Increasingly…appropriately…”Mentorship” is showing up as a subject of discussion, aspiration and recommendation as well as, I think, becoming newly seen as a critical resource in the equation of a healthy, growing and evolving business culture.
Back in the day, “…find a good mentor…” was more or less standard advice given to young people as we entered the World of Business. Find a mentor to guide one through the hallowed halls of corporations and commerce; that’s how one learns, that’s how one navigates, that’s how one wins.
Once every two or three weeks, the Mentor would take the Protégé (I don’t remember ever hearing “Mentee” before the ’00’s; though Merriam-Webster says 1965) to an expensive lunch; the conversation during which might include anecdotes, bits of information on the best way to approach a task or job, recommendations for research and reading, offers of introduction to Key Contacts in the (mostly Good Old Boy) network, where to buy suits, advice in response to questions asked and – all in all – pretty much a top-down Bestowing of Knowledge. That’s how it worked.
Things have changed a bit.
Here’s where I’m going:
The definition and perception of “Mentor” and “Mentorship” must change.
[For purposes of this hypothesis, btw, I’m defining “generation” as about 5 years.]
To truly be effective and relevant; the process and the practice of Mentoring has to evolve, exponentially, as generation after generation has and continues to emerge and merge with the workforce – each of which generation brings new knowledge and experience onto the field with them that those even just preceding them require in order to navigate and remain proficient.
This does not, though, negate or supersede the need for knowledge gained from time put-in; from having been a part of and navigating successfully in the workforce. The past remains prologue, notwithstanding.
Generations: of people, certainly; but also of technology, the shrinking of the globe and the mixing of cultures and how these things affect individuals, interaction and communication among them.
The perception of who is or can be a Mentor must be redefined.
Even now; Mentorship seems, when considered and discussed, for the most part still seen as linear and top-down. It’s an old-fashioned mindset that seems often to remain the filter through which people consider and perceive it.
No longer. The archetypal mindset of Mentoring must be deconstructed, broken into its elements, repurposed and repositioned for a new world.
Mentorship in this century can be neither linear nor top-down.
Mentorship is not “Teaching.”
A Mentor does not lecture.
There can no longer be a hierarchy of knowledge possession.
The definition of who is or can be a Mentor must be redrawn, evolved (there’s that word, again!).
Knowledge and Experience are renewable resources that call for sharing; and they grow stronger the more broadly and openly shared they become.
Anyone who knows more than another about a Specific Thing – or has more experience in said Thing – is, at and in that moment, a potential Mentor for the Other(s). Right then.
As new demographics – new generations who have learned to think and interact with the world in ways completely foreign to those who’ve been around for a few years (“few” being subjective) – join the workforce, the ways successive groups perceive one another need to open up. The latter cannot supplant the former; as the former don’t plan to leave the force, anytime soon.
Entitlement meets defensiveness and resentment and we all fall short of what’s possible.
In his book, Wisdom @ Work, Chip Conley discusses the powerful synchronicity between the ways that Younger Minds work in relationship to the minds of the Elder Generations. That being; one is quick, reactive and nimble while the other takes a more studied, responsive approach of consideration. The outcome of work produced by mixed-generation groups in collaboration, then, tends to be the most successful.
He also cites the example of the culture of the world’s largest accommodations provider (that owns no real estate) in illustrating the fluidity of what can constitute a potential Mentor, given context. In the bubble of that culture, the 28- and 29-year olds are the practical “elders” as the predominant rank-and-file employees are closer to 25. With that, institutional knowledge resides, still, in people under-30.
He was 52 when he joined that culture. Short story: he mentored and was mentored, to success in all directions.
Every place is different.
I’ve cited, before, my experience of recalibration when working and teaching at Apple SoHo. I walked into that store on my first day to 300+ fresh-faced and energetic 20-somethings and felt and saw myself as the Walmart Greeter. I would never fit in.
In a Manhattan Moment, in the days that followed as I joined the team on the floor and in the theatre, I experienced an atmosphere of curiosity, respect and engagement; of information sharing and seeking as age became irrelevant and – in some cases – a source of curiosity. Learning who we all were “before-“ or “outside-Apple” was ongoingly revelatory…and a source for the regular talent shows on staff meeting nights.
Community was born and grown, effortlessly.
Call to Action : Create a Culture of Mentorship
Many young people or people entering new fields sense a need for a welcoming, enlightened and enlightening, guiding voice.
Many elders with decades of experience find fulfillment in the sharing of knowledge gained over the course of those years in support of new minds, new visions, new businesses and careers.
It is incumbent in and beyond this century that we create a Culture of Mentorship; wherein everyone can be both mentor and mentee, everyone can guide, everyone can learn at any given moment and everyone is respected from the get-go for what s/he brings to the table.
“How we’ve always done it…” as a response is way out of date, but in the answer to why it was done a certain way we may find the door or pathway to the answer to how something might best be done, now.
This can transform “how we’ve done it…” into an answer, a precursor, a process of history rather than a defensive sword to be wielded. Here’s how, here’s why, here’s what we got… Now, what do you see as a different solution…one that may perhaps be better, given the Now?
In the hallway, in the cafeteria, over coffee or at the water cooler as well as in a board room. Any encounter with another might be an opportunity for mentoring. If a company or institution creates a Culture of Mentorship wherein anyone with a question or questioning look on the face can be met with “got a question?” or “what’s on your mind?” – if any staff member, in particular a new one, is always and unfailingly met with openness and welcome and the intent to help indoctrinate and incorporate that person into the fold / onto the team: the job is well on the way to being done.
This is going to require a lot of ego-relinquishing…from all parties interested in succeeding in the realization of personal or professional vision.
It is also going to require a practice of Assumption Exploration and ongoing relinquishing of said Assumption. That “kid” across the table might actually know some stuff; as, conversely, might that white-haired person with the limp who might at first glance look like someone ready to retire.
An awareness of our ingrown habit of Assuming from what we think we see and the jettisoning of presupposition will serve us all, across the board.
Open with the desire to learn who has preceded and fresh precedents will be set.
It’s a new conversation and a new way of thinking when all the chips in the room are for dipping rather than the adorning of shoulders. N’est-çe pas?
Mentorship as currents in the ocean might be an apt metaphor; information swirling in all directions, depending on need and source. I believe that this is where we need to go as businesses, as cultures, as people: seeing one another as beings of myriad, disparate experience; each of us with value and perspective to share.
Community. A Culture of Mentorship.
Can we do that?
Popular throughout the Milky Way and Andromeda Galaxies,
Forty years ago, my Republican political career was going strong.
Coming off the National Staff of the President Ford Campaign, I’d been managing programs for Young Political Leaders with the Department of State, then building and running a Political Action Committee for a Small Petroleum Refiners Association when I was asked to go to Colorado to run the campaign for a Republican candidate for State office…
I was deep in it and had visions of a powerful, political future in the Party.
Though with the gently relentless and increasing intensity of a festering carbuncle, I was discovering a growing unease within me. Not only was I finding myself uncomfortable with some of the perspectives of colleagues, friends and coworkers with respect to race, class, level of economic status and the Earth…I was also discovering something about myself that I knew I had to keep deeply buried in order to continue sitting at that table.
Dropping off my dates at 11:30 or midnight, then parking my car on dark streets and slipping through dark doorways off nondescript streets and into festive bars and clubs where another entire life was underway – a life of which I’d barely begun to be aware – and discovering the level of comfort and welcome I felt in those places was one of the most threatening experiences I’d had, to date. I had plans for my life that all of this threatened.
It’s a phase; It will pass; I can submerge it; can ignore it: all delusions I tested and failed to prevail.
So, when the offer came to move to Colorado, away from DC and all the temptation, I took it.
And there, I met Don; and what had been essentially physical and objective became immediately sensual and emotional. The power of love between like beings, between two men, overwhelmed me and terrified me.
