Problems, Compromise and Consensus

“Leaders who get team members to solve their own problems are making a sound investment that will pay off with many benefits: their team members will become less dependent on them, more self–directing, more self-sufficient, and more capable of solving problems on their own.”

― Thomas Gordon

Back before the mid-80’s, employees were routinely told what, when and how to do their job assignments, without question; those that asked “why” were considered troublemakers, their “why” challenged established hierachal authority – managers/employers know best, that’s why they are. But by the early 90’s it was a time when companies began to realize that their employees where better educated and had more life experiences than the previous generation of workers, that the new generation wasn’t content to be just worker drones, they wanted to have a say in how they performed their jobs and in the work environment, and also had ideas about how to improve the company’s performance. 

Many companies and government agencies, recognizing the talent they had working for them, started hiring consultants to teach selected in-house employees who would then, in turn, teach both management and labor in how to have productive meetings (structure and order) and effectively communicate (one example: using “I” statements – “I think/feel” – and not “you” statements – the blame game), how to problem-solve, and then facilitate (as neutral moderators and resource personnel) small problem-solving groups (“teams”) that included employees and managers in every department, who met weekly to achieve a win-win solution – employee job satisfaction and the business’ bottom line – by identifying and solving problems that impact both.

For five years I was one of those in-house “facilitators” who coordinated a dozen such team’s efforts. 

I say five years, because that’s when I gave up trying. It wasn’t because I wasn’t up to the task, it wasn’t because everyone failed to grasp and apply the concepts I taught them. It was because the task itself ultimately became unmanageable. The initial enthusiasm by both managers and employees, and success by the teams – in time – gave way to partisan interests, management wanting team employees to work more on the bottom line, and employee members wanting to focus more on how to make their work more personally satisfying. A new problem arose, both sides forgetting that when both’s interests coincided, no one loses, both win. Once both sides discovered the other’s agenda was reverting to one-sided interests, and insistence on it, they both lost sight of their common goal and a solution became unachievable. In the end, whatever progress had been made came to naught and things went back to the way they were prior. It was a problem I couldn’t fix, you can’t make people cooperate or work selflessly. It was to be an on-going process, but became a failed program. I shut it down.

Shame, really. Because its tenets are valid and its techniques really can work. What I learned, what I taught, can be applied to any interpersonal situation. You can solve your individual problems by doing whatever makes you happy. But if it also involves others, I guarantee you, together you can resolve most mutual problems if you and they set aside self-serving interests and work towards a common, win-win goal:

The first thing to understand is that sometimes there is no way around a problem, some things “just are”, such is life, but there may be a way to mitigate the problem, make it more palatable, and that a partial solution to its cause is better than none. But most problems can be resolved in a way that meaningful changes can be effected.

• There’s never a problem when eveyone is happy with their job and the company is profiting. When something either isn’t working, or not working the way it was intended or wanted, there’s a problem somewhere.

• Brainstorm and reach a consensus of just what the real problem is.

• Once identified, the opposite is what is wanted, the goal – problem eliminated.

• Brainstorm and identify all possible causes to the problem, that is keeping you from your goal, focusing finally on a consensus on the probable primary cause.

• Brainstorm all possible alternative solutions to eliminate or mitigate the primary cause, choosing by consensus the best solution.

• Implement the solution. If it doesn’t attain your goal, start over until the problem is resolved and you attain your goal.

Just remember, problems don’t have solutions, problems have causes; you need solutions to the causes.

And remember, when brainstorming, keep an eye on your responses. They may be more about you and your wishes than what might be the real issue.

Maybe the real issue is actually you and what you want, selfishly, and not what is best for everyone involved.

Strive for compromise and consensus. It’s the only way everyone wins.

– Bill

A Little Wine Is More Than Fine (For Your Health)

“Wine is the most healthful and most hygienic of beverages.”

― Louis Pasteur

[This post will conclude my research into (and posts about) the multiple healthful benefits of the majority of the top 10 beverages consumed world-wide according to their popularity: #1 – coffee (“Caffeinate Me” and “Caffeinate Me – A Follow-up”), #2 – tea (“If Not Coffee, Then Tea?”), #4 – beer (“On Beer and Health”), and #7 – vodka (“The Virtues of Vodka”). As I’ve previously noted, #3 is orange juice (whose health properties need no discussion), #5 is Coca Cola (that has no redeeming health benefits), #8 is sports drinks (that I’m uninterested in and the jury is out on whether they are of any good), #9 is soups (fairly obvious they’re healthful), and #10 is breast milk (which I gave up long ago).]

