It was unmistakable, the inner voice I heard as I hiked the rim trail at Crater Lake National Park.
Take your eyes off your feet.
I learned long ago, around the same time I first flew in an airplane and looked out the window, that I’m not afraid of heights. But I am afraid of falling. Put a barrier — a railing, a stone wall, an airplane window — between me and thin air, and I’ll walk right up and soak in the view. Take away the barrier and you’ll find me inching back from the edge, looking for a safe patch of ground.
There was no barrier along this stretch of trail. Just some grass and brush, and then a cliff of several hundred feet — the edge of Crater Lake. The view was amazing. But much of the time my head was down — noticing every bit of mud and every uneven spot that might make me slip or stumble.
That’s when the inner voice said Take your eyes off your feet.
Busted! I’d been so focused on avoiding a fall, that I’d lost sight of my goal: to enjoy the hike and see the scenery. I knew I had no excuse, except plain old fear.
So I took a deep breath, focused my eyes on the top of the next rise, about 100 yards ahead, and started walking. Continue reading
This week, 14-year Ahmed Mohammed was led away from school in handcuffs after police and school officials thought his homemade clock looked like a bomb. You probably heard about it, as I did, on Facebook or Twitter.
I find so many aspects of this story appalling.
14-year old Ahmed Mohammed (Source: Dallas Morning News)
A bright kid with a passion for engineering — the kind of kid we should be celebrating — was humiliated and outrageously accused. Americans are increasingly skeptical of science. It seems now that we’re feeling threatened by science as well.
Worse, none of the supposed grownups in the story bothered to learn the truth. Confronted with the truth — Ahmed insisted all along that the device was a clock — they chose to persist in their ignorance.
Worst of all, Ahmed was singled out because he has brown skin and a Muslim name. Don’t tell me he wasn’t. He never would’ve been handcuffed if he’d looked like Wally Cleaver and his name had been Josh or Ryan.
Say what you want about this episode. It showed people — educators and police officers, the very people who should know better — behaving at their absolute worst.
Here’s the thought that echoed the loudest to me: Continue reading
This one’s personal. It’s the story of one of the biggest leadership challenges I’ve ever faced: a good employee whose performance declined but who didn’t (or couldn’t) admit that she had a problem.
Jenny (not her real name) was one of the best pure writers who ever worked for me. She came to me highly recommended, with a history of success both at work and outside of work. When she joined our project, her subject-matter experts quickly came to love her: she was congenial, she asked good questions, and she respected their time. She showed enthusiasm and a positive, can-do attitude.
Soon after we began working together, Jenny told me that she was going through a difficult divorce and adjusting to life as a single mom. She needed a flexible schedule, to accommodate the kids’ activities. We agreed that she could do much of her work at home and in the evenings. I avoided scheduling meetings and important calls in mid-afternoon when she picked up the kids at school. The arrangement suited everyone, at least for a while.
Then she started missing deadlines. She’d assure me that a chapter would be finished by Friday. Then on Friday she’d ask if it could wait until Monday, promising to work over the weekend.
I asked her if things were OK, if she could use some help. The answer was always the same: I’ve got this. I can handle it.
But she wasn’t handling it. Continue reading