Jeffrey Saltzman's Blog

Enhancing Organizational Performance

2020

with one comment

So here we are, the start of a new year. What does 2020 hold in store for us? Shall we make predictions? Predictions are of course problematic because they are often wrong. Experts, both established and those looking to make a name for themselves, need to make predictions that standout from the crowd in order to standout themselves, and the more they standout from what the majority of others say the more often they are wrong. Others who put themselves out as experts, are sometimes making predictions that simply serve their own interests rather than what seems more likely to occur. So rather than me making predictions, I’ll make a list of my hopes and fears for 2020, which seems like it will be a year which will have great impact on all of us. (That is a prediction).

My hope is that 2020 will reconfirm the rule of law as an underlying principle as to how our nation works. My fear is that those who flout established law will get away with it and continue to succeed in bending and breaking those laws, without being checked, to serve their interests and to gather power to themselves.

My hope is that 2020 will usher in a sense of responsibility to ourselves and the future, that significant action must be taken to stem and reverse the degradation of our planet. My fear is that those who see or experience benefit in that degradation will continue to dominate policy and stoke fears about change in order to reap those benefits. It is easier to make money from something if you are willing to destroy/despoil it.

My hope is that 2020 will be the year of the people. People will no longer feel discrimination, or that they have a target painted on their backs. People should feel that they have an equal voice in how they are governed, in how they live their lives and that their vote counts. People will feel in control of themselves and their own future and that they live on an equal playing field with equal opportunity for themselves and their children. My fear is that we will continue our slide to a “moral” society where various groups attempt to impose their “moral” standards on others. Standards which are not necessarily moral, but simply a power grab, an attempt to shape and impose their beliefs on others for profit of one sort or another.

My hope is that 2020 will become a year of resurgent science. That science will be front and center in decision making and policy. We should be guided by facts and figures, by research and tested models that enable prediction (there’s that word) with accuracy. Science is the key to our future and has enabled us to overcome many threats to our existence. My fear is that science will be underfunded and ignored when facts are inconvenient to those with established beliefs. My fear is that for some reason science will be looked down upon and it will be looked down upon by people who would likely be dead if it weren’t for the science that has overcome disease, hunger and greatly extended lifespans.

My hope is that in 2020 education will be greatly expanded, for without education stupefying beliefs and behaviors take hold. My fear is that education will continue to be considered a threat to power, a threat to “coolness”, a threat to a sense of self-worth. Everyone should have access to education and the goal of education should be to increase a sense of self-worth and self-control, not to unnecessarily differentiate or degrade.

My hope is that 2020 will see continued economic expansion. Economic expansion that enables more people to be lifted out of poverty, that enables all to have access to sufficient food, healthcare, housing and education. The goal of an economic expansion should not be to gather exorbitant resources with a few, but to spread society’s wealth so that the vast majority may benefit. Without a strong and vibrant middle-class democracy dies.  My fear is that we have established a “Potemkin economy”, a false-front economy, where the substance that enables long-term economic expansion has been whittled away by a desire for short-term gain.

My hope for 2020 is that long-term grievances among warring factions be resolved. My fear is that it is not in the interests of certain parties to resolve those grievances. Those interests can be political (to stay in power), they can be economic (an arms race benefits arms dealers), they can be religious or fear-based (my god gave me rights and your god is false). And we are more than willing to kill each other over a rock, a speck of dirt, political clout or some other benefit.

My hope for 2020 is that we get away from false equivalency. That there must be two sides to every story. Sometimes there is simply right and wrong, we must stop giving wrong a voice. My fear is that we will excuse right from wrong, by arguing about “who is the judge?”, and “everyone is entitled to their point of view”, when the reality is that various outlets make money by promulgating “wrong” and are very willing to chase that money, society be damned.

My hope for 2020 is that we can have honest conversations about mental health. The spectrum of mental illnesses or mental health issues affect a significant proportion of the population at one-point or another and many are natural expressions of life-events (e.g. depression is natural upon the death of a loved one). Many of these issues can be overcome with treatment or time and should be thought of similarly to fixing a broken bone or overcoming the flu. But certain mental illnesses are malevolent and either resistant to treatment or have no effective treatment available. Those with these malevolent illnesses can not be given access to positions of power, or the ability to influence others who may be susceptible to their illogic. My fear is that we will continue to sweep the discussion of the spectrum of mental illness under the rug because it makes us uncomfortable.

