Monday, December 26, 2011

Howard’s Inner Circle, No. 45: Futility?

Store managers say, “Don’t tell me us about an employee’s superior customer service. Go on our online site and tell corporate.”

Above may be reproduced in full if that fact is stated and Howard Wolosky at is credited as the author.
© 2011

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Howard’s Inner Circle, No. 44 Are You? Am I?

Being successful depends of how success is measured, and who is doing the measuring.

Above may be reproduced in full if that fact is stated and Howard Wolosky at is credited as the author.
© 2011

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Howard’s Inner Circle No. 43:Dignity

Woman pushing empty wheelchair, just in front of older woman looking at fruit, treating her client like her mother.
Above may be reproduced in full if that fact is stated and Howard Wolosky at is credited as the author.
© 2011

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Howard’s Inner Circle, No. 42: Change Management

Is change management having a sandwich, but only toasting one of the slices of bread?

© 2011
Above may be reproduced in full if that fact is stated and Howard Wolosky at is credited as the author. Change management

Friday, November 25, 2011

Howard’s Inner Circle, No. 41: Your Legacy Is How You Live Your Life

"In my many years as Dean of Boys, I never come across a more enthusiastic young man who is at the same time social-minded, energetic, and fine tempered … a leader of vision, pronounced executive ability, courage and splendid civic ideals.”-- G.M., 6/4/45

“You have a rare gift of creative leadership coupled with a feeling of personal responsibility for carrying through details.” -- A.W., 6/18/48

“ … has made a very enviable record as a student, as a man – and your son. We only wish we could hold him here indefinitely, for he has an uncanny gift of keeping everybody around him working at top speed and yet happy at the same time.” – R.B., 5/21/48

“Not only is the report the best and most comprehensive of any that has been prepared during the past six years, but it reflects operations of the Law School Committee which have been more extensive, far better planned, and far more effectively carried out than those of any of your predecessors since the War.” – E.G., 3/12/52

“[T]he free dinner at Harness Commons which we gave the entire first-year class on the Saturday before school opened, along the lines of your suggestions, has resulted in more business than we ever had in Harness at this time. The Dining Hall Department has also got some good art work on its interesting posters advertising meal hours, etc., and we have not forgotten the work which you did in producing these various thoughts and others.” -- L/H., 9/23/52

“He was a leader in the social and civic programs of the Law School and was principally responsible for the inauguration at Harvard of a program to develop community leadership among the students.” –R.M., ?/?/??

If you are lucky this human being or someone like him touched your life.
© 2011
Above may be reproduced in full if that fact is stated and Howard Wolosky at is credited as the author.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Howard’s Inner Circle, No. 40: The Literal Disconnect

I have always been intrigued by marketers and their interactions at accounting firms. Perhaps it is because, in my opinion, the role of marketers hasn’t been fully determined, or better yet, agreed to at many firms. The actual often conflicts with the expected and perceived roles.
Surprisingly, sometimes unwittingly, the marketer actually eliminates their position at the firm by being too successful as management then questions the cost and need of a highly-paid marketing director when its marketing efforts have matured with regard to branding, proposals, pipelines, and collateral materials.
Contrast that to firms where the seasoned marketing director is a vital and integral contributor to new business development and strategic planning. I believe these particular firms are enlightened, in part, because their marketing directors have a keen understanding of management at their firm and how to build a professional relationship deeply imbued with trust and respect.
It is important for relatively new marketers to develop a roadmap for professional success. The Association for Accounting Marketing can help with tools and in finding mentors. One tool, if it is still available from AAM, is a CD of the Managing Partner Panel Discussion from the AAM Executive Leadership Conference (February 2008), which Thalia Zetlin and I co-moderated. It provides an insider’s look at what it takes for a marketer to earn the trust, respect, and a voice in a firm’s strategic direction.
I would also recommend reading I'm Right, You're Wrong, Now What?: Break the Impasse and Get What You Need by Xavier Amador. With the commodization of services and changes in the nature and number of referrals, the importance of relationship building has increased. Although the firm/client relationship is all important, the first relationship that needs to be built properly by a marketer is their relationship with the firm, otherwise an unperceived impasse could doom a marketer’s future there.
© 2011
Above may be reproduced in full if that fact is stated and Howard Wolosky at is credited as the author. Note: The above also appeared on the Association for Accounting Marketing group LinkedIn site in the discussion and received a number of comments.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Howard’s Inner Circle, No. 39: Can Inanimate Objects Speak to You?

