Archive for the ‘Collaboration’ Category

Service of Respect

Monday, January 25th, 2021


I pluck a vital quote from last week that I hope will be imitated by organizations and companies around the land:

I’m not joking when I say this: If you’re ever working with me and I hear you treat another with disrespect, talk down to someone, I promise you I will fire you on the spot. On the spot. No if, ands, or buts.” —President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. on Zoom at the swearing-in ceremony for staffers of his new administration on Inauguration Day.

I’ve worked at companies that set one employee against the other–not a fit for me. I’m plenty competitive but I work best in collaborative environments. I’ve also worked for magazines or agencies at which bullying and nastiness didn’t exist because management didn’t practice or tolerate it.

For every personality there’s a management style that inspires. To do their jobs some need to be prodded which feels like abuse to me because I know what’s expected and when and try to deliver before deadline. Others do best if they respect–not fear–their clients or boss.

Do you think the administration staffers got President Biden’s message and will abide by it? Was he micromanaging? Are there situations in which such an approach wouldn’t work? In what environment do you excel?


Service of That’s Horse Racing–The 2019 Kentucky Derby Outcome a Metaphor for Life

Monday, May 6th, 2019


I always watch the Kentucky Derby though I don’t follow the sport and choose my favorite by name–a sure path to failure. I rooted for Plus Que Parfait this Saturday.

As I watched on Saturday I was reporting developments by text to friends who were in a bus. I couldn’t believe it when Maximum Security, who won by many lengths, faced 20+ minutes of limbo while stewards–horse racing referees–studied the videotapes.


When one of the stewards reported the Commission’s unanimous decision to the press–that Maximum Security was out and Country House was the official winner–she took no questions.

The odds for Country House were 65 to one and the payout $132.40. Imagine the chaos at the betting windows in those edge-of-their-seats 20 minutes.


The metaphor to life of the outcome was gut wrenching, reminding me of the times I was the unlikely winner–my boutique PR agency selected to represent brands at a Fortune 50 company for example or me chosen by awards committees to receive recognition–and the times I could almost taste a positive outcome that didn’t happen and the subsequent sickening sinking feeling of disappointment: All that work and elation leading to failure.

I am on the side of Maximum Security. And you? Do you agree with the Maximum Security team that is appealing the decision to the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission?




Service of a Happy Ending: Coogan’s Stays Open in Washington Heights

Thursday, January 18th, 2018


I’m a sucker for happy endings and a recent one that hit the spot is about a 33 year old Washington Heights, NY restaurant/bar, Coogan’s, that was being forced to close when its lease ran out in spring because of a $40,000 rent increase–to $60,000/month–according to


In two days Coogan’s gathered 18,000 signatures on a petition to save the Broadway and 169th Street hangout. Under pressure the landlord, New York Presbyterian Hospital, agreed to lower the rent increase and the owners, Peter Walsh, Dave Hunt and Tess McDade, are staying put.

Before the agreement, according to, Walsh told the landlord: “’There’s community here, don’t build walls. Don’t pull a plug so fast on a person when they’re still breathing.’” reported: “During the neighborhood’s dark days of the 80s and 90s — which were plagued by drug-related violence — the restaurant remained open, owners told the Manhattan Times. ‘When we opened, we were one of the first integrated bars in New York, and maybe the country,’ Walsh told the Manhattan Times. ‘We were Dominican, African-American, Irish, Jewish, and everyone got along. We embraced the neighborhood. It worked. But thirty-three years ago, you didn’t see that kind of thing.’”


“‘We have served a very, very big part of the Washington Heights community in supplying that big living room that these apartments just don’t have,’ co-owner Dave Hunt told WCBS 880’s Mike Sugerman.

“‘Now the fact that Lin-Manuel Miranda tweeted out and said everybody should get onboard, that certainly helps,’ said Hunt.” WCBS also noted “‘Hamilton’ creator Lin-Manuel Miranda celebrated his birthdays there.”

It also doesn’t hurt when in addition to hefty neighborhood support your cause is picked up by local media such as The New York Times,,,, and for starters.

The owners are good souls—another reason so many jumped on board their cause and why the story resonated with me. Before the agreement happened, quoted the New York Times that the “owners are using their connections to help the 40 restaurant employees find jobs.”

There’s a flagrant contrast between the approach of this small business and the big ones that in spite of their tax windfall from the December 2017 “reform” bill are nevertheless collectively laying off millions—AT&T, Wal*Mart, Comcast, Carrier Corp. and Pfizer, to name some. Maybe we should rename “trickle down”  “riches up.”

