Monday, January 31, 2011

To Worthily Magnify...


Almighty God, to whom all hearts be open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hid; Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of thy Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love thee, and worthily magnify thy holy Name; through Christ our Lord. Amen.

—Book of Common Prayer 1662 (translation)


What does it mean to “worthily magnify” God’s holy Name? And, how in the world do we do it?

A strong correlation exists between this quotation from the Book of Common Prayer and the admonition of the Lord Jesus Christ when He quotes from the Mosaic Law in Mark 12:28-31:

28 One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”

29 “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’  31 The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”

In this passage Jesus affirms that we are to love the Lord our God with all our heart—our emotional being—with all our soul—our spiritual being—with all our mind—our intellectual being—and with all our strength—our physical being. In other words, we are to love God with the totality of our being. Love for God must flow from every modality of our being. In fact, we cannot begin to love others until we first love God.

In John 21:15-19, Jesus confronts Peter and they reconcile following Peter’s denial on the night Jesus was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane. In this exchange, the Lord Jesus probes to find out whether or not Peter has come to understand that the agape—God-breathed—love that He requires comes only through the empowerment of the Holy Spirit. We don't really get a glimpse of whether or not Peter truly understands until some days later when Peter preaches his famous sermon at Pentecost, as recorded in Acts 2:14-41.

In and of ourselves, we simply cannot worthily magnify God’s holy Name. But, as we receive the life-transforming power of the Risen Christ, He enables us to fulfill the call of the Psalmist in Psalm 34:3 (KJV):

O magnify the Lord with me and let us exalt his name together.

In the quiet of the early morning hour, when we first stir from a night of rest, we must make the volitional decision to surrender our will to the enabling power of the Holy Spirit. Then, and only then, can we begin our day in the full confidence that the Enabler will empower us to worthily magnify God’s precious and holy Name.

Copyright © 2011 by Dean K. Wilson. All Rights Reserved.


Friday, January 28, 2011

This New Day


Almighty God, to whom all hearts be open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hid; Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of thy Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love thee, and worthily magnify thy holy Name; through Christ our Lord. Amen.

—Book of Common Prayer 1662 (translation)


“So, what’s on your agenda today? What are you up to?”

Has anyone ever confronted you at the beginning of a new day with words like those? It’s quite reasonable for one dear friend to inquire of another what plans he or she has made for the day. Usually, if you're asked such a question, you have a ready response. Right?

“Today, I’m gonna tackle thus and such.” Or, “I have four phone calls to return and a bunch of reports to review.” Or, “Once the kids are off to school, I’ve got several loads of laundry to do, the house to clean, and a bunch of errands to run. And, if I’m lucky, I’ll get to the gym to try to stay ahead on my weight loss program.”

The Psalmist answered this way in Psalm 95:6-8:

6 Come, let us bow down in worship,
let us kneel before the LORD our Maker;
7 for he is our God
and we are the people of his pasture,
the flock under his care.

Today, if you hear his voice,
8do not harden your hearts as you did at Meribah,
as you did that day at Massah in the desert...

Well, I don’t know about you, but I think I have my marching orders for the day:

  • Do not harden my heart

  • Seek God's cleansing for my heart by the power of the Holy Spirit

  • Focus on perfectly loving God through the power of the Risen Lord Jesus Christ

  • Worthily magnify God’s Holy Name

I’m pretty sure it’s going to be a busy day!

Copyright © 2011 by Dean K. Wilson. All Rights Reserved.


Wednesday, January 26, 2011

How Not to Lead!
What I learned from the New Department Head...


About two-thirds of the way through my 30-year career in the Highly Protected Risk (HPR) property insurance industry, some member insurance companies began to downsize. As a result of one particular force reduction, the company for which I worked ended up with a castoff management-level employee. The individual had no background whatsoever in HPR insurance. But, as a favor to someone in a member company, he was hired to advise on matters relating to employee morale and development. After managing an employee morale campaign that utterly failed to meet it's objectives, he was tasked to oversee the Human Resources Department.

As he got to know the various departments in the company, he seemed particularly annoyed with the training department that I managed. In the survey of employee morale, most departments scored 20 out of 100, indicating rather low morale. However, the department that reported to me scored 97 out of 100.

Instead of rewarding my colleagues and me for our cohesive and company-supportive efforts, we became suspects. What could we possibly be doing that would create such a climate of satisfaction. We must be “giving away the store” in order to have fostered such high morale.

Once this new department head began to focus his attention on “bringing us down,” we turned our attention to him. On our own time, we carefully and thoroughly researched his background. We interviewed colleagues from his previous employer. One of my colleagues even interviewed his college roommate. Now this may seem unusual to you, but when someone would go out of his or her way to make himself or herself our enemy, we felt we had a responsibility to “know the enemy.”

We also began to pay particular attention to his management style. We observed the way he interacted with those he supervised. By so doing, we learned some very valuable lessons. Please let me share one of them.

When an incompetent individual rises to a management role within an organization, he or she will sometimes intentionally create a climate of chaos. The reason for this climate of chaos: it offers one way of exercising control over people and events.

By keeping the daily flow of information and activities swirling in chaos, the erstwhile manager can let the unpredictability of the work environment consistently move his or her role into the center of the storm. The manager can retain a position at the center of the chaos through procrastination in making decisions, through absence (seldom actually present in his or her office), through a systematic discarding of long term processes and procedures by replacing them with new, less well-defined processes and procedures, and by juggling job responsibilities among team members to keep them unsure of exactly what they are supposed to do, to name just a few of the techniques.

He or she may also create a climate of distrust, secretiveness, and disdain among team members, and between team members and the next upward level of management, by a creating a web of lies.

Think of a spider sitting in the center of its web. Upon close examination, you will discover that the elements of the web have a similar, but not precisely identical, geometry. Scientists have discovered that these dissimilar elements of the spider’s web appear to occur through some inner programming within the spider’s brain. Part of the strength of the web comes from these dissimilar or off-balanced elements.

