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We must divorce health care from employment status

August 28th, 2009 1 comment

Career Opportunities podcast logoWe must divorce health care from employment status
By Douglas E. Welch

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I hope everyone is paying close attention to the current health care debate, as it is probably one of the most important issues of your life and your career at this time. I am not an expert in health care policy. The benefits and drawbacks of each particular plan require deep study and thought. Regardless of what plan is chosen, though, for the good of us all, we must move toward divorcing ourselves from healthcare plans provided by our employers.

We need a health care system that covers the majority of people at costs that the average person can afford. Without it, we, as workers, find ourselves constrained, abused and even trapped in jobs that do us and the world little service, solely to maintain healthcare for ourselves and our families. Too often I hear stories of people working in dead end, low-paying and even abusive jobs because they have no choice. This is a poor way to run an economy, wasting people’s talent because we can’t decide on how to best keep them healthy.

Health care benefits made great sense in the days when workers could expect to hold the same job, or at least stay with the same company for 20-30 years. Cheap health care plans were an excellent fringe benefit, allowing employers to keep salaries lower in lieu of such benefits. You only have to look around you, though, to understand that the work world has undergone seismic changes since then. People now move regularly from job to job and company to company in an attempt to further their career. They might even start their own consultancies or businesses. Forcing workers to risk their own well-being, and that of their families, in order to better themselves and their working lives seems ridiculous and outdated.

As a freelancer today, people must pay a large percentage of their income towards health care, if they can find anyone to cover them at all. Insurance companies are so focused on the large potential earnings from corporate health care plans that they have abandoned any attempt to service small groups or individuals. In most cases, entrepreneurs must walk the healthcare tightrope and pray they don’t fall ill before their small startup becomes a success.

Lack of affordable health care is the single most damaging brake on economic expansion today. We have put a high value on innovation in our culture, and yet we put huge roadblocks in the path of innovation. How are we supposed to innovate when our basic career decisions must first hinge on our ability to find or maintain health care? People cannot change the world while their most basic survival needs are not met. Without our health, we cannot take the risks that need to be taken, we cannot make the changes that need to be made. We are mired in the status quo, which still leaves millions relying on emergency medical safety nets.

Regardless of what governmental health care plans are discussed or chosen, any plan that does not include easy and continuous access to health care to majority of American citizens, regardless of employment status, will be an abject failure and doom us to decades more of a 19th Century economy while trying to survive in the 21st Century.

If we hope to move this country, our economy and our individual businesses forward, we must divorce our access to health care from our employment status. All workers, from field hands, to office workers, to freelancers to entrepreneurs deserve access to health care as comprehensive and inexpensive as possible. It is their labor that drives our economy and access to health care is certainly one aspect of the “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” component of our Constitution, that is so important to our nation.



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August 28th, 2009 Comments off

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What I ‘m Reading…: The Back of the Napkin by Dan Roam

August 23rd, 2009 Comments off

The Back of the Napkin: Solving Problems and Selling Ideas with Pictures The Back of the Napkin: Solving Problems and Selling Ideas with Pictures by Dan Roam

I tend to think and teach visually in most cases already, but when I saw this book I knew I needed to pick it up. I wanted to see if there were some new and interesting ways I might improve my visual thinking.

Dan Roam lays out the basics of visual problem solving and provides a framework to help make your work more useful and more importantly, presents a clearer communication of your vision to others.

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What I’m Reading: Primal Leadership by Daniel Goleman

August 21st, 2009 Comments off


This is another of my many books turned up by my Amazon Recommendations and then picked up at the local library.

Primal Leadership delves into the basic human aspects and needs of leadership. This is less about knowing about external issues and more about the self-knowledge that allows us to be more effective leaders in all aspects of our lives.

