Is A Hack-Attack Cybercrime Summer Coming?

Why does a leading Technologist out there battling cybercrime think this is going to be an historically bad summer for business hacks and ransom? Maybe not the most surprising prediction given the plethora of cybercrime news every day. What may shock you is how smaller companies can bear the brunt of the pain of criminal activity this summer, and beyond. Adam Karp, Managing Partner and Co-Founder of KL Tech answered a few questions with information that every business owner should know–before it’s too late.

Adam Karp, Co-Founder, Managing Partner – KL Tech

Q.   Adam, you’ve been dealing with computer security for the last 20 years but you have been quoted saying this summer is going to be horrific, the worst cybercrime season ever, why?

A.   Watching the nightly news should be giving anyone with a computer network the chills. We are seeing the sheer volume of hacking intrusions skyrocket and what’s really frightening is that only a small fraction of them make the news. Evidencing this are the numerous new companies that facilitate creating Bitcoin Wallets, mostly to help companies pay ransom.

Q.    Isn’t the real risk only to big businesses with big data who are targets for multi-million-dollar ransoms? Why go after smaller companies?

A.     The news reports might make you think that way, but we are seeing a 10-fold increase in the contacts we are getting from business who have already been breached. These range from big networks to small companies with only a handful of devices. Whatever your size it can be devastating and threaten the business’s existence if customer data or proprietary information is stolen. Something as basic as losing your electronic schedules can wreak havoc not to mention the cost of a ransom. For every Colonial Pipeline there are a multitude of smaller business attacks that are occurring every day. Companies don’t publicize the embarrassment; you’d be shocked how many businesses you know that have been victims.

Q.    So, what do companies that are breached have in common?

A.    To start, they aren’t our client. Seriously though, we won’t offer Managed Services to a company that isn’t going to utilize our comprehensive cyber defense strategy because there are so many vulnerability points. Companies that have anti-virus software, backup and utilize cloud computing may think they are safe.  It’s sad, and they are shocked to discover that isn’t enough, not nearly enough, with the criminal sophistication these days.

Q.   Where are you seeing the most vulnerability?

A.     Sadly, it’s across the board.  Sometimes it’s a phishing or spoofing program that enters via email, sometimes it’s poor password discipline. The bad guys know what they’re doing, once they get into your systems, they will look for and delete any backups they can locate before                                 launching the Ransomware.  We have also seen cloud resources like Office 365 Mailboxes become encrypted and held for ransom.

Q.    Is all of this coming from Russia and sophisticated cybercrime syndicates?

A.    That is a very active source targeting infrastructures and multi-national companies. Their success breeds more attacks until security catches up and vulnerabilities are mitigated. Still, for every “big” hack there are innumerable smaller infiltrations. You can go on the dark web today and buy a hacking kit online! Not only can any criminal with a computer hack any size business, there’s even a cybercrime “helpdesk” they can pay to help them if they encounter resistance.

Q.   What’s the answer, or is it so hopeless you just have to pray you don’t get hit?

A.    No, it’s not easy but not hopeless. Doing nothing probably means you are dealing with when and not if you will get hit but top Managed Services Providers like us are able to assemble a suite of leading-edge tools and best practices that together form the strongest defense yet.

Q.   Is paying for a cyber security via a Managed Services Provider a get it and forget it option?

A.   If it was only that simple. While we do handle the heavy lifting and provide 24/7/365 system and device monitoring, security must include the behaviors of users and employees. When we take on a new client we tell them up front that they will have to use a Password Management solution and have their staff go through our Security Best Practices training.

Q.   Is that because security is only as strong as the weakest link?

A.   Absolutely, and while our tools minimize infiltration impacts an employee can inadvertently facilitate through poor password discipline or email spoofing (where an email looks to be from their boss), or working from home, there are a host of things that together create vulnerability. That’s why our service includes End Point Detection, Mobile Device Security, Email Security, Vulnerability Scanning and Dark Web monitoring, to name a few of the elements we include.

Q.    The Dark Web, that always seems like some scary mystery, is it?

A.     At our initial demo with prospects we provide a Dark Web scan and they are shocked when we show their company, employee, and personal passwords that are already available on the dark web. That’s the place where much of the breached information is bought and sold so having that monitored is a critical part of security that is often overlooked.

Q.     You paint a gloomy picture for this Hack Attack Summer, should business owners be losing sleep thinking it’s not if but when, as you say, their system gets attacked?

A.     I wouldn’t blame anyone in business for losing sleep if they haven’t fully modernized their cyber defenses. For any business that relies on computing and data there is a real fighting chance if they do the work to make sure they have all the leading-edge systems covering all the vulnerability points and have someone with expertise monitoring it all, who knows what to do, when an intrusion attempt is detected.

Q.   How does KL Tech help business owners sleep better?

A.    We know that cybersecurity isn’t a core competency of most businesses so just for the asking, we happily provide them with both a free security audit and dark web scan to identify if they have vulnerabilities. The good news for businesses is that the costs of defense today are practically a no-brainer in contrast to the cost and consequences of a security breach. Companies can reach out to us at info@kltech.com and sleep well this summer.

www.kltech.com

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To fix it, well that’s a pain. Sure, it doesn’t work the way it should right now, and that’s a pain, but it works a little and that seems less of a pain than having to fix it and who says the fix will be any better? Ever wander through that rationalization? When fixing it is clearly what you probably should do but it’s expensive, or time consuming, or means downtime or any other number of factors so you put up with a small problem over and over to avoid dealing with a big one. This is what leading behavioral psychologists call the PIA Quotient. Well, maybe leading consultants call it that, okay maybe I’m the only one who calls it that.

