Weasel Words – Writing and Speaking Better

cropped-laughing-owlOn Friday, an email crossed my inbox regarding how to write better and weasel words.  The term “weasel words” first appeared in a short story by author Stewart Chaplin titled “Stained Glass Political Platform,” published in The Century Magazine June 1900.  As a term, weasel words were popularized in a 1916 speech by U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt.  I often write about plastic words being stretched, twisted, and molded to fit situations and distorted and disconnected from their accepted definitions, so I figured it was time to discuss weasel words.

Weasel Words

All clipart on this site has | Clipart Panda - Free Clipart ImagesWeasels words are vague qualifiers like “generally,” “most,” and “probably” that weaken your writing and speaking, reflecting a weak mind and poor logic. Speakers and writers use weasel words to avoid making direct statements, to mystify, and use vocabulary to play linguistic tricks upon the audience.  I heard a joke about weasel words and politicians:

How do you know a politician is lying?
They are speaking
!”

How often have you heard a speaker generalize or witnessed a writer probablize and thought, “How does the writer know?”  Check the weasel words.  Since weasel words have been around for so long, many speechwriters and editors know these tricks and constantly edit them.  But, when you can catch the speaker or author in candid moments, that is when you see just how weaselly they are about the facts and their logical conclusions.Scouring the bowels of the internet | Weasel Zippers | Cartoon jokes, Political cartoons ...

Consider for a moment the following three reasons why weasel words are employed.  When considering them, remember when you have weaseled on your speeches or writing, and self-evaluate to improve:

      • Uncertainty: You use weasels when you’re confused about your point, or you’re not sure what you want to write. Ambiguous terms allow you to equivocate. The result is you get something on paper, but it is cloudy.
      • Fear: You use weasels when afraid of making a bold statement. You may know what you want to write but don’t have the depth. These words give you an out.
      • Deniability: You use weasels to protect yourself or dodge taking a stand. If you don’t say anything firm, the thinking goes, you cannot be wrong.

As I have been writing on this topic, I have considered my writing and speaking habits and improved self-editing.  I am not afraid, uncertain, or need deniability, but I desire to assert more confidently, speak and write more authoritatively, and support others through language.  Hence, the need to understand language and improve how I speak and write."Weasel While You Work" on Vimeo

Examples of Weasel Words

Frankly, I was surprised at some of the weasel words that made the various lists of weasel words found across the Internet.  Some weasel words are absolute and are fully supported, others might be conditional weasel words based upon the conversation, and others might not be weasel words at all.  Now, out of all that blathering about weasel words, which would you edit as weaselly statements?  Yes, I wrote that on purpose!

Well

Experts said Experts have claimed Experts insist
Research proves Research shows Research concludes Researchers claim
Often Probably Possibly Some
Many Could be With all due respect Usually
Basically Somehow Virtually Just

Once identified, what does a person do?  Writers have it easier, for they can revise and edit.5 Tall Tales from 1 Small Mind | Science and Dogs

An author can delete the weasel word following the pattern below:

Read the resulting statement to see if it works.

      • If the message without weasels is confusing …
        Get clarity with your ideas. Determine what you want to say and then say it!
      • If the statement without weasels is too bold …
        Do you have the authority to make this statement; yes, leave it alone. No, quote the authoritarian, and use a reference.
      • If the resulting statement without weasels has no substance …
        Ask yourself whether or not you have something to say. If not, delete the sentence. If so, see the first bullet point again, clarify your ideas, and keep editing.

Speaking and eliminating weasel words requires planning.  You have to prepare what you want to say carefully, plan your audience, prepare and practice delivering your points, and repeat until it feels comfortable.  Speaking requires remaining consciously aware, listening to yourself, listening to questions, and making choices.  Many choices will be made in the preparation and planning stages, and these planning sessions preparing to speak remain critical to mentally speaking to convince.AMID BACKLASH CORRUPT & STUPID DEMOCRATS QUICKLY SWITCH FROM 'DEFUND' TO 'REFUND' THE POLICE ...

However, experience has proven that writing rules work well with speaking, in preparing and planning the message.

Speak aloud the statement to see if it works.

      • If the message without weasels is confusing …
        Get clarity with your ideas. Determine what you want to say and then say it!
      • If the statement without weasels is too bold …
        Do you have the authority to make this statement; yes, leave it alone. No, quote the authoritarian, and use a reference.
      • If the resulting statement without weasels has no substance …
        Ask yourself whether or not you have something to say. If not, delete the sentence. If so, see the first bullet point again, clarify your ideas, and keep editing.

Having spoken publicly and talked to other speakers, it was interesting to see those who spoke well and admitted to speaking into a mirror and those who spoke okay and did not practice the speech verbally.  I learned this data point, the Rule of 7-P’s came forcibly to mind, “Proper, Prior, Planning, Prevents, Purely, Poor, Performance.”  Practice is part of properly planning to avoid poor performances.

Knowledge Check!Regardless of delivery through speaking or writing, create the time to edit.  Create the time to plan and prepare, rehearse, and carefully edit to communicate powerfully.  Stop stooping to being a weasel; you are better than that and deserve to allow yourself the ability to achieve through communicating ideas more clearly and powerfully!

© 2021 M. Dave Salisbury
All Rights Reserved
The images used herein were obtained in the public domain; this author holds no copyright to the images displayed.

Operational Trust Embodied – Consent of the Governed

The Coliseum | AncientWorldWondersEmperor Titus Flavius Vespasian began work on the Coliseum of Rome in 69 AD.  Upon completion of the Coliseum, his son Emperor Titus held 100-days and nights of festival in the Coliseum.  Ostensibly to calm the masses after the civil unrest following the death of Emperor Nero, the Coliseum acted precisely as it was planned, distract the masses, while the emperor consolidated his power, undermined the Roman Senate, and set the stage for the end of the Roman Empire.  Roman laws were built, originally, upon the consent of the governed until the emperors broke the law.  The people rebelled, and before the squabbling senators could take control, the Roman government was subjugated to empirical rule.  All historical facts, reflecting the power of the consent of the governed and a lesson upon which we can plot the future if we are brave enough to take action.

Consider for a moment what would have happened if a quorum of the Roman Senate had refused the emperor funds until the emperors relinquished powers they had stolen?  What would have happened to the Coliseum if the people had rejected the “bread and circuses” offered by the emperor and demanded a return to the rule of law?  The erection of the Coliseum is a dynamic point in history where we can see how the unjust powers of a government seal the fate of an entire nation, and the principle of operationalized trust can make a difference.Stunning Facts About the Roman Coliseum That'll Leave You Spellbound - Historyplex

What is Trust?

How to Rebuild Trust as a Leader - Optimize InternationalImperative to the following discussion is an understanding of the basics, and the basics require knowing what trust is, what trust does, and what trust is not.  Webster defined trust as an obligation and a condition of having confidence placed upon another.  Another definition for trust includes a firm belief in the integrity, ability, character, reliance, and having confidence in another person or thing.  Hence, trust is not just a belief but a reliance, signifying there have been experiences shared that have proven trust in the fires of adversity, and the person or thing has been found worthy.

Defining trustFor example, in the US Army, when I went through Basic Training, you spent three days in a classroom learning about gas masks, chemical, biological, radiological warfare (CBR), and other tools for protecting yourself in a CBR environment.  Then, you went to the “Confidence Chamber.”  The Confidence Chamber was there to teach you to have confidence in your equipment; by putting you in first in your gas mask, then removing your gas mask, and experiencing tear gas, you learned to trust your equipment and have confidence that what you were learning could save you pain, misery, and hopefully your lives.

The Confidence Chamber also had another purpose that is often missed in the rigors of Basic Training but is as real as the air a person breathes, building trust in the chain of command.  Asking people to do hard things, experience pain, puke their guts out, and all the other effects of the tear gas begins a trust cycle in the chain of command.  As a soldier, you can trust your sergeants and officers, and they can trust you.  Organizational trust begins with these basic experiences in basic training and hopefully grows as a soldier is trained.Gas Chamber 4

Trust is not easily won but can be easily lost.  Trust is not fully developed in a single transaction but can be germinated in a single transaction.  Trust flourishes in two-directional learning paths among people, sharing experiences, time, and values.  Trust is not a solution in and of itself, but it can be a magnifying power of other efforts in achieving resolution.  Trust is a tool, but not a tool that can be employed by itself.  For example, a screwdriver can be force multiplied by a wrench; trust is the same; it is the wrench that multiplies the power of other tools to accomplish work.

What is Operationalized Trust?

Strong Teams Start with Trust: 5 Ways to Build Trust - Invoicebus BlogEstablishing relationships requires the principles of organizational trust, as detailed by Du, Erkens, and Xu (2018), who found when supervisors trust their subordinates, regardless of whether supervisors have a general propensity to trust others or trust subordinates due to previous transactions and social similarity, customer service is significantly improved.  Operationalized trust is nothing but using a trust relationship to improve a shared or common goal.  For example, a business wants better customer satisfaction, so the supervisors use trust between themselves and their employees to increase service quality, promoting enhanced service satisfaction.

