One of the provisions in the pending tax law undermines democracy as we know it!

December 4, 2017

My friend Jason N. Cadwell, CPA/PFS, CFP® writes:

The proposed tax law will allow private foundations (set up by an individual, a family or a group of individuals, for a purpose such as philanthropy or other legal economic objectives) to own 100% of an operating business, and though that business has no relationship to the charity’s purpose, the business would pay no income taxes. (Reference House H.R. 1, §5104 Senate JCT Mod. 11/14: III.B.13).

Of course, this will put tax-paying businesses at a competitive disadvantage, but more importantly, the proposed law would allow individuals and families the ability to create a funding vehicle for their pet projects.

Essentially, they will be able to set up shadow governments through the fiefdoms they create, then “assess” their own taxes, and dictate how those taxes will be used. How long would it take Congress to realize that the deluge let loose by Citizen’s United has dried up? Congress would become irrelevant.

Can you blame the powers behind this proposal? Why go through the waste and inefficiencies of pouring millions and billions into political campaigns to buy influence with unreliable politicians when you can have direct control over policy? Why pay retail when you can buy wholesale?

I see the Koch brothers’ fingerprints on this provision, but I don’t care if the instigators are on the right or the left. I have no interest in turning over the function of government to a cadre of elites like some real life Game of Thrones.

If you feel likewise, please, contact your Senators and Congresspersons and tell them to stop the bill in reconciliation.

https://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm

https://www.house.gov/representatives/find-your-representative

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“We have met the enemy, and he is us”

December 16, 2014

Like Pogo said in the comic strip by Walt Kelly that bore the protagonist’s name, we, as citizens of the USA, must recognize our part in the torture documented in the Senate report on CIA torture post 9/11.  This fact struck me after reading William Falk’s editorial in December 19, 2014 edition of The Week:

“On 9/11, I watched the towers collapse into a billowing volcanic cloud from The Week’s offices, and vividly remember the terror that subsequently seized the city and the country. It was widely believed that it was just the first of many attacks—with planes, dirty bombs, nuclear weapons. Police and National Guardsmen armed for warfare filled train stations, airports, and public places. Airline traffic plummeted. When the anthrax letters began arriving, frantic mothers bought up gas masks and antibiotics for the inevitable biowarfare attack, and families began stocking up on food, water, and duct tape. America lost its collective mind. It was amid this mass hysteria that the Bush administration crossed a line that the U.S. had never before crossed, not even in fighting Hitler’s Germany. In order to deliver us from evil, our intelligence agencies tortured people with a persistent, sadistic brutality that, we know now, left even CIA officers nauseated, shaking, and crying.

This is terrorism’s sick genius. Terrorists invite us—seduce us—to share their Manichaean worldview, to respond to savagery with savagery, to join them in madness. “Make us safe!” Americans demanded. And so our elected leaders launched two wars, saw WMD where there were none, launched surveillance programs with virtually no limits, and embraced “enhanced interrogation.” As justification, the White House and the CIA joined Machiavelli, Marx, and Stalin in insisting that the end justifies the means. Lots of individuals bear responsibility for the horrors detailed in the Senate committee’s torture report. But if we are honest, that journey to the Dark Side was a collective failure—and sobering evidence of how fragile our principles really are.

We Are All Liars: The Confessions of Lance Armstrong

January 18, 2013

“You can pay me now, or you can pay me later”  This old adage comes to mind after having watched the first of two installments of Lance Armstrong’s confession to Oprah Winfrey last night: he had used performance enhancing drugs since 1995, including all seven of his Tour de France victories.

Lance is paying big-time now.  In light of the many years that he vehemently denied doping, the confession was incredible.  This is truly a sad story.  For Lance, of course, but more importantly, the sport of cycling, and beyond that, our faith in all heroes.

The “Lost Generation” is how the cycling racers of the last 20 or so years are being described.  We will never know who the truly best racers were during the time period 1990 to 2010.  All the time I spent listening to, reading about, and watching bicycle racing was the equivalent of watching pro wrestling: totally farcical and rigged.  The difference is that I think most of pro wrestling’s fans knew and accepted the farce!  We cycling fans were duped, pure and simple.