We make these calls all over our lives. Some people have no stomach for anything out of perfect order and will immediately repair, replace or reconsider a problem. Others have little need for perfection and extra work so if it works, sort of, then leave it alone. Most of us fall somewhere in the middle depending on what the pain is, how big it is, and how important we view the end results to our lives. My inspiration to turn this business/life dynamic into a math equation came from my own behavior observation:

In my home office I have an overhead light with a pull switch. (Since the house was built in 1903 there weren’t a lot of wall switches around and putting in new house wiring for one light was beyond the PIA Quotient’s calculation, and mine.) One morning I gave the light a pull and snap the cord comes out. I’ve dealt with fixing pull switches and it’s, well a pain you-know-where. Dutifully, I went to the home goods store and bought another light, not a very expensive item. I was there anyway, so that lead to the next decision.

Turns out that by taking off the fixture cover I can reach up with my handy Claw Picker and I can give a little turn to the light bulbs and voila, let there be light–or light off. To fix it I’ve got to go get a ladder, figure out which circuit in the basement to shut off, pull the old unit out of the ceiling. Then, wire in and install the new one…up and down the ladder, up and down to the basement, what a pain. So the new light sits nicely in the box on a shelf patiently awaiting the correct math to make the change.

So do the math…

Here’s the math. To reach up and screw/unscrew a light bulb (yes it only takes one lazy consultant with a pole grabber) the inconvenience factor seems minimal, give that a number. The open fixture isn’t very pretty but I’m the only one in my home office and I don’t generally look up! Give that a number. The inconvenience for the changeover is significant and even though there is a payoff over time by not having to repeat the mild inconvenience or minor eye sore I’m yet to find the necessity in changing it. Somewhere in there is a formula of Difficulty x Sacrifice ÷ Benefit = What to do. Sucking in practical math I keep that theoretical and figure I know the answer in my head.

If my light set off any eureka bulbs it was realizing how many clients face the same dilemma in any number of areas. There’s the employee who’s been around a while and isn’t very good but they get some things right and hiring and training a replacement? High PIA Quotient! Getting a new outsource Payroll (or any) service to replace the one that hasn’t performed to your liking? Well, you’ve got to find a new one, create a transition and not be guaranteed the next one will be any better. The process that gets done despite regular agony…it’s the devil you know versus the devil you fear, which do you choose.

There are usually factors that can justify delaying a fix or not doing it. I remember the late Harry Quadracci, founder of Quad Graphics, summarizing an automation idea. We were in the Dominican Republic and toured an enormous cigar making facility. After seeing the hundreds of employees performing repeated manual tasks and walking components all over the factory Harry said, “I could come in here with robots and automation speed up the process and eliminate 90% of the people…and lose lots of money!”

The next time you look at a tool, a process, a program or a person and think, “We should do better.” The answer is sure, you probably can. Determining if the change pain is worth the change benefit will be your PIA Quotient and everyone’s number is different. In other words, if you don’t want to do it then use math to explain why not, who can argue with that?!

©2021 MyEureka Solutions LLC. For help developing your PRODUCTIVITY, strategy or other BUSINESS THERAPY insights follow or contact me on LinkedIn or Twitter @TomFoxTrainer, or check out www.myeurekasolutions.com/thoughts. My current book: Business Therapy: Ideas and Inspirations To Help Build Sales, Leadership, Management, and Personal Performance is available on Amazon.

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photo by Pressman for Pexels

If there’s anything that our partially dismembered, pandemic reactive business cycle has demonstrated it is the value of leadership–and the consequences of its lacking. The key elements to success for businesses who have been allowed to operate have been their adaptability, particularly in technical resources and employee disbursement and their leadership. Of course things like their digital presence and employee quality have shone through as well but nothing mattered more than leadership.

A quick search on the topic, if you think you can learn it from a list or a Wikipedia listing will reveal all kinds of personal styles from democratic to autocratic and plenty of “C” words like communication and clarity, coaching and character and yadda, yadda, yadda. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with the academic understanding of Leadership, I teach all those things myself, but their value is minimized without the context of principles behind them. Everyone knows how to read instructions to assemble an IKEA unit but there’s a reason some people get it done right and some people find out when they think they are done that they put one side in upside down. The following three leadership principles will hopefully keep your leadership from having to undo it when you thought you had it.

PRINCIPLE #1 — To thine own self be true…but know what that is.

The variations in style are rarely all purpose all the time. In truth there are times to be autocratic, times to be democratic and times to delegate. Knowing which to use when can be the art of leadership but knowing where you are comfortable, where you excel and where you are deficient is the main focus of this principle. It does not mean that if you aren’t good at delegating you should adopt a non-delegating style, quite the opposite. The better leaders count on their strengths but know enough to develop their weaknesses. Situational leadership calls for leaders to adapt to the need and not for the need to be met by a single style where one may be “better.”

Self-awareness and self-honesty are paramount to developing leadership. One’s character is also challenged in the tougher times so a single uncontrolled character flaw can undo mounds of leadership learning and experience. Recognizing how you react to stress and, more important, how you diffuse or create stress will have as much impact as any order you give or any charge you delegate. Confidence shouldn’t come from knowing you can do anything or everything, it comes from being able to tell the difference and understand how to manage the gaps.

PRINCIPLE #2 — Knowledge is useless with a vision.

Leadership without vision is like traveling without a destination. Sure, you’ll get somewhere but is it where you want to be or your company needs to be? While there is no substitute for experience that doesn’t mean you can’t lead without it. The substitute, however, has to be knowledge. Understanding your company, its culture and character. Knowing your industry, who are the leaders and why? Knowing your customers, what do they want and reject? This is where a combination of an academic approach, read relevant current news and history, study the insights of others as well as the opinions of others, merges with the lessons of experience.

Peer networking in this regard can be an enormous benefit to your education. Like any good salesman knows, you have two eyes and one mouth, use them in that proportion. When you’ve absorbed enough knowledge and or experience you are ready to develop your vision. Write it down, add complexity as you go and don’t be afraid to create goals with as much emphasis on your eraser as your pencil (sorry, your delete key as much as your alpha keys, ’cause what’s a pencil?)