Trust quotes images and wallpapers hdIncredibly, the first principle to empowering operational trust is social similarity, which provides the breeding grounds for shared social interactions—knowing where someone originates and if they share values is critical to initiating, building, and maintaining trust propensity.  The second principle for empowering operational trust is extreme oversight; micro-management kills trust relationships and kills individual initiative, individual agency, and individual moral.  A corollary finding is that efficient use of existing control systems is not objectionable or harmful to trust propensity.  This is a critical finding in organizational trust, in that existing controls are acceptable.  When taken to extremes, the consent of the governed is rejected, and the controls become the problem killing the initiative.  Collocation and less stringent controls breed trust propensity that develops organizational trust, improving how people work, or to put it more simply, less strict controls, combined with people sharing similar backgrounds, opens organizational trust and breeds consent of the governed into productivity.

Consent of the Governed Rests Upon the Following Principles

As a reminder, the fundamental principles of a free society, a liberty first culture, and the consent of the governed rest upon the following, which should be returned to often and refreshed daily by the elected officials in government to feed operational trust in a free society and liberty-based government.

No free government, or the blessings of liberty, can be preserved to any people, but by a firm adherence to justice, moderation, temperance, frugality, and virtue, and by frequent recurrence to fundamental principles” [emphasis mine].

          • Justice: Decency to all as a behavior of equality and commitment to moral rightness.
          • Moderation: This is all about not going to extremes, being restrained, knowing the boundaries and staying within limits, and being reasonable and approachable.
          • Temperance: While primarily used in drinking alcohol, this also applies to any behaviors where self-restraint, moderation, and expressions or observance of temperate behaviors are required.
          • Frugality: Besides being a good steward of other people’s resources, being frugal requires being sparing, prudent, economical, thrifty, and reserved.
          • Virtue: Requires moral excellence, modesty, personal dignity, goodness, and conformity to a standard of righteousness.

Putting it all Together

ElectionThe consent of the governed is built upon the intermingled trust between people as a body electing government officers and people representing those elected as government officers.  The problems have arisen because many in public office have refused to accept the government of those who elected them and have served only themselves and the monied interests buying their time.  Thus, trust propensity in government has dropped to disastrous levels. Adding to the problem are the accumulated actions of previously elected officials who have set a pattern for personal wealth by tax and spend, supporting political cronies, and gerrymandering system to protect them from negative election results.  The trust between people of shared values has been broken by those elected, who never shared values, who refuse to live in their home districts, and whose time and the highest bidder can purchase interests.  Thus, is it any wonder that people no longer believe the lies of government are restless and agitated?

The consent of the governed is a precious commodity that has been squandered by those who should have held that precious resource as a mother holds her child—protecting, nurturing, and feeding the consent of the governed to build trust propensity against a time when a pandemic or natural disaster would occur.  Where the government would need to act in a difficult manner.  Instead, hypocrisy has been witnessed from the government leaders and the monied interests purchasing the politician’s time, and the people refuse their consent to be governed.  Where do we see the refusal of consent to be governed; how is the health of the US Dollar and other national currencies?  That is not just inflation blowing up prices, confidence in the future has been shaken, and confidence is the visual representation of the consent of the governed.Plato 2

Where else do we see the consent of the governed being refused?  Recently an Olympiad was held, the government of the US held hearings of great import on legislative matters to conflict with the Olympiad to hide scheduled legal hearings as smoke and mirrors.  When Kevin Durant and Draymond Green called the media out for failing to cover the Olympics, they missed the target; the people they should be denouncing are the politicians trying to distract further, confuse, and cause chaos.

Knowledge Check!President Obama proved one thing while in office when you choose to hold hearings is as important as the content of the hearings, the legislation, and the political gamesmanship.  Paying attention to all of the tricks and media hyperbole is all but impossible, and in the confusion, theft occurs.  But, the law of unintended consequences means that the consent of the governed takes a beating when these tactics are played, and soon polls will show a more significant drop in approval ratings.  (Remember how jock itch has a higher approval rating than Congress?)  Politicians will scramble, the media will try and explain the findings, but the result is always the same, the consent of the governed is being removed at a more rapid pace, and every politician of a representative government needs to start paying attention!

© 2021 M. Dave Salisbury
All Rights Reserved
The images used herein were obtained in the public domain; this author holds no copyright to the images displayed.

Let’s Stop Being Afraid of Language – Communication and Freedom Lessons From Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.

Broken RobotCommunication presentation is the careful and concise logic behind selecting words to communicate an idea—the rules of grammar and punctuation aid in communicating correctly to enhance the sense and communicate the vision.  Language is a grand and glorious tool for sharing ideas, empowering motivation, and building ideas into action items.  Yet, for some reason, words have become cheapened by political positions, and I would see this trend cease forthwith.  Presenting the first and second principles of language and communication:

A word is not a crystal, transparent and unchanged; it is the skin of a living thought and may vary greatly in color and content according to the circumstances and time in which it is used.” ~ Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

The best of a book is not the thought which it contains, but the thought which it suggests; just as the charm of music dwells not in the tones but in the echoes of our hearts.” ~ Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

Consider two emails; the content is identical, the first is titled:

How To Learn and Master Things Faster – Five Tips

The second email was received later in the day and is titled:

How To Learn and Excel At Things Faster – Five Tips

The second email also came with an apology:

Apologies for churn. The original email today used a non-inclusive word in the header. We apologize for this error and are re-sending with the corrected content.

The content of the email did not change at all, only the titles changed, and the apology suggests that there is a “non-inclusive” word in the original title.  Some people will erroneously claim that the term master is automatically a negative term and base that assumption upon slavery, especially with Juneteenth celebrations abounding this weekend.  Except, master and mastery are not negative terms.

Knowledge Check!As a point of reference, a male teacher is a master.  There are master degrees; master also appears in religious texts as an honorific.  A master can be a highly accomplished person in a trade or craft, or a role model from history.  One having authority over another to force compulsion is much lower in the definition lists.  Hence, the wordsmithing for “inclusion” is a myth; yet the fear of potentially appearing to be exclusive forced the title change in this email and was 100% wrong!

We must never forget the following:

My right to swing my fist ends where your nose begins.” ~ Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. [emphasis mine].

The fear of thought police drives a lot of other problems in society.  Choose the wrong word on an advertisement, and college children (thought terrorists) have been known to storm the business, ruin patronage, anger the entire community, and force the business closure.  All because they presume the mantle of “Master of Thought Police.”  Who gave them this authority?  Where are their charter, endowment, and power originating from?  Who granted permission; this last one is easy; the license to become a terrorist was self-assumed!  Necessitating the following principle:

The history of intellectual growth and discovery clearly demonstrates the need for unfettered freedom, the right to think the unthinkable, discuss the unmentionable, and challenge the unchallengeable. To curtail free expression strikes twice at intellectual freedom, for whoever deprives another of the right to state unpopular views necessarily also deprives others of the right to listen to those views.” ~ Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.Social Justice Warrior

Please note, I am not against wordsmithing to increase the potential power of communication to reach an audience.  Nor am I against the careful selection of words to provide clear context and empower a collective message through editing.  I will certainly not be upset because someone chooses one word in a message that I might not have used had I been in their shoes.  Why have we, the adults in society, allowed the children in the community to act like spoiled brats and create fear and division over word selection and placement in a message?

The following two quotes contain more than simple support for the principles of communicating but reflect how those principles of freedom and communication operate in society.

If there is any principle of the Constitution that more imperatively calls for attachment than any other, it is the principle of free thought, not free thought for those who agree with us but freedom for the thought that we hate.” ~ Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

Certitude leads to violence. This is a proposition that has an easy application and a difficult one. The easy application is to ideologues, dogmatists, and bullies–people who think that their rightness justifies them in imposing on anyone who does not happen to subscribe to their particular ideology, dogma, or notion of turf. If the conviction of rightness is powerful enough, resistance to it will be met, sooner or later by force. There are people like this in every sphere of life, and it is natural to feel that the world would be a better place without them!” ~ Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. [emphasis mine]

QuestionIs the fear of the mob so significant that even without a mob, fear is spread, risks must be avoided proactively, and thoughts curtailed?  I say NO!  I defy the entire argument that word selection can cause exclusion.  Why; because understanding is a choice!  The only person who can choose to be insulted over a word is you!  You own the emotions of the moment, and your emotional choices are not my concern!  Do we understand this concept?

Audience selection is the first job in designing communication.  Identifying the primary, secondary, and tertiary audiences is the job of the communication initiator.  After drafting that message and sending the ideas out, the audience is left to choose what they do moving forward.  How you choose is your power, and I am not responsible for your choices.  The communication initiator is not accountable for your preferences and selections.

Andragogy - LEARNBut what about those messages specifically designed to inflame, insult, denigrate, and deride?  What changed?  Nothing!  The communication initiator desired to rile the primary audience, deny them this power over you, choose different emotions, and retain the moral high ground.  The best response to a communication initiator who wants to rule your emotions is to deny them that power, and then that person goes away as irrelevant.

Opposing thoughts expand our minds with both experience and the force to make a decision.  If all we ever experienced were ideas and thoughts we agreed with, change, growth, opinion, all the spice of life would be lost.  Worse, envy would overcome logic, and the world would undoubtedly be a more violent place as a result.

