparent after a few minutes of deliberation.  And such “vexing” problems fester and often worsen, leading to crises in our lives.
  • We don’t just enjoy the short-cycle of thinking and acting that shallow thinking brings us, we actually begin to need it.  Studies show that the same people who do not read books also text frequently and spend a lot of time online.  We’ll discuss this more in a later post but there is ample scientific evidence that Gen-Ys who seldom read books and who are constantly texting and tweeting and browsing Facebook and other social network sites are rewiring their brains in ways that we don’t yet really understand.  But the need for constant social stimulation appears to be a byproduct of the rewiring process.

So here is some advice for people whose brains are in development, people between the ages of 12 and 24.  Read a book, any book!  Hang out at the library once a week for an hour or two.  Download  a book to your Kindle.  Take your Color Nook to Barnes and Nobles and read eBooks there for free!  No matter how you do it, just find subjects that interest you and read books on those things.  Then branch into related topics.  Go where the ideas take you and read, read, read.  Or before you know it, you won’t have either the patience or the ability to do so. Use it or lose it!

Copyright: Solid Thinking Corporation

Mack McKinneyMack McKinney is on a personal crusade to eliminate conflict and stress in our lives. Mack’s mantra is “People treat you like you TRAIN them to treat you!” His company Solid Thinking Corporation teaches creativity, concept development, relationship management and high-performance project leadership to major US corporations and the US government
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Leader driven Harmony #38: ACE Your Life

by Mack McKinney on August 19, 2011

ACE stands for Always Control Expectations and we teach it in all our classes.  It means no surprises for your colleagues, friends and family:  If you say you’ll do something, then be certain that you make it happen.  Senior people sometimes use the old saying “Mean what you say and say what you mean”.  Lots of wisdom there.

In buying or selling services or products, treat people like you would like to be treated (the old Golden Rule).  And be sure you understand your organization’s internal processes so you can over deliver (and under-promise).  If you promise a signature or a delivery in one week, do it in 3 days.

In negotiations, don’t strive to win at all costs.  Build the relationship first and subsequent business will go much smoother.  Securing a tough, one-sided deal that costs the other party most of its profit is guaranteed to cause ill feelings and will get the relationship off to a rocky start. It might get you that deal, but won’t get you another from the same customer.

Worldwide, I have found that people do business with people they like, all else being equal.  Or maybe not  even equal . . . heck, I’ll pay a little more for insurance if Eddie Fields at State Farm sells it, because I trust him.  I’ll pay a little more for construction work if Ronnie Cooper does it, because he is fair and detail- oriented.  I’ll pay more for sushi at Sakura’s in Moyock, NC because it is fresh, the staff is super friendly and Wing and Wing Ha are great chefs.

In the end it isn’t about the money.  It’s about the friendships, the trust, and the people whose paths you can make just a little smoother as we all take this trip through life together.

Copyright: Solid Thinking Corporation

Mack McKinneyMack McKinney is on a personal crusade to eliminate conflict and stress in our lives. Mack’s mantra is “People treat you like you TRAIN them to treat you!” His company Solid Thinking Corporation teaches creativity, concept development, relationship management and high-performance project leadership to major US corporations and the US government
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Leader driven Harmony #37: Eating, Drinking & Business

by Mack McKinney on August 12, 2011

What should you eat at a business meal or social gathering?  Do cultural sensitivities really matter these days?  Here are some basic, common-sense rules for business dining etiquette:

  • Don’t eat sushi around squeamish people whose faces turn fainting-white when you mention that raw fish is on the menu.  Those people are as rare as the fish, thank goodness (I love sushi and sashimi).  Just be sensitive and watch their facial expressions when the menu is discussed.
  • Don’t eat pork when dining with Jews or Moslems (or with both – – – yes, it has happened to me).  Just the idea of pigs can make some people nauseous.

