52 Songs for 52 Weeks: Week 18 – New Year’s Day by U2

On New Year’s Day 1981, the communists running Poland declared Martial Law in order to go after Lech Walesa and the Solidarity movement.  The Communists eventually lost.

You really can’t have a great song list without at least one U2 song.  This one has always been my favorite U2 song.  Outstanding piano on this one – mixed in with a killer guitar.

‘Under a blood red sky, a crowd has gathered, black and white, alls entwined, the chosen few, the newspapers say, its true its true, and we can break through

I was going to save this for January – but people are clamoring for more classic 80’s.  Great video to boot (featuring Soviet forces in WWII trying to destroy civilization).

http://youtu.be/8kx8wGRNZX4

Nothing changes on New Year’s Day…

-cj cheetham

52 songs for 52 weeks will get your music collection up to par. If you want to have a better music collection – check in each week . Add a song a week and in one year’s time your music collection will be the envy of all your friends.

 

 

 

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Micromanagement – The Incurable Disease

Try this experiment:  Get together with your coworkers and ask them what they think of micromanagement.  I’m guessing that you will get animated responses, indignant denunciations, and outright hatred of micromanagement and its practitioners:  micromanagers.  

In terms of public opinion, micromanagers are rated near the very bottom of society.  In fact, in a recent study (that I just made up off the top of my head) Americans rated micromanagers very low on the respect scale.  The results were stark, micromanagers finished just below “people who engage in human sacrifice” and just ahead of politicians.  It’s that bad. 

In other words, there is an almost universal agreement that micromanagement of subordinates is ineffective, annoying, and completely unnecessary.  Great!  We are all in agreement and we don’t have to worry about that subject anymore.

Now ask your coworkers just one more question:  have you ever worked for a micromanager? 

Hey!  What are all those hands doing up in the air?

It turns out that in a real study, nearly 80 percent of respondents said they either currently work for or have in the past worked for a micromanager.  That represents a huge disconnect between what we universally hate and what is actually practiced by leaders.   What exactly is causing leaders to do what everyone hates?

Make no mistake about it, micromanagement is not leadership.  In fact it is the opposite of leadership.  It does not empower, motivate, or inspire subordinates to achieve.  Instead it creates an atmosphere of fear and loathing; of anger and discontent.  So why would otherwise talented people use a universally despised method to “lead” their organizations? 

The Roots of Micromanagement

Micromanagement is rooted in a multitude of unsavory leadership defects.  Perhaps those of you who have encountered a micromanager will recognize some or all of these traits existing in your tormentor.

1.  I’m the smartest person in the room (Arrogance)

This is a very common trait among micromanagers.  They fail to trust their people and they question the competence of their people.  This trait is a deformed version of confidence.  Most people will tell you they are happy with a confident, self-assured leader.  What people despise is the arrogant boss claiming to know better than the front line worker on every subject.  In the military this manifests itself when Headquarters second guesses the tactical leader despite the fact that the front line tactical leader has access to the most relevant information.

2.  Fear of failure (Cowardice)

Micromanagers live in fear.  They obsess over “what will my boss think?” and “if this doesn’t work perfectly, how will I explain it?”  This leads to endless requests by micromanaging bosses for more and more detailed information, before the boss is willing to make a decision.  What the micromanager is actually doing is hoping to never make a decision on a subject.  This will frustrate subordinates who are closer to the actual problem, understand the risk, and want to take the best course of action even though they know it isn’t perfect.  The micromanager? 

They would rather do nothing than get it wrong.  So they demand more and more information to consider for longer and longer periods of time.  Frustrated subordinates either figure out a work around and don’t let the Boss know; or worse the subordinate gives up on trying to solve the problem altogether.

3.  Let me weigh in on every subject (Obsessive)

 Micromanagers have opinions on everything their subordinates do.  In fact, if a micromanager reads any report or document from a subordinate, rest assured he will find something that needs to be revised or changed.  Why?  Because, by their nature micromanagers are obsessed with weighing in on every subject.  This is a misapplication of leadership.  The leader weighs in only when he has to enable subordinates to accomplish a task; the micromanager weighs in on every tiny detail thereby slowing down and frustrating progress. 