Might this David & Goliath story be a template for supporting other worthy small fries against the greedy big ‘uns? Can you point to  instances where an aggressive collaboration by concerned citizens, backed by a celebrity and media, helped achieve a happy ending for a beloved neighborhood business?


Service of Telecommuting [II] & Teams, Old as the Hills

Thursday, July 13th, 2017


In spring 2013 I wrote “Service of Telecommuting” after Yahoo’s HR director, Jackie Reses, had sent a memo to all staff telling them that if they worked at home they had until June of that year to report, fulltime, to a desk at a Yahoo office. According to a recent article on, “The Rise and Fall of Working from Home–The permanent telecommuter is going extinct,” the approach continues to unravel.

In the article, brought to my attention by CG who has contributed to this blog, Rebecca Greenfield reported that earlier this year IBM “told 2,000 U.S. workers they could no longer work from home and about the same number of employees that they had to commute into offices more often. Facing 20 consecutive quarters of falling revenue, IBM hopes that bringing people back together will lead to faster, more productive, and more creative workers.”

The last straw

Small companies have also tried the concept and have rejected it. Greenfield described a PR agency whose staff didn’t act like the grownups the boss had expected them to be. Too many took advantage of the situation so he cancelled the option after less than a year. In addition to not answering the phone when home and being incommunicado for full days, “The last straw…was when someone refused to come in for a meeting because she had plans to go to the Hamptons,” the owner told Greenfield.

She wrote: “More than 60 percent of organizations surveyed by the Society of Human Resource Management this year said they allow some type of telecommuting, up from 20 percent in 1996. But telecommuting comes in many flavors, and 77 percent of organizations don’t let people work from home on a full-time basis. Most employers allow ad-hoc remote work for the person who needs to stay home for the plumber or wait for a package.”


You might not remember who French journalist Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr is [1808-1890], but you’ll remember the saying he penned: “plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.” I am thinking of the big deal made these days about teams when in my experience they have existed all along.

Regardless, I’m not convinced that the increase of teams in the workplace that Greenfield noted has accelerated the demise of telecommuting. “At the same time, work has also become more team-based. Only 38 percent of companies are ‘functionally’ organized today with workers grouped together by job type, a 2016 Deloitte survey found. Most comprise collaborative groups that shift depending on the work.”

In my opinion, collaboration and face-to-face communication help any enterprise that consists of more than one person. People who prefer to work alone, at home, shouldn’t get jobs in a company. Obviously there are exceptions for temporary periods—sick family members and anticipated nasty travel glitches for example—but as a routine option, I think what telecommuting saves in real estate—space to house an employee–is lost in lackluster productivity. Do you agree? Do you think that IBM will find that its policy change will help turn around its period of sluggish performance and creativity?


Service of Great Medicine

Thursday, November 7th, 2013

old fashioned pharmacy

My husband, Homer Byington, wrote this post a few hours after he returned from having his appendix removed.

As Jeanne well knows, and suffers through patiently– usually — I am one of the world’s most notorious pessimists,  a doubting Thomas, a Luddite, a true Cassandra and chronic complainer who is always telling anyone who cares to listen that life was better 50 years ago.

Like so many others, I have been knocking the way medicine functions in this country for years and even more so recently as a consequence of the inauspicious startup of Obama care. Yes, all sorts of things are wrong with the system, and much needs fixing. But people like me tend to forget how lucky we have been to have had the great doctors and nurses we’ve had and great treatment we’ve received at various hospitals both on an inpatient and an outpatient basis. Today was a good reminder.

Dr. AronoffThis morning, just a few hours ago, I was in an operating room at Lenox Hill Hospital under the knife of a surgeon, Dr. Jeffrey Aronoff, [Photo at right] who was trying to resolve what he described as an “enigma.” I’ll skip writing about medical stuff because I’ll just get it wrong, and it is quite complicated, but both he and I fully expected my hospital stay to be considerably longer than just a few hours. Dr. Aronoff and my wife and I go back more than 20 years when, as low man on the totem pole of a team of five doctors doing colonoscopies, he first treated us. Then, when he went out on his own, we followed. Why?

A month or two ago, to resolve my problems, Dr. Aronoff suggested a routine preliminary colonoscopy. Then the question arose whether he, a busy surgeon working 12 plus hours a day, or another doctor should do the job. He told me bluntly, “I’m doing it. I’ve always done yours.” That is the nature of the man. In this cynical age, how could anyone resist such a doctor’s loyalty to his patients?

