June 29, 2020 – Trauma & Organizational Culture

Today is Monday, June 29, 2020 and Hug Holiday Day. This day is designed to encourage people to give hugs to others who need them. It was obviously created before the COVID-19 pandemic. Hugs are great, but not for now. Save the real hug for after we get through the pandemic. Instead, mark the day by giving virtual hugs to people who need them. You can do this by giving them a call, sending them a note, or planning a Zoom meeting with them…unless they are totally exhausted from Zooming already. In which case, give them a hug by NOT inviting them to Zoom.


traumatic disruption and organizational culture

How does an organizational trauma impact it’s culture? This is the focus of another segment of my nearly hour long interview with Lamar Roth, Director of Human Resources at Excel Industries. In the brief conversation below, we talk about how the culture of Excel Industries was impacted by two major traumas. The first was in February 2016 when a gunman entered Excel Industries and began shooting his co-workers. Four employees, including the gunman, died.

The second began in March of this year when the COVID-19 pandemic hit the United States. In the full interview Lamar talks about ways the two traumas are similar and how they are different. He also describes how the lessons learned in the active shooter experience informed and helped prepare the company to deal with the pandemic.

This 6 minute, 54 second video focuses on the impact of traumatic disruption on the culture of Excel Industries. The full 56-minute video, Leading Through Traumatic and Disruptive Events: A Conversation with Lamar Roth, includes many more insights and recommendations for organizations also dealing with COVID-19.


who will we be?

The word “existential” is defined as “concerned with existence, especially human existence.” Hence, it refers to how we are to be as humans. Who are we? Who will we become?

In barely four months we will have to answer these questions. The next general election on November 3rd is shaping up to be about more than a choice between two old White guys sitting in the Oval Office. The question we have to answer, first as individuals and then as a country, is far more existential than that. Our vote will be an expression of who we wish to be and what we want the country to become.

Okay, that’s it for now. I thought I had a fully baked thought to share on this today, but I don’t. It is still half baked so I’m going to come back to it, I hope, in the future. In the meantime, I’m going to sit with my thoughts about what I want our country to become. I invite you to do the same.


some days, it’s all just too much

I’m realizing that I’m feeling incredibly overwhelmed at the moment. The news today has been devastating. Is it possible that Trump’s love affair with Putin really has caused him to hide his eyes from seeing that American soldiers have died in Afghanistan with a Russian bounty on their heads? Add to this that COVID-19 still has the U.S. in its grip.

Today we have rounded the corner on 125,000 deaths from COVID-19 in the U.S. and we are headed toward 130,000 in a few days. If nothing changes in the behavior of Americans, the death toll could be at nearly 180,000 by October 1. Even worse, if Stupid people and Ignorant policies win the day, that projection rises to a higher level. At this point, the U.S., which has prided itself in setting an example for the world on all things (not that we are arrogant or anything) is now an example of what NOT to do with regard to COVID-19. To make matters worse, word comes today that the Novel Coronavirus has mutated and scientists are rushing to figure out what the “G variant” means for us.

One bit of good news, Pence has finally said that wearing a mask is a good idea. Seems too little, too late but at least he said it and he occasionally wears one. For Trump, the only hope is a bit of advice from Randy Rainbow.


chickenman – episode 72

Chickenman attempts to fly to Europe. You can only imagine how that turns out. Yes, that’s right.


Stay safe, be well, keep calm, keep washing your hands, keep wearing your mask, and keep striving for justice, peace, and health for all.

Tom

June 23, 2020 – False Alarm or An Alert?

Today is June 23, 2020 and International Fairy (or Faery) Day. This is a day set aside by some to honor fairies, the best known of which in the US, is the Tooth Fairy. The website Historic-UK.com has an interesting article on the origin of fairies you might enjoy as part of your International Fairy Day celebration! By the way, did you know that Tooth Fairy is related to Chickenman?


false alarm? no. an alert to implicit bias

The FBI concluded that there was no noose left in the garage of NASCAR’s only Black driver, Bubba Wallace, at the Talledega Superspeedway last weekend. Except that there was (see photo below). However, according to the FBI, it has been there since at least last October. NASCAR says that it could not have been known that Wallace’s car would have been assigned that garage prior to the race.

Source: CNN.com

Let’s think through this a minute…

  • There is no evidence that a noose was intentionally left in Wallace’s garage prior to this past weekend’s GEICO 500. Got it! No intention, therefore, no explicit hate crime.
  • Still, someone tied the garage door pull in the photo above in such a way to make it appear very much as a noose and the FBI’s report actually characterized the knot as a noose. Got it! So there was a noose.
  • The garage assignment system at NASCAR appears to be random therefore it couldn’t have been known in advance that Wallace would be assigned that garage. Got it! No ill intent on NASCAR’s part.

