Traveling

June 26, 2006

Saturday, June 24, 2006 12:16 PM
I’m sitting in the Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam and there is a flurry of people around. The World Cup is in full swing. I’m not sure what I expected to see, but I was anticipating a larger presence of World Cup enthusiasts. I have seen some people wearing their country colors for the World Cup and a couple who were really decked out. I have heard more comments of fans than anything else. There have been Mexico, Portugal, obviously Holland, Japan, England and others. These people are not overly distinguishable from others, of course I’m not going to be on a flight to Germany where I might have a different opinion. I have learned that football whether it is the American power sport or the world finesse sport is treated as a religion by its adherents.
The matches that I have seen on television have been good, but leave it to American networks to run two games simultaneously so you can’t watch both of them. Yet in American, the world cup has had to compete with the NBA playoffs, the NHL playoffs, and the college baseball world series, which is still going on. In fact I would appreciate the opportunity to have been able to watch more of the NCAA baseball championships. So, while the rest of the world turns almost all of its attention to the World Cup, it only makes the front of the sports section in the US when we are eliminated.
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I’m at my destination in Cyprus and the World Cup is very evident. As I walk along the strip every nightclub, pub, and restaurant has a large flat screen plasma television. Last night I was at the beach at a local outdoor restaurant with 2 big screens so you could see the game wherever you were. Between the two matches we watched the Toronto Grand Prix. It’s all in Greek so I’m watching, but I can figure most of it out. England barely pulled it out in their game. It would have been a sad town for all the visiting British had they lost – and I suspect it wouldn’t have been good for business either. I sat with a local crowd and since Cyprus and Greece are not in the world cup they were respectively quiet. My table was pulling for Holland and we thought for sure they would pull it out. I won’t pretend that I know all there is to know about football, but I’m learning. Some of the strategies don’t make sense to me, while others are easily discernible.
Fans are fans, wherever you go. Some are fan-atical while others are reserve. Not being a sport fanatic I find sometimes that the dedication and commitment by fans to teams to be partially unfathomable. I don’t suspect I will soon be a fanatic, but appreciate grows within. Yes, I still long for a good baseball game where I seemingly understand what is happening.

Peter Drucker once said that 95 percent of all that managers do is designed to make it difficult for others to do their job. I’m a manager and I like to think I don’t operate that way, but after the frustrations I have working “through the system” over the last 2 plus years I’m wondering if I have fallen into the 95% trap. I don’t understand why so many organizations don’t trust their employees and why those at or near the top of the organization set themselves up as judge and jury. Peter Block wrote a book a number of years ago called Stewardship. I used it in my graduate leadership class for several years. It hit a resonant note with me about the role of the manager and how to provide leadership in the organization. It also hit a similar feeling related to the behavior of employees. The idea that we are all stewards, rather than leader-follower is a concept that is well developed in some organizations and in other organizations not even a thought that has ever occurred.

I worked for a number of years in an organization that was as close as I have seen to a stewardship culture. I now work in an organization that is loose-tight autocratic. When someone doesn’t follow the guidelines new rules are put into place for everyone to follow. The silo mentality is strongly in place by some executives and not by others. The absence of a leadership model / culture has a significant impact on the organization’s ability to change, grow, and meet new demands. There is a clear absence of leadership at the top of the organization. I see many who want to do what is right, but are confused by what is wanted. I see others who are striving to be creative and to open new opportunities fully frustrated by a system that refuses to recognize change.

I suppose that if some leaders of this organization were to take Kouzes and Posner’s Leadership Inventory for The Leadership Challenge they would find themselves woefully lacking. Or I might find that I am out of the mainstream of what should be done. I’m not sure that I’ve ever fully embraced the mainstream, but at least I’ve tried to dance around it. As my wife frequently says, “Your the guy who moves the cheese” and while that may be true I am of the feeling that it is sometimes psychologically painful to move that cheese and make sure it stays moved.

