Nominations, allegations, and partisan politics

The testimony of Dr. Ford has brought our nation to a boiling point of frustration, fear, anger, and strategic politicking. How do we sort this out? Who do you believe? What should happen next?

With so much at stake, the country has divided itself based on whether or not they believe Judge Kavanaugh should be confirmed for a lifetime appointment to the Supreme court or not. Yet, the typical political concerns that arise at these times are heightened by the fact that a woman has come forward to say that she was assaulted by Kavanaugh. This is further exacerbated by the impact these allegations have had on women all over the country who have faced similar situations. The joint catharsis of deeply emotional experiences is creating a wave of backlash, fueled by intense personal memories. As if that weren’t enough, Bill Cosby is mid-sentencing and will receive jail time, numerous high level, powerful men have been removed from their positions in very public showings, and the current President has been accused of similar behavior.

Yet, there is a claim from the leader of the Senate that his “Democratic colleagues…willfully chose to turn a sensitive allegation into a political and media circus that inflicted considerable pain on Dr. Ford, Judge Kavanaugh, and both of their families.”

What are the odds?

Statistically, they are slim. The average range of misreport is 2-8%, depending on a variety of factors. The age of Dr. Ford, her credibility, and the personal cost to testify at this level, puts her in the lowest probability range.

However, Judge Kavanaugh has also been through numerous investigations and has a long work history to support his credibility as well.

Then there are politics. How can we, as Americans, determine the true motivation of our senators? On the one hand, they’ve been chosen to speak for each of our states. On the other hand, in order to get re-elected, they have to constantly fight for themselves personally. Additionally, it’s very bothersome that there is a clear divide between the parties. ONLY Republicans are voting for Kavanaugh. Is that because Democrats won’t allow a conservative judge? Is it because the Republicans want to press for their party and ‘win’ over choosing a judge everyone can agree to? Is it even possible for the senate to agree or are we so far gone with partisanship that it wouldn’t matter who was nominated?

And then there is us, the American people – and especially women. So many women have lived through, and suppressed, experiences similar to Dr. Ford that it would be impossible not to feel as if one is fighting for the very idea of protecting women – regardless of whether or not this man did what she has testified.

So where do we go from here? Is there a right answer? Is there only perception? Is there only politics to guide us?

Where we go is for the truth. In all of these perceptions, worries, fears, and accusations – one fact remains solid: Only one of the two people that testified was telling the truth and there is little chance that anyone in the senate would know which one that is based solely on how believable their testimony seemed. What surprises me – or perhaps bothers me – is that many in the senate are attorneys – and they know that testimony is only one part of the puzzle and frequently not the strongest part. They also know that seasoned attorneys and judges are extremely well versed in how to coach, give, and take testimony.

The right way to do this is to find the right answer. We live in a nation where we have clear guidelines for how to handle accusations. We live in a nation where we take seriously lifetime appointments. Delaying is inconvenient and I’m sure worrisome to Republicans because this timing is so tied to the midterm elections but inconvenience is no justification for guessing.

It should never be the goal of our elected officials to push their own answer, rather it should always be the goal to find the right answer.

Collaboration and Friendship

If we’re going to defend together, we must train together and if we’re going to train together, we must first be friends.

This was told to me recently while overseas and I think truer words were never spoken. What is the intangible benefit of face-to-face, open thinking, undirected, fun with coworkers? A colleague of mind calls it mandatory fun but perhaps there is more of a purpose, more of a reason for it. Something happens when we all learn the human side of our coworkers. We begin to let down our walls, we begin to talk as humans, we begin to form friendships.

Through the formation of these shared experiences, trust is built and the outcome of that trust is greater effectiveness at work.It is so commonly the case that every minute, every dollar, every meeting needs to be requirements-driven, justified, and the outcomes clarified. Of course this has developed out of a necessity for accountability but in the act of severe control, we lose the benefits of creativity, thought safety, excitement to explore and create. The most innovative companies in our nation are well known for creating fun and safe environments – why? Because the secret, yet directly unmeasurable, outcome of these spaces is the encouragement of new ideas. Born from these ideas are profits.

Ironically, the very act of focus on requirements reduces the likelihood of addressing them at our best level.

Creativity and effectiveness are enhanced by team building, success driven, failure- accepting spaces. Our nation would be wise to capitalize on these ideas and methods – they create the highest likelihood of success for our people locally and worldwide. International friendships and respect for the unique capabilities of other nations will predictably enhance our worldwide economic and defense stronghold and impact.

Photo by Andrew Butler on Unsplash Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

National policy: Local impact

 When most of us discuss policy, we are referring to the platform of a particular political party or a particular candidate. However, policy in the Government has a different meaning – it refers to the set of documented rules or recommendations people or groups within Government or entities outside of Government, such as companies, shall act. In the case of recommendations, or “instructional policies”, agencies have the option of following them. They are not required rules. Typically, these are considered best practices and the documents act as supportive reasoning for decision making. But with other policies, whether they be laws written by Congress, Executive Orders written by the President, or policies within Governmental agencies, they must be followed. All this makes sense….until….

What happens when a policy that appears narrow in scope is suddenly realized to create a ripple effect that creates issues for another group or interferes with another existing policy? Across the 2.4 million executive branch workers, there are an enormous number of policies and you can probably extrapolate how a web of confusion can easily develop. But the question today centers on how these policies can not only affect the interpretation of other policies but also how they can create big challenges in individual towns.

When rules are put in place to “improve” a situation in one area of the nation or in one industry, it must then be followed by all states or companies. However, what about the ones for whom it may not be an improvement? If they don’t have the same issues to deal with, how will they ensure they follow the policies? And more importantly, how will they do it in a way that doesn’t significantly affect profit? More importantly, how does all of this affect the people who live in towns that depend on these work opportunities?