The year I spent in Denver and Colorado (great stories for other times) showed me, taught me the incredible Lightness of Being true to myself; of recognizing who I truly am and embracing that Truth. This truth, this realization, meant I had to relinquish all I had thought lay before me and seek a new path and a new life.
Politics was out. I sought and interviewed for work in Los Angeles, Dallas, New York and came to San Francisco to visit a former love of mine from years previous, Sue. Sitting in a cafe on Pier 39, I came out to her. In that conversation, we re-bonded and caught up; and she asked me where I was going to live. I shared the frustration of trying to work that out and where I’d looked and the jobs for which I’d interviewed and…she put her hand on my knee and looked out the window…
The sun was shining bright on the Bay, I remember no clouds in the sky as sailboats and sailboards were whipping past, gulls flying overhead, happy people laughing here in the cafe… Sue looked at me with a “…seriously, what are you thinking?” look on her face and the decision was made.
On April 15th, 1979, I crossed the Bay Bridge into San Francisco in a U-Drive-It and moved me and a few suitcases into the basement of Sue and her husband; and started doing temp jobs.
In no time, it was June and Pride in San Francisco. I didn’t really know anyone, yet, and though I could maybe meet some people and get involved by becoming a Monitor for the Gay Freedom Day Parade. So, I did.
Being Gay in Broad Daylight is far different than being in a dark bar or festive nightclub, or even sitting quietly in a cafe. Being GIBD means that there are A LOT of other people around.
So. There I was, at the corner of Spear and Market Street, with the Hyatt Regency on my right and market street stretching up the hill toward the Castro, flanked with thousand of people; six, seven, twelve deep on either side.
Wearing my Monitor’s sash, I was clearly A Part of It. Gay…. Gay, gay, gay. No hiding. Public.
The day was heavily overcast, a cool-ish grey with not much of a breeze and it was time for the parade to begin. Everyone was happy and smiling as things rolled toward the start; then there it was…Time.
About eight million Dykes on Bikes zoomed past me and up the street, many with their biker chick partners, all of them looking just a tad scary to this country boy. But it was thrilling…the power of the machines an instant metaphor for the power of what was taking place. These dykes in all their uber-confident glory, racing up the hill to screams and cheers and flags and the pounding explosions of their battalion of exhaust pipes…
I was beyond whelmed.
Next, standing at the ready, was the San Francisco Gay Freedom Day Marching Band. I hadn’t seen a marching band since High School – and these men and women in rank and file looked to grand, so regal, so happy as they stood there…
Suddenly, the clouds broke and the sun shone a sparkling brilliance on the band and all their lovingly, proudly-polished brass…I’m sure it was the brightness of the shimmer that made my eyes water as they struck up the Starting Tune, “If They Could See Me, Now!”
If they could see me, now.
Immediately, a cavalcade of colorful imagery from my past raced through my mind in a heartbeat. If they could see me, now; what would they think? What would they see?
Friends from high school, friends from college, teachers, teammates, traveling companions, colleagues…all of whom knew something of me; none of whom knew this deepest part of me that I was just discovering for myself, just coming to grips with, just barely beginning to accept and perhaps even embrace.
In the coming years; some of those would continue to love me, some would be bewildered and uneasy, many would reject me and depart my life. I would, one-by-one, conquer fear and come out; then rejoice or grieve the loss…and move on.
At that moment, standing there in all my authenticity in the bright light of day, tears streaming down my face; immersed in the lush sounds of the band playing and the crowd cheering and the welcoming, celebratory throngs of people lining the boulevard into the distance…I felt unequivocally good about what the future might hold.
Just as they began to march, a young couple from inside the Hyatt pushed through the crowd. They looked at me…”What parade is this?!” She demanded, excitedly. (Omigod, I’m going to have to tell them! I thought to myself.)
I swallowed my fear of this Truth and how it might shock these strangers and said, “This is the Gay Freedom Day Parade…”
It just seemed that everything that came out of her mouth was just a little more negative than it needed to be.
From the first Sharing Circle on the first day of this week-long retreat; Camille stood out. A little too much backstory, a little too much detail, a little too much self-pity… Even through casual comments made in off-hand conversations during exercises or casual time; there always seemed a dissonant nuance, an extra note of Negative.
It was bugging me; distracting me. I did not like this, I was not liking her. Though she presented as brilliant and professionally adult as any of our intimate group of 15, this relentless soupçon of negativity was becoming like a splinter in my finger; a constant irritant. I needed to find some sort of spiritual tweezer and remove it.
On the way to meditation, the second morning – after another brief, antipathetic encounter, I was thinking that perhaps I’d just sit down with her and ask her if she even realized how much negativity she was projecting. Maybe help her see and process it.
As I walked, I played a scenario in my head. How might this plan play out? How would she take it? Would it be productive or come off as confrontational, condescending?
As the meditation commenced, high on a deck overlooking the sea, I wasn’t really listening to the shaman. Rather, I was watching the waves and wondered to myself, “What would Greg do?”
What would Greg do?
Greg is a dear, longtime friend of mine who lives his life such that he embodies all the spiritual and personal qualities to which I aspire. He is a driven, focused, unsurpassably accomplished athlete; he loves and actively cares for animals; he possesses a will of iron while being easily the most gentle and loving, fully authentic person I’ve known; and he embraces his spirituality so fully, so completely in the way he lives and moves through this life that it is sometimes simply breathtaking.
He’s a damn good guy.
And the man Forgives. He forgives before being asked. He forgives without being asked. He has forgiven a lot.
None of his accomplishments have come easy; the things, events and treatments, the circumstances, negativity and actions with which he’s had to deal through life and career can be overwhelming simply to hear; not to mention actually experience or with which to deal.
Yet. In the face of and having come through all that he has, he forgives and releases and moves forward; truly having forgiven and even given love back to those who may have hurt him. He is the most Namaste person I’ve ever encountered.
I aspire to have that equanimity, that strength, that commitment to generosity, truth and love.
So, as I sat there, not listening to the Shaman, I thought about Camille and I thought about Greg.
Examining my experience with Camille, it came to me that negativity and anger are so often the outgrowth or manifestation of fear and unhappiness. Depression is so often rooted in Rage, and all of this comes from sadness, frustration, fear…
The times in my life when I’ve made my most egregious mistakes in treating others poorly have been when I’ve been struggling with the deepest of sadnesses or most paralyzing of my own fears…
What would Greg do? He would love her.
That’s all he would do. Love her.
I can do that.
Afterward, during breakfast, as we were all randomly seated outdoors, I glanced into the kitchen and saw Camille with two others, baking bread. The body language among the three telegraphed to me that Camille wasn’t fitting-in, in there, either…
Next thing I knew, I saw her walking from the kitchen, face down and heading past us into the compound. I saw my chance.
Getting up from my table, I took a course to intersect with her. I had no idea, yet, what I would say; but there she was.
She did not see me coming. As I approached, I called, “Camille! Don’t take another step; I have something for you…”
As I opened my arms to offer her a hug, she turned to face me and I was stunned. Her visage was a knot, so tightly screwed together so as to seem of stone. I saw pain, I saw worry, I saw anger and sadness, all of it raw and intense. Had I seen that before getting so close, I’d have asked permission to approach but it was too late! I had momentum and she’d already stopped and before I knew it…
“May I …?” was all I got out before she and I embraced.
…and she began to weep.
I held her, fully embracing her as she wept openly, uncontrollably, sobs coming from deep, deep inside her.
And I held her. Feeling her sobs against my chest, feeling her fragile soul opening up and pouring forth.
I put a hand on her head and told her I wasn’t going anywhere, that I’m right here and I have her.
And she wept.
And I held her.
And she wept.
And I held her.
When she caught her breath, she asked, “…you don’t even know what this is about, do you?” I have no idea.
