Sunday, August 4, 2013

Diversity: The New Racism

My wife and I were walking around a public area tonight in a very "diverse" area. There was a fountain in the middle. There were children all around the fountain blocking the fountain spouts. I specifically remember two black boys, three Mexican girls, an Asian boy, and one white boy. Each of them was at a different spout doing exactly the same thing.  They were excitedly blocking the water while it sprayed them.  Each enjoying while they play in the water. And I'll bet that seven parents were somewhere close wanting exactly the same thing for their children. Clothing, opportunity, enjoyment, prosperity, happiness, love, peace, joy, safety, friendship, education, employment. Why? Because we're all the same.  I don't care where you're from, what you've done, where you live, what color you are, what sex you are, what sex you love, we all want the same things in life

In the book, "It's Your Ship: Management Techniques from the Best Damn Ship in the Navy," Captain D. Michael Abrashoff puts it in the plainest terms. "Diversity training had merely made people more aware of their differences.  Our unity training focuses on common interests and positive reasons to value others instead of a top-down prohibition against devaluing them (emphasis in original). Captain Abrashoff is on to something here. If we constantly focus on diversity training, and increasing our diversity hires, what are we saying to our culture? Look at how different we all are, how much of a chasm lies between us, and you had better live with it. What a stupid idea.

So why do we pretend that celebrating everyone's cultural differences will make us appreciate one another? Because it is racist to say otherwise.  Little do we know that this is what keeps racism alive.

Let's look at this in simple, simple terms. Two people are meeting each other for the first time.  Picture this however you want. Two black men. Two Spanish men. Two Chinese women. One white man and one Iraqi man. Who cares? When these two people are learning about each other, what brings them together in friendship? SIMILARITIES. That they both have 4 year old girls that are just starting to play with makeup.  That they both played soccer at the university.  That their husbands don't want to change diapers.  That they both love the Green Bay Packers.

Rarely do two people start talking to each other and find friendship when one likes the Packers, the other likes the Cowboys, one has six children and is religious, the other single and atheistic. These differences may surface at some point later, when both have become friends. And once the two friends can understand each other and tolerate, and even learn from their differences. But commonalities bind us together. Not differences.

Conversely, what does diversity in action look like? When I was in law school, I, a white male, with a white girlfriend, went to a predominately black church in a predominately black area: Norfolk, Virginia.  The pastor, who is like our second dad and my mentor, told us to apply for the school's Corporate Partnership scholarship.  He told us that it would pay for 25% of our tuition.  So we applied. And we received the scholarship.  For one semester . . .

Then my law school dean found out about it.  He found out that two white kids were applying for the "black church" scholarship.  So what happened?  Mr. Dean called a meeting with the financial aid director, my white girlfriend, and my white-self.  He told us that this scholarship wasn't meant for us [white folk].  That we weren't the intended recipients.  That the school was trying to get "diverse" students to apply.  Never mind that we abided by the scholarship requirements to the letter . . .

Well, now the scholarship language has been changed by the school to ensure that "the intended recipients" receive the scholarship. All in the name of diversity. Never mind that a couple white kids were happily attending and volunteering in an almost all black church of 8,000 members. And are now members. And still support the church from our Midwestern home.

Diversity. It's degrading. It's disgusting. And it's destroying our world.

Unity? That's something I can get on board with.

When we can finally look at the complete opposite of what we are and understand we want the same things, then we can sympathize with them, love them, and help them. If we continue to see others as what we aren't, racism will live. And folks like Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson will still have demented purpose.

If we as humans are serious about eradicating racism, we must, MUST focus on the similarities we have as humans.  We must realize we're all in this together seeking the same things. Searching for the same ultimate end. Only then can we become one. Only then can we live in utopia.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

I Spy: A Secret of Process Mapping, Leading Lawyers, or Leading Pregnant Women

Spy: noun
2. a person who keeps close and secret watch on the actions and words of another or others.
3. a person who seeks to obtain confidential information about the activities, plans, methods, etc., of an organization or person, especially one who is employed for this purpose by a competitor: an industrial spy. 

verb (used without object)
5. to observe secretively or furtively with hostile intent (often followed by on or upon ).
7. to be on the lookout; keep watch.
8. to search for or examine something closely or carefully.

In the competitive business setting, some managers and leaders watch their competitors VERY closely.  They use benchmarks of their competitors to assess their own progress.  They develop products along the same line and at the same time as their competitors.  These leaders "spy" on their competitors.  Then there are leaders that watch other industries.  Those are the successful ones.  (Please go read "Blue Ocean Strategy" if you are in business, want to be in business, or are failing at business).  These leaders spy on other industries as definitions 2, 7, and 8.

A process mapping story that made its way around business schools all over recounts a British hospital that had a severe need for a change.  It had high mortality rates and communication between team members in surgery was poor. 