Where does all of this put me. I’m an experienced and, by my standards, a successful manager. I believe I have had some leadership moments. I know I have many blind spots and that sometimes I don’t know when to quit (or shut-up). My gut tells me I’m right and I should continue to fight, so does one of my trusted colleagues. My brain tells me I could use the time and the frustration more effectively doing other things and so does another of my trusted colleagues. Yet, where does the decision ultimately lie? It lies with me, as always, after I have given due consideration, spoken with others that I trust, but who will not mirror my feelings. Making decisions are not necessarily hard, but sometimes hard decisions require decisions that are necessarily hard. It is sometimes the easy decisions that are easiest to make.

As I have reflected upon the above writing I’m asking myself am I half-full glass or half-empty glass person. I’ve always thought of myself as a half-full glass, but after reading the above I’m not so sure. My daughter once made a needle-point that says “Limits exist only in your mind.” I’m a firm believer of that. My comments have caused me to reflect more than I have for some time. I have spent several days writing just these few words, yet I’ve put many hours into reflection. Reflecting on some reading I’ve been doing it may be important for me to take the external view and become a disinterested narrator of the process. That is easier said then done. I doubt it would be a disinterested narrator, but a narrator who looks at the process from a different perspective. I’m not sure I can pull this off. Vivian Gornick wrote some excellent insights into the process. I’m going to give it a try. Learning is doing and doing is learning, and writing is combining learning and doing in a narrative format.

Still writing

June 14, 2006

My goal was to write one chapter a week for the new edition of the book I’m revising. It seemed a reasonable approach and I felt if I put in 30 to 40 hours a week I could do it. That assumed I wrote from 6 am to noon then went in to work for a few hours. Educators have most of the summer off, but as an educator-administrator (oxymoron) I need to show up about 3 days a week. Even as late as Friday I was still anticipating completion of the first chapter. By Saturday I was in good shape, but then I had to transfer the writing to edit sheets, revise, revise, revise, and do all the detail work that makes the editor happy. At that juncture I realized the writing is the easy or the enjoyable part of the process. It is these kinds of details that drive me crazy. Determining what photos to include, securing permissions, making sure the endnotes are correct, double checking the edits to make sure I got all the changes. That almost takes the fun out of writing. Almost, but not quite. Okay, too much whining. No more of that!
I am starting work today on the next more challenging chapter. I’m moving from facts to futures. Facts, when presented well and not just numbers but should be a good read. Futures scenarios are creative writing and more challenging. My goal will be to engage the reader in the next chapter in a different way then I have to this point. Vivian Gornick in The Situation and the Story states, “engagement makes experience, experience makes wisdom, and finally it’s the wisdom–or rather movement toward it–that counts” (p. 14).
I am also trying something else in the introduction to the book. I plan to share “first person” accounts of leisure experiences. In doing so I have asked several people to write on a specific topic and I asked them 3 questions. Taken from a request for a NASCAR weekend, I asked the following:

Would you write me a one-page first person account of a NASCAR weekend. Take it from the idea to the actual experience. I want to know how you felt, what where your emotions (before, during,and after) the NASCAR weekend. I’m not so interested in why you do it rather than the feelings that come about from preparing, participating, and reflecting.

These are good qualitative research questions and simply applied without a desire to move through a thorough qualitative research approach. That may come later. I have yet to apply these into the book, but I’m looking forward to its implementation. It will be a creative process and that is what writing is all about. As always, I will keep you posted.

Summer Writing

June 4, 2006

I’m in the midst of using the summer to revise 3 books simultaneously. Some would consider that reason enough to commit me to a hospital and in lucid moments I consider them not far off the mark. Sometimes forces conspire to overwhelm us and when you have difficulty saying no it makes it all the easier to be overwhelmed. I am not I have a plan. How well will it work? Keep up with me this summer as I share my experiences.

I have put off the revisions for 2 books for far too long. As a result sales for one are dismal and for the other sales continue to be surprisingly good. They both have a demand among students and academicians. I feel compelled to endure a summer of writing to update my work. I have put off vacation, relaxation (well mostly), and travel (except when required), and have hidden from my secretary to accomplish this work. I should turn off my cell phone, but I’m not a monk. I’m just another author who enjoys seeing his name on a book. I will keep you posted on my challenges and successes as I write this summer. Watch my blog “Dan’s Mussings”.

Climbing the wall
Even us authors need a break to climb a wall once in a while.