Good morning,

Welcome to Sword Tips, the Exkalibur Newsletter for May 12, 2022. I’m glad you’re here.

One of the things leaders are often slow to learn is that you don’t have to do everything the same way as your predecessors. That’s why in this week’s Leadership Insights, I discuss why common practices are not always best practices. In Productivity Power, we learn how to get through boring chores, why we hoard information and proven steps you can take to become Indistractable.

Our Business Brief identifies the Guiness World Record holder for the longest employee at a single job, looks at the 50 Best Jobs in America, the key differentiators in the best Boards of Directors, and additional insights into what one leading executive deems to be “one of the most difficult tasks that will ever confront the CEO and management“. Don’t miss the provocative Spotlight feature which argues that the nuclear family concept was a mistake.

There’s a lot of new and fascinating stories in Sword Clicks this week, including the first woman to complete Navy Special Warfare training … the flight attendant who survived a 33,000 foot fall from an exploding airplane … and the man who wrote what he claims is “the longest continuous, self-contained work of fiction ever created” … after he read all 27,000 pages of Marvel Comics. In To Your Health … we’ve included information about whether we should eat 3 meals/day, how to make our skin 30 years younger, National Women’s Health Week, May 8-14, where to eat tigers and zebras while being a vegetarian, the value of medical tattoos and the surprising threats to reproductive health for men.

Got Comments?

If you have any comments or suggestions for Sword Tips, please email me directly at lary@exkalibur.com.

Leadership Insights

Are your "common practices" always "best practices"?

Over time, most organizations develop practices that worked when they started … but eventually didn’t work quite so well … then became ossified, baked into the culture … but barely worked at all. It changed only when someone finally stepped up and said, “Heh, this isn’t really working. Can’t we change it?”

Of course, some people, the old guard mostly, will resist, but you’ll also hear, “Good idea. I never did understand why we were doing that?”

This week’s Leadership Insight addresses this important issue in Are Your Common Practices always Best Practices?

Productivity Power

Got a bunch of boring stuff to do? This might help.

You’ve probably never heard of tangential immersion, but it’s a compelling strategy to deal with boring tasks. It’s hard to find ways to make filing or doing the dishes exciting, but there are proven strategies that work … and believe it or not, I think you’ll like them. Take a look.

Are you an Information Hoarder?

There’s little doubt that we hoard information these days, often without realizing the digital haystack we’re creating. It’s mostly out of sight, hidden in the recesses of our computer memory, so it’s easy to pretend it doesn’t matter.

Maybe it doesn’t. Computer memory gets cheaper every day, and since it’s out of sight, it’s like the the infamous “junk drawer” or back room in your house – c’mon, we’ve all got one – and we don’t really have to address it because we don’t see it that often. While we’re occasionally tempted to clean and organize it, we kick it down the road to do “when we have a little extra time”… like that ever happens.

In Confessions of an Information Hoarder, Charlie Warzel from the Atlantic examines “What happens to our brains when we have an infinite memory?”.

He also references another interesting article in Wired magazine, The End of Infinite Data Storage Can Set You Free. (possible paywall).

I confess I’m probably in this camp, but maybe you’re a member of the same tribe? It grows geometrically with your range of interests, and with Sword Tips, the Exkalibur Newsletter at hand, we’re collecting a lot of data.

Are you going to do anything about it?

How easily are you distracted?

I suspect a lot if you’re being honest.

It’s not your fault … well, yes it is … but it’s never been harder to maintain your focus with the tsunami of information heading your way every day.

You might already be scrolling away, checking to see who’s in your Facebook feed, did any new email arrive in the last 14 seconds … yeah, you know.

Nir Eyal wrote Indistractable in 2019, but I agree with this interviewer’s conclusion that it remains as relevant as ever.

You can read more about it in Icebreakers with the Indistractable author, Nir Eyal.

These days, the conflicts “IN” The Workplace” seem to dominate the headlines … but what about the conflicts “WITHIN” the workplace?

There’s an anonymous story that outlines the nature of such conflicts and introduces us to the conflicts that destroy teams.

