Thor’s Flying Cooler

I just had to relate this little piece, a snippet, one of 100’s of incidents, of Thor’s accident prone life.  There will be other log entries on this subject.

Thor lives in the country in a three bedroom home, huge front, side and back yard, each acres in size, mucho amounts of grass to cut, acreage.  It is a pretty place, a quiet country setting, surrounded by woods on two sides with some great, tall hardwoods in the front, side and backyard.  He also owns the woods at the rear of the back yard, where he hunts and fishes.

Thor has a garden tractor that is one size up from a VW bug – lots of power, a 60” mowing deck with the usual rotating, horizontal, high-speed, 3 blade mulching setup. The tractor is hefty enough, a powerful piece of lawn equipment.

Thor is a big camper. He uses his pickup truck to haul all the camping equipment.  His truck has a flexible, vinyl, button down cover which he normally doesn’t remove as it is a pain in the ass to fasten back down, depending on the outside temperature as it affects the flexibility of the vinyl.  So, to retrieve camping gear from the bed of the pickup, from underneath the bed cover, he uses ropes fastened to various camping items like tents, poles, traps, and coolers.  These things have a tendency to slide to the front of the truck bed in route to the campground.  So upon arrival, absent the use of the ropes, Thor has to crawl under the bed cover to unload the gear.  Using his rope “system” he just pulls the stuff to the back of the bed for easy unloading.

So, Thor returns home from camping, unloads the equipment from the truck bed, using his rope system, returning tents, coolers, chairs, etc., to storage areas, mostly the garage or basement.

The garage is detached, with a concrete walkway running parallel to the garage and continuing to the kitchen door in the rear of the house. After emptying his Igloo cooler, he places it beside the garage to drain and air-out.

A couple of days later Thor is on the tractor, cutting the acreage of grass. He’s cutting along the side of the garage, parallel to the garage sidewalk.  The camping cooler is yet leaning against the garage, with the rope, attached to the cooler handle. He sees the rope on the sidewalk leading from the cooler handle, but does not see the reminder of the rope which continues, secretly, into the high grass.  He is cutting along, passes near the cooler, when he finally notices the rope in the grass, in the mower’s cutting path.  His eyes wide open, jaw as well, as the mower deck passed over the Igloo’s rope.

The blade spindles under the deck picked up the rope, instantly consuming it.  The cooler left its resting place, rocketing toward Thor on the Garden Tractor, colliding with the mower deck, missing Thor by not so much, with the momentum launching Thor’s cooler off the deck, into the air and across the yard.


Badly shaken, Thor turned off the tractor’s ignition and headed for a beer and the whiskey bottle in the garage frig.


***** S&E   *****


Talent Management — “Killer Performance Reviews”

In this context, “Killer” is a good thing!

In the last related posting, April 9, 2018, the blog discussed Pay for Performance. That would prompt a specific discussion on the actual “performance Review”.

A simple description of a “Killer Performance Review”:  No surprises, both manager and employee are prepared, and both are satisfied or at least understand the outcome.Jump through hoops

It is very difficult to have a meaningful performance review if objectives were not established forming the basis for measurement over the period covered by the review.  So, the steps in the process might look like:  Establishing Objectives – Interim check points — on the spot recognition or assistance – the performance review itself.

Objectives should be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Timely, commonly known as SMART objectives.  The manager should communicate the department objectives.  The employee should draft the objectives with the manager scheduling a meeting to review the draft and discuss necessary adjustments. Both need to agree on the final set of objectives.

Interim check points: manager assesses if all is well with progress against objectives; as little as 30 minutes.  It is the employee’s responsibility to make sure the work is getting done.

On the spot recognition or assistance: encourage employee when it is clear progress is being made; provide assistance when it is apparent there are issues accomplishing objectives.

Performance Review:  dedicated time for manager and employee to discuss degree of accomplishment of established objectives.


(Haag receives an all time low performance evaluation)

Manager role:  sponsor the process, communicate schedule for discussing objectives and performance reviews, encouragement, and assist with removing barriers as necessary to get the work done.  Utilize the final review as a basis for compensation and planning of training and development actions to support performance and career path.