And she shared with me a diagnosis she had recently received; one that had seemed negotiable when in familiar surroundings; but the extent and effects of which had become alarmingly pronounced and defined now, in her first foray into new geography. She was appreciating the reality of her life and she was terrified. And I got it.
“You know…” I said, “ …if you’re willing to share this with the group, I’ll bet we’ll all have your back…”
And over the next hour, in the next sharing circle, Camille shared it all and found a cohort of comrades ready to stand by her and to share love with her as the week unfolded.
What had been so heavy within moments became so light!
Camille’s face over the coming days grew smoother and smoother, the smile more and more present and fresh. She felt safe and we, as a unit, each and all became closer to her – and to one another, for that matter.
That resonant moment, I believe, speeded the catalysis of our group in coming together and digging into the work we had come to do for this week. It was a powerful experience for all, I suppose, individually and collectively, to be such an active part of catching the fall of another.
For me, it was simple and profound.
He would just love.
I can do that.
Thank you, Greg.
The lesson, through all of it, is to keep an eye on myself for perception through mindset or, as I term it in my own Tenets, Exploration of Assumption. (…or, in instances such as this; Seeing through One’s Own Sh*t.)
We know no one’s backstory, we have no idea what may have happened to that passerby this morning, we know no one’s makeup, experience, state of mind or why.
If we…if I…can keep in mind what I don’t know when confronted with something negative or uncomfortable; chances are I can keep if from affecting me negatively and possibly even contribute in some small way to something more positive for the bearer.
From smiling at a stranger on the street to embracing what looks from the outside like a Problem.
One never knows, until…
Popular throughout the Milky Way and Andromeda Galaxies,
I do not believe that we can tell, order, direct or legislate how others should or must live their lives. As human beings, self-aware and sentient, I do believe we have the inherent responsibility to live our best lives, to question and challenge ourselves and through that to evolve and share our best selves as example of that which we believe.
Living by example, exemplifying moral codes, doing the Right Thing, making, acknowledging and learning from mistakes without shame for having made them in good faith: these are all in our power to embrace and share without imposing on others our own beliefs.
In our personal and professional, business or otherwise public-facing lives; I believe that same responsibility manifests and is paramount in creating and maintaining functional and civilized societies and associations.
When myriad individuals come together in support of common goals, though, solid and common ground must be found. Associative collaboration calls for creation of a context that offers security and safety for all, for the productive coexistence of disparate and committed points of view, different frames of reference, experiences and perspectives that support the work, the shared vision, of the whole.
Thus, the Conundrum referenced in the title of this post is that faced by membership organizations in the creation and presenting of guidelines for a (paid) membership that is entirely volunteer.
How can an organization offer a Code of Conduct for its members and support the embracing and adherence to such a code when any actual, codified or otherwise proscribed “enforcing” of said code is not an option?
For example; the TEA (Themed Entertainment Association) has taken the unique, courageous and possibly foresightful step of dual codes, both currently available on the public areas of the association’s website.
One code is event-specific and applies to conduct of individualsat TEA events and gatherings while the other is a larger umbrella that covers a far broader field of business-to-business and business-to-customer relationships worldwide, relevant to the doing of business in international, cross- and multicultural contexts.
The simple, salient difference between the two is that the breaking of the TEA Event – Appropriate Conduct Guidelines is immediately enforceable at any given TEA Event. This code is logistically positioned as being an acknowledgeable step and integral part of the registration process for each and all events; the idea being that all ticket purchasers will have seen and agreed to respect this Code prior to purchasing a ticket. Should an individual fail to respect the tenets of this code during said event, s/he will be asked to leave the event as well as risk being barred from future social events of the organization.
Simple to understand, appreciate and respect.
The greater, TEA Code of Conduct, however, is not so cut-and-dried … black and white. While some of the Articles of this Code may articulate specific requirements in specific instances; just as many are contextual and even ambiguous, open to interpretation depending on circumstances of culture or other variables surrounding each or any instance.
Therefore, while this TEA Code of Conduct is a part of the application and approval process for membership; subsequent failure, reticence or refusal to embrace and exhibit these Industry Best Practices as defined and outlined by the TEA carries no proscribed ramifications. Adherence is entirely voluntary which, fundamentally, seems the best, most positive course.
…And it would seem said Code would be easy to unhesitatingly embrace by individuals and businesses, alike. After all; such a Code is about clarity, fairness, honor, integrity and transparency.
What’s not to embrace?
So, let’s explore these two codes just a bit further…
An impressive (to me) amount of correspondence and communication came in response to the April 2 post on the creation by the TEA of the Event-Specific Code, “A Bold and Timely Move.”
Men and Women (mostly women, natch!) from across the globe had enthusiastic comments, many offered their pleasant surprise at the creation of such a policy and virtually all welcomed this bold embodiment and codification of consciousness to the world of business and associations. The fact of this “Appropriate Conduct Guidelines” policy’s encompassing it’s own enforcement procedures gave it powerful resonance among those who responded to it.
The breadth of nationalities who read this blog and embrace this post, in particular, are most heartening to me…
“I’m impressed. I read through the entire 2 pages. It’s a new consciousness, and people will stumble now and again as we move forward. To that end, I think the wording embraces a way to deal with social situations that are uncomfortable, but not criminal. Thank you for sharing. The policy provides a compassionate, but no-nonsense outline to moving forward.”
“Thanks for sharing…, we are heading in the right direction…”
…there are scores more individuals who have communicated, offline and privately, sharing these same sentiments. This is a valuable and powerful step forward in example-setting by a world-class organization.
At the same time, a subtext of concern was shared in casual conversation at the Annual Summit. There seems a school of thought who believe that the very creation and public sharing of such a code somehow reflects negatively on the organization; implying there “must be something to hide.” Some believe that creating this code implies to the public that there is – or has been – a problem that called for addressing; that such conduct had materialized at our association-sponsored events and that the creation of this Code was in response to that.
That point of view completely blindsided me. My question:
How is the acknowledgement of this problem a Bad Thing? Inappropriate conduct is rampant throughout not only Western Business Culture, but is present in virtually all cultures, worldwide. Addressing the fact of this now very public problem in our own yard and laying out expectations and parameters for acceptable conduct seems (to me) a progressive move on all fronts.
The concern that creating such a Code implies some sort of guilt seems unrealistically paranoid to me. This problem is real and exists everywhere, even at TEA events; that’s what the entire #MeToo movement and conversation is all about…n’est-çe pas?
I see the creation of this Event Code as courageous leadership. These conduct problems do exist; and I believe the Association can be proudly, appropriately vocal in having taken this step.
I’m proud of ‘em for setting such an example and would like to see more.
[An Example that Comes to Mind: Speaking of Leadership. Before the first Alamo Drafthouse opened its doors, the announcement was made that talking, texting or making noise of any kind during the movie is subject to one warning, then immediate removal without refund. I believe it’s common knowledge that many people do talk, text and make noise in movie theatres. I doubt that Drafthouse experienced or even considered shame or embarrassment at this fact, or thought by addressing it that Alamo might somehow be perceived as guilty for past transgressions of other audiences. The problem is acknowledged, addressed and is circumvented; alleviated with this solid code…and results in consistently-full houses. This seems an apt parallel to me.]
Besides: Making a mistake, evolving an opinion or POV, changing one’s point of view upon relevant enlightenment; these things do not imply the absence of integrity; rather, quite the opposite. On the other hand, hiding a mistake or obfuscating a change of position more or less does imply something untoward.
I’m happy and even proud to acknowledge a mistake when I (ever so rarely) make one…or, upon learning new information, I change my position on something. When I teach or build teams; I make a strong point with my teams of the freedom and honor inherent in the copping to error and willingness to correct actions or refine POV with new knowledge. Go forth with confidence, be willing to learn and evolve, take responsibility for every decision and – when new knowledge is uncovered or an error is made – take appropriate action to rectify, evolve or clean it up with alacrity.