In like fashion, the incompetent manager, who rules by creating a chaotic environment, often keeps team members off balance through a web of lies and distortion. In the midst of chaos, the manager begins to breed distrust between team members by telling each team member a slightly different version of the same story. Usually couched as “inside information,” and often told with an insistence that the team member hearing the story vow to remain silent about it, the manager plants specifically unique misinformation in the minds of those he manages. Many times this misinformation will include negative information that one team member has supposedly spoken about another team member.

The incompetent manager will also employ this same technique when dealing with those to whom he or she reports. He or she will convey information to the bosses that includes carefully crafted lies about what his or her team members have said or done. These lies give the bosses an inaccurate and prejudicial view of the individual team members. Because the manager gives these reports in the confidentiality of the meetings with his or her bosses, the team members never have the opportunity to hear about, or correct, the lies the manager has told about them.

By weaving a careful web of lies, the manager creates an ineffective work environment that helps assure that he or she will remain in a position of absolute control. He or she will likely also create scenarios, framed from the lies, that will help shield the manager’s plot from discovery. And, when operations at the workplace begin to fail and customers or constituents begin to complain, the lies he or she has told the bosses can often create scapegoats from his or her team members on which to blame the failure.

Over the course of my nearly 46 years in the business world, I have observed very crafty incompetent managers weave such webs of lies and sustain the lies for significant periods of time. The good news: the truth is always ultimately revealed. Let me say that again. The truth is always ultimately revealed.

The Apostle John reports Jesus’ words in John 8:32:

32Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.

Over the passage of time, we observed this new department head radically change the character of his portion of the organization. He systematically moved people out until he had brought in a whole new crew of team members. Some employees transferred to other departments. Others simply left the company entirely. At one point we determined that his incompetent management techniques had cost the company dearly in terms of the intellectual capital represented by lost employees.

Surely, we thought, once he has all new people he will alter his techniques. But, no, he repeated the same evil process with the new batch of employees until most of them had also left the company. In some ways, that department never recovered.

Webs of lies are toxic and destructive. But, the truth always brings freedom. Every web of lies gets wiped away. So, if you labor under a manager who has chosen this way of gaining and keeping absolute control, don’t despair. God has a way of bringing light into every dark corner.

Don’t fall prey to the temptation to weave your own web of lies. Just patiently wait for the truth to rise to the surface. It always does.

Copyright © 2011 by Dean K. Wilson. All Rights Reserved.
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Monday, January 24, 2011

The Marks of Professionalism, Part 10—
Knowing When to Ask for Help


“And, as you embark on your college career,” the esteemed professor told the incoming freshmen from the Class of 1995, “I urge you to aspire to professionalism. For it is within that framework that you will find life’s greatest rewards.”

Aspire to be a professional. Now that is good advice! But, what qualities mark a woman or man whom others acknowledge is a “professional?” So far in this series, I’ve suggested that compassion, justice, common sense, commitment to excellence, a wholehearted determination to always tell the truth, attention to details, going the second mile, a sense of humor, and practicing due diligence are marks of a professional. This time I add to the list knowing when to ask for help

As I sat in front of my computer writing the original version of this piece back in 1991, I noted that, “Down the hail Dave-the-plumber is busily ripping apart the faucets in my upstairs bathroom. With a certain amount of grunting and groaning, he is attempting to renew the 21-year-old fixtures to stop a constant drip-drip that would make a water conservationist throw a tantrum.”

Now a certain number of you are smirking to yourselves, “Call a plumber? What kind of a wimpy householder does that. Come on, Wilson, don’t you even know how to roll up your sleeves and get down under those sinks and fix that errant piping and those valves? Why you threaten the very existence of that manly art of do-it-yourself!”

You’re probably right. When it comes to do-it-yourself, I am definitely a wimp. But, I’ve come to my wimpiness out of a wealth of failed attempts.

Why I’m the guy who bought $200 worth of tune-up gear only to have messed up my car’s electrical system so badly that I almost had to call a tow truck to get the car over to a garage that could finish the simple adjustments I had tried to make.

I’m the guy who started to paint the trim in one of my former apartments, only to end up making such a mess of the job that I nearly had to have new flooring installed underneath where I was painting.

A “do-it-yourself wimp?” Indeed! And, sadly, I still haven’t learned my lesson.

You see the plumber is here only because I started the simple job of replacing the washers in the faucets. Only now I’m having to have the three sets of faucets all replaced. And, the only way I’m going to be able to pay for it is to get out there on the street and try to sell more copies of my newsletter. Just about ten new subscriptions at $125 each will do it.

My plumber, Dave, and I have come to an important agreement, however. He has promised me that he will not teach anyone about the ins and outs of fire protection, fire alarm, and burglar alarm systems, if I hang up my pipe wrench and stop pretending to be an under-the-sink craftsman. Frankly, I think it’s a bargain well struck.

A true professional knows when the task at hand is outside his or her area of expertise. One who has clearly been recognized as a professional knows when to call for help. And, a very real part of this is knowing who to call. Building a network of fellow professionals is an important part of enhancing your chosen business endeavor.

Just yesterday, a veteran in the fire protection business—a man I respect greatly—called me on the telephone. He simply wanted to touch base quickly on a job he was bidding. It was ever so slightly outside his normal area of expertise. After hearing his proposal, I made only one small suggestion. By and large he had hit the mark. When we ended our conversation, he went away knowing that he was on target. And, once again, I had experienced the satisfaction that comes from helping a fellow professional.

You really don’t have to know everything. In fact, if you have recently, or even for some time, been operating under the assumption that you “know it all,” then I urge you to reexamine yourself intently.

The minute you begin to believe that you can go it alone through the jungle of processes, procedures, best practices, and standard operating methods for your particular business endeavor, you have taken the first step that will ultimately remove you from the ranks of those acknowledged as professionals.