Should you drink alcohol at business functions?  Some business gurus say drinking is OK and then others advise total alcohol abstinence!  My answer is . . .  yes, you can drink, but with a few caveats.  First let’s discuss the cultural issue.  In many cultures, business meals are occasions to get to know people.  Alcohol is viewed as the universal social lubricant.  And only after the other party gets to know you and likes you, will they have meaningful business discussions with you.

If you are dining with people from Western Europe, the Slavic countries of Eastern Europe, the Scandinavian countries, Japan, Korea or China, bring a spare liver!  Drinking alcohol is likely to be an accepted part of the business experience and you’ll seem odd if you don’t partake at least a little.  Sorry but I don’t make the rules of international business.

With other groups of people, in the US for example, you have more options.  Here are some basic guidelines:

  • If everyone else is drinking and if you would like a drink, then have one.  But limit it to one or two drinks throughout the activity.
  • If you don’t drink, say so and don’t drink!  You don’t owe anyone a detailed explanation but if you feel obligated to explain, say you are slightly allergic to alcohol and it upsets your stomach.  That should settle it.
  • But if you are hosting a guest at a business dinner (prospective employee, client, possible teammate, etc.), you should order a glass of wine.  Period.  Do this either when initially seated or with the meal but do it.  Do this whether you drink alcohol or not.  You do this to clearly indicate to your guest(s) that their having a drink is fine with you.  Words won’t communicate that point nearly as well as your $7 glass of red wine.  And if there is a toast, you have something to toast with (you can put it up to your lips and then set it down).  If you don’t drink, let it sit and get tossed after the meal.  If asked why you didn’t drink it, say that you didn’t like the taste (they won’t know if you tried it or not).

One more rule here:  If you are a US defense contractor, you’ll need to deduct the cost of the alcohol from the total receipt, showing it separately.  It is not an allowable expense in most cases.  Your company may or may not reimburse you for your drink.  And they can only deduct half the value of the business meal anyway in most cases (thank you IRS).

Who should pay for the meal?

  • If the meal is with teammates (other firms) and they will have the chance to reciprocate rotationally at their facilities, then the host organization should pay.  This should be by prior arrangement among the principles.
  • You, personally, should pay if . . .
    • You invited the others to dinner and no Dutch Treat (each person/team pays) arrangement was discussed.
    • You are trying to win the business of the guests and they are not government employees.  Most US Federal and State government employees are prohibited from accepting meals or gifts of any kind.
    • You are trying to win the business of the guests, they are from other firms, and those firms do not prohibit their employees from accepting gifts (including meals) from potential suppliers (like you).  Some firms’ ethics policies prohibit their employees from accepting meals or “anything of value”.  Other firms prohibit anything above a dollar limit, $25.00 for example.  And some firms have no policy at all on this subject.
    • Split the check if your firms are of comparable size, you will benefit equally from any subsequent business, you are not on an expense account and are expected to be frugal with the company’s travel budget, the other side sincerely offers to help pay, and there is no expectation of future meals out like that one (no expectation of reciprocation “the next time”).

In short, use your common sense regarding eating and drinking at business functions.  And if you drink, limit yourself to one or two drinks.  When in doubt as to the appropriate behavior, ask the financial or legal people in your organization.  And I’d ask them either before or after a trip: Calling their cell phone, from the restaurant, late at night, might get you an answer you DON’T want!

Copyright: Solid Thinking Corporation

Mack McKinneyMack McKinney is on a personal crusade to eliminate conflict and stress in our lives. Mack’s mantra is “People treat you like you TRAIN them to treat you!” His company Solid Thinking Corporation teaches creativity, concept development, relationship management and high-performance project leadership to major US corporations and the US government
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You know the old saying “If there is only one lawyer in a town, he’ll be poor.  But if there are two lawyers in a town, they’ll both be rich!” The insinuation is, of course, that they will convince the people in the town to sue each other.  I’m sure you know a dozen other lawyer jokes.

People say they hate working with lawyers – – – they are expensive, they speak a language few others understand, they are deal-breakers not deal-makers, and . . . did I mention that they are expensive?  But if you are in business, lawyers can be a necessary and valuable part of your team.  And even the most rabid anti-lawyer person changes his tune completely and rapidly when he has a legal issue: He cannot seek out a good lawyer fast enough!