Don’t miss this powerful and humorous story … it’s short … and it’s accompanied by a trio of quotes relevant to the conflicts “within” the workplace.

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Got Questions?

Each week, I will answer a reader-submitted question related to leadership and behavior in the workplace. If there’s something nagging at you, click this link to send your question and I will take a run at it in next week’s Sword Tips (without attribution). lary@exkalibur.com.

Question

Q: We have an employee who insists she needs an assistant. She claims she’s bogged down with details that, in her words, a “less valuable” employee could do. When she saw my reaction, she quickly backtracked, saying “what I meant was that I can contribute at a higher level if I’m not consumed by mundane tasks all the time“. We’re still thinking about the assistant request, but her attitude is troubling. Any ideas? K.

A: It’s good news that she caught herself saying something she knew was unacceptable, but not so good that she said it in the first place. When you hear the words she first spoke, you heard her true feelings. It’s even more troubling if she’s in a supervisory position where similar language will unfavorably affect others in the workplace.

It’s hard to hide your true feelings for long. If she’s supervising others, it’s bound to show, in deeds if not in words. At a minimum, she needs to be counseled by her immediate supervisor, and told in clear and unmistakable terms that such language is inappropriate and unacceptable. Before that meeting, I would interview some of the employees around her to see if others have noticed similar behavior. While I wouldn’t be inclined to put her on probation if this is the first time it’s come to light, I’d make it clear that you’ll be closely monitoring her behavior going forward.

The decision about an assistant is different. That requires a careful analysis of her workload and whether that relief will result in more valuable contributions from her going forward. It must, however, be coupled with clear guidelines about workplace behavior, clarity about her supervisory role and an clear understanding that the “spotlight of leadership” is present all the time.

Business Brief

Longest Career at One Company?

Job Jumping is a prevalent theme these days. Some surveys claim that newly-christened graduates will have an average of 17 jobs in their lifetime.

That’s a little hard to believe, but no harder than to believe that Walter Orthmann, 100 years old, set the Guinness World Record for working at the same companyFOR 84 YEARS AND 9 DAYS!

Got a solid Board of Directors?

Fortune recently launched its Modern Board 25 list, “a ranking of the most innovative S&P 500 boards—boards whose companies are positioned for long-term success.”

One thing many privately-held or family-owned companies overlook is the importance of a Board of Directors or a Board of Advisors. Most often, they have failed at board independence, favoring old friends and life-long employees and missing the objective perspective provided by experienced outsiders. It’s a big miss!

Among the top 25, those companies differentiated themselves by scoring high in gender diversity, age or nationality dispersion, and board independence—including having high numbers of directors who had never worked at the company and thus could maintain their objectivity.

Do you have one of the 50 Best Jobs in America?

Glassdoor recently released it’s 8th annual list of the 50 Best Jobs in America

"All jobs considered had to have received at least 100 salary and job satisfaction reviews on Glassdoor in the past year, and at least 2,000 job openings as of mid-December. Earning potential, job satisfaction and number of job openings were weighted evenly when determining the ranking."

Being in Tech … or being a “techie” … would help in understanding the top 3 positions:

  1. Enterprise Architect
  2. Full Stack Engineer
  3. Data Scientist.

You won’t be surprised that the pandemic and the so-called Great Resignation have elevated several other roles as companies have scrambled to hire quickly. Human Resource Managers (#13) and Corporate Recruiters (#17 are up.

Unfortunately, the same influences are causing other professions to climb the ladder as well … Psychiatrists (#22) and Psychologists (#34).

An introduction to Leading Through Inflation

Ram Charan, the legendary business consultant, believes that “preparing a company to battle this sudden rise of inflation is one of the most difficult tasks that will ever confront the CEO and management.”

Start with Leading Through Inflation: An Introduction, which will point you to some additional articles on this subject, which looks like it’s headed to the top of the list of challenges leaders will face going forward.

swordclicks2

Some of this stuff is out there ....

Each week, I’m curating a wide range of stories and articles to satisfy the curiosity of the most ardent inquisitor.

