Is it Agnes or Maggies?

My wife says “Goodness gracious Maggies!” I was brought up hearing “Goodness gracious Agnes!” She was raised in South Carolina while I grew up in Florida. We don’t know where Agnes and Maggie were raised.

Geography seems to play a role in variations in similar sayings. In the South, I often heard “Bless his (or her) heart” to reference someone prone to inanity. Our friends from Pennsylvania say “God love him (or her)” meaning the same thing.

The more religiously influenced have a variety of sayings. I think the Catholic influence might lead a surprised person to say “Holy Mary mother of God!” which is quite the mouhful. Often, it is shortened to “Holy Mary!” leaving the longer version for more awe-inspiring events.

“Jesus Christ! or the shortened “Jesus!” is uttered when a religious mother is out of earshot. Otherwise, the child might get a look or rebuke. Often, it is shortened to “Jeez,” “Jeepers,” or “Gee whiz,” depending on the generation or religious zeal of the mother.

We can thank Walt Disney for popularizing another replacement with his character “Jiminy Cricket.” Making his name plural makes another saying of surprise. A variation is “Jiminy Christmas” for more exasperating events.

“Dammit,” has long been a shortened version of GD which would have gotten a strong rebuke in my house. The rebuke for Dammit wpuld be less severe. Either phrase reveals disappointment in some failure. I am reminded of Strother Martin’s character in “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.” The tobacco chewing character would say “Dammit” when his tobacco spittle got on his chin, yelling “bingo” when it did not.

It saddens me to think of the humor of Bill Cosby given his off-stage criminal acts of sexual assault. But, one of his funnier routines was of his father trying to edit his language around his kids. When mad, Cosby said his father could not complete a sentence due to self-censure.

I have shared before the saying of my wonderful ciolleague whose father was a minister. When very frustrated, she would say, “Bad word, bad word.!” Her saying would lighten the moment if others heard her saying it given her temperament.

What are some of your family, friends and region’s sayings? Are they unique to your area or more widespread?

Sometimes a quote says it all

Quotes can sometimes be painfully pertinent. Yesterday, I read the following quote from a Chinese source as the country develops a response to US tariffs. China’s official Xinhua news agency added: “The wise man builds bridges, the fool builds walls. With economic globalisation there are no secluded and isolated islands.” I think their point is about more than tariffs.

Politicians unfortunately have a hard time with the truth, some moreso than others. One of my favorite quotes is from former Senator John Kyl of Arizona when caught in a lie. “You mistook what I was saying as the truth.” In other words, it is your fault I am lying,

This is an excellent segue to a current politician who is on record as lying more than he does not. Congressman Trey Gowdy said the following about such man. “If the President is innocent, it would help if he started acting that way.”

On a more humorous note, actor Abe Vigoda from the movie “The Godfather” and television show “Barney Miller,” was reported to have passed away. Upon reading of his death in the newspaper, Vigoda sent a press release that said “The reports of my demise have been overly exaggerated.” This was in keeping with his deadpan comic delivery.

Getting back to politics, a famous quote used often by President Richard Nixon was “I am not a crook.” The fact that he felt the need to use it again and again begged the question, who are you trying to convince? After over twenty convictions of his co-conspirators, Nixon only escaped  criminal judgment because of President Gerald Ford’s pardon. Mr. Nixon, you were a crook.

Let me close with one of the finest quotes in American history. It was so crucial it helped lead to the eventual downfall of Senator Joe McCarthy, of Communist witchhunt infamy. After John Welch, General Counsel of the US Army had given testimony over several hours, he said to McCarthy, “Do you have no sense of decency, sir?”

I close with these two examples as they remind me of our current fearmongering President. “Decency” is not a word I would use to define the man.

 

 

 

A lesson that continues to evade someone

A certain man in a global leadership position continues to avoid learning an important lesson. Not only does it hurt his efforts, but it is harmful to this country’s relationships around the globe and within its leadership ranks. The lesson is his failure to vet decisions and communications of such with key people before a broader announcement.

Yesterday, this man decided to walk away from a summit with North Korea without giving advance notice to a key ally in South Korea. As a result, the US relationship with South Korea is strained. Now, he may be whipsawing them again as he has done all week saying the summit may still be on.

