Showing posts with label Engagement. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Engagement. Show all posts

May 17, 2020

Singing Frankie The Fish + Happy Engagement Day


At the fish counter at Seven Mile Market in Baltimore, they had Frankie the Fish singing away.
Give me that fish...if it were you in that sandwich you wouldn't be laughing at all.

And most important today is I am singing because of a very happy day:

Thank you Hashem on the the engagement of Minna and Nafi! 

(Credit Video: Andy Blumenthal)
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August 2, 2019

What's Your Relationship?

This week I learned about the Three Levels of Relationships.

Level 3: Family/Friends
The highest form of a relationship where you are being authentic (i.e. yourself), you share deeply about yourself (thoughts, feelings, desires, mistakes, etc,) and you are vulnerable. 

Level 2: Professionals
The middle level of relationships in which you are seeking to build trust and respect, you share some information (i.e. appropriate), and you expose yourself a little to the other person. 

Level 1: Acquaintances
The most elementary of relationships that is superficial in nature, there is little personal sharing of information (i.e. mostly when you are asked a question and you feel comfortable answering it), and you remain guarded. 

This is a good way to assess your relationships--is it a level 1, 2, or 3 and are you behaving appropriately within that, so that you trust, communicate, and collaborate effectively.  ;-)

(Graphic Credit: Andy Blumenthal)
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May 11, 2017

A Curse That Is Really A Blessing

So here is an amazing true story from this week.

My wife was in Israel. 

She went to the Kotel (Jewish Temple Mount in Jerusalem) to pray. 

On the way, an old, poor man stopped her and asked for food. 

My wife gave him her sandwich. 

Then after walking another block, he stopped her again and gestured for assistance. 

This time, my wife gave him some money too.

After this, she asked him if he would bless our family.

And he did and also gave a special blessing to my elder daughter who had just recently gotten engaged. 

My wife also went to the Kotel and prayed for us and her. 

That same evening back in the States here, my daughter and her fiancee ended their engagement. 

At first, the breakup seemed like a big disappointment and that a terrible thing had happened--almost like a curse--but G-d works in mysterious ways. 

When we saw the reasons for the breakup, we realized fully that G-d had indeed heard the blessings of the old, poor man (maybe an angel) and the prayers of my wife.

We wish the young man all the best in his future, but we just saw clearly that this was not the right match. 

So what at first can seem like a curse is really a blessing in disguise. 

Truly, when you give charity, you're not only helping others, but it's really a blessing for you too. 

Thank you to the old, poor man in Jerusalem and to Hashem who heard my wife's prayers at the Kotel. ;-)

(Source Photo: Dannielle Blumenthal)
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July 21, 2016

A New Diplomacy In Town

A wonderful colleague sent me this really impressive photo.

This was one of my favorite of 3 aircraft carrier strike groups taken together (Abraham Lincoln, Kitty Hawk, and Ronald Reagan)--the 1st and the 3rd of which are Nimitz-class nuclear-powered supercarriers. 

According to the slides, there were literally 4 four nuclear submarines standing guard in the waters beneath, as well as a B-2 stealth bomber flying overhead.  

What I really liked the most though wasn't even the photos, but rather the motto for the carriers of:

"Over 90,000 tons of diplomacy...wherever... whenever..."

Diplomacy can be listening, negotiating, and compromise, but it can also be through the projection of the ultimate national and human strength. 

With a staggering rise in global terrorism, militaristic adventurism, and the proliferation of dangerous weapons of mass destruction, perhaps it's time to harden up on some of the soft power, and demonstrate as well the very credible hard power and resolve we have for protecting American lives, freedom, and human rights. ;-)

(Source Photo: here)

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October 27, 2015

The Millennial Workplace

So a colleague from a law enforcement agency told a funny story the other day.

When he was an agent-in-training he said they told them, "Keep your eyes open and your mouths shut."

