5.15.2023 – you call a meeting

you call a meeting
no one shows up, probably
you’re not a leader

As quoted in the article, Back-to-Office Battles Underscore a Change in Workplace Authority by Stefan Stern (New York Times – May 11, 2023).

The article has the blurb: As workers push back on mandates, business leaders are wrestling with a new, post-pandemic identity.

As you might guess, the article deals with the all important topic of how to deal with an out of the office work force when you have an in-the-office leader mentality.

Most folks feel that work-from-home started with the recent pandemic in 2020.

I started managing a corporate website in 1995.

I started working from home in 1995.

Sure, I was in the office Monday through Friday, 9 to 5, but I was aware of the website 24×7, 365.

Still am.

The recent article however focuses on adjustments for management for today with the number of workers who still work but work from home full time or at least 2 or 3 days of the work week.

Much like the tree falling noiselessly in an empty forest, do workers working away from an empty office really work?

And if workers are working or aren’t working, how do leaders lead?

The article goes on to quote a Terri Kelly who had discussion with a Mr. Gary Hamel who is billed as a “management guru”.

Ms. Kelly was quoting an associate.

Being transparent here, I didn’t realize this got so complicated.

I mean here is my passage in question:

Ultimately, leadership authority is granted by willing followers. Terri Kelly, who led the textiles and high-tech firm WL Gore for 13 years, until 2018, put it best in a discussion with the management guru Gary Hamel in 2010: “One of my associates said, ‘If you call a meeting, and no one shows up, you’re probably not a leader, because no one is willing to follow you.

Anyway, this associate of Ms. Kelly was quoted by Ms. Kelly in a discussion with Mr. Hamel as saying, “If you call a meeting, and no one shows up, you’re probably not a leader, because no one is willing to follow you.”

While this is all in reference to today’s post pandemic workplace, the quote is referenced back … to 2010.

Ultimately, leadership authority is granted by willing followers.

That seems to go back a lot further than 2010.

3.31.2023 – that it could be worse …

that it could be worse …
does this knowledge hurt or help
get you through your day

I have long held that listening to an online digital radio station from London helps me get through my workday.

See, as London is 4 or 5 hours ahead of us (depending on the season) by listening to this station, I know that, somewhere in this world, someone has already made it through the next 4 or 5 hours.

Lately I really can’t complain as I have a pretty cool job that has me working in a place where I can stroll on the beach along the Atlantic Ocean on my lunch break.

But there was time when besides having to be available 24×7, I also felt that anytime I picked up the phone I could be fired for no other reason than that I COULD be fired (and one day, that call came … come to think of it, the same place called me twice … its a long story).

It made for a great work environment.

I did know, even then, there were worse jobs but that never really made me feel better.

Maybe that was because I never knew how much worse a job could get.

Yesterday I happened to researching the horse drawn carriage tours that are available in Beaufort (or Beaufort by the Sea as they like to call it) South Carolina and I came across this bit of descriptive text.

First it says, “Re-live the past through the narration of our professional guides and the clippity-clop of our horses …

Then to reassure any and all of those concerned about those horses that clippity-clop, the descriptive text goes on to describe the care of those horses.

It says, “When the horses are working, each horse is individually monitored no matter the weather conditions.

During a hot summer day their temperature is taken rectally at the beginning of the day, the start of the tour, and after each tour.

Their respiration is taken at the same time as their temperature.

If an individual horse goes up by 3 degrees then we do not allow them to go out on tour until their temperature drops to their normal rate.

If their respiration goes up, they are not allowed to go out until they have dropped to within a safe range.”

While I was happy to learn the care and comfort of these poor animals was high on the list of the people who conduct these tours, this text revealed an aspect of horse care and clippity-clop buggy rides that I had not thought of.

That maybe I wish I had NOT thought of.

Good to know.

But something, maybe I didn’t need to know.

And as for the process …

Well, let’s just say, it’s not my circus.

And I am glad for the job I have.