My hope for 2020 is that gun violence will abate. The evidence is clear that guns in fact kill people and access to guns simply leads to more gun deaths. Those with mental health issues have no more likelihood of gun violence than those without mental health issues. My fear is that vested interests, whether that be gun manufacturers or our opponents on the geo-political stage will continue to benefit from the discord in our country over this issue. A weakened USA, weakened by internal strife is the goal of many of our nation-state rivals.

My hope for 2020 is that we will have a fair and free election. My fear is that foreign nations will disrupt/influence/rig our election for their own gains.

My hope for 2020 is that my hopes are fulfilled. My fear is that my fears are realized. The reality is that in order to fulfill hopes we must all go out there and make it happen.

Written by Jeffrey M. Saltzman

January 1, 2020 at 8:46 am

Posted in Ethics, Human Behavior

Authoritarianism

leave a comment »

via Authoritarianism

Written by Jeffrey M. Saltzman

October 18, 2019 at 7:26 am

Crisis Leadership

leave a comment »

Keeping track of the various crises facing us today can be exhausting and stressful. Medical doctors that I have spoken to talk about the enormous increase in the number of prescriptions they are writing for anti-anxiety medicines and the significant increase in various maladies associated with stress and anxiety they are treating. Without much effort, I listed a number of crises that we are currently facing from my admittedly liberal/progressive perspective, and of course I have no expectation that anyone need agree with this list completely, and I am absolutely sure I left off many crises affecting people both in the USA and around the world. These are not in any particular order in terms of threat, which can be debated, but certainly some of them rise to the top of the list in terms of urgency.

Domestically:

  • Ignoring/Disregarding/Lack of Urgency Around Global Warming/Climate Change
  • Denial of Scientific Findings/Research and the Gutting of Scientific Endeavors/Budgets
  • Gun Violence/Proliferation of Military Weapons in Civilian Population
  • Mass Shootings by Right Wing Terrorists, Inspired by President
  • Degradation of the Office of the President and an Unfit President in Office
  • The Wholesale Embrace of Thugs/Dictators/Kleptocrats and Just Plain Scummy People by the President
  • Corruption/Criminal Behavior of the Highest Levels of Political Leadership
  • Congressional Impasse
  • Politicization of Supreme Court/Judges
  • Politicization of DOJ/FBI and the Intelligence Apparatus
  • Ineffectual/Damaging Agencies and Cabinet Positions with Cronyism Leadership
  • Gutting of American Diplomacy and Influence, Increasing Global Chaos
  • The Placement of Grossly Unqualified People into Positions of Governmental Power
  • Increase in Domestic Terrorism/Racism in USA/Unveiling of White Supremacists
  • Rise of Xenophobia/Misogyny and Degradation of LGBTQ+ Rights
  • Degradation of Voting Rights and Gerrymandering
  • Russia Influencing/Sabotaging Our Elections and Democracy
  • Trade Wars with China Bringing World to Brink of Recession
  • Degradation of the Rule of Law and Separation of Powers in USA
  • Degradation of Environmental Regulations/Laws in USA
  • Rise of Fascist Tendencies in USA
  • Refugees Fleeing Violence and Poverty in Central America
  • American Internment/Concentration Camps, Separation of Families/Children
  • Snubbing of Traditional USA Allies and NATO
  • Cost of and Access to HealthCare
  • Homelessness/Poverty in USA
  • Cost of Housing in Major Cities
  • False Equivalencies of Political Positions
  • The Constant Creation of Crises by Unnecessary Actions, Followed by the Withdrawal of that Action and the Claim of “Problem Solved”

Internationally:

  • Russian Meddling in Democracies Globally, Sowing Discord/Undermining Governments
  • Lack of Support for Hong Kong Democracy Protests and the Encroachment of HK Freedoms
  • Lack of Support for Russian Democracy Protests
  • Nuclear Armed India/Kashmir and Pakistan Lurching Towards Conflict
  • North Korea’s Threatening Posture/Nuclear Proliferation/Missile Firings
  • Chinese Encroachment/Militarization in the South China Seas
  • Chinese Internment/”Re-education” Camps for Uighurs
  • Israeli/Palestinian Strife
  • Iranian Threats/Choking of Straits of Hormuz
  • Murder of American Journalist by Saudis
  • Genocides/Wholesale Slaughters happening in Yemen, Burma and Syria
  • The Collapse of Venezuela
  • The Fallout from Brexit

Leadership in times of crisis is critical, for methodical leadership, with a steadying hand, a trusted, wise, knowledgeable, truthful leader can give a population a sense that things will be alright. And in a nutshell, that last sentence summarizes a good portion of why we are having all of these crises at the moment.