Lenox Hill HospitalThe O.R. on the 10th floor of Lenox Hill Hospital is a busy place at 6:00 a.m. Milling about are staff and patients of every shade of color, sex, age, accent and language, but it is an orderly and well-paced chaos managed by experienced professionals, a scene a little like what one might see in a well-danced modern ballet. It sure didn’t hurt that the two R.N.s who interviewed me first were old timers who fondly remembered our family doctor cardiologist Dr. Paul Bienstock. Each of them then spontaneously volunteered that I was lucky to have Dr. Aronoff as my surgeon and said that he was the best. (It did occur to me that they said that about their doctors to all the patients they interviewed, but in this case, I think they both meant it, and their positive words bucked up my already considerable confidence about what I was about to have happen to me.) Then the doctor stopped by. We chatted, and he listened and did not later forget something enigma-related that I had suggested to him.

A few minutes later I was on the operating table, and there he was again with a bunch of other people cheerfully doing various complicated looking things. The mood was calm and positive. An hour and half later when I came to there was Dr. Aronoff smiling. “You can go home. It turned out to be your appendix after all. It was pretty inflamed and I took it out. Everything else looked O.K.” We talked a minute and then he went off to the waiting room to update Jeanne.

The recovery room fascinated me, especially the interplay between all those different people with different problems and different duties. Like the prep area it was an ordered chaos, but all the professionals, busy as they were, took the time to be solicitous to their patients. There may have been the usual friction between staff members that occurs in hospitals and nursing homes, or, for that matter, at any large institution, but it certainly wasn’t evident here. Somebody brought me a cup of ice chips for my throat; somebody else, a cup of tea and a plate of crackers. Even one or two doctors I didn’t know who were coming to see other patients smiled or said, “Hi.” Or, “How are you doing?” Jeanne showed up an allotted five minutes to make sure I was alive, and then Dr. Aronoff visited yet again to check up on me.

Next I was moved to the main floor recovery room, Jeanne in tow, where one terrific nurse gave us common sense, understandable answers to all sorts of questions like when I could take a shower and what I should eat. We were not rushed but as soon as I felt ready, off we went home just before 2:00 p.m.

Looking back on the experience a few hours later, I thought to myself that this is how medical care should be delivered. Maybe I received special attention, but I don’t think so. Everyone else around me seemed to be being treated the way I was.

At least ten different professionals dealt with me and they all acted like they cared about what they were doing and about me. There is no way for me really to know whether Dr. Aronoff is the miracle worker I think he is, but his results do speak for themselves. Here I am at home, never in pain– and hardly at all during the day –and painkiller free, writing a blog post just after having had two procedures performed on me, my inflamed appendix removed, and I am damn near 80. Now that’s great medicine! Yes, we haven’t doped out all of the enigma that brought me to the O.R. in the first place, but we may have that answer also by the time pathology gets through with my appendix.

The question is if Lenox Hill and Dr. Aronoff were able to deliver like they did for me in the middle of a healthcare crisis, shouldn’t we trust them, and the many like them, to come up with a sensible, efficient way to keep us healthy instead of the Washington politicians who seem to be at the beck and call of Big Business, Big Insurance, Big Labor and their battalions of highly competent, self-serving lobbyists?

Lobbyist 2


Service of Duh

Thursday, September 8th, 2011


I was surprised by the glitch in the planning of the President’s speech before the joint session of Congress tonight. When planning an event for a client, I check industry calendars and place a call to a trade editor or two to see if he/she knows of potential conflicts for a date in question. I can’t believe that the White House staff didn’t do such elementary research. Duh number one.

calendarOK, so they didn’t. I am equally surprised and disappointed that there is so little respect for the office of President that the Republican debate organizers didn’t defer and select another date. This isn’t a duh moment as much as a worrisome attitude for a country with huge problems to solve.  And everyone’s watching: Duh!

The cat’s out of the bag given our slip in a World Economic Forum listing. In 2008 we were first, Mathew Saltmarsh reported in “U.S. Slips to Fifth Place On Competitiveness List.” He wrote in The New York Times: “The weaker performance was attributed to economic vulnerabilities as well as ‘some aspects of the United States’ institutional environment,’ notably low public trust in politicians and concerns about government inefficiency.” Would you invest in a corporation with warring factions? Another duh: Why should people want to invest in this country if our leaders can’t even be cordial and cooperative about a date?

electricity1On another subject, some of the electric companies in the NY Metro area after Hurricane/tropical storm Irene–in Long Island and Connecticut especially–got a zero grade in both customer service and PR. Caroline Gatto commented about her friend and relatives’ frustrating experiences in these states in the “Service of Silver Linings” post. Some customers, sitting in houses without electricity for five and six days, couldn’t get through to their supplier on the phone. Others were unable to speak with a person. Routinely people in suburbs and exurbs lose electricity whether from weather or blackout. An effective crisis plan for an electric company to communicate with customers in such instances is elementary. Not having one is a duh.

