ArLyne's Diamonds

A running commentary of ideas

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Reducing Conflict - Neutral Evaluations

Once again I’ve been asked to offer an opinion about the way a problematic situation has been handled.  My evaluation:  Badly.  What could have been a simple issue, leading to mediation and resolution has been escalated into an unnecessary big deal.  This has caused grief not only to the participants, but to their teams as well.
An unbiased evaluator would have seen this as a mild misunderstanding and would have brought the parties together in mediation.  They would have resolved the disagreement themselves. 
This leads me to recommending that all managers and HR folk who hear complaints in the workplace read two of my books:  Conflict in the Workplace: Causes and Cures and Conducting Workplace Investigations:  Designated Investigator.  They are both available on Amazon and elsewhere as well as directly from my publisher:  Robertson Publishing.
They will really help you in handling complaints – particularly complaints of sexual harassment, discrimination, abuse and bullying – but all kinds of workplace complaints as well.

Monday, July 08, 2019

To Innovate or Not: That is the Question

Innovation:  To Encourage it or Discourage It?

When interviewing CEOs about creativity and innovation in their organizations they say they want it.  When interviewing managers in the same organizations I often hear that they are afraid of “loose cannons.”

CEOs tell me that their managers stifle creativity and innovation.  Managers tell me that they are caught in the middle of a sandwich.  They have orders from above to deliver deliverables in a timely and efficient manner – so they cannot afford to let their employees “play around with new ideas”  (that’s their words, not mine!) 

So what’s the resolution?

How do we allow people the freedom to experiment and try new ideas – perhaps more efficient ways to work – or even up to and including new product/service ideas?  If we allow them this freedom, will they fail to get their daily work done?  Will they go off willy-nilly and spoil existing processes?

BUT – we really do want to encourage new ideas, more efficient processes, reduction of waste and increase in productiveity….
So, what’s the conclusion?   ASK ME!

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Thursday, June 13, 2019

The Misfits - The Loose Cannons

The Misfits – The Loose Cannons


They (you know – the they everyone talks about) say:  We want creativity and innovation.  They say it – but do they mean it?  My experience has shown that these “they” people actually don’t understand, don’t like and actually fear those of us who don’t quite fit into “the box” – or the mold that they think people ought to fit into.

I mentioned to some women I had known since we were kids that when my nieces came out to visit me I “played Auntie Mame” and took them to nice places, gave them a taste of experiences that they didn’t get at home.  I told them proudly because I really liked what I was able to give the two girls I love so much.  Yet, much to my shock, the phrase was thrown back at me as though I had confessed to being Jake (Jane?) the Ripper.

Remember saying You played Auntie Mame my Florida friend asked with sarcasm and venom in her voice” when I wondered why she and our other friend were being so nasty to me.

Clearly, I didn’t fit her idea of the norm.  I never do!

Think Different:  Apple 1997 Ad:  As black and white images of famous iconoclasts filled the screen (Albert Einstein, Martin Luther King, Richard Branson, John Lennon, Amelia Earhart, Muhammad Ali, Lucille Ball, Bob Dylan, and others) actor Richard Dreyfuss voiced the narration:
Here’s to the crazy ones.  The misfits.  The rebels.  The trouble-makers.  The round pegs in the square hole.  The ones who see things differently.  They’re not fond of rules.  And they have no respect for the status quo.  You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them.  About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them.  Because they change things.  The push the human race forward.  And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius.  Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.  (From Gallo, Carmine, The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs.)

In today’s “politically correct” work environment no one uses the term crazy.  Instead the favorite epithet is ‘loose cannon.”  It’s a name that’s been thrown at me a few times.  Yet, I’m not.  I don’t do outrageous things.  I don’t break the law. 

Enough about me.  I offer you these examples because I haven’t received permission to tell you about some of the ugly things that were said and done to friends of mine and people I know who were outstanding in one way or another. 
Apparently you are allowed to be one stand deviation from the mean – and maybe even two – but for the sake of not scaring others – never be three standard deviations out.

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The Mandate: Be Creative be Innovative

The mandate:  Be creative – be innovative.  You have 20 minutes at 3:00 PM Tuesdays and Thursdays to free your mind, free your anxieties and create.

Do you think that’s a good schedule?  Without naming names, I know of school systems that mandated creativity at specific times of day – and I know of companies that allow their key employees (only those specially selected) to be creative only 10% of their time.

I love this quote:  “Leaders who order their employees to be more innovative without first investing in organizational fitness are like casual joggers who order their bodies to run a marathon.  It won’t happen, and the experience is likely to cause a great deal of pain.”    Safi Bahcall, Loonshots:  How to Nurture Crazy Ideas that Win Wars, Cure Diseases and Transform Industries.

We’ve become so rigid in our structure – everything on a timeline.  Kids are mandated to rush from one class to another with almost no time to breathe in between each class period.  I recently visited a high school where the Principal stood out in the hall encouraging the students to run so they wouldn't it be late for their next class.

No time for dreaming.  No time for friendly conversations.  No time for the epiphany to emerge.
The easiest way for new ideas (creativity and innovation) to merge is to have idle time – in the shower, on the toilet, walking in the woods, on the staircase – and/or to be chatting and “what iffing” with others.

Time without the brain doing other seemingly more important things.  But not just time.  Space.  Space to think.  Space to chat with others.  Space to play.

Some organizations are smart enough to create these spaces.  It might be a few coaches and chairs clustered together in a corner space near the elevators.  It might be as one company did it – an extra wide extra spacious staircase so if a couple of people want to step aside and chat they have the run to do so without interrupting the flow of others walking by.