Instead of trusting solely in your own abilities, make every effort to nurture the relationships you have with those who share your concern about raising the professionalism of your chosen field.

There’s a Winnie-the-Pooh story by A. A. Milne where Pooh Bear gets stuck leaving Rabbit’s hole after Pooh has feasted on some honey. Pooh tries every way he can possibly think of to get free. Finally, with Christopher Robin’s help, Pooh’s gains his freedom.

Pooh would likely agree, “When you’re stuck, it’s important to realize you need to call for help. And, it’s good to know who you need to call.”

Knowing when to ask for help and being willing to do so is truly a mark of a professional.

A version of this blog post originally appeared as the “Dean Says” article in
The Moore-Wilson Sigaling Report—Vol. 3 No. 6 for November/December 1991


Copyright © 2011 by Dean K. Wilson. All Rights Reserved.


Friday, January 21, 2011

The Marks of Professionalism, Part 9—
Due Diligence


“I feel like that Rodney What’s-his-name. I just don’t get any respect.”

The young man had just come back from a meeting with his boss. It seems like every time he’s called down to management row, he comes back to his desk in a high state of stress.

“What is it going to take before they start to treat me like a professional?” he wailed.

A professional, indeed! But, what qualities do mark a man or woman as a “professional?” So far in this series, I’ve suggested that compassion, justice, common sense, commitment to excellence, a wholehearted determination to always tell the truth, attention to details, going the second mile, and a sense of humor are marks of a professional. This time I add to the list practicing due diligence.

Did you notice how all the “legal beagles’” ears perked up when I used that term? Giving or practicing due diligence sounds like either something that will lead you into or keep you out of court.

It is, in fact, a term that lawyers love to throw around during liability suits. One or another of the attorneys present is trying to prove that someone failed to practice due diligence, while the opposing side is trying to illustrate that due diligence was, indeed, given in the particular set of circumstances.

For my purposes, I am using the term as a catch-all for countless small details that can seem to either bolster or topple an up-and-coming professional. Similar to its first cousin, “Attention to Details,” giving due diligence is a mind-set that can be learned, if one has not already embodied this characteristic. Perhaps a little quiz will help illustrate my point.

  • Do you answer incoming letters the same day you receive them?

  • Do you return phone messages as quickly as you arrive back at your desk?

  • Do you open incoming mail, categorize it, and then read through it in such away that you only handle each piece of paper once?

  • Do you begin your day by making a list of what needs to be accomplished that day?

  • Do you also separate your “To Do” list into the “Need-to-Dos” and the “Nice-to-Dos?”

  • Do you make certain that you do at least one “Nice-to-Do” each day so the “Nice-to-Dos” don’t become the “Never-Dids?”

  • When introduced to someone, do you pay attention, not only to his or her name, but also who he or she is and what help this person might be to you in the future?

  • Do you factor in the concerns of others when you make a decision that affects those around you?

  • Do you pay particular attention to time, not becoming fanatical about being early, nor becoming chronic in your lateness?

Well, these are just a few of many items that can serve to measure whether or not the person who aspires to professionalism is practicing due diligence. It really is a care-giving attitude. It illustrates a mind-set that is genuinely interested in making certain that the “little things” receive proper emphasis, so they do not later blossom into “big things.”

The professional in your area of business or personal endeavor is no more easily excused in this area, than is any other sincere businessperson. Yes, we all have busy, even hectic, schedules. But, there is never any really good reason for not extending common courtesy to those around us by giving due diligence to those things that simply must be done well and on-time.

It’s like the local radio announcer/control board operator who must join the network precisely at 2:59:30. The professionalism of the announcer is judged by the precision with which he back-times the last recording leading into the network join. Whether that last recording is a musical selection or a commercial spot announcement, the announcer is expected to have both planned and executed his plan so well, that the segue to the network is seamless. It’s the kind of work that the station manager rewards with a smile.

Practicing due diligence is one way to make certain you will get the job done with precision, grace, style, and class. It’s just one more of the marks of a professional. And, it’s a mark to which you and I can aspire.

A version of this blog post originally appeared as the “Dean Says” article in
The Moore-Wilson Sigaling Report—Vol. 3 No. 5 for September/October 1991


Copyright © 2011 by Dean K. Wilson. All Rights Reserved.


Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Marks of Professionalism, Part 8—
A Sense of Humor


Her beauty was striking. Tall, well-dressed, expressive eyes, gentle smile, and yet a very determined young woman.

“It is tough being a woman in business. All I want is to be treated with respect and to be known as a professional.”

What did she mean? What qualities mark a man or woman as a “professional?” So far in this series, I’ve suggested that compassion, justice, common sense, commitment to excellence, a wholehearted determination to always tell the truth, attention to details, and going the second mile are marks of a professional. This time I add to the list a sense of humor.

Please don’t confuse a sense of humor with immature practical jokes or with malicious dark comedy that has become popularized in recent years. A real sense of humor always entertains and encourages others without knowingly causing hurt. In other words, a genuine sense of humor is born out of love. It is not motivated by hate or discord or disgust or distrust or any other of the negative emotions.

A sense of humor can spell the difference between being consumed by stress in the normal give and take of a day’s activities, or taking stress in stride. Faced with the moment-by-moment crises of a typical business, the ability of the true professional to handle each experience with aplomb will most often depend on whether or not the individual has developed a genuine sense of humor.

Notice I said “developed” a sense of humor. It is quite possible to change one’s outlook from one that is usually quite humorless to one that looks at life with a smile and a twinkle in the eyes. How? Just begin to find the smile and laughter that God so cleverly hides in every experience of life.

“Does God have a sense of humor?” the national radio speaker asked his third son in a broadcast interview.

“Sure, Dad,” came the reply. “He made my brother, Joel, didn’t He?”

And, it’s just this kind of positive mental attitude that can carry you through your day. You see, humor tends to cause the body to relax and roll with the punches. It is a proven medical fact that a good laugh, or even a quiet chuckle, can help you relieve tension that builds inside your body. In the midst of a moment of humor, your body releases chemicals into the bloodstream that help muscles relax, deepens breathing, increases the blood flow to the brain, and has a generally positive effect on the various bodily systems.

