The Effect of Time’s Up on Men

Though we do have our share of heroines who fought for women’s equality way back, the fact is that our drive did upend the structure of business and industry – male power structures – as they had been run for centuries.  This demanded lots of adjustment and compromising on men’s part as we kept pushing our way in.  They needed to think about these new kinds of male-female relationships and how their lives would change.  How would they adjust? What would the new roles be that they would have to play with women who worked with or for them?  “This is not what I expected when I grew up and moved into the places I assumed were waiting for me.  After all, growing up as a boy and a man in the U.S. imbued them with the sense of power they “inherited”.

I have been involved in the women’s movement from the beginning and hosted a pioneering women’s daily TV talk show in Boston in which we not only showed the first full-fledged birth of a baby but dealt with every phase of politics and the power issues of the day. And I was always aware of the fact that we were creating quite a social upheaval. That we do need to keep remembering that we were not invited in to share men’s thrones!  That was our idea as we started making inroads into what had been a totally accepted societal norm till the late 60s and 70s.

The triumph women feel in this truth-telling time is long overdue and certainly moving in the right direction. But I often wonder about the effect it is having on men.

Till not so long ago, Mom stayed home and Dad worked.  The early resistance and resentments were therefore understandable but were not given much thought. In our zeal, we only saw them as unfair, old-fashioned, and often as the “enemy” because they wouldn’t exactly let us in.  Even now, as women have moved far ahead and are much more actively running for office, we must continually deal with the still fairly common prejudice against continuing to cede power or grave responsibility to women…

So now we come to the Time’s Up Movement.  And the #MeToo movement.  Effects?  Well, the prurient secrets are out in the open.  Although I was also a victim, lots of other folks have finally begun finding out about the rampant physical disrespect for women and the use of men’s power against women that has gone on for generations. The noise of #MeToo allowed many women to stand up and tell about their experiences and let the public know something that was hidden for so long.  And the effects have been powerful and fairly shocking – like bankrupting Harvey Weinstein’s company and several really important TV and theatre stars losing their careers.

But moving this information into the light of the major public arena has made a difference for women.  One of our big problems is now shared by the world!  That SAG-AFTRA award show where everyone talked about it and the women all wore black and the men wore the Time’s Up pin was enormously effective.  A kind of shared “fists in the air” with steam building.  What must that this have done to men?  Well, I have heard defensiveness from men as well as lots of Bravos.  But here it is again.  We not only pushed our way into their world but now have the ability to get public notice for telling ills we have long suffered.  From them!!  Of course this is generalizing but when you talk of group-think, that happens.  But notice the power that has recently been given to women!

So, alongside the triumph of getting to tell the truth out loud, I think we should also consider in how many ways men have had change thrust upon them. That their natural resentments and defensiveness can create a bit of a backlash.  But the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements are spreading new information and creating change as the cover gets blown off this long-held secret.

I cannot leave before I recognize and applaud the younger generations. Born into this new world, they have accepted these changes: Moms working, Dads sometimes playing Mom’s roles, new levels of sensitivity and openness to the many variations the human condition can create as the norm.  Accepting what has happened to women’s roles, they did not pay the costly price of intrusion and change thrust upon previous generations.

So, it’s interesting to ask the men you know, how do they really feel about the changes the women’s movement has wrought and which side of Time’s Up are they on?


The Four Recognizable Types in any Group Discussion in the Office or at Home


Y’know how, when you’re sitting at a meeting or around the table at a family dinner discussion trying to solve something or make a plan, the same people usually speak up or disagree or criticize or say yes or never say anything? Have you ever stopped to think that they actually fall into definable types with predictable behavior? Well, it’s true.

There are 4 basic types present in such human interactions and learning to recognize and categorize them is a key to handling them more productively and solving many log jams where these personalities clash and end up raising the temperature and defeating solutions.

Here’s a lexicon of the four basic types to be found in any meeting or family—wherever people work or live and interact together. See if you can’t recognize these types (and yourself, too!) as you read these:

Based on some creative family research done by Dr. David Kanter for his book Inside the Family:

Here they are:

  • Movers:  initiate action; suggest or develop ideas
  • Opposers:  react to and oppose movers and new ideas
  • Followers:  hook onto others’ ideas, support or “go along”
  • Bystanders:  watch, stay quiet and remain noncommittal

Recognize them? I’ll bet you could even name who is which one in your own group, right?

To help in learning to handle any of them, whether you’re the leader of the group or simply a fellow member, here’s an analysis of each one’s behavior and suggestions of what can work with each one.