We wanted to be duped.  Lance’s story of coming back from cancer was incredibly compelling.  Some of us saw enough smoke several years ago to believe there was a fire.  I stopped wearing my yellow Livestrong bracelet about 2007 after I read David Walsh and Pierre Ballester’s LA Confidential.  That book, and the many other rumors and allegations flying about, pushed me over the edge.

Even so, it was still shocking to hear Lance last night.  The greatest sadness I have is for the human condition: how people can delude themselves so completely.  Lance confessed, not just to doping, but also to truly not thinking, at the time, that he was cheating.  A lie to the world that was as complete as Lance’s could not have been perpetrated unless he was totally duping himself.

It’s a type of schizophrenia, if you ask me.  All of us do this to a greater or lesser extent.  Yes, all of us.  The difference (or not) between Lance and the rest of us liars rests on a twofold continuum: first, the degree of self deceit; second, the impact on the rest of humanity.

The first continuum: we lie to ourselves out of fear, and our degree of fear determines the extent of our lie.  Lance has plenty of fears, perhaps the greatest of which was of being abandoned, as he was by his father at the age of two.

The second continuum: some liars may not affect many people, but some of us affect millions, as did Lance, including all those that believed in the miracle of his recovery, and the inspiration of his commitment to succeeding.

I am left to examine the lies I have told myself over the years, the fears that lie beneath them, and who I have hurt and disappointed.  That is the gift of Lance Armstrong’s confession for me.

Postscript: Lance’s troubles continue.  Travis Tygart, CEO of the US Anti-Doping Agency, told Sixty Minutes’ Scott Pelley that Lance was lying to Oprah about when he last used PEDs.  On February 6, 2013, federal prosecutors reopened the investigation they mysteriously closed a year ago.  Lance may face criminal charges of obstruction, witness tampering and intimidation.  Additionally, Lance faces civil suits that could cost him about $90 million, should the claimants prevail.

The Myth of Leadership, or, Who’s Driving This Bus?

March 20, 2012

Barbara Kellerman and Carl Jung share a unique view of leaders & followers.  Kellerman, a Harvard lecturer, and author of many books, including Followership, feels that leaders are largely at the mercy of their followers.  She proposes that a leader who does not pay attention to the types of followers in their organization is not likely to succeed in the long run.

Carl G. Jung, the noted Swiss psychiatrist, believed that hubris is the downfall of many a leader, and that the image of the mighty leader engaging the hearts and minds of doting followers is not reality.  He viewed organizations as he does individuals: as having a conscious and an unconscious, the latter having a powerful influence on behavior and outcomes.

Just as with individuals, organizational success is related to the willingness of the enterprise to acknowledge less evident, perhaps darker, forces, and strive to bring them to consciousness.

Let me add a third name to this list of opinions on leadership I respect: Adam Weinberg, past President and CEO of World Learning, an international nonprofit organization that runs exchange, education and leadership development programs in more than 75 countries.  Dr. Weinberg became President of Denison University in 2012.  I heard Mr. Weinberg speak at a luncheon in January of 2012.  His four main points:

  1. Rarely is leadership correctly defined.  Agreeing with Kellerman and Jung, Mr. Weinberg defines leadership in part by what it is not: an individual on a white horse leading the charge while yelling, “Follow me!”
  2. Everyone needs to be a leader.  At a minimum, we must lead ourselves through self-management.
  3. Institutions are rarely training individuals to be the leaders we need. For instance, leaders are rarely taught to be introspective, but how can you understand the values and needs of others if you do not deeply understand your own values and needs?
  4. Organizations are human creations, and thus the three preceding issues are creating institutions that are becoming less and less “leadable.”  The US congress – enough said.

I leave you with one of my favorite management quotes, attributed to Mahatma Gandhi, but probably first stated by A. A. Ledru-Rollin, a French politician of the 19th century:

“There go my people.  I must follow them, for I am their leader.”