During the last “great” recession (starting in 2007) I had the opportunity to conduct a body of research about how organizations can increase the amount of confidence in an employee population, that the appropriate actions were being taken to steady or right the ship and get through rough seas. This work was conducted quarterly with 15,000 full-time working adults in the world’s 12 largest economies which together represented about 75% of the world’s GDP. There were strong indications that the findings from this work would generalize to other populations, for instance citizens of a country or members of other kinds of organizations.

The research hypothesized that there were two critical components of confidence. 1. confidence in the organization in which you were part, and 2. confidence in your own personal situation. Each of those had an internal and an external component. So organizational confidence internal was about activities the organization was undertaking to improve internal functioning. Organizational confidence external was about changes the organization was undertaking to improve market position and attractiveness/relevance of products and services. Personal confidence internal was about your situation within your current organization, job security and opportunity to advance/develop. And personal confidence external was about your ability to land on your feet elsewhere should you have to leave your current employer. Skill development opportunity, staying current with technology and job prospects lived in that quadrant.

The research showed that higher levels of confidence, as defined above, was linked to a whole bunch of outcomes at various levels including:

  • At the personal level: intent to stay, consumer purchasing expectations
  • At the company level: financial performance, stock price, total shareholder return
  • At the industry level: bankruptcy filings
  • At the state level: level of unemployment
  • At the country level: change in Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

In other words, if you randomly sample a cross-section of people and ask them about their confidence according to the above paradigm, you are able to link up their confidence levels and perhaps predict to various measures which are tracked to determine organizational/group performance, whether that organization/group is a company, an industry or a country. If you can predict in a positive sense, the opposite would also be true. When confidence is lower, driven by lurching from one crisis to another, one could hypothesize that a self-reinforcing deleterious cycle is set-up lowering the performance of the organization.

And that seems to be where we are now. Ineffectual and poor leadership with an abundance of crises will lead to lower levels of confidence in America and lower levels of performance. Whether that performance is America’s ability to influence world events, the USA’s economic performance, or the stress and anxiety that individuals experience.  It is all connected and there has been, for a very long time now, no ability to live in an isolated bubble. Global warming is not going to be solved by a handful of countries, it is going to take everyone working to solve that problem cooperatively. Russia’s interference will only be solved with a united front confronting their desire to destabilize the west. Being a country governed by the rule of law, can’t be achieved without the majority working towards that. And each of these issues will take solid leadership.

About ten years ago I was in discussions with a company about doing some work for them. They indicated to me that the CEO was a believer in mixing things us, creating chaos on a regular basis to keep people on their toes, to not let them get complacent. That was the argument anyway. When I mentioned that the evidence was very clear that what you get when you intentionally cause chaos is lower more chaotic performance they felt I was not a fit for doing work for them, because no one should bring forth evidence that the CEO’s pet theory was in error. Did I mention that one thing good CEO’s have in common is a desire to learn in order to improve their own performance?

There was another time, different company, very large NYC-based company where I was contacted and told that the CEO’s direct reports were having all sorts of problems working with him. He was not open to other’s ideas, he was arrogant, condescending. They asked if I could work with the direct reports to help them deal with the CEO. I mentioned that the problem might not be with the direct reports but with the CEO and that is the last I heard from them.

Point being with these two examples is that what we are experiencing today with our national leaders is not the first-time flawed personality traits, and unstable people have landed into leadership roles. It is estimated for instance that psychopaths account for a higher proportion of CEO’s and politicians than in the general population. They are attracted to positions of power and their charisma often makes them seem reasonable at first. But in order to pull ourselves out of the crisis mode we are constantly in today, very clearly, will take a change in leadership.