In fact, all these examples illustrate disrespect: White House staff for anyone else, John Boehnor & Co. for the office of President and the electric companies for their customers.

Do you see a relationship between duh-like work and behavior and disrespect? Any duh situations you’ve noticed lately or that are memorable?


Service of a Symbol

Monday, August 22nd, 2011


Rabbi Arnold Resnicoff, an August 14 guest of Religion on the Line on WABC Radio in NYC, proposed an idea for US military chaplains that had merit and illustrated a spirit of collaboration and ecumenism that would benefit parishioners and congregants worldwide. If members of Congress adopted a similar approach as this retired military chaplain, all of us would profit.

priest-rabbi-ministerRabbi Resnicoff suggested that all military chaplains wear the same symbol to identify them as they did early on when any soldier or seaman, [no airmen then], would know a chaplain because he wore a shepherd’s crook on his uniform.

Today, said Rabbi Resnicoff, military personnel have no clue who the chaplains are. Christian chaplains wear a cross, Jews a Star of David, Moslems a crescent, but not everyone associates the symbols with being a chaplain. The rabbi pointed out that there are ministers of some little known religions with one chaplain in the armed forces who sport a symbol few could identify.

foxhole1He noted that in our military, a chaplain is called on to facilitate the ministry of other faiths making it important for a soldier to be able to identify him/her. If a chaplain jumps into a foxhole, all the soldiers in it become his flock if they want to be.

So in addition to offering counsel and assistance to any soldier, a rabbi might ensure that a Catholic be let off duty to attend mass; a Catholic chaplain would order matzos for the Jewish soldiers in time to eat during Passover, and so forth.

In fact, an Episcopalian chaplain was largely responsible for this Conservative rabbi’s vocation which along with his military service may explain his ecumenical predisposition. This minister wrote the recommendation that got him into rabbinical school, which he said was unusual.

Given the history of religious wars we’ve suffered for centuries that continue to kill thousands yearly, more men and women of the cloth should follow Rabbi Resnicoff’s lead and recognize that their calling should benefit far more than their constituents. Do you agree? Do you think that there should be a universal symbol to identify chaplains in the US Armed Forces? What do you think of symbols in general?


Service of Two + Minds…

Thursday, July 14th, 2011


It can take a second for a person seeing something for the first time and with fresh eyes to notice/suggest a critical fix to a designer, writer, merchandiser, chef or inventor who has been working on a project for hours if not years.

This happened just the other day at Hedström & Judd. Every time I go to Warren Street in Hudson, NY I visit this Swedish-inspired boutique with its memorable decorative pillows, china, glassware, furniture, stationery, soap, plants, cachepots, birdhouses, books-carefully chosen and placed. On my latest visit I saw a handsome black tray with a display of cotton socks in great colors and patterns. Also on the tray with the socks was a Hedström & Judd card marked $275.

decorative-socksKnowing it referred to the tray I nevertheless mumbled to my husband, “Socks at that price? And you thought inflation was bad?” I decided to mention my reaction to the proprietor as in truth, when the great socks caught my eye, I wondered how much they cost and $275 was all I saw. He’s as nice to customers if they buy one note card, an entire tray of socks, 24 bowls with polka dots-or nothing. He thanked me profusely and rushed over and grabbed the tag to modify it.

two-on-computerIn our shared office space, an assistant had tried to fix the template of her boss’s email for two days when she asked others for help. The boss was using an ancient program so it didn’t have the options we had on ours. With tidbits of experience from a few, she finally  replaced the missing element, a signature, that had disappeared mysteriously one day. The irony: One inadvertent tap of a key and a template that takes a minute [or in this case, two days] to set up takes a second to delete.

A craftsperson was defensive and snippy when I suggested she mark her wooden toys “Made in Pennsylvania,” to distinguish them from those made in countries with lax regulations about child-safe paints and finishes.

What personality most welcomes suggested fixes? Can a person learn how not to resent help? Do you wait for ages to ask for help?


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