It is important that training and development planning and discussion is separate from the performance review.

Employee role:  do the work, recognize barriers and make manager aware, ask questions, obtain clarification as necessary, provide updates, ownership of work, generate drafts of objectives and in the final report of related accomplishments (sets stage for performance review.

It is to the employee’s advantage to issue a quarterly report highlighting progress against objectives.  There are several advantages:  Maintains focus on objectives, updates the boss, provides the boss a basis for reports to superiors which highlights the work of the department and the employee, is an opportunity to highlight exceptions and issues, makes preparation for the annual performance review a breeze !

The greatest barriers to making this process a success:

  • Poor time management (either or both – boss, employee)
  • Not setting objectives
  • Setting objectives that avoid the SMART specifications
  • Poor communications during the period
  • Changes in the management organization
  • Making significant changes in job content or objectives during the period (minor adjustments might be expected)
  • Poor leadership

***** S&E *****


The Rich and the Poor

We used a guide in Rome Italy when we visited there.  An American, our guide lived in Rome for 16 years, learned the lay of the land, and turned his love for the city into a job – Tour Guide.

As we were doing the tourists thing, since he lived in both countries long enough to understand the significant differences, I asked what those differences might be?  He instantly responded, In the USA the government is rich and the people poor… in Italy the government is poor and the people are rich”.

Today, April 17th the US Supreme Court will consider whether states can collect out-of-state sales tax for online purchases.  Currently, 45 states rely on sales tax as a revenue source, few are able to collect.

Governments are losing big bucks ….   How much?  Estimates range from $8 Billion to $13 Billion annually.  I know we want to give our governments more money as they manage it so responsibly!

I suspect the Supreme Court will rule in favor of the governments…. So I suspect we will continue to prove our Tour Guide’s statement accurate… in the USA, governments have more and the people less.

Here is the link to the entire NPR article….NPR news article, April 17, 2018

Was there not an event in Boston “a few years ago” over taxes and representation….?

This whole thing brings me back to the most overused, most inaccurate opening phase often cited by our elected “representatives” when they are addressing an issue…   “In the best interests of my constituents….”

***** S&E *****


Log no. 887   “Frank’s Fish Pond”

So Cooter and I decided that Frank (Cooter’s neighbor) should get an April Fools letter from the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services about his front yard fish pond.

Frank designed and installed the fish pond. It is beside his front walkway, just adjacent to the steps, in clear view of anyone using the front porch entrance.Charlie tuna

Frank used a variety of stuff– plastic liner, rocks, flat stones, shims, plants, a pump, tubing, and dirt.  The rocks surrounding the pond, build up to maybe 2 feet above the pond surface to the rock waterfall.  Of course the water cascades down across the tiered rocks and into the pond. The pump is an above ground pump that moves the pond water to the falls.

Frank’s wife hates the pond as the installation, workmanship, appearance, décor value, and fit with the landscaping is awful.  If Frank’s wife swore she would call it a front yard cluster *&#%$. Briefly, the waterfall does not work.  The liner sticks out of the dirt, is clearly visible. The rocks are filled with weeds, badly stacked, uneven, unlinked, and unmatched. You can see the pump and hose going to the falls and the plants just can’t provide enough balance to make it all right. Ugly.

And it is important to know that Frank loathes the government — local, state, and federal, it’s an all-inclusive loathing.

So Cooter and I sent a letter to Frank, from the government, about his fish pond.  His wife told us not to do it as it might be stressful.  We mailed it in another city to further disguise its origin. The letter featured the department’s logo on the letter head and envelope, cut and pasted from the state’s website.  Upon receipt, Frank put it aside for a day seeing the government logo.  When he did open it, we heard from his wife that, we had achieved the desired impact.  He was, seething and pissed, was going to write them a letter, then call, until his wife told him, days later, it was an April 1st hoax. The letter follows:

(Appropriate state address, state logo and Frank’s address)

Dear Pond Owner,

One of our agents, as part of her routine waterfront inspections, noticed the fish pond installation in your front yard.  Upon closer inspection she reported that it was less than what the agency describes as safely inhabitable, the pond species appeared to be diseased, and the water quality far from acceptable.