You’ll find some fascinating stories this week … including the first woman to complete Navy Special Warfare training … the flight attendant who survived a 33,000 foot fall from an exploding airplane … and the man who wrote what he claims is “the longest continuous, self-contained work of fiction ever created” … after he read all 27,000 pages of Marvel Comics.

Click here to find the Sword Clicks of the Week

 

Spotlight

Was the Nuclear Family a Mistake?

Is it true The Nuclear Family was a Mistake? David Brooks makes that argument in his Atlantic article.

Do you think that some of his assumptions, below, are true?

The pace of life is speeding up. Convenience, privacy, and mobility are more important than family loyalty

In my childhood,” Levinson told me, “you’d gather around the grandparents and they would tell the family stories … Now individuals sit around the TV, watching other families’ stories.”

If you want to summarize the changes in family structure over the past century, the truest thing to say is this: We’ve made life freer for individuals and more unstable for families.

Got Comments?

Feel free to share your comments about the nuclear family below, or email me at lary@exkalibur.com.

To Your Health

Maybe we’re more attuned to our health following 2 years of the COVID-19 pandemic … or maybe more is being written about it. Here’s just a few articles I’ve curated for you.

Since “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery”, I can now report that Fortune magazine recently announced Fortune Well, their expansion into health and wellness in partnership with CVS Health. Glad to have you aboard, boys. 😉

That breakfast looks pretty good to me, but Should we be eating 3 meals a day?

Of course, there’s no consensus on any of this. Some recommend giving our bodies at least 12 hours a day without food which allows our digestive system to rest. Others argue it’s best to have only one meal a day while the counter argument is that it reduces glucose which makes the body think it’s starving so it isn’t healthy.

Let me know when you have it all figured out.

Get those hands looking a little better

Scientists have managed to engineer human skin cells to reverse 30 years of aging, resetting them to a much more youthful state in terms of certain molecular measurements.

Is there a signup sheet for this?

Medical Tattoos is a thing?

"Tattoos can transform and empower people, with some seeking them out to reconnect with their bodies due to scarring, physical abnormalities or the aftermath of a procedure or illness. Paramedical tattooist Becky Barker shares the art and craft of medical tattooing, explaining how this expansive field helps improve the quality of life for breast cancer survivors -- and anyone looking to renew themselves in ways that are more than skin-deep."

A TED Talk

Who knew? Watch this TED talk, The restorative power of medical tattoos.

National Women’s Health Week, May 8-14, 2022

This week is National Women’s Health Week (May 8-14). It starts each year on Mother’s Day to encourage women and girls to make their health a priority. A lot of resources are available from the CDC and the FDA, so ladies, I hope you will devote some quality time to this and focus on your health priorities.

Hungry for tiger or leopard or ....

Finally, the best of both worlds.

If you’re a vegetarian or leaning in that direction … but are afraid you’ll be dead before you get to taste Siberian tiger, leopard, black panther, Bengal tiger, or zebra, you’re in luck.

Read a Startup Says It’s About to Start Selling Lab-Grown Tiger Steaks to Restaurants. A couple of Michelin star restaurants in London are previewing some of these dishes.

Bon appétit!

This is no joke ...

… particularly if you’re planning a family.

Why Sperm Count has Dropped 41% in the U.S. is a video (21m) taken from the best-selling book, Count Down.

"Shanna H. Swan, Ph.D., is one of the world’s leading environmental and reproductive epidemiologists and a professor of environmental medicine and public health at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City. An award-winning scientist, her work examines the impact of environmental exposures, including chemicals such as phthalates and Bisphenol A, on men’s and women’s reproductive health and the neurodevelopment of children."

In Count Down, “she profiles the precipitous drop in sperm count, testosterone, and fertility across the developed world.”

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I share insights about Leadership, Accountability & Productivity to help you Become a More Effective Leader, supplemented by a wide-ranging curiosity about what affects our lives outside the office.

Helping Leaders Pull the Sword from the Stone through Understanding rather than Strength.”