Why We (Over) Celebrate the United States of America

flag-fireworks1From time to time, we travel to Europe on vacation. We enjoy their way of life and their respect for their history. They have managed to create a modern economy while maintaining their local and national customs. In some sense, it harkens back to an earlier time – at least for me.

Unlike most European cultures, we Americans don’t have centuries of tradition. Perhaps that’s why our celebrations – such as the 4th of July – tend to be loud, boisterous and overwrought.

America hasn’t been around that long and the waves of immigrants that have come here Continue reading “Why We (Over) Celebrate the United States of America”

The ‘Cure’ for lousy customer service

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I know it’s foolish to walk into one of Rochester’s most popular restaurants without a reservation on a Saturday night. But, we did it anyway; and, in addition to enjoying a great meal, it turned out to be a great lesson in how to cure the customer service ills that infect many companies.

I’ve been on a rant about lousy service lately. First, there was my experience with American Airlines (F-Bombs over Charlotte), followed by my open letter to the CEO of Delta. I got lots of responses to these posts, many of which brought to mind that it isn’t just major airlines that are afflicted with this disease.

Throughout, I have espoused a model of empowering employees first outlined for me by my good friend Cara Holland (Great Thinkers Who Are Also Great Leaders). It goes like Continue reading “The ‘Cure’ for lousy customer service”

An Open Letter to the CEO of Delta Airlines

Delta-AirLines-7

Dear Mr. Bastian,

Don’t worry. I haven’t been dragged off one of your planes by my hair or contracted an unheard-of, respiratory ailment through the ventilation system of one of your airplanes. Nor am I writing to complain about high fares or unbundled pricing. We consumers have made our own beds – always sorting by low price – and now must lie in it.

In fact, my last trip on your airline was almost pleasant because I paid extra to sit in an exit row. No, I am not writing to complain about my round-trip flight to Atlanta. I am Continue reading “An Open Letter to the CEO of Delta Airlines”

From the Birdbath and Back Again

1218_zoomEd Binkerd has died. He was 78 years old.

You’ve probably never heard of him and the death of someone his age is not remarkable in and of itself. But, Ed was a remarkable man — remarkable for his warmth, remarkable for his generosity of spirit, and remarkable for his charm and wit.

I first met him aboard the Bottom Line, a yacht whose owner has hosted many for an evening cruise or dinner on Fort Lauderdale’s Intracoastal Waterway. There was something about his ramblings and intermittent chuckling that caught my attention. He wasn’t just entertaining; he was intelligent, warm and funny.

He was “between opportunities” as we say of professionals on the hunt for a job. Soon Continue reading “From the Birdbath and Back Again”

Retrofitting Conscious Capitalism

 

The Conscious Capitalism movement made a big splash last week in our small city. A half-day conference featuring a keynote by Trader Joe’s founder Doug Rauch attracted over 100 local business leaders. The appeal to make business decisions in the context of community needs is long overdue.

Those of us raised in a business culture characterized by a focus on bottom line results to the exclusion of all else are having our consciousness raised. We must retrofit a new way of doing business or face consistent societal pressure for government to further regulate business activities.

Most often, companies wishing to burnish their brand donate to charities and participate in highly visible community activities. The public relations benefit is undeniable but the Continue reading “Retrofitting Conscious Capitalism”

The Governor’s Budget vs. the Free Market

jeffersonquoteIn the tug of war between the welfare state and free market capitalism, New York’s recently passed budget represents a setback for the free market. Wrapped around the promise of free college tuition for the middle class, the budget adds a new entitlement to an already overtaxed economy. Programs like free tuition, family leave and minimum wage increases all add to the cost of doing business in New York, a state that has relied on Wall Street employment to bolster job growth and tax revenue as the upstate economy flounders.

The governor seems to be unaware of the connection between his policies and a Continue reading “The Governor’s Budget vs. the Free Market”

Great thinkers who are also great leaders

The title of Robert Kelley’s piece in the New York Times was “Not Leadership Material? the_thinker1Good! The World Needs Followers.” I had to read it.

Kelley makes some excellent points about high school students feeling compelled to demonstrate that they are great leaders or risk not being accepted to their college of choice. He argues that great thinkers who are not leaders are being screened out of colleges that should embrace them. With a shortage of scientists, engineers, and mathematicians extant and projected to grow for the foreseeable future, it strikes me that we should take Kelley’s point of view seriously.

But, there was something else that occurred to me while reading the article: it’s not a Continue reading “Great thinkers who are also great leaders”

4 things you must do in your new leadership role

New-managerI remember sitting in the company cafeteria out in Denver, commiserating with a colleague. Our view of the Rocky Mountains was fabulous. Our view of our corporate careers… not so much!

Distributed computer networks enabled big companies to get reports on how operations were performing. Senior management reasoned they no longer needed middle managers to evaluate and provide status reports. The big box model was in! General management skills and leadership were no longer Continue reading “4 things you must do in your new leadership role”

F-Bombs over Charlotte     

“I can’t believe you’re changing planes in Charlotte.”fullsizeoutput_e1a

That was the last thing my wife said to me as I packed my car to head for the airport. She had spent a very frustrating evening in said airport while the rest of the family celebrated our son’s graduation from college. But that was 20 years ago.

As it turns out, some things don’t change.

A mid-afternoon hailstorm had closed Charlotte’s airport for two hours. So, my 10 p.m. flight to Fort Lauderdale was delayed two hours – just like everyone else’s. My fellow passengers and I settled in for an uncomfortable wait, trusting that the chaos would dissolve into some semblance of order.

If only…

We sat glumly as the posted departure time deteriorated from 12:10 a.m. to 12:20 a.m. to 12:45 a.m. to 1:15 a.m. and so on. If you’ve been through this (and who hasn’t?), you know what’s most frustrating is that the airline staff rarely tells you what’s going on.

Around 1 a.m., an overhead announcement let us know that a limited supply of cots was Continue reading “F-Bombs over Charlotte     “

How companies can become good neighbors

communitarian-society-7-638I long for the days when executives said their people were their most important assets and really meant it. When I worked for a global corporation in the 1970’s, I was somehow convinced that was so.

By the late 1980’s, I felt a tremor beneath my feet. Shifts in technology, international trade relationships and the U.S. tax code changed the game. Automation meant companies could produce more with fewer people. Continue reading “How companies can become good neighbors”