I have no respect for the passion of equality, which seems to me merely idealizing envy – I don’t disparage envy, but I don’t accept it as legitimately my master.” ~ Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.Social Justice Warrior 3

Is the ability to choose emotional reasoning supported sufficiently to empower you?  One of the great tragedies of life, since the 1960s, has been the call for “equality” when the worship of envy was the actual message.  Worse, these ideas have been planted and carefully tended, and the fruit is poison.  When I moved to the western US as a kid, I was introduced to cedar trees for the first time.  A cedar tree is the place of choice for pregnant animals to have their offspring, as the cedar slowly transforms the ground under it into a sterile environment.  The air is affected, the earth is involved, and the grove of cedar trees holds tremendous power for generations inside the forest of cedar trees.  The cedar tree is an excellent example of the power of envy worship.  Call envy equality if you prefer, but the fruit will kill and poison the minds of those choosing to plant the seeds for generations.

Taking the concepts into the final thought:

Liberty is often a heavy burden on a man. It involves the necessity for perpetual choice, which is the kind of labor men have always dreaded.” ~ Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. [emphasis mine].

Calvin & Hobbes - EnmityLike the expanded mind, choice leads to decisions, decision spurs action, and action will result in consequences.  How you perceive the effects will drive the next series of choices, decisions, activities, and consequences.  Liberty and freedom allow us the glory and the horror of choice and consequence.  Thus, I plead with you, stop allowing your emotional decisions to be controlled by others!  Cease the turmoil over language, speak simply, communicate clearly, and then rest knowing you have not intentionally caused harm.  The audience is left to choose, and if they choose to be offended, those are not your consequences to suffer!

Reason may be the lever, but sentiment gives you the fulcrum and the place to stand on if you want to move the world.” ~ Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

© 2021 M. Dave Salisbury
All Rights Reserved
The images used herein were obtained in the public domain; this author holds no copyright to the images displayed.

NO MORE BS: School Thy Feelings

Calvin & Hobbes - Irony HurtsI know what you’re thinking, not another article on controlling emotions and feelings – well, yes.  However, I wanted to approach this subject from a different tack.  I discuss this topic so often because of the dearth witnessed in choosing proper emotional responses or not choosing an emotional response to the improvement of the environmental conditions in a situation.  Across the globe, we find daily, even hourly, instances where emotional diatribes are ruling common sense, destroying logic, and creating hordes of emotionally charged people hell-bent on destroying.  If I can help just one person understand this cycle of emotional abuse and then choose to correct their behavior, even if that person is only me, I consider these articles successful

Emtional Investment CycleToday’s title comes from Charles W. Penrose (n.d.), who penned the following poem, which has been set to music; the poem is based upon Proverbs 16:32, “One who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and one whose temper is controlled than one who captures a city.”

School Thy Feelings

School thy feelings, O my brother,
Train thy warm, impulsive soul,
Do not its emotions smother,
But let wisdom’s voice control.
School thy feelings, there is power
In the cool, collected mind;
Passion shatters reason’s tower,
Makes the clearest vision blind.

School thy feelings; condemnation_
Never pass on friend or foe,
Tho’ the tide of accusation
Like a flood of truth may flow
Hear defense before deciding,
And a ray of light may gleam,
Showing thee what filth is hiding
Underneath the shallow stream.

Should affliction’s acrid vial
Burst o’er thy unsheltered head,
School thy feelings to the trial,
Half its bitterness hath fled
Art thou falsely, basely slandered?
Does the world begin to frown?
Gauge thy wrath by wisdom’s standard;
Keep thy rising anger down.

Rest thyself on this assurance:
Time’s a friend to innocense,
And the patient, calm endurance
Wins respect and aids defense.
Noblest minds have finest feelings,
Quiv’ring strings a breath can move,
And the Gospel’s sweet revealings,
Tune them with the key of love.

Hearts so sensitively molded,
Strongly fortified should be,
Train’d to firmness and enfolded
In a calm tranquility.
Wound not willfully another;
Conquer haste with reason’s might;
School thy feelings, sister, brother,
Train them in the path of right.

Knowledge Check!Consider with me these words for a moment.  Controlling emotion is hard, I understand completely.  However, how often do we try to control emotion?  I have been driving, stuck in restricted traffic, and becoming a raving lunatic through choice because of how someone else drove.  My feelings caused them no harm but embarrassed me.  I witnessed road rage, where a 30-car pileup at 45 mph was narrowly avoided.  These two gentlemen would speed up, get around the other, then brake check, hindering and hampering the smooth flow of traffic due to selfish emotional choices.

Besides traffic, where else do we frequently witness unchecked emotional interactions?  Politics, the news, sports arenas, the supermarket, but worst of all is social media, and especially in the emotional controls social media companies exert upon those wishing to use the service.  Consider LinkedIn, they have policies in place to police thought, and curb conversation between professionals, solely because another person complained.  Facebook banned President Trump, using false pretenses and sophistry when the reality is that the media giant always wanted to exert control and thwart free and open communication.Foghorn Leghorn - Medication

Speaking of President Trump, what about the behaviors excused under the banner, “Trump Derangement Syndrome?”  The behaviors of these adults, acting worse than a spoiled toddler, was beyond deplorable, detestable, and needed public shaming.  Instead, their behavior got excused, tolerated, and America is worse for having emotional behavior justified in this manner.

Semper GumbyAs a kid, if my parents did not like another child’s behavior, I was refused the opportunity to play with that child for fear the child’s emotional behaviors would rub off on me, and I would begin to act like a nincompoop!  Yet, as an adult, I can witness rampant emotionally charged conduct, and I have to tolerate nonsense due to helicopter parents, political choices, and the media; I think not!  I firmly support Robert Solomon’s claim that emotions are a choice, a judgment, and a social construct.  In supporting this line of reasoning, I affirm I am not perfect in choosing better emotions, choosing the proper emotion, or even judging social situations properly to emote at all.  However, now that I have been made aware, I am actively striving to emote less and know the why behind my emotions to empower better decision-making down the road.

There is a piece of golden advice given to commanders in the military, choose when to become angry as a method of commanding performance improvement.  I had a commander who understood this principle well and many an officer who had no clue.  I met non-commissioned officers who understood this principle well and others who had been promoted above their level of incompetence, who chose not to understand the value of controlling emotional outbursts.  I have worked with managers across America in a myriad of positions who could learn this lesson, and I have met some amazing people who know this lesson all too well and apply it perfectly.Plato 2

Consider well the words from Charles Penrose, and believe you can choose to emote or not to emote, when to emote, where, and how to emote, as tools for improving communication, performance in yourself and others, and in making better decisions.  Runaway emotions hinder, not help, performance.  Emotional hyperbole thwarts and hurts everyone, everything, and everywhere it is found.  How embarrassing to you is it when you witness emotional meltdowns?  Be it a toddler, teenager, or adult; the sight is truly embarrassing when emotions run away.

Image - Eagle & FlagThus, on this Memorial Weekend, let us firmly recommit to living life with more controlled emotions where we are choosing our emotional states more precisely.  Selecting our emotions more carefully and allowing the emotions of others to have less hold upon our minds and bodies.  As I continue to make strides in not allowing myself to be hooked into other people’s emotions, I do not lose anything, and the control gained improves how I feel mentally and physically.

© 2021 M. Dave Salisbury
All Rights Reserved
The images used herein were obtained in the public domain; this author holds no copyright to the images displayed.

NO MORE BS: Clearing up the confusion! – Understanding the Government of America

Bird of PreyRepresentative Deb Haaland (D) sent out an email while a US House of Representatives member claimed America is a “Constitutional Democracy.”  I will endeavor to correct this confusion using simple terms; for Representative Haaland’s benefit, please allow me to elaborate.  Along the way, let us explore a few connected topics, including the plasticization of words and how that breeds tyranny.

A Republic finds its history lodged in the writings of Plato, who called a republic “possessing the structure and composition of the ideal state.”  James Madison provides America with the only definition needed for America to be a republic, “We may define a republic to be … a government which derives all its powers directly or indirectly from the great body of the people; and is administered by persons holding their offices during pleasure, for a limited period, or during good behaviour [Emphasis added].”  A republic is a government system where the supreme power rests in the body of citizens entitled to vote and is exercised by representatives chosen directly or indirectly by them.  Finally, a republic is recognized by the head of the government, not being a monarch or other hereditary head of state.

America has a Constitution that leaves all the power of the government in the hands of its legal citizens.  Legal citizens are not impostor aliens or terrorists captured on a battlefield; thus, US Constitutional Rights do not apply or cover these entities.  A Republic is formed around the principle that through property ownership, freedom is generated.  A Republic requires time, majorities that clearly surpass a simple majority, and when personal property is threatened or removed from individual citizens, that Republic slips into a democracy.  A Democracy cannot climb into being a Republic, but the Republic can be reduced to a democracy.Look

Democracy is associated with the “rule by the people,” or a simple majority wins.  The associations of democracy have become more twisted since the mid-1930s.  Therein lies the problem, democracies have existed under the feudal system of government, the communists have tried to instill democratic changes, and dictators like Maduro in Venezuela have employed democracy for personal enrichment and citizen enslavement.  Democracy, other than being dangerous, is the belief that simple majority rules for everyone.  Winston Churchill is correct, “No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.”  The reason democracy is dangerous is the belief that people control the rule when they have nothing to do with the ruling.  The “Rule of Law does not bind rulers of a democracy”; they are only restricted by statistics reported in opinion polls, which Mark Twain aptly called “Damned lies.”Finest Hour

Consider the United Kingdom, which is a “Democratic Polyarchy” as they have a hereditary monarch ruler, and a democratic parliament; when the people demanded an exit from the European Union, the supposedly democratic parliament stymied and thwarted the people’s will to keep the United Kingdom in the European Union.  Venezuela is a democracy where the constitution was destroyed for personal power.  The country was bankrupted for the enrichment of the few, and the people are now left starving, wondering where their country went.

