Thoughts on better parenting, teaching, management, and leadership

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COMMENTARY 892.2: Good Ethics Make Better Relationships

August 11, 2014 Relationships

While I believe that good things tend to happen to people who consistently choose the high road, the correlation between ethics and success is a loose one at best. Thus, it’s pretty hard to sincerely promote ethics by appeals to self-interest. What’s more, when self-interest is the controlling justification for moral behavior, moral reasoning is […]

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COMMENTARY 892.1: Will, Fern, and the Power of Encouragement

August 8, 2014 Attitude

Two frogs named Will and Fern fell into a deep pit together. At first, they thought it would be easy to jump out. But after lots of failed attempts they cried for help and a crowd of animals gathered around the pit. Everyone agreed it was hopeless so they urged Will and Fern to accept […]

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COMMENTARY 891.5: Grocery Store Ethics

August 7, 2014 The Nature of Character

You can tell a lot about people’s character by how they act at the grocery store. I remember being in a crowded store when there was a shortage of shopping carts. A prosperous-looking fellow was pushing a cart when another man stopped him. “Excuse me,” the second man said, “but this is my cart.” The […]

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COMMENTARY 891.4: Acting on Principle and Good Intentions

August 6, 2014 Attitude

I once heard a story about an emergency medical technician I’ll call Jake who was summoned to help an unconscious woman. When he arrived, she had no pulse. From her color and dilated eyes, he could tell she’d suffered serious brain damage. Still, he did his job exceptionally well, trying over and over to restart […]

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COMMENTARY 891.3: What Is the Most Difficult CEO Job in the Nation? I Nominate School Principal.

August 5, 2014 Character

Schools all over the nation are struggling to modify their strategies to meet the Common Core demands regarding critical thinking and problem solving. They must also find ways to teach 21st Century workplace skills, enhance students’ social and emotional development, and, of course, build their character so they become responsible and productive citizens. Oh, they must also […]

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COMMENTARY 891.2: “He Made You”

August 4, 2014 Choices

As Lily Tomlin said, “No matter how cynical I get, I can’t keep up.” Our economy has been shattered by widespread corporate fraud; kids lie, steal, and cheat at unprecedented rates; and their parents beat up each other or referees at youth sports events or supply alcohol to fuel organized hazing. Our confidence in the […]

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You Can’t Lose by Relentlessly Pursuing Excellence

August 1, 2014 Character

As I embark on a pilgrimage with my 65-year-old little brother to see the Baseball Hall of Fame, I am also frantically trying to complete a book on “The Exemplary Policing Organization.” As my two worlds collided, I got to thinking about what it means to be exemplary, to be one of the best ever at something […]

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COMMENTARY 891.1: Accountability in the Workplace

August 1, 2014 Leadership

Lately I’ve been spending a lot of time consulting with large companies concerned with strengthening their ethical culture. Although I’m sure the leaders I work with care about ethics and virtue for their own sake, I know the driving force to seek outside assistance is self-interest. The risk of reputation-damaging and resource-draining charges resulting from […]

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COMMENTARY 890.5: The Dangers of Absolutism

July 31, 2014 The Nature of Character

The world of ethics spreads from the borders of the absolutists, who think every moral question has a clear and single answer, to the coast of the relativists, who believe ethics is a matter of personal opinion or regional custom. In distinguishing right from wrong, absolutists don’t see much of a difference between mathematical calculation […]

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COMMENTARY 890.4: Justin’s Introduction to Candor

July 30, 2014 Honesty

When my son Justin was in high school, I went to an open house to meet his teachers. I was taken aback when one teacher casually mentioned that she had disciplined my son for cheating on a homework assignment. I asked my son why he hadn’t told me about this incident. “You didn’t ask,” he […]

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It’s easy to find people who understand costs. The challenge is to find people who understand values.

July 29, 2014 Quotes, Observations
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COMMENTARY 890.3: Eighteen Random Rules of Life

July 29, 2014 The Good Life

I love maxims, those concise capsules of worldly wisdom. I collect them and write them and, of course, love to share them. Here are 18 random rules of life worth posting on your mirror or, better yet, using as dinner-time discussion starters. Find the lesson in every failure and you’ll never fail. The likelihood that […]

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Four Exceptional Insights I Wish I Understood Long Ago

July 28, 2014 Commentaries

1) The art of acceptance is the art of making someone who has just done you a small favor wish that he might have done you a greater one. Russell Lynes. 2) People won’t remember everything you say or do but they always remember how you made them feel.- Maya Angelou 3) Feeling grateful and […]

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COMMENTARY 890.2: Parents Are Teachers First

July 28, 2014 Parenting, Family

When John Wooden, the legendary basketball coach, referred to the last game he “ever taught,” he was asked about this phrasing. He said simply that a coach is first and foremost a teacher who should not only improve his players’ athletic skills, but also help them become better people. And he was a superb teacher […]

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COMMENTARY 890.1: Trust Is More Important Than Truth

July 25, 2014 Parenting, Family

A study titled “Parenting by Lying” reveals that most parents lie to their children, even though they tell their kids lying is wrong. The parents surveyed said they didn’t feel guilty because their lies were intended to accomplish legitimate parental goals such as getting a child to stop crying or protecting a child from feeling […]

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COMMENTARY 889.5: The Parable of Brother Leo

July 24, 2014 Leadership

An old legend tells of a monastery in France well-known throughout Europe because of the extraordinary leadership of a man known only as Brother Leo. Several monks began a pilgrimage to visit Brother Leo to learn from him. Almost immediately the monks began to bicker over who should do various chores. On the third day […]