There is no shame in error, there is no shame in evolution.
My sense is that the same Rules of Honor apply to organizations, institutions and associations as well.
Another perspective has also arisen in the wake of this move; that being an expressed concern that the values reflected in this Event Code may be seen as Western-centric. What of events in China, the Middle East, anywhere outside the US? Must the world adhere to these Western values? Is that right or fair for an international organization?
I wonder if, similar to the relationship between Embassies and Host Nations; all such events might be considered as taking place under the de facto Home Office umbrella, irrespective of geographic location.
On the other hand, might it be better – more fair or equitable – for each regional Board to create separate parameters of acceptable conduct (I don’t actually believe this is the solution – but, hey, I’m here to learn); or is it best to adopt an overall Code that applies throughout the organization?
Personally, I lean strongly toward one International Code for Event Conduct to which all members and guests are held.
How to address this?
What do y’all think?
What do you see?
[Feel free to respond in the comments, contact me directly at email@example.com, or join the upcoming Webinar on this conversation.)
At this juncture, I must share that I am strongly supportive and proud of the fact that the Association has created a Code of Conduct; even and especially one for which there may seem no obvious support structure beyond collegial proselytization or advocacy.
As the world leader in these industries, the TEA being the largest global association of theme park and experience design institutions and professionals, I personally believe the organization is duty bound to set and maintain a standard in which its members can believe; one that members can support, on which they can depend and within which they can find common ground for the addressing and resolution of some of the frustrating obstacles and issues that arise between or among members in the process of doing business…sometimes cultural, sometimes not so much.
How, though, in the context of an essentially “unenforceable” Code (below) can adherence to and the embracing of said Code actually be supported by membership? This is an inherent ambiguity that presents an excellent opportunity for exploration and guidance.
After all, isn’t Living One’s Word the most effective way to set example? If we as individuals, businesses or associations can inspire others to embrace transparency, honor, fairness and justice in our business environments; what a comfortable victory for all that might be.
Idealistic, maybe a little…but who knows how much we might accomplish with some Audacious Leadership By Example?
In the words of Robert Browning:
“A man’s reach should exceed his grasp, or what’s a heaven for…?”
There are many ways to change the world, short of the levying of rules and the making of laws.
So, let’s take a look at the first two Articles of this Code, for a moment.
The Code (can be found in full, below):
“Article 1: To conduct business in a professional and safe manner.”
At first reading, this seems fairly straightforward; though even the term “professional and safe manner” might could be interpreted differently in different parts of the world.
“Article 2: To make a good faith effort to address and resolve all complaints made against them.” This Article (IMHO) immediately makes the leap into a chasm of ambiguity.
What is a “good faith effort” and how is it defined?
What constitutes “complaints” and who is “them”?
Are we talking about complaints of customers against member vendors; or are we speaking of complaints between members doing business with one another?
If a complaint is made; to whom is it made?
Where are these complaints addressed and resolved?
I’m confident that this organization isn’t interested in becoming a board of arbitration; nor should they be. That is not the business of the TEA.
At the same time; since founding, the association has been built on a culture and with the vision of nurturing the health and business of all members…in fact, the origins of the company were born in no small part in the interest of protecting our small business owners from the giants. Over 25 years later, many of said giants are now seated side-by-side on boards and committees with aforementioned small businesses…creating some strong and healthy lines of communication and supporting positive business relationships in thriving.
So. When a conflict might arise between, for instance, a big guy and a little guy; how might the Code of Conduct support fair resolution?
Can it? Must it?
The most obvious way that I can see that happening is through collegial communication. The point has been made in offline conversation after offline conversation that the association cannot be officially involved in any sort of conflict resolution. It’s a Legal Thing.
Why, then, even have a Code of Conduct if all we do with it is point to it as something to which many of us are committed and to which we’d like for all to aspire and embrace? Is that enough? Can that be effective?
This hasn’t been officially discussed among membership; though it can certainly be discussed outside of any official forum or imprimatur of the association.
And that is what I am proposing for us. This is an opportunity for an informal, open conversation on how such a code might take shape and be effective; how it might be supported and embraced.
This, then, is the opportunity I am herein presenting to you. To us. With this, I invite you to join me in exploring Possibility. I’m asking readers from all industries, within or outside my own, who have had experience or have thoughts, philosophies, methodologies or recommendations for creating and supporting such a Code to participate in a free-form “town meeting” Webinar of positive purpose.
Personally, again, I envision an association Code of Conduct of which any association can be proud; able to cite, articulate and represent as setting an honorable, workable, functioning standard to which other associations and businesses, worldwide, might aspire, replicate and follow.
I’m interested in exploring this with disparate, professional community(ies); in hearing from and learning what others might see as possible, what might realistically be wanted and needed in our industries, in all industries.
With that in mind, I’d like for any and all readers of this piece who are interested in the subject and an informal exploration of the potential for effectiveness of this Code to gather online to talk, share points of view and experience, ask open questions and explore this, together in open forum.
On Wednesday, June 5, at 10am Pacific, I will host and record a one-hour open conversation webinar on the Zoom platform. The conversation is open to anyone who wishes to participate, has a question or an opinion to share.
We will use as our agenda the example of the Code (even further below) published by the TEA; and explore real-world options for how it might be implemented or applied in our own contexts; offering suggestions for changes or updates to better align such a code with the current geo political climate.
If interested, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I will send out the link and password a few days in advance.
Once again, I reiterate that this initiative is my own, under the auspices of no organization or association. Just me: inspired, aspirational, curious, compelled.
“WEBINAR : International Codes of Business Conduct
& How to Encourage Voluntary Adherence to Them.”
This webinar is under the auspices and with the approval of no person or entity other than me.
The agenda will be a line-by-line exploration of the Themed Entertainment Association Code of Conduct as random example.
The request is that all who participate do so in a positive light; knowing that virtually anyone and everyone even peripherally involved in conversations on this topic wants only the best for all concerned.
Know, too, that the conversation will be recorded so that it is share-able with any who could not participate and should it yield any Great Ideas, those ideas will be shared with the TEA International Board.
Email me for the link to the meeting.
The first 20 respondents will be invited to take part. The link to the recording will be sent to all who are unable to participate due to capacity or simply want to hear what was discussed.
Depending on how productive this is, we may do this again.
The Themed Entertainment Association (TEA) has adopted the Code of Conduct defined in this document to provide standards for the professional and ethical conduct of TEA members, and to foster respect for the integrity, expertise and reliability of all TEA members.
The TEA is dedicated to promoting the principles of honesty, integrity, fair dealing, and professionalism in the industry. The TEA Code of Conduct was developed as a standard for professional conduct among the members of the Association.
This Code of Conduct describes the expectations that we have of ourselves and our fellow professionals. Rather than imposing mandates the Code articulates the ideals to which we aspire. The purpose of this Code is not to establish a disciplinary mechanism, but, rather, to instill confidence in the profession and to help an individual become a better professional.
Articles of the Code of Conduct
The Code Articles further define the expectations of the members of the Association to maintain the highest level of conduct and responsibility in their relationship with other members and throughout the industry as a standard for professional conduct and fair business practice.
Article1: To conduct business in a professional and safe manner.
Article2: To make a good faith effort to address and resolve all complaints made against them.
Article3: To conduct business based on the highest levels of integrity and honesty so that that the work brings credit to the profession and to the TEA.
Article4: To present past credits, projects, products and services honestly without misrepresentation.
Article5: To foster and maintain a spirit of cooperation and fair dealing with clients and vendors, maintaining the principles of confidentiality, intellectual property protection, and agreed contractual terms.
Article6: To participate in the sharing of experience, expertise and skills with our industry while respecting the proprietary knowledge and skills, confidentiality of customers and professional associates.