In a company, lawyers will be involved in bidding large jobs, to make sure the proposal team doesn’t inadvertently commit the enterprise (company, service, agency, etc.)  to do something inappropriate or impossible.  They will also be involved in mergers and acquisitions, employment agreements, patent applications, teaming agreements, employee terminations and other such stuff.  But let’s say you are a low level employee in a company, doing your job and staying out of trouble.  When should you, personally, seek the advice of an attorney inside your company?  Anytime one of these events occurs:

  • You are asked by ANYONE (even your boss) to do something you know would be illegal.
  • You learn that a government person, either in the USA or abroad, might be paid to steer a procurement award toward your company.  (This is Foreign Corrupt Practices Act issue and people can go to jail.)
  • You hear a client say anything even hinting at legal action against your organization, even if just a hypothetical discussion.
  • You find something wrong (missing, broken, not installed correctly, etc.) on a deliverable and your supervisor won’t listen.  Before that gear gets shipped to a client, talk to your boss and then to his boss, etc. until you get that equipment fixed.  And if nobody will listen to you, talk to a company attorney.
  • You see someone being discriminated against because of their race, color, religion, sex, etc. and the reporting chain won’t stop it.
  • You see an unsafe condition on the job, where coworkers or customers could be hurt, and nobody in the immediate management chain seems concerned.

There are more examples but certainly in any of the above cases, a company lawyer who must defend the company if sued for improper action, or not taking a required action (known as errors of omission or commission), will be VERY interested in what you have to say.  They will want to head-off any impending legal disaster and will go right to the top of the company if needed.  Yes, you may have some explaining to do with your management chain if you bypassed some of them as you sought out the lawyer but in a decent company, you’ll be rewarded , not disciplined, if you acted in good faith and with the company’s reputation foremost in mind.

Here are some basic do’s and don’ts regarding working with corporate lawyers:

  1. Involve them earlier rather than later.  They can sometimes easily fix a problem if told about it early enough.  If you wait too long, problems can cascade, their hands may be tied and very bad things can occur (lost jobs, lawsuits, criminal penalties, etc.)
  2. Come completely clean.  Tell them everything about the incident/problem/issue and leave nothing out.  They cannot help you if you lie to them.
  3. Get to know them when you aren’t having a crisis. Invite them to proposal-completion parties; ask their advice on almost-routine things just so you can learn how they think; invite them out with customers so they get to know the clients.
  4. Don’t “shave” the rules.  If something you are considering would get you in trouble with the legal staff, do not do it.

In short, treat lawyers like you would want to be treated.  The old Golden Rule applies to the legal beagles too.

Copyright: Solid Thinking Corporation

Mack McKinneyMack McKinney is on a personal crusade to eliminate conflict and stress in our lives. Mack’s mantra is “People treat you like you TRAIN them to treat you!” His company Solid Thinking Corporation teaches creativity, concept development, relationship management and high-performance project leadership to major US corporations and the US government
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Leader driven Harmony #34: Left Lane Loonies

by Mack McKinney on July 22, 2011

Our society is based on predictable actions by us and the people around us.  Nowhere is this more important than on our highways.  As we hurtle past each other on our roadways in 2-ton cars, just 4 feet apart, at a relative speed of 120 mph, being predictable is crucial. And with urban sprawl and longer commutes, we are spending more time than ever on the road.  In fact, for many of us the highway IS our office.  Cell phones let us do business from our cars as we travel to the office, the airport or to meetings with clients.