Wine, a drink I have more than a passing acquaintance with, comes in at #6 as a top 10 most drunk (no pun intended) beverage in the world. Perhaps it’s because “Wine makes every meal an occasion, every table more elegant, every day more civilized” (Andre Simon).

Or perhaps it’s because “A bottle of wine begs to be shared” (Clifton Fadiman). We once hosted in our backyard a wine tasting, inviting 50 of our oenophile friends and poured some 70 bottles of every varietal description. Many found new brands or types they hadn’t considered or tried before to be their new favorite. But you don’t have to go to that extreme, just visit a few wineries and sample some – an easy thing to do, there are wineries in just about every state. Here’s a good excuse for a road trip! – some 3,200 wineries in the U.S, and here in California more than 1,200 (which produces 90% of all wine made in the U.S.)

So, let’s move on then to why you should drink wine (if you don’t already) and maybe more of it (if you do) to be a little healthier:

• Compared to teetotalers, wine drinkers cut their risk of dying prematurely by almost one third, and wine drinkers as a group have significantly lower mortality. (Actually, according to scientists, drinking any kind of alcoholic beverage helps, but by far the biggest benefit was found in wine.) 

• Wine dilates arteries and increases blood flow, thus lowering the risk of the kind of clots that cut off blood supply and damage heart muscles.

• It boosts levels of HDL, the “good” cholesterol, and helps prevent LDL, or bad cholesterol, from causing damage to the lining of arteries. Those who imbibe the equivalent of a glass or two of wine each day have significantly higher levels of “good” cholesterol that remove the “bad” artery-clogging LDLs before they have a chance to choke blood vessels. 

• Additionally, substances in wine called phenols help prevent the bad cholesterol from causing injury by limiting the oxidation of LDLs, making them less capable of damaging the linings of arteries and, therefore, less able to set the stage for cardiovascular disease, like heart disease and stroke.

• It shields against cancer: the same phenolic compounds that lower heart disease risk also slow the growth of breast cancer cells, have been shown to suppress the growth of prostate cancer cells, and that an antioxidant in wine called resveratrol can put the brakes on the growth of liver cancer cells. Wine – particularly red wine – contains resveratrol and another antioxidant called quercetin that inhibit the growth of oral cancer cells. And red wine is loaded with a slew of other antioxidants that boost its cancer-fighting abilities.

• Moderate drinkers (just one glass a day for women, two for men), have a 23% reduced risk of mental decline compared with nondrinkers, with greater retention of words and faster performance in the portion of the brain associated with the formation of new memories, learning, and emotions.

• Wine improves heart, brain, and bone function (it increases bone density), the same way these parts are improved when you go to the gym (so unless you like sweat, which would you rather spend your money on?)

• Wine helps you relax. Two to seven glasses of wine per week makes you less likely to be diagnosed with depression. 

• Wine helps promote healthy eyes: the resveratrol in wine stops out-of-control blood vessel growth in the eyes, and studies show it may help with treatment of diabetic retinopathy and age-related macular degeneration.

• Drinking wine protects your teeth by killing five of the common oral plaque-causing bacteria.

As Benjamin Franklin said,  “…wine [is] a constant proof that God loves us, and loves to see us happy.”  (Don’t overlook the fact – you religious sorts – that Jesus’ first miracle was changing some water into wine to continue the celebration at a wedding he was a guest at when the host ran out of wine. No disrespect meant, but I can imagine Jesus saying, “Party On!”)

So. There it is. Wine is good. L’Chaim!

 I’ll end with the usual “I have no financial interests in said beverage (other than the amount of money I spend in purchasing and consuming); always consume in moderation; I am not an M.D., so consult with yours if you have any medical issues or questions. The information above has been gleaned from many sources and no warranty – explicit or implied – to the verity of the foregoing is confered.”

– Bill

 When Universes Collide

You may think I’m small, but I have a universe inside my mind.”

― Yoko Ono

With all the disheartening drama of anger, political intrigue, sword-rattling, war and the like these days, I needed a good laugh and found it in one of the blogs I follow and enjoy on wordpress.com:

I Only Ask Two Things

I’m not sure what Yoko meant by what she said, but taken with what Mitch had to say, I was led to the conclusion that the concept of the multiverse – that countless universes occupy time-space in addition to our own – may or may not be true in the macro sense, but it is in the micro sense; each of us is a world unto ourselves within a universe of our own making, and our world is the center of that universe, nothing else is as important, everything – and everyone else – is subordinate to ourself. That’s human nature, that’s how we’re wired, that’s how we each perceive whatever we conceive as reality.