Personal Factors in Leadership Success

September 26, 2011

When coaching leaders in the importance of

  • Engaging others in what they are trying to accomplish
  • Seeking the input of those who express contrary opinions
  • Earnestly understanding opposing points of view
  • Appreciating a different approach to problem solving

my words often fall on deaf ears.  Frequently, successful people believe their continued success depends upon rigid adherence to what they perceive has caused their achievements so far.  If command and control has been their ticket to success so far, they may have a difficult time understanding that changes in circumstance may render that style of leadership useless.

This is when I pull out a study done by Leadership Performance Systems, Inc. www.leadership-systems.com, The Relationship of Personal Qualities to Leadership Success.  While the study was done in 2003, the literature is only more emphatic today that building relationships with others is the key to leadership success.  The study synthesizes the data from over 800 articles on factors that contribute to leadership success or failure.

For many leaders, presenting them with clear and convincing data is the first step to changing their minds.  The chart below illustrates the results of this survey.  An example of the information contained in this study: the juxtaposition of how little “Technical Expertise” contributes to leadership success or failure, versus the significant the impact of “Relationship Building”.

The Relationship of Personal Qualities to Leadership Success

(Ranked by Derailment)

Percent Related

Percent Related

Behavior Cluster

to Success

to Derailment

Relationship Building
Caring, showing interest, fairness and trustworthy, understanding, displays empathy and vulnerability, seeks feedback

23.8%

45.3%

Self-Management
Career ambition, courage, adaptability, perseverance, self-awareness, time management, perspective taking, discernment, attention-focus, acts on feedback

16.7%

26.3%

Cognitive Complexity
Managing ambiguity and paradox, creativity, managing diversity and system complexity, seeks to understand unintended consequences

23.8%

10.5%

Technical Expertise
Functional skills, specific business acumen

5.9%

10.5%

Communication
Supportive, informing, confronting skills, presentations, writing clarity, demonstrates no pre-judgment, collaborative inquiry

16.4%

5.2%

Decisiveness
Action orientation, command skills, organizing, prioritizing, results orientation

13.4%

2.2%

Meta Competencies:

Flexibility – Ability to evaluate and adjust response.

Learning – Ability to learn from experience.

The Study:

In a study of 937 published research articles, an analysis is reported that indicates the percentage (%) of articles on topics related to success and failure in organizations.
Articles published in every major journal or bulletin since 1985 are included in the analysis.
Studies selected are listed in social sciences indexes related to leadership and management behavior.

Articles on Success Factors: n=683      Articles on Failure Factors: n=254

© 2003 Leadership Performance Systems, Inc. www.leadership-systems.com

Psychological Type in Our Family of Origin

August 26, 2010

A seven-year-old boy stood at the plate. The pitch came. He swung, missed, and was out – just like the other three times at bat that day. Combined with his errors in the field, it had not been a good day. Fighting back tears, he walked over to his Dad and said he wanted to go home. His Father obliged him, and as they walked to the car he said, “You aren’t very coordinated, so don’t waste your time at sports. You’d be better off focusing on your school work.” That little boy was me, and those words have impacted my life in ways I could never have imagined back then.

Looking ahead to the evening workshops I will present on September 20 and 27 this year, I wanted you to know that it was partly through a desire to understand my own childhood that I came to the work I do now.

Nature versus Nurture

Our nature, our genetic code, is locked in from the moment we are conceived, and reflects our evolution over the millennia. Carl Jung, the famous Swiss psychiatrist who died in 1961, believed that our personalities, our core psychological needs, were also locked in at birth.

Our nurture, our families of origin, our teachers, our coaches, our neighborhoods, our friends, etc., acts upon our nature. Together, nature and nurture meld to produce whom we become as unique individuals.

My father’s words, etched deeply in my memory, were nurture that ignored my nature.