Written by Jeffrey M. Saltzman

August 16, 2019 at 11:59 am

Dear Hillary:

leave a comment »

Still hold true and perhaps even more alarming now.

Jeffrey Saltzman's Blog

11/27/16

Dear Hillary:

I feel the need to write this open letter to express my thoughts given the current situation in our country. I am not a political person. That does not mean I don’t have strong political opinions, it means that I don’t get involved in politics and don’t enjoy the machinations necessary to succeed in politics. Up until last weekend, the only protest march I have ever been in was against the Vietnam War, a march that my older sisters took me to since I must have been only 7 or 8 years old. I wonder if they remember. Last weekend I marched from Queens to Manhattan, along with about 1000 others, to protest the positions that Mr. Trump has taken and the values he appears to hold. The people of Queens, where I was born, wanted to make a statement that while Mr. Trump may also have…

View original post 1,810 more words

Written by Jeffrey M. Saltzman

August 15, 2019 at 9:17 pm

The Power of Protest

leave a comment »

Perhaps not since the Vietnam war have there been so many marches and demonstrations in the USA, where people have been protesting our government, its policies, practices, and the various actions it has taken. (Full disclosure, I have taken part in more than a few protests and rallies myself.)

The current administration is perceived by many –  if not the majority – as incompetent, divisive, fundamentally corrupt, lawless, operating outside of the constitution, ignoring the checks and balances which define our democracy, imposing needless cruelty, perhaps illegitimate (with Russian fingerprints all over the last election) and certainly not operating in the best interests of the nation, let alone the planet.

In addition to the alleged obstruction crimes that the Mueller Report identified, the president himself is seen by many professional psychologists and psychiatrists as unwell and unstable. One group, Duty to Warn, is working on a Kickstarter-funded movie to document that assertion.  Duty to Warn advocates for the removal of the president under the 25th Amendment stating that he is unfit to serve. The group pointedly states that the Goldwater Rule, imposed by the American Psychiatric Association to prevent its members from diagnosing someone without personally assessing them, does not apply as there is a higher order rule, which is the duty to warn if someone poses an imminent threat to others.

Additionally, Dr. Brandy Lee, psychiatry professor at Yale University and a renowned expert on violence and forensic psychiatry, co-authored a report on the president’s mental state as documented in the Mueller Report from the sworn testimony. In sum: “What the special counsel’s report revealed, through consistent and abundant data, was a pervasive and profound pattern of lack of capacity. This was demonstrated by: lack of basic comprehension (or the ability to take in information and advice without undue influence from false beliefs or emotional need); faulty information processing (or the ability to appreciate and make flexible use of information and advice without false representation); lack of sound decision making (or the ability to consider consequences based on rational, reality-based, and reliable thinking without interference from impulsivity, false beliefs, or fluctuating consistency); and behavior that places oneself or others in danger (such as inciting one’s followers to commit acts of violence and boasting of one’s own repeated violence). These are crucial failures in the basic components of mental capacity test, which in his position constitute a medical emergency that requires a response.”

Psychiatrists often use the term Malignant Narcissism to describe the president’s mental illnesses while Clinical Psychologists and those who work in the employee selection space would often describe him as suffering from the Dark Triad, a trifecta of malevolent mental illnesses. Regardless of which term is used, there are many who are deeply concerned and are raising those concerns publicly. Long term observers of this president, such as Tony Schwartz, the author of The Art of the Deal, have also noted significant cognitive decline and increasingly discuss concerns about dementia in addition to his other issues.

Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the House, has been reluctant to begin impeachment proceedings, worried that it will distract from winning the presidency and the Senate in 2020 and will play into the president’s hands. Lawrence Tribe, the noted Constitutional scholar and Harvard Professor, has proposed and actively advocates a path by which just the House can begin an Impeachment Inquiry and hold a trial, even if removal by the Senate won’t happen given its Republican majority.

The big question is, do all of these protests and actions matter? Can enough citizens of this country raise their voices loud enough and often enough to effect change now, or will change have to wait until the next election in 2020? There is legitimate concern about the level of Russian influence on the outcome of the election, especially given that Congress and the White House are doing little to nothing to protect the election process itself. It has become increasingly clear that various members of Congress and the president’s inner circle have deep financial ties or other connections to either Russia or China.