And they next time I got the go-to-work blues, I will say to myself, “Well, I don’t have to …”

10.27.2022 – there’s a collective

there’s a collective
that whole machine all making
each other’s money

In the article, Deranged diners, inflation and staff shortages: American restaurants are struggling, by Rachel Sugar, Ms. Sugar writes:

“It really does change the way the restaurant works,” says Sophie, 30, a longtime server at a casual fine-dining restaurant in Lower Manhattan, who estimates that about a third of people working front of house are new since the pandemic.

(To speak freely, she asked to be identified by her first name only.) “It changes the culture.” It is perhaps less united that it used to be, divided by default into an old guard and a new guard, “which is kind of the opposite of what I would want in a restaurant culture, which would be solidarity and inclusivity”, she says.

Jones, a classical cellist by training, likens restaurants to orchestras. “There’s all these components, but there’s a collective as well,” he says. “That whole machine is what is able to accomplish things. No one part is more important.”

Or as Sophie, whose restaurant pools tips, puts it, less romantically: “We’re all making each other’s money.

9.25.2022 – bring your whole self to

bring your whole self to
work fully show up ourselves
to be truly seen

According to an article I just read, the latest trend in Human Resources — say that out loud and ask yourself what exactly was wrong with the term, personnel — anyway … the latest trend in HR is Bring Your Whole Self to Work which means being able “to fully show up” and “allow ourselves to be truly seen” in the workplace because it’s “essential” to create a work environment “where people feel safe enough to bring all of who they are to work.”

Thankfully the article, Do Not Bring Your ‘Whole Self’ to Work, a New York Times Opinion piece by Pamela Paul, rejects the concept.

As I understand, the point is to get people excited about being back in a common workplace about almost 3 years of covid and working from home.

Ms. Paul writes, ‘But “bringing your whole self to work” is a cheap benefit — easier for employers to provide than, say, a raise — and one vague enough to be largely meaningless.

Nor is it available to the majority of the American work force.

Nobody is asking a line worker or customer service representative to add more personal vulnerability to the enterprise.

For most gainfully employed people, it’s not work’s job to provide self-fulfillment or self-actualization.

It’s to put food on the table.’

You have to love vague enough to be largely meaningless.

It a way it was almost comforting to learn that after almost 3 years of covid, HR has not moved away from Office Space or Dilbert/

I am human.

I am a resource.

Should be good enough.

7.11.2023 – place the accent on

place the accent on
wrong letter, you’re going to
mispronounce the word

New York City Mayor Eric Adams was quoted in the article, Eric Adams, the Mayor Who Never Sleeps, by columnist Maureen O’Dowd in this passage:

“If you place the accent on the wrong letter, you’re going to mispronounce the word,” Adams said. “If you place the accent on the wrong moment in your life, you’re going to mispronounce your life. Place it on how many times you got on the train and nothing happened to you. Nothing eventful. That’s where the accent should go, not ‘Hey, this is my 900th ride and you know what, I saw a homeless person today. Oh my God, things are out of control.’ They’re not.”

I spent 20 years working in television news.

Working with a dedicated bunch of people who worked daily, hourly, to identify the accent marks that would mark the moments in peoples lives that would set the pronunciation of those lives.

It struck me, reading this quote, that a word gets one point, one part of a word, that is accented.

As the Mayor said, where that accent goes, can determine the meaning of the word.

Where the accent goes can determine the meaning of your life?



Too simplistic?

I am not so sure.

Right now it is hard to not point a finger at covid and say this is where the accent is in my life.

At least, in my life right now.

Over the years, where is that accent?

Do I choose the place or was the place chosen for me and all other changes and consequences in my life descend from that point?

I think I have told the story of how I wanted to be history teacher.

In college, working with an advisor, I had my course of study from a BA through to an MA all laid out.

I needed a foreign language and after three years of high school Latin, my advisor agreed that Latin was the path for me.

On the first day of college Latin 101, I had to fill out an index card with my name and overview of my Latin background.