And I have no problem with that. The conflict is when our individual universes collide.

So maybe that explains all the drama of anger, political intrigue, sword-rattling, war and the like these days – everybody’s universes colliding, and nobody willing to be #2, or #3 (or whatever) in someone else’s universe.

To which I reply, “Hey, keep your distance – there’s plenty of room for everybody – so give me some space. Live and let live. But if you feel the need to invade my world, don’t get all pissy if I don’t think yours is everything that should matter to me!”

Unless, of course, you’re someone I love and am loved by. We can join our universes. We can share some time-space being each other’s #1.

– Bill

My Political Paradox

“The problem is politics is made a sport…Too often are we rooting for the pride of a team rather than the good of the nation.”

― Criss Jami

I was watching C-Span (the Congressional TV network) yesterday as the House’s Intelligence committee quizzed the FBI Director and the director of the National Intelligence Agency about the Russian’s multifaceted involvement in our last election (to aid in Trump’s election chances by discrediting his opponent, Clinton) as revealed by leaks in those agencies to the national press. Committee members, both Democratic and Republican, to a person, expressed their dismay that the Russians would do so. (Forget for the moment that we’ve done the same to others ourselves.) But the questioning quickly took a turn along partisan lines. 

The D’s wanted to know more about any possible connection to Russian oligarchs, government agents, and Putin, himself, with the exposed financial and other ties Trump and his cohort had (has) with Russia, Putin, etal (yes, the FBI is conducting an investigation into that). The R’s attempted to minimize that and were more concerned about what is being done to uncover who were the traitors who leaked to the press about the Russian involvement.

It was as if I was watching a sporting event, each “team” trying to score points while defending their team’s position. And I got to thinking about politics, and the two major political parties, in general. 

I play (or have played) sports, both of the individual kind, like golf where how well or badly I play and score has no effect on those on the course with me, and the team variety, like crew where each oar has to be in perfect synchronization with his teammates to enable the shell to move through the water as if it was being rowed by one person.

There is some comparison of these two sports to politics: conservatives believe, like golf, that everything is about the individual and it’s of no concern of theirs if another isn’t doing as well as they are, whereas like crew, liberals believe everybody has to work together and how well everyone is doing is critical to the success of all.

While a nation is comprised of individuals, it can’t succeeded if everyone just does their own thing without regard for anyone else, nor will it if everyone is expected to conform totally without regard to individual differences. The conservative mantra is the individual right to be free of governmental restrictions on their life and activities, and the liberal mantra is the right of the whole to restrict the individual for the good of the many.

We’ve made governance into a team sport where we’ve all chosen our respective team to root for and our aim is for our team to defeat the opposite team. Unfortunately, regardless of which team wins an election, it’s a loss to the wants and needs for half of the nation.

There needs to be balance between the two extremes where it can be something of a win-win for everyone, a compromise (which seems to be a dirty word these days; if you’re for compromise everyone sees you as an enemy to their team.)

And that’s my paradox, how can my vote effect compromise when I can only vote for one extreme or the other?

I understand politics, and I accept the need to appeal to certain demographics to get elected. But, why, once in office, why can’t our elected officials put aside partianship until the next election cycle and be statesmen who govern in the common and best interests of the nation, of the citizenry as a whole? Why treat everything as if it was a win-loss game?

Stupid game.

My favorite sports team is the Washington Redskins (hey, I was born there!) I root for them to win. But I’m the first to critize them when their owner or coaches do something stupid that causes them harm. Why shouldn’t I get angry? So why shouldn’t I get angry when my government officials do something that harms people?

Of course, I’d never know if it wasn’t for the whistle-blowers who leak what’s going on.

God bless them.

– Bill

The Difference Between God And Man

“You don’t need miracles in the west. You have insurance.”

― Brother Yun

The only thing miracles and insurance share in common is that when something bad happens, you need one or the other to get by.

The difference between miracles and insurance is, where receiving a miracle is free, getting and keeping insurance is going to cost you big bucks – assuming you even have access to it (and I have to laugh every time I hear the Administration or Congressional leaders speak about how their replacement plan to “Obama Care” will guarentee everyone “access” to health insurance. Access means nothing if you can’t afford the high cost to have it.)

I’ve written before on healthcare, especially comparing America’s corporate-for-profit style that leaves millions of people without any because of high costs or denial of availability, versus the universal healthcare provided to their citizens by almost every other first-world nations. 

