Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Management & Leadership


          It would be nice if all managers were good leaders, but unfortunatly that is not the case.  Many managers are not good leaders for a variety of reasons.  This is true in both the provate and public sectors of out ecnomomy.
         One of the major reasons is the Peter Principle, which simply states people are promoted to a level of incompetence.  In the public sector individuals are often elected to positions for which they are incompetent.  They may give a good speech and have financial support to get elected, but are not qualified to manage or lead. 
          It is possible to be a very popular manager and yet be an incompetent leader.  The best leaders are not always popular initially, but are respected in the long run.   Most managers and leaders must deal with many factors in their jobs.  Many decisions of a good leader may not be popular.  Let’s take a look at an example. 
          A school superintendent’s primary goal is providing a good education for the students, but it is not always that simple.  He has to deal with the school board, which may involve politics beyond educating the kids.  The teachers and public sector union promote their personal interests, which may not be in the best interests of the students.  The students may have demands that are in conflict with their education.  The athletic programs need to be winners or parents and sports fans are unhappy.  Parents may feel their child does not receive the grades or considerations deserved.  The community may want to maintain or reduce taxes to a level that will not fund all the school’s programs.  There is no way a school superintendent can keep all these factions totally happy, but he must be a leader and make the best decisions for the education of the students in the long run. 
          A manager in the private sector will face the same problems.  His or her primary goal is the long-term financial well being of the business.  At the same time a manager must keep the owners, employees, government, and society happy.  Not an easy job, and sometimes not a popular one.   If the company goes out of business, everyone loses.
          An elected official also has many different factions to keep happy.  His or her primary job is to represent the people that elected him, but these people may not have access to, or knowledge of adequate data to know what is in their best interests for the future.  An elected official also has campaign contributors, special interest groups, and partisan politics to deal with.  These interests may come ahead of doing what is best for the people who elected him, if the politician wants to stay in office.        
A good speech or a title does not make a leader.  Calling a manager a team leader does not make a leader.  A good leader leads by example and implementing plans and strategies for the future.  These decisions and actions are not always popular in the short run. 
A good manager accepts blame personally and gives credit to his associates for good results.  Poor leaders and some politicians take credit for every good result and blame someone else for everything that goes wrong. 
          Some of the ads for the approaching election amaze me.  Liberal Progressives make promises that sound like a fiscally responsible conservative.  Based on past history, we know the ads and speeches are inaccurate at best.  If elected, the politician has no intention of keeping the campaign promises.  They say this is justified, because, “It’s just politics.”  They think it is okay to do and say anything to get elected.
          Please look at a candidate’s qualifications and history and vote accordingly. 