Several years went by before I learned that I was actually coordinated, but that was long after the opportunity to learn team sports skills had passed. The realization that I was not inherently sports-challenged coincided with my awakening to my core need for physical activity, and a love of the outdoors. As I learned to satisfy this craving with various individual, often endurance, sports, I found myself better able to focus on more sedentary mental tasks, like schoolwork.

Seeking to Understand, and be Understood

As a young adult, I resolved to understand others, and not presume that what is good for me must be good for them. However, this resolution lacked an important step: I did not fully understand myself. Much of my young adult years were driven by a desire to prove my father wrong, as his assessment of my physical prowess was not his only criticism of me.

It was not until I was nearly forty years old that my journey to self-awareness began. My wife, Ginny, and her good friend, Ellie Byers, introduced me to the work of Isabelle Myers and Katherine Briggs and their effort to make the theories of Carl Jung accessible to people like me through the development of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator.

I was hooked. Understanding psychological type introduced me to the power of truly understanding myself and others. I introduced the employee-owners of the business I was privileged to lead in the 1990’s to this knowledge. I have used the power of understanding personality differences in every organization I have been involved with. Ginny and I have used this knowledge to appreciate how each member of our family has unique strengths and challenges, and how to blend these for the benefit of everyone.

I hope you will join me the last two Monday evenings in September to explore the world of personality type, and its benefits to all our social interactions. To learn more about the workshop, and to register, please click here. If you have questions, please call me at 802-734-1110 or email me.

Building Relationships By Leveraging Differences

August 6, 2010

As we go through our daily lives, who among us does not experience conflict?  As stated by the Centre for Conflict Resolution International, not all of us share the same needs, wants and expectations, so, of course, conflicts will occur… and conflict can be costly: to our relationships, to our productivity, and to our overall well-being.  However, within conflict lie opportunities for creativity, collaboration, and improvement.  As Doug Floyd says, “You don’t get harmony when everybody sings the same note.”

Over the years, I have helped many organizations and individuals communicate more effectively, resolve conflict and build strong teams using the work of Isabel Myers, Katherine Briggs and Carl Jung.  At the conclusion of most of my presentations on personality type, there are several in attendance who say they wish their husband/wife/significant other/son/daughter could have been there that day. If you are one of those individuals, or have otherwise expressed a desire to learn about personality type, you should sign up today for my workshop, “The Constructive Use of Personality Differences,” on two Monday evenings, September 20 and 27 from 6:00 to 9:00 pm in South Burlington, VT

The communication skills gained from the knowledge of personality type are applicable in all aspects of our lives: in the workplace, at home, in school, on the athletic field and in all social settings.  Ginny and I believe it has been our single greatest parenting tool as we navigate life with our children, now ages 20, 17 and 11.

In this interactive workshop, you will learn:

  • Your preferred manner for perceiving the world
  • Your preferred manner for acting upon your perceptions.
  • The preferences of other personality types.
  • How the understanding of these differences can help bridge communication gaps.
  • How the constructive use of differences can build strong and effective relationships with family members, friends, coworkers, customers, athletic team members – anyone you interact with.

Very importantly, this workshop is enjoyable, with many “Ah Ha!” moments.  I encourage you to invite friends and family to join you for this valuable workshop.  Children 16 years and older are invited, but they should be at a stage in their lives where they can interact comfortably with a diverse group, and focus well.  There will be opportunities to move around and engage in interesting exercises.  If you have questions about who should attend, or any other questions, please call me at 802-734-1110, or email me

The cost for the two evenings is $135 per person.  Additional family members are only $85.  Included in this price are all materials, including the Majors Personality Type Inventory®, the book, “Introduction to Personality Type,” and refreshments.

To register for this workshop, please click here

Trust your Gut?

May 8, 2010

How many times have you been advised to “Trust your gut?”  I read today that Scott Brown, the newly minted Senator from Massachusetts, told the graduating class at Nichols College that “…when you set a goal and everyone tells you that it cannot be done, if your gut tells you otherwise, then go with your gut.”  Sure, that’s easy for Senator Brown to say: he defied those who told him that he, a Republican, could never win the Senate seat left vacant by the passing of the iconic democrat, Ted Kennedy.