I buy things that say something to me. For example, at the end of a two–day estate sale I purchased the October 1936, April 1946, October 1946, and January 1947 issues of Reader’s Digest. From their table of contents, I heard a whisper of hidden treasures. I found so many gems.

“Walking gives us that sense of proportion which we all need on occasion. In an automobile or airplane you lose your sense of time and distance. But on foot you soon learn how high is a hill and how long is a mile. And when you walked the same road through all seasons you know how certain is change and how gradual.”—from the article, “To Own the Streets and Fields” by Hal Borland.

“A man who will not write as zealously for a small audience as for a large one is a bad craftsman, and all Nature rejoices when a bad craftsman passes to his bad forefathers.”—from the article, “A Double Role for Writers” by Sinclair Lewis.

“I must decline your invitation owing to a subsequent engagement—quote by Oscar Wilde from the article, “The World’s Wittiest Talker” by Max Eastman.

Beautifully written articles include “What is Slang” by H.L. Menken, “Emotions Can Kill” by James E. Payne, and “The Beggar of St. Jude” by Fulton Ouster. “Beware of Athlete’s Head” explored hero poison, the publicity that student athletes receive. There also is a remarkable article describing “the experience of one of 36 conscientious objector volunteers who in 1945 were systematically starved for six months at the University of Minnesota in an experiment to find out what happens to a famine-stricken person.”

Most thought provoking were the articles entitled “The Most Unforgettable Character I’ve Met.” For Anne Morrow Lindbergh it was Edward Sheldon, “a once successful playwright who although blind and paralyzed with arthritis for over 20 years, still enriched the lives and thought of a vast number of friends and admirers.” For Pearl S. Buck it was Madame Hsiung, her next door neighbor for 17 years in Nanking, who, “had no whims, no prejudices, whatever she did was for the sake of the other person, not herself.”

Fascinating bits of information were revealed. It was reported that Eric Stanley Gardner, the creator of Perry Mason, stopped practicing law and became a writer because, “his law work kept interfering with his hunting trips.” I also found out that President Truman ordered the publication of the scientific, industrial, and military secrets of Nazi Germany. An infrared device for seeing at night, a rayon-weaving machine that produced runproof hosiery, formulas for more than 50,000 dyes, and how to pasteurize milk using ultraviolet light just to name a few.

I also love some of the tips such as placed in a fireplace an “orange peel make a wondrous blue flame; and when sticks of lavender smolder on the hearth, that delicious scent fills the room.” “Keep cut flowers in as deep water as possible and slice a little off the stems each day. Don’t cut them with a scissors for that closes the veins. Slice them diagonally with a knife.” That was one of the many tips in a four and one-half page article by Henry Penn, a past president of the Society of American Florists.

Yes some of the writings we would classify as sexist or racist today. But it was a different time when people were storing food in their cellars and the art of staying at home involved listening to phonograph records. But then again the times were no different as an aging parent writes about her torment and thinking in deciding whether to institutionalize a special-needs child or the numerous articles on the possibility of national insolvency and finding employment, especially for returning veterans.

The cover price of each of these four issues was 25 cents and one dollar was exactly what I paid at the estate sale. Their value obviously is still there some 60 plus years later. If I didn’t listen, they probably would have been thrown out in a recycle bin.

Do inanimate objects speak? My answer is yes. But the ability to hear them is an acquired skill that is developed by each of us listening to our inner voice.
© 2011
Above may be reproduced in full if that fact is stated and Howard Wolosky at is credited as the author

Friday, October 7, 2011

Howard’s Inner Circle, No. 38: Whatever Comes Turn Towards It: Even Wildfires

I am fascinated by the myriad of religions and philosophies. However, I have always had difficulty understanding the essence of any particular religion or philosophy that I’ve studied. That was resolved when it became apparent that to obtain the requisite insight I needed to see the application of the religion or philosophy in a practical context. Such was the case when I read Fire Monks: Zen Mind Meets Wildfire at the Gates of Tassajara by Colleen Morton Busch about a wildfire threatening a Buddhist monastery.

By giving the participants’ backgrounds, the monastery’s history, the firefighters’ warnings, and describing, in detail, the actions and decisions of those at the monastery, I became an observer after the fact on how an individual’s beliefs and life experiences determine their actions. Seeing this application into an actual situation enabled me to relate to and finally fully to understand why I have this fascination with religions and philosophies. You see, in the essence of each, there is something I can learn to live my life better.
© 2011
Above may be reproduced in full if that fact is stated and Howard Wolosky at is credited as the author.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Howard’s Inner Circle, No. 37: The Tapestry of Adriana Trigiani

Many of us grow up without role models or mentors. Others are luckier and able to observe the wisdom of others directly at a young age when their foundation is being laid, and are taught the importance of
• Relying on no one to take care of you;
• Having a moral code that elevates your thinking with your behavior following;
• Paying your bills;
• Defending your good reputation as you can’t get it back once it is gone; and
• Leaving your children your values, not your stuff.