MOVERS : These are natural leaders- strong, sure-footed and creative. Often intolerant of others’ ideas, they see their own as the only way forward and get competitive, even aggressive, about that.

OPPOSERS:  These create an instant challenge by blocking the movers’ direction, and yours. Competitive with movers, they get attention and importance by opposing. They refer to getting the “facts” or the “truth” or negate ideas with “we did that before” or “it’ll never work” or (depending on their age) “dumb, boring”.  They can make enemies or hurt feelings. In groups they’re seen as obstacles to progress.

FOLLOWERS: These are not uncreative! They just need to play it safe, waiting to see the group’s attitude before they commit. They may follow either the mover or the opposer for separate reasons.

BYSTANDERS: Interesting characters who need special understanding. Very different from followers, they stay out of the direct action altogether, making no alliance with either side. They watch and keep opinions to themselves, saying (if pressed) “Interesting” or “Have to think about that”.

Each of these is valuable to the group, if handled with understanding. The goal is getting them all on board.

Here are some ways you can accomplish that.

MOVERS are creative, give new ideas and solutions, get the ball rolling and try to get others on board. So—harness them to pull ahead in the right direction. Be careful not to single them out and approve their ideas too soon. Set a course before the mover gets started, explaining exactly what you want. Affirm movers but encourage others, saying you want to hear lots of ideas. If you’re the leader, you’re probably a mover, too. Make room for the others…

OPPOSERS can bring up important issues overlooked by the mover’s enthusiasm. Since they’re willing to test ideas and scrutinize data, they can actually improve a mover’s initiatives. Give them assignments to look into the idea and find out how feasible it is instead of just reacting negatively to them. This gives them recognition and uses their skepticism constructively as well as taking away some of the hostile reactions to their constant opposition.

FOLLOWERS empower others by granting support and creating a “team” which movers (or newly directed opposers) need. Allow followers to find their own level, giving them assignments to help facilitate the project. They can be great as support staff and implementers.

BYSTANDERS are seductive to both movers and opposers since neither knows what bystanders are thinking and want to convince them to sign on. These folks are not that way voluntarily. They’ve been overshadowed or never given the encouragement or training to try a more public role. To help them participate, assign them a specific task without waiting for them to volunteer.

Ask for a private report (“check back with me”) because bystanders are afraid of being judged publicly.

Although meetings take place more regularly in the workplace, you can see the value of getting to know all this for family interactions as well. Consider how helpful it can be in your family discussions and even family arguments to recognize the types you’re dealing with, understand why they are that way and what you can do to help them get on board…

So here’s the bottom line: now that you have an informed, objective way to evaluate and understand who’s sitting across from you and why they do what they do, you’re on your way to being the great diplomat and constructive problem solver. Live. In the moment.

And that’s what really matters — doing it live. Because here’s a big secret– no matter how great your emails and Powerpoints are, you’ll never sell anything –or yourself –without finally doing it live, in person. And since I’ve spent my life teaching others how to communicate in person in this tougher, no-talk texting world,  I’ll be giving you ongoing insights into how to get your message across personally and make people listen to you.

I’ll be posting an ongoing series giving you insights and new approaches to getting your message across and making people sit up and listen to you.


Sonya Google Glass picSo here it is—a skeptic (me) wearing the Google Glass! Are you aware of what this newest leap into newness can do? Like your smart phone, it can take pictures and video, show your email, conduct searches, use GPS, receive phone calls, share pics with friends and more — faster than a smart phone and all on voice command. And how do you see all this? There’s a little square piece of glass connected to the frame over your right eye. But you don’t have to look up at it—you just look straight ahead and you can read and see anything you ask for!

Of course saying I’m a skeptic makes you now look for reactions: Does it really work? How does it feel? Is it comfortable, easy, fun?  What does it do to you as you wear it? Would you want one?

Well, let’s start by saying it is mind-boggling! I don’t care how sophisticated you are and how many gimmicks you’ve already played with, this one is a lulu. It really does do what I said it did. Just think about the freedom—you’re not holding anything! By just plain looking straight ahead you see whatever you requested. And what a sense of regal power you get when you summon it and say (or bellow) “OK Glass, take a picture” or “ OK Glass, who was Vercingetorix?” (bet you’ll look that one up!) Another goody is that when you take pictures, others are not aware of it, which really matters in foreign countries where there can be bad reactions to the old point and shoot style.  It feels light and totally comfortable on the face and you don’t have to fish for your phone whenever you get a call or to look something up or read emails.