PRINCIPLE #3 — “Vision without action is merely a dream…” Joel A. Barker

Let me finish Mr. Barker’s quote, “Vision without action is merely a dream, action without vision merely passes the time. Vision with action can change the world.” Or at least your little corner of it. Applying knowledge to a vision and turning the vision to actions and delivering it within an effective leadership paradigm is really the whole point to leadership and ultimately how it is judged. When you assess your leadership try for a point to not consider what you earned, what your company grossed, how many people seem to love you, etc. Instead assess to what degree you have gained knowledge, created a vision based on that and enacted with goals and disseminated and discharged with a high degree of efficiency and effectiveness.

That might sound a little summarily simple but effectiveness is often overshadowed by results. If we hit our number we must be doing something right, right? Wrong. Think of the businesses that were killing it before the pandemic and then were getting killed after it. I’m not talking about where there was no control. Even those with little control over their destiny have winners and losers. A client who was very successful doing event entertainment was challenged when events practically disappeared but his ability to create virtual alternatives not only kept him in business but has opened up new markets as he is no longer constrained by how far his entertainers have to drive thanks to virtual alternatives.

I’m not one to regularly quote old Maggie Thatcher but I have to conclude with a deep agreement with something she said, “Leadership is about having principles. A leader must have a vision and principles that will endure for all time and must always be true to these principles, applying them to changing circumstances.” While those principles are more intended as moral compass points it is equally applicable looking at the principles used to develop your leadership. Find the path, have the plan and as Mr. Miyagi said brusquely,  “There is no try, there is only do or do not.” As a leader I hope you do do. (That may be a quote from Bart Simpson : )

©2021 MyEureka Solutions LLC. For help developing your LEADERSHIP, strategy or other BUSINESS THERAPY insights follow or contact me on LinkedIn or Twitter @TomFoxTrainer, or check out www.myeurekasolutions.com/thoughts. My current book: Business Therapy: Ideas and Inspirations To Help Build Sales, Leadership, Management, and Personal Performance is available on Amazon.

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“One is the loneliest number,” a song way back once lamented. As we enter the first week of the first month of 2021 the number one abounds. As our fundamental quantity of existence we hear it a lot in life and business. “What’s your number 1 goal?” “If you could have one thing to make things better, what would it be?” “What’s the one thing that’s most important to you?” We use the primest prime number to distill things to their fundamental element, to clarify their essence. The same can be applied to your business, your life, your purpose.

I remember the most memorable networking description I ever heard came from a guy at a Fordham U. event. He used one word to describe himself, “I’m a man of faith.” Nuf said. A coach colleague I know recently posted a challenge to businesses to define what they do in one, clear sentence. Standard enough, provides clarity. The structure is basic, what is it that you do for the people who pay you. Good sentence makers, like good networkers can provide a concise, compound sentence that aptly describes what it is their company does. The better sentence descriptors will reveal value and/or intention or perhaps anticipated results. That’s all well and good, everyone should do it for their company or their job.

When I work with companies, particularly on leadership, I like to go a step deeper and challenge any owner and executives to define their company in just one word. You may remember Curly out on the range telling a City Slicker that you have to find your one thing that gives life meaning and work on that to be happy. Well without dropping down to do one-armed pushups (tribute to Jack Palance) I can say that it is always an interesting exercise to hear the one word people come up with to describe their company and the discussion or debate that follows.

I’ll pause a minute while you come up with yours.

One sentence is a good way to define what you do, one word is a good way to define who you are as a company or a person. It works equally well as an exercise in life. Our “faith” guy example has one that clearly defines who he is in business and in life. When those are conjoined your chances for success, with much less stress, are far greater. Try it with your employees or co-workers, or family members for that matter.

When more than one person from a company come up with their one word it can be hugely revealing based on variations in the room. Is there a common belief in who you are? It is a great leadership measurement. If there’s a difference how do you explain it? To give an over-simplified example let’s say two top executives do the exercise, one declares, “Value,” the other declares “Profit.” What are the chances you’ve got alignment in purpose and process when those two work together? Before you try to align goals, align purpose.

What’s your defining word? Please share it below in the comments. If you do the quick exercise in a staff meeting share what you learned. For my company the one comes down to “Enlighten.” As a trainer, consultant and business therapist I don’t get authority to change anything except the way people thing. Sure, that can translates to behaviors but my job comes down to trying to give a thought or guidance or best practice or insight on a subject and help them move to a place where new actions create positive results.

As a simple definition “Enlighten” means to give greater knowledge and understanding of a subject or situation. The reason I think it fits my business is that, for better or worse, more than once I have made a clear case for a way of thinking or actions to be taken for a specific result but they don’t always get followed–but that’s for another business therapy session! The point is I don’t define my company for what I wish it to be or for the best case, I have found it clarifying to know my purpose and let the rest take care of itself. Perhaps you’ve been enlightened after reading this…if so, I’ve accomplished my purpose…how about yours?

©2021 MyEureka Solutions LLC. For help defining your purpose, or strategy or other BUSINESS THERAPY insights follow or contact me on LinkedIn or Twitter @TomFoxTrainer, or check out www.myeurekasolutions.com/thoughts. My current book: Business Therapy: Ideas and Inspirations To Help Build Sales, Leadership, Management, and Personal Performance is available on Amazon.

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If there’s one thing that’s been learned, and for some the hard way, in 2020 it is that COMMUNICATION is fundamental to business success. As the way we have had to adapt to doing our communication has driven us to video on computers and phone calls to replace the face-to-face variety that was previously dominant, many people have learned new lessons about the skill and art of excellent communicating. Those lessons need to be adapted into goals for 2021.