But I am not arriving at meetings as relaxed as I’d like to be, mainly due to an increase in what I call Left Lane Loonies on the interstate highways in the eastern US.  These are people who drive in the left lane at speeds slower than other traffic, creating undue stress and aggravation for other drivers and further slowing traffic on our already-congested highways.  This behavior has nothing to do with their traveling above or below any certain speed limit – – – they just drive in the left lane at a speed LOWER than other drivers behind them would like to drive.  Why is this a problem?  Let me count the ways:

  1. FACT: It is absolutely illegal in, I believe, every state of the USA and most foreign countries.  State laws that I have examined always say something like “on multi-lane highways, slower traffic must keep right”.  And that requirement is independent of any speed limits:  if someone wants to pass you and you force them to do so on the right (because you do not quickly yield your left lane), it is a ticketable, moving violation.  In Germany, both drivers will be cited!
  2. FACT: It impedes traffic.  Some years ago a friend was driving to the emergency room with an injured child in his car, only to get stuck behind a person driving exactly the speed limit in the left lane and in-formation with two other cars in the right lane.  The driver just wouldn’t move on past the traffic in the right lane so either she could then move right or so my friend could move right and pass her on the right.  It took several minutes to get by her and he finally did so by driving on the left shoulder when it became apparent that she had no intention of moving to the right lane, even when it was clear.  Luckily the child wasn’t critical or those minutes might have been fatal.
  3. FACT: It creates unsafe situations: the driver trying to pass may take unwarranted chances to get around, cutting too close to other traffic or, in extreme cases such as my friend above, driving on the shoulder.
  4. OPINION: It marks you as either narcissistic (in love with yourself), in La La Land or a frustrated person who wants to control the actions of others (in other words a bully), or some combination of these.  No matter what, it makes you look foolish.

If you are guilty of this behavior, you need to stop it.  But assuming that you don’t do this, what should you do when you encounter someone who does?

  1. First, be safe.  Maintain at least 1.5-2.0 car lengths between you and them.
  2. Slow down yourself!  Try getting into the right lane, moving at a slower pace and just enjoying the scenery!  Most of us are in too great a hurry anyway.
  3. If you don’t want to slow down for whatever reason (that’s your business), politely ask them to move right by signaling them with the quick, international “two flash” of high beams.  If they CAN move right (there is room over there) and if they are traveling at roughly the same speed as the traffic in that right lane, reminding them to move over shouldn’t cause a problem.  (I sometimes get caught in the left lane by faster traffic and I willingly move over when asked.)  Both flashes should only take one second and you should get back on low beams or no-beams.  Then WAIT 10-15 seconds to see if they will move to the right when it is convenient for them and they can do so into traffic that is traveling at roughly their speed.
  4. If they don’t move over, even though they could do so safely and the other traffic in that right lane is moving at roughly their speed, then there are three possibilities:
  • They are waiting for a bigger “slot’ to move into, maybe among somewhat faster traffic in that right lane than you and they are currently passing, probably moving more closely to their desired, long-term speed.  So if you and they are still passing vehicles in that right lane cool your jets and just wait awhile.
  • They haven’t seen your lights flash, asking them to yield. On the chance this is the reason, flash them again, just briefly – – – don’t brighten your lights in anger – – – it marks you as a hotheaded rookie driver.  And stay well back: Unstable people have been known to slam on their brakes when pushed too hard to yield a left lane and this is not worth a collision.
  • They saw your light-flashing signal and know what you want but they have no intention of moving over, because a) they are the self-appointed speed police and have decided their speed is the correct speed for everyone or b) they feel they have a right to drive in any lane they want and are unaware they are violating the law or c) they just don’t like YOU.  If they are only an annoyance and I’ll be able to pass them on the right soon, I just bide my time and pass when able.  Then as I get back in front of them, I roll my driver’s window down, extend my left arm and point repeatedly above my roof over to the right, asking them to move right for the string of traffic now formed behind them.  In about 1/3 the cases, they move over to the right lane!  They were in La La Land and didn’t realize they were causing traffic problems.  But sometimes they just shake their head “no”.  I made my point that their controlling behavior did not go unnoticed.  On the other hand, if they are knowingly causing a serious traffic problem by refusing to change lanes when asked, I assume they are under the influence of alcohol or drugs.  I then dial 9-1-1 on my cell phone and report their strange behavior and tag number in a calm, measured way to local law enforcement.  Hopefully some of these people get pulled off the road and get educated about the importance of keeping traffic flowing.