How does one begin to develop a real sense of humor? Start by looking for the smile that is hidden in every situation. Even the most irritating letter or memo has some element that can bring comic relief. Even when your boss has just yelled at you for something, tucked away inside the experience is some little gem of humor just waiting for you to find it.

Recently, I read a letter from an irate executive. In the letter he told an opponent in a controversy that he no longer had respect for the woman or for the company she represents. The executive was angry that his opponent had enthusiastically fought for what the opponent believed was right. He was disturbed that the opponent had questioned whether the study group the writer chaired was performing without bias. He whined and he cried throughout the letter.

“No humor there,” you might think. But yet there was.

Here was someone so pompous, so arrogant, so consumed with himself, so convinced that he had all the right “political” connections, so determined that what he thought mattered, that he presumed to attack the sincere efforts of this dedicated, professional businesswoman who happened to have a different point of view. After she wrote a kind and gentle reply, we imagined him opening it, and chuckled at how seriously he took the issue.

Some time ago, I was riding with a friend who has always driven aggressively. Suddenly, a little Chevette darted in front of us. As he hit the brakes, my friend whooped with glee. “I sure hope when they get there, they won’t be too early,” my friend chortled.

“What’s gotten into you?” I asked, remembering the shaken fist and curse-filled air of similar incidents in the past.

“I decided that getting angry only hurt me,” he explained. “At least this way I get a little laugh.”

It is important, as professionals, that we concentrate our efforts on providing the highest level of service to our customers or constituents. But, in the midst of the seriousness of our efforts, let’s not forget to look for the smile that God has placed in these daily vignettes along the roads of our lives. For a real sense of humor is, indeed, one of the marks of the true professional.

A version of this blog post originally appeared as the “Dean Says” article in
The Moore-Wilson Sigaling Report—Vol. 3 No. 4 for July/August 1991


Copyright © 2011 by Dean K. Wilson. All Rights Reserved.


Monday, January 17, 2011

The Marks of Professionalism, Part 7—
Going the Second Mile


“I want to be known as a professional,” the aspiring businessman told me. What did he mean? What qualities mark a man or woman as a “professional?” So far in this series, I’ve suggested that compassion, justice, common sense, commitment to excellence, a wholehearted determination to always tell the truth, and attention to details are all marks of a professional. This time I add to the list going the second mile.

Matthew 5:38-42 (NIV) reads:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth. ’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.”

Jesus’ words during that most famous discourse known as “The Sermon on the Mount,” found in the Gospel of Matthew, Chapters 5, 6 and 7, have always startled people because they cut so sharply across the grain we call “normal” in our gutsy and materialistic culture. Nevertheless, the deep underlying philosophy that this One—known as Immanuel, God With Us—was teaching characterizes an individual who is determined to do his or her very best to meet and exceed the “customer’s” or “constituent’s” or “client’s” demands.

“Now just one cotton-pickin’ minute,” you interject. “Are you trying to tell me that Jesus Christ was preaching a ‘service excellence’ philosophy?”

Exactly. God’s Son was one who taught excellence as a way of life. He taught, and He demonstrated, excellence permeating every aspect of one’s being. So, in a customer service realm, excellence often means going the second mile. Let me illustrate.

Some years ago, my wife, Shirley, was searching through the library at Central Connecticut State University trying to get some material on a project that had taken place in the Pittsburgh (PA) public schools called “Arts Propel.” This project, in turn, is based on work done at Harvard University called “Project Zero.” She needed the information for a research paper she was writing for one of her graduate courses. Everywhere she searched she kept hitting a dead end. Finally, she approached a librarian in charge of lnter-Library Loan, hoping that she would be able to locate some material from the Harvard University Library.

“Let me look up that number for you,” the librarian suggested. “Here it is. Listen, please let me make the call for you.”

After reaching the research librarian at the Harvard University Library, the Central Connecticut State University librarian proceeded to efficiently and effectively establish a rapport with the Harvard librarian. She learned that there was a packet of information available.

To speed the process of obtaining the information, the CCSU librarian paid the fee out of her petty cash, rather than insisting that Shirley write a check that would have to clear before Harvard would send the information.

Shirley was astonished! For days she sang the praises of this librarian who did her job, plus went the second mile to make certain her customer was satisfied.

In whatever endeavor you undertake in the course of your business life or personal life, it pays dividends in the coinage of professionalism when you willingly go the second mile.

Maybe you’ve come up against a customer, constituent, or client who never seems satisfied. No matter how hard you try to please this one, all you receive in return is complaint and criticism. Do you determine to get even? Or, do you keep on delivering top quality service, consistently bending over backwards to help your customer?

Or, maybe you’re an individual who has supervisory responsibility. When you spot some aspect of job performance that makes you feel that an employee is going to have a problem with one of the other supervisors, do you ignore it, chuckling to yourself? Or, do you give the employee a call, or take the employee aside, and suggest he or she check it out with the other department before it becomes a major snag?

As a supervisor, do you continually remind yourself that your fellow staff members constitute your partners in working hard to ensure your department helps the overall business grow? Or, do you repay years of a loyal and mutually beneficial relationship with unrelentingly hard-nosed supervisory policies when times get tough?

Going the second mile is not necessarily an easy path to take. But, going the second mile is another of those rare qualities that the true professional manifests in his or her business life and personal life. It is the living out of an inner conviction. It sets the professional apart from his or her peers.

A version of this blog post originally appeared as the “Dean Says” article in
The Moore-Wilson Sigaling Report—Vol. 3 No. 3 for May/June 1991


Copyright © 2011 by Dean K. Wilson. All Rights Reserved.