Most of all- it’s such fun! It’s like playing pretend except it works. How many remember the old comics with Dick Tracy’s magic watch that he talked into? One of those is coming soon from Apple, I hear. So the Glass plays right into- actually surpasses -the games we’ve all been playing with the rush of equipment that keeps rolling toward us, topping each other , faster and faster.

OK – the negatives. In the first version you can talk but can’t hear well on phone calls (2nd version already has an ear bud to fix that.) It does get commands wrong and some things are not as easy to access as smartphones. You do have to learn how to do everything on it but some of it is counterintuitive. And of course it’s not yet available to anyone except those who won the first lottery by describing why a Google Glass would be useful, important, meaningful, helpful in their work or lives. And even those lucky winners had to pay $1500 for the privilege of being the first explorers.

But what’s really funny is to scan the internet to read what is being complained about as other negatives. Here are some quotes:

“They can make interacting with someone awkward.” WHAT? And burying your face in a smartphone is conducive to interacting with others???

More “negatives”:

“Makes you question whether the Glass wearer is focusing on you or their ever present screen” Again, have you noticed interactions at restaurant tables or between young people—are they tuned into you or tuned out and into a device??? Also “there’s an ever-present temptation to tune out the world around you.” Well, friends, that’s the daily activity everywhere now as we substitute the interaction with a device for any so- called time consuming one-on-one human contacts.

So far Google is handling the technical negatives in a most creative way. The first group of Glass Explorers is a constant source of feedback and criticism and being built into a special community. They get monthly Glass Support emails with the latest questions and what’s-news and where the Glass hangouts are in their area are.  They send new instructions about what’s now possible as they refine and add onto the systems. And Version 2 is on its way.

Bottom line: Another step away from the atavistic, old,  human systems of communicating personally – verbally, visually,  physically- and onto our next lives as carriers and progenitors of mechanical, robotic, controlled and edited forms of reaching each other. Who knows what permanent effects this will have on the future of our species… But it surely is magic, and fun.

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Wendy Davis vs. “Lean In” – Do Women Need Help to Lead?

Women’s ability and strength to lead, to take charge, and move up the ladder at work has been a much discussed issue since Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s Chief Operating Officer, wrote her book, Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead.

Ms. Sandberg’s book laments the dearth of women as visible leaders in the workplace. She wants to inspire women to emerge and become more ambitious in the roles they can play, and to assertively and aggressively reach for new goals while continuing the fight for equality so daringly and visibly begun by the women’s movement in the early 70s.

Among the many responses to Sandberg’s book that I hear in the workplace, are, “Why do women need so much help, so much instruction and support, to move into leadership positions? Leaders just plain lead! No lessons! Maybe they really just plain can’t or don’t want to!”

And then we see Texas State Senator Wendy Davis stand up and deliver a 13-hour filibuster in a hostile environment, killing a bill to close women’s clinics throughout Texas – and doing it singlehandedly! It reminds us that leadership, courage, strength, and a fighting spirit are all there – all part of women’s abilities. (It’s the lioness that hunts and kills and takes care of the cubs while the lion takes a nap…) So why is there still so much difficulty around how women are perceived – and how they feel about themselves – with regard to the issues of leadership and authority?

I’d like to talk about how come women who surely can and have led – judging by all the famous female pioneers and iconoclasts in our history – are still having a such a hard time being seen and recognized in the workplace today.

Let’s start by just looking at the commonly accepted adjectives that define leadership in the workplace: strong, assertive, aggressive, commanding, decisive, powerful, dominant, take-charge. Do these automatically call forth a woman’s “image” in our society?

What adjectives does a woman’s image call up, from time immemorial? Pretty, feminine, charming, well-dressed, soft-spoken, sexy, nurturing, care-taking, supportive, understanding, emotional.

What comes to mind even when you think of the words Masculine and Feminine? Don’t they still bring forth deeply ingrained stereotypes that surely don’t reflect women’s new 21st century accomplishments as leaders or even men’s newly minted, expressive roles as nurturing, care-giving dads?

So let’s take an atavistic look back at where all this came from – a look at the intrinsic qualities we all carry forward from when our species started – in order to see what expectations we always had about each other and ourselves. And please consider how those characteristics that defined us through the centuries still affect us today.

I’ll paint the picture, in simple primary colors, of what roles were carved out for us given our physical makeup. Roles were created based on where we were most needed and suited. Men, who had the larger shoulder girdles and bigger muscles, had to leave the cave and become the providers – the ones who could kill the dangerous game, pull the plows, and build the shelters. So they learned about the outside world and what it took to survive and make things happen.