Article7: To support and honor the Association by taking a proactive role in Association activities and promoting the Association to the industry.
Article8: To establish and maintain cordial and respectful relations with fellow members worldwide.
TEA Code of Conduct 2018 – Approved by TEA International Board – 6/7/18
A hundred years ago, a student, I spent my sophomore year in Pavia, Italy; a quiet-ish town just 20 miles south of Milano. Possessed of the requisite number of churches, a cathedral, a central town square, covered bridge over the Ticino River and most of the streets paved in stone; Pavia was, for me, the perfect combination of town and village to host the perfect, first-time, expatriate experience.
The University of Pavia – one of the oldest Universities in the world (pre 825AD) – can name among alumni Christopher Colombus, Camillo Golgi, Antonio Scarpa, multiple Nobel Prize winners and famous names from philosophy, law and medicine…
…none of them related to me.
Effectively my first Fully Immersive Experience, I lived in Collegio Fraccaro; one of two Americans among about two-hundred medical students, few of whom spoke English. This, alone, helped to transform the learning of Italian from academic to survival.
It was a wonderful year, and has remained vivid ever since. I swam with and helped coach the city swim team, hitchhiked all over Northern Italy, Switzerland and Austria on weekends, went to the annual Sagra (Festival) in scores of nearby local towns and villages as each celebrated their Thing of Most Pride (usually edible: no problem) and met and talked with hundreds of locals as I became more proficient in the lingua.
Through the winter, I had dinner twice a month with a local businessman and his family. We’d met through the proprietress of my favorite café…I suppose she was my “dealer,” as that place was the birthplace of my lifelong addiction to espresso and strong coffee.
The deal was, at these dinners, I was to speak only Italian and he would speak only English – other than when we needed to correct one another. This was for him and his wife, but also for his kids – to give ‘em a head start on learning English. That, and it sure didn’t hurt me. The food was great and conversations would inevitably wax more complex as the evening progressed and the level of proficiency increased.
But one such night stands out among them all: the night in February when I mentioned that in a few weeks, I was going to see Venice for the first time…
“Ahh, Venezia!” he sang, “Il cuore d’Italia!” <The heart of Italy>
And with that, the English lesson was over as his passion took flight…
All appassionato, his hands conducting an unseen orchestra, he began instructing me on how to approach and see Venice for the first time…
“Quando arrivi a Venezia, non vai subito a Piazza San Marco!”
<Do not go immediately to Piazza San Marco!>
“No. Stay away from Venice proper ’til early morning. Then, before the sun rises, take the vaporetto to the far side of the island – NOT to Piazza San Marco. “
“Walk the vicoli <alleyways>, perditi come tu vaghi <lose yourself as you wander> … Ascoltare alla cittá <listen to the city>…”
“Keep wandering. See the city awaken. Observe. Immerse (I don’t know that he actually said “Immerse,” but that was the concept). You will forget where you are…and then…”
(Dramatic pause. He looked me directly in the eye.)
“Suddenly…you will discover Piazza San Marco!”
“And then…you will understand Venezia…and then…you will understand Italia…”
…and he rested his hands on his stomach as he leaned back against his chair.
So, that’s what I did.
Arriving late the night before, I was just in time to check-in to the youth hostel on the island of Giudecca…coincidentally almost directly across the water from Piazza San Marco; I could see the towers and dome of the Basilica from my room; but the lower levels were obscured by buildings between us.
In the dark of the next morning, refusing to look across the water, I boarded the vaporetto counter-clockwise, traveled to the far side of the Castello district, alighted at Ospedale and began to wander.
By now, the sky was grey and I could hear activity in the windows I passed. Once one has ventured just a few steps from the ocean, one finds oneself in the narrowest of passageways without view of any sort of landmark, as the vicoli can be as narrow as three feet with walls several stories high. If one doesn’t know, there is no way TO know where one is in relation to anything else.
Fortunately, one knows one is surrounded by water; so, at some point there will come an edge. Thus, onward.
Tiny, compressed, all the passageways are only wide enough for people with small carts; every inch of Venice is valuable and there is no wasted space. I could hear the chiacchierare of morning television, the clang of pots on stoves, the clatter of dishes on tables and mothers calling for the ragazzi to get themselves down to breakfast.
Tiny bridges over tiny canals barely wider than a Gondola. Gondoliers, calling to one another as they wipe down their barche and begin navigating toward the Grand Canal and the morning fares…
In tiny, interior plazas, fishermen were piling high their catches of moments ago onto tabletops, hosing down the pave stones to be ready to sell lunch and dinner to the shopping mothers, once their kids have headed for school.
Up high, the sky is blue, though one only sees a sliver…even passing through the morning marketplaces, the view is still high above, one can only see what’s adjacent; no distance, no landmarks.
But that limitation went completely unrealized, as I was immersed in activity and detail all around me…and navigating through it. Objectively, I knew I was heading in the general direction of Piazza San Marco, though I really wasn’t thinking about it; so much was going on around me.
I came upon a fountain. Into the base were carved little bowls into which slender streams of water were fed as part of the runoff. At that moment, one of them was functioning as a birdbath, wherein a couple of piccioni (sounds more romantic than “pigeons”) were taking their morning ablutions.
I bent over to get a photograph (with an actual Nikon camera – that’s how long ago this was) and, as I stood up and looked across the fountain…
There it was!
Piazza San Marco.
Breathtaking; the vastness of the Piazza was magnificent. The effect of encountering so much unencumbered space, being able to see the sunshine sparkling on the waterway to the left, warming the rooftops above the surrounding colonnade, shining bright on buildings far away and brightening the white stones of the plaza to alabaster; then turning and seeing the brilliant façade of the Basilica…
It stopped me completely. I don’t know that I’d ever before been moved by architecture; but my eyes were wet and my throat hurt as I immediately appreciated the investment in the ethereal that had been made in the creation of this space.
Had I gone directly to the Piazza, I know I would still have been impressed. It is beautiful. It’s really not so big: as piazze go, it’s not spectacular. In its Venetian context, though, it is virtually unsurpassed in grandeur, in eloquence, in transcendence.
I don’t know that I understand Italy, or Venice, but I certainly discovered and embraced something I felt at that moment that can only be appreciated by walking through it. It is a moment and an experience I shall never forget… March, 1972.
It wasn’t until years later that I realized the opportunity to use that morning in Italia to enhance audience experience.
Introducing an audience into a space – even and often more effectively into a space with which they are presumptively familiar – through a distracting, engaging and perhaps somewhat confining pathway – by way of what I call “The Venice Effect” (though I’m sure there’s a loftier, industry term for it) has never failed to engage even the most jaded even at some subliminal level.
Offering people a new perspective on what might be considered familiar is an unexpected gift that can affect how we might experience other things to which we may have become familiar; offering the opportunity to see through fresh lenses, removing preconception, actually making the old, new.
I wonder if we might be able to find a way, within each of ourselves, to do this with other people; to refresh our vision and brush away years of familiarity to see how those around whom we have spent so much time may have grown or evolved since we first met. To hold close the love and fondness that may have grown between friends and colleagues over the years while seeing the new person right before our eyes…and to be seen, each of us, for whom we have become as we’ve been so busy Being.
There’s no App for that!
Popular throughout the Milky Way and Andromeda Galaxies,
The way to a person’s best work is paved with taste buds and gastrointestinal comfort.
You probably already know this. You must know this. Though, I think some may not know this, so I’m going to say it.
Decades ago, when producing Press Conferences for national and local political campaigns, and upon discovering that the Press Corps often had to be at their desks by 8am…I would hold Press Conferences at 8:30 and always provide donuts and coffee. That way, they could be late to work – as they’d want to be in position before the conference began AND get free breakfast.
Packed, every time.
Feed those you need.