The second day, someone from the Latin department stood if front of the class and read out six names, mine included and asked us to step out in the hall.

We were told that after a review of our cards, we were being offered an accelerated version of Latin 101 and 102 which would enable us to meet our 2 years of foreign language requirement in just one and a half years.

It was just an offer and we did not have to take but it would allow us to take another elective should we take the accelerated class.

Without thinking too much about, I took the offer.

The impact was far reaching as this knocked over the house of cards that was my carefully scripted course of study to an MA and it brought about this and that and another thing and in the end I spent 20 years working in the news business instead of a career in teaching history.

Is it that moment when my name was read out loud in a classroom in Angell Hall in Ann Arbor, Michigan and I was asked to step out in the hall the place in my life where the accent mark goes?

My life certainly changed.

I took another path.

A path less traveled on a snowy night with miles to go before I could sleep.

But I didn’t know it at the time.

Much more would happen in my life.

Still, the question remains, was that moment in the hall the place in my life where the accent mark goes?

I guess, only if I want it to.

Maybe really, in the long run, the long view, I stepped out into that hall and nothing happened to me.

Nothing eventful.

Things did not go out of control.

Things were not out of control.

Because they were not.

Nothing happened at all.

2.6.2021- week ends in weekends

week ends in weekends
curtain falls over weekdays
clock stops two days off

Henry Ford did not invent the automobile.

Indeed (love saying that in this context – I will say it again) Indeed, such an authority as the United States Library of Congress says “This question [who invented the automobile] does not have a straightforward answer. The history of the automobile is very rich and dates back to the 15th century when Leonardo da Vinci was creating designs and models for transport vehicles.”

The the LOC more or less credits Karl Benz with inventing the gasoline powered combustible engine self powered vehicle that he named after his daughter, Mercedes.

That being said, who can forget the tableau of young Henry Ford working on his first cylinder in the kitchen of his Dearborn, Michigan home.

Baby Edsel in his cradle in the corner.

Wife Clara holding a wire next to a battery.

And Henry with a paper funnel feeding a drop of gasoline into his homemade cylinder with a single piston ring loaded into it.

Henry squeezes the eyedropper.

The gasoline drops.

Henry yells NOW and Clara touches the wire to the battery.

And BANG, the piston is shot out of the cylinder across the kitchen.


Who can forget that?

Henry Ford did not invent the assembly line.

Eli Whitney of cotton gin fame is given credit for that.

But you have to give Ford credit from creating the worlds greatest version of the vertically AND horizontally integrated corporation based on the assembly line where sand, iron ore and raw rubber came into one end of the Rouge River Plant in Dearborn Michigan and Model T Ford cars came out the other end.

Henry Ford in 1914 DID create the $5 day.

In an era where car companies were raiding each others work force for skilled workers, Ford cleared the table by doubling wages.

This move created the middle class and a market for his cars.

This move created Detroit that at one time would be the 5th largest city in America with a population over 2 million.

This move created the The Southern Diaspora, the Great Migrations of Black and White Southerners to the north.

Then in 1926, Henry Ford created the weekend.

According to Wikipedia, “In 1926, Henry Ford standardized on a five-day workweek, instead of the prevalent six days, without reducing employees’ pay.”

Understand this was not just in his factories but in the Ford offices as well.

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, weekend, as the period from Saturday to Monday during which business is suspended and shops are closed first appeared in print in the London Times in 1913 (Times 13 Sept. 17/3) with the line, “The Money Market was steady with a fair demand for advances over the week-end at about previous rates.”

In the show, Downton Abby, the Dowager Countess, (ain’t that a title to hope for) hear’s the term used and questions outloud, “Week … End?”

I love Downton Abby and all that I learned about the British Aristocracy.

It dovetails so nice with what I learned watching the movie Gosford Park and reading the book, Snobs.

In fact all the inside looks of those hoity toity Brits that you get from these sources paint a pretty standard picture.

Then I realize that Julian Fellowes wrote all of the them.

As an aside, Snobs is worth the weekend fun read if just for a look at what Downtown Abby might be like today.