Basically, you are new--so watch and learn before you do something stupid and potentially get yourselves or someone else in trouble. 

But now as someone who been there for decades and is a supervisor, he was interviewing someone right out of school, and in the interview the kid says, "I want to be in charge!"

The difference from Generation X and the new Millennials couldn't have been starker. 

But what did this guy do, he didn't show the candidate to the door by his earlobes, but rather he ended up hiring him. 

Times have changed--not only with all the technology we use--but also in terms of people's expectations from the job.

What do people want these days--aside from good compensation and comprehensive benefits?

- Engagement through challenging and meaningful work that has tangible outcomes from day one

- Innovating and creating versus pushing paper and doing routine, repetitive work

- Using current and cutting-edge technology

- Opportunities to stay and advance or building the resume to "move out to move up"

- Lots of feedback, teamwork, sharing, and transparency

- Considerable work-life balance 

The bottom line is don't be surprised by the kid who wants to be in charge from the get-go, instead relish their gusto and unleash their talent in your organization--with guidance, they can do amazing things. 

It's not your fathers workplace anymore. ;-)

(Source Photo: here with attribution to g Tarded)
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December 25, 2014

The Power Of One, Many, And G-d

I took this photo at Broward College in Fort Lauderdale. 

I like how they took the pictures of the professors, administrators, and students and wallpapered it outside on the facade of the building. 

It says, "I am the voice of innovative education and civic engagement for the 21st century."

It's a cool idea showing the individuals and the power they have to make a difference as well as the aggregate of the photos, as a group, displaying that we are somehow all in it together. 

We can't just rely on others, and we can't take it all on ourselves...progress is a shared responsibility. 

We do our part and contribute to the greater group--it takes a variety of talents to get things done, so we leverage everyones strengths for the good of the team. 

- Education is one part.  

- Experience is another.  

- Engagement is a third

And all these ingredients only come together with divine providence and the good fortune from the Almighty.

This last one is the secret sauce as they say. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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November 14, 2014

Iran: Engagement or Containment

As the deadline for the now 2nd round of current negotiations with the dangerous Iranian mullahs fast approaches on November 24, we need to remember who we are dealing with over there.

Despite nearly endless negotiations that have gone on since 2002 (or for almost 13 years ), including yet another round of new talks that began 14 months ago and which were extended already once again...


Just this week, no less than Iran's Foreign Minister and lead negotiator made clear their position on nukes, and it is not favorable to coming to any real agreement:


Here in his own words:

  • Iran insists that the U.S. must bow to Iran's "Inalienable Nuclear Rights."
  • Despite our wanting to believe that a deal is possible, he states, "Some [Western] countries have fallen prey to miscalculations [about Iran's position] due to wrong analysis."
  • He goes on to say, "U.S. sanctions against Iran "have left no impact" on their position. 

While our goal may be for a peaceful Iran without nuclear WMD, "a goal without a [genuine] plan is just a wish!"


Hmm...is this a real partner for peace?


It is recognized that:


1) Iran has one of the world's worst records of human right abuses of their own people! 


2) "Iran is the single largest state sponsor of terrorism in the world."


3) Iran threatens "annihilation" and Genocide to their neighbors in the West. 


We cannot fool ourselves anymore that Iran will ever voluntarily give up their desire or pursuit of The Bomb!


Enough rewarding Iran with billions of dollars in incentives just for coming to the table with no meaningful results. 


Yes ideally, we would all love to celebrate this Thanksgiving with a REAL deal for peace.


However, we don't need a bogus agreement or another meaningless extension that gets the Iranians that much closer to nuclear breakout capability and the world to the next major regional or even global war. 


Albert Einstein said, "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."


Perhaps it's time to change the playbook then...


Engagement is an excellent opportunity with a partner that is willing to seriously negotiate, but containment and ultimately military intervention is necessary when talks are simply a long-running ruse or sham to dangerous nuclear WMD and world terror. 