4. There is only ONE way to solve a problem (Compulsive)

When I was a student at the Army Command and General Staff College we would always caution each other to find “A” way to solve a problem rather than getting bogged down with “THE” way to solve a problem.  The efficient leader accepts that there are multiple right answers to challenging questions.  Unfortunately the micromanager doesn’t believe that and insists on finding “THE” answer to all problems no matter how small.  What results is a game called “bring me a rock.”   It goes like this:

Boss:  “Hey Joe, run outside and get me a rock that will prop my office door open.”

Joe:  “Sure thing Boss!”  (Joe returns with a big white rock and hands it to the Boss).

Boss:  (Disappointed) “Joe, I actually think a black rock would be better.”

Joe:  “Sure thing Boss!”  (Joe returns with a black Rock)

Boss:  (Disappointed) “Joe I actually think a square rock would be better.”

You get the idea.  Every time Joe returns, he is met with disappointment.  The rock isn’t big enough; not round enough; where are the quartz speckles, Joe?  Not heavy enough; not unique; etc.

Eventually Joe starts to think there is no solution to this problem.  He starts to hate the rock and fantasizes about what color and size rock would do the most damage to his Boss’s skull.

5.  Today’s technology allows me to know everything (Hubris)

A micromanager almost always loves technology.  They want excel spreadsheets linked to other excel spreadsheets, managed by a complex access database.  Micromanagers love pie charts, fishbone diagrams, scatter graphs, and flow charts.  The reason micromanagers love these tools is because they believe they can actually understand everything and know everything that is going on in their organization with the right visualization tool. 

This is hubris and this is destructive.  It is not possible for one person to understand that much information.  This is why we hire employees to begin with.  At some point in the past a Boss said “we need to hire a guy to run project X, because I do not have the time or energy to manage that anymore.  I need to focus on other leadership level stuff.”   

Then years later along come Mr. Micromanager and he wants all the detail weekly on Project X.  Not only that but he’d like pie charts on the projects associated with the other 25 letters in the alphabet too!

Soon things devolve into a death spiral, as frustrated subordinates come up with new, bright colored slides, with shapes, arrows, symbols and shadows – all designed to give massive amounts of information to the micromanager.  Unfortunately the micromanager begins to re-imagine bigger and better slides, data bases, and spreadsheets that will eventually unlock life’s mysteries.  Before you know it a significant portion of the workforce is dedicated to creating graphs, charts, and slides – all in the name of technology making information “more accessible” to decision-makers.

 Curing Micromanagement

Okay, we are in agreement.  Micromanagement is a disaster and we need to find the cure for this leadership disease.

Except there is just one problem:  There is no cure (didn’t you read the title of this article?).

Like Michael Jordan, you can’t stop micromanagement; you can only hope to contain it.  The best way to contain micromanagers is to stop putting them in charge of other people.  If you have a micromanager in your organization, find a detail oriented job that requires no human interaction for them.  That is your best option.  For Heaven’s sake, don’t put him in charge of people.

Another way to limit the effects of micromanagers is to let them know they are arrogant, cowardly, obsessive, compulsive, and hubristic leaders who are more hated than people who conduct human sacrifice.  In other words, the micromanager must be confronted and then the micromanager, like the alcoholic, must go to battle with his demons daily.  Will he occasionally fall off the wagon and demand a Pareto Chart when he doesn’t really need one?  Yes.  But as long as he gets back on that wagon, your organization stands a chance.

A third strategy for limiting the deleterious effects of micromanagers is to mock them.  The movie Office Space is a great example of just the type of mocking that is necessary.  Give the micromanager a good drubbing with mockery – remember this is for his own good; he has a disease.  Obviously this option only works with peers and subordinates.  Open mockery of a boss will probably land you out of a job.  So be careful how you use it.  Think of mockery as a tourniquet – a last resort that could result in the loss of a limb.