When I was editor-in-chief at Practical Accountant, I would describe our articles as marble sculptures. They would start in the raw with an idea, and after contributions from experts, they would be shaped into the final form using the best that was given and letting the beauty and individuality of the article shine. We all are artists, not just in what we do day to day, but also, and more importantly, in how we conduct ourselves, and who we become.

Lucia Spades Bonicelli and Yolanda Perin Trigiani were two very talented artists both with the objects and the people that they touched. Yolanda was an owner of a garment factory who made sure every blouse that she shipped was of the highest quality. Lucia was a seamstress who believed that you should have the best whether she was making a worker’s overalls or an evening gown. They met only once at the wedding of Yolanda’s son to Lucia’s daughter, but these two artists contributed to a masterpiece, their granddaughter.

In the exquisitely and beautiful crafted (like the clothes her grandmothers made) Don't Sing at the Table: Life Lessons from My Grandmothers, Adriana Trigiani, shares the legacy of these two remarkable women. I fully understand what Adriana means when she says. “They showed me, in their own ways, how to get out of my own way and carve out a fulfilling life, a peaceful life, a gracious life, and a secure life.”

Adriana is so very lucky to have had Lucia and Yolanda teach her how to best sew together her life’s clothing.
© 2011
Above may be reproduced in full if that fact is stated and Howard Wolosky at is credited as the author.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Howard’s Inner Circle, No. 36: Pavlov’s Customers

Very few scientific experiments fascinate me. An exception was Milgram’s dealing with obedience to authority. Another is Pavlov’s regarding the creation of conditioned responses. They captivate me because of their detrimental implications in our lives.
Take the following ways merchants integrate Pavlov’s principles as a component in their customer relations management philosophies.
• Using so-called rewards-based loyalty programs to compel further sales to the same customer.
• Self checkouts that make the customer perform the duties of staff with no compensation.
• Lip service, form letters, and platitudes about providing superior customer satisfaction to complaints.
• Discouraging concrete and mortar store shopping by eliminating low-level supervisors and staffing store with inexperienced staff. Little attention to display and layout and standard response by staff if you can’t fine what you want, go online rather than accessing computer and offering to order it for you.
• Fast food restaurants where special orders aren’t listened to.
• Fish hooking with freebies that lock you into expensive long-term service contracts.
• New, must-have improved version of the same product unveiled every six months.
• Charging more for those who commit early or buy directly from provider, rather than via third-party Web site.
There are many other examples of customers being conditioned to buy on the merchant’s terms at the customer’s expense. But unlike the dogs in Pavlov’s experiments rather than salivating, customers are beginning to snarl, and bite those who ring the bell.
© 2011
Above may be reproduced in full if that fact is stated and Howard Wolosky at is credited as the author.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Howard’s Inner Circle, No. 35: How Developed is Your Self-Control Intelligence?

This has been an issue since the first human took a bite out of that apple. But now in We Have Met the Enemy—Self Control in an Age of Excess, Daniel Akst makes a strong case that social, economic, and technological changes have dramatically altered the self-control landscape.

He believes people are having greater difficulty sacrificing short-term pleasures for long-term gains. In part, Akst indicates it is because practical barriers to short-term pleasure are now a lot lower. He also points to a decline in the importance of certain types of communities, changes in attitudes to religion, lack of familial influence, and the appeal of individual self-actualization.

I always thought that lack of self-control was just a matter of not having enough willpower. But it is much more diabolical than that and can be attributed to many other reasons including biological, economic, and even visual ones. Do you know that there is a study that shows people eat dramatically more M&Ms simply by putting ten different colors into a bowl instead of seven (consumption increased 43 percent)?

All is not lost since Akst offers some ideas as to how you can improve your self-control. My favorite is utilizing the Web site referred to as a “precommitment device.” That site lets you put up some money and make a binding agreement let say to lose a pound a week for 15 weeks. You can appoint a person to monitor the progress. If you fail, gives some of the money to a charity you have chosen.

A number of years ago I discovered a book by Daniel Goleman that illustrates in extraordinary detail the importance of emotional intelligence. I believe self-control intelligence is no different, but maybe not as obvious.
© 2011
Above may be reproduced in full if that fact is stated and Howard Wolosky at is credited as the author.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Howard’s Inner Circle, No. 34: Grating Expectations

There is nothing wrong in having fantasies. Many dream of a multi-million lottery win. Fantasies don’t hurt the dreamer unless they become expectations.
Some might say the only danger is if the expectation is an unrealistic one. I disagree as expectations create a mindset which substitutes a foregone conclusion for wishful thinking. Consciously or subconsciously we develop tunnel vision which controls both our thoughts and actions. We do everything we can to obtain the desired and anticipated result, not considering or reflecting what else is happening. Often, unhappiness or others’ anger or resentment, brings us back to reality. Most importantly, expectations interfere with our ability to adapt, the key to survival.
© 2011
Above may be reproduced in full if that fact is stated and Howard Wolosky at is credited as the author.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Howard’s Inner Circle, No. 33: A Two-Question Rx for Doctors

“Every child has to eat at least a pound of dirt before they grow up” is the wisdom many family doctors imparted to parents years ago. A holistic and humanistic approach that is lacking in many of today’s medical practitioners.
It is understandable as there is more specialization, need for greater efficiencies lower reimbursements, many procedures being performed by third parties, greater use of specialized outpatient centers and labs, increased reliance on test results, and higher malpractice insurance premiums. The skilled and trained professional still exists but something is missing that patients find discomforting.
We can’t go back but let me suggest a simply way of making the patients experience better. It is a simple technique used by an accounting firm in Ohio. Just as work is completed it gives clients a prepaid postcard with two questions regarding the engagement. There is a high-response rate and always any needed follow-up is done.
Doctors could give their patients a similar postcard at the close of each visit asking: ‘What did we do well?” and “What could we do better?” Expected responses might be the doctor didn’t talk about the side effects of a medicine or a particular technician made the patient very comfortable by detailing exactly what the testing machinery would do. Of course, there must be any necessary follow-up and additional patient communication.
Adopting this approach might help in a number of ways including awareness of patients’ areas of discomfort, a testing of implementation of “best practices,” and efficiency without sacrificing effective treatment. In the age of the Internet, online reviews, social networking, e-mail, and text messaging, patients will be sharing their good and bad experiences, so obtaining customer (patient) feedback is an imperative. Doctors are not good at this. The medical establishment, including the AMA, should take notice. Perhaps that two-question prepaid postcard is a good starting point.
© 2011
The above may be reproduced in full if that fact is stated and Howard Wolosky at is credited as the author.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Howard’s Inner Circle, No. 32: Being Right—An Introspective Examination Is Desperately Needed

Practical Wisdom-The Right Way to Do the Right Thing by Barry Schwartz and Kenneth Sharpe begins by citing Aristotle’s writing on ethics. They immediately state that practical wisdom “demands more than the skill to be perceptive about others. It also demands the capacity to perceive oneself—to assess what our motives are, to admit our failures, to figure out what works or not and why.”

Unfortunately, the authors conclude that many of society’s institutions and the practices by those in a number of professions discourage and penalize the exercise of practical wisdom except by “canny outlaws.” Schwartz and Sharpe believe telos, the purpose or aim of a practice is the key to these individuals’ requisite “moral skill and will.”

I really enjoyed the book, but the title doesn’t seem “right” to me. I would have preferred The Destruction of Practical Wisdom.

© 2011
The above may be reproduced in full if that fact is stated and Howard Wolosky at is credited as the author.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Howard’s Inner Circle, No. 31: Bothered by Footnote Two of Chapter Seven

“Take a look as some of these seemingly petty disagreements that grew into full-blown war:
• A dispute between the cities of Modena and Bologna over a well bucket about nine hundred years ago began a war that devastated Europe.
• A Chinese emperor once went to war over the breaking of a teapot.
• Sweden and Poland flew at each other’s throats in 1654 because the king of Sweden discovered that his name in an official dispatch was followed by only two et ceteras, while the king of Poland had three.
• The spilling of a glass of wine on the Marquis de Torey led to war between France and England.
• By throwing a pebble at the Duc de Guise, a small boy caused the massacre of Yassy and the Thirty Years’ War”2

The above footnoted passage in the book I just finished reading fascinated me. Unfortunately, footnote two read “Source unknown.” I had expected to find specific support for these five emphatic statements. I wish the author would have instead said in the text that they reportedly grew to a full-blown war with his accompanying footnote “Source unknown.”
© 2011
The above may be reproduced in full if that fact is stated and Howard Wolosky at is credited as the author.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Howard’s Inner Circle, No. 30: “Yes! No. Yes! Has Nothing to Do With Uncertainty

When someone asks for you to agree to do something you can say Yes, No, or avoid responding. Since giving an accommodating yes bothers me and not responding usually upsets me, I have always wished I could say no better.

