Sunday, April 24, 2016

Change Leader

     I really enjoyed Michael Fullan's Change Leader.  It was written in simple language with lots of examples to help you understand the key idea of each chapter.  Michael Fullan offers seven core practices that separate the competent leader from a change leader that is able to bring about and maintain deep and lasting changes in an organization.
     Rather than discuss each one of the core practices, I will share a few of the lessons that were the most insightful for my own growth as a leader.  
  • If you want to have any chance of changing a negative relationship you have to give other people respect before they have earned it
  • The lowest paid, and in most companies, the least motivated people, are the ones who can make or break a five-star operation.
  • Leaders are always developing the next generation of leaders as they do today's work.  
  • Change is only a mirage unless people actually experience the reality of improvement.  If that happens, they will expect and do even more.  
  • If you want to challenge people to change, develop a relationship with them first.  
  • You must share three cups of tea before you are accepted in the culture.  The first one is as a stranger.  the second is as an honored guest.  The third time is as family.  
  • Behaviors change before beliefs do.
  • The fall into the implementation dip will be even greater if high aspirations precede it, so strive for small early successes, acknowledge problems, admit mistakes, protect your people, and celebrate successes along the way.
  • Mutual allegiance comes from a commitment to the cause, and people get satisfaction from trying to outdo each other for the common good (and individual pride) even to the point of sharing ideas in a catch-me-if-you-can spirit.  It is magical.  you can have an Olympian spirit without cheating or cutthroat win-lose mentalities.
  • Learn to say I don't know and take the blame, even if it is not your fault.
  • Be indispensable in the right way - by creating new leaders that don't need you and can run with the changes on their own.

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

     This was a book that I wouldn't have picked up on my own, but I'm glad someone required me to read it because it made me understand the Internment Camps of World War II in a new way.  
     The Panama Canal has been boarded up for 40 years when the new owner discovers the belongings of numerous Japanese families sent to Internment Camps during World War hidden in the basement.  When Henry Lee sees the parasol unfurl, he travels back in time to remember Keiko, his friend and first love from his childhood.
     Keiko and Henry are the only Asian American students in the all white school.  Although Henry is Chinese American and Keiko is Japanese American, they just see each other as friends.  The other children taunt and bully them, but their friendship helps them overcome it.
     Keiko's family supports the friendship and see Henry as a good person to be part of their daughter's life.  In contrast, Henry's father watched his parents get killed by the Japanese during an earlier war and wants Henry to stop being Keiko's friend.  He supports the American hatred of Japan and forces Henry to wear an "I Am Chinese" button so no will mistake his son for Japanese.  Henry is horrified to learn that Keiko's family is being sent to an Internment Camp.  He is able to travel to see her twice, and writes to her continually, but she never writes him back.  Henry finally agrees to his father's demands that he study in China if his father will agree to save the Panama Canal, the place where the Japanese American families have hidden their belongings.
     When the hotel is unboarded, Henry begins the search for Keiko's belongings and tells his son, Marty, about his first love.  Through the telling of the story, Henry and Marty learn to see each other as people and the value in giving each other a second chance.
     This is a book about love.  The love between father and son, the love for a country that is making the wrong decision, the love for family, first love, the love of art and music, and the love of friendship.
     The book travels between World War II and the current time of 1986.  It also travels between characters so you get to see the situation from many points of view.  The shifts in time and characters made it difficult for some people to read, but it is well worth the effort.      

When Books Went to War

     I bought this book as a present for my sixteen-year-old son who loves war topics, but isn't so keen on reading lately, so he would have a good book to read for his English class.  He got halfway in and quit reading, so I offered to read it so we could talk about it and motivate him to finish reading it.  I got halfway in and almost quit.
     The topic is very interesting, but it gets bogged down in the middle with lots of publishing information and political infighting that gets boring if you don't have enough background information to keep you interested.  However, when it refocuses on the soldiers and their experiences, it is a good read.
     The book is a true story of how books were used to fight Hitler's attack on books and ideas in World War II.  The book starts with a chapter on the Nazi's book burning and "whole war" attack on differing thoughts, ideas, and philosophies.
     Many people in Europe began hiding books in caves and castles hoping Hitler wouldn't find them, while others began shipping the books to other countries.  H. G. Wells began gathering the titles of the banned and burned books and created the Library of Burned Books in Paris in 1934.  When Germany invaded France, the Nazis put the library under lock and key and only let their high ranking officials in to see the books.
     When American librarians heard of the book burnings and banned books and authors, they were outraged.  They wanted to find a way to use books to counteract Hitler's attack on free thought.  When America men were drafted to begin training for war, the librarians began book drives to send books with them.  However, there were several problems that kept their original idea from succeeding.  The training camps were in disrepair and sorely lacking in equipment and supplies.  There was no place to house the books and it was hard to justify spending the time and money to build libraries when there were so many other things that needed to be built.  Soldiers didn't even have weapons to train with and had to use cardboard props to practice shooting artillery at fake planes.  Another problem was that Americans used the opportunity to clear out books they no longer wanted, so the librarians got books on knitting, religion, and children's books, which were not things the soldiers were interested in reading.  When Americans were sent to the front, the military was adamant that the soldiers needed things to read to counteract the boredom, fatigue, and horrors they were experiencing each day.  With the budget cuts and paper shortages, the librarians had to be creative in finding new ways to print books.  They came up with two pocket sized versions that were easy to read in any type of lighting, were small enough for a pocket or knapsack, and were light enough to not weigh the soldiers down.  They were so successful, the men couldn't get enough of the books.  Men who hadn't picked up a book since being forced to read in school fell in love with reading.  It gave them hope, courage, a new mindset, and an escape from the realities surrounding them.  The plan was so successful that when the men returned from war and used the GI Bill to go to colleges and universities, they were the best students.
     One of my favorite parts were learning how the American soldiers saved The Great Gatsby from obscurity because they loved reading it on the front.  My other favorite part was reading about the difficult places that the men read - from hiding in foxholes and trenches while Japanese tanks continually drove over their heads to lying wounded at the foot of the cliffs on Omaha Beach reading while they waited for medics to arrive.
     It is a great book and I learned a huge amount of information on a topic I knew nothing about.  However, if you plan to give it to a boy to read because he likes war, you may want to warn him that some chapters are boring and he may need to skim them in order to be willing to read on to the chapters that go back to the soldiers.  Your guy may be different, but this might help you if you have a kid like mine that won't finish books when he gets bored.