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The Best Is Yet to Come … But Only if You Believe It

July 23, 2014 Quick Thoughts

If you are having a bad day . . . or week . . . or month . . . have a serious talk with yourself and decide what it will take to move on. Preoccupation with your problems, no matter how serious, compounds them and imprisons you in a dark dungeon. There is no […]

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COMMENTARY 889.4: The Best Dad

July 23, 2014 Parenting, Family

Years ago I heard a story of a dad named Paul who gave his young son a small chalkboard to practice writing on. One evening his son called out from the bedroom, “Dad, how do you spell best?” Paul answered him. Moments later, the boy hollered, “How do you spell kid?” Finally he asked, “How […]

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COMMENTARY 889.3: The Blue Stone and the White Lie

July 22, 2014 Honesty

This story is about a truth-versus-caring ethical dilemma I once had. I think I did the right thing but I keep wondering if there was a better way. I was putting my two-year-old to bed when Abrielle, who was four, came screaming down the hall in a panic. Samara, the five-and-a-half-year-old, was right behind her […]

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COMMENTARY 889.2: Advice About Teens

July 21, 2014 Parenting, Family

Here are three suggestions for the parents of young teens, all learned through my own mistakes: First, remember, with emerging demands for independence, worries about peer acceptance, pressures of school and extra-curricular activities and a continuous search for self-identity, adolescents are on a physical and emotional roller coaster. Like every generation before them (including yours), […]

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COMMENTARY 889.1: Box Full of Love

July 18, 2014 Caring, Compassion

Todd was a sadly quiet eleven-year-old struggling to adjust to the death of his mother. His father left long ago and he was living with an aunt who made it known that she resented the responsibility. On several occasions, Sheryl, the boy’s teacher, heard the aunt tell Todd, “If it weren’t for my generosity you […]

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COMMENTARY 888.5: Do I Have to Tell Everything?

July 17, 2014 Choices

Can a job applicant properly withhold information about a criminal record or being fired in a previous job? Can a woman who has just started dating properly say nothing about a previous marriage or abortion? These are problems of candor: When does an ethical person have a duty to reveal negative information about his past? […]

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Thumbnail image for COMMENTARY 888.4: Mental Sunshine and Flowers

COMMENTARY 888.4: Mental Sunshine and Flowers

July 16, 2014 Caring, Compassion

Dave had to undergo painful throat surgery. Since he’s not a young man and makes his living as a professional speaker, the experience was frightening and traumatic. He told me his surgeon was skilled and the hospital workers were competent, but the cold indifference of the parade of nurses and doctors who came in and […]

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Thumbnail image for COMMENTARY 888.3: Using All Your Strength

COMMENTARY 888.3: Using All Your Strength

July 15, 2014 Choices

A young boy was walking with his father along a country road. When they came across a very large tree branch the boy asked, “Do you think I could move that branch?” His father answered, “If you use all your strength, I’m sure you can.” So the boy tried mightily to lift, pull and push […]

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Thumbnail image for COMMENTARY 888.2: The Struggle Between Wants and Shoulds

COMMENTARY 888.2: The Struggle Between Wants and Shoulds

July 14, 2014 Commentaries

As a full-time ethicist – can you believe there is such a thing? – I spend most of my time talking about right and wrong with parents and politicians, kids and corporate managers, journalists and generals. One thing I’ve learned is that ethics – being a good person and doing the right thing – is […]

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Thumbnail image for COMMENTARY 888.1: The Ethics of Gay Rights and Same-Sex Marriage

COMMENTARY 888.1: The Ethics of Gay Rights and Same-Sex Marriage

July 11, 2014 Caring, Compassion

(This is one of those commentaries that evokes passionate response and, sadly, a few people will disagree so strongly that they decide to cut me out of their lives by cancelling their newsletter subscription or putting me on the “block sender” list. I realize the issue of same-sex marriage is only one aspect of the […]

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Thumbnail image for COMMENTARY 887.5: The Greyhound Principle

COMMENTARY 887.5: The Greyhound Principle

July 10, 2014 Commentaries

Racing dogs are trained to chase a mechanical rabbit that always goes a little faster than the fleetest dog. This causes them to run faster than they otherwise would. Companies that annually set overly ambitious performance objectives for their employees employ this greyhound principle. To a point, it works. Most people achieve more when expectations […]

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Thumbnail image for COMMENTARY 887.4: Enough Is Enough

COMMENTARY 887.4: Enough Is Enough

July 9, 2014 Choices

What does it take to make you happy? How much do you have to have to be grateful? To the barefoot man, happiness is a pair of old shoes. To the man with old shoes, it’s a pair of new shoes. To the man with new shoes, it’s more stylish shoes. And, of course, the […]

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Thumbnail image for COMMENTARY 887.3: Learning From Pigeons

COMMENTARY 887.3: Learning From Pigeons

July 8, 2014 Choices

During an experiment, pigeons were put in cages with one green and one red button.  In one cage, if the birds pecked the green button they would get food every time.  In the other, the green button yielded food erratically and the pigeons had to persist to get enough food.  In both cases, pecking the […]

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Thumbnail image for COMMENTARY 887.2: Being Decisive

COMMENTARY 887.2: Being Decisive

July 7, 2014 Commentaries

Frank is a new supervisor who wants to do well. Maria consistently comes in late. When he confronts her, she makes a joke out of it. Hoping to win friendship and loyalty, Frank is painfully patient with her, but Pat, a conscientious employee, urges him to do more. Soon others begin to come in late, […]

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