Michael Shermer, writing in The Moral Arc, cites the work of Erica Chenoweth and Maria Stephan. These two political science researchers entered into a database all forms of political protest, reforms, and revolutions that have occurred since 1900, both violent and nonviolent. Since 1900, non-violent actions had twice the success rate as violent actions. Non-violent actions are increasingly becoming more effective while violent actions are becoming rarer and when they occur and are largely unsuccessful. In answering the question why this change has occurred, Chenoweth states, “People power.” Non-violent actions have lower barriers to entry, attracting a more diverse group and a larger percent of the population. They are also more representative of the population in terms of “gender, race, age, political party, class and urban-rural distinctions.” Her data showed that non-violent protests that are active and sustained in an ongoing fashion, and which draw about 3.5% of the population, are always successful in meeting their goals for change. And once they hit that 3.5% threshold, involving that significant portion of the population they were always non-violent.

The current population of the USA is 327,000,000 +/-. In order to reach that critical threshold of 3.5%, a cross section of 11,445,000 people would have to engage in ongoing sustained, non-violent political protests. Sounds like a big number, but given the emotions that are running quite high and the level of outrage in the country it sounds quite possible.

Take Hong Kong as an example of what protest can accomplish. This last weekend, on June 16th, it was estimated that 2 million of Hong Kong’s 7 million people turned out to protest non-violently against an extradition law that would have allowed mainland China to take a citizen from Hong Kong to stand trial in China. Given China’s murky and opaque judicial system Hong Kong citizens were concerned that the law could be used to stifle political dissent and anyone could be snatched at any time. Given the size of this and previous protests the Hong Kong governor, who is approved by China, withdrew the law for consideration at this time. This protest involved much more than 3.5%, but does show the power of protest.

Does this or can these rules-of-thumb of protest apply in the corporate world? About 4,000 Google employees signed a petition demanding “a clear policy stating that neither Google nor its contractors will ever build warfare technology.” (NY Times June 1, 2018). The employees were concerned that Google’s AI technology, including its facial recognition work, was going to be used to improve targeting of drone strikes and did not want their work to be used in the killing of people. After the petition Google withdrew from its AI military contracts. So, do the numbers hold up? Alphabet, the parent company of Google employs about 72,000 people. Therefore the 4000 petition signers represented about 5.5% of the workforce, which is above the non-violent and successful change threshold.

These are but a handful of examples but the numbers are somewhat startling and gives a sense that a relatively small percentage of non-violent protesters, who sustain their protest over a period of time, can affect change in the political as well as corporate world.

Written by Jeffrey M. Saltzman

June 18, 2019 at 8:57 pm

Mental Health: The Business of Business

with one comment

Earlier this week, Walter Reichman and I presented a webinar about mental health in the workplace called, “Mental Health: The Business of Business”. The webinar is based on the concepts that:

  • Mental health issues in the general and work population are much more common than is generally believed,
  • There are real organizational benefits to be gained by openly discussing and addressing these issues.

 

If you are interested in seeing a recording of this webinar you can access the video here.

Written by Jeffrey M. Saltzman

June 14, 2019 at 4:03 pm

Complimentary Webinar – Mental Health: The Business of Business

leave a comment »

Join us for an upcoming webinar:

Mental Health: The Business of Business

Tuesday, June 11th, 12:30 EST

Register here

Here’s a staggering fact: mental health issues affect an estimated 1 out of 5 people at any given time; this includes your workforce. While mental health discussions may make some people uncomfortable, understanding the signs and symptoms of mental health issues in the workplace and adapting the workplace to support mental health is a win-win. It can improve the functioning and the bottom line of the organization, and it can greatly benefit its people.

Curious how you can help your organization make better decisions and accommodations regarding mental health?

Join a conversation with OrgVitality CEO Jeffrey Saltzman and OV Partner and Vice President Dr. Walter Reichman as they discuss the incidence rates of mental health issues in the workplace, organizational concerns, ways to help, and the ultimate payoffs for businesses in creating stable and supportive work environments.

 

Register Here

Written by Jeffrey M. Saltzman

May 7, 2019 at 7:49 pm

Posted in OrgVitality

%d bloggers like this: