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Leadership topic - DEI

Picking up on the start of Black History Month, what exactly is this? And how do we bring into everything and harness its real power?

Much will be written about Diversity over the next 28 days. At the risk of trying to focus on that in a Diverse way, let’s think about what it really is – in every aspect of our lives. What do you do to ensure that you are seeing all of the possible perspectives available, and not get laser-focused and miss important contributors?

Paralleling my first real professional role at IBM on the Space Shuttle, we will learn about the father of Swing music, and how that would start to turn the world upside down both musically and Diversely. It as exactly that laser focus on being the best that would show up with great contributions, and equal challenges in both storylines.  We will also begin to assess my first views of career success, and failure… a Diversity that I hadn’t counted on learning so early.

What Vision engaged MLK?

What Vision engaged MLK?

Standing in front of my 4th-grade class, I was wearing what we now would romantically call a Toga. It was more like a big white sheet wrapped around my small body which was not much to look at. And, I was stammering as I tried my best to engage in showing how a similarly clad frail man changed the world with his demonstration of non-violence in a far-off country – India. Now both are common knowledge, but in Dallas, in the 1960s it was very different than others had dressed up as their “role model”.

managing the Vision of MLK

managing the Vision of MLK

“The bullet stopped just half-an-inch before the backbone, and if it had stopped a half-an-inch earlier, it would have lodged in a major artery. Either way, this dog is lucky to be alive”… and with that, the lights went out. I awakened a few minutes later in another room on a soft couch with a cold rag on my forehead… I had no idea how I managed to get there…

partners in your Vision

partners in your Vision

“You could come back with me!” the young 14-year-old “Tom Hanks” exclaimed towards the end of Big.  Having found that his child-like spirit was a major gift in business, he missed his friends and partners… and being able to really be a kid.  The response from his ‘girlfriend’ is timeless: “No, one time being in junior high is plenty”.  And I am eternally grateful that the actual movies of my era are on media that are very hard for anyone to find and post anywhere…

Visions observed are Visions…

Visions observed are Visions…

“He will make a fine judge”. I was probably 2 years old, and old wise woman from West Texas had pronounced this after feeling the lumps on my head – and there are plenty you can see these days without hair. 😉 That simple sentence put me on the path to learning what to do with the deep bass voice I had at 14 in the body of a 4’10” pre-teen still in boy’s shirts. I stepped up to deliver my first speech…

wonderful Vision

wonderful Vision

I was the last speaker in the last round of this debate tournament, at least for our team. It was the one tournament I had invited my parents to come and see me perform in my new VIsion: Debate. I had been tearing it up on the trail across Texas, winning many rounds and tournaments, with “hardware” (trophies) becoming a natural thing to bring back home to Tyler late almost every Saturday night.  This was not that wonderful experience.

executing Vision

executing Vision

I wasn’t Valedictorian… because of my mouth. I called a teacher Stupid – and let me plead my case… no don’t. I earned an “Unsatisfactory” in conduct, and my father got me out of being suspended, but nonetheless, I was barred from his Senior Honors Class. No worries – I had my pick of colleges, although every one of my family went to Texas Tech – including my Grandfather, who taught there. And again if you read these articles often, you know that was out of the question.

Vision that renews

Vision that renews

Standing in the middle of the SMU Basketball court at barely 17, I was surrounded by tables labeled “Dedman College”, “Fondren”, and “Cox” which at least had “School of Business” in the name. It was the last day for “Registration” and I had a deck of computer cards, which at least I was very familiar with – what to DO with them, I was not. I had the college catalog that showed what a “Freshman Engineer” should take… but how did I get that to happen?

Knowledge to engage

Knowledge to engage

As I was slowly awakening, I noticed that my feet were really hurting. And, that it was really cold. Both made sense when I realized I was halfway to my 8 am Statics class, running so I wouldn’t be late for the exam… with no shoes and barely a shirt on with early morning temps in the ’30s – cold for Texas. I am sure I made quite the sight running in at the last minute. I had studied, but now I realized why the 8 am MWF class was still open during registration 😉

managing Knowledge

managing Knowledge

Charlie’s Angels was one of the top shows when I was a freshman, and everyone had “THE” poster of Farrah Fawcett in the mostly not swimsuit on their walls. And there was a girl in our sister dorm that was her spitting image. To get people to know each other, there were “mixers” between the floors, and this night it was the typical loud music and beer, and not really my scene, so I went downstairs… and there she was sitting on the steps. I didn’t really Know what to do, but I sat down and asked her if she was not enjoying the mixer? “Not really my scene – I would rather be out dancing.” I said I knew how to dance (those lessons came in handy…), and once she learned I had a car, we were off.

partnerships in Knowledge

partnerships in Knowledge

As I rolled into her apartment, I was trying to make some idle chatter as it was clear we were both nervous. It was our first official “date” although we had gone out with our Church group a number of times, and this was the next logical step. The Student Government Group for the Engineering School was hosting a banquet which I had asked her to. I mentioned, “… and we have a really great band for the dance after”. Frozen does not begin to capture the mood that instantly appeared…