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Amazon.com Review

Business leaders who maintain that emotions are best kept out of the work environment do so at their organization’s peril. Bestselling author Daniel Goleman‘s theories on emotional intelligence (EI) have radically altered common understanding of what “being smart” entails, and in Primal Leadership, he and his coauthors present the case for cultivating emotionally intelligent leaders. Since the actions of the leader apparently account for up to 70 percent of employees’ perception of the climate of their organization, Goleman and his team emphasize the importance of developing what they term “resonant leadership.” Focusing on the four domains of emotional intelligence–self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship management–they explore what contributes to and detracts from resonant leadership, and how the development of these four EI competencies spawns different leadership styles. The best leaders maintain a style repertoire, switching easily between “visionary,” “coaching,” “affiliative,” and “democratic,” and making rare use of less effective “pace-setting” and “commanding” styles. The authors’ discussion of these methods is informed by research on the workplace climates engendered by the leadership styles of more than 3,870 executives. Indeed, the experiences of leaders in a wide range of work environments lend real-life examples to much of the advice Goleman et al. offer, from developing the motivation to change and creating an improvement plan based on learning rather than performance outcomes, to experimenting with new behaviors and nurturing supportive relationships that encourage change and growth. The book’s final section takes the personal process of developing resonant leadership and applies it to the entire organizational culture. –S. Ketchum

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Video: Interview with Christie Greer

August 14th, 2009 Comments off

Career Opportunities podcast logoInterview with Christie Greer of U Move Me Pilates
By Douglas E. Welch

Douglas interviews Christie Greer, owner and operator of U Move Me Pilates, in Sherman Oaks, California.



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Interview with Christie Greer

August 14th, 2009 Comments off

Career Opportunities podcast logoInterview with Christie Greer of U Move Me Pilates
By Douglas E. Welch

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Douglas interviews Christie Greer, owner and operator of U Move Me Pilates, in Sherman Oaks, California.



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Tuning out

August 7th, 2009 Comments off

Career Opportunities podcast logoTuning out
By Douglas E. Welch

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There was a screech of tires, a blast of a horn and I was thrown forward hard, only being stopped by the bus’s hangstrap and a quick grab for a bar to my left. Thankfully I hadn’t been fiddling with my iPhone or both it and I would have been thrown to the floor or on top of a fellow bus rider. I looked out the front window of the bus and saw a guy toodling by on a bicycle, riding against traffic, headphones on — never realizing that he was nearly killed and countless people on the bus nearly injured. This is what can happen when you tune out the world. You can make life very dangerous for both yourself and those around you. Unfortunately, tuning out seems to be very common in today’s world.

These columns are often effected by what is happening in my life and this is no exception. As soon as I had recovered my balance and made my transfer to the Metro Red Line Subway (yes, LA has a subway) I pulled out my journal and made a note to talk about my experience. Not only are people tuning out in personal aspects of their lives, they are also tuning out of their work and career.

It shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone, of course. Today we are faced with more of everything. More people, more technology, more change. While I believe that humans have an infinite ability to deal with complexity, it often takes us some time to catch up with the amount of complexity as it leapfrogs every day. When a new technology enters our lives, like Twitter or Facebook, it can take us a while to integrate into our lives and work. This is the danger zone for most people. Too often, when faced with complexity, we start to tune out — simply ignore — the complexity of the new technology, often to our peril. While we can always turn off technology when we choose, to ignore it completely can be foolhardy.

Like the cyclist in my bus anecdote, going through life oblivious is a recipe for disaster. Whether you like it or not, life will eventually catch up with you. Looking to the automotive industry as an example, many car makers simply ignored the changes happening in their industry, or tried to deny them. They went along as if everything would be the same as it had always been. No amount of wishful thinking could change the future, though, and we see the mess they are dealing with today. The only thing that could have averted this crisis is adapting to change. Had they faced the issues, faced the changes that seemed obvious to many, we might be witnessing a very different story.