Copyright: Solid Thinking Corporation

Mack McKinneyMack McKinney is on a personal crusade to eliminate conflict and stress in our lives. Mack’s mantra is “People treat you like you TRAIN them to treat you!” His company Solid Thinking Corporation teaches creativity, concept development, relationship management and high-performance project leadership to major US corporations and the US government
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We all have stress in our lives and a little stress can be a healthy thing.  Stress is caused by stressors, defined by BusinessDictionary  as either 1. A physical, psychological, or social force that puts real or perceived demands on the body, emotions, mind, or spirit of an individual –OR- 2. A biological, chemical, or physical factor that can cause temporary or permanent harm to an ecosystem, environment, or organism.

Stressors are like bullies: We can usually handle one or two but when confronted by too many of them at one time we may lose the ability to overcome them.  Heck, just recognizing stressors can be difficult and sometimes even counter-intuitive. Did you know that pleasant, desirable, rewarding things can also cause stress!?!? In 1967, psychiatrists Thomas Holmes and Richard Rahe suspected there was a link between events in your life and your level of stress.  They looked at 43 life events and after thousands of interviews and surveys they ranked each life event for its contribution to stress.  Some of the events that made the list are surprising: A change in health of family member (including an improvement), a change in financial state (including suddenly receiving a lot of money), and even an outstanding personal achievement!  This is because our bodies react automatically and biochemically, way down at the cellular level, not only to bad changes in our life situation but to any changes.

To measure the overall stress using the Holmes-Rahe scale, determine which events/situations in the past year apply to you and take note of the associated number of “Life Change Units”.  Add them up and the resulting total score will give you a rough idea of how much stress you are experiencing.   (The table and explanation shown here is from Wikipedia at  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holmes_and_Rahe_stress_scale but the same table is available from multiple locations on the Internet and elsewhere.  Newer lists may also be available as part of more modern studies.).  This first table is for adults:

Life event

Life change units

Death of a spouse 100
Divorce 73
Marital separation 65
Imprisonment 63
Death of a close family member 63
Personal injury or illness 53
Marriage 50
Dismissal from work 47
Marital reconciliation 45
Retirement 45
Change in health of family member 44
Pregnancy 40
Sexual difficulties 39
Gain a new family member 39
Business readjustment 39
Change in financial state 38
Death of a close friend 37
Change to different line of work 36
Change in frequency of arguments 35
Major mortgage 32
Foreclosure of mortgage or loan 30
Change in responsibilities at work 29
Child leaving home 29
Trouble with in-laws 29
Outstanding personal achievement 28
Spouse starts or stops work 26
Begin or end school 26
Change in living conditions 25
Revision of personal habits 24
Trouble with boss 23
Change in working hours or conditions 20
Change in residence 20
Change in schools 20
Change in recreation 19
Change in church activities 19
Change in social activities 18
Minor mortgage or loan 17
Change in sleeping habits 16
Change in number of family reunions 15
Change in eating habits 15
Vacation 13
Christmas 12
Minor violation of law 11

Score of 300+: Serious risk of illness.

Score of 150-299+: Moderate risk of illness (reduced by 30% from the above risk).

Score 150-: Only a slight risk of illness.

A different scale has been developed for non-adults.

Life Event

Life Change Units

Getting married 95
Unwed pregnancy 100
Death of parent 100
Acquiring a visible deformity 80
Divorce of parents 90
Fathering an unwed pregnancy 70
Jail sentence of parent for over one year 70
Marital separation of parents 69
Death of a brother or sister 68
Change in acceptance by peers 67
Pregnancy of unwed sister 64
Discovery of being an adopted child 63
Marriage of parent to stepparent 63
Death of a close friend 63
Having a visible congenital deformity 62
Serious illness requiring hospitalization 58
Failure of a grade in school 56
Not making an extracurricular activity 55
Hospitalization of a parent 55
Jail sentence of parent for over 30 days 53
Breaking up with boyfriend or girlfriend 53
Beginning to date 51
Suspension from school 50
Becoming involved with drugs or alcohol 50
Birth of a brother or sister 50
Increase in arguments between parents 47
Loss of job by parent 46
Outstanding personal achievement 46
Change in parent’s financial status 45
Accepted at college of choice 43
Being a senior in high school 42
Hospitalization of a sibling 41
Increased absence of parent from home 38
Brother or sister leaving home 37
Addition of third adult to family 34
Becoming a full-fledged member of a church 31
Decrease in arguments between parents 27
Decrease in arguments with parents 26
Mother or father beginning work 26