But what about those who have trusted their instincts and made the wrong decision – with sometimes disastrous results?  These folks are not always given a stage to tell others not to trust their guts!  There is something more to success than just trusting your gut.  Sometimes those who are telling you it cannot be done are right.

How do you know when your instincts are correct, and when they are not?  The confusion may lie in semantics.  What some may call their “instinct” is really a highly developed sense of reality developed from years of experience and study.  Decisions that emanate from such simmering wisdom may come so easily to experts that even they are unaware of all that lies behind their successful choices.

A talent is something that comes easily to someone, and can be so effortless that talented people are puzzled by the envy of others: doesn’t everyone do it this way?  Scott Brown has political talent that comes from years of experience: as a lawyer, as a town selectman, in the Massachusetts legislature, in the JAG Corp of the Massachusetts National Guard.

It was a disservice to those young minds in the audience at Nichols College for Scott Brown to tell them to simply trust their gut.  At an age when they desperately need the guidance of a mentor, Mr. Brown tells them to ignore the naysayers if their gut tells them otherwise.  On too many occasions, “trusting their gut” has ended tragically for high school and college age young adults.  This is because the prefrontal cortex, the “logic region” of our brain, does not fully develop until the mid-twenties for men, and a year or two earlier for women.

Malcolm Gladwell in Blink, and more recently in his January 18, 2010 article in The New Yorker “How Entrepreneurs Really Succeed,” talks about the myth of the successful risk taker.  Gladwell‘s research has shown that what really underlies success is hard work, the relentless search for facts, and the constantly sought advice of wise counsel.

Bad Habits: The Costs and The Benefits

February 4, 2010

“Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.”  James Baldwin

It is often easy to identify the costs associated with a bad habit.  Let’s take the example of overeating, and poor food/beverage choices.  A poor diet will put us at risk for:

  • Being overweight, even obese
  • Becoming diabetic
  • Heart disease
  • Certain kinds of cancer
  • Musculoskeletal problems
  • Early death

(and the list goes on…)

But why, in the face of so much information about the danger to one’s health and well-being, do we find it so hard to change our dietary habits?  Because there are actually benefits to not changing.  Let’s list some of the possible benefits of a poor diet:

  • Get to eat and drink whatever, whenever
  • Enjoy the pleasure of great tastes
  • Get to suppress other feelings
  • Mood elevation from consuming alcohol
  • Can use weight as an excuse not to be active

(and the list goes on…)

If we were looking at a seesaw, with COSTS seated on one side and BENEFITS seated on the other, we often will find that the benefits outweigh the costs.  As long as we perceive the benefits of poor diet to outweigh the costs, we are not motivated to change, despite evidence of serious long-term health problems.  What would cause the seesaw to tip the other way such that the costs out weigh the benefits?  How about a heart attack?  Or the diagnosis of diabetes?

The fact is, humans often do not face the need to change until the status quo is so bad that we absolutely have to change.  However, by delaying the change, the fix may no longer work (see opening quote).  Or the fix is not as effective as it would have been if it had been done sooner, before we are faced with our own mortality.  For example:

  • There is currently no cure for diabetes
  • After surviving a heart attack, the heart is never as strong as it was before the attack.

The example of our eating habits and our health is not, at its essence, different from other choices we make in our lives, or choices that organizations face every day.  In the long run, the choices we make, or don’t make, have great consequences.  The willingness to control change, rather than be controlled by change, is a key component of great leadership.  Do you need help identifying or implementing the change that is needed in your life or organization?  Contact Randy at randy@teamswork.biz.

Sources of Upset, Part Three: Thwarted Intention

January 26, 2010

This post is the last in a series about the three sources of upset between people.  The first two were:

  1. Withheld communications
  2. Unfulfilled expectations

The third source of upset, thwarted Intention occurs when we wish to take action and, for a variety of reasons, cannot do so.  Our inability to take intended action could originate with ourselves.  We could:

  • Lack the skills or knowledge to achieve our intended action
  • Not follow through with our intentions

Others could squash our intentions by intentionally or unintentionally blocking our action, perhaps replacing it with their own action.