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Gas, Oil & Coal


          If we listen to the environmentalists and global warming advocates; gas, oil, and coal are evil and should be eliminated as a source of energy.  I get a little sick of the attention and respect these people get.  All these issues are political footballs that give politicians from both political parties opportunities to increase their political power and the size of government.
          Lets look at coal first.  The present executive branch of our government has made it clear that they would like to totally eliminate the use of coal.  They claim this would be good for the planet because of carbon emissions.  Get real.  First of all, after two years researching global warming, I could find no verifiable facts showing that man made emissions affected climat change. 
         Secondly, if we are really concerned with protecting human life on a global basis, we need coal.  The number one cause of death in the world is not from Ebola or terrorism.  Both are real threats, but more people die from indoor pollution.  Three and a half million people die every year trying to stay warm.  They burn twigs, cardboard, and dung to heat their homes and die from the emissions.  They need a safe, cheap source of heat.  The best option is coal. 
          Environmentalist’s advocate and promote electric cars as being a solution.  These cars are plugged in to recharge.  Much of the electricity used is generated by coal.  Their logic is void of common sense.
          Natural gas and oil are huge factors on the world economies and our lives.  In this country, cheap gasoline prices mean more disposable income for other things.  This helps the economy. 
          We have natural gas and oil deposits in our country that are now readily recoverable due to frac sand mining.  Frac sand is a crush-resistant sand of a particular fine size used for hydraulic fracturing to recover oil and natural gas. 
          I happen to live in an area of the country with the largest deposits of high quality frac sand in the country.  Frac sand mines have been great for the local economy in Northwest Wisconsin.  It has also created some problems.  Some people just don’t like change.  As an Old Fart, I can certainly relate.  Some people don’t like disturbing the natural environment. 
          Frac sand mining has also created employment problems.  In this area, we have many good paying job opportunities with no one to fill those jobs.  This is also true in areas of Montana and North Dakota because of the Bakken oil field.  Some retail stores like Menards’ actually fly employees from other states to work in North Dakota  stores.  It is like an old time gold rush in some ways. 
          How much coal, oil and gas do we have in this country?  We have enough to economically serve all our needs for over two thousand years.  I am not saying we should not continue to develop alternative energy sources, but let’s use a little common sense please.  We still have idiots in the Federal government blocking the Keystone pipeline.
          We have large deposits of these natural resources, which can now be economically recovered, so the price to the consumer should come down.  With worldwide oil prices currently at $80 per barrel, we now have the capability to produce oil at $16 per barrel according to some estimates.  Think what this would do to gasoline prices. 
One big danger with lower gasoline prices is the temptation of politicians to add new taxes on gasoline.  Keep a close watch so this doesn’t happen.  As U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley said, “Taxes are a politician’s narcotic.”
          Cheap oil can also play a significant role in world politics and diplomacy.  What price will OPEC have to set for oil if we can produce it for $16 a barrel and are totally energy independent?  The economies of some Middle East countries are totally dependant on oil production.  Some countries base their budget on $100 a barrel for oil.  What happens to their economy when the price of oil drops?  We also must be aware that much of radical Islam is funded by oil.  What happens to Jihad with cheap oil? 
          I am not advocating conspicuous or wasteful consumption.  I believe in repairing versus replacing.  I believe in recycling, and I am very disappointed when federal regulations discourage recycling for items like alkaline batteries.  Let’s use some common sense please. 
          We have the opportunity to be totally energy independent.  This would improve our economy and our quality of life.  It would also give us the opportunity for significant diplomatic and humanitarian power on the world stage.  We can indeed help improve the quality of life worldwide. 
          If the Federal government gets out of the way, the United States of America can be on the brink of another great time in history.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Fight To Win


          When I was young and stupid some guys got into fights.  Some gained a reputation as a street fighter.  This reputation caused more fights because somebody was always trying to prove they were tough.  People would talk about black belts, boxers, wrestlers, football players, weight lifters, and other physical attributes for fighters.  I noticed the best street fighters seldon had any of these attributes, but won.  Why?
           I think the primary reason was that the street fighter knew somebody was going to get hurt, and the longer the fight continued, the more likely they both would be hurt.  For this reason the street fighter would normally avoid a fight as long as possible, but if a fight could not be avoided, his objective was to end the fight as quickly as possible.  There were no courtesies or rules. 
          I feel we should have the same attitude with our military policy.  Diplomacy should be first, but if that does not work, military action may be necessary.  If we take any military action it should be an all out effort to win.  Limited actions just drag out conflicts and cost lives.  President Theodore Roosevelt said.  “Talk softly and carry a big stick.”  Some people think he was a warmonger and a colonialist, but I think he was right about military action.
           I was in the Artmy during the Vietnam war.  We did not win that war.  Why?  Maybe it was a war that could not be won.  The French had been fighting in Vietnam for years before we got involved.  They had less success than we did.  Some great militry minds had warned that we should never get involved in a ground conflict in Southeast Asia. 
           Could we have won the Vietnam War?  Maybe.  Some high ranking North Veitnam Generls say we could have won.  They said they were close to surrendering when we were bombing Hanoi, but we stopped the bombing.  When we invaded Cambodia, they said we were within a few clicks of their headquarters and were ready to surrender, but we stopped and pulled back.  Who knows if these claims are true, but if so, why did we change successful military campaigns.  The answer is politics.  President Nixon let public sentimant dictate military action in my opinion.  War and politics don't go together.  Fight to win or don't fight. 
           The result was many good men died serving their country that did not have to die.  Nam was a terrible war and returning veterans did not receive the support or thanks they deserved.  I have seen estimates that more Vietnam veterans committed suicide after returning home than were killed in Vietnam.
A good friend of mine lost his right arm at the shoulder in Nam.  He told me that it was worth the arm to get out alive, but the damage was more than the arm.  He never fully recovered mentally, and never led a normal life.  It took almost thirty years, but he eventually swallowed his gun.  His son had a hard time with the suicide and I wrote him a letter that Nam had killed his Dad.  It just took a long time and a lot of suffering for him to die. 
Luckily, Veteran Administration health care is doing a lot better job treating returning veterans for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.  I know the VA has had some problems with corrupt bureaucrats, but they are doing a lot better than after Vietnam.  There still is room for improvement.  Our veterans deserve the best. 
We are now in a war with terror.  We better forget the political correctness and recognize that this is a religious war with radical Islam.  This is not a war with any single country.  There is no central command.  Today ISIS is the big threat, but the name continually changes.  This Jihad war is intended to convert people to the Muslim religion, establish Sharia law worldwide, and kill all infidels.  It is that simple.  We better recognize the facts. 
I don’t know if or where we should take military action, but if we fight, we must fight to win.  Limited military actions delay peace and cost lives.  I also have a big problem in arming and training people that later become our enemies and use our weapons against us.  We have made that mistake too often in the past.  I hope we can learn from history. 
Fight to win or don’t fight.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Live Where?