Friday, January 14, 2011

The Marks of Professionalism, Part 6—
Attention to Details


When you say, “She’s a professional.” Or, “He conducts himself as a true professional.” What do you mean? Exactly what are those qualities that clearly make one individual appear professional when compared to his or her peers? So far in this series, I’ve suggested that compassion, justice, common sense, a commitment to excellence, and a wholehearted determination to always tell the truth are marks of a professional. This time I add to the list a careful attention to details.

A professional colleague of mine oversees the Visual Arts department of a medium-sized southern liberal arts college. His role of department chairman is more often taken up with supervisory matters than it is with pedagogical concerns. Almost every phone conversation we have is punctuated by respectfully-told tales of the latest foibles and fancies of the professors, associate professors, assistant professors, adjunct professors, instructors, technicians, and secretaries who report to my colleague. The contrasts are startling.

Three of his people are extremely creative, not at all surprising for visual artists. But, their creativity is consuming. Each one is constantly coming up with innovative ideas for teaching, controversial concepts for performance or exhibition, dynamic ways of fund raising, and clever schemes to draw more of the student body into a relationship with the Visual Arts department.

Four of his staff are what would be considered kindly, in most management circles, as “plodders.” These folks know their stuff, but their artistic expression and creativity is commonplace. It may well be that they have never had an original idea between them. Their approach to each new day is to move forward at the same speed they moved through yesterday. If they’ve been able to procrastinate in completing a particular assignment, they will continue to do so until they are practically forced at gunpoint to finish the job.

The creative trio are constantly completing a significant volume of work: position papers, memoranda, analyses, manuscripts, overhead transparencies, handouts, scores, and a host of output from the visual arts. There is only one problem. Without fail, every document, visual, handout, etc. is riddled with tiny errors. Errors in spelling, improper numbering of captions or illustrations, incorrect dates, blurred visuals, hastily photocopied sections that aren’t quite straight. This list of miniscule mistakes is almost endless. Perhaps the creative process is so consuming that they just can’t bring themselves to make sure the quality of their output matches the quality of their creativity. Whatever the reason, it drives my colleague, the department chairman, absolutely stark, raving crazy. Fortunately, he seems to have infinite patience and an overwhelming sense of humor.

Perhaps the most ironic part of the whole “soap opera” is that these many tiny mistakes of the highly creative professors are fodder for the plodding four. The ones who never create on their own absolutely delight in finding the errors of their peers. They constantly barrage my colleague with reports of the latest mistakes they have found in some document, visual, or other output. “Those that can, do. Those that can’t, find the mistakes of those that can.” Or, so it seems.

There is always a happy side to my colleague’s phone reports. It comes from a husband and wife team who each consistently function at a high level of energy and creativity, and whose work together is DY-NA-MITE!

All material this pair creates is flawless. Pour over their stuff—and the plodders do—but no errors are ever found. Why? Because “He” and “She” possess the quality of a careful attention to details.

You already know which category into which you fall. The good news is that by applying just a few organizational techniques, you can begin to develop the habit of attending to the details that surround your life’s endeavor.

Start by keeping a daily pocket diary or calendar. Note all meetings and appointments and refer to your notes frequently. Jot down phone calls you must make, and then write a few summary words to help you recall the substance of the conversation later.

Put carelessness aside. If you have trouble picking up the mistakes in your written work, enlist the aid of others to check it. Another major point of sloppiness is not using the right terminology. Find out what the correct and standardized terminology is in your field and use it consistently.

Even if you’re the owner or CEO of your company, approach each task as if your continued employment depends on the care you give in completing it. Create a mental posture that attends to details.

It’s that kind of mental attitude that will set the professional apart from his or her peers.

A version of this blog post originally appeared as the “Dean Says” article in
The Moore-Wilson Sigaling Report—Vol. 3 No. 2 for March/April 1991


Copyright © 2011 by Dean K. Wilson. All Rights Reserved.


Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Marks of Professionalism, Part 5—
Telling the Truth


Qualities that clearly make one individual appear professional when compared to his or her peers: compassion, justice, common sense, a commitment to excellence, and a wholehearted determination to always tell the truth.

We live in a society that no longer places a high price on telling the truth. In fact, we sometimes seem to pride ourselves on stretching veracity to a point so thin that just one more whisper would snap it like a dry twig.

Between media commercials that reward deceit, “Who ate all the Cracklin’ Oat Bran?” to those who suggest that little white lies are really just a part of life, “Only her hairdresser knows for sure!” to the social scientists and pseudo-scientists who suggest that the cruelest of the cruel is to speak truthfully.

Now there’s little question that truth must always be spoken kindly—oh, how I wish I could remember to do that—nevertheless when faced with a choice, the true professional, that man or woman of genuine integrity, will always tell the truth.

Back at Christmastime, my wife completed a roll of film and took it to the nearby photo store for processing. These folks have always done a pretty good job, so we’ve come to rely on their service. “Thursday. It’ll be ready on Thursday,” the young clerk intoned.

It fell to me to pick up the much awaited photos of “Christmas on the Farm.” At the appointed hour, I dutifully arrived with the little claim slip from the processing envelope in my hand. “Sorry,” the clerk rattled grimly, “We’re Out of paper. Your prints will be ready tomorrow.”

“Out of paper? Out of Paper!” I thought to myself as I lumbered back to my car. How can a conscientious owner of a photo store be out of paper. That’s as idiotic as the restaurant or snack shop that advertises, “World’s Greatest Onion Rings” being out of onions.

Friday afternoon, I trudged back into the photo store, presented my claim slip only to be told, “Our processor’s been broke for two days and was just repaired an hour ago. We’ll have your photos in 45 minutes.” I turned and left the store, deciding not to come back until Saturday.

Saturday afternoon, over 24 hours after my last visit, I popped into the photo store and handed over my claim slip. “Our processor has been down for a couple of days,” the clerk said, apparently not recognizing me as a frequent visitor. “We’ll have your pictures in 40 minutes.”