America’s founders were interested in creating a representative democracy under a republican form of government to protect the property rights of individuals that generate the most freedom for the most people.  Under a republican form of government, everyone is first bound by the rule of law; in America’s case, the code we are all united under is the US Constitution.  Even the government must answer to the lowest of citizens.  Important to note, a Republican form of government does not mean that the Political Party “Republicans” are the party to rule exclusively.  The plasticization of words and terms continues to create confusion where politics is concerned.Patriotism

America was never expected to be a direct democracy, where Representative Haaland (D) is basing her erroneous statement regarding America being a “Constitutional Democracy.”  Here is where the fallacy resides, a constitutional democracy would only require a simple majority to enact new clauses in the constitution.  America’s Constitution requires ¾’s of the individual US States to ratify a Constitutional Amendment after the Constitutional Amendment has won supermajorities in the US House of Representatives and the Senate.  Thus, any fourth-grade student who has passed American history can tell how and why America is NOT a “Constitutional Democracy,” as stated by Representative Haaland.  “Constitutional Democracy” is fallacious, deceiving, and meant to create confusion in the populace.  Since Representative Haaland (D) and Senator Udall (D) continue to disregard their constituents, I expect more but have come to realize they will not adhere to providing a higher level of respect for the offices they individually hold, representing their constituents across the political spectrum.The Duty of Americans

Property – It’s Not What you Think!

Since we discuss the rule of law, republics, and other related topics, let us dig a little into an item that is killing America and her freedom, the loss of private property.  Charles Reich, an American legal and social scholar as well as an author who was a Professor at Yale Law School, writes a paper every American citizen needs to read and be concerned over, this paper is referenced below, and the link is active.

Detective 4Starting in the 1930s, during the “Great Depression,” changes were made to America’s methods of governance by the President, a willing media, and sycophants in the Senate and House.  Establishing the Federal and State Government’s ability to rule by largess; picking winners and losers based upon obeisance to a bureaucrat’s whims, wishes, and will.  Reich lays out this history, walks the reader through the laws, and makes the case that because of democratic rule America’s Republic has been reduced to a feudal system where the government decides who gets the largess and who does not.  With the Federal and State Governments making these decisions, businesses do not compete fairly upon their own merits but upon how much taxpayer money they can bamboozle from Uncle Sam.  Unfortunately, the entire system hinges upon reducing private property ownership and the freedoms private property allow to feed the ever-hungry beast of Government consumption.Image - Quote Poltics is Dirty

A perfect example is found in K-12 Schools.  When a school insists they need more money from the taxpayer, they blame poverty and race as to why their students cannot learn unless more money is poured into a failing school to purchase a “magic bullet,” e.g., an expensive new toy, technology, or program—providing three lies in one, and excusing designed incompetence for the failure of students who the teachers have abused.  Race governing ability is the first lie.  Poverty dictating intellect forms the second lie.  More money needed in K-12 Education is the third lie.  The designed incompetence that allows or encourages a teacher to pass a student that does not meet the standards of learning is an abuse of students, not a problem of funding, and not a problem of the teacher, but a lack of parental involvement and student engagement.Government Largess

Here is government largess in action; if the school board does not adhere to the lies of race and poverty affecting intellectual ability, that school does not get more money.  Repeatedly, we see these lies vociferously declared in the media that poverty and race are holding a school/student back, and the government needs to spend more money.  In reality, leadership in the school, reinstating the teacher’s authority, and respect is required for those schools, not more government largess.  Indeed not another program or technology that no one can afford will fail to achieve the sales pitch.

ApathyThus, America needs to demand change through the ballot box, insist that freedom and private property are returned to the people. Those representatives who have no moral center, or cannot serve their constituents from both parties equally, are removed from politics; indefinitely!  Since America is a Republic and not a democracy (yet!), the problems in representation can be solved.

Plastic Language is Tyranny!

Stretched WordsShakespeare (2016) used Hamlet to relate a line that frequently applies, especially when communicating online, “… thou doth protest too much, methinks.”  Too often, those intent on misusing words are protesting too much about something.  On social media, every communication, every interaction, and every person is a threat to the intellect of the one protesting and must be lorded over, trolled, and publicly shamed.  A recent example of this the world witnessed during Justice Kavanaugh’s confirmation process, where the judge’s children were physically and verbally assaulted—using a warping of legal rights, guaranteed justification for the assault.  A careful review of any newspaper, news broadcast, and many politicians speaking will evidence the plasticization of words to justify actions, e.g., President Clinton, “Depends on what your definition of “is” is.”  Words to couch a threat while seeming to be helpful and friendly, or worst of all hide abuses of others through twisted logic.  Every time words become disconnected from standard meanings, society crumbles, language becomes useless, and the consequences are multi-generational, which is precisely what transpired in recovering Germany after Hitler’s demise.

Andragogy - LEARNI had the great personal pleasure of speaking to a senior citizen from Germany who lived through Hitler’s oppression and the recovery of Germany post-WWII, and the person I spoke with affirmed the most challenging social problem was relearning words and definitions to communicate without the taint of Hitler’s Germanic Language.  Hence, we can draw several lessons from this experience; language is trained.  It can be retrained; relearning language is a social problem fixed through social interactions and personal knowledge, and personal responsibility and accountability remain pre-eminent in communicating correctly.  Another lesson from my experience, history repeats itself, and those with dastardly designs will always corrupt language to gain the advantage before showing their true colors as tyrants.  Every single despot in recorded history has employed plastic language to lull the population into acquiescence before demanding loyalty and destroying that civilization, society, or culture.

Word Plasticity is LIC!LIC 2

I cannot stress this point enough; LIC (Low-Intensity Conflict) is a type and style of warfare hosted by a wealthy or politically protected party for the demise of a population through “diplomatic, economic, and psychological pressures.”  Language is a social construct.  As discussed above, where Germany had to rid itself of twisted words and phrases from the Nazis, the social construct of language is generally the first step in advancing psychological warfare against a population.  Recognizing the plasticization of language is the first problem in fighting LIC.  How was Maduro able to lull the entire population of Venezuela into false security while he destroyed their constitution?  He employed psychological warfare through the plasticization of language.  Cuba, China, USSR, and every other tin-pot dictatorship employ the same strategy, twist the language, and conquer the people.

Knowledge Check!Representative Haaland (D), now Interior Secretary, was employing plastic words to hide her tyrannical ambitions, calling America a “Constitutional Democracy.”  The United States of America is a Constitutional Republic with democratically elected representatives.  If America is to survive as a Republic; the citizens need to understand where plastic language is employed, understand their government form, and insist that the democratically elected representatives will realize the same.  Recognizing LIC is the first step, and the depth of LIC being enacted against America has been allowed to grow until America is in dire straits and dangerous waters!  The American Republic must re-embrace private property and refuse what has been done since the 1900s by presidential fiat and complicit Congresses under the heading of “progressivism.”

Reference

Charles A. Reich, The New Property, 73 Yale L.J. (1964). Available at: https://digitalcommons.law.yale.edu/ylj/vol73/iss5/1

© 2021 M. Dave Salisbury
All Rights Reserved
The images used herein were obtained in the public domain; this author holds no copyright to the images displayed.

Communication – A Tool of Improving Call Centers, a Leadership Guide

A call center recently asked for some help. They have an “open-door” policy for employees to use. The call center meets all the designated training directives and compliance mandates. They believe they are the “best of the best” in providing customer support and have won awards from third-parties to back up these claims. Yet, employee churn remains high, employee morale remains low, and the leaders are becoming wary of the employment pool attracted to the call center.

ProblemsIn making observations, the consultant team tested the “open-door” policy and found that those sought were never in their offices even though the doors were open. The training was occurring, but the training offered had little to no value for the front-line customer-facing staff. It was generally considered a zero-sum game, providing time off the phones and causing stress and overtime costs. Worse, the front-line supervisors and employees’ perception was the existence of a chasm, separating them from higher organizational leaders.

Yukl (2010, p. 7) stated the definition of leadership as a “… multi-directional influence relationship between a leader and followers with the mutual purpose of accomplishing real change. Leaders and followers influence each other as they interact in non-coercive ways to decide what changes they want to make.” Fairholm (2001) built on the definition by Yukl (2010), insisting that leadership is a social event specific to the group of followers and leaders. Leadership and followership is a social contract; a call center is one of the most unique social environments possible. Due to this social environment, the leader who inspires communication is the call center leader who will be highly successful and train others to be highly successful.

Inherent to a fruitful and lasting social environment that promotes growth and development, leadership requires non-coercive methods to inspire and empower and provide aid to followers during change. Leadership in call centers is a social event specific to that group of followers, and leaders requiring mutuality in action to influence objectives being appropriately met. Coercion is a poison that infects like cancer into social environments; unfortunately, coercion is an easy trap to fall into as it is effective in the short-term.