Let’s look at how we thwart our own intentions.  Most often, we can avoid sabotaging ourselves with proper planning and forethought.  This includes asking such questions as:

  • Have we defined the task?   We often lack a clear objective or understanding of what it is we are setting out to do.
  • Do we have the right resources to accomplish the task as defined?  This includes having the necessary skills: yours and those of others assisting you.
  • Do we have the time to accomplish the task?
  • Do we have the will to see our intention to completion?

Once we are on the path to fulfill our intention, the ability to assess our progress and adjust our plan can help us to reach our goal.  Reassessment can include the decision to abandon our intention!  Be honest with yourself and ask: “If I continue on this course, what is the cost and probability of failure?  If I stop what I’m doing right now,  what is the cost to me, and how does it compare to the cost of continuing and failing?”  It can be painful to admit that you are not on the right path, but failure to consider even the harshest of options could result in greater pain and expense later.

Planning should also consider the potential reactions of other individuals and organizations, for they can also thwart our intentions.  A clear-eyed assessment of not just what others are doing, but what they will do in response to our actions, is important.

Referencing the four temperaments described in the preceeding post on unfulfilled expectations, you can see that individuals will be successful or challenged by what is described above, depending on their core psychological needs.  For instance:

Improvisers:

  1. Will be quick to take action, but such haste may lack proper planning and thus jeopardize a successful outcome.
  2. Are cool-headed and tactical.  They often find solutions to problems that seem insurmountable to others.
  3. Can be perceptive about what is happening in the moment.  They are usually flexible, and can use flexibility and awareness to adjust their solution or quickly abandon a doomed intention.
  4. May have such a focus on the moment that they miss the bigger picture and what lies ahead.
  5. Can be good negotiators with others who stand in the way of their intention.

Stabilizers:

  1. Will not proceed with action until they have analyzed what past experience says they should do.  They seek a clear, logical plan to follow.
  2. Are skilled at keeping the plan on track, bringing the right resources to bear on the process.  May hunker down and apply the rules more rigorously when faced with obstacles.
  3. Are usually very aware of the here and now, yet may be so focused on the plan and the rules as to be slow in adjusting to new information.
  4. Focus on tradition, thus their view of the future might be based upon what the past says is likely to happen.
  5. May react to others who block their intentions with rigid resistance, not flexible negotiation.

Theorists:

  1. Are often quick to strategize a plan, and quick to put their plan into action.
  2. Anticipate obstacles and ways to surmount them.  Alternatively, they may try to roll right over obstacles.
  3. Can be persuaded to change or abandon their strategy if new and trusted information comes to light.
  4. Focus on the outcome, and may not attend to the details of the plan.
  5. May appear ruthless to those who get in the way of their plans.  Others may perceive them as visionary.

Catalysts:

  1. Create a plan ranging from vague to detailed, but they are not likely to act until they have buy-in from others.
  2. Diplomatically seek a solution that includes everyone’s input and, ideally, agreement, when faced with an obstacle.
  3. Are generally very tuned into the mood and needs of the group, thus are able to shepherd others in an effort to achieve a goal.
  4. Focus on the process, and the meaning and significance of the intention.
  5. Can shift from inclusion to intensity if the values of the catalyst are threatened or disregarded.  In the extreme, think of a mama bear protecting her young.

As I concluded this three-part series on the three causes of upset, let me rhetorically ask, “Why?”  My answer: because only when we understand what underlies our emotions, our anger, our happiness, our sadness, etc., can we gain control over those feelings.  By understanding the cause of our emotions, we are taking the first step toward promoting those that are productive, and changing those that are not productive.  As we gain control over our feelings, we can begin to understand the emotions of others.  Our empathic understanding of others can then be used to help them gain control over their emotions.  Thus, the foundation has is laid for more satisfying relationships at home, at work, and in all social settings.