My colleague, Wayne Moore, calls me “Mr. Patience.” I have earned that misnomer with pains-taking attention to blowing my top at the slightest delay in my planned schedule. It was all I could do to turn and leave the store without destroying something or someone on the way out.

Forty minutes and twenty five seconds later I was back in the store. The owner waited on me and gave me my photos. He did not say he was sorry for the delay. He did not try to explain what had happened. He didn’t even say “Thank you” when I paid him.

Through a determined series of falsehoods, plus an attitude that can only be described as haughty, the photo store owner had lost a customer, and made an enemy. I now make it a point to tell everyone who will listen about that photo store. So far, I’ve suggested to several other town residents that if they patronize that store, the processing of their valued photos may be delayed.

Did the store run out of paper? Did the machine break? Is 45 minutes really 24 hours long? And, what about saying, “We’re really sorry, but...”

What do you do when you’ve promised customers or constituents that you will provide the product or service they’re expecting and you’ve missed the deadline? Do you tell a lie? Blame someone else who really had nothing to do with the delay? Or, do you speak honestly and kindly, accepting responsibility for your action?

What about your managers or employees? Do you have one of those classic staff members who can never admit he or she is wrong? Instead, it’s always someone else who contributed to the error. Well, chances are that manager or employee treats your customers the same way. Instead of giving truthful answers, the truth is always slightly twisted to excuse the error.

When a professional makes a mistake, he or she explains what has happened, truthfully and contritely, and expects his or her employees to do the same. The plain fact is there just is no excuse for not telling the truth.

Psychologist M. Scott Peck has written a book, People of the Lie. Get it. Read it. And, join the growing number of professionals who speak truthfully. It’s just one more quality that sets those apart who have determined to be the real leaders—the true professionals—in their chosen industry.

A version of this blog post originally appeared as the “Dean Says” article in
The Moore-Wilson Sigaling Report—Vol. 3 No. 1 for January/February 1991


Copyright © 2011 by Dean K. Wilson. All Rights Reserved.


Monday, January 10, 2011

The Marks of Professionalism, Part 4—
Commitment to Excellence


What are those qualities that clearly make one individual appear professional when compared to his or her peers?

We began three issues ago with a discussion of the quality of “compassion.” Two issues ago, I discussed the quality of a strong sense of “justice.” Last issue I shared some thoughts on the subject of “common sense.” This time I want to suggest that among those key items which point to professionalism is an overwhelming “commitment to excellence.”

Excellence has been a very popular topic for motivational speakers and writers during the last two decades or so. Countless books, newspaper articles, magazine features, and many, many speeches have been made about the quality of a commitment to excellence. Even the military has taken up the theme with the snappy jingle that accompanies an action-packed video extolling the virtue of a soldier’s career: “Be all that you can be, in the Aaaaarrrrr-meeeeee.”

And yet, everywhere we go, we bump straight up against a host of people who, day in and day out, perform at some level below a standard of excellence. Here's a couple of examples.

Back when I traveled regularly, I had an experience when it took me four phone calls, speaking each time to a different travel consultant, to try to get the large national travel agency to process my ticket as a full-coach fare. Because I am a Delta Airlines “Million Miler,” having such a ticket would allow me to upgrade my lengthy flight to first class. I finally got the ticket in the mail and, you guessed it, one segment of the ticket is not coded as a “Y.” I wanted to scream, but then thought better of it.

I eat far too many meals at McDonald’s, purposefully choosing smiling Ronald over the people who want me to “have it your way.” My standard order is two cheeseburgers with extra cheese and extra onions and a medium diet coke.

“ Would you like fries with that?”

“ Are they free?” I have learned to ask.

“ No, of course not!” is the startled reply.

“ Then I guess I’ll just stick with what I ordered,” I respond.

After my food is delivered to the car, what do you suppose I find in the bag when I open it? Well it varies, but only about one-third of the time do I get two cheeseburgers with extra cheese and extra onions. I have even watched a grill person in the Cincinnati Airport McDonald’s announce my order correctly as he lays the wrapped burgers on the stainless steel burger trough, repeated by the order taker as she slides them into the bag, only to discover no extra cheese and no onions whatsoever when I sit down to eat the burgers. And, of course, I don’t just sit down to eat, I sit down to eat with great anticipation.

Somewhere in this chain of events—from order taker to grill person to shift supervisor to store manager—someone, or maybe several “someones,” does not have a commitment to excellence.

Is it so very different in whatever field of endeavor in which you work? Let’s say, for example, that some poor soul calls and says he or she needs the product or service that you provide. Does a mechanism in your company or organization kick in to assure that all along the chain of events—from the moment of this initial call until the product or service is delivered and fully accepted—every person who becomes involved with providing the product or service has a commitment to excellence?

Now I’m certainly not just talking about lip service to some pie-in-the-sky vision of “excellence.” Practically everyone I know gives lip service to the importance of a commitment to excellence. No, I’m talking about a group of “can do” people deciding it is worth their while to provide a product or service using quality materials in a quality manner, and to do it right the first time.

Customers truly do want the best product or service delivery possible. Even if they are operating with budget restrictions, they still expect that whatever they buy will be provided properly with care and attention to detail.

In my chosen field of fire protection, a commitment to excellence impacts significantly on the false alarm problem that has given fire and burglary alarm systems such bad names. If you are committed to providing the best system you can, and are further committed to maintaining that system in top condition throughout its useful life, then by your commitment to excellence you have taken an important step in the process of eliminating false alarms.

So, how does one internalize this particular mark of a professional? The commitment to excellence seems to come, either as a result of several very painful lessons where a failure to perform in an excellent manner resulted in a disaster, or it comes from a personal value that determines where others err, you will not.

Whichever force motivates you, I would encourage you, and myself, as well, to actively seek to cultivate a commitment to excellence. Somehow I can’t help but think that such an attitude will reap many, many rewards.

A version of this blog post originally appeared as the “Dean Says” article in
The Moore-Wilson Sigaling Report—Vol. 2 No. 4 for October/December 1990


Copyright © 2011 by Dean K. Wilson. All Rights Reserved.