Using the definition of leadership by Yukl (2010), we find why coercive leadership is ineffective; coercion cannot touch the followers’ hearts and minds to empower action towards objectives. A coercive action is any activity performed to harm or ensure the compliance of the action’s target. Coercive practices take many forms, from withholding benefits, including praise, to overt action, including threats and force. Coercive measures are used as leverage to force an individual or team to act in a way contrary to their individual or team interests. Covert coercion is rampant in many call centers and takes the form of restrictive policies, carrot/stick incentives, and human treatment policies that allow favoritism to rule instead of results.

Coercion is pernicious, and coercive practices are preventable. Yukl (2010) further elaborated that the follower only gives the coercive leader power out of fear or acts as a coercive agent to oppress others.  Furthermore, Yukl (2010, p. 137) specified that coercive leadership produces fear as the only motivator, and fear is dysfunctional, making nothing but more dysfunction in followers. Academic researchers often use the military as an example of coercive power and coercive leadership. Yet, having served in the US Army and the US Navy, I can attest coercion does not work in the military just as it does not work in any other industry. Coercive power is an acid destroying everything, building nothing, and dehumanizing people into animals.

The opposite of coercion is persuasion. Persuasion is the mode of being effective in collaboration, and persuasion requires trust and communication. Trust is an operational factor that builds the relationship between followers and leaders. It is the single most crucial factor in collaboration; but, collaboration and trust, as operational concepts, require two-directional communication to reach maximum effectiveness (Du, Erkens, Xu, 2018).

Internal-CS-Attitude-Low-ResCommunication as a tool in expressing confidence in the follower/leader relationship gains strength to clear misunderstandings and reach the desired consensus to meet organizational goals and operational objectives. The operational concept of trust and communication requires the third leg of the trust relationship agency. The follower needs to possess agency to act, informed agency requires training to employ, and the power and support of leadership to feel confident in action as detailed by Boler (1968), Avolio and Yammarino (2002). Which is where concepts meet reality, where theory is tested, and the leader is needed.

The following are proposed actions to build trust in organizations, improve communications, and empower the agency in employees to act. One of the worst things a leader can do when coercion is suspected is “trust exercises.” Trust exercises like standing a person on a chair and having them fall back into the team’s waiting arms. A call center leader colleague tried holding team and department meetings using “trust exercises,” and the result was best described as a catastrophe. The actions proposed are practical and can be employed in all call centers, including those working remotely due to COVID.

  1. Employ praise! Honest, truthful, fact-based, and reasoned praise is the most powerful tool a call center leader can employ to build people. With many call center workers working remotely, using praise as a recognition tool is critical to improving employee performance.
      • Use QA calls to issue praise.
      • Use non-cash incentives to recognize powerful deeds.
      • Make praise public through company newsletters and leadership emails.
      • Be specific, direct, and honest in your praise.
      • Be consistent in offering praise.
  1. Saying you have an “open door” is not enough, be the support mechanism your people need.
      • Respond to emails. Even if you cannot offer a substantial response immediately, personalize the email response, set a follow-up date, and meet those follow-up dates for additional communication.
      • Respond to employee questions with enthusiasm for listening and acting, not merely speaking.
      • Stop active listening; begin immediately to listen to meet mutual understanding through reflective listening. Mutual understanding and a promise to act on a concern are essential to support “open-door” policies; failure to listen and act is the number one failure of “open-door” policies.
  2. Training must change. If training is not a value-added exercise to the person receiving training, training has not occurred, resources have been wasted, and problems are generating.
    • Does your trainer know how to gather qualitative data from front-line workers to make curriculum developments?
    • Does your trainer know how to collect quantitative data from the training program to gauge decision-making in curriculum improvement?
    • What adult education theories are your trainers employing to instruct, build, and motivate adult learners who are employed?
    • How do you measure training effectiveness?
    • Does a “trained” employee know how to use trainers’ information to change individual approaches?
    • Do team leaders take an active role in training, or are they just “too busy?”

All these questions and more should be powering your training of the trainer discussions. If these questions are not being addressed, how will you, the call center leader, know your training investment dollars can return a positive investment? Training remote workers, especially, requires training programs that can motivate learners to change personal behavior. Thus, the training must have the ability to reach the student’s honor and integrity.

Leadership CartoonCOVID has provided many opportunities, and only through collaboration, communication, trust, and empowered agency, can help call centers to survive this difficult period. Regardless of how long the government shutdowns occur, your call center can survive, and call center leaders can prosper, provided they are willing to be leaders indeed, not managers in disguise.

References

Avolio, B. J., & Yammarino, F. J. (2002). Transformational and charismatic leadership: The road ahead. San Diego, CA: Emerald.

Boler, J. (1968). Agency. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 29(2), 165-181.

Du, F., Erkens, D. H., & Xu, K. (2018). How trust in subordinates affects service quality: Evidence from a large property management firm. Business.Illinois.edu. Retrieved from https://business.illinois.edu/accountancy/wp-content/uploads/sites/12/2018/03/Managerial-Symposium-2018-Session-IV-Du-Erkens-and-Xu.pdf.

Fairholm, Gilbert W. Mastering inner leadership. Greenwood Publishing Group, 2001.

Ruben, B. D., & Gigliotti, R. A. (2017). Communication: Sine qua non of organizational leadership theory and practice. International Journal of Business Communication, 54(1), 12-30.

Yukl, G. (2010, April 23). Leadership in organizations [Adobe Digital Edition Version 1.5] (7th ed.).

© Copyright 2020 – M. Dave Salisbury
The author holds no claims for the art used herein, the pictures were obtained in the public domain, and the intellectual property belongs to those who created the pictures.
All rights reserved.  For copies, reprints, or sharing, please contact through LinkedIn:
https://www.linkedin.com/in/davesalisbury/

Moving Past Active Listening to Facilitate Communication: Shifting the Paradigm

GearsIn several previous professional positions, especially those in call centers, there has been considerable time spent training people to actively listen.  The problem; active listening can be faked, and fake active listening is as useful as a shower without soap or shampoo.  You might get wet, but you do not feel clean.

Listening has four distinct levels, these are:

  • Inactive listening – Hearing words, seeing written communication, zero impact mentally. Mostly because your internal voices drown out the possibility for communication.
  • Selective listening – Hearing only that which confirms your own voices, opinions, and biases. While others are speaking, you are already forming your response.
  • Active listening – Show the other person you are paying attention, engage with meaning in a reply. Focused upon removing barriers to get your point across.
  • Reflective listening – Paying attention to intent and content, reducing emotion, two-direction as both parties are engaged in achieving mutual understanding.

Tools for listening effectively, which for all intents and purposes, means listening reflectively, requires several tools, along with considerable experience in using these tools.  Customer service focus – not sales in disguise, not having a hidden agenda, and not covertly looking for opportunities to turn the conversation back to you.  The attitude of service – is all about what your intention is after listening.  Sales are all about attitude and winning over someone else; however, how many sales require first being able to reflectively listen; every single one.  Desire – desire determines your choices, your choices form decisions, and decisions determine destiny!

ElectionConsider the press conferences at the White House.  A room is full of people who would claim they are professional listeners, who then report what is being said.  Yet, how many times do you see questions asked with an agenda, personal opinions warping what is said into what they desired to hear, and then reporting what they erroneously heard to satisfy their desires politically; every single time.  Hence, the problems with active listening and how active listening can be faked.  Desire and attitude of service are not being applied to improve customer service focus.

Communication occurs in two different modalities, verbal and non-verbal.  Good communicators adapt their message to the audience.  Adapting the message requires first a choice, determining who the primary and secondary audience is, then focus the message onto the primary audience.  Next, adaptation requires prior planning, which includes mental preparation, practice, and channels for feedback.  Finally, adaptation requires listening to achieve mutual understanding, careful observation, asking questions designed to lead to mutual understanding, and clarifying what is being said to achieve mutual understanding.

Too often, those labeled as “good communicators” cannot listen reflectively.  They have never learned how to use the tools of desire and attitude of service, in a manner that builds customer service focus into reflectively listening.

Leadership CartoonConsider two people the media has proclaimed as great communicators, Presidents Reagan (R) and Obama (D).  President Reagan was listened reflectively, asked good questions, listened to the answers, asked more questions, and then listened some more.  In listening and asking questions, President Reagan built people (customer service focus) and was respected by enemies and friends for his ability to communicate (personal desire determined destiny).  President Obama has been labeled by the media as a good communicator; but by all accounts, he never listened, his questions showed he desired to be heard, and his focus was all on him as the smartest person in the room.  Desire builds an attitude of service, which then forms the customer service focus, which then reflects a desire to reflectively listen and achieve mutual understanding with those being communicated with.

One of the most despicable problems in customer service today is a theme established by Stephen Covey, “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.”  On a recent issue, a letter was sent to Senator Martha McSally (D) of Arizona, the response has formed the epitome for not listening in written communication as the response had nothing of the original issue even discussed.  The response was a form letter, on a different topic, and lacked any response that the sender had been heard; but, the letter advertised Sen. Martha McSally and her commitment to listening to her constituents.  But, you might say, a Senator is too busy to respond to every communication delivered, a few other examples of both verbal and non-verbal communication failures.