Lastly, realize that these controlling techniques will only work on about 50% of micromanagers.  The other 50% will not be affected at all by these weak efforts to control them.  In fact, the other 50% are probably oblivious to the fact that they are micromanagers at all. 

So, there’s a good chance you will work for a micromanager at some point – just don’t become one. 

If you really have to do something people detest, go with human sacrifice – you’ll be more popular.

-cj cheetham

52 Songs for 52 Weeks: Week 17 – Restless Natives by Big Country

Big Country exploded onto the music scene with their incredible song, In a Big Country and instantly earned superstar status and immediate comparisons to U2. 

Despite their electric start Big Country never achieved the fame that was predicted for them.  Who knows why?  It could have been that Scottish bands were over looked; it could have been poor promotion.  One thing is clear – they didn’t miss out on superstardom because of their music.

Big Country’s 1st 3 albums are as good as any in my record library and I’d say their song catalog is as good as any band – ever.

During the height of their popularity, Stuart Adamson and the band were asked to record the music for a Scottish film called “Restless Natives” – it wasn’t  a great film, but it does have an incredible sound track.  This is the title track.

http://youtu.be/tN6eZOS5wQ0

The eagle he was lord above and Rob was lord below

-cj cheetham

Check out the classic Restless natives film clip:

http://youtu.be/oaDBET0oij8

52 songs for 52 weeks will get your music collection up to par. If you want to have a better music collection – check in each week . Add a song a week and in one year’s time your music collection will be the envy of all your friends.

In Defense of Summer

In Defense of Summer

When I remember my childhood, I first think of summer; for summer reminds Americans that they are free.

I read a horrid little article this morning entitled How Summer is Making U.S. Kids Dumber and Fatter.  The author, Peter Orszag, is apparently a big deal; not only is he a Vice President for Global Banking at Citigroup, but he is also the former director of the Office of Management and Budget under President Obama.

Mr. Orszag is very troubled by summer vacation.  He cites “studies” that show that American children not only get dumber during their blissful summers away from the watchful eyes of teachers, but apparently the kids become porkers because government planners aren’t around to tell them to eat celery and do some deep knee-bends in gym class.

Like most nosy-parker control freaks, Mr. Orszag is not just complaining about the horrors of summer – he has a plan to fix summer.  His plan?  Pretty simple really.  He wants to lengthen the school day and lengthen the school year.  Mr. Orszag simply cannot sit idly by while kids frolic and play, without rigid instruction from responsible members of society, namely school teachers, counselors, and administrators.

Kids need to spend more time in the classroom, according to Orszag, in order to avoid dreaded “summer learning loss.” 

The horror! 

Imagine a nation of children swimming, fishing, and playing with friends on joyful summer days – and each day they are forgetting the difference between a stalactite and a stalagmite; kids enjoying popsicles and sunshine but not a thought of a scalene triangle; and the tragedy of afternoons of Wiffle Ball with friends but not a single discussion of Egyptian mummification techniques. 

Mr. Orszag has it completely wrong.

There is no recession of knowledge in a child’s summer vacation.  In fact, kids learn a lot of incredibly important things in summer time.  They learn to catch bugs and climb trees.  They get together with friends and form teams, make up games, and somehow kids figure out how to apply rules to those games, without umpires and most importantly, without meddling adults to govern everything.

Kids in summertime learn that sometimes the lawn needs mowing before they head off to the fishing hole.  They learn to settle arguments, make a rope swing, ride a bike, and throw a curve ball.  Some days, usually when it rains, they learn how to overcome boredom without the endless orchestration of school administrators, by reading a comic book.

Are those not worthwhile things to learn?

Mr. Orszag doesn’t think so.  He’d like to see year round school – and of course large salary increases for teachers (as a former director of OMB, I’m sure he’s convinced himself that higher salaries and year round school will save taxpayers money).  He’d like to see more organization; more programs; more rigid direction.  He’d like to see children shepherded daily.  No need for those kids to get an antiquated summer break.  Mr. Orszag would much rather the institutions keep a sharp eye on the lazy American butter-balls and stifle them with more hours of diagraming sentences.