But, this is not the first time he has done this. After pleas from our European allies, he walked away from the Iran nuclear deal.  The echoes of that change continue to strain relationships with our allies to the point an EU leader said “with friends like these, who needs enemies?”

His first major change was so horribly vetted and communicated, it was pulled after two days. He failed to discuss with Congressional leaders in his own party that he was instituting a travel ban. He also failed to gain input and buy-in from affected agencies who had to implement the change. It was as he likes to say a “disaster,” but this one was on his shoulders. Soldiers often refer to poor decisions like this with a word beginning with “cluster.”

But, there are many more examples. What may turn out to be his Waterloo is he fired James Comey without telling him. Comey found out from a TV news report. Further, he failed to give advance warning to his communication team, leaving them to make plans in the White House bushes while the reporters waited. That may be the best metaphor for his Presidency.

Yet, for a man who used to have a faux-reality show where he fired people, he has a hard time doing this face to face. He fired Rex Tillerson without telling him. He had Andrew McCabe fired as he cleaned out his desk to retire, an especially vindictive move. Not telling people they are fired beforehand is extremely poor management. And, for someone who likes to talk tough, it reveals those words are part of a false bravado.

His followers like to say what a great businessman he is, but while he is accused of being a great merchandiser, he is rarely accused of being a good manager. Managing a multi-organization business or government is complicated. It requires diligence, input, time, communication, planning and a dose of compassion. For someone who makes decisions on the fly and bullies people, he is at odds with the tools for successful implementations or relationships.

But, as the man once said. “I, alone, can solve this.” With all due respect, no you cannot, but you sure can screw it up.

Execution matters

Very early in the Trump presidency, he signed an executive order to institute a travel ban. It was so poorly conceived, vetted, communicated and staged, its disastrous rollout was canceled in a couple of days. A key example was he failed to tell (or involve) the people who would execute the decision what they needed to do. He also did not advise beforehand the Speaker of the House and Senate Majority Leader who found out when we did.

Earlier this week and over fifteen months later, the President decided to pull the US out of the Iran nuclear agreement. Whether people agree with this decision, the State department had a very difficult time answering questions the next day as to what this all meant. The did not know answers to questions on the impact on business transactions underway, business transactions that had multiple parties from various countries, business transactions where US suppliers provided parts to French companies working with Iran, etc.

One reporter noted it was shocking how little the State department people knew on what needed to be done and the answers to many questions. They were not briefed. Apparently, the lessons of the first travel ban and other poorly rolled out decisions have not been learned. This is what vetting, planning and communication tries to avoid. Just because a regal person says to do something does not mean it can easily happen. Execution matters. Time matters.

As a former consultant and business manager, I can assure you execution is as important as good ideas. This is a key reason companies spend time and money in project management training. With that said, it is not uncommon to see execution challenges. I recall one prospective client telling me a new software was going to go live a certain date. I asked what alternatives they had considered if certain things did not happen as planned. His answer was of course they would happen on time. It is rare that things go as planned and this was no exception as the start date was delayed.

Yet, what we are seeing from the White House should not be a surprise, as one only needs to look at the business history of the leader. While the confident President would never admit this, what financial reporters and biographers have known for years is Trump is a terrific merchandiser, but they would not confuse him with being a good manager. Managing by chaos and loyalty are not conducive to the very necessary boring competence. Even vetting candidates for jobs is essential and is not a competency for which this White House is known.

Execution matters. Vetting, planning, communication, and time are essential. Without doing these things, too many people are caught off guard. A visual metaphor is White House communication staff hiding in trees from the press after they just found out Comey was fired. Not only did Comey find out after the media did, but so did the Communication staff. Without execution, you have chaos and confusion.

Letter Number 39

I have tried my hardest to reach out to various Senators, Congresspeople and even the President to share my concerns and thank them for certain efforts. Yet, what I have noticed is the use of a standard response letter created by subject. Sometimes, I have received the same letter more than once.

Over the weekend, I was speaking with a neighbor who is an attorney. Since I know he is of a similar mindset, our conversations usually turn to our political frustrations and concerns.