  • Two lieutenants, representing the Department of Veterans Affairs, Federal Police Service, stationed at the Phoenix VA Hospital. Engage a person not wearing a mask.  Body language clearly states they are the authority and will broker no resistance.  The officers spend 45-minutes haranguing the patient before cuffing and frog-marching the patient to a holding cell, where the patient who was seeking services in the emergency room, waits for an additional 60-minutes before being forced off Federal Property.  The patient informed the officers multiple times of their pre-existing condition and inability to physically wear a mask.  The hospital mask policy allowed for a face shield to be worn instead of a mask, and after the patient put the face shield on, the officers continued to verbally engage without listening, until the foregone conclusion of arresting the patient could be justified.  The patient was fined $360.00 (USD) for “disorderly conduct” by refusing to wear a mask.
  • Calling a major cellular phone provider (AT&T) with questions about the price plan. The representative answered every question but needed to make a sale, and their focus was on making that sale, not on assisting the customer.  Not the agent’s fault, the policy of the call center is to up-sale on every call.  If the agent does not up-sale, the call is automatically downgraded in quality assurance and the agent gets in trouble.  Hence policy dictates that the customer not be listened too reflectively as the sale must come before the customer.
  • Hotel check-in, online registration was made specifically for a particular sized bed, but due to late check-in, the customer is not provided what was asked for, and the attitude of the clerk is one of disgust at being bothered. Verbal and nonverbal cues are sending messages that the customer is the problem and is interrupting the life of the clerk.
  • A patient receives a call to make an urgent appointment with a VA medical provider in general surgery. The medical provider has demanded the patient be seen in the clinic, thus negating a phone or video styled appointment.  The patient’s record clearly states the patient has trouble complying with mandatory masking for patients seen in the clinic.  The provider arrives 20+ minutes late to the appointment, and because the patient is not wearing a mask immediately refuses to see the patient, wasting 90-minutes of the patient’s day.  The provider gets off in 10-minutes, and seeing the patient will make the provider late getting off.  Was the mask really the problem; not likely.

Social Justice Warrior 2Not listening is probably the largest social problem in the world today.  Everywhere fake active listening is observed, along with copious amounts of observable inactive, selective, and active refusals to listen.  Some of the problems in improving listening are policies and procedures that do not allow for individual adaptation or situational understanding.  However, too often, the individual choices to grab power, exercise authority, and pass along inconvenience are the real problems in not listening.  Harvey Mackay is reported to have said, “Easy listening is a style of music, not an attribute of communication.”  Proving again that listening is a choice, a personal choice, borne from desire, bred on attitude and reflected in verbal and non-verbal patterns of communication.

The following are some launch points for improving listening in society:

  1. Understand your desire.  Know that your desire choices are determining your destiny.  If your destiny is not one, you appreciate, return to the desire and make different choices.
  2. Practice mental preparation, based upon previous situations, to make different choices. Listening is a voyage of discovery to reach a mutual understanding, but mental preparation is key to safely reach the destination.  Prepare, use a mirror, practice until what currently feels alien becomes familiar.
  3. Reduce emotion. The principle of empathy and sympathy are destroying listening and only reflect the internal voices.  The volume of internal voices is silencing the ability to reflectively listen, necessitating the need to fake actively listening for employment’s sake.
  4. Listen as you would have others listen to you. This is an adaptation of the “Golden Rule” and remains applicable as a personal choice.  How you choose to listen will determine your destiny.
  5. Listening remains the number one tool you control and has application to written communication and verbal communication channels. Body language is a non-verbal communication channel that can be heard as well as seen.  How are you communicating non-verbally, which is interfering with your written and verbal communication attempts?

Listening is a choice.  Listening is hard.  Yet, many people have pointed out that we have two ears and one mouth so we can listen twice as often as we speak.  Choose to reflectively listen, choose to reach a mutual understanding, watch your destiny change.

© Copyright 2020 – M. Dave Salisbury

The author holds no claims for the art used herein, the pictures were obtained in the public domain, and the intellectual property belongs to those who created the pictures.

All rights reserved.  For copies, reprints, or sharing, please contact through LinkedIn:

https://www.linkedin.com/in/davesalisbury/

Realities and Uncertainties – The Paradigm at the VA

I-CareThe Department of Veterans Affairs – Office of Inspector General (VA-OIG) reports they are returning to a more regular schedule of release for the inspection reports with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) recovering from COVID-19.  Congratulations are in order, to the VA, as they begin returning to normal operations and procedures.  The reality is that standard operating procedures (SOP) are regularly missing at the VA, this absence causes uncertainty, and forms the crux of this report. A question for the VA-OIG, “How can you assess employee competency without SOPs?”  To the VA VISN leaders, “How can your directors and supervisors, conduct employee evaluations without written SOPs?”  The short answer is you cannot!

Congratulations are in order, for the Marion VA Medical Center (VAMC) in Illinois.  The Marion VAMC experienced a “comprehensive healthcare inspection” and were generally praised for the excellent work being conducted, the happiness of the patients, and the overall condition of the facilities.  While there were recommendations made by the VA-OIG (29 in 8 different areas), the overall report was satisfactory, and this is mentionable.  Hence, my heartfelt congratulations for your success in this inspection.

VA SealThe Marion VAMC VA-OIG report raises a common theme, and this is a reality the VA appears to be incapable of addressing training and two-directional communication.  From the hospital director to the patient-facing staff, training always appears as a significant issue in VA operations.  Having experienced the training provided by the VA for employees, and as an adult educator, I know the uselessness of the training program and have several suggestions.  Perhaps the problem would be best addressed if more evidence was provided of a systemic failure in training employees at the VA.

In 2017 Congress mandated a change in research operations for the VA, specifically where canine research was concerned.

The OIG found VHA conducted eight studies without the former or current Secretary’s direct approval, resulting in the unauthorized use of $393,606 in appropriated funds.VA continued research using canines after the passage of the funding restrictions, in part, because VHA executives perceived that then VA Secretary David Shulkin had approved the continuation of the studies before his departure.”

The cause of the problem, the VA-OIG discovered was, “Unclear communication, inadequate recordkeeping, and failure to ensure approval decisions were accurately recorded and verified all contributing to VHA’s noncompliance.”  The researchers and executives relied upon two leading causes for not following regulations, designed incompetence, and a lack of training through clear and concise communications.

Congress mandated the documentation to assure approval was obtained before research commenced; yet, the researchers and administrative staff collectively failed to do their jobs and were able to hide behind the bureaucracy they established to excuse their poor behavior.  Loopholes for designed incompetence and lack of training need closed; but, two incidents do not clearly illustrate the reality of the problem.

ProblemsThe VA Southern Nevada Healthcare System in North Las Vegas, in response to a referral from the U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC), was investigated by the VA-OIG after a community healthcare worker was attacked.  The VA-OIG findings are appalling, but the reasons for the problem are worse.

The OIG determined that facility managers failed to timely respond after the social worker reported an assault during a home visit and did not address the social worker’s health needs after the assault. The social worker’s supervisor failed to immediately report the incident to the community and VA police. The facility’s policies lacked specific guidance regarding employee emotional and mental health injuries. Further, the OIG substantiated that the social worker was not informed by a supervisor of a homicidal threat, occurring subsequent to the assault, until two weeks after facility leaders became aware of the threat.”

The facility leaders knew there was a problem, yet did nothing before or after the event, that could have cost this healthcare worker their life!  VA-OIG recommendations boil down to a need for clear communication and staff training.  The recommendations highlighted another issue entirely that forms the reality and creates uncertainty at the VA, communication is not a two-directional opportunity to share information.  Single directional communication is useless, and those leaders supporting the bureaucracy to only allow communication to flow in, need immediate removal from the VA.  During my time at the VA as an employee on the front-lines, facing patients, I regularly experienced the lack of communication, and this issue is systemic to the entire VA as witnessed and observed at VA Medical Centers across the United States.

The Nevada incident is deplorable, reprehensible, and the potential for loss of life cannot be overlooked by VA leadership in Washington, at the VISN, or at the Medical Center any longer!  The problems of communication cannot explain this incident, and failure for training cannot excuse this behavior!  Since the OSC initiated the complaint, I am left to wonder, did the employee reporting this incident get fired and needed to appeal to the OSC for remediation?  I ask because the knee-jerk reaction to problems at the VA is to fire the person reporting the issue, as previously observed and personally experienced, and as described to Congressional representatives during televised hearings.  A more thorough investigation into causation needs to be concluded and reported to Congress for this incident reeks of politics and CYA.

Leadership CartoonThe Harry S. Truman Memorial Veterans’ Hospital in Columbia, Missouri, and multiple outpatient clinics was recently provided a comprehensive healthcare inspection, and the leadership team provided 14 recommendations in 7 different areas for improvement.  While congratulations are in order, for the patient scores, the employee scores, and the overall conditions discovered.  Yet, again staff competency, e.g., training and communication, remain critical articles requiring targeted improvement.  Is the pattern emerging discernable; in Nevada, an employee is assaulted and training and communication are blamed, comprehensive healthcare inspections are conducted in three different geographic areas and the same causation factors discovered; training and communication are systemically failing at the VA.  But, the evidence continues.

The John J. Pershing VA Medical Center in Poplar Bluff, Missouri, recently underwent a comprehensive healthcare inspection.  The VA-OIG issued 17 recommendations in 6 fundamental areas, including staff competency assessments, e.g., training and communication, as well as the inadequate written standard operating procedures.  When discussing designed incompetence, the first step to correcting this problem is writing down the standards, operating methods, and procedures.  Then the medical center leaders can begin training to those standards.  Barring written instructions and published standards, employees are left to ask, “What is my job? and “How do I perform my job to a standard?”