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

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April 5, 2014

Archaic Federal Hiring Practices

So the Federal government has some archaic hiring practices.

Some common critiques of the system:

- While gone are the dreaded KSAs (knowledge, Skills, and ability essays), in it's place are what many could consider meaningless multiple choice questions that enable applicants to game the system and answer what they think or know is the right answer just to get the highest points. 

- Also, there is always the potential (however infrequently) that there is a favorite candidate of someone or someone who knows someone, but knowing doesn't necessarily mean best qualified, but rather well-networked or connected. 

To be fair, there are protections in the hiring system to include an oath of truthfulness on the application as well as security clearances which are used to help ensure accuracy. Additionally, there are the Merit System Principles that prohibit favoritism and nepotism of any sort.

However, when it comes to hiring, what you can't really do in the government is just plain and simple see and recognize talent and bring someone on board. 

Anyway, this came to mind today, when we ran again into this amazing lady at Starbucks. She works there right out of college. 

She's a barista and has the most amazing customer service skills I've seen in 25 years of professional experience. 

She remembers us every time we come in and recalls what we talked about on our last visit. She regularly asks about things like my kids talking their SATs, visiting colleges, and more. 

But she doesn't just do this with me, but with all her customers.  

She has a big welcoming hello, and smile for all of them, and doesn't just take their orders, but engages them as human beings. 

I tell you this young lady would be terrific as a customer service representative in my IT shop or any other...and if I were in the private sector or had my own company, yes, I'd conduct a more thorough interview and background on her, but then I'd probably shake hands on the spot and offer her a job. 

I can see her interacting with my customers, capturing their requirements, problem-solving, as well as routine troubleshooting through engagement with the customer and the subject matter experts.  

Why?

Because she is a natural with people and intuitively understands how to work with them, engage, and establish trust and good service ethos. 

However, if she applied on USAJOBS in the current system of hiring, I think she'd never make "the cert" (the list of qualified applicants that gets referred to the hiring manager), because she's currently working in a coffee shop. 

Something is wrong that we can't easily bring in young or old, talented people from the private sector or out of school, and grow them into federal service, even if they don't have the perfect checklist answers. 

Unfortunately, this is a problem in many bureaucratic-driven organizations, where if it's not checklist-driven, then it's usually not at all. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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August 12, 2013

Engaging and Listening

It was unexpected that the day after I blogged about a number of change organizations attracting attention in our society, particularly from our young people, that I saw it for myself on the streets of Washington, D.C.

Yet another change organization--different from the two that I wrote about yesterday--this one called "Be The Change" with three national campaigns currently:

- Service Nation--encourages a year of national service "to tackle pressing social issues."

- Opportunity Nation--advocates for expanded economic mobility for all young people and to "close the opportunity gap in America."

- Got Your 6--seeks to create opportunities for veterans. 

Has "change" just become cliche or are people genuinely looking for something that is missing in today's culture, values, and norms. 

These smiling people certainly seem to be excited about change.

It just makes you wonder--what is it that people are desperately missing in their lives and want en masse to change? How do we help people find that missing link and achieve real enthusiasm for what we are doing and where we are going? 

As leaders, it is our duty to understand and meet the genuine needs of the people...somehow doing this on the street corner by volunteers (as hardworking and noble as it is) seems to missing the larger point of government by the people for the people. 

We need more politicians engaging and more people feeling they are being listened to. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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August 11, 2013

The Status Quo, No!

Two more articles, this time in Fast Company (Sept 2013) are pointing to the unhappiness of people and the desire to change things.

The first "You Sign, Companies Listen," about Change.org, "the world's petition platform" that now has 40 million users launching as many as 1,000 petitions a day.  Now the site is allowing organizations to respond to petitions publicly and also has a "Decision Maker page," which shows organizations all the petitions against them. 