Over 20 years in Production; I learned early-on and have always considered it a given that The Crew Must Be Fed…and always a Real Meal.
This is not Rocket Science and it ain’t no mystery; but when I encounter a Producer, Director, Project Manager or Events Person who begrudges or in any way resists the precept of feeding the Crew, I am repeatedly stunned at the Obvious Benefit can be so myopically missed. And yes: I judge.
Seeing that the crew is fed is not about Union Rules and contracts; it’s about building a team and infusing the qualities of collegiality and respect. A happy, well-fed crew knows they are appreciated and respected; and will likely go the distance – above and beyond – when the situation calls for it… And in live show work, you can pretty much count on the situation calling for it.
When a crew is treated as an expense, with marginal craft-service & meals and contractual boxes to be ticked in order to comply; one can expect that that is how one’s job or production will be treated. With such an attitude underlying the production, a crew can then be expected to do only what they are contracted to do and nothing more. Professionally Professional, certainly: but a great show depends on that relationship being Personally Professional.
Communicating the importance of feeding the production crew is often one of the first “come to jesus” conversations I find myself having with a new client…and sometimes with a regular one.
“Why should I feed ‘em when I’m already paying them?”
“So that your show happens…and, it’s the right thing to do.”
Sometimes…people who don’t ever really worry about food on the table fail to perceive its importance to those who live closer to the line. [This pertains, too, to paying cast and crew at the close of the show so that they depart with the deal complete and needn’t worry about when they’ll see the money: but that’s yet another column.]
A few years ago, on site with a colleague, she was grousing about the concern being expressed by her crew heads about the quality of the breakfasts that were being supplied. Skinny, aluminum-wrapped breakfast burritos seemed fine to her. “Why do they make such a big deal about breakfast?”
I was all, “Are you kidding? <Name withheld because I love her>, are you nuts? Why buy a Ferrari and put unleaded fuel in it? You have a great crew, keep ‘em happy and in top form. Scrambled eggs, biscuits, BUTTER (spreadable), jam, potatoes and bacon…lots of bacon, and you’ll have one of the smoothest-running shows you’ve ever had. Trust me.”
Bonus: they’ll be inclined to show up early for a good breakfast and be ready to go at call-time.
The Ferrari metaphor resonated; she upped the quality of breakfasts and the Day Two show eminently surpassed that of Day One.
One’s crew are the most important guys and gals one wants committed to oneself as Producer and to the vision of the experience or show one is striving to deliver. The crew should know that the Producer or Director knows s/he is dependent on them and that genuine respect underscores the relationship.
When that is known and appreciated, the crew are all about supporting the show and the vision.
This is a commitment the rewards for which will become eminently evident and valuable as one finds members of the crew coming up with creative solutions to problems the Producer may not yet have seen coming. They take ownership of the show at a more fundamental, personal level and treat the responsibilities under their purview with that much more acuity and concern for quality.
It’s a Human Trait.
There existed an even greater dichotomy to be discovered during my years in Dubai. The “caste” distinction between levels of the production crew is even more pronounced in that part of the world; most especially between the (generally Western or First World) professional / creative / technical crew and the Third World labor class brought in to do the actual building.
Early on in my experience, it took much insistent negotiation between a client and me to obtain even a simple table of water bottles and bananas placed under a canopy, specifically for the laborers on a show or project. It also took a little friendly education to convince the laborers that there were no negative consequences for helping themselves to the table whenever they were thirsty or had a pang.
The smile and laughter quotient among the laborers tended to rise, after that…and I’ll tell you, experiencing all those guys smiling and quietly speaking or signaling a greeting as they passed rather than having them silently avert their eyes from “Sir” is transformational and spiritually empowering.
Feed your crews.
Bit of a post-script:
Concomitant to this is the cardinal rule that a Producer NEVER yells at or belittles a crew or crew member – especially in public. ALL public communication must remain respectful and, when there is a problem, the wise, experienced Producer engages the crew or crew member to collaborate in addressing it and in coming up with and applying the best solution to the problem for which they are responsible to solve.
ANY upbraiding, criticism or firing is always done in private. Always.
A producer who shouts at a crew sows seeds of disrespect, mistrust and conveys a sense of ownership that is at cross-purposes to the spirit of show and project crew culture. The best work comes through respect.
Shouting and berating is Amateur.
Such a producer will have a hard time engendering loyalty and finding crew colleagues willing to join the next project.
So. Feed your crews.
Feed ‘em meals. Feed them respect that offers self-respect. Treat them as your valued team and you can trust that you will benefit from their best efforts.
That: and they’ll both speak well of you behind your back and will jump at the chance to work with you, again.
Popular throughout the Milky Way and Andromeda Galaxies,
In attempting to describe where we are along the spectrum of cultural evolution, this new term is meant to combine the umbrella labels of the two largest factions of the current American Workforce; dependent on each other – on which we all are dependent, actually – for effective institutional, intergenerational knowledge transfer in virtually every industry.
Last week, the Themed Entertainment Association held our annual Summit Conference at Disneyland (…where else would one expect such a meeting to take place?). One of the Hot Topics presented on our stage was a panel on the changing composition of the Workforce and an exploration of adjustments to methodologies, mindsets and existing corporate cultures that are essential to success in embracing new demographics that have new or different ways of thinking than has been SOP since the Industrial Age…or at least the ’80’s.
Before We Begin
Assumptions, Definitions and Postulations:
“Millennial” seems to have become a pejorative, negatively-laden word. Big time. No matter how the word is meant when used, it seems to carry a volatility and be met with defensiveness and even anger when laid upon the pursuant age group. [I don’t recall any previous generational generalization being met with such antipathy; not X, not Y, and not even “Boomer”…a term not without its own corona of entitlement, yet that label never seemed to inspire such ire as does the “M” word.]
I’d like to find another word; somehow, I doubt that will be successful.
“No longer really applicable to a specific, definable age-demographic; if anything, “Millennial” is a point of view, a way of seeing things, a combination of aspiration, inquisitiveness, a sense of one’s value … that pervades vast segments of society and culture…largely irrelevant anymore to age or “generation” and more broadly so to exponentially greater segments of the professional workforce who plan on remaining in that workforce for some time to come.”
…In other words; pretty much anyone under 40 and many of the Digital Immigrants and Industry Elders has – by now and to at least some degree – adopted and embraced a more nimble, flexible way of thinking and communication…or is in the process thereof.
By 2020, 46% of the workforce in the US will be Millennial.
This year, the number of Millennials in the workforce is greater than that of Boomers
By 2025, more than half the workforce population will be reporting to someone younger than themselves.
The smallest segment of the Workforce with the greatest amount of Industry / Institutional Knowledge have already crested 60. Far more active and healthy than the 60’s of the ’60’s; this valuable population of Elders wants to continue working and contributing…and sharing knowledge. We only have 10 – 15 years to see that knowledge and know-how shared: we must get moving.
…and On to the Conversation.
So here’s The Thing: irrespective of one’s perception, perspective or impression of Millennials; the fact is inarguable; these aspirational new thinkers are coming and must be welcomed and embraced. So, whatever generalizations may be levied on this evolving workforce must be set aside with the larger view that We Are Bound to Make This Work.
And here’s the Other Thing: the Elders may need to learn to listen differently, better, more generously and acutely. This means shutting down preconception and silencing the Voice in One’s Head and truly hearing the newcomer before deciding…
when and how to share what knowledge,
how open each might be to learning and collaboration,
how best to relate, to establish positive, working relationships.
Road-builders survey the topography before beginning to design the road or laying pavement. ’Tis the same with mentorship. Know with whom you are dealing, establish a respectful relationship before sharing knowledge…and be not only prepared, but prepared to find new excitement or fulfillment in one’s own learning from the person being mentored.
It truly is a two-way process.
Active Listening is critical to the building of a mutually-respectful relationship.