Whether we will drift back to pre-pandemic workplace paradigms or if business management interactions are forever altered communication is always critical to success for many obvious, and some less, reasons. In assessing and training leadership we look at communication as what you are saying [doing], how information is delivered, when it is timed and how it is received. Our newly “zoomed” world certainly has some benefits. Not the least of it is flexibility, five o’clock deadlines have given way to overnight submissions and much of the “meeting culture” inefficiency has been upgraded with more necessary and direct communication. The downside includes losing valuable non-verbal input from in person conversation and often a more transactional approach to work with a sacrifice to strategic ruminations. Again, communication improvement can always be a goal, for 2021 there are some tweaks to consider as we continue in our redefined workplace realities.

New Goals Approach

Whatever your adaption and learning curves have been with a decentralized and virtual workforce there are both nuances and blatant processes to consider delivering, or weaving into other goals as part of an operational target. Here are the top three considerations:

1) Create a Virtual Water Cooler: Encourage teams to have social interactions in small groups. “Lunch With A Leader” is an example where a department or selected group is invited to a virtual water cooler where the conversation is more social and personal than business. People can suffer from the loss of socialization, especially if it is replaced by isolation. Having a non-critical 30 minute “bull” session online can replace some of the non-productive, yet important, aspects of office life. There’s return on investment when you deepen professional relationships, learn more about the challenges, struggles of your people. Make it complimentary not critical and you’ll be amazed at how much actionable business input you get when the agenda is the opposite.

2) Scrum Baby, Scrum: One of the elements of team productivity that comes to us primarily from the project and technical departments is the concept of a “Scrum.” The plan there would be for say, a web development team, to have a daily 15-minute stand-up meeting where you go around the circle and everyone gives an update on what they accomplished yesterday, what’s on the docket for today, what are user changes or needs, etc. (Plenty of info online about how to.) While many teams have weekly staff meetings or scheduled project updates having everyone in a team on a daily 15-minute Zoom or mixed meeting is a discipline that not only facilitates timely communication but also creates a structure that can keep focus from drifting as workers mix their personal and professional lives at home.

3) It’s More Than The Work: Every boss needs pay attention to team productivity. However, volume or quality of work accomplished is not always a direct indicator of success to come. It is possible that issues that are in the background today and not a problem can soon magnify and will need to be sorted as something more serious than if there was early intervention. Anyone with a staff, team, employee or even colleague should be scheduling regular web cam time that is formal but not a performance review. I call it the “Neck-up Checkup” where the main questions are more like, “What challenges are you facing working from home?” “How are you dealing with that?” “What have you learned about our company or yourself seeing it from a new perspective.” “What could our company do differently that would make an improvement to your work experience?” The actual questions matter less than communicating a sense of caring and an opportunity to listen.

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The variables in the future as vaccinations avail and travel seems less dangerous no doubt will see much of our human-to-human interactions return but whatever the working situation you can count on communication skills and efforts being a defining aspect of success. In order to make our year of living dangerously translate into some positives we can take many of the communications lessons brought on by the methodology that became a new normal and affix their improvement into our goals. No company has ever said our communication with our employees was too good! Things always change, this year it has been drastic, but subtle adaptations in our communications can make fundamental improvements into what we accomplish.

©2020 MyEureka Solutions LLC. For help with your COMMUNICATION strategy or other BUSINESS THERAPY insights follow me on LinkedIn or Twitter @TomFoxTrainer, or www.myeurekasolutions.com/thoughts. My current book: Business Therapy: Ideas and Inspirations To Help Build Sales, Leadership, Management, and Personal Performance is available on Amazon.

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Whatever happened to middle ground? Has our society totally devalued any stance moved away from their own absolute, especially if they stand on the fringe? Is Moderate Republican now an oxymoron? Is it possible for a Social Progressive to be economically Conservative without scorn? How did we get here and more frightening, is the noise we hear all around us driving leadership in business mirroring our political and social media worlds?

When I started teaching Negotiating classes more than 10 years ago I strongly proclaimed that a successful negotiation was one in which both parties felt like they got something they wanted and it was not necessary for either party to get all they wanted, the old “win-win.” Has the meaning of “win” changed today to where it’s a “fail” if you don’t get all that you want? Have we applied the principles we see in political argument to business tactics in operations or negotiations?

In an argument the goal is to present a point of view in order to influence the belief of another. By it’s nature “argument” is usually laden with emotion and the higher that element the less likely any influence will take hold no matter how sound of reason or logic. Have negotiation behaviors been absconded by an argument mindset? Is leadership today “my way or the highway”? Have we positioned faith and logic in diametric corners never to be re-positioned with reason?

When it comes to leadership it is unlikely that people in power got there with wishy-washy opinions. That is not to say they are argumentative by nature but they are far more likely to be influencers than peace makers. What virtue is revered and pursued by tomorrow’s leaders? Is there any satisfaction in meeting halfway, disagreeing and staying friends, or do we only concede enough to stay firmly on our opinion’s side of the line? What is the havoc we can find in the wake of all win-lose stakes?

While social media arguments are entrenched with hurtful, hateful and angry rhetoric so to has the sophistication of the protagonists polarized opinions. They realize that if you say something enough times then truth becomes hostage to repetition. We are brain-wired to want things to be the way we believe they should be and today we have vilified those who suggest opposite to our belief for what we want. This is discouraging in political and diplomatic discourse but it can be downright disastrous in professional life. For good or bad money often becomes the only mitigation.

If we want to sell a thousand widgets but we end up selling 500 we can claim a victory because we have something tangible to put in the bank. Is it possible that we could find an emotional equivalent to financial compensation. Could we take satisfaction in knowing we have allowed an opponent or opposing opinion to share the direction? When we send someone away who has to take an order with them do we get better results if they go with belief that they have had influence, that they matter, that they are not all wrong or all right?