Score of 300+: Serious risk of illness.

Score of 150-299+: Moderate risk of illness (reduced by 30% from the above risk).

Score 150-: Only a slight risk of illness.

The Kent Center has adopted this scale in their stress assessment and treatment practice.  (We found them online and have no affiliation with them.)  Working with mental health professionals is almost always a good idea.  If you perform a self-assessment of stress and the result concerns you, seek professional counseling (in-person and face-to-face if at all possible) because untreated stress can easily lead to physical illness and depression.  And then things can get very serious because depression cannot always be self-diagnosed or self-treated.  Worse yet, severe depression is potentially lethal.

But if you decide that your stress level is sufficiently low, and composed of only a few distinct and easily identified causes/events, you may want to tackle them yourself.  To make this stress-busting effort effective, be methodical.  Spend some time thinking about each stressor in your life.  Here are some tips:

  1. Make a Master List of Stressors and list each stress-causing event/situation separately
  2. Have a plan to deal with each one, independent of the others
  3. The plan for each one should include the following:
    • Identification of what you see as the root cause of the stress (OK all you Mental Health Professionals, don’t email me: I know we mere mortals cannot always determine the root cause of stress but this is a start)
    • A descriptive vision of what your life would be like without this stress (you being worry-free, happy at work, etc.)
    • Who else is involved besides you, and what each person will do to help correct the situation
    • Actions you and the other people involved will take today, this week, this month and this year

The human brain does not come with a user’s manual.  Get professional counseling to help with high stress scores, depression or with any thoughts about harming yourself or others.  Don’t mess with stress!

Copyright: Solid Thinking Corporation

Mack McKinneyMack McKinney is on a personal crusade to eliminate conflict and stress in our lives. Mack’s mantra is “People treat you like you TRAIN them to treat you!” His company Solid Thinking Corporation teaches creativity, concept development, relationship management and high-performance project leadership to major US corporations and the US government
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Leader driven Harmony #31: Sleeping on the Job…

by Mack McKinney on July 1, 2011

… Yes, You may be doing it, and not even know it!

When airline pilots overfly the airport by 100 miles, it is a big deal.  And when air traffic controllers nod off in the tower it makes international news.  What about when YOU are a little groggy from 8-11 every day?  After all, our society lives on coffee and isn’t everyone somewhat fog-brained every day.  No.  They are not.  And you cannot afford to be either.  Your organization hired you to THINK and you cannot do that when chronically tired.

The brain not only performs poorly at key tasks when deeply fatigued, it also makes-up things, twisting things you experience and inventing entirely new things.  And parts of your brain cannot differentiate between things imagined and things experienced!  So that means you can “see” things happen that didn’t actually happen at all, but you will swear they did.  Driving through Texas in the wee hours of the morning on a deserted road I suddenly saw an infant sitting in the center of my lane.  I locked-up the brakes (which panicked the other driver dozing in the passenger’s seat) and slid right over that child.  We jumped out of the truck and looked behind the truck to see  . . .  nothing.  In the Texas moonlight there was nothing there but my skid marks.  In my fatigue I had imagined the entire thing.  I can assure you that I was “awake” for an hour or so after that, heart thumping and hands shaking, at the motel where we stopped shortly after this episode. But the effect was short lived – – – after the slug of adrenalin had been metabolized, which caused me a little trouble going to sleep, when I did drift off, I slept for about 12 hours.