Knowledge that observing is not enough

Knowledge that observing is not enough

Working full time, and carrying a full load, I still had some energy left for other things. My interest in politics had burned out by the end of high school, but this evening, I was sitting in a meeting of the Leadership Council for the Engineering School observing the President. Being a lifelong student of great salespeople, this guy was amazing. And so full of himself at the same time. But for some reason, he came over after the meeting, and we started talking, and the next thing I know, I was the Parliamentarian for the group (given my Debate experience) … and next in line to be President…

wonder about Knowledge

wonder about Knowledge

The beautiful spring evening was interrupted with a “fire alarm” that had all the students from the largest set of dorms on campus outside. As we were milling around wondering, a young man climbed out on the balcony with his guitar, an amp and microphone, and started serenading the crowd. It was a great distraction and everyone loved it. A few minutes later, he announced his name, and that he was running for student body president and wanted everyone’s vote. It would have been great, but we had our own candidate in the election…

executing with and without Knowledge

executing with and without Knowledge

Sitting with 6 Seniors as a sophomore was not that different for me. I had always been younger than my classmates having started school at barely 5. The instructor was my adviser in the Physics program… who suggested I take the class as he only taught it every other year. When he started writing Maxwell’s equations on the board, I asked an obvious question to me: “What is the upside-down triangle?” He suggested I come see him after class…

Knowing how and who to renew

Knowing how and who to renew

As we were cleaning out the apartment, moving apart for our first “real jobs”, my best friend and roommate came into the living room with a handful of ties. “Can you tie these for me?” He was one of the smartest people I have ever known, and yet, had no Knowledge of some of the simpler things that are important. I understood – as I had been through this exact experience when I was 13 and someone showed me how to tie a tie before a big event in Junior High. Now I was able to repay and renew that favor…

Diversity engaged

Diversity engaged

This evening, as I was working my way through the records, I stumbled across a double album of Jazz. It was my daily visit to Peaches – a huge grocery store remodeled to house huge stacks of records, including those that had been sentenced to the trash heap of music. “Cutouts” were just that – albums that had the corner clipped, along with their price. To keep me engaged in my major goal of graduating in only 12 weeks, I would buy 5 records, come home, listen for 3 hours until they were finished, and hopefully, I had finished enough homework to repeat it the next day…

managing Diversely

managing Diversely

As I was standing in the shower, where most of my clearest thinking comes from, suddenly it hit me. I yelled out to no one in particular – “DPAT – Data Processing Aptitude Test!!!” I had driven down to Clear Lake, Texas for an interview with IBM’s group that was working on the Space Shuttle. A lovely dinner with a person my age had managed to calm my nerves, but now, I realized the very first thing this morning was a test…

partnering Diversely

partnering Diversely

“You have learned how to learn. It is not about the topics or the subject matter. With these tools, anything can be understood”. This framing of Diversity is one that my parents had enforced with all of the IBM swag around the house. I thought it was sorta corny, and also sorta redundant – why do you need a sign that says “THINK”. Isn’t that the thing that differentiates us from the animals – another phrase that rang out often. As I started to work with new partners, it was clear this may actually be needed…

Diverse observation

Diverse observation

From my days in Debate, I observed that you could follow links between documents. Remember this is LONG before hypertext and the web, but at the end of papers are the references. You start to see the same papers referenced many times, and you find there are typically only 10 real papers you need to understand. Here I found a couple on a model of what happens in space, a couple about measuring devices in a cyclotron, and a couple about an experiment that actually flew in space. And I observed that none of them had worked together…

wonderful Diversity

wonderful Diversity

The lack of cooperation and coordination in business shouldn’t have surprised me, but it did. Today it was very clear as I was talking with the lead investigator of an experiment that had already flown in space. Sponsored by the part of NASA that was dedicated to non-manned flight, they literally hated those of us working on Manned Space. They had, in fact, put the first United States satellite in space, but since the Astronaut crew was announced, their budgets and centrality to the NASA mission was dwarfed. It was no wonder that he was very hesitant to even talk with me…

Diverse execution

Diverse execution

So, no problem. I had to get the facility that thought they were the center of ALL radiation knowledge in our division to work with the other facility that manufactured ALL the equipment we could build. And both thought they were the pre-eminent facility in our Division… And did I mention by this point, I had executed repeated railings about how behind the times both organizations were? And not in small ways – in a couple of cases taking on older and wiser leaders with both memos and in-person indictments of the lackluster execution from both…

renewing Diversely

renewing Diversely

My real job for this season was to design a memory card for the Display System of the Space Shuttle. Our funding was to prototype what a newer computer and color display could do to help automate the very manual ways the Space Shuttle actually worked. If you have ever used an HP calculator, their Reverse Polish Notation approach to math was very similar to what the astronauts did to command the vehicle to fly. It was very labor-intensive, and our mission was to renew that technology from a mid 60’s torpedo computer into the 80’s…