Unusually for me this post is far more about questions than it is about suggestions or answers but I will conclude with a simple one. An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth has emotional pain and pleasure but we all end up blind and toothless. Turning the other cheek may get both your cheeks slapped so while we know what losing looks like, do we understand the price we may pay to win? Maybe instead of offering Negotiating classes I should start an Art of Compromising class. I could offer it to our political leaders. Yeah, you’re right, no one would come.

©2020 MyEureka Solutions LLC. For help with your leadership strategy or BUSINESS THERAPY insights or more life and business musings contact or follow @TomFoxTrainer, at www.myeurekasolutions.com/thoughts, or on LinkedIn. Our current book: Business Therapy: Ideas and Inspirations To Help Build Sales, Leadership, Management, and Personal Performance is available on Amazon.

Tom Fox

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Shared misery is a unanimous theme for 2020. Whatever divides us in belief it’s indisputable that we have more newly discovered common reality than we’ve ever recognized before, even if we disagree on what, why or how to best go forward. Perhaps your business or life wasn’t hugely harmed, regardless, there’s a new world we’re experiencing and it can be challenging, taxing and depressing. The bad can be really bad, if not for us, someone we know or work with or care about, so while business is coming back, faster or slower, we all have plenty of work to try and bounce back and adjust to the new paradigms.

Some bounce is going to come to us with time, maybe not all, maybe more if we focus on the bounce. You might even fantasize a time machine to get back to where we were. Sci-fi be damned we will get there and soon enough want to bounce back beyond where we were. We can passively wait and hope or we can get after it and show determination to bounce back bigger! (That is without regard to whether you want Build Back Better or MAGA, after all that’s just political marketing for wanting mostly the same things when it comes to business and personal success.)

The path forward can still seem uncertain. Beyond what we can’t control, like the economy at large, there are no shortages of anchors weighing on our ships. There seems a near perfect storm of environmental catastrophes, pandemic behavior realignment, charged political discourse, social justice upheaval and a few other major downers that provide boatloads of excuses and reasons to suppress growth, enthusiasm and energy. In no way does that excuse leaders from providing the buoys to mark the path and a fast forwarding wake of success strategies to follow. Here are three fundamentals for a big bounce:

Key # 1 — BE POSITIVE

While there’s no place for Polyanna to take the podium, pretending the outside world isn’t a factor is likewise foolish. That doesn’t mean you can’t control the tone you set for how things will be in your world. The future starts from the present and drives, or floats forward, your choice. Positive messaging with an optimistic outlook and a focussed belief that what you aim for is possible with the right strategy, attitude and actions, whatever the challenges. Set the example and those who are acting, thinking, or believing differently will be forced to confront their perspective. If there’s dissent in your team, family or peers, find a way to do good together where the benefit for all is obvious. Most people want to be positive and having a convincing role model can set that course.

Key # 2 — BLOCK OUT THE NOISE

With the turmoil and upheaval that surrounds us all today it is natural to find it carried into the office or the Zoom meeting. It would be a mistake to stifle or disregard people with sincere feelings and a desire for action, in whatever direction, but the leader needs to keep the focus on the priorities of the business and find common purpose there. Remember that while you have your beliefs that may be hard or softly felt, whether it is politics, social justice or pandemic adaptations, people on both sides will have strongly held beliefs that they are right and may be frustrated or angry with the opposing view. It is not a leader’s job to set what beliefs are right or wrong, merely acknowledge the freedom, the liberty to believe and show respect for all opinions while being sure they don’t interfere or conflict with the company mission. A company must have a set of common beliefs and purpose to move forward so emphasize that and let the inside noise overtake the outside noise during pay time.

Key # 3 — EMPHASIZE THE FUNDIES

Look in any Hall of Fame of any type and you will see the occupants’ most common traits are exceptional fundamentals. Whether a trail blazer or one who marches proudly with, or for, the crowd it is paramount to bouncing back that you re-emphasize fundamental success traits. Revisit goals, they may need an adjustment or deliberation but don’t concede a stretch target. Align the attitude of your staff so that teamwork can flourish. Talk to people, hear them, recognize new personal and professional challenges but reward performance and examples of overcoming obstacles. Declare the vision, provide the tools, set the example, recognize and reward accomplishment, rinse and repeat. 

“Damn the torpedos, full speed ahead!”

Let’s avoid obsessing over the mess of a year it’s been, hell, it may get worse before it gets better! Believe that you can control much of your professional circumstances if you set your mind to it. Bring the effort and the enthusiasm and you may well find the joy that is supposed to accompany success. That’s the mission…should you choose to accept it.

©2020 MyEureka Solutions LLC. For help with your strategy or BUSINESS THERAPY insights or more life and business musings contact or follow @TomFoxTrainer, at www.myeurekasolutions.com/thoughts, or on LinkedIn. Our current book: Business Therapy: Ideas and Inspirations To Help Build Sales, Leadership, Management, and Personal Performance is available on Amazon.

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Despite the utility offered by the headline let’s not pretend that something as deeply seeded as systemic racism, which is often recognized only by its victims, is a simple matter. It is not, and that is because it follows many of the same ills and cures of any cultural problem. Ignoring racism because it may be unintended or even unconscious or believing it is solved with some diversity hiring is to suggest similarly to when I was a kid hearing racism clichés. “Some of my best friends are black,” was the mocked semi-measure and to suggest, “Some of our best employees are minorities,” is likewise missing the point. What is that point? The systems that have fostered racism have been self-sustaining and being well-meaning is as likely to cure this ill as much as washing your hands ends disease, it doesn’t.

Like any problem, illness or affliction there is no cure without several steps. These steps include: 1) Interest in honestly and openly evaluating the situation. 2) Admitting when there is a problem. 3) Just because there may not be a major problem does not mean there is no problem or benefit to improve. 4) A genuine desire to improve the situation based on facts and actions. 5) A plan and a commitment for that plan to be supported from the highest level in words and actions. 6) Measuring to see that not only is the issue improving but that core business functions, whatever they may be, likewise improve.