The solution? Staff doctors visited and viewed the Ferrari pit crew.  After all, the pit crew can change all 4 tires and fuel the car in 7 seconds. 
The Ferrari pit crew got to see a video tape of the hospital's surgery handover.  The review brought drastic suggestions and subsequently, changes.  Efficient changes.  Life-saving changes.  Now the handover is quick, everyone has a specific purpose, and the choreography is precise. For the story go here.
Here's a story that hasn't gotten around to ANY business schools: I'm chairing the Kansas City Metropolitan Bar Association's (KCMBA) Business Litigation Committee.  We're really attempting to ramp up participation, membership, and offer valuable things to our members this year.  One of the problems is getting a lot of good feedback.  Typically attorneys  are so loaded down it's hard to get them to really take the time to provide valuable feedback.
Enter a group of pregnant woman and new mothers.  Saundra, my wife, is pregnant with twins.  We went to the Greater Metropolitan Kansas City Mothers of Twins Club (GMKCMOTC) so Saundra and I can find others that are in similar situations as we are. 
At the meeting, the leaders wanted to get a start on planning the year's events.  The women got paper and pens and shared why they are a part of the group and what they expect from membership.  A group of touchy, feely mothers came up with a year's plan through a ten minute exercise.
Well, so did the KCMBA Business Litigation Committee . . . Each attorney got a note pad and wrote those exact answers to their membership in the business litigation committee.  Now we know what they will participate in and what they value.  Our offerings will be precise and valued. 
Get your eyes out of your industry and watch another.  When you bring it to your industry, it'll be creative and innovative.  And chances are it'll be successful.
"I spy with my little eye . . ."

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Standing Empty Handed or Stooping Muddy Handed

You get an email from a client that has been the bane of your law practice.  Not only has the client been hard to work with and hasn't paid their bills, they haven't even followed your legal advice!  And now they are telling you that they could have gotten the settlement themselves! The gall of some people.  So you're gonna set them straight once for all! You're gonna let them have it! You're gonna use your full education in law school and practice to unleash a precise, eloquent, harshly worded email that will give them "what fo'."  WAIT! DON'T DO IT! inner peace . . . inner peace . . . in- in- in- in- inner peace . . .


A few weeks ago I wrote about being a friendly opposing counsel and being easy to work with.  I believe that will make you a more effective attorney.  This time around we're gonna talk about dealing with ANYBODY.

Let's talk about sending that email to a client.  What is the REAL reason you want to do that?  For me, the brass tacks of it is that I'm upset and what to prove the client wrong.  I want to show them the error of their ways.  Realistically, I won't even accomplish that! The person, whether it be client, mother, sister, friend, enemy, cashier, or person driving next to you, will not LEARN what lesson you're trying to teach them!  You know what will happen? I'll guarantee you they will still think they're right, you're wrong, and then they'll tell someone about it!

DON'T TAKE THAT RISK!  Attorneys, like other professions, succeed largely on their reputations! That means we can't afford to act like idiots and still expect the legal community and social community to think we're worth paying.  Even if you're nothing close to an attorney, I don't think you can afford to risk people thinking bad of you.  Like Ravi Zacharias says, "When you sling mud, not only do you get your hands dirty, you lose a lot of ground."  So don't stoop that low . . . to pick up mud. 

Don't get dirty or lose ground. Chances are, there are much nicer ways to say what needs to be said.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Backwards Leadership

Social media is a great resource for sharing information.  Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, and Google+ have all been great ways to reach out to others to learn from them, to understand them, and to build relationships with them.  But social media is also a great risk for gathering good information.  When your options are almost unlimited your choices must be precise.  Practice doesn't make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect. Incorrect practices makes incorrect habits.

I have seen an interesting thing in the last two years we've been using Twitter,, and Facebook.  EVERYONE is a leadership guru (which is interesting that I'm complaining about that as I write about leadership . . . ).  Many "leaders" share how to be a great leader through 140 characters.  Many "leaders" guide their followers on how to better oneself by being a great leader.  If there are so many great leaders out there, why are our social cultures so screwy?  Selfishness.

If you listen to proven leaders, they constantly remind us that leadership is selfless!  That leadership's purpose is for others.  That leadership can only be shown through adding value to others.  One thing I see is that many people want to be leaders for the wrong reasons.  They want to be leaders for the sake of telling others, "I lead this group," or "I have 55,000 followers on twitter," or some other reason that points back to themselves. 

The leaders that have been documented as leaders through history were leaders for a reason outside themselves.  Martin Luther King, Jr.; George Washington; Coach John Wooden.  They all led to change society, the country, or just a group of young men that needed a mentor.  They didn't need accolades, or "followers."  They sought change in other individuals and that change occurred. 

So, how to we everyday people that aren't King David or Saint Francis of Assisi lead to impact change?  By Leading Backwards.  If we are to be leaders, we must do so for the aid and success of others.  If we are to make others successful, then we must know and understand what will make them successful.  If we are to know what others need for success, we must know who they are.  If we are to know who they are, we must listen.  To be an effective leader, we must listen to others and then add value to them.

Remember, leadership is selfless (puts others first) and followership is selfishness (puts self first).