Where do you live?  Where would you like to live?  Maybe you dream of having several homes, with a home up north in the summer and a home in the south in the winter might be nice.  Maybe a weekend home or cabin is your wish.  In this great country we have a lot of choices, but our job dictates where we must live the majority of the time.   
I recently heard a New York based TV talk show discussing where the best job opportunities were located.  When the booming job market in North Dakota was mentioned, one of the individuals agreed, but said no one wanted to live there compared to New York.  I think he was crazy.  I would prefer to live in the Great Plains anytime compared to New York City.  
          Once years ago, I lived in the Chicago suburbs and was offered a good job in New Jersey.  When I compared the cost of housing and the cost of living, the job didn’t sound so good.  Quality of life is important and I turned down the job.  I did open a branch office for the company in a Chicago suburb a few years later. 
          I was once involved in starting a new company.  Part of the initial plan was forming a syndication of open-wall home fabricators across the county.  We made presentations to these fabricators in nine cities in two consecutive weeks.  We traveled to Indianapolis, Washington DC, Atlanta, and Dallas the first week.  Des Moines, Denver, Seattle, San Francisco, and Los Angeles were the second week.  We made this trip in December on a very tight schedule without incident except for some lost luggage on the last leg home. 
          The reason I mention this is we often hear the saying that you get what you pay for.  This was certainly not the case on this trip.  In fact the absolute reverse was the case.  The best facilities and service were in Des Moines and they were the cheapest.  Denver was second in quality and the next lowest price.  As the price went up, the facilities and service went down.   Washington DC was the highest price and had the worst quality and service. 
          We probably could have gone to New York City and made DC look like a good value.  I am not a big fan of New York.  About twenty years ago, I paid $75 dollars for an a la carte piece of fish in Manhattan with bad service.  I probably wouldn’t have complained too much, but I got food poisoning from it.  I prefer a Friday night fish fry here in Northwest Wisconsin, where sushi is called bait.
          My point is, why would anyone want to live in Washington DC or New York City compared to most places in this country?  I have a problem with heads of business or government making decisions for the rest of the country based on life in these two cities.  The quality of life in these cities is not normal or even desirable in my opinion.  Sometimes I don’t think DC politicians or our media has any concept of the world outside DC and New York.  Some politicians in DC think spending over two billion dollars on the Obama Care web site is reasonable.  What a waste of our tax dollars.
There was a time when business and finance needed to be located in major metropolitan areas.  This is no longer necessary, cost effective, or even desirable with today’s technology and communications.  In most major urban cities, people and companies are moving to the suburbs for better value and a better quality of life.  Are some of our major urban areas turning into the fictional Gotham City?
          One of the reasons people give for going into business for themselves is being able to control where they live and their quality of life.  The problem often is finding the right business to reach their goals.  Some people choose a business for the wrong reasons.  I wrote Business Fits to help people reach their goals.