If there is no benefit to the change then why would any company or leader undertake it? Sure boardroom or social pressure or moral righteousness is a perfectly fine reason to rid your company, and yourself, of racism. Especially if you are to discover that perhaps you have contributed to it however unintentionally (minority or majority!). I discovered this reality some years back when I took a leadership role in dealing with industry and company environmental impact and sustainability. I could get top executives to recognize the values in going green from public relations to clean conscious but the reality was that unless the effort was considerate of the other green, money, it had little chance of becoming a systemic new reality. In that case you get the self-justifying attitude, “Well, we’d like to but it’s just too expensive to do right now.” So let’s not pretend that conquering something as complex as systemic family, corporate or company racism is going to end out of the moral goodness of the majority willing to empower the minority.

Time and cultural evolution however do produce positive change but that is no quick fix. Still, it does serve us to observe our own evolution. Examining the role of women in the American workplace has been a revolution, primarily born of necessity and of undeniable contribution. From a woman’s place being believed to be exclusively in the home early in the last century to an indispensable Rosie the Riveter in war time to the Mad Men era of gender dominated roles to the Feminist Revolution to lower and mid-level equality to today’s consciousness about the lack of women CEO’s and senior leaders and pay equality progress. In a relatively short time women in the workplace went from limited gender based role players to competing for seats, or the top seat, at the (formerly) big boy’s table.

Cultural change was accelerated when women became equally educated and households became either led by women or requiring of dual incomes to achieve household financial ambitions. In many cases women of color have been included with this progression because circumstances overlap and group inclusion can have many qualifiers. Is there a current necessity to end systemic racism in work-life equal to the dual income paradigm? If so, it is due to the social activism and changing social consciousness about what is right. Still, I will suggest that an economic imperative is what will create change above the snail’s pace we’ve seen to date.

So recognizing there is a “problem” is the start and finding a way to agree that changing the problem will create benefit for all will be the key acceleration catalyst. As the generations turn over in business some systematic influences will progress. Just as a male worker’s attitude about women in the workplace changed dramatically across a few decades so too can the meaning of diversity become one of economic advantage in addition to social and moral obligation. Let’s understand how these generations evolved.

OUR PAST CREATES OUR PRESENT BUT NOT OUR FUTURE

Sure, my own perspective is that of a 50-something white guy who climbed corporate ranks and then started a business. While my own experiences from childhood to worker to leader evolved, like everyone, I have a past that established what I saw, how I thought, and the influences of peers and outsiders alike. As a boy growing up on Long Island I lived in a majority white, middle class, suburban neighborhood. Thanks to the oddity of school zoning while I lived in Nassau County, I went to school in Suffolk County. The big difference was minority population. Growing up in the 1970s social unrest feature race issues in many forms. While I had relatively liberal parents they had grown up in Scotland where they were victimized for being Catholic instead of the majority Protestant. I found it unfathomable that one group of Scottish kids could victimize another group that looked and sounded like them merely because they belonged to a different church. That lesson was immediate that people do not need much to create differentiation and groupings and it has been human nature to do so.

School age years certainly become foundational to attitudes fought or adopted through life and their evolution is what will define an adult. Consider how we treat the “N” word. As opposed to confronting the meanings and terror behind the labeling we have diametrically rationalized that white people mustn’t say it but there is cultural allowance for black rappers and black friends granted an acceptable context. I was uncomfortable as a kid when I hear it used inside my large group of white neighborhood friends. I grew up with songs like, “Fight, fight, a N*** and a white, if the white don’t win, we all jump in.” I’m sure I gave it more of a chuckle than a scolding to the friend who said it. The racist rants were generally instigated by kids who heard it or saw it in their home but even the more liberal kids didn’t object despite not participating. Those realities in the day were dictated by what scared them, and me. And I’m sure that is part of what has kept attitudes alive today. Segmentation followed, whites viewing minorities as “good ones” who go to school and “bad ones” living in poverty and crime who perpetuate the stereotype and the fears.

That background reality doesn’t excuse anything except to contrast that my 8-year-old son today (who is half Filipino) would never even hear such language or perspectives much less find it acceptable or humorous. That is in part social evolution, part economic and geographic, but mostly parental influence. So as the generations of Americans that are becoming more diverse, more educated and more accepting of a non-homogeneous culture age into power there are definite shifts. Those holding onto power may still have the say but as successful workers are no longer one size, sex, color, orientation we are already more open to rewarding those contributions with money and power than we have ever been before. But the change has been a slow evolution and it is time to accelerate it.

In my own career I had a boss who was well liked and respected but he shared he preferred to promote men (black or white) with families and a mortgage over women who might leave to have a family. I even encountered a CFO who subtly but systematically, if not coincidentally had me focus on job eliminating disproportionately black and Jewish, and older managers that he suggested under-performed though he viewed it from a distance. I never had direct evidence he was racist (or ageist) but I did come to believe he had a very clear preference for who and what kind of who he believed was the most valuable. Coincidence isn’t always by accident.

THE BIG MISTAKE

Diversity programs are part of the solution but they are often part of the problem. If their efforts are to make sure there is token representation it is just as likely to create greater problems as the same ideology and mentality that created the lack of diversity will, perhaps unconsciously, perpetuate it and be rationalized to keep it acceptable to the decision makers. I’ve spent a lot of time talking about how conditions have come to be, how they evolve over time and used my own reflections on how my leadership attitudes evolved before getting to the fix. This is because, as stated at the beginning, this is not a simple issue to fix and because if leaders, and those being led, do not have an honest evaluation of themselves and their culture a “fix” or improvement is not a likely outcome.