Friday, January 7, 2011

The Marks of Professionalism, Part 3—
Common Sense


What are those qualities that clearly make one individual appear professional when compared to his or her peers?

I began two blog posts ago with a discussion of the quality of “compassion” as one of the marks of a professional. Last post, we discussed the quality of a strong sense of “justice.” This time I want to suggest that among those key items which point to professionalism is an obvious application of “common sense.”

“Now wait just a minute,” I hear you respond. “How can common sense be a mark of a professional? You either have common sense or you don’t.”

I think I know what you’re trying to say. In fact you remind me of the time nearly 25 years ago when, on a very, very rainy night, Fire Chief Bob Gilmore and l were standing at the front of the fire house looking out through the windows in the overhead door. Somehow the conversation turned to a discussion of the neighbors. The Chief remarked that the son of one particular neighbor was so stupid he didn’t know enough to come in out of the rain. As if to magically verify that point, around the corner of the house next door came the son in question, strolling slowly past our vantage point, clearly oblivious to the drenching downpour.

My good friend and fellow seminar leader, Wayne Moore, often remarks to seminar audiences that the reason why so much common sense is available is that so little of it is used. Whether this is true or not, if you think you’ve known a true professional who did not exhibit a clear ability to apply common sense to the problems of every day life, I would beg to differ with you.

Trying to find a definition for common sense is not really such an easy task. The dictionary is only marginally helpful. Asking various people as to how they would define the term “common sense” yields no clearer a result.

I did recently stumble onto a definition, however, that I believe truly captures the essence of this elusive, yet critical, quality of professionalism. The source of this definition was a letter of recommendation written by my niece Tara’s summer employer.

As part of her college intern program, “Tee-Tee” (as I call her—much to her chagrin) had worked for the New York State Department of Mental Health. In writing a letter back to the professor overseeing the internship program, the supervisor for whom Tara worked offered a glowing recommendation. One of the statements he made was that Tara continually showed good common sense. And then, he went on to explain that encountering various situations requiring a decision or some direct action, Tara always seemed to carefully consider the consequences before making a decision or taking action.

WOW! What a terrific description of common sense—considering the consequences of a decision, or of a direct action, before making that decision or taking that action. In other words, before I step out onto the limb of a tree, I think about whether that limb will be able to hold my weight.

In more appropriate terms, before I select a particular piece of new equipment or choose a person to work on my team, I consider whether that new equipment or individual is suitable for the task ahead. Before I decide to cut this corner or that one, in either developing a process, creating a procedure, instituting a new program, making a change to existing operations, or choosing a particular course of action, I consider the consequences.

I can think of a host of circumstances where I have wondered why a particular individual made a decision, or took some action, without seeming to have possessed a sensitivity to what might result from the decision or action.

If you spend just a moment, I’m sure you can come up with a number of examples from your own particular career environment, where you have observed people making decisions without considering the consequences. As you review each example in your mind, think of all the chaos that needlessly resulted from such an unconsidered decision.

The fact is that if every one of us aspired to being able to consistently apply common sense to solving the problems we face daily in our work environment, we would go a long way toward raising the overall level of professionalism in our chosen industry.

How about it? Are you willing to join me in considering the consequences BEFORE we make decisions or take action?

A version of this blog post originally appeared as the “Dean Says” article in
The Moore-Wilson Sigaling Report—Vol. 2 No. 3 for August/September 1990


Copyright © 2011 by Dean K. Wilson. All Rights Reserved.


Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The Marks of Professionalism, Part 2—


What are those qualities that clearly make one individual appear professional when compared to his or her peers?

I began last blog post with a discussion of the quality of “compassion” as one of the marks of a professional. This time I want to suggest that among those key items which point to professionalism is a strong sense of justice.

Lest there be some confusion on this point, let me hasten to explain that by the phrase “a strong sense of justice,” I am referring to a quality that is somewhat different than a sense of fairness or fair play. While I agree that fairness is an admirable quality of a professional, by a strong sense of justice, I am referring to an attitude that “right” must always be vindicated and “wrong” must always be punished.

Do you remember an event in New York City many years ago when a young lady by the name of Kitty Genovese was stabbed to death in the entrance to her apartment building in the plain view of her neighbors. They heard her screams for help. Some of them even saw the man who stalked and killed her. When asked why they had stood by and done nothing, several of her neighbors replied, “We didn’t want to get involved.”

We didn’t want to get involved? What? I cannot help but reflect on that answer in light of what Cain said to God during their conversation recorded in the first book of the Bible, Genesis 4:9. God said, “Where is your brother, Abel?” Cain replied, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” Ironically, as you no doubt recall, Cain, in a fit of jealousy, had already killed his brother.

Getting involved. A person with a strong sense of justice simply cannot help getting involved. He or she is forced to take some action whenever a situation arises where “wrong” seems to be on the verge of triumphing.

During one recent lunch, as my good friend Jerry Polisky and I sat in the McDonald’s parking lot, we saw two young people hanging around a USA Today newspaper box across the street.

“Look at those two,” Jerry remarked. “What do you suppose they’re up to?”

“Probably waiting to panhandle,” I replied with my usual cynical distrust.

“Hey, look,” he said. “They’re stealing from the box.” And sure enough, with a very smug look on her face, the girl turned and handed the boy a fistful of coins. In a flash he put them in his jacket pocket and the two double-timed it down the street.

I honked the horn. Jerry opened his door and yelled at them.

“Wait a minute,” Jerry exclaimed. “Look at this guy.”

A tall man in a long cashmere coat had suddenly jumped out of a car across the way and was running after the errant pair. They spotted him and started to run. His long stride was just too much for them. He grabbed them. They struggled. A shower of coins hit the pavement. The boy and girl looked for just a second or two at the spilled coins and then tore off down the sidewalk.