So why all this on weekends?

My first job was in retail in a mall bookstore.

I stayed with that bookstore for years.

I loved that bookstore but working retail meant working weekends.

From the bookstore I moved over to working for the library.

And that meant working weekends.

Then I got a job with a publisher running their corporate library and fact checking.

I was in a 9 to 5 job with the publisher – (notice a theme here? – bookstore – library – publisher?) and for the first time in my life in years I had a weekend.

The the publisher asked me to take over, design and manage their corporate website.

Websites run 24x7x365 or in other words, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.

While I technically did not ‘WORK’ on weekends, if there were website issues I was expected to take care of them.

Oh forget that, I wanted to take care of them.

I adopted the Vidal Sassoon motto of ‘If You don’t look good, We don’t look good.” and applied to myself and the website I was responsible for.

And there went my weekend.

Then I started on a 20 year career of Online News.

As I was fond of saying, the urgency of news with the immediacy of web.

Combine that with my ‘Dutch Work Ethic’.

My wife will tell you that from the day I started in News, I worked 24x7x365 even if was vacation.

To make matters worse, in the early part of my career I worked at one TV News Station and worried about one website.

Then I was bumped up to the corporate level and worried about 60 TV stations on 4 networks in 4 different time zones.

Like the man said in Chariots of Fire, “But a short sprint is run on nerves. It’s tailor-made for neurotics.”

Then overnight it changed.

I am still working in the online but for a site that doesn’t change on a whim of the weather or a tweet.

The system the website lives on is as reliable as any system you can ask for.

And when my Boss says have a good weekend on Friday night, he does not expect to talk to me until Monday morning.

It is an adjustment.

It is wonderful but still feels strange.

I am still getting used to it.

I am reminded on the scene in the movie Cool Hand Luke.

Luke encourages all the members of the road gang to work harder, work faster and use up on the materials on hand for road building.

Luke gets the crew to finish up all the available work before half the work day is done.

“What do we do now?’ they ask Luke.

Luke smiles and looks at the crew.


3.22.2020 – God goes to Starbucks

God goes to Starbucks
gets a flat white and sits down
at hand to talk to

I was sitting at Starbucks the other day when a barrista held up a cup of coffee and yelled out, “God – Flat White? … God? – Flat White?”

Feller in a nice suit raised his hand and came forward and took the cup.

He turned and looked at me, caught my eye and gestured at the empty seat at my table.

I said, “Please.”

And he sat down.

Hard to explain but it came to me that, somehow, someway, God was sitting there with me, sharing a cup of coffee.

We chatted for a moment, the weather, sports and such.

While we chatted I searched my brain for something I could say that would be meaningful or at least not completely stupid.

There was a pause in the conversation and He said to me, “So tell me Mike, how are things going.

I had not told him my name.

I searched through my years in Sunday School, Church and reading the Bible and other books.

I looked at God and I said, “Not bad”

Then I said,

“I wish I was a better disciple.”

He looked at me for a good long minute, nodding his head.

“Well, you know the rules right?”

“Deny myself,” as I sat there with a $5 cup of coffee.

He nodded.

“Pick up my cross”

“And follow me,” He finished.

He nodded.

I nodded.

And I got emboldened.

Maybe recklessly emboldened.

“But,” I said, “That Cross. Lately, I am sorry, but that Cross has been too heavy.”

“Carrying it is too hard”

Boy was I surprised.

“No problem,” He said,

“We get a lot of that. Come with me.”

The next thing I knew we were at like a returns counter at Walmart.

On my back was this heavy, heavy Cross.

“Got a return here,” He said to the people behind the desk.

They all seemed to know him.

They came out from behind the desk and helped me unstrap the Cross on my back.

They took the Cross and put it on a little conveyor belt and it disappeared into a hole in the wall.

He took a sip of his coffee and said, “Now, come with me.”

He had this voice that I can only describe as ‘cool.’

We turned and there behind us was the Walmart of Crosses.