THE FORMULA

  1. Assess the Leadership mindset regarding race and company equality. If there is no belief there is a problem there is not likely to be a significant solution.
  2. Identify how diversity can create additional revenue, reduce costs, improve worker efficiency or otherwise become an economic advantage to motivate change.
  3. Any changes in hiring practice, staff diversity, professional acceleration, or otherwise changing company makeup must be supported with new and stated attitudes and cultural support that rationalizes the changes to normalcy rather than favoritism or unjustified perceived reverse racism. Training is an essential element.
  4. Find ways to measure the positive impacts of diversity whether that it with new staff, existing staff or company attitudes about what is valued. Put dollar signs to it.
  5. Consider the perspective and needs of (any) minority brought into a situation with expectations to excel. Providing an opportunity and saying, “go get ’em” is not a successful support strategy. Training goes both to the new and old employees.

Is it possible we will one day get to a workplace where racial, sex and orientation diversity is a desired state, the optimum state, the most profitable configuration and the actualization of “All men (and women) are created equal,” as our reality? Possible yes, but now is a time to take action and see how far the needle can be moved. Sure it’s socially in vogue but that’s only because it’s been far too long ignored and the tipping point has been passed. There are many needles in this haystack but if we could find a few of the ones that are systemic in our culture, our company and ourselves and make a commitment to identify, change and constantly improve… Well, wouldn’t that make a hell of a difference?!

©2020 MyEureka Solutions LLC. For help with your strategy or BUSINESS THERAPY insights or more life and business musings contact or follow @TomFoxTrainer, at www.myeurekasolutions.com/thoughts, or on LinkedIn. Our current book: Business Therapy: Ideas and Inspirations To Help Build Sales, Leadership, Management, and Personal Performance is available on Amazon.

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Pandemic Lessons: Top 10 Over-Valued & Under-Appreciated

Your experience is your own. During the current pandemic that may be at worst, horrifying, at best, enlightening. While my own experience has run the emotional gamut I am fortunate not to be too close to actual tragedy and therefore comfortable with my branded version of sarcasm tinted with some actual lessons. As they say in investing commercials, your results my vary…herewith my Top 10 Overvalued and Underappreciated life lessons and experience, in no particular order:

Top 10 Overvalued

  1. SPORTS — Sure it will be nice to have them back and what’s better than feeling part of winning but our national obsession was perhaps misplaced and the resulting economics were obscene when viewed next to what really matters. I haven’t missed sports radio and “watching a game” was probably more routine than desire.
  2. MARKETING MESSAGING — We pay the messaging gurus big bucks but have you noticed every brand is giving the same message. Talk about your copycats, it seems every commercial is a variation of the same tone or message. Sure the great ones are great but the mediocre has been shown for what it is, uninspired.
  3. HOUSE CLEANERS — This could easily be on the other list but given my penchant for “cleaning up before the cleaning people arrive” and while the sense of accomplishment after basic cleaning may be less satisfying than if someone did it for you I don’t miss it much, just like growing up, chores are good for the soul, I hear.
  4. AIRLINE TRAVEL — Since 9-11 the hassle and expense of getting somewhere by air has been steadily decreasing versus the joy of arrival, not planning to fly much hasn’t felt like a loss.
  5. SOCIAL MEDIA — So maybe it’s been useful in keeping contact with people and seeing a few joys, a few tears, but it’s also been a magnifier of Trump lovers and haters doing their thing, only more of it with more time on their hands.
  6. FAMILY GATHERINGS — Did we really need so many holidays to see family? Sure it’s wonderful to see them, in moderation, maybe this forced spacing is a lesson.
  7. OVER-SCHEDULED KIDS — Like working 60+ hour workweeks in the ’80s the over-scheduled kid had become a perverse suburban parent status symbol. Getting your kid here for this travel team and there this activity, recital, party…like in my childhood my son is now overjoyed to go out and shoot hoops or ride his bike.
  8. GYMS — I haven’t been able to find 10 lbs. dumbbells in 2 months. Seems we can do things at home after all so did we really need 8 kinds of aerobic machines, classes and lifting gimmicks…not to mention shared locker rooms, steam and showers?
  9. WAITING IN LINE — Whether it was traffic, shopping with crowds, movie lines, you name it who needs it? Not to mention if you are currently lined up for a Covid-19 test or god forbid, a food pantry, there’s nothing good about any of them.
  10. THE NEWS — It’s important to stay aware of what’s important but too much of a medium value thing is a bad thing…especially when it’s always bad news!

TOP 10 UNDERAPPRECIATED

  1. TEACHERS/SCHOOLS — There’s nothing like home schooling 3rd grade math to make your college degree seem meaningless. Not to mention you’re supposed to support your kid’s self image, yadda, yadda…not to mention the 7-hour break from kids parents were getting 5 days a week? God bless every teacher.
  2. BULK SUPPLIES — If you’ve been poking holes through shabby single ply TP or awaiting Lysol resupply like a gold rush you will probably become a bulk purchaser on non-perishables. Note to Architects: bigger closets please.
  3. COMFY CLOTHES — When you had to put on that dress shirt for the Zoom meeting did you wonder how the hell you did all those years in suits or pretty shoes that became tolerable only when the blood supply to nerve endings was finally cut?
  4. HOME COOKING — It is tragic what is happening to the incredible amount of restaurant/catering workers and businesses but, maybe it’s just me, when you’re a damn fine cook and know what you like better than any chef, well, there’s no place like home (kitchens).
  5. NEXT INVOICE/PAYCHECK — Everyone knew you were supposed to have 3 months cash in reserve to live on but how many people did? Not to mention when you can’t send out an invoice for your service there’s no checks in the mail, and that just sucks!
  6. HOME INTERNET QUALITY — I can’t see an ad for Verizon without wanting to scream at them how bad my Internet is. It was long problematic but now with everyone at home it is horrid. Do I really have to buy a 1 Gb upgrade just to be able to stay on my Zoom meeting without regular pauses, lapses and getting bounced?!
  7. HAIRCUTS — As a former haircutter for extra money or family savings back in the day I’ve gone back in service and self-cutting in my mirror where I pretend I can see the back of my head. Thank god for hair gel, and have you seen some of those heads in online meetings and grocery stores? Yikes!
  8. READING — The TV has become an all too frequent and constant fixation and now more than ever. As a former magazine guy who’s watched that decline for decades now it’s been a joy to rediscover the value of books…and even some online stuff.
  9. COMFY COUCHES — Where are you spending most of your time? ‘Nuf said?
  10. FAMILY — While perhaps not lamenting the extended family gathering obligations one realizes when your top priority is keeping the ones you love most safe there is nothing that should be appreciated more than their security, well-being and the love that is given and received.