The state has standards for pond quality for commercial and residential installations and owners and operators are required to maintain pond displays and installations in such condition that they meet or exceed state standards.  Your pond clearly falls far short of the standards.

You should be advise that there are penalties for not meeting pond standards, however the law provides that you be given a reasonable period to comply.

We will maintain a file in this office and expect to hear from you within thirty (30) days that your pond has been brought up to standard.  You will find the standards listed on our website, (web address).

Please contact us to advise that you have corrected these substandard conditions, or, if you have any questions.  You can contact the agency through our website (second web address).

Thomas J. Scales

Director, WWS Enforcement

(City, State)

We found out months later that Frank read the letter to his family at the Thanksgiving Dinner table, just after dessert.

***** S&E *****

Talent Management – Pay for Performance (P4P) (Performance Management Process)

It is good to strike a balance when discussing compensation.  It is not the only motivator.  Spend a little time on the web searching “what motivates employees”. Substantial, professional studies and documentation support the fact that compensation is just one factor.  Other factors, for example, include job challenges, promotional opportunities, skilled leaders and managers, recognition, communications, and career development and skills training.  That does not diminish the importance that P4P plays in engagement, motivation and retention of talent.

Above all else, the company might have a world-class performance management system in place, but the system is only as effective as the leaders and managers who implement it.  A highly respected executive I worked for had a favorite phrase she applied when we had issues with turnover and poor managers, “Join a company…quit a boss”.

What makes performance reviews an effective tool for evaluating performance and establishing a base for compensation:

  • Leadership commitment to the process
  • A well-defined, well-communicated process (see example graphic below)
  • Supervisors/leaders who are skilled in managing the process
  • Ongoing recognition for good work – P4P is not a once a year exercise
  • Brief discussions were needed improvement is observed
  • Pay increases that are commensurate with performance
  • Needed improvement is funneled into training and development (T&D) planning
  • Appropriate action taken, with due process, for non-performers
  • The employee has to own it; the manager administers and manages the process

P4P ver 5

Managers who do not set objectives…!  The employee has the option and needs to generate a set of objectives for the year, publish quarterly updates related to associated progress, and keep the immediate manager updated on progress.

Also see this blogs January 4, 2018 posting for background on compensation structure.

It is important to conduct training and development discussions separate from performance reviews although the later can be a basis for T&D discussions, planning, and action.

***** S&E *****

Trump Appoints Ronny Jackson

I agree with the veterans groups as well as the legislators who question Trump’s appointment of Dr. Ronny Jackson.  He has little background in leading and managing large complex organizations.  He served his country admirably as a Navy Rear Admiral in war zones in medical capacities, in military medical facilities

According to a national news source:

 “Jackson was deployed to Iraq after he joined the 2nd Marines in 2005, according to his Navy biography. He served as the emergency medicine physician in charge of resuscitative medicine for a forward deployed Surgical Shock Trauma Platoon.

While still in Iraq, Jackson was tapped as a White House physician in 2006. He has overseen the physicians for Camp David presidential retreats, led the White House Medical Unit and directed the executive health care for the Cabinet and senior staff members, according to his biography. He’s been a White House physician since Bush”

None of his experience would indicate he has the skills, knowledge, and certainly not the credentials to LEAD and MANAGE the VA – 360,000, correct 360,000 employees who serve 9 million, yes 9 M veterans.  Similar size companies would be UPS 399K employees, Home Depot 340K employees, Toyota, 364K employees and Berkshire Hathaway, 367K employees.

The VA will require the skills of a highly experienced leader and manager, not necessarily a doctor, not necessarily a veteran, but experience that would indicate he/she can run an organization of that size.  Who might that be?  Pick a CEO of one of the Fortune 500 companies.  What about medical knowledge?  Skilled CEO’s careful pick direct reports who have the knowledge to run the “technical” side of the business … in this case, razor-sharp doctors with leadership skills, corporate style Chief Financial Officers, Information Technology executives, executives of medical equipment and engineering companies, and the like.

