Thursday, May 26, 2011

Release your power!

I had the distinct pleasure of addressing the Coastal Georgia Chapter of the American Society of Military Comptrollers this last week.  I love speaking engagements.  It comes from growing up in Texas, where front porches are the place for sit and speaks on the topic of the day.  This upbringing has greatly influenced my job as a counselor and mentor to an organization of 1200 employees.  I was asked to speak in my capacity as Disability Program Manager.  I saw it as an opportunity to speak on Disability Empowerment.  The free crab cake lunch was an added bonus.
I opened with one of my favorite quotes from Doctor Howard Thurman, an influential American author, philosopher, theologian, education and civil rights leader in the twentieth century.
“Don't ask yourself what the world needs.  Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and then go do it. Because what the world needs are people who have come alive.”
You see, deep down inside of us is power.  We all have it.  We all want to do a great job in this life.  We all have some type of knowledge and skill that can contribute to the world at large.  Empowerment is about letting this power out for humankind.  I shared a three part solution for managers on how their employees can let this power out, to empower their employees, and to build a better team.  You can just as easily replace “manager” with husband, wife, teacher, sensei, coach, sergeant, etc.  The plan works for every type of leadership role and capacity.
The book “Empowerment Takes More Than a Minute” presents three means that leaders can use to empower their subordinates.  These are sharing information with everyone, creating autonomy through boundaries and replacing the old hierarchy with self-managed teams.  We share information with everyone, allowing trust to be built up and involving everyone in the process by giving them a clear purpose and direction.  We create autonomy through boundaries, as needed, to ensure open lines of communication and feedback are occurring.  This leads to better self-managed teams.  These self-managed teams move the mission forward and continue the vision well into the future. 
The discussion went on to the broader vision of empowering our lives when working with those who are disabled.  The combat operations this nation has endured for the last ten years has created a large population of veterans who are returning with visible and invisible wounds.  Some of them need to let their power out, to be empowered.  Some of us need to teach them how to be empowered.  That is my path in life.  I am always on the lookout for a few fellow journeyers. 
I wrapped up my discussion by sharing a story from my time while I was attending the Disability Program Manager’s Course at the Defense Equal Opportunity Management Institute.  I was checking in and the hotel clerk asked me what course I was attending.  I told her and she relayed that she felt sorry for the “blind guy” who had reported in earlier.  I asked her what she meant and she said, “You know, getting to the dining facility, around base, etc.”
I asked her if he had developed blindness while he was checking in.
I met Joe later; he is a GS-15 Disability Program Manager for one of the Federal Agencies (the highest grade you can achieve.)  We had a chuckle over coffee at the Dining Facility (by the way, he did just fine navigating his way around) and he relayed his side of the story.
You see, Joe was given a second story room by that hotel clerk; in a building with no elevator, just stairs.  She may have wondered how Joe was going to be able to get around, but she didn’t empower him so he could be highly productive.
By the way, Joe let some of his power out and got himself a first floor room.
Let me close with a quote. “Disability is a matter of perception. If you can do just one thing well, you're needed by someone.”
Find your passion.  Share it with others so we can all be empowered!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Thoughts on the Rapture

Well, I wanted to welcome you to the other side of the Rapture.  If you are a friend of mine on Facebook, you know I had a little fun on May 21, 2011, the so-called Rapture prophesy of Harold Camping, an evangelist from Alameda, California.  If you do not know who I am referencing… well, nothing to see here, move along.  So why did a Buddhist, someone who walks a path of compassion, have such a frolic at the expense of another human being.  Well, it is because this man of God harkens me back to a childhood of “Revelation Churches.”

Let me fill you in on that one.  I was born and raised in a small town in Texas.  Every Sunday, we would travel to an unincorporated township where my grandma lived, a township whose population was about 300-400 and had six churches.  We attended the Church of Christ, one of two in this town.  Of course, ours was the “white” church, after all, this was south Texas and in the middle of the 70’s.  The township’s Church of Christ had broken into two churches during the era of desegregation in the 60’s.  We remained the ‘pure’ church.  Our Sunday attendance consisted of 8-12 worshippers.  Our sermons mostly consisted of quotes from Daniel and Revelations, because Proctor and Gamble had put bar codes on their products and the anti-Christ was in full force shaping the world.  I grew up knowing Ronald Wilson Reagan (count those letters, folks) was secretly shaping the world to his evil means.  Then, the light went out and came back on.

Thursday, 4:32am, May 20, 1982.  My father, who was the song leader for our congregation, passed away.  I was 14 years old, in the heart of my early teenage years, in the heart of susceptibility.   We attended services the next Sunday, where the man who oversaw our church told me that unless I repented and was baptized, I was going to hell.  Now, think about that for a second.  Fourteen, lost his father three days earlier, in the throws of grief, and a man of God is telling me I am going to hell.  It was here that I learned the First Noble Truth of Buddhism - Life is suffering.  Suffer I did.  Of course, I was baptized within the next few weeks.  I took on the mantle of replacing my father in the congregation, leading hymns and reading scripture each Sunday, mostly from Revelations, and looking for the apocalypse in every news story.  Luckily, I joined the Army in 1986, left my small town upbringing, was exposed to culture and diversity and my mind was able to break free of the shackles of my youth. 

Understand, this is not a bash on Christianity nor the Church of Christ, but just the narrow viewpoints of those who blindly follow visions of prophesy.  My path is compassion.  So, I feel compassion when I see fellow human beings following the same path I took as a child.  I feel compassion when I see a man tell his followers he knows the ultimate truth.  In that compassion, I must find some joy and love that is truly the end we must attain.  Over the next few days, if he has not taken his life, we will hear from Harold Camping, he will try to justify how he made a mistake.  It is the circle of life for these types.  I went through this in my early adult years when I confronted the man from my childhood church.  Hopefully, his followers will find some compassion for this man.  In the meantime, I will continue on my path in the here and now.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Know your enemy

The news rolls on.  One of our Nation’s most wanted fugitive has been killed.  Now, the media will twist the story around for the next days, weeks, months, etc until we get sick to death of it.  Some will get it right; others will spin it to justify whatever.  In the end, will it really matter?
My last job in the military involved a lot of battlefield assessments, observing the enemy to help determine a course of action, and providing lethal support to the main ground forces once we were committed to the battle.  So, a vast amount of time staying hidden and reporting what I saw all around me.  This mentality has really translated into what I do for a living now, as an advisor to the commander on management employee relations.  It could not be more relevant to the current news story of the day.
I have sat in amazement as co-worker after co-worker has approached me today and asked about my feelings on the operation overseas.  Some who know me very well have not had to ask at all.  They know my philosophy of “watching the battlefield and gathering intelligence before acting decisively.”  Yes, the ones who were given the task of executing this military operation have reason to celebrate their mission accomplishment.  Yes, I am proud of my fellow troopers who lost no one on this surgical strike.  But, it is early in the operation.  Those who oppose us will undoubtedly retaliate.  Now is not the time to throw a drunken frat party to celebrate the death of one man who lost his celebrated figure head years ago.  Watch the battlefield.  Gather intelligence.  Act decisively.  The question on my mind is, “Where is Ayman al-Zawahri?”  Don’t know who that is?  Then, you need to go back and re-read Sun Tzu.  Know your enemy.
Our Nation will celebrate.  The operators who were involved in the actual action will be de-briefed, take a day, then check the mission board to see what task is next.  It is the warrior way.  They know their enemy.  We should too.