©2020 MyEureka Solutions LLC. For help with your strategy or BUSINESS THERAPY insights or more life and business musings contact or follow @TomFoxTrainer, at www.myeurekasolutions.com/thoughts, or on LinkedIn. Our current book: Business Therapy: Ideas and Inspirations To Help Build Sales, Leadership, Management, and Personal Performance is available on Amazon.

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It would certainly be lovely if we could all anticipate that from our past functional, work-a-day selves toiling in drab predictability we entered our Corona-cocoons and, in short time, emerged an enlightened, vibrant and colorful soul ready to fly in a dazzling display of new awareness and instinct led actions. Yeah, it’d be nice. Unfortunately, poetic hoping doesn’t count much when it comes to professional strategy for business, or life, but that’s not to deny that things have changed and we don’t know all that means. Things continue to change. You have changed.

Perhaps your cocoon has been bent on survival so whatever is next may be a welcome relief but for most of us “non-essential” types the changes in the world have been as much observed than lived. Whether you’ve been busy protecting workers, crying at a dwindling bottom line or fighting on the first response line there’s no denying that professional, and personal life, has changed and will change. Strategically you can get ahead of that if you open your perspective beyond the revised conditions in which you work and live.

Going back to work with modified conditions will certainly be an adaptive response but not likely to be all that life or vision altering. Finding productivity from six feet apart and not having too many people spending too much time in group meetings can pretty easily be absorbed into our workflows considering how much time we’ve had to adapt to it in life all around us. The real metamorphosis, or changes, that will have the greatest impact are likely ones that are newly developed or sharpened and may not yet be conscious or fully comprehended. Taking a scan of how things have to be and combining it with how things could be is the real mother of innovation. You can’t create a change without having a change of some kind within. The question is, what is that change?

Here’s a quick inventory to scan as to some of the mechanical and some of the metaphysical that will combine to map your path for at least the near future:

Manufacturing & Supply Chain

Perhaps you have learned something by how your goods needed now and in the future have been available. What have your vendor relationships yielded? Have you taken care of others and are able to receive that in return? Have you focused so much on “just in time” or “inventory management” or other hyper-efficiencies that you’ve been exposed in crisis time. I can recall in my corporate days getting heat from a CFO who took issue with my strategy of not getting every dime of savings in order to preserve more than one supplier in critical manufacturing. More than once in my career was I able to get a “favor” in a challenging time from a supplier I had done right by. Being boastfully lean can show a few more dollars in short term results but despite a ten year run of good times it is those who had diversity and mutual benefit in their pipelines who will likely come back the strongest, or didn’t sink the deepest, in recent hardships.

Staff & Attitudes

No matter how many people we employ, the range of what they do as well as where they do it and the infrastructure that supports them will obviously be part of revised strategies going forward. What you may not anticipate is how the recent crisis may have changed attitudes, efforts or even skills of employees. It’s not only the relationship you had, who was let go, who will be brought back but also what are their goals and fears now, how do they view their jobs, their security and how did they evaluate leadership during the pandemic.

Leadership

Without politicizing leadership, and I strongly advise against doing that as a zealot in business public (you’d be surprised who thinks or aligns in a way you wouldn’t predict). Yet leadership examples have been all around us. Witness the differences in country’s strategies and how they differed between male and female leadership. What communication worked and backfired in terms of projecting hope, predicting future events, responding to new information, adapting to the changing needs of others and how you interact with those you may influence but do not directly lead. Where and how did cooperation produce positive results, where did it fail? Adapting these lessons to your leadership can be transformative.

The Mirror on the Wall

Many circumstances and planning will be back on the move soon by necessity. In our favor is a broad shared experience in common but still we will have experienced the crisis differently. Some may not have changed at all, others may have found a new emotional rawness from the empathy of profound hardships, sacrifice, grace or giving. More devastating may be the impact of loss or illness, changes in relationship dynamics or an evolution of life priorities. All of that can only be honestly be told when you look with open eyes in the mirror. I don’t mean because you probably need a haircut, a shave or a coloring, I mean when you look behind your eyes do you recognize and acknowledge how have you changed?

It is essential to success to take an honest internal inventory. Maybe you find tears more easily welling at what was once nonchalantly observed. Perhaps you’ve become hardened or angered in search of someone or something to blame. Could be your perspective about money, family, love, industry or work itself has been altered. Is it permanent? Is it for the better? As one of my least favorite over-spoken cliches properly suggests, “It is what it is.” Your choice, your duty to your better self is to first look inward and reconcile who you are and who you have become with what you want and what is important. If you have a clear vision of that then you will find mapping your recovery strategy will have more clarity, more meaning and likely a more certain direction and goal.

The cocoon has sustained or stained you, or both. Now it is time to emerge but unlike the beauty of a butterfly that transformed with no effort or consideration you will have to use your brain, your heart and your soul to look inward then outward. Then fly to new heights in bold displays with a new appreciation for what matters most to you and a new opportunity to succeed. Won’t that feel good!

©2020 MyEureka Solutions LLC. For help with your strategy or BUSINESS THERAPY insights contact or follow @TomFoxTrainer, at www.myeurekasolutions.com/thoughts, or on LinkedIn. Our current book: Business Therapy: Ideas and Inspirations To Help Build Sales, Leadership, Management, and Personal Performance is available on Amazon.

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