“… people, having been and felt fully heard throughout a given process are far more likely to accept, embrace and support the path and solution ultimately taken than when simply directed to do something a given [or predetermined] way.”
And then there’s This Last Thing: Everyone is involved in this metamorphoses; all the X’s and Y’s now in Middle Management are called upon to advocate, to create, broker and foster these relationships. Not yet at Executive/Mentor level, though more hands-on-with-cachet than any other subset; knowledgeable managers are in a position to lobby for, initiate and institute a pervasive, effective culture of mentorship within and around company and project environments. In the field, they are also in a position to know how to augment and with whom to raise the level of the body of knowledge and experience to be shared on their teams.
Mentorship must be Part of the Program. All Programs. Mentorship is no longer lunch-every-other-Thursday-with-one’s-Mentor as in the Olde Days.
Mentorship is Collaborative and Collegial. Mentorship is not “teaching.” Rather, it is two (or more) intelligent people – one full of fresh knowledge and aspiration, the other with practical experience and a way of addressing the mission, goal, project or task, working together to accomplish something.
Note, too, use of the term “a” way as opposed to “the” way; for through the collaborative process the prospect exists that there might be discovered an evolution of approach. Both or all participants must be willing to learn something at any time.
For example: “So, here’s how I do it; I’ve had a lot of success with this methodology. If you have a different idea, let’s take a look at that, too…” goes a lot further than, “…this is how it’s done.”
Mentorship is Apprenticeship and Example. It takes place all the time, every day, throughout the course of working together. An encounter in a hallway, perhaps an ad hoc site visit or vendor tour, “…how’s it going? What are you working on, just now…?”
Along with this comes the invaluable to share with those who are new the incomparable sense of accomplishment when one has put in the work and effort over a significant amount of time to bring a project to conclusion or a program to life.
In a world filled with right-swipes, clicks and likes; to discover the rewards of total immersion, arduous work through toward and ultimate accomplishment of is a treasure to share. Perhaps approach the shepherding through the culture in such a way as to see the manifestation of intrigue as the delving-in begins, then witness the deep-seated excitement and visible thrill of accomplishment at success is realized.
Mentorship is Community-based. Every member of a staff or team is a potential mentor at any given time. Navigating the pathways of a new company takes time and information, knowing the names and jobs of all whom one passes in the hallway adds immensely to the sense of Belonging and Partnership. If such an attitude can become woven into the culture of a company, organization or project; productivity will increase and morale can skyrocket.
Finally, as articulated in most things written in this space: Listen, First.
People who feel authentically heard – especially by what is traditionally an authority figure – are far more likely to have respect for that person and hear what s/he has to say. Mentors / authority figures who approach first meetings – any meetings – without a script and who first Listen will quite likely discover that they have something different and more relevant to say as well as see that what has been said is more readily embraced than may otherwise have been had their first comments or direction been based on pre-meeting assumption about the mentee rather than an actual in situ experience with them.
Respect begets respect. It’s uncanny!
So, really, I’m thinking that accommodating the burgeoning evolution of the workplace isn’t the onerous obstacle it can so often be perceived to be. It’s nuanced, sensitive, organic, and eminently do-able.
IMHO, the steps of the solution to successfully accommodating this workforce evolution are:
Exploring and Appreciating one’s Assumptions
Active listening without preconception
Establishing Respectful Relationships – a community of Respectful Relationships.
Embracing an inherent culture of Mentorship wherein new knowledge flows both ways and at all times.
Boiled down to this, it doesn’t seem so challenging. I ain’t sayin’ it’s easy, per se; but it seems more adjustment than overhaul.
I want to share this video of Simon Sinek, “Millennials in the Workplace” We used a clip of it at the Summit to open our session; finding it an exquisitely articulate, sympathetic and insightful assessment of the dynamics that have brought us to this place, along with a suggested pathway through it. Worth a watch.
And finally, I want to acknowledge Julie Reyes and her team of kickass professionals who did all the research and presented this panel to the Summit, last week. These are the people with the direct experience of actually facilitating this workforce evolution, case by case.
Starting today, it is legal to stone homosexuals to death.
New Islamic laws that took effect in Brunei on Wednesday, punishing gay sex and adultery by stoning offenders to death, have triggered an outcry from countries, rights groups and celebrities far beyond the tiny Southeast Asian nation’s shores.
The penalties were provided for under new sections of Brunei’s Sharia Penal Code, instituted in 2014 to bolster the influence of Islam in the oil-rich monarchy of around 430,000 people, two-thirds of whom are Muslim.
Even before 2014, homosexuality was already punishable by a jail term of up to 10 years. But under the new laws, those found guilty of gay sex could be stoned to death. Adulterers risk death by stoning too, while thieves face amputation of a right hand on their first offense and a left foot on their second.
By now, you’ve probably seen the calls for action – in this case, the boycotting of the luxury hotel chain (list at the end of this post) that is owned by the Sultan of Brunei – on the part of George Clooney, Ellen Degeneres, Elton John, Bobby Berk and a host of other, vocal celebrities.
“They’re nice hotels. The people who work there are kind and helpful and have no part in the ownership of these properties. But let’s be clear, every single time we stay at or take meetings at or dine at any of these nine hotels we are putting money directly into the pockets of men who choose to stone and whip to death their own citizens for being gay or accused of adultery. Brunei is a Monarchy and certainly any boycott would have little effect on changing these laws. But are we really going to help pay for these human rights violations? Are we really going to help fund the murder of innocent citizens? I’ve learned over years of dealing with murderous regimes that you can’t shame them. But you can shame the banks, the financiers and the institutions that do business with them and choose to look the other way.”
This call for boycott was first vocalized back in 2014, as the Sultan announced his plan to invoke Sharia Law throughout Brunei by 2019. The furor died down and is now revitalized by the actual fact of this inhumane legal structure. Of course, this writer supports an active, vocal boycott; though my personal budget has never afforded me entree to that level of hospitality, so my staying away from the Dorchester Collection will have literally no effect on their profits.
As of this writing, I am unaware of any of my peers, colleagues or their companies actually doing business in Brunei. I would hope that any such business enterprise would cease with the knowledge of these aggressive, egregious violations of simple human rights.
But, that’s not my call. These are personal and business decisions to be made by oneself with respect to one’s own business and point of view.
The thing is, this is far bigger than just Brunei. The spectrum on this planet of governments and businesses who aggressively support Hate is vast and broad. Hate for minorities, hate for women, hate for other-colored peoples, hate for homosexuals: Hate.
So, when business profit goes to support hate; whither the Right Course? How much can concern for Life on the Planet affect decisions that are “purely business;” and is anything “purely business” at all, anyway?
From the US$2million a year that Chick-fil-A donates to US-based LGBTQ-targeted hate groups to the Russian pogrom of homosexuals in Chechnya to the government of Saudi Arabia ordering the brutal murder of a US Resident journalist, the degree of severity, the level of transgression, the sheer and willful abnegation of Human Values is virtually overwhelming. Simply keeping track of all the places and instances of hateful abuses of Power is exhaustive.
So, do we have a moral duty to pay attention to where the profits of our offshore or domestic expenditures go?
That being said, they are personal and business decisions with very real human ramifications. My own sense is that putting money in the Hands of Those Who Hate must, at some level, take a karmic or spiritual toll.
During my four-year sojourn in Dubai, these conversations occupied no small amount of time and energy among friends and colleagues. There is a case to be made for being physically present in countries and regions of oppression; somewhat protected by having American citizenship thus able to represent to locals the truth and facts of freedoms available and accepted in other parts of the world.
Enlightened citizens may have the opportunity to change their countries laws and cultures from within. Maybe. Sometimes.
At the same time and in the same conversations, it was incumbent on the Americans to cop to our own country’s de facto, endemic racism, hate and Human Rights Violations. We are not so innocent; especially now.