“Cashmere coat” bent over and painstakingly retrieved every single nickel, dime, and quarter. He walked back to the paper box and for several minutes stood there depositing every coin back in the box. He brushed his hands together when he finished and strode back to his car.

Now I don’t know anything about this noontime hero. But, I would guess that if we were to examine his life closely, we would find that he carries the marks of a professional. You see, in those few moments of action and reaction, he displayed a strong sense of justice. He was going to do his part to make certain that “right” prevailed and “wrong” was punished.

For example, in the fire protection, fire alarm, and burglary alarm industries—where I have spent the better part of my career—how many of us, when we prepare a set of specifications, ask for exactly what is needed to provide proper and adequate protection—no more and no less? When we, as Authorities Having Jurisdiction, review a set of drawings, how often do we resolve to make certain every detail is properly covered without adding some particular pet item that is a “nice to have” rather than a “need to have?”

No matter what your chosen field of endeavor, a strong sense of justice can be a valued guideline, as you deal with customers and with your peers. It is a quality worth cultivating in all our lives. Just one more of those qualities that mark a professional.

Admittedly, there are times when those who do have this quality come across as too harsh or too demanding. When that happens, perhaps it would be wise for those of us who are still cultivating that quality to try to understand the force that motivates their behavior.

A strong sense of justice helps give those who bear the marks of a professional a mindset that they are, indeed, their brothers’ keepers. And frankly, that is a mindset to be admired.

A version of this blog post originally appeared as the “Dean Says” article in
The Moore-Wilson Sigaling Report—Vol. 2 No. 2 for June/July 1990


Copyright © 2011 by Dean K. Wilson. All Rights Reserved.


Monday, January 3, 2011

The Marks of Professionalism, Part 1—


“Say what you want about women in the fire protection field, but she’s a real professional!“

“You may not agree with him very often, and you may not like the way he looks, but that man is a true professional.”

I agree with those I overheard sharing at a recent meeting of the Society of Fire Protection Engineers. The two people they were talking about do, indeed, carry the marks of professionalism.

What are those marks? What are the qualities that make us “feel good” about the competency of one working in our chosen field of endeavor?

I think I have a few clues. In the next few blog posts, I want to share these with you, because I’m pretty certain that you and I should be aspiring in these directions on a regular basis.

Compassion. I’ve chosen one of the seemingly warm fuzzy qualities as the first. I guess I’ve done that because the popular media has lately been pushing a mindset of tough negotiation and strident political discourse. In reading this literature, or listenting to the broadcasts, I don’t find any room for compassion, and I know that it is a critical seasoning in the recipe of life.

Have I ever told you that I like my dentist back in Connecticut where I used to live? In fact, I really like him. And, not only do I like him, he’s a real professional. He carries the marks of a professional. Among many important qualities, he has compassion.

Cartoonists depict dentists as persons recruited from a sadistic subculture that lurks around the biology laboratories at colleges and universities. The expression “It’s like pulling teeth” came about for a reason, as anyone who has had a tooth pulled knows first hand.

And yet, there are ways of pulling teeth that are somehow more compassionate than others. Case in point. My dentist, John Rosenlieb, recently under took to remove one of my upper teeth.

Instead of taking a 42-inch long needle on the end of a Novocain syringe, John carefully used a topical anesthetic to numb the outer tissue in my mouth. Then, ever so gently, he inserted a normal-sized needle into the tissue and began to push in the deadening fluid.

From past experience, I braced myself for a mouth-wrenching shock, as the entire upper portion of my face was blasted by this devil-potion. But, alas, John only gently squirted a little bit of the Novocain into my mouth, waited for the tissue to become partly numb, and then pushed in some more. It probably took him the better part of five or six minutes to accomplish the task of numbing the tissue deeply enough to be able to extract the errant tooth.

What was the difference between John and others who had clanked around inside the Wilson mouth? John did what needed to be done, but he did it with compassion.

Certainly, his time was valuable. Just as valuable as any dentist’s. He had every reason, from a coldly economic viewpoint, to rush through the procedure with dispatch and let the pain simply be accepted as a part of the procedure. But, he didn’t do that. He took the time he needed to treat me with compassion.

Later on in the procedure there was a moment where a nerve ending turned just a shade raw and an involuntary tear slid out of the corner of my eye. “It’s OK, Big D,” John said softly, “we’re almost done.” That’s compassion. And, compassion is one of the marks of a true professional.

  • Equipped with knowledge and the wisdom to apply that knowedge.

  • Gifted in communicating with patients, so that they actually understand the treatment that is necessary to restore them to a proper level of dental health.

  • The presence to command respect without having to say anything.

  • A strong sense of ethics in handling the business side of dentistry and in working with his assitant, Linda Petersen (who is also a professional).

  • Honesty in dealing with diagnosis and with any negatives involved in treatment.

All of these qualities are certainly a part of John Rosenlieb, DMD. And, he has compassion.

I like my dentist from Connecticut. I like him a lot! He carries the marks of a professional.

In your industry, and in mine, as we strive to produce a product, or provide a service, that has significant value to our customers or constituents, may it be said of you and me: “There’s a professional!”

I don’t know how all this strikes you, but I’m going to start being more compassionate.

When I deal with a contractor who obviously hasn’t done his or her homework. Or, when someone on a committee takes a position that I believe is intolerable. Or, when one of my employees disappoints me over some truly trivial issue. I’m going to season my response with compassion. I know it will make me a better person. How about you?

A version of this blog post originally appeared as the “Dean Says” article in
The Moore-Wilson Sigaling Report—Vol. 2 No. 1 for April/May 1990


Copyright © 2011 by Dean K. Wilson. All Rights Reserved.


Saturday, January 1, 2011

Working Your Dreams
—A Thought for 2011




A version of this blog post originally appeared on Page 1 in
The Moore-Wilson Sigaling Report—Vol. 3 No. 3 for May/June 1991




Copyright © 2011 by Dean K. Wilson. All Rights Reserved.