And since it’s probably the hotest topic concerning Americans right now, I’ve wanted to write more. But I’ve been unable to come up with anything as good as I read in the paper today, “What Would Jesus Say To Paul Ryan?”:

http://digital.olivesoftware.com/Olive/ODN/TheFresnoBee/shared/ShowArticle.aspx?doc=FRB%2F2017%2F03%2F17&entity=Ar01100&sk=C82A91C1

I encourage you, whether or not you believe Jesus is God, Son of God, a great prophet, or anything else, to read the above article. I wish I could express as well the apparent attitude many of America’s leaders hold on the subject of healthcare.

It’ll be a miracle if Americans get any decent and affordable insurance.

– Bill

Me, Myself and I – Friends Of Mine

“Denial is commonly found among persons with dissociative disorders. My favorite quotation from such a client is, “We are not multiple, we made it all up.” I have heard this from several different clients. When I hear it, I politely inquire, “And who is ‘we’?”

― Alison Miller

There are these three close friends of mine, Me, Myself and I.

It’s really fun when they’re all together on the same page.

But whenever a decision needs to be made, it usually ends up two against one, with Me the loser.

When that happens, I (who cares a lot for Me) says to Myself (the one who sometimes listens), “What about Me?”

Myself answers, “What difference does it make?”

“It might matter to Me,” I can only respond.

“It only matters what We think,” Myself answers.

“And who is ‘We’?” I ask Myself.

“Us,” Myself declares.

“Who is “Us’?” I wants to know.

“Obviously, We are Us,” explains Myself.

“And ‘We’ doesn’t include Me?” I object.

“Well, as long as We agree, why should it matter to Me?” Myself asks.

“It matters to Me,” I says.

 “You’re delusional,” Myself mutters.

“You’re in denial,” I responds.

Me, listening to the conversation between I and Myself, for once agrees and decides to dissociate, “That ‘We’ and ‘Us’, that’s just made up stuff. From now on, the only one that matters is Me!”

I and Myself can only think, “Good luck with that.”

– Bill

My Women

“Here’s all you have to know about men and women: women are crazy, men are stupid. And the main reason women are crazy is that men are stupid.”

― George Carlin

Despite what George says, some men are crazy when it comes to women, and some women are stupid when it comes to men. But that’s not been my experience and, as crazy as it seeems, the women in my life have made me less stupid.

Today is International Women’s Day, a world-wide event that celebrates women, and that gives me pause to think about the women in my life and what their impact on me has been.

I suppose I should start with my mother. After all, had it not been for her, I wouldn’t be here to think about anything. My mother was ordinary in many ways; not unlike others of her time, she was the typical 1950’s stay-at-home wife/mother who kept up the house and yard as dad worked, paid the bills, made sure her children did their chores and stayed out of trouble, helping with homework, and civilizing them. In many ways she was the stereotypical TV mom of that era, but not with the party dress with a single strand of pearls under her apron, in high heels and with perfectly coifed hair, as she cooked dinner every night. But like them, she was the glue that held everything together. One thing stands out above all memories of her: admittedly, it was a different day back then, much safer for children, but she allowed me a long leash as a child growing up, allowing me to go out and explore the world for miles around on my bicycle, hours on end (and all day on non-school days) without ever knowing exactly where I was, who I was with, what I was doing. Today that could be considered neglect, but the trust she offered me to not get into trouble allowed me to become self-responsible and self-confident in a way that only that kind of independence allows.

And then there are my two sisters. I suppose, as they were the only girls in my life growing up in a neighborhood populated with only boys, they (along with mom) were my first introduction to the female of the species, and the lessons I learned by observing and interacting with them taught me much about how different women are, and how to love and respect a woman because of those differences, which helped much later on as I began to date girls.

Then there are my two daughters-in-law. Both are strong and talented women. They have both been such a blessing to my sons and, therefore, to me. That they love and respect, care deeply for and stand beside my sons, they have my undying affection.

But above all, my wife of 43 years. No woman has had a greater impact on my life and who I am than her. There are too many examples to list to show how much she’s done for me as a man. I can only admit that I would be so much less of one without her. She has been my rock anchoring me in every storm and yet the wind in my sails in every adventure. Her patience, love, and concern for me has been humbling, she has been everything and more that a man could ever want or need, even if I stupidly at times drive her crazy. She is a gift from above and I thank my God for moving me 3,000 miles so I could find her.

So to all my fellow men I say, today don’t be stupid, do something smart and let those wonderful women in your life know just how much they mean to you, how proud of them you are, how much you want and need them, how much you love them.

Maybe, if you do, it’ll make them a little more crazy over you.

– Bill