Aisles and Aisles.

Racks and racks.

“Try one on,” He said.

And I did.

It didn’t fit and I tried a another.

I tried tall ones, fat ones, red ones, blues ones, heavy ones and fragile ones.

I tried them all on so it seemed.

He was very patient.

He had ordered a trenta Flat White and continued to sip as I searched.

Finally, and I mean FINALLY, I found this Cross on a rack.

I took it down and got the straps over my shoulders and tightened them up across my chest.

I took the straps in my hands with my thumbs under the straps and felt the heft of the Cross.

I bounced up and down on my toes, flexed my knees.

Took a few steps back and forth.

This Cross fit.

Fit like it was made for me.

“This one,” I said.

“This is the one”

“This is the one I can handle.”

He nodded.

“Mike,” he said,

He took a sip.


“That’s the one you came in with.”

2.21.2020 – Puzzle of Puzzles

Puzzle of Puzzles
Puzzled and Puzzled until
my puzzler was sore

Some one went out and bought 10 jigsaw puzzles.

All the boxes were opened and the pieces were dumped into one large tub and mixed and shaken into a real mess.

I was given the 10 box covers and all the pieces were dumped on me and I was told to fix the mess.

What do I next?

Where to start?

Someone might sort out all the pieces. Can’t do anything until there is some semblance of order to this mess.

Someone might say study all the covers and select the cover photo that looks the easiest and most identifialbe and start looking for those pieces.

I did not say that the cover photo that is the most identifiable is the easiest puzzle because one of the puzzles is titled FINANCES. You can see all these pieces because each and everyone is black. Easy to get all these pieces together in one pile. Near impossible to assemble the puzzle.

Someone might say, just dig in and start putting pieces together. Look for the edges and at least get the frame of each puzzle can be assembled.

Where to start.

Where to find the energy to start.

Where to find the energy to WANT to start.

Easier to find reasons to not start than to dig in.

I looked at the puzzle of puzzles and I puzzled and puzzed until my puzzler was sore.

I was sore as well.

Not much was getting done.

In the new book, War and Peace: FDR’s Final Odyssey: D-Day to Yalta, 1943–1945, I ran across a story told by General Eisenhower the other day, quoting Mr. Churchill.

I had never heard this quote before and according to the footnote, the author Nigel Hamilton, credits it to an Draft Memoir in the Eisenhower Library.

Ike wrote about Churchill: “When “fired up about a strategic project, logistics did not exist for him,” Eisenhower reflected, “the combat troops just floated forward over and around obstacles—nothing was difficult.

Once I charged him with this habit, saying, ‘Prime Minister, when you want to do something you dismiss logistics with a wave of your hand,’” but when disliking a proposal, he would list so many “‘logistic difficulties’” he would “effectively discourage any unwary listener.”

The Prime Minister “looked at me with a twinkle in his eye,” Eisenhower remembered, replying candidly: “‘It does make a difference whether your heart is in a project, doesn’t it?'”

It does make a difference whether your heart is in a project, doesn’t it?

That’s pretty good.

My heart is IN this project.

I can do this.

I can sort out this mess.

I WILL sort out this mess.

Now get in here and help me.

You go for the black pieces while I work on edges.

1.16.2020 – working life tunnel

working life tunnel
enter on Monday, no daylight
until next Friday

If I think my week of working is something to complain about I know I should contemplate a life without work.

That being said, I will complain about my week of working.

Wikipedia says that, “Job satisfaction or employee satisfaction is a measure of workers’ contentedness with their job, whether or not they like the job or individual aspects or facets of jobs, such as nature of work or supervision.”

If I go down that path, I start looking at all the ways my ‘job’ is lacking.

Poised on the abyss of a pity party, I hear myself say, “What dog peed on your toast today?”

Laughter, at myself as it does so often, comes to the rescue.

I GOT a job.

I get a paycheck.

I perform my job at a level of satisfaction to myself.

I do go home at night.

I just visit this tunnel of a work week.

