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Daily Dairy from Contented Cows

Having recently spent two hours on a plane seated next to a fellow who was clearly too ill to be in confined space with others, I was reminded that the time of year when germ transmission and attendant illness ramps up is again upon us. For many of us, between sneezes, our attention turns to discussion of worker attendance, absenteeism, and presenteeism.

A couple weeks ago, a good friend asked my opinion on the expected failure of Hostess Brands Inc., the 85 year-old maker of Wonder Bread, Twinkies, Hostess CupCakes, Ho Hos, and Ding Dongs. His question prompted a flashback to regular visits my college buddies and I made decades ago to the 24-hour lunch counter at the Hostess bakery in South Miami after some, ah-hem… late night studies.

Once again, the sports world is abuzz over the treatment of an injured player who, at least so far, has been kept on the bench despite being cleared to play. The player in this case is Alex Smith, quarterback of the San Francisco 49’ers. Since being cleared to return to play following a concussion injury, Smith has been kept on the bench by 49’ers coach, Jim Harbaugh, in favor of Colin Kaepernick, a rising star who has performed well in game situations. Nevertheless, tensions are rising.

One thing that hasn’t changed much in the last few years is the popularity of the topic of change.  The popularity and relevance of the topic has remained strong because a leader’s ability to lead people through change can often be a make-or-break contribution to a team, business unit, or entire organization.

Whether you are a leader or a follower, your performance (and level of enjoyment) in life hinge a lot on your world-view, specifically whether you see the glass as being half full or half empty. We tend to get what we expect to get.

Take a trip, make a major purchase, dine out, open a bank account, or just go to work, and the odds are good that you will soon be asked to complete some form of satisfaction survey. It seems that we’re practically being surveyed to death these days. Okay, maybe not “to death”, but you know what I’m referring to. You’ve doubtless experienced a significant ramping up of user, customer, and employee surveys in recent years.

Why is the process of finding a leader–whether to backfill someone or to fill a new role–often treated as an isolated event rather than an ongoing process? With the cost per hire only rising, why do so few organizations have a process for identifying and cultivating leaders within their existing talent pool?

A giant tree fell in the forest of leadership thinkers last week, with the death of Stephen Covey.

I happened to be attending the annual convention of the National Speakers Association when I heard the news. I was seated at lunch, with 7 other professional speakers, collectively representing a wide variety of topics, and each of us reflected on how much Stephen Covey had influenced the business in which we all make our respective livings, and to an even greater extent, the world of business itself.

We note with sadness the passing this week of Andy Griffith, who though he earned his living in Hollywood, never seemed to forget where he was from.

A visit to a Hollywood film lot (we highly recommend the Warner Brothers tour) comes with the admonition from tour guides, with evidence aplenty, that nothing there is at it seems. In many respects, that has become the norm throughout much of society, such that in so many respects, form, image, illusion, branding, the avatar, the lipstick on the pig takes precedence over reality.

In the days since the U.S. Supreme Court’s legal affirmation of the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare), we have witnessed a cacophany of celebratory victory laps and ongoing bloviating about impending doom, loss of freedom, and death panels. Whether you are an employer, an individual citizen, legislator, or health care worker we would offer two words of advice that can usually be found this time of year on signs carried by course marshals at the FedEx St. Jude Golf Tournament – Hush Y’all! It is time to stop our national food fight on this issue.

In the spirit of full disclosure, mine is a British-American family. My wife was born and raised in Scotland, and I’m the only member of our household who does not hold a British passport. We like the Royals around here and agree with most Britons that the monarchy is a positive force and should remain in place.

For some time I’ve resisted the urge to excoriate a term that has been taking more prominent space in the lexicon of HR professionals. I’ve done so largely on the basis that there didn’t seem to be much harm in the emergence of new-agey alternative vocabulary among knowing professionals. I’ve resisted until now, that is. The term – “talent acquisition.”

Felicidades are in order for our good friends at Plamex, the Mexican division of headset maker Plantronics. For the 2nd year in a row, the company, which employs more than 2,000 people at its manufacturing facility in Tijuana, has been named by the Great Place to Work Institute as the Best Place to Work in Mexico. It’s one thing to make a list like this once. Showing up consistently means a lot more, in our view. Plamex has been a perennial entry on the list for the last several years, but this year became the first company to make it a ‘two-fer” in the top spot on the Mexican list, and they’re already working toward a three-peat.

On Friday, CNBC’s Becky Quick reported that multibillionaire oracle and investor Warren Buffett did not have plans to invest in Facebook, which is set for an initial public stock offering later this month. Oh, it’s not because he doesn’t like Facebook, nor does he think the social media platform is a bunch of hype. In fact, he said he thinks that what’s happening at Facebook is “extraordinary”. “People get excited when a company does that well,” he said, “And they should.”

Last night a bunch of us attended the touring version of the Broadway musical “Les Miserables” at the Times-Union Center for the Performing Arts here in Jacksonville. We planned an early dinner before the show at an Irish pub near the theater. Nothing like a plateful of Irish fish and chips before watching a French story of love and revolution, produced by a British billionaire.

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