Change.org focuses on "personal issues with achievable solutions," especially personal stories of injustice. The site is about a carrot and stick approach. Organizations can choose to listen and respond positively to their constituents legitimate issues or "there is a stick" if they don't engage with the hundreds of thousands and millions of petitioners. 

A second article, "Not Kidding Around," about DoSomething.org, which "spearheads national campaigns" for young people interested in social change. Their values are optimism for a sense of hope, rebellion meaning the rules are broken and needs to be rewritten, and empathy to feel others pain so we can change things for the better. 

There is a notion here that the youngsters "have no faith that Washington politicians can solve this problem." These kids feel that "the world is in the shitter" and they want to help create social change. 

It is interesting to me that despite our immense wealth and technological advances or maybe in some cases because of it--creating a materialistic, self-based society--that people are disillusioned and looking to restore meaning, purpose, and social justice.

Things have got to mean more than just getting the latest gadget, blurbing about what you had for lunch on twitter, or accumulating material things (homes, cars, vacations, clothes, shoes, bags, and more). 

People can't live on materialism alone, but are seeking a deeper connection with G-d and the universe--to make peace with our creator and with each other and create a better world where we are elevated for helping others, rather than just taking for ourselves. 

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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September 5, 2012

Engaging Millennials

I have a new article in Public CIO magazine called Trophy Kids at Work

Millennials may be having a tough time finding work--perhaps they are down, but they are certainly not out!

The article explores how to successfully engage millennials in the workforce by:

- Connecting in person and through social media

- Offering leading-edge technologies with room to experiment and innovate, and 

- Providing a sense of meaning through professional contributions. 

Hope you enjoy, 

Andy

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May 30, 2012

Communication, What Comes From The Heart

Leaders always seem to be trying to get their message "right".

They ponder what will it take to win the hearts and minds.

They may hire consultants to tell them what they should say.

They engage fancy speechwriters to say "it" just so. 

Then, they monitor the polls to get feedback and see how their message was received.

However a new article in Harvard Business Review (April 2012) throws a curve ball at this whole notion--stating: "It seems almost absurd that how we communicate could be so much more important to success than what we communicate."

From my perspective, there are many factors that contribute to the success of our communications:

Firstly, let's face it--personality, likability, charisma, and charm go a long way to influencing others--and yes, it seems like this is the case, almost at times, regardless of the message itself. 

Then there is everything else from emotional intelligence and political savvy for "working" the audience to doing your homework in terms of getting your facts right, making your presentation engaging, using back channels to build support, and giving people the opportunity to ask questions, contribute, and buy in. 

According to the HBR article, successful communication directly impacts team performance, this occurs through:

- Energy--"the number and nature of exchanges among team members"--with more interaction being better.

- Engagement--the distribution of communications among team members--with more equal distribution being better (i.e. communication isn't being dominated by one person or a select few).

- Exploration--this is the communication between a team and other external connections--with more outreach being better for creativity and innovation. 

For all of us, communicating is as much about the way and how much we interact with others, as with what we actually have to say. 

That's not to say, that what we have to communicate is not important, but rather that the mere act of communicating with others is itself a positive step in the right direction.

We have to genuinely interact and connect with others--it's a critical part of the influencing and teaming process. 

Only then, does honing the message itself really make the difference we want it to. 

People communicate with other people and this happens in  a very direct, personal, and emotional way. 

There is a Jewish saying that my wife often tells me that her grandfather used to say, "what comes from the heart goes to the heart."

I think that is the correct notion--sincerity is at the core of it takes to really communicate effectively with others. 

(Source Photo: here with attribution to VisaAgency)

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November 5, 2011

Dilbert Shows The Way to User-Centric Government

Scott Adams the talent behind Dilbert comics and numerous books wrote a fascinating column in the Wall Street Journal (5-6 Oct. 2011) called "What if Government Were More Like an iPod."
Adams has some great ideas and here's a few:
1) Leverage Group Intelligence--"group intelligence is more important than individual genius...thanks to the Internet we can summon the collective intelligence of millions." While certainly in government, we are using social media and crowd sourcing to leverage group intelligence by making information available to the public (e.g. Data.gov), engaging the public in innovating new applications (e.g. Apps for Democracy), getting feedback and comments on regulations (e.g. Regulations.gov), soliciting policy ideas and petitions from citizens (e.g. We The People) and more, this is only a start. We can continue to advance engagement with people on everyday issues to come up with solutions for our biggest and toughest challenges. One example for doing this is utilizing more tools like Quora to put out questions to subject matter experts, from every spectrum of our great nation, to come up with the best solutions, rather than just rely on the few, the loud, or the connected.
2) Voting With Understanding--"Voting [the way we currently do] is such a crude tool that half of the time, you can't tell if you're voting against your own interests. Change can take years...and elected officials routinely ignore their own campaign promises." Adams proposes a website to see the "best arguments for and against every issue, with links to support or refute every factual claim. And imagine the professional arbiters would score each argument." I can empathize with what Adams is saying. Think of the healthcare act in 2010 that was over 2,500 pages or the 72,000 page tax code--there is a reason people are overwhelmed, confused, and calling for plain language in government communications such as the Plain Language Act. There is obviously more to be done here using user-centric communications and citizen engagement, so that the average citizen with bills to pay and a family to care for, can still participate, contribute, and vote with understanding unmarred by gobbledygook, "the weight test", and politicking.
3) Campaigning More Virtually--Make it "easy for voters to see video clips, interviews, debates, and useful comparisons of the candidates positions. In the modern era, it does't make sense for a candidate to trek all over the country on a bus." Too much of the political process is the shaking hands and kissing babies--the showmanship of who looks better and talks more sleekly versus focusing on the policy issues. While it is important to present favorably, lead and influence and bring people together, it is also critical to get the policy issues out there clearly and without flip-flopping (which should be reserved for burgers only). The media plays a role in keeping the political candidates on their toes and honest, but the process itself should vet the issues in written commitments by candidates and not reversible sound bites on TV.
4) Quicken The Innovation Cycle--"I'm fairly certain Ben Franklin wouldn't be impressed by our pace of innovation. He invented the post office and showed us electricity and it still took us nearly 200 years to come up with email. We're not good at connecting the dots." This is an interesting point, but it sort of misses the mark. There are lots of good--even great--ideas out there, but from my perspective on organizations, execution is usually the stumbling block. In fact, according to Wikipedia, the Patent Office has a backlog of over 700,000 patent applications as of October 2010, so new ideas are plentiful, but how we work those ideas and make them come to fruition is a project management and human capital challenge. While email seems like just a dot or few dots away from the post office and electricity, there is obviously a lot of groundwork that needs to be laid to send an email from DC to Jerusalem in split seconds.
In short, Adams summarizes his convictions for government change in advocating a form of User-Centric Government (my term). Adams actually proposes a 4th branch of government (I think he really mean a new agency) to manage "user-interface" or what I understand him to mean as citizen engagement. Adams describes this new agency as "smallish and economical, operating independently, with a mission to build and maintain friendly user-interface for citizens to manage their government." Adams would advance the achievement of his ideas and hopes for leveraging group intelligence, voting with understanding, campaigning virtually, and quickening innovation. I believe Adams idea builds on the concept of a Federal agency for innovation that has been proposed previously over the years by The Industry Advisory Council and others to be modeled after the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA).
While there are arguments for and against creating another government agency for driving user-centric government, creating more and better user engagement through understanding and participation is fundamental and aligns with our core principles of democracy and as a global competitive advantage.
While Government is not Apple, learning from some of the best and brightest like Steve Jobs on how to reach people intuitively and deeply is a great way to go!
(Source Photo: here)

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June 17, 2011

Apps-The World At Your Fingertips

I came across this great video by the State Department's Bureau of International Information Programs (IIP).

The video demonstrates a vision for connecting people with applications and using these "to communicate, educate, and engage--beyond the gates of every embassy on the planet."

I like the way they detailed out specific use cases for the apps, where "Applications can be anything from trivia to media kits, visa procedures and event management to English language tutorials."

The video describes how everyone from a consular officer to a public affairs specialist and a college student to a journalist can take advantage of these.

I can see that one of the principles behind Apps@State is to maximize the sharing and re-use of content through an apps catalogue and the ability to customize the apps to local and individual needs.

The mobile and webs apps content will be made available through SMS, smartphones, and social networks.

This framework for a cloud computing platform can bring efficiency and effectiveness to foreign service officers and audiences world-wide that depend on and can benefit from these programs.

This is very much user-centric design in action, and I believe very much on target with the "25 Point Implementation Plan to Reform Federal IT Management."

Other agencies are also developing significant apps catalogues, such as GSA with the Apps.Gov website, which now has more than fifty free social media applications for federal agencies in everything from analytics and search to blogs, contests, document sharing, video and photo sharing, idea generation, social media, wikis, and more.

Perhaps it is not too early to say that the Federal government is on a roll and that it will only get better with time.

(Note: All opinions my own)

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February 20, 2010

Bringing Back The Passion

Typically, success is attributed to nature, nurture, hard work, persistence; plain old luck, and of course, Divine intervention—always. But another, often overlooked, critical determinant of organizational and personal success is passion.

Passion is the deep desire, compelling feeling, and driving force that motivates us. It is our call to action that we are compelled to heed.

An undertaking done without passion is often mere mental or physical drudgery and considered time killed until we can extricate ourselves and do what we really want to be doing. In contrast, when we have passion for what we are doing it is a “labor of love” and is considered “time well spent”—an investment that we make with joy in our hearts and the feeling that we are engaged in what we are meant to be doing.

I remember growing up as a kid and being advised to chose a career that “you feel passionate about.” “Remember,” they used to say, “this is what you are going to be doing for the next 30 or 40 years!”

Too bad, that in the beginning of my career, I didn’t exactly listen. Fortunately, I found my true passion in leadership, innovation, and technology and was able to course correct.

Over time, I have learned that those who are passionate for their work have a huge “leg up” over those who don’t, and that it is a tangible differentiator in performance. Organizations and people that are truly passionate for what they do are simply more engaged, committed, and willing to do what it takes—because they love it!

In light of how important passion is, I read with great interest an editorial in ComputerWorld, 8 February 2010 by Thornton A. May, titled “Where Has IT’s Passion Gone?”

The article provides alarming statistics from the Corporate Executive Board that in 2009 only 4% of IT employees were considered “highly engaged” in their work.

The author questions: Can “IT [workers] crawl out from under the ambition-crushing, innovation sucking, soul-destroying minutiae of just keeping the digital lights on?”

“Trance-walking zombies” just go to work to keep the proverbial “lights on,” but passionate employees come to work to enhance the mission, delight their customers, and innovatively solve problems.

While IT leaders cannot waive a magic wand and make their employees feel passionate about their work, from my experience, when IT leaders themselves are passionate, the passion is often contagious! When we are truly “feeling it,” others start to feel it too.

Now, it’s unrealistic to take it upon ourselves to make everyone happy, but we can certainly do our part by putting leaders in charge that are passionate, letting them lead by example, and allowing them to create a culture of productivity and engagement that everyone can get excited about and be proud of.

One of the big challenges that leaders face when they try to motivate employees is that often there are many good people who were once passionate, but who have lost their inner-drive because of various set-backs, prior poor leadership, or even burn-out. One way to help bring the spark back is to empower these people to lead their own initiatives and to help them succeed where once they were thwarted.

Without passion, what are we all really doing except taking up space?


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