This also takes place on an individual level. Sometimes, in the midst of a crisis, we keep our head down and hope that the world and its issues will pass us by. Like a child sticking their fingers in their ears and shouting “la, la, la, — I don’t hear you” we willfully ignore the world around us. Sure, it can seem like self-preservation to tune out all the negative, worrisome and downright scary things we face each day, but they must be faced eventually. Ignoring them makes them worse — makes them more damaging than had we faced them on our own terms. If we continue riding along, listening to our iPod, life (in the form of a large bus) will make a dramatic change for us. This is no way to live our lives or build our careers — changing only when forced.

As much as it might scare us, there comes a time when we need to wake up to the world around us instead of trying to hide from it. Life has a way of finding us, wherever we go — even inside our own minds. Taking breaks from your life can be healing, but also make sure you come back and engage in life again, once you have that break. We all love to go to the cabin by the lake, but eventually you have to return to the real world once again. In fact, it is the contrast between the two that allows us to appreciate the difference even more. Don’t wait for the bus of life to forces big changes upon you. Wake up, take off your headphones and face the world around you head on. Then you can continue building the career you deserve.



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Preconceptions

August 2nd, 2009 Comments off

Career Opportunities podcast logoPreconceptions
By Douglas E. Welch

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As I was sitting by my father’s hospital bed earlier this month, I received a direct lesson on the the problems that can be caused by preconceived notions in almost any situation. Sure, we rely on preconceptions to help make it though our day without being crushed by all the information we face, but when we let our preconceptions take the place of active thought, we can do a disservice to ourselves and everyone around us.

The first day I was in the hospital, one of the nurse’s asked a very telling question that shocked me into action. She asked how long my father had been in a wheelchair prior to his surgery. The fact is, he had been up and walking and even working on his small business of small engine repair before he was admitted. I realized immediately that this nurse, not knowing his pre-history was treating him as if he had been an invalid for years. They weren’t pushing him as hard to do things for himself, assuming that he had been incapable of those things before he ever arrived at the hospital.

Once this occurred, I made a point of telling every new nurse, physical therapist and doctor where he had been before the surgery in hopes that they would start treating him differently. It seemed to help. I noticed them challenging him more, much like my wife and I were doing that week. Our goal was to get him moved out of intensive care and into the rehab that had been delayed by aftereffects of the surgery itself. It seemed to work. As his condition stabilized, we noticed a marked change in his attitude and behavior. No longer being treated like an invalid, he stopped acting as one. Sure, there was a long road ahead, but now we all began to see the future with clearer eyes.

I can’t really blame the nurses in this situation. I am sure it is difficult to learn and remember each patients history, but this makes it doubly important for all of us to recognize when preconceptions are clouding our actions and the actions of those around us. I am sure that if you think back on your past week or month, there are several occasions when your own preconceptions got in the way of your work. Maybe you assumed the tech support people would be unhelpful. Perhaps you thought the new client would be reluctant to pay your fee. There are countless preconceptions we engage in every day.

So, how do we guard against allowing preconceptions to control our thinking more than they should? First, when faced with a situation you need to be more aware of the current moment. Try not to let past experiences color your understanding of this experience. As I often say, react to what is happening, not what might happen or what has happened. We can spin all sort of doom and gloom scenarios if we allow ourselves. Your goal should be to be in the moment reacting to what people are saying and doing as it happens. Sure, it can be difficult, but it is also very important.

Next, begin to take notice when people allow their preconceived notions about you to color their actions. As I grow older, I notice the people treat me differently, assuming that I won’t understand them or their problem simply because I am a few decades older, a different color, or have different politics. If you see this occurring, you need to take a step back and think of way to politely, but firmly show this person that you don’t plan on living up to their preconceived ideas about you.

If you start to monitor and control your preconceptions, I think you will find that you will have fewer confrontations, fewer misunderstandings and be generally more productive. Think of how you are treating people and how you might react in the same situation. If someone is acting defensively, you become defensive, too. If someone is angry, it can be very difficult to not get angry as well. Watch how others interact with you and how their preconceptions might be coloring their conversations and behavior towards you. If we can become more aware of preconceptions and how they effect every interaction, we can begin to reduce the effect they have on our work, our career and our lives.



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