I am not saying that Job Satisfaction is good to have.

It is out there.

It is possible.

But what is it?

I ask whose job is it to make my job happy?

Are they not doing their job?

All things considered, when I think about what my paycheck makes possible, I AM content with my job.

I can be satisfied with that.

I can enter that tunnel.

I can get through that tunnel.

I get out of that tunnel.

And if I get down in the dumps over my job, I just have to think about a dog raising its leg over my toast to make me laugh.

PS – I repurposed (stole) the Dog Peed on Your Toast line from Garrison Keillor.

November 21 – that awful question

that awful question
each morning, again at noon
what is in my lunch?

Before we begin let me say that I understand that the ‘awful question’ I will be discussing would be a welcome issue in much of the United States and the world for that matter.

That being said, it is an awful question.

I question I face each work day and have faced since about 1972 when I started bringing my lunch with me to Riverside Junior High School.

Not, “What is for lunch?”

But, “What is in my lunch?”

I make and pack my own lunch each morning.

I dread it.

For one thing, coffee is about the only thing I want when I get up.

Coffee is about the only thing that my stomach will stomach.

There was a time when my favorite breakfast was an ice cream sandwich.

There was a glorious period in history when Oreo Ice Cream sandwiches were available.

At my age, that just doesn’t seem appropriate, so coffee it is.

How then, with food not something I want to think about, can I make a lunch?

I watch the clock and as the minutes run out of morning, I say to myself, “Got to do it!”

At this point, all I want is to get this over with.

What is the fastest sandwich I can make?

I check the fridge.

Any cold cuts?


Any packable fruit?

I make an uninspired sandwich as quickly as I can.

I start with and empty cold cut container to hold the sandwich.

We save these containers and their lids for leftovers and such.

I like these better than a baggie as I have eaten too many peanut butter sandwiches that have been squashed flat.

I take the empty container and toss in a piece of bread.

Then I drop a slice of cold cuts or cheese or cold cuts and cheese or maybe spread peanut butter on it.

Then another piece of bread on top and snap on the lid.

The sandwich is done and in the lunch bag.

Now the chips or pretzels or maybe, if I am really lucky, some oreos which I put into another plastic container and into the lunch bag.

Is there any fruit?

An apple, orange or banana?

If the oranges are clementines, I pack 2.

If its a banana, I have to think if its edible.

I have to ask that question because my wife likes bananas to be light green and chewy

How she can eat an unripe banana is beyond me.

There are some days when we have leftovers.

A container of lasagna or chicken alfredo is more than lunch, its a relief that I don’t have to make anything.

Often at dinner the night before, I get excited when I see that there are leftovers for my lunch.

I will be sitting with my coffee and watching the clock move and say to myself, lunch is ready to be packed up, and I sit for one more minute with a smile for my good fortune.

I slide the container in my lunch bag.

Wrap a fork in napkin.

A plastic fork?


That just isn’t right is it.

I drop the fork into the lunch bag and seal up the Velcro flap.

Lunch is packed in my back pack.

That should clear up any mystery as to what is in my lunch bag each day but, for me, the question still nags at me.

When lunch time rolls around, which is 11AM for me, I still ask myself, “What’s in my lunch?”

I am hungry now and hopeful.

Even though, I know the answer.

I am reminded of the summer when my brother, Tim, worked in construction.

He needed at least three sandwiches a day.

But he couldn’t stand the thought of, one, having to make them, and, two, knowing what was in his lunch.

Not that he was any master of the kitchen.

I have a memory of him standing in the kitchen holding an empty water pitcher and a can of instant powdered lemonade and saying to me, “do you know how to make this?”

Anyway, my brother Tim started paying my brother Pete a dollar a day to make his sandwiches.

That lasted until there was an argument over the selection of sandwiches.

Tim wanted them all different,

Pete felt that a ham sandwich with a slice of cheese WAS different from a cheese sandwich with a slice of ham.

I understand what Tim wanted.

I know what is in my lunch.

Maybe that is why it is such an awful question.