Archive for the ‘Control’ Category

Service of When the Tail Wags the Dog: Over-Empowered Kids

Thursday, August 3rd, 2017

Photo: tcw.com

Picture this: It’s 2030 and an intern where you work slams her phone on a table, demands that the company summer outing be at an amusement park, not at the venue described in the text she just received, and flounces out of the boss’ office. Or maybe a nubie objects to the upcoming move and complains loudly to management that the new location is inconvenient for her.

“Fat chance,” you predict.

If some of the scenarios Jennifer Breheny Wallace described in her Wall Street Journal article are accurate, these instances could happen when the children she wrote about are let loose on the world as young adults. The days of “the tail doesn’t wag the dog,” no longer apply in some families whose kids rule every aspect of the roost.

Photo: educateempowerkids.com

Wallace warns that a democratic approach—where every member of the family, regardless of age or experience, has an equal vote in major decisions–isn’t such a good idea. [You think?]

In “Children Should Be Heard, but Only So Much–Children now have much more influence over family decisions, but parents need to be wary of giving them too much sway,” Wallace writes about one set of parents who put the purchase of an apartment on hold until they could get the approval of their six year old. Kids in other families determine where the family goes on vacation.

“‘Modern parents want their kids to feel included and empowered, so nearly every purchase is now a family decision,’ says branding strategist Bill Goodwin. In a recent National Retail Federation survey of more than 1,000 parents of Gen Zers (the generation born after 1995), 67% said that they solicit their child’s opinion before making family purchases, and 59% said that they won’t buy something if their child doesn’t approve of it,” wrote Wallace.

Photo: 510families.com

Richard Weissbourd of the Harvard Graduate School of Education told Wallace that there are benefits to letting kids know parents value their opinions such as in picking a restaurant. “But when it comes to making major purchases (such as a house) or determining family priorities (such as deciding whether to travel to see extended family or go to Disneyland), he says that a parent’s wisdom should prevail.”

Weissbourd observed: “Unfortunately, some parents now rely on their kids to fill the void of where a friend should be.”

Photo: modernmom.com

Wallace continued: “Children need to be taught to make sacrifices and not to assume that others will organize their lives around them, which can lead to entitlement, says Dr. Weissbourd. For example, if Saturdays are spent engaging in a child’s activity, then on Sundays, bring your child on family errands,” she wrote.

“Empowering children to make decisions about their own lives teaches them valuable life skills, such as how to take responsibility for themselves,” psychologist Laura Markham told Wallace. She referred to picking a sport or clothes. “However, when it comes to decisions that affect the overall family, “Parents should have the last word.”

Parents who hand over the reins to young children mean well but can it end well? Do you know families that operate in this way? Has the age of reason moved to six from 13—recognized by major religions–and isn’t 13 on the young side to know the best place to live or vacation?

Photo: ca.news.yahoo.com

Service of Control

Thursday, August 2nd, 2012

onoffswitch

The subject of control has come up in countless posts and I’ve been told that the word relates to me.

One Friday morning I heard from two readers that the night before they hadn’t been able to access this blog. It reminded me how dependent on others we are. Had I known Thursday night, I wouldn’t have been able to fix things or explain what was wrong.

Mind you, I’m grateful to WordPress for giving me an easy way to publish a blog and I’m not in any way criticizing it for a glitch that never before happened and may not have been caused by them in any case.

typewriterIn the dinosaur typewriter days, if I ran out of ribbon at midnight before a paper or a proposal was due, it was my fault and I could have prevented that crisis by having a backup on hand. However, if my computer crashes with my work in it, my goose is cooked. I’m no IT expert.

But a computer is a zillion times more efficient than a typewriter and finding files a breeze in comparison to the paper-cut prone chore of leafing through innumerable files looking for a crucial memo, letter or press release. So I’m willing to live with the sword-or eraser-of Damocles poised to virtually wipe out my work life in an inadvertent tap of a key.

But there are some areas we seem to be losing control where we don’t need to be.

toolboxIn “A Nation That’s Losing Its Toolbox,” an essay Louis Uchitelle wrote for The New York Times, he recognized the “dilution of American craftsmanship” that occurs between self-stick, precut remodeling products; colorful but “not-so-serious-looking” power tools and installers at the ready at big box hardware stores.