A “Yes! No. Yes!” may be the solution. In his book, The Power of a Positive No—How to Say No and Still Get to Yes, William Ury explains the first Yes expresses your interests and value. The No asserts your power. The second Yes furthers your relationship often by having a plan B that is at the ready to suggest.

A natural No is seen not as a rigid and inflexible position, but rather a firm stance that flows organically from your interests.
Based on his years acting as a negotiator in economic and political disputes, Ury believes that the key to facilitating a satisfactory agreement is to arrive at one that reflects not just your interests but the other party’s interest as well.
© 2011
The above may be reproduced in full if that fact is stated and Howard Wolosky at is credited as the author.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Howard’s Inner Circle, No. 29: “Simple” Rules to Live By?

There are three basic rules that I try to live by. They don’t provide a moral compass or perpetuate any religious belief. But rather allow me to be very comfortable with my decisions and actions.

Rule No. 1: Stay in the Present—The past is to be learned from, not relived. The future can be planned for, but not fanaticized about. Being right here in the present helps me maintain the proper perspective and focus. This concentration prevents my mind from wandering and allows me to perform at my optimum level.

Rule No. 2: Watch for Emotions—Reacting emotionally doesn’t mean that you are right or wrong. But it does reflect a fight-or-flight mentality allowing others to comment on and criticize the emotional outburst, instead of addressing the issue at hand. Putting the emotional component in context and under control brings clarity.

Rule No. 3: Go With Your Gut—We listen to our heart, to our mind, and sometimes to both. Neither one nor the two together are as reliable as the gut. Your heart can prevent you from seeing what you need to see. While you mind might make an out-of-context intellectual decision. Listening to your gut ensures that all conscious and unconscious considerations are factored in.

© 2011
The above may be reproduced in full if that fact is stated and Howard Wolosky at is credited as the author.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Howard’s Inner Circle, No. 28: A Token of These Times

To enter the New York City subway system you must use an electronic MTA MetroCard. It is generally purchased and refilled outside the subway stop entrance. That differs from when I was a wee lad. Then a small token was purchased from a station agent for 15 cents. If you had a problem when you inserted the token at the turnstile, the station agent would help you gain admission.

Unfortunately now at many station entrances there are no longer any attendants. And that’s a problem when the MetroCard machine at the station reads “No Cash Accepted.” The first time this happened to me I called the customer service telephone number on the back of my MetroCard that needed replenishing. To my surprise a recording stated the number was no longer in use and gave me a new number. I called and after following eight or nine prompts I gave up on informing the MTA about that MetroCard machine that wasn’t taking cash.

As I began walking to find a subway entrance machine that would take my cash, I pondered whether my experience was today’s token of the times.

© 2011
The above may be reproduced in full if that fact is stated and Howard Wolosky at is credited as the author.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Howard’s Inner Circle. No. 27: A Variation of Pass It On /Pay It Forward

To many “pass it on” and “pay it forward” means when someone does something nice for you; you should in turn do something at least as nice for someone else.

A good samaritan might pay the subway fare for someone who doesn’t have it. Rather than paying it back the traveler agrees if he or she comes in contact in the future with someone similarly situated to pay their fare.

What’s great is the giver and the receiver of the generosity are both at ease, and someone else will probably benefit in the future. Otherwise, one of the parties feels uncomfortable as the giver usually doesn’t want to be paid back, and the receiver feels obligated to do so.

There are many other instances when a kindness makes the recipient feel like they have an obligation. Perhaps a solution might be if the recipient of a kindness would make a donation to a charity in honor of the giver and in appreciation of the good deed. It could be one favored by the good samaritan. If desired, he or she could be informed that a donation has been made and the reason for it without revealing who made it.

© 2011
The above may be reproduced in full if that fact is stated and Howard Wolosky at is credited as the author.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Howard’s Inner Circle, No. 26: Eight Random Observations

1. There should be greater study as to why there is a jobless recovery.

2. Companies are extensively utilizing independent contractors and falsely representing them as employees to customers.

3. Standards of journalism are disappearing.

4. Consultants abound.

5. Blogs and social media both have a distinct stream of consciousness flavor whose impact isn’t fully understood yet.

6. More CEOs have not previously worked in the type of business that they manage.

7. Globalization, commodization, and marketing spin is changing the customer relationship into a defacto adversarial one.

8. Embracing diversity and looking for common ground
© 2011
The above may be reproduced in full if that fact is stated and Howard Wolosky at is credited as the author.