Summer and the State of Nature

John Locke in his Second Treatise on Government wrote, in the state of nature all men are “free to order their actions, and dispose of their possessions and persons, as they think fit, within the bounds of the law of nature.”   This is a bedrock principle of the American Way.  That ultimately, individuals are free to act and interact without the oppressive coercion from others – particularly the coercion that comes from governments and tyrants.  

Ultimately, what Mr. Orszag is peddling is coercion and control.  He wants your kids’ summers.  Why?  Because he and his planners know better.  They know exactly how to structure your kids’ lives.  Your children don’t need to be free to explore the wonderful land of summer.  They need to be in school – and they had best better listen!  Because Mr. Orszag and his friends have a lot of important information these children need to accept and memorize. 

Locke’s brilliant treatise was something I studied in college – but Locke’s principles on freedom I learned long ago on summer days far from the governance of school.  Summer is a kid’s state of nature.

Let it always be so.  Let our children have summers without structure in order to learn other important things.  Allow them freedom to learn that they don’t always need an adult with a clip board and a whistle ordering their existence.   

***

In his classic book, The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, C.S. Lewis writes of a sad, totalitarian world where it is “always winter, but never Christmas.”   

Let us not have a world where it is always school time but never summer.

-cj cheetham

Note:  Let me head off complaints that all kids do is play video games; we parents can fix that without destroying summer.  Once summer is given to government – it’s gone forever.

52 Songs for 52 Weeks: Week 16 – Pure and Easy by the Who

The Who put together some incredible albums.  None probably better than their tremendous album “Who’s Next” which featured some of their strongest songs.

To give you an idea how great Who’s Next was, let me submit for your approval Pure and Easy – a song originally recorded for Who’s Next but apparently not a good enough song to make the original album.

It was later released on Odds and Sods, a compilation of B-sides and rare tracks the Who released later in the 1970s.

Pure and Easy – a song that didn’t make the cut is one of my all time favorite songs by any band and certainly a reminder of the incredible talent in the Who.

There once was a note, pure and easy…

http://youtu.be/x430XNZhnWs

-cj cheetham

52 songs for 52 weeks will get your music collection up to par. If you want to have a better music collection – check in each week . Add a song a week and in one year’s time your music collection will be the envy of all your friends.

52 Songs for 52 Weeks: Week 15 All Mixed Up by the Cars

she tricks me into thinking
i can’t believe my eyes
i wait for her forever
she never does arrive

The Cars self-titled album, released in 1978, was an absolute treasure.  It produced multiple hits.  It had the cult song “Moving in Stereo.”

But the overlooked track on this incredible album was All Mixed Up which came right after Moving in Stereo and featured Benjamin Orr (R.I.P.) on vocals.  I can remember visiting my brother, at Bentley College in the early 1980s – and listening to this song on an incredibly loud stereo.  And it was a good thing.

http://youtu.be/E9d-1d0ltCM

If you don’t own the Cars first album – you really need to go get it.  But at the very least get this incredible song in your library. 

she says to leave it to me
and everything will be alright

-cj cheetham

P.S.

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame will be a joke until the Cars are admitted.

52 songs for 52 weeks will get your music collection up to par. If you want to have a better music collection – check in each week . Add a song a week and in one year’s time your music collection will be the envy of all your friends.

Posterity! May I have your attention please?

Posterity!   You will never know how much it cost the present generation to preserve your freedom! I hope you will make a good use of it. If you do not, I shall repent in Heaven that I ever took half the pains to preserve it.

– John Adams in a Letter to Abigail Adams  (27 April 1777)

In case anyone was wondering, it was the generation of Adams, that fought for our freedom, that was truly the Greatest Generation.  Men who were committed to ideals.  Men who were committed to freedom. 

Learned men who understood what liberty truly was and the dangers of ceding freedom to any government.

Posterity!  You have much to account for on the 236th anniversary of our independence. 

The sacrifices made by our founding fathers were not small.  They spent decades struggling to deliver our nation a heritage of liberty.   

Have we made good use of it?  I imagine that posterity would struggle to look Mr Adams square in the eye.

-cj cheetham