He wrote, “This isn’t a lament – or not merely a lament – for bygone times. It’s a social and cultural issue, as well as an economic one. The Home Depot approach to craftsmanship – simplify it, dumb it down, hire a contractor – is one signal that mastering tools and working with one’s hands is receding in America as a hobby, as a valued skill, as a cultural influence that shaped thinking and behavior in vast sections of the country.”

I have the energy, but neither the patience, intelligence nor the skill to be handy and that has always frustrated me.

It’s one thing to say that we can’t afford to manufacture things here because wages are too high and it’s another to give up on skills handed down father and uncle to son, daughter, niece and nephew. If nothing else, the labor price is right and you control the outcome of a project when you paint the house or install flooring and windows yourself. Do you agree?

 fathersonworkshop

Service of Who Approved This?

Thursday, December 8th, 2011

approved1

I just wasted 10 minutes trying to order a Christmas gift on line.

Long story short, I went to the site’s online chat to ask how to delete something from my order. I explained that while I carefully clicked one size, the item on the invoice was a different–and the wrong-size–and I couldn’t see where, on the screen, to delete it. I’d added the right size and color by then.

I followed the directions of how to go back to the order page “without messing up our system by back-clicking” and thought I’d solved things by removing the “1” leaving the “quantity” square blank. Up came a red alert notice that in effect wouldn’t let me leave a blank quantity.

Back to online chat. I got a set of instructions to change the spam filter on my computer in order for their site to do thus and such ….at which point I thanked and said I’d cancel the whole thing and I got off the site.

llbean1Went to LL Bean where I noticed there was a delete option you couldn’t miss under every ordered item.

So I wondered who had approved the system for the first website. They sure knew what they were doing search engine optimization-wise: Their site was the first one that popped up when I inserted in Google the key words identifying what I wanted to buy. But their site wasn’t customer friendly for people who don’t want to muck around with their computer’s cookie and spam invasion-level just to buy something.

notthinking-003As for this self stick label, [photo left], the buyer at Home Goods hadn’t explained to his/her Chinese supplier that eight year olds don’t shop at this store so that most customers would be giving this item as a stocking stuffer or small gift and they’d want to remove the price. This wasn’t simple to do: The sticker was under cellophane wrap. So who placed the order and approved the shipment?

streetglitchestarlump002small2This asphalt street/sidewalk sculpture, [right] where the bus stops, has driven me nuts for months. I waited for someone to fix the sloppy application of asphalt. Nobody came. Yet somebody approved the job and somebody was paid. Who pays the lawyer and settlement when people tumble on the mess and hurt themselves?

streetglitches-flood004smallLast, on my walk to work yesterday, I was surprised by a lake on 47th Street near First Avenue [left]. It had rained in a mostly misty way the day before and overnight, but nothing much. It was still raining in the morning, but again, no cats and dogs. Near the UN and right by one of the Trump properties, one would think that engineers might keep drains clear or slant the street so that children didn’t mistake the spot for a pond for sailing toy boats. Imagine if we had a freeze: Ice skating for one and all! Cars slowed down when they saw the pool in daylight: At night, some might find the deep water in the middle of the street quite a surprise.

Have you wondered how certain procedures and/or jobs were approved and who OK’d them?  I’d love to know of other examples.

 he-did-it

Service of Board Service

Monday, May 16th, 2011

board-of-directors

My friend Erica Martell urged me to read about the City University of New York’s board of trustees and its reversal about giving playwright Tony Kushner an honorary degree. First the board voted no. Subsequently the executive committee voted yes.

I read the coverage in The New York Times that Erica sent and The Wall Street Journal and finally a New York Sun editorial. The short story: Kushner was being proposed for a doctor of letters at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. Right before the vote, a member of the 17-member board, Jeffrey S. Wiesenfeld, objected to his receiving the honor based on what he described as Kushner’s attacks on Israel.

counterpunchAfter the 6-member executive committee reversed the board’s decision, Winnie Hu in The New York Times wrote: “After the vote to approve the degree, Dr. [Matthew] Goldstein, CUNY’s chancellor, said ‘the basic misstep was there wasn’t a counterpunch’ to Mr. Wiesenfeld’s remarks.