So what are our responsibilities as businesspeople and citizens of the US and of the world? At what point can we, with conscience intact, do business with governments or institutions for which Hate is such a part?
Is there a line we can walk with integrity; growing a global business while standing for humane treatment of and respect for all human beings? Can we say “…it’s not our business…” as we pay the taxes and pour profits into the accounts of nationals who Hate…who legislate and act on said Hate?
Can we take a stand for what we know is right and still have a business?
So: the information:
Again, these are calls that no one of us can make for another. The only universal action available to us is to simply inform and be informed. Decisions must lie with the Individuals and Boards.
Even a quickly-gathered list of Areas and Governments of Concern is exhausting to read.
Since the Sochi games brought to the world’s attention the Putin government’s policy of overt harassment, humiliation and torture of Russia’s LGBTQ population, there has been increasing public scrutiny and outcry. Yet, gay people are still disappearing from Chechnya and incidents such at that cited in the above news article continue to proliferate.
4) San Antonio tossed Chick-fil-A out of their airport.
This franchise chain has been giving millions to anti-gay hate groups for years. Yet, we are continually surprised at the number of otherwise conscious and aware peers and colleagues who have no idea that this is taking place. Other towns and college campuses are following suit.
5) Qatar: Sharia law in Qatar applies only to Muslims, who can be put to death for extramarital sex, regardless of sexual orientation.
6) Saudi Arabia: Under the country’s interpretation of sharia law, a married man engaging in sodomy or any non-Muslim who commits sodomy with a Muslim can be stoned to death. All sex outside of marriage is illegal.
7) Afghanistan: The Afghan Penal Code does not refer to homosexual acts, but Article 130 of the Constitution allows recourse to be made to sharia law, which prohibits same-sex sexual activity in general. Afghanistan’s sharia law criminalizes same-sex sexual acts with a maximum of the death penalty. No known cases of death sentences have been meted out since the end of Taliban rule in 2001.
8 Somalia: The penal code stipulates prison, but in some southern regions, Islamic courts have imposed sharia law and the death penalty.
9) Sudan: Three-time offenders under the sodomy law can be put to death; first and second convictions result in flogging and imprisonment. Southern parts of the country have adopted more lenient laws.
10) Mauritania: Muslim men engaging in homosexual sex can be stoned to death, according to a 1984 law, though none have been executed so far. Women face prison.
11) Nigeria: Federal law classifies homosexual behavior as a felony punishable by imprisonment, but several states have adopted sharia law and imposed a death penalty for men. A law signed in early January makes it illegal for gay people countrywide to hold a meeting or form clubs.
12) Yemen: According to the 1994 penal code, married men can be sentenced to death by stoning for homosexual intercourse. Unmarried men face whipping or one year in prison. Women face up to seven years in prison.
13) Iran: In accordance with sharia law, homosexual intercourse between men can be punished by death, and men can be flogged for lesser acts such as kissing. Women may be flogged.
14) South Carolina: California is banning state-funded travel to South Carolina because of policies it considers discriminatory toward LGBT people.
Attorney General Xavier Becerra announced the ban Tuesday. He says a provision in a budget bill passed last year allows faith-based child-placing agencies to discriminate against those who do not conform to their religious beliefs or moral convictions, including members of the LGBTQ community.
Becerra’s decision is based on a 2017 California law that bans state-funded or state-sponsored travel to states that authorize discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. California already bars official travel to Alabama, Kansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee and Texas.
All food for thought: IMHO
Popular throughout the Milky Way and Andromeda Galaxies,
“Treating one’s colleagues with respect is a basic best practice in life and business. The themed entertainment industry is a unique business community: highly collaborative, highly creative and bringing together many different cultures and ways of doing business. It is also a field in which many people remain for the whole of their professional careers. To help ensure that TEA events are friendly, safe, and welcoming for all participants, at all times, these guidelines help identify unacceptable behavior and indicate steps that may be taken to help ensure a safe and positive experience for all.”
In a bold and timely act of international leadership, the TEA (Themed Entertainment Association) has published a set of Appropriate Conduct Guidelines for all TEA Events, worldwide.
In this writer’s experience, we have not seen a policy as broad, specific, clear and articulate inserted into the actual ticket-purchasing process as caveat for participation in all events, meetings, conferences or special occasions.
It has been barely a year since our Summit Stage was host to a hard-hitting presentation and discussion on the #MeToo initiative and the insidious presence of subtextual and overt sexual harassment in our professional contexts…indeed, throughout our lives.
That presentation opened a frank discussion and awareness of the virtually invisible energy that can pervade various gatherings; unrecognized by those who aren’t the direct target of abuse or discomfort – while completely undermining the experience of those targeted.
The backstory of this newly created edict includes a committed, vocal group of members choosing to create their own protected “safe table” at our annual Thea Awards Event on April 14 of this year – a night to which many fondly, wryly refer as “The Theme Park Prom.” As this move to create a safe space within our space came to light; the concept and conversation were ultimately embraced by TEA Leadership and, in short order (especially for a non-profit bureaucracy!), this code was born.
The TEA has listened to and handily heard from myriad factions within their membership and moved with alacrity to create and establish these guidelines…guidelines-with-teeth, one might say.
Beyond identifying general guidelines, the document makes room for the singular incident that may cause discomfort. It provides for immediate courses of action and immediate, on-site consequences for violation of the precepts of this code.
Identifying unacceptable behaviors and harassment
What to do if unacceptable conduct takes place
Consequences of violating behavior guidelines
…and closes with this:
“By their nature, TEA events often combine professional activities with social interaction. This is core to business networking and to fostering connections between participants, with the goal of fostering industry growth and improvement. TEA reserves the right to remove anyone whose social attentions become unwelcome to another, particularly if the behavior continues after their unwelcome nature has been communicated to the offending party. TEA also reserves the right to remove any participant who appears inebriated. TEA further reserves the right to remove any participant who engages in conduct that interferes with the ability of others to participate in and enjoy the event.”
While this document and policy are likely organic, and may evolve with time and practice; as they stand they are comprehensive, inclusive and above all a powerful statement in support of all members and guests.
This is landmark. Worthy of accolade and acknowledgement.
Kudos to the groundbreakers, the conversation starters and TEA leadership for moving fast and cleanly.
Worth a read, worth emulating; the entire document (it’s only two pages) is available here.
On a recent cold, wet morning, I turned the corner into my street and encountered this. Here it is; an articulately painful metaphor for homelessness.
I get it. I don’t kid myself. Homelessness is a smelly, dirty, often noisy, unpleasant, sometimes dangerous and at least scary element of thousands of neighborhoods and cities. No argument.
Some are homeless due to drugs and concomitant mental deterioration, some due only to mental deterioration, some out of a downward slide into hopeless poverty, some out of sudden, unforeseen circumstance.
While I hate the problem, recognize the complexity and do not know how to solve it; I can’t hate these people. Whatever the point of view each hold that keeps them on the street; they are each and every one of them human beings. Someone’s child.
I imagine the experience of having no shelter, no anchor, no place that is “mine” can erode one’s self respect, self esteem, view of the world. I can excuse the anger I encounter (as difficult as it is to deal with); it just makes me so sad.
Imagine having no place to simply shit. No place. Every day seeking an open bathroom, some retailer’s brave courtesy, being relegated to finding a space behind a dumpster or someplace where no one can see… And failing to find it in time.
Shame. Humiliation. Rage. Pain. Despair. This photo says all that with one image. Just toss the pants and give up.
My personal approach is to look each in the eye, acknowledging the humanity therein…sometimes deep and barely there…hoping at least to offer a sense of recognition – of being seen – as Human and present.
Sometimes, that can become an uncomfortable begging situation; but far more often it’s just a kind word and a nod from both of us. I can contribute that. At least.