Sleep Apnea

I have been in business meetings where one person on my team heard one thing and everyone else heard something entirely different.  The odd-man-out was known to be grouchy, irritable and he was very overweight.  In retrospect, I would bet he had sleep apnea and was sleeping poorly.  I predict a time, within 5 years, when sleep apnea is seen as the productivity-robber that it is and is therefore proactively diagnosed and treated.  For instance, here in 2011 sleepy driving is seen as an annoyance to be treated with energy drinks.  (This is in spite of evidence that driving while fatigued (DWF) has been shown to impair decision making and motor skills even more than 3-4 stiff drinks!)

The root cause of most sleepy driving is sleep apnea where the throat closes and the person never enters deep sleep.  Sleep apnea sufferers typically do not know they have the disease (although their sleep partners know they snore and sometimes choke or gasp) and so they never get treated for it.  Treatments range from simple mouth appliances that hold the lower jaw forward during sleep to CPAP machines that force air into the lungs to the ultimate – – – surgery to remove/strengthen the soft palate and throat tissues so they don’t flop around in there.

The bottom line is this:  if you are not well rested at work, you cannot make optimum decisions and your bosses will begin to question your judgment.  You may also be irritable and/or short tempered and your coworkers may try to avoid you.  All this can gave a negative impact on your career.  So if you find that you MUST drink coffee throughout the morning “just to function” , or if your sleep partner says you snore or gasp or choke, or if you don’t wake up bright-eyed and ready to take on the world, you have a problem: you are either not getting enough sleep (quantity) or you are getting poor sleep (quality).  Try to get at least 7-9 hours each night for a week and if you are still tired, see a sleep clinic about a sleep study.  It requires just one night, a nurse monitors your sleep, and it can save your life because undiagnosed sleep apnea can destroy part of your heart in just a few years!  And long before that, it will have destroyed your career.

Copyright: Solid Thinking Corporation

Mack McKinneyMack McKinney is on a personal crusade to eliminate conflict and stress in our lives. Mack’s mantra is “People treat you like you TRAIN them to treat you!” His company Solid Thinking Corporation teaches creativity, concept development, relationship management and high-performance project leadership to major US corporations and the US government
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Whenever listening to a public speaker, ask yourself two things: 1) Does the message make sense without the skilled speaker’s delivery and 2) Were the key points crystal clear? Make sure that (you)

  1. Remove the oratory (the effect of the speaker’s delivery style and voice).  You can either do this mentally or you can find a transcript of the speech.  Do the words still make sense when just written, not spoken?
  2. If the key messages were not clear, was that intentional?  Could simpler, more commonly used words have made the message unmistakable?  If so, then why wasn’t it said that way?  Perhaps it was worded so each member of the audience could interpret the speech individually by “hearing what they wanted to hear?”

The danger is being lulled into complacency.  Quite a large number of reasonably intelligent people adopt “selective hearing” when a speaker or writer uses ambiguous words: They often see/hear what they want to see/hear, either pro or con.  And less-educated people, who mistakenly question their own ability to understand “complex” subjects and assume the unfamiliar words surely must make sense to somebody, fall into the same trap.  This is partly because everyone is busy managing their daily affairs, working and . . . . just . . . living.  It is soooo easy to defer to the “ruling class” in the State capitol and/or Washington DC – – – the professional economists, strategists, politicians and lobbyists.  But many things that happen in the State and US capitols impact the business environment and, therefore, the company where you work.

The Danger for Our Country:

This “letting the experts handle complex things” is an age-old problem in every country and is especially risky in any democracy or republic, regardless of your political persuasion.  Howard Troxler said this temptation to be lazy is very dangerous in last week’s editorial “I’m Too Busy is not an optionin a Virginian Pilot editorial on June 13th (an outstanding newspaper, BTW).  He says, in part,

We should pay more attention to what Washington is doing. We should pay more attention to what the state legislature is doing. We should pay more attention to what City Hall and the School Board are doing. If we don’t, then the same bunch in Washington will keep right on driving the country off the cliff. . . . Paying attention is not something optional that you can get around-to one day. Tell everybody you know.”