“I’m not sure why the appropriate people didn’t chime in at that time,” he said. Dr. Goldstein, who was present at that meeting, said the presidents of the various colleges are generally expected to address specific questions.”

Translation: Somebody put Kushner on the list. Why didn’t he/she speak up?

Hu noted: “Mr. Kushner later disputed Mr. Wiesenfeld’s characterization of his views and said he is a strong supporter of Israel’s right to exist.”

In The Wall Street Journal Ruth King quoted Benno Schmidt, the president of the board of trustees: “‘I would not ordinarily ask for reconsideration of a decision so recently taken,’ said Mr. Schmidt, who was once president of Yale. ‘But when the board has made a mistake of principle and not merely of policy, review is appropriate and, indeed, mandatory. As it happens, Chairperson Schmidt was on hand when this ‘mistake of principle’ was made but didn’t raise a voice at the time.”

An excerpt from a New York Sun editorial: “But if principles are the issue here, what is the logic of the decision of a full board of trustees being overturned a few days later by a subset of the trustees?

“So far it looks as if the only person who has acted on principle in the CUNY affair is Jeffrey Wiesenfeld, the trustee who first objected to the idea of giving an honorary degree to Mr. Kushner. He came to a meeting, and he stated his objection forthrightly. It had to do with Mr. Kushner’s views in respect of Israel. Mr. Kushner is entitled to his views and Mr. Wiesenfeld is entitled to dissent from a proposal to give him an honorary degree. The whole thing was filmed and is available at a CUNY Web site. Mr. Wiesenfeld comprehended he was making a dissident statement. Our guess is that he was as surprised as anyone when the trustees acted on his objection.”

decisionmakingI think that what happened is not as much about whether a person accused of speaking out against a foreign country should be given or denied an award by a New York City university as it is about how boards work. It’s typical of what I’ve observed as a board member. I’ve been on many–industry, charity and co-op apartment boards. Many board members sit like lumps. Are they afraid to speak out? I have not always been popular as a result but feel that my job is to point out hurdles or issues for the board’s consideration. For that reason, I commend Mr. Wiesenfeld for stating his view and wonder about the other board members. Not all of them agreed with him, as it turns out. They didn’t want to face him with their argument.

Who are the villains here? Did anyone do anything right?  Why do people take the time to sit on boards if they don’t plan to participate? Do those who bring up touchy subjects risk being treated like whistleblowers? What is it about a board that seems to stifle discussion?

 speak-out

Service of Big Companies Making Small Ones Look Bad

Monday, April 4th, 2011

computerglitch

I know of three recent instances in which large corporations made small business people look incompetent or irresponsible. I had to share.

A friend thought he’d lost it when he tried to download a document to a major international office support business. No matter what he clicked or how hard he tried to follow the instructions, he couldn’t send it. He finally picked up his laptop and brought it to the store. When he got there–the branch doesn’t give out its phone number–the staffer said, “Oh, you have a Mac. You can’t always download from a Mac.” Couldn’t the website have noted this weakness in a warning? Is a customer’s time of no value? I empathize. When technology lets me down I always blame myself.

vintagetelephoneoperatorThe second instance happened to me. A client was setting up his booth at an exhibit in NYC. I was on call should he need anything as his partner wasn’t able to assist him. I didn’t leave my office from the time I knew he was scheduled to download at the dock at 12:45. I check the phone periodically–a habit–by picking up the handset to hear if the telltale quick dial tone indicates that I have messages. After 4, there was one. My client left it for me at 1:30. I was horrified. My voicemail is part of a major corporation’s package. It’s not the first time that the phone message system has let me down. I’ve been at work until 8 pm some nights and only the next morning do I get a message left for me at 4 or 5 pm the day before.

And then there are those missing emails. I know I don’t get all of mine. The proof: Just last week I read an email response sent to many people on a committee. I’m a member but I never got the original one. When I checked, I was on the first TO: list. Scary.