The Oscar G. Johnson VA medical center, and multiple outpatient clinics in Michigan and Wisconsin recently underwent a comprehensive healthcare inspection, 11 recommendations in 3 critical areas.  As did the Tomah VA Medical Center and multiple outpatient clinics in Wisconsin, 4 recommendations in 3 crucial areas.  Both facilities are to be congratulated for their continual improvement and their success during the inspections.  In case you were wondering, staff competency assessments, e.g. training and communication, are vital findings and variables in improving further for both facilities.

The VA has what it calls “S.A.I.L” metrics that form the core standard for performance.  S.A.I.L. stands for Strategic Analytic (sic) for Improvement and Learning.  Learning is a critical component in how the facility is measured and yet remains a constant theme in the struggles for improvement.  Thus, not only is two-directional communication a systemic failure, but so is the poor training results found on all the comprehensive healthcare inspections performed by the VA-OIG.  Poor communication almost cost a healthcare worker their life, and staff training was a key component for recovering from this incident in Nevada.  How can the VA consistently fail at two-directional communication and training, designed incompetence?  Those in charge require an excuse for not doing their jobs, and the most common excuse provided is a lack of training and poor communication.

I-CareIt is time for these petulant and puerile excuses to be banished and extinguished.  The following are suggestions to beginning to address the problems.

  1. Easy listening is a musical style, not an action in communication.  By this, it is meant that the VA needs to stop faking active listening and engage reflective listening.  Reflective listening requires reaching a mutual understanding and is critical to two-directional communications.  In the world of technology, not responding to email, not responding to text messages, and untimely responses to staff communication are inexcusable on the part of the leaders.
  2. Staff training remains a core concept, but before staff can be properly and adequately trained, standards for performance, operational guidelines, and procedural actions must be clearly written down. The first question I asked upon hire was, “Where are the SOPs for this position?”  I was told, “Do not mention SOPs as the director hates them and prefers to work without them.”  Do you know why that director preferred to work at the VA without SOPs because she used it as an excuse to get out of trouble, to fire those she deemed trouble makers, and to escape with her pension and cushy job to another VA medical center?  A repeatable pattern for poor leaders to spread their infamy.  Shame on the VA Leaders for promoting this director to a level beyond her incompetence.  Worse, shame on you for creating an environment where many like her have excelled and done damage to the VA reputation, mission, and patients, including killing them while they awaited care.
  3. From the VA Secretary to the front-line patient-facing employee, cease accepting excuses. The private sector cannot hide behind immunity from litigation and act in a more responsible manner.  Thus, the VA needs to benchmark what private hospitals do where staff training and SOP’s are concerned.  Benchmark from the best and the worst hospitals for an average, then implement that average as the standard.  One thing discovered in writing SOPs for the NMVAMC, the committee for approving SOPs, and the process for writing SOPs were so convoluted and time-intensive that the SOP was outdated by the time it could be implemented.  Shame on you VA leadership for creating this environment!
  4. Training should be an extension of an organizational effort and university. The VA is not properly training the next generation of leaders; thus, the problems multiply and exponentially grow from generation to generation.  Launch the VA Learning University concept, staff that university with adult educators, and allow lessons learned from the university to trickle into operational excellence.
  5. Form an independent tiger team in the VA Secretary’s Office who has the authority to travel anywhere in the VA System to conduct investigations with the ability to enact change and demand obeisance. The Nevada incident was a failure of leadership and needs a thorough reporting and cleansing of the bad actors who allowed that situation to occur.  Worse, in my travels, I have heard many similar stories.  I heard of a patient getting their ear chopped off when a veteran assaulted another veteran after becoming irate at waiting times in the VA ER.  I have heard and witnessed multiple incidents of furniture being thrown, employees being assaulted, employees harassing and assaulting patients, staff property trashed, and so much more.  These incidents need direct intervention and investigation by a party not affiliated with that affected VAMC and the leadership’s political policies.

Carl T. Hayden04 October 2016, the VA-OIG released a report on dead veterans after the comprehensive investigation into the Carl T. Hayden VAMC in Phoenix, Arizona.  The same event occurred in 2014, at the same hospital, with the same causes and the same conclusions.  The core causes for the dead veterans, no written procedures, poor to no training, and reprehensible communication practices.  The Phoenix VAMC went out of their way to fire all the employees who reported problems at the Phoenix VAMC before the veterans began dying in 2014, I can only speculate that the same occurred in 2016.  Staff was frightened in 2014; they are demoralized in 2020.  Nothing has changed at the Carl T. Hayden VAMC in Phoenix, Arizona, after two successive hospital directors, if anything the problems have worsened.  The problems worsened because leadership failed to act, failed to write down SOPs, failed to communicate, and failed to train.  The hospital directors since 2014 have been appointed from the same pool of candidates who created dead veterans in the first place, and that is a central failure of the VA Secretary and Congressionally elected representatives’ failure to act!

How many more veterans or staff must die before the VA is willing to act?

© Copyright 2020 – M. Dave Salisbury

The author holds no claims for the art used herein, the pictures were obtained in the public domain, and the intellectual property belongs to those who created the pictures.

All rights reserved.  For copies, reprints, or sharing, please contact through LinkedIn:

https://www.linkedin.com/in/davesalisbury/

Dane-Geld: A Warning to the Mayors and Governors of America

Dane-GeldDane-Geld is “a land tax levied in medieval England, originally to raise funds for protection against Danish invaders.”  The 11th Century saw many frightened landowners who wanted peace raised money to pay-off the warring tribes of the north, called Danes.  From across the land, the rulers gathered penny and pound to buy protection from these warring tribes.  When the Dane’s saw how easy it was to obtain gold, they moved in and took the lands, and whole civilizations dropped into barbarianism, and the only reason we know these stories today, were the warring tribes of the Dane’s met cold steel in a furious fist and were beaten back.

Rudyard Kipling wrote a poem on this topic, called coincidently enough, “Dane-Geld.”

“It is always a temptation to an armed and agile nation
To call upon a neighbour and to say: —
“We invaded you last night–we are quite prepared to fight,
Unless you pay us cash to go away.”

And that is called asking for Dane-geld,
And the people who ask it explain
That you’ve only to pay ’em the Dane-geld
And then you’ll get rid of the Dane!

It is always a temptation for a rich and lazy nation,
To puff and look important and to say: —
“Though we know we should defeat you, we have not the time to meet you.
We will therefore pay you cash to go away.”

And that is called paying the Dane-geld;
But we’ve proved it again and again,
That if once you have paid him the Dane-geld
You never get rid of the Dane.

It is wrong to put temptation in the path of any nation,
For fear they should succumb and go astray;
So, when you are requested to pay up or be molested,
You will find it better policy to say: —

“We never pay any-one Dane-geld,
No matter how trifling the cost;
For the end of that game is oppression and shame,
And the nation that pays it is lost!”

Who, pray tell, is the modern Dane’s?  We currently call them Black Lives Matter (BLM), Antifa, and other extremist factions in American Society.  We call them ISIS, we call them terrorists.  For terrorists they are, and terrorist history has called them from day one.  Requiring a fearful reputation for violence, these people come to disrupt society, damage business, destroy goods, and wreak untold havoc and destruction.

Gadsden FlagMayors, Governors, you have a choice, to pay the Dane his pound of gold, or to fight the terror in society and be remembered.  The Mayor in Philadelphia during the riots past gave up entire city blocks for the Dane’s of her city to destroy, the Dane’s were not appeased, they moved in, and now control larger sections of the city than ever before.  Seattle’s mayor recently paid the Dane’s and has become the laughingstock of America over CHAZ.  Minneapolis, Detroit, Chicago, and so many other cities across America have bent the knee, paid the gold, and will never be rid of the Dane.

You can try and appease a mob.  You can fight a mob.  These are your only two options.  There is not third selection possible, for the mob, you fear today will be your rulers in captivity tomorrow.  Ask the city of Philadelphia if they like their new rulers.  Ask the community of Watts in LA if they like their rulers post LA Riots.  You can break a mob into individuals and hold them accountable, and you can try to pay off a mob, but you cannot do both, and you will lose short-term or long when you act against the mob.  Better to lose short term and win, then appease and lose everything to the rule of a mob.

For those city councils crying to appease the mob with defunding the police, I would that you would take a hard look at the closing stanza from Kipling.

“We never pay any-one Dane-geld,
No matter how trifling the cost;
For the end of that game is oppression and shame,
And the nation that pays it is lost!”


If you replace the word “nation” with city and county, you will understand the stakes you are suffering under currently.  I cannot stress enough the need for you to rise up, put some backbone on, tie on your work boots, and go to war against the powers of oppression and tyranny.  Call in the National Guard, the State Militias, we the sheepdogs of war will respond.  Do not allow America to fall on your watch because you think paying Dane-Geld is easier and more respectable.  For I promise you, if you do not stand against the tyrants today, the rest of America will have to stand against a stronger and more violent tyrant tomorrow!

The mobs, the rioters, and the looters currently rampaging are domestic terrorists, and make no mistake their sole aim is to destroy your town, your city, your county, your state, and your country!  Quoting from President Roosevelt, “We, too, born to freedom, and believing in freedom, are willing to fight to maintain freedom. We, and all others who believe as deeply as we do, would rather die on our feet than [to] live on our knees.