Certainly there are docs out there who have the experience to run the VA!  CEO’s of the Cleveland Clinic and the Mayo Clinic would be examples.  Many hospital administrators are not doctors, but great leaders and managers, and successfully manage large medical organizations.

I hope for the sake of the vets that Dr. Jackson has the wherewithal to lead and manage the VA.   Odds are we are heading for another VA disaster.

As a side note, Trump does not have a great track record of picking outstanding leaders.  And, he has dismissed good leaders who don’t agree with him (Rex Tillerson). The thing is, poor leaders usually can’t pick great leaders!


Florida’s Teacher of the Year Bluntly Writes WHY School Violence Is Out of Control, February 19, 2018


By Daisy Luther

Kelly Guthrie Raley has been teaching for 20 years and currently educates kids at Eustis Middle School in Lake County, Florida. Just last month she was named the 2017-2018 Teacher of the Year.

The day after the horrific shooting that took place at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, she posted a rant on Facebook that has since gone viral. In the post, she talked about parental responsibility, compassion, and respect…and more than 823,000 people have “liked” the post and agreed with it, while more than 649,000 have shared it with others.

Here’s what Mrs. Raley had to say:

Okay, I’ll be the bad guy and say what no one else is brave enough to say, but wants to say. I’ll take all the criticism and attacks from everyone because you know what? I’m a TEACHER. I live this life daily. And I wouldn’t do anything else! But I also know daily I could end up in an active shooter situation.

Until we, as a country, are willing to get serious and talk about mental health issues, lack of available care for the mental health issues, lack of discipline in the home, horrendous lack of parental support when the schools are trying to control horrible behavior at school (oh no! Not MY KID. What did YOU do to cause my kid to react that way?), lack of moral values, and yes, I’ll say it-violent video games that take away all sensitivity to ANY compassion for others’ lives, as well as reality TV that makes it commonplace for people to constantly scream up in each other’s’ faces and not value any other person but themselves, we will have a gun problem in school. Our kids don’t understand the permanency of death anymore!!!

I grew up with guns. Everyone knows that. But you know what? My parents NEVER supported any bad behavior from me. I was terrified of doing something bad at school, as I would have not had a life until I corrected the problem and straightened my ass out. My parents invaded my life. They knew where I was ALL the time. They made me have a curfew. They made me wake them up when I got home. They made me respect their rules. They had full control of their house, and at any time could and would go through every inch of my bedroom, backpack, and pockets, anything! Parents: it’s time to STEP UP! Be the parent that actually gives a crap! Be the annoying mom that pries and knows what your kid is doing. STOP being their friend. They have enough “friends” at school. Be their parent. Being the “cool mom” means not a damn thing when either your kid is dead or your kid kills other people because they were allowed to have their space and privacy in YOUR HOME. I’ll say it again. My home was filled with guns growing up. For God’s sake, my daddy was an 82nd Airborne Ranger who lost half his face serving our country. But you know what? I never dreamed of shooting anyone with his guns. I never dreamed of taking one! I was taught respect for human life, compassion, rules, common decency, and most of all, I was taught that until I moved out, my life and bedroom wasn’t mine…it was theirs. And they were going to know what was happening because they loved me and wanted the best for me.

There. Say that I’m a horrible person. I didn’t bring up gun control, and I will refuse to debate it with anyone. This post wasn’t about gun control. This was me, loving the crap out of people and wanting the best for them. This was about my school babies and knowing that God created each one for greatness, and just wanting them to reach their futures. It’s about 20 years ago this year I started my teaching career. Violence was not this bad 20 years ago. Lack of compassion wasn’t this bad 20 years ago. And God knows 20 years ago that I wasn’t afraid daily to call a parent because I KNEW that 9 out of 10 would cuss me out, tell me to go to Hell, call the news on me, call the school board on me, or post all over Facebook about me because I called to let them know what their child chose to do at school…because they are a NORMAL kid!!!!!

Those 17 lives mattered. When are we going to take our own responsibility seriously? Guns aren’t the problem. The current culture is the problem.