On the bright side, there was some service connected to these instances of big companies making small ones look bad: They translated into a post.

These examples are not a conspiracy to knock out the small guy. No company deliberately harms its customers. I nevertheless feel helpless and frustrated because I can’t control every aspect of my business. Can anyone? Do you have any similar examples?

juggler

Service of Lessons Learned

Thursday, December 23rd, 2010

lessonslearned

As we hurdle towards the new year, thought I’d address lessons learned inspired by Michael Kubin’s opinion piece in The New York Times, “The Ponzi Scheme that Changed My Life.” He’d lost the money he invested with Bernie Madoff and concluded that he’s better off for it because “Bernie Madoff opened my eyes. I now understand that life is a game of Minesweeper where the mines are real-and that letting someone else play for me is a losing strategy. For that I am, I dare to say, grateful.”

Kubin is obviously young enough to pick up the pieces and recuperate financially and he says he didn’t invest all his savings with Madoff and he still has money to invest.

About his conclusion to go it alone in future, we’ve covered before, in “Service of Specialists,” what can go wrong when you opt for a do-it-yourself approach. Usually it’s because you think you’re saving money not paying an expert-accountant, real estate agent, graphic designer, writer, marketing, advertising or PR executive. In most cases, such specialists will save time and trouble and generate far better results than you can.

moneyundermattressGiven that Kubin wrote that he has an “MBA from a well known Eastern business school,” he has more qualifications than most to make prudent and effective investment decisions. But he’s busy being a writer and media executive, according to the bio in the paper. Can he really do the best job by spreading himself so thin?  It doesn’t mean he should toss his money or a project at anyone and walk away. Supervision is imperative. Extremes usually never work.

If one doctor gives you an incorrect diagnosis or solution, do you eschew all medical help? If one hair stylist makes you look foolish or ugly, do you let your hair grow wild? If a gardener pulls out your flowers and waters the weeds, do you pour cement where a garden once grew?

I’ve been burned, not always by crooks, but at times by people who have made the wrong investment decision or medical diagnosis based on how they interpreted the facts they had. As I put my whole heart and brains into what I do and have not always achieved the results I’d hoped for, I like to give others some slack.  When I’ve had truck with a bum, I try not to paint all people in the profession or industry with that bum’s brush.

Please share some lessons you have learned. How do you bounce back from a reversal?

timetorrecover

Service of Credibility

Thursday, October 14th, 2010

 

 

credibility2

I don’t normally take a train out of Grand Central Station on Sunday morning but did recently. I checked the digital monitor, went to the gate listed and the train at the gate was going to Connecticut and I was off to upstate New York, so I headed for the landmark information booth.

The information man told me I’d have to fly to catch it and told me the gate number. Got there like the wind, no train, but a conductor on the platform said, “He gave you the wrong track number. The train leaves from here in an hour. You should have been at gate 23–see? There’s the train! It’s pulling out.”

grandcentralSo last week, when I asked information whether Columbus Day was considered a holiday train-schedule-wise, I didn’t believe the answer which was “no.” Last year, we were tripped up by another such potential holiday and had to wait 2 hours for the next train. [The holiday train leaves half an hour earlier than the weekday one does and service from the sticks is spotty.] So now I know to ask. [Couldn’t find anything on line and sometimes the online schedules don’t match the printed ones anyway.] But the point is: What good is it when you don’t believe the information you’re given because the source has lost its credibility?

For years I represented a certain decorative product and had collected all sorts of color, pattern, decorating and installation information as well as statistics about it. When I left the agency whose client it was, I continued to get calls from the press asking me to confirm what the new information resource gave them as some of it “didn’t seem right.” It wasn’t. And yet instead of saying, “let me find out,” the PR person spewed goodness knows what that was top of mind and mindless.

And something just happened with this post. The word “you’re” in the sentence above that ends “….you don’t believe the information you’re given because the source has lost its credibility?” had a green squiggle under it. I clicked to see what Word suggested as a substitute. It was “you is given.” We already know not to accept all suggested spell-check changes, nevertheless….take this as another warning.