And women? Being the “birthers,” they needed to stay indoors, to tend to their offspring, to wait and hope with other women that their men would come home to the communal cave. And to learn nothing about the kind of survival the world “out there” demanded, let alone how to take command and “make it happen.” They passively accepted the events that happened and just carried on.

Millennia came and went but the roles stayed essentially the same, because the basic needs didn’t change. Moving into recorded history, it’s little wonder that the visible male roles that implied strength and courage should make men the leaders, as governing bodies began to be formed. After all, the women’s experience was so much smaller and more limited. Even with their strengths and talents, they were essentially invisible, not public.

But, from their earliest cave days, what did women get good at? Relating to others, nurturing, listening, sharing, and working together with other women whose lives were so similar and who shared common problems. Sure, some women always emerged as leaders in the group – keeping peace, solving problems, being courageous or wise or outgoing – but they all learned to find friends they could count on and talk with, who understood them, and would respond when needed.

So we have men in the outside world, who needed to learn to be soloists, to compete for position – skill or power – to visibly continue as heads of families or societies and forge ahead, successfully or not.  And that lasted till the last two generations began to rethink their roles and make up their own rules about what they would and should do.

And women? Over the centuries women’s roles depended on men. Their lives and futures needed a man to select them and bestow upon them the title of legitimate, recognizable woman – qualified as desirable, as wife, mother, caretaker and visible prize. Otherwise they were the leftovers, the maiden aunts, the teachers, librarians, and governesses that had failed in the earlier competition for men to give them their key roles.

And who believed in these predictable assignments, in the implied descriptions of what to expect – even demand – from men and women? We all did!

To this day little boys are asked to “be strong and take it like a man” and little girls are admired for being “so sweet, graceful, and pretty” (and I know there are enlightened parents whose parenting is much broader, but it’s still the general attitude).

So here we are now, with women breaking out of their traditional roles in visible numbers. Little wonder at the reception we’re getting from men – no, not all, of course, but enough to create the general unease that still causes them to turn laws and expectations against us.

What is this unease about? “Well, if women change their roles, what is now demanded of us?” men are asking.

And women are saying, “Move over, we’ll play in your yard too, now.” Unnerved and challenged – since it’s an old habit to keep the roles clear – men still imagine us women as the decorative, softer, more compliant nurturers. But bosses? Ugh. This invasion not only challenges them to move over and adjust but to also rethink their roles. It makes men wonder, “Who will I be now? What role does this create for me? And hmmm… what else might I like to do?”

Now consider how much it challenges women. They still need to fight the ingrained traditions, not only in their quest for some new turf but also against their own feelings, that genetic, physical draw to still be both a traditional nurturer and homemaker.

What about younger women, those who now have so many opportunities carved out by the women’s movement? They still need to learn the how-tos, the skills and techniques for moving into leadership and feeling like they belong there. Let’s not forget that their role models in that exalted leaders’ territory are still relatively few.

It’s not second nature to all women to roar to the front. It depends on personal drive, desire, background, and intention, as well as courage and feeling legitimate as they stride forth. So they need to learn some new approaches to withstanding the hostility and disbelief, to becoming dexterous and comfortable as leaders, and how to create a new space for fulfilling themselves in the world. Women kicking over a millennia of role demarcations is a tough assignment. The stereotypical slots they’re climbing out of cause deep, internal, personal battles to be fought across the board – and in the boardroom.

Can woman do this? Hah! Just look at Wendy Davis, for one. And we can now also do the hard “outside” physical jobs since no strength and big muscles are required to run our newly formed techie world, just brainpower, creativity, and the ability to relate to people as a perceptive executive. And we’ve always been great at that.

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A New Way to Handle Doctors

ImageY’know how we all take our health for granted? All is well and we just bump along when suddenly that all encompassing shift takes place that stops us dead in our tracks when illness strikes.

Well, the whole business of our relationship with doctors was suddenly in sharp focus as I recently became quite ill. No—there will be no organ recital in this blog post. But I do want to tell you about the sudden dependency and anonymity you’re thrown into when trying to navigate the whole medical care process. You don’t have to totally rely on the doctors – the only ones who can tell you what’s strong and how to treat it and get well. Suddenly they’re in charge.