The Danger for Your Company

There are clear parallels in the business world:  It is easy to get tunnel-vision, to adopt a narrow focus on only your little part of the organization.  Don’t do this.  Know the big picture.  Listen closely to management’s speeches but be sure you know what matters most in your organization (cash flow, orders backlog, etc.).  In any company be sure you understand at least four things:

  1. How the financial community rates your firm (if publicly traded) and what they are saying about your management (good, bad, strong vision, confused, etc.)
  2. The company’s long term strategic plan and how your team (and job) fits into that plan
  3. How your company generates cash
  4. What your team’s financial objectives are for the month, quarter and year (in other words, what your boss signed you up to accomplish)

If you are intimidated by financial terms and statements, here is a great $20 booklet “Guide to Finance Basics for Managers” from Harvard Business Review at. Remember – – – what you don’t know can hurt you!

Copyright: Solid Thinking Corporation

Mack McKinneyMack McKinney is on a personal crusade to eliminate conflict and stress in our lives. Mack’s mantra is “People treat you like you TRAIN them to treat you!” His company Solid Thinking Corporation teaches creativity, concept development, relationship management and high-performance project leadership to major US corporations and the US government
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Leader driven Harmony #28: Tell People What You Need

by Mack McKinney on June 10, 2011

Do you find that people are frustrating you?  Disappointing you?  Has this been going on for a long time and in all walks of your life:  family, job, hobbies, neighborhood or church?  Do you wish people would respect you more?  Understand you better?

Do you need more time to yourself?  Or maybe you need less time to yourself because you are lonely.

Do you need more attention from a friend or lover, because you feel isolated or shut out?  Or do you need less attention from them because you feel smothered.

Do you want more guidance and coaching from a boss?  Or do you want less help and more autonomy in doing your job?

Do you wish you had a magic way to make people “get it”, to cause people to do what you need them to do?  Then here is the magic trick.  Lean in closely.  Here is the secret:  JUST SAY SO.  It is often that easy to get others to do what you want.  Just tell them.  No beating around the bush, no mincing words.  Just smile, be reasonably diplomatic if you can and tell them what you need.  The important thing is to speak up, even if you don’t say it exactly right.  Trust me; you’ll get better at it the more you practice.

Most people want to be helpful.  They like to please others.  Good Samaritans abound.  Most likely your friends and relatives and business associates are polite to other people.  They probably wouldn’t mind being nicer to you.  But all too often they don’t know what to do. There are no mind readers in the real world.  You must tell them.

Start the conversation any way you like.

  • I have a favor to ask…
  • I wonder if I could ask you to do something for me…
  • I have an odd request…

And then use the magic phrase:  When you [do something] I feel [a certain way].  Here are two common examples:

  • When you finish my sentences for me, I feel you are impatient with me.  But I need the time to think when I am talking.  Please be patient.  You think faster than me.
  • When you change the subject immediately after I say something I feel you aren’t really listening. I feel you are just using the time while I am talking to assemble your next statement.  Please at least acknowledge what I have just said so I know you head me.

If people keep ignoring you or interrupting you or . . . doing whatever to annoy you, you have to ask yourself if you are helping cause the problem.  And if you have never told them how you feel or how you would like them to change their behavior, you should not be at all surprised when they disappoint you.  Doing the same thing over and over again but expecting a different result is one clinical definition of insanity.  So tell the people with whom you regularly interact, bosses, family members, friends and others, what you need them to do (or not do) to make your life go smoother with less drama and less frustration.  Otherwise do not complain about how you are being treated.  Speak up or shut up!

Copyright: Solid Thinking Corporation

Mack McKinneyMack McKinney is on a personal crusade to eliminate conflict and stress in our lives. Mack’s mantra is “People treat you like you TRAIN them to treat you!” His company Solid Thinking Corporation teaches creativity, concept development, relationship management and high-performance project leadership to major US corporations and the US government
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