Amazing when people or businesses don’t guard their credibility and reputations as the most precious thing they own. Have you lost faith in a service or information resource lately?

 guarding-baby

Service of Early Adopters

Thursday, July 8th, 2010

firstplane

Thank goodness for early adopters. A friend’s husband was always the first to own the latest gadget and I admire adventurers like him, although I’ve rarely been one.

The most obvious reason is related to cost. The frugal shopper in me remembers paying a fortune for a calculator, which became a promo giveaway a few years later.

ironingAnd then I experienced another reason to hold back: To let others iron out the kinks so when I buy the gizmo, gadget or new-fangled whatever, it’s flawless.

I helped launch an innovative home furnishings product that interior designers scrambled to be the first to install. We were thrilled to take photos of this innovative window shade in the wonderful settings they created. They loved the look.

angrycallsAnd then the complaints began when the ground-breaking cord mechanism stuck and decorators and homeowners alike found that they couldn’t clean the shades as instructed.

So I remembered not to be first when I considered an electric car and then wondered where I’d find plugs to feed it during my travels [or even where I live]. If I hear of a new medication, I don’t want to be the one to exhibit side effects that didn’t come out in drug trials. 

The iPhone 4 brought this topic to mind. The New York Post headline, “Apple Slapped with ‘Death Grip’ Suits Calling Out the iPhone,” reflected some of the drama surrounding the sensitive antenna that frames the phone [on the left-hand corner] and causes dropped calls on the device that ranges in price from $700-$200. Some of the first adapters are suing Apple and AT&T, according to Emily Ngo and Michael Blaustein, who wrote the article, for “negligence, breach of implied warranty, knowingly selling a defective product and a slew of other charges.”

guineapigOne of the phone owners Ngo and Blaustein quoted said he “felt like a guinea pig.” In my mind, that’s what early adopters are and have always been and that’s the service they provide us all. They often pay a lot of money to satisfy their adventurous and inquisitive natures so that the rest of us can enjoy the fruits of their support.

What has been your experience when you’ve been an early adopter and are you driven to be one?

 first-computer

Service of Nature

Monday, April 19th, 2010

volcano

Nature is boss and serves to keep things in perspective.

Along with the tsunami in the Indian Ocean in 2004, hurricane Katrina and the January earthquake in Haiti, the eruption of the Eyjafjallajökull volcano in Iceland is another reminder that in spite of all the remarkable technology we enjoy, we can’t control everything.

And what global financial impact nature–the volcanic ash–is having! Airports in Europe and England are still closed or crippled and millions of passengers are stranded with nowhere to sleep. The effect on the airline industry is devastating. Shipments of fragile cargo such as Dutch tulips and life-saving body parts are also marooned. People can’t get to their jobs or offices, to international meetings, conferences and trade shows.

pompeiiMany otherwise blasé types are fascinated by and in awe of such natural phenomena and we don’t forget them. Tourists can’t visit Naples without a stop in Pompeii where in 79 AD the town was wiped out by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. When I was a teen visiting South America with my mom, we were in Chile when an earthquake struck. For years, when my nephews were small, they asked us to repeat the story umpteen times. It became part of family lore.

I was first made vividly aware that nature was in charge when I was caught in the undertow at The Lido in Italy. I was 11. After that I had far more respect for the waves at Jones Beach on Long Island where I’d gone my whole life, and I listened more carefully to news of riptides and got out when the waves became angry. A friend’s son wasn’t as lucky on that New York beach. A strapping man in his late 20s with years of swimming instruction and practice, he was caught up in a wave and slammed down on the sand in such a way that he broke his neck and was killed instantly.

Another friend was crossing his college campus during a thunderstorm and missed being hit by lightening that hit a tree nearby–the first wakeup call that proved he wasn’t invincible.

Our advantage today is that technology allows us to predict some disasters and sophisticated equipment helps in reconstruction. Charity is global and we have mechanisms to immediately send support in the way of money, water, blood, clothing, meds, and specialists from doctors to engineers.

When were you first aware of nature’s power and that you weren’t in total control? Do you think that with persistence man, through technology, will eventually meet all of nature’s challenges?

boatinstorm1

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