So there I was, with 5 doctors handling my case, dealing with separate systems that had gone nuts. 5 doctors, each of whom saw me only through the filter of his/her specialty. Each called in to focus on the anonymous person with the crimps in her system

And I was being handled anonymously by them through my primary care doctor- they were talking to each other about me in their own private lingo from their special vantage point. I realized that I as a person really didn’t exist for them. They could address my system malfunctions but knew nothing about me and how this conglomeration of illnesses was affecting me- a whole person who was used to moving at top speed through life, quite in charge of my own faculties and choices.

So I thought I needed to emerge – to write a letter of introduction, telling them all whom they were dealing with, hoping for a personal connection and identity, generating a new look at me, not just my problems.

And I did it. I told them why I was writing, with a really a quick bio telling them who I was, what my life was about and why I needed their help to get me back to where I was, in lieu of actually meeting and getting to know them.

I had each letter hand-delivered, with a list of all five doctors and how they could call each other at the end of each letter. And y’know what? It worked like a charm! I got to talk to them with special appointments. One even gave me his cell phone number in the event I got anxious. And once again I felt really know and cared for.

Just a thought about some ways to break through today’s express systems and back to the old one-on-one personhood status. And stay healthy!!

P.S. All is well, mending, healing and a little wiser for wear.

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Stage Fright

“Whenever I have to make a presentation or speak in public I get so panicky that I even draw a blank as I start to plan it” Sound familiar? You’re in good company.

Did you know that the number one fear of the American public — researched annually for the last 40 years — has been and still is any form of public speaking!It comes up as number one year after year. Amazing.

Actually amazing to me because, since I was a small child, I was always glad to appear in public. To say my piece, play my tune, dance my dance, make my speech — all of it was not only easy and natural for me but also fun! So I have tremendous empathy for folks who find appearing in public to be terrifying and in my adult professional work I’ve not only continued to reach out, connect with and perform for the public but also to teach other people “how-to” — whether in the courtroom, the boardroom or the media.

In an effort to understand why this fear is so rampant and widespread and to help solve it, I’ve studied all aspects of this panic to find out what creates it. And you know what? I’ve found the key ingredients! Understanding and demystifying them can help launch you on the path to erasing them.

So let me share what I learned about how to help folks get over that panic, that stage fright and be able to stand up in public and give that smashing presentation, explain your ideas, and present yourself as you really are, to your best advantage.

Stage fright is really based on a myth. Here it is: somewhere in the world there’s a way to deliver your speech with a perfect 10. You become obsessed with measuring yourself against that perfect “10,” thinking how far below that you’ll fall. This gives birth to an enormous case of “What if I fumble and lose my words?” ” I hate how I look,” “What will my boss (colleagues, clients) think of this — good? Smart? Well-conceived?” You can also add “My mother (father, teacher) always said I mumbled” and “I never liked making a show of myself” and there you’ve got it — Stage Fright!

See — the energy and the focus is all about ME ME ME the speaker, not YOU YOU YOU the people being spoken to. Obsessing on you and your performance — what kind of grade you’ll get, how far off the markyou’ll be. But that’s not what presentations are about! They’re about giving your message to an audience! About explaining, persuading, supporting what information you want to get across to them. About how to make your audience listen. About helping them get your ideas and understand your points, not at all about you and how you’re doing.

So let’s go to the source of this problem. How come so many people get stuck in this trap? Where does it come from?

Well, there are three basic well-springs in our backgrounds:

Childhood — How you communicate starts out embedded in your childhood. You watch others around you in the family and unconsciously try to copy them. But your folks and teachers, in an effort to make you better at it, often criticize how you’re doing it so you start out thinking “there’s a better way and I haven’t done it.” Next comes…

Adolescence — the real killer to self-confidence. Here we introduce the full-length mirror and all the “unacceptable” messages it gives us about our potential for success against our peers. And does the media ever have a field day with telling you how far short you’re falling from the ideal! All this does such a job on how you feel about displaying yourself in public for everyone’s perusal and grading!

Adult Experience — Here’s where your professional and work experience begin to single out what’s admirable and what’s not, what works, who stands out and gets ahead and why. And you start comparing yourself — unrealistically — since you really have no idea how you come across to others. You can only use your own internal insecurities to grade yourself. And you also add some assumptions about how self-confident and competent others appear (though they may not feel that way at all, either!). This dramatically helps you slide up and down, mostly down, on that grade scale. And of course it continues your focus inward, onto you and how you’re doing, and away from outward — towards finding out whatothers care about and how to best tell them your ideas and help them understand you better.