But most do not.  They create boxes called cubicles separating people from each other. Furthermore people are discouraged from “wasting time” by having personal conversations or “fooling around.”

When speaking at a conference about my research on Managing for Creativity, I mentioned that I had been told by several CEOs that their managers stifled good ideas that should have “bubbled up.”   In the audience was a retired C-Level executive at one of our biggest High-Tech Companies.  She said I was being unfair to managers, since they were in the middle of the sandwich having to meet the objectives told to them by those above them – and having to satisfy the needs/wants of their staff.  That’s true.

That’s only one of many reasons why I think encouraging and obtaining creativity in the workplace requires a major cultural change within the organization championed by the CEO him/herself. 

The mandate has to change.  The culture has to change.  The environment has to change.  The timing has to change – and only the C-Suite can bring about that change.

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Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Law changing regarding sexual harassment training

If you are an employer, a professional practice owner, business owner – or even a “mom and pop shop” you need to be aware of a significant change in the laws regarding sexual harassment training of your employees.

Although for years I’ve been saying “it only takes two people” to have a complaint of harassment, some employers have failed to train their staff because up until January of 2020 the law demanded training only if you had 50 or more employees.

As of January 1, 2020 any company with 5 or more employees must offer a full two hour training to prevent harassment, discrimination, bullying, or abuse – sexual or otherwise.

The #Metoo movement has had a powerful impact on this issue.  People active in this movement are determined to protect us all from sexual misconduct.  They now have the law on their side.

SO, I strongly urge you to make sure all your employees are trained.  There are several options available to you.  If at all possible, have a face-to-face training.  That’s the best because when I do them they are highly interactive with lots of group discussion and role-playing.  People really come away understanding the issues – and not wanting to hurt others – they start to behave more courteously and professionally.

Your second alternative is to go to Illumeo and purchase on-demand courses for your employees.  I’ve created a few different training programs.  One is one hour – which will be obsolete by the beginning of 2020 and the other is a two hour training for staff.  That’s the one you will want.  There is also a two hour training for supervisors. Managers and owners. 

Please don’t wait for a complaint to lead to ill-feelings and a lawsuit.  Train your people as soon as possible – and every other year thereafter.

Contact me for more information: and for on-line training, contact Joh Kogan:


Thursday, March 14, 2019

Who was Eddie Willers?

Who was Eddie Willers?
At an event recently I was reminded of the characters in Ayn Rand’s book “Atlas Shrugged” and in particular was reminded of the people I met and counseled who had what I termed “the Eddie Willers complex.”

For those of you who know  - Eddie was no slouch.  He was Dagny’s right-hand man.  Eddie was highly successful  Accomplished.  Competent.

Shmoop describes him as “every man” – but I disagree.  He was exceptional.  Just not as exceptional as the giants who were invited to Galt’s Gulch.'
Why the complex?   Because back in the days when we were all students at NBI there were so many people I met who identified themselves as failures because they were not #1 in their field or occupation.   #1 or nothing.

What does that really mean – if you are not Stephen Curry you are a no good basketball player?  If you are not Barbara Streisand you are a lousy singer?  If you aren’t Gene Kelly or Fred Astaire you can’t dance?

Of course not. 

In the business world we need people with skills at all levels, from the creative genius to the data-entry person.  Not everyone becomes CEO – but what about the Senior Vice-President of Finance or Marketing?  Don’t they count?  Aren’t they successful?  Aren’t they accomplished?

Of course they are.

Yet, even today there are so many people I meet and work with that think they are “nobody” unless they are #1.


What do you think?

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Friday, March 01, 2019

Plea Bargaining

I just learned that many people I know do not understand what actually happens in a plea bargain…so here is my short non-legal explanation.
There is an accusation.  On a scale of 1-10 (1 being mild – 10 very severe) it is given a 9 and the penalties are severe.  If the person goes to trial the odds are he/she will wind up having to pay all those penalties – including perhaps prison time.
On the other hand, the prosecution can’t guarantee that they will win at trial.
So the parties make a deal.  The person accused pleads guilty to a lesser crime – maybe a 6 or 7 instead of a 9 – and a trial is avoided by both parties.
Plea bargain never means pleading to something bigger than you have been accused of having done.
So, to those of you who are saying your friend’s loss of his license (even if temporarily) is “no big deal” – you’ve missed the point.  He pled DOWN to that – not up.

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Tuesday, February 26, 2019

The Puppet with the Broken String

As a consultant we experience a full range of clients – from those who only occasionally need some direction to those who require minute details as to exactly what they should do and say. 

The more independent clients tend also (in my experience) to be more consistent in the manner in which they apply the advice given (yes, I give advice! Consulting is more active than coaching.)

On the other extreme are the people who ask over and over again and then somehow do something different from what was discussed.
I find this to be especially true of people who have a need to show-off.  Instead of going with a long-term plan for their professional growth, which we’d worked out in detail – they have to feel superior to others and so brag about their next promotion – especially when it was not yet offered to them.

I don’t really want to be a puppet master.  But some clients hire me especially for the purpose of teaching – guiding – advising – them step-by-step to accomplish something very specific – such as a promotion. 

Yet, we as consultants can only suggest.  We really can’t pull the strings.  Our clients make the final decisions and do what they will do.
I suppose the good side of that is that we can’t take the blame if things go wrong.  (Tongue in cheek.)

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