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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Value of Human Life

As reported in many news outlets, David Kellermann, the acting CFO of Freddie Mac was found dead in his home on 22 April 2009. Initial reports indicate suicide. His death should be a reminder to all of us that human life is more valuable than career, wealth, houses, or just about anything else.

As we are all aware, the financial crisis of 2009 is taking an incredible toll on millions of people world-wide. As a manager, you spend a significant amount of time with people like David Kellermann, people exposed not only to job stress but also to personal financial stress. This stress can lead people to make desperate decisions.

As a manager, one of your greatest responsibilities is to ensure the well-being of your employees. If you discover an employee is faced with an exceptionally difficult set of circumstances, engage that employee immediately and provide, at a minimum, moral support. Look to provide any available assistance, such as an EAP (Employee Assistance Plan), or even some time off. Reassure the employee and provide encouragement as well as a safe place to listen.

As each of us views the difficulty we are under, never believe that your life or the life of another is no longer worth living. While the stress appears crushing, it can be managed. Help can be had and the choice to live should be made. Great resources can be found at

While I didn't know David Kellermann, or his family, I remember them in my thoughts and prayers, and ask you to do the same. If you know someone who is suffering, offer them any help you can. Take all signs or warnings of suicide seriously and get help!

Life is worth living and protecting!

Many thanks to "Dollars and Sense," as it was the inspiration for this article.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Innovation for Survival

A study of past recessions has shown that companies who focused on R&D and innovation came out of the recession stronger than before. While this may sound like daunting, it is easier than you may think.

There are few companies in the global economy in 2009 that haven't seen some diminishing of their business. Further, fewer investments look as attractive as they once did and there is nothing wrong with having a ready pile of cash. Cheap? No. 100% Free. Trade stocks for free on The Free Trading Community.

So how does a manager convince a company to spend its hard-earned capital on a program of innovation or increased R&D? Nobody said it would be easy and the answer to more capital will likely be "no!" Lest it seem hopeless, consider the alternatives to increased capital spending. Try RingCentral Fax FREE for 30 days

Innovation doesn't necessarily mean coming up with the new "killer app." It can mean simply considering the environment for the creation, production, distribution, and sales of the company's products and improving them incrementally. Can your company improve how a product is manufactured? Can your company improve how it processes receivables? Have Sales and Marketing considered a YouTube channel? Executives & Professionals: Changing Jobs?

While these potential areas for invention seem very droll and boring, consider how the Post-it note from 3M. Here's the story:

Dr. Spencer Silver, a 3M scientist, discovered the formula... in 1968. But it was Silver's colleague, Art Fry, who came up with a practical use for it. The idea for repositionable notes struck Fry while singing in the church choir. His bookmark kept falling out of his hymnal, causing him to lose his page. So, taking advantage of a 3M's "bootlegging" policy, Fry used a portion of his working hours to develop a solution to his problem. Now the world is singing the praises of his pet project: Post-it® Notes.

The lesson for managers is that recessions free up some valuable thinking time. Allow your employees to explore past projects, reconsider failed experiments, and apply new purposes to existing products. While most of these trials will fail, it only takes one winner to make the difference.

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Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Respecting Religous Diversity

Managers regularly hear the words "respect" and "diversity," and generally do a good job of exercising those behaviors. However, one area that requires significant work and a little common sense is how to respect religious diversity.

As more companies expand their global presence, their employees begin to represent that growth. While the presence of Indian and Chinese workers are nothing new in technology companies, other companies are beginning to see increases in employees who practice Islam.

In the U.S., religious freedom is enshrined in law, yet experience with employees of faiths other than Christianity is not common outside of major cities. In other countries, this may be more so, particularly in countries that are beginning to see an influx of foreign workers. Now hiring elite grads. Join Doostang Today!

As managers, we have to find a way to balance an employees religious expression with the needs of the business and the requirements of the law and policy. This balancing act need not be onerous. Rather, an increase in cultural literacy will improve employee relations and encourage open communication.

Some practical examples of this cultural literacy are really quite simple. Suppose there is an employee from India that celebrate Diwali. A manager can ask if the employee celebrates Diwali, and then give them best wishes. The same is true for Muslim employees for the holiday of Eid ul Fitr.

The general understanding of the religious holidays and practices allows management to connect in a very intimate way with employees. Understanding that Ramadan and Lent are periods of fasting help the manager to plan work schedules. Also, improved cultural literacy around employees' religions helps prevent embarrassing gaffes, like serving beef and pork barbecue at a company picnic where most employees are Hindu and Muslim. Executives & Professionals: Changing Jobs?

Religion is a very personal and significant element of many peoples' identity. Managers need to learn the general sensitivities and personal religious sensitivities of their employees. Further, while wishing someone "Happy Easter!" is a nice sentiment, employees may not care to have a manager too deeply involved in their religious practices, nor do they want to be proselytized at work. Protect your Medical Identity with TrustedID. $1,000,000 Warranty & Great Customer Service

Respect is a very easy concept to understand, but can take work to exercise it
effectively. As a general rule, managers should have some knowledge of the key aspects of their employees identities. This knowledge and understanding allows a manager to be sensitive to the individual needs of their employees. While religion is a very challenging topic in the workplace, it can be dealt with respectfully and the recognizes the uniqueness of each employee.

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