So what can we conclude from the facts? NASCAR still has a long, long way to go to become anti-racist. I assume before and after speedway events the Talledega Speedway work crews prepare, clean, and inspect garages. Why wasn’t the noose noticed and reported during one of these routine actions? Even better, why wasn’t it untied or simply cut off by a worker? The answers seem pretty clear: NASCAR, like so many other White American institutions is blinded by it own implicit bias. The racism has been so much a part of its culture that it doesn’t see when it is being racist. I applaud NASCAR for the strides it has made, including the show of support for Wallace prior to Monday’s race. However, those are only first steps in a sports culture that still has serious problems with racism.

It is reasonable to expect that any individual or organization, like NASCAR, that is growing in its understanding of racism in America learns of the powerful negative symbolism of the noose. I hope NASCAR is experiencing those growing pains now. Even more, I hope it is making their facilities both noose and Confederate flag free zones. If they don’t, I expect we’ll see a few nooses show up in the stands at the next NASCAR race.

Unfortunately, Bubba Wallace is catching grief over all of this. In a CNN interview he reported that some people were questioning his character and integrity over the incident. What seems to be missing by some people are the facts. Wallace did not discover the noose nor did he report the noose. He learned about it from the president of NASCAR Steve Phelps in a personal meeting that Phelps called.

Some reporting has downplayed the incident by describing the noose as just a garage door pull. However, the FBI’s report described the knot as a noose and the photo above clearly shows the pull cord tied as a noose.

Still, Wallace is catching the grief over the incident. Among other things, there is a constant flow on Twitter from about the whole thing being a hoax. The only problem with that are the facts but, of course, Stupid people don’t let facts get in the way. Wallace himself did a pretty good job of stating just the facts last night on CNN:

“It was a noose,” Wallace said. “Whether tied in 2019 or whatever, it was a noose. So, it wasn’t directed at me but somebody tied a noose. That’s what I’m saying.”

Bubba Wallace with Don Lemon, June 23, 2020, on CNN.

The arc of change is a slow. Let’s see if NASCAR has the courage to stay on it.


leading through traumatic and disruptive events: A Conversation with Lamar Roth

Join Lamar Roth MA, SHRM-SCP and me for a conversation on leading an organization through a period of trauma and disruption. In this video production from Tenacious Change LLC, Lamar and I explore what it means to be a resilient organization in the face of sudden, deadly disruption. We talk about the lessons learned by Lamar and Excel Industries and how they might apply to nonprofit and public agency leaders and their organizations. We begin our conversation with a very specific disruption.

As Lamar Roth was leaving his office for the day on February 25, 2016, Police Chief Doug Schroeder abruptly pulled up and stopped behind Lamar’s pickup truck, blocking him from leaving. As Lamar was about to ask him why he was parked behind him, Schroeder reached into the backseat of his patrol car, pulled out a rifle, and strode without speaking to the door at Excel Industries. The same door Lamar had only moments before exited.

Then Lamar heard the gunfire from inside the building.

Over the next several minutes a gunman would fire randomly at the more than 400 people in the lawnmower plant using a semi-automatic assault rifle and an automatic pistol. By the time Chief Schroeder was able to confront the gunman and stop the shooting, two community members and twelve Excel employees were wounded. Four employees, including the gunman who was also an employee, were dead.

Lamar Roth was then, and still is, the Director of Human Resources at Excel Industries in Hesston, Kansas. Lamar and the company’s attorney carried much of the load in helping the company recover in the shooting’s aftermath.

Lamar has discovered work in the time of COVID-19 is a lot like work in the days, weeks, and months following the shootings. In fact, the lessons learned from that traumatic event in 2016 are helping him navigate the traumatic period of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The six-minute excerpt below is from the full 56 minute conversation. The entire conversation is available here at the Tenacious Change LLC YouTube channel.

Watch the full 56 minute interview on Tenacious Change LLC’s YouTube channel at Leading Through Traumatic and Disruptive Events: A Conversation with Lamar Roth.

Chickenman – Episode 67

The Fabulous Feathered Weekend Warrior has made an arrest. He has brought in the Hummer for prosecution. All is good in Midland City again…or is it?


Stay safe, be well, keep calm, keep washing your hands, keep wearing your mask, and keep striving for justice, peace, and health for all.

Tom