National GuardJoin us, ye politicians, who tremble!  Military Crests

 

© Copyright 2020 – M. Dave Salisbury

The author holds no claims for the art used herein, the pictures were obtained in the public domain, and the intellectual property belongs to those who created the pictures.

All rights reserved.  For copies, reprints, or sharing, please contact through LinkedIn:

https://www.linkedin.com/in/davesalisbury/

Plasticization of Words and the American Political Left – Shifting the Paradigm

Non Sequitur - Plasticity of LanguageI love words; I was taught from a young age three invaluable lessons:

  1. Speak the King’s English with exactness.
  2. Correctly pronounce and enunciate your words.
  3. If you do not know what a word means, and misuse it, you are wrong and must correct your mistake immediately.

Growing up, these rules were inviolable.  You could use any word you knew the definition of; but, you had better pronounce that word, enunciate, and be able to defend yourself when asked.  Since 1990, I have become detested with two things the American Political Left has chosen to do that is atrocious and worthy of the vilest condemnation, racism, and the plasticization of words.

As a student of history, the American Political Left has, from the inception of political parties, been telling lies to hide political skullduggery and shenanigans, to obfuscate issues, and derail issues.  The plasticization of words has shamed many a person, has cast doubts that have ruined elections, and been exercised tirelessly to tear America apart.

Pentagon BureaucracyConsider a term oft used to describe the political left, “Social-Justice Warriors.”  Long have I asked my political left-leaning colleagues what this term means, how it applies, and the veracity of the term as a description of societal action.  Breaking down the term, we find three definitions taken from Dictionary.com:

Social: Adjective – relating to society and its organization; Noun – informal social gathering

Justice: Noun – just behavior or treatment; administration of law or authority

Warrior: Noun – an experienced soldier or fighter

Social Justice WarriorThus, to extrapolate meaning from the definitions, one would conclude a social justice warrior is “a person in society, looking for the social administration of law, who has experience fighting for the proper administration of law.”  Yet, the definition from the dictionary for this term is 180-degrees different and is termed derogatory, “a person who expresses or promotes socially progressive views.”  Those rioting and looting in the streets got there because a social justice warrior enraged the community on an issue that is racist, one-sided, and emotionally driven.  Lest it is forgotten, the term being applied to the people driven by emotion to launch protests that become mob violence is derogatory in nature, critically disrespectful of the person calling themselves a social justice warrior.  But, the social justice warrior carries this title as if it were a compliment and a badge of the highest esteem.

Thus, language is plasticized to confuse, interfere, and claim moral superiority, while at the same time damaging the basic fiber of America, destroying small businesses, and ruining commerce.  In reviewing the historical records of riots in America, the term social justice warrior appears to have cropped up as a neutral or possibly positive term in the 1990s, but by 2011 the term had gained its derogatory connotations with the rise of social media.  Many victims of social justice warriors claim they have been “thought policed,” “word policed,” attacked for not being appropriately centered on progressive politics.  The social justice warrior is often extremely biased, self-aggrandizing, sanctimonious, but first, last, and always puerilely unreasonable!

Social Just Warriors 5A recent attack by a social justice warrior regarded the inability of poor black people to have government-issued photo ID, and that without that photo ID, the poor black person would be disenfranchised in exercising voting rights.  My response was that holding any person down by race was racist, and the social just warrior preceded to become unhinged.  Let us be clear, anytime a person’s race is the sole reason that person, or group of people, cannot take part in something, is racism, and the person espousing that opinionated garbage is racist.

In fourth grade, shortly after the Christmas Break, Governor Anderson Elementary School, Belfast Maine.  The teacher is Mrs. Ohlund, I am repeating fourth grade because I was accused of being socially unprepared for fifth grade.  I express doubts about Martin Luther King and a negative opinion regarding “Black History Month.”  Then I am falsely accused, for the first of many times, of being racist.  I lost three recesses, had to write a paper by way of apology, and was forced to spend the rest of “Black History Month” not participating in the events planned and scheduled.

Social Justice Warriors 4From that day to this, I have been attacked for not seeing race, not being sensitive to the race of others, and refusing to allow a person’s race to be an excuse for poor performance, bad language, and infantile public and private behavior.  I remain unapologetic; I am not a racist!  I hold myself to the highest standards publicly and privately as my first obligation to society.  Without regard to race, color, creed, etc. I hold others to the same standards.  I am willing to teach and remain willing to learn as my second obligation to society.

Senior Chief Cloud (DCCS) gave me a tongue lashing in the US Navy because I could not understand the verbal interlocution of a second-class petty officer.  The second-class petty officer used “Ebonics,” while on duty as a form of speech, and I had no idea what he was saying.  Off-duty, this same second-class petty officer spoke differently and I was able to understand him, just fine.  I was accused of being racist, disrespectful, and obstinate for not understanding the intentional speech patterns of a higher-ranking person.

Social Justice Warrior 2I quickly learned that if any other race of person employed “Ebonics” they were told to speak properly, but there was a pass for black people.  When I pointed out this was racism, I was sent up on charges for being disrespectful to see the Commanding Officer.  In the US Army, I was the only white person in my squad in S. Korea.  I was never invited to squad parties, social get-togethers, or allowed into training.  I asked why I was being excluded and was told it was because the squad leader did not understand white people.  The command structure supported the exclusion, and I was left without support as a new soldier in the US Army.

When white people treat black people in a manner that segregates, separates, or allows lower standards based upon race, this is considered racism, and rightly so.  Yet, when black people reflect the exact same behaviors, the socially progressive elements in America rush to defend this behavior, and it is still racism.  The term racism sees no colors, understands no race, and cannot distinguish between people.  The term racism has been plasticized and forced into seeing colors and races, but only when directed in one direction towards black people; and, this is wrong!

In S. Korea, I met some of the most amazing people, gifted, talented, intellectually brilliant.  In S. Korea, I never felt I was a foreigner; the people accepted my small gestures to learn the language and were very kind.  Yet, in South Chicago, South Detroit, Bakersfield, Palisades, and other traditionally black neighborhoods, I am a foreigner, and the people not only treated me like scum on their blocks but insisted I did not belong.  How is it, I can feel more welcome in a foreign country, than on American soil, simply because of my race; this is racism!  The same is true when I visited Bahrain, and the Rock of Gibraltar, highly integrated societies, where I was the foreigner but was never treated as a foreigner or an outsider.  But, travel to Jersey City, Burlington, or Baychester and I was told to wear armor because I was going to be shot.  As a point of interest, Bruce Willis has this same problem in the movie Die Hard 3, and Hollywood treated that overt racism as a movie plot; this is wrong!

Social Justice Warrior 3In the name of racial equality, America has been taught since the early 1980s that words create problems, and some words cannot be used by “white people.”  This behavior is inherently racist and spreads the problems of race, not improving racial relationships.  During President Obama’s reign, America learned that peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are racist.  Fluffernutter sandwiches are racist.  But, this is not so, they are sandwiches, food, and delicious.  Yet, through plasticization and a social justice warrior, suddenly, a staple of millions of people is now “off-limits” and cannot be consumed.  My local sandwich shop had to stop selling a peanut butter honey spread on bagels as a sandwich option because the owners feared being picketed.

It is time for Americans to stand together against the tyranny of plastic words.  Terms see no race, color, creed, and can do nothing but form expressions in communicating ideas.  People see colors, race, creeds, handicaps, and more, words do not.  The plastic words employed by the political left need to be called out every single time a new term arises, and the following are some suggestions for reducing plastic words.

  1. Get to know words and their definitions. It is okay to look up new words and use them in daily vocabulary.  It is okay to have a vocabulary to fall upon to describe, detail, and inform your communication.
  2. When in doubt, ask for clear definitions for terms. If this is the second or more instance, compare definitions from previous explanations, and every time the definitions do not match the intent, call that person out.
  3. Insist upon pronunciation and proper annunciation of words. The English language is beautiful when properly used, and the proper usage of language improves the world.  Be the speaker that makes flowers bloom in another person’s mind through language.
  4. Swearing, cursing, and vile imprecations do nothing but degrade the speaker and lower the speaker’s intelligence. Insist that speakers improve their language usage before speaking as a sign of respect.  I show my respect to you by guarding my tongue, you show your appreciation and respect to me by guarding your tongue, and communication advances both of us.
  5. Plastic words are a social disease and a tool of weak and untested minds. Remember, emotional outbursts are not tolerated by parents from children, and are even less tolerated by adults towards other adults.  Teenagers should be able to get away with back-talking and emotional hyperbole, why do we allow these same outbursts from adults?

Words DefinedImproving communication is all about knowing and using language succinctly and precisely, and then supporting proper social behaviors through courage and tenacity.  There is no reason the grocery store, the restaurant, and other social and community gatherings should be an atmosphere of foul deprecations, excuses for small minds to emotionally lose control, or for adults to imitate the worst childish behaviors.  Standards promote freedom, and the US Republic is all about personal freedom through responsibility and accountability for one’s self.

© Copyright 2020 – M. Dave Salisbury

The author holds no claims for the art used herein, the pictures were obtained in the public domain, and the intellectual property belongs to those who created the pictures.

All rights reserved.  For copies, reprints, or sharing, please contact through LinkedIn:

https://www.linkedin.com/in/davesalisbury/