I shared my effort to contact legislators and he said that is nice, but usually is unsuccessful. He told me he used to work with a Congressman and would write those letters. He laughed that he once created “Letter Number 39,” which they would use to respond to a constituent.

We still have to try and contact these legislators. I usually don’t ask for a response anymore, because of the form letter responses. But, I do call and leave voicemails and occasionally speak with staffers. And, I continue with emails.

My friend’s comment is a little disheartening, but we cannot let it stop the reach out. I encourage you to write letters to the editor and share factual information with folks. It is a way to combat the fake news purveyed in large part by the US President and his sycophants.

The President should heed his own advice

In the middle of all the falderol which is largely created by the President, he has made two observations that bear further scrutiny. He said that his White House needs to change its communication strategy. And, this morning after attributing words to the Muslim Mayor of London after last night’s attack that the Mayor did not say, the President said we need to end  political correctness to solve problems.

I see these two comments as very much related. As many, including his own fans, have noted the President’s worst enemy is the man who looks back in the mirror when he shaves. What he says and tweets gets him into trouble.

So, let’s look at these two recommendations. Yes, the White House should change its communication strategy, but it should consider a new idea. They should start telling the truth. Many things bother me about this President, but his high frequency of lying is probably the worst. Yet, his biographers forewarned us. The five writers all said the President has always had a problem with the truth. Thomas Wells, an attorney who worked with the President, said he lies daily about even inconsequential things.

As for political correctness, I agree that we need to be more frank. With that said, being politically incorrect does not give you license to be a jerk or lie. You can be politically incorrect without both, using doses of diplomacy and civility. So, when the President makes a point that is directionally correct, he offends by being a jerk or adding some untruths.

In this vein, let me offer some constructive advice to the President. Our problems are often complex that simple sounding solutions are not the right remedy. It would help us all for you to be truthful and use verifiable data rather data that has been discredited.

As an example, pulling back from world leadership will be harmful to America and the planet. You may want to study the “Nash Equilibrium” which warranted a Nobel prize in Economics for its creator, John Nash who was portrayed by Russell Crowe in “A Beautiful Mind.” In essence, we all make more money if we try to maximize each other’s profits rather than trying to maximize just our own. This does not mean we should overlook groups that are harmed by change, but we need to be mindful of all reasons that may cause pain.

Finally, being politically incorrect requires the truth. Painting one group as the bogeyman does a disservice to greater problems. Domestic terrorism by one of the 1,000 hate groups in the US dwarfs that of Islamic extremists. Yet, when three Americans are knifed by a white supremacist as they defended two Muslim American women, the President had to be shamed into speaking up. And, when he did, he did not use his more popular tweeting venue which likely has more white supremacist followers. Yet, he will be quickly critical of anything that may be due to Islamic extremist.

I recognize fully the President won’t heed this advice. Lying has worked for him for a long time. He treats the truth as a commodity, tending to only use it when it serves his purpose. We need to hold him accountable when he does not tell the truth or when he treats people poorly, especially when they are our allies.

 

You can’t talk to anyone

One of the unfortunate traits of a narcissistic or abusive spouse is to control the victim. It is not uncommon for the abuser to get angry when the victim talks with anyone and attempt to limit those discussions.

I find it telling that our new President is muzzling several of his agencies. This is denied by his press secretary, but there is evidence that pressure is occurring to not release information in press releases and social media.  The one I am most concerned with is his ordering people at the EPA not to speak or release any information for an indefinite time.

The presumed rationale is they may continue to follow science and try to educate, govern and help and not be in keeping with his fossil fuel focus. It is not different from President George W. Bush and Governors Scott Walker and Rick Scott from trying to hamstring discussion or papers dealing with climate change.

I fear this is a continuation of his desire to control the messages. It is a key part of disinformation campaigns. To combat this, we need to demand the truth from this President. We need to demand that scientists not be hamstrung for political reasons.

To be frank, if he wants his Presidency to be legitimized, he can start by telling the truth. He can also encourage the free flow of discussion. Limiting it is prima facie evidence that his own arguments should be questioned more.