The way we’ve always dealt with these issues is to constantly update policies based on new information brought typically by representatives from those areas or from lobbyists in the affected industries or locations. However, can we do a better job? Can we a) better account for the differences across our states at the outset and b) can we recognize the need to, more often than not, make changes slowly and with intention? For example, perhaps for safety reasons, a new policy has to be enacted immediately. Or maybe that’s true for only some areas or people. But the part that’s oftentimes missing is the future planning piece. In this case – are we changing the way we educate the youngest people in these affected towns to ensure that the next generation is prepared for future employment? Or do we stop at the point of making rules, more rules, continuously changing rules?

A common mantra I share widely is: When you present people with a plan, they become your critics but if you include them in the solution, they become your champions. Perhaps we could do a better job of including everyone in the solution building rather than reserving those decisions and input for people in office. Perhaps if we crated conduits for input and opportunities for transparency, we’d find our solutions to be more accurate, responsive, inclusive, holistic, and proactive. Perhaps we’d be able to unify and connect our people toward common solutions and plans rather than divide us to fight over winning an outcome that favors some rather than supporting all. We can do better – we just need to consider problems from different angles and more holistically.

Large Corporations: What makes them tick? Why do you care?

To be fair, it’s not about the corporations themselves, it’s about the dreamers, the innovators, the mind racers – it’s the ones that stay up late at night, who wake up before the sun with an idea they can’t shake, who are driven beyond reason to address seemingly impossible problems. It’s these people that start with a crummy sign taped to a small office but who can, in great detail you never want to hear to the end, explain all the intricacies of how they are going to achieve their goals. Most of us just shake our heads as we listen to the outrageous stories….until….they achieve them.

It doesn’t matter if we are talking about musicians, business owners, tech start up leads, or even children. The pattern is the same and it is at the heart of my article on mind racers ( These personalities are not only capable of imagining the impossible, they crave the challenge. More than that, they need it at the biological level in order to maintain their personal homeostasis point. That’s why reason and nay-saying will never deter them, they literally need it – this continuous challenge.

Now the question: Why do you care and what does this have to do with national unity?

Some of our U.S.-based companies have attained such a level of human, social, and economic power that they can not only affect their brand’s market, but they can influence societies and governments around the world. We think of defense of this nation as a purely military activity and diplomatic exercise. But we would be remiss if we didn’t recognize the unregulated, yet powerful influence these large companies wield. The Government must not directly support or engage with a specific company at any one time – it violates ethics rules. However, there are methods by which the U.S. Government engages with companies through panels, open discussion forums, workforce exchange programs, etc.

But in spite of the opportunity to work together – what is the reason these largest, most influential companies, would work with the Government?

We can say they should. We can say they need to be patriots. We can shame them into it. But none of these options will ever work entirely, deeply, or even long term because we can’t simply force people to do things. Their heart just isn’t in it. But perhaps there is another angle. Perhaps, if we answer the acronym: WIIFM (What’s in it for me?), we will achieve success. If these creative, innovative, intellectual moguls need contest challenge, well, our nation has an unlimited supply  The tech leaders of our nation fight hard to achieve personal, financial, and company success but eventually – the company is so large and the money is so abundant that they run out of goals to accomplish….and have to make new ones. Bill Gates focuses on philanthropy. Elon Musk invents new solutions to problems he can find. But how do we harness the energy, minds, and innovation of these thought leaders and use it to both bolster our national footprint and leadership but also create a better planet for all our people?

I think the short answer is that we provide the unending supply of challenges they seek. We create the metaphorical American Whiteboard where answers are needed. And I think we not only feed their need to think, build, solve – but we use that energy and that methodology as a driving model to design education and inspire our people to follow suit. We invite everyone in, rather than ask only a few to dominate.

The nation that views life as a report card requiring checks in boxes to prove worth will design pathways that perpetuate and promote an industrial model that rewards completion over success. But the country that decriminalizes failure and encourages creativity, will energize its people to brilliantly innovate – and in doing so, attract the most influential minds to be part of the team.

Leadership: National and International Scale

There is an old parable about the wind and the sun and a man with a coat. The wind and sun make a bet challenging the other to get the coat off the man. The wind blows and blows but the man holds tighter onto his coat and the wind is not strong enough to force it off. The sun takes her turn and simply shines her rays. As the man becomes too hot, he voluntarily removes the coat and the sun wins the challenge.

The moral of the story is that force creates a closed, defensive stance while warmth invites voluntary agreement.

Most of us know this logically but few of us execute it rationally and frequently. Why? Because in our own frustration of others, we are oftentimes hindered in our ability to think clearly. In highly emotional and agitated states, we struggle to see the forest for the trees and thus aim to speak more, yell louder, prove our point….which surely will convince the recipient of our brilliance. But alas, it is in fact the act of listening that can often provide the greatest opportunity for understanding and ultimately for success.

In a commonly stated position by the current Secretary of Defense, Secretary Mattis, he advocates for a two prong approach to defense: The power of inspiration backed by the power for intimidation. In national and international leadership, much like the parable and Secretary Mattis’s beliefs, it is in our best interest to recognize the benefits of using metaphorical sunshine to elicit compliance and buy in. It is frequently a stronger position to be the listener in the relationship rather than the one dictating the outcomes.

Remember: If others are provided a plan, they will become your critic but if they are part of the solution, they will be your champion.

Across the country and across the world, it is in our best interest to bring our people together, to listen to one another, to find common ground, and to invite the world to join us because it is the strongest position we can take as a world leader – it is the most effective method for creating agreement at scale.

Photo by Oleg Yeltsov Photo by Aziz Acharki