Funny thing is, this insight, this change of focus can get truly get you over stage fright because you’ll get so busy concentrating on capturing your audience, on making them get your message and thinking about the best ways to do that that you stop obsessing about yourself and what kind of grade you’re going to get.

See — the true secret to being a great communicator is understand your audience. Know that people are motivated by self-interest and the key to reaching, persuading, capturing others is to reach out to their self-interest before you get yours met.

So all the self-focus that is the essence of stage fright dooms you to failing in this key pursuit. That’s one of the major reasons to work on this — beyond the sheer business of getting comfortable so your best natural self can come through.

Bottom line: Your sense of self is so often fashioned by illusions — by comparisons and wrong assumptions. And by what other people — and the media — have told you is good and admirable. You gotta drop all that and start focusing first on the job at hand when you present. Use your good head, your past experience and the knowledge you’ve gathered to attack your presentation from the audience’s point of view, not your own. What do they need from you? What have you to offer them? What do they already know and what do you need to fill in? What worries them? What’s tough in today’s world? Grab them with relevance and with energy, with the sense that they’ll miss something they can use if they don’t listen and stay tuned. And then think about what new interesting ways can you make your message clear. Attention getting. Compelling.

And y’know what? Out the window goes the panic while you stay tight on grabbing and keeping them. Making them know that they need to hear you!

In another blog I’m going to give you some great tips on what makes people listen today and some great techniques for being a charismatic presenter. But for now I hope you’ve gotten some insights into the heart of the matter and that they’ll help you start enjoying the sharing of your ideas and feelings with others.

The Travyon Martin Case and the Media

Let me begin by telling you that I’m a long-time jury consultant who’s studied and interviewed juries, worked on many cases and written three books about what makes jurors listen and how they decide. Because of this, I’ve spent a lot of time over the years as a commentator on the media discussing famous cases (including the whole O.J. Simpson case live on daily TV) and analyzing how jurors would see the developments in the case, what the issues are for lay people in these cases, what they believe and understand and so on.

So I’ve been watching the Trayvon Martin case and how it has advanced with a practiced eye. And although I’m pleased to see that it has now finally moved into the courts and the judicial system, where it belongs, I shake my head about how it got it there and what’s happening to the original intentions of how American law is supposed to be practiced.

You’ve probably heard the phrase “to be tried by a jury of their peers,” yes? When our system of laws was formed, “a jury of their peers” was indeed possible and made lots of sense. It meant that not only would most people in any town know the accused and his family but that the jurors thus chosen (though I must decry the fact that it was then only men who were asked to serve… ) all lived in the same environment, understood the efforts of life in that place and shared a number of the common burdens as well as benefits they lived with. They were part of one community and would therefore understand the problems people faced as well as share conclusions about what was a mutually beneficial way to live together and what was out of bounds. And they did utilize the laws of the land as they were created and given.

Well, we have surely grown from those days. Juries today don’t often reflect or share the lives of those accused and may have come to vastly different conclusions about how life should be lived in their community. But I’ll tell you something that is very encouraging. Jurors generally take their work very seriously and really do want to do a good job. And, by and large, the jury system of 12 lay people listening, discussing and deciding is still the best way to bring justice to the analysis and conclusion of any case compared with the other narrow possibilities — a single judge or a panel of three judges or a military tribunal deciding on civilian cases. It’s what has worked for us Americans since we began and speaks of the same intrinsic faith in us as human beings that democracy and voting itself represents.

So what’s happened to that old idealistic system as our country has morphed into a 24-hour news-hungry electronic loudspeaker-with-pictures that rushes to bring us every detail of any event in our daily lives as soon as it happens?

Trial law insists that only the facts and evidence presented in court, during the trial, as sworn testimony heard equally by the jury and all concerned and allowed by the judge according to the rules can be used to analyze and decide on a fair and just verdict. And how is this jury chosen? What is the big goal? To find people who are questioned by the lawyers and/or the judge to be sure they do not have prior knowledge of or prejudice about the case so they can hear what will be said and shown with an open mind… That they haven’t already made up their minds until they hear the evidence.

And what have we got now in the Trayvon Martin case? What hope of finding an open-minded jury of his peers to judge the defendant as we have absorbed the media frenzy for over a month?

We must look at the two sides of this effort — the powerful role the media played to spread the news and get a defendant to even stand trial. But at the same time what evidence was being discovered and described and shown in infinite detail by this same media process? To everyone in this country and beyond? And now that we’re here, what effect has all this information — untested, unexamined from both sides as prescribed by law — had on our hopes of proceeding with a fair trial as prescribed by law? So along with our instant access to everything media wants to send us, I’m ruminating about what basic principles and carefully nurtured systems of our democracy are maybe falling by the wayside?

Humanizing the Ad Business

“Mad Men” fever has taken the country by storm, depicting the changing moods and unwritten rules of America in the 1960s and how the ad business worked then. It’s made me re-focus on what approaches that all-powerful business used to make us spend and buy in the old days. Which is why I’m especially interested in a new trend in the ad business today.

Have you noticed that something’s happening to the way products- and companies- are now being marketed? Have you noticed what’s happened to GE ads? They’re not showing their superior products any more. They’re zooming in on various workers on the job in their jet engine who are telling you how they feel about building these things?

“From the time I was a kid I was fascinated by planes and how they can get off the ground” or “People see engines as just a lot of metal. These are made by hand, piece by piece” or “I’d give anything to see one of these babies fire up and take off”.

Cut to an airfield. A lineup of jet engine workers standing on the tarmac. Here comes the plane, zooming past them -up up and away…

“Wow!”, “Did you see that?”, “Ooh” followed by grins, high fives, hugs and an overall team sense of pride. Of ownership. Of “we made those.” Identifying the grandeur of the machine by focusing on the people who made it. They’re showing the people who make turbines (cut to a train zooming at you and the workers cheering) or compressors (“you wouldn’t have cold beer without us!”).

There’s another very touching one – all about GE’s cancer-connected X-ray and radiation machines. Again–it shows the people who make the machines talking about how they work on something life-saving. One says “I’d love to meet someone who’s been helped by these” Next shot–a group of cancer survivors walking into a GE building and meeting the workers. Hugs, deep looks at each other, close-ups of survivors saying how lucky they are. Very moving, very touching, very human and personal. What a new sales angle!

Remember how products used to be sold? It was always about the product or machine itself. The “It” factor. How strong, reliable, fast, unique, avant-garde it was. How slick or economically solid it was, how it was the most advanced in the field, how its new twists and turns make it the best, the most. “Don’t get left behind. Run- do not walk. Get one NOW. “

But suddenly there’s a complete about-face. A new face–not It but Who. Selling a product or a company by concentrating on the people who make their stuff. To identify the prestige and personal connection of a company by focusing on the basic component of any business – the people who make it happen.

Interesting. How come? Why did GE come up with this idea? What is it telling us? We all know that marketing- the life blood of any business- always looks for what can reach the public best. What new wrinkle, what new gimmick, what new approach can grab the public and persuade. And if GE has decided that it helps to make their company more appealing, more attractive to the marketplace- and the general public by identifying its products with folks, not its brilliant mechanical advances — what an interesting implication. Does it suggest that GE may be looking at its workers and respecting them and their needs differently? That they recognize that it’s good business to acknowledge them as the heart of the business?

Hmmm. In the midst of our age of supertechnological advances, someone is remembering that it’s people who actually make the stuff…

You Really Can’t Go Home Again

I made a speech in Boston yesterday and am in a state of shock. You see, I lived in the Boston area most of my grown up life. I hosted my own TV talk show there, was cultural reporter on the news, lectured at the Museum of Fine Arts, taught at Harvard graduate schools, bore and raised my three sons there, ate and laughed and played there — I really knew and connected with every part of that city.

But yesterday, driving in from the airport I thought “Wait a Minute! Where am I? What are those skyscrapers? What new highway am I on? What’s happened to my town!”

So I’ve been nursing my wounds — my sense of loss, of estrangement from what was basically “my home town” for so long. How could they do this to my distinctive wonderful city with its visible blend of the old and the new world? Those historic twisted streets of downtown laid out on old Indian trails, those still-standing brick symbols of our heritage, reminders of how our forefathers lived and hoped. All of these affected this New York city girl so deeply when I first moved there. I was in love with joining that legendary America I read about but could never really feel a part of as an apartment-dwelling, hard-driving New York City kid. See, I never fit my childhood books’ descriptions of a front door/ back door/attic/cellar/dog named Spot kind of life. That was really America, I thought, not where I was.

But moving to the Boston area meant I finally joined. Here was Beacon Hill, the old and new State House. Faneuil Hall with its speeches still echoing. Paul Revere’s church tower, the Tea Party harbor, Old Ironsides, Bunker Hill — I was finally a true citizen! How I loved driving into town, seeing the Custom House Tower, remembering that, historically, it was once the tallest building in the city. Every corner was so familiar to me.

But then the “building and improving” started. Sure we need to live in our time and what it can do — but that original Boston/history flavor was still so prevalent when I left that it still sang out–“here’s where it started. Here’s where our great human experiment took form.”

When I moved back to New York, my original home, those images stood fast in my mind. I was still connected to that savory taste of America and the roots I found there.

So what was it really that turned me on so- that made me feel such a part of, so connected to this place?

Symbols. Familiar icons. I guess we get all tied up emotionally in what we see in our daily lives, what we can rely on to be there – recognizable, comforting landmarks that stay stable and dependable and mark the visual corners of our lives. That will always show us the way home.

And what made me react so violently to the new Boston?

When I returned I expected all the old bells to chime for me — ah, there’s where we used to… here’s where that… how I loved the old… But wait a minute!!! What happened?

Overtaken. Boston got overtaken, dominated by what we can do now. See how high, how glistening, how round and square and miraculous we can make these gorgeous new towers? See how we can build new streets, highways, tunnels, create sweeping new landscapes? Everything I saw sang hymns of praise to our technical prowess and how Boston’s face now speaks predominantly of the future.

No, they haven’t torn down the major historic remnants. They’ve just overshadowed them, overwhelmed them — and made them seem little and irrelevant. Little hidden treasures you discover tucked away in the cracks between the new stately, dominant behemoths.

And why did I resent the changes so?

Well, first because it requires me to make adjustments. I had to let go of old familiar memories. To engage in thinking about “where is this? Where do I turn? Is this Stuart Street? Nah, can’t be”.

Then there is the sense of loss. Memories are so connected to places. Going to Theatre Row required eating at the Athens Olympia restaurant every time we went because it was the only real restaurant around there. Seeing the new Stuart/ Tremont Street neighborhood, all glitzy and grown up, meant letting go of pictures of my life — the stuff we all carry around in our memory bank. And in the process, taking a hard look at the march of time — the inexorable movement of life that keeps pushing you on to make room for others. Others coming along who will need to discover their neighborhoods, relate to their city, their version of home. And to create their memory banks.

The new icons and landmarks of Boston today will also change for them someday. And they’ll also feel that disarranged sense of loss as they look at what were their familiar icons and say “Hey! What’s going on? Where are my old buildings and hangouts!?

Lesson learned.

You can’t ever really go home again. No part of the world will stand still and wait for you while you move on in your life. Wait to reassure you about how it was. To help you feel safe and connected to stable earmarks. To let you know that your life was indelible and cast in solid matter.

Nothing told me more starkly about the journey. And what gets erased as you pass by.

What Penn State Tells Us About Us

What’s the main takeaway from the Penn State child abuse horror? For me it’s all about taking a hard look at our accepted priorities — at what’s at the top of our societal list in terms of what matters, what needs to be preserved, what we’re proud of and care about. And how come we’ve ended up with this list.

Maybe it’s time to take that hard look at what slot the powerful domain of football holds, what it really stands for and what’s gotten pushed much further down.

That inviolate Sat/Sun magnet that overrides all other activities and media programming touches one of our most basic instincts. It’s really all about a field of battle and which side we’re on, playing into one of our most ancient, genetic instincts: to go forth on a field of battle with our cave (team) mates to best our enemies and protect ourselves, to fight for our territory, to survive and win. What else could stir more group passion? “De-fense, de-fense” — listen to the power, the unison of the onlookers. We’re all driven by that old need for a group win (be safe and strong), not a group loss (danger, weakness). We get deeply involved in the vicarious fight for territory — that old warring spirit, the good guys vs. the bad guys, the conquest, the defeat.

Tapping into such atavistic needs and feelings, the football practitioners — teams, coaches, colleges, media, money-makers — have an easy time gathering the force to carve out a high place on our list of passions and priorities — and create an unbelievably lucrative kingdom.

But we’re born with a whole bunch of instincts, all left over from the early days when we, as a species, were just trying to get a toehold on the earth and figure out what we needed to do to survive. The two overriding forces were:

  • not getting killed (battling for safety) and
  • procreating the species (protecting the offspring).

Well, that battle for territorial safety has surely changed and football merely re-enacts that ancient drama. But protecting our children? That’s real — as strong and firm an instinct as it ever was.

The passion for protecting the offspring is rule one throughout the animal kingdom — not just lioness and cubs but us, too. And since our offspring take much longer to develop and leave the nest, our instinct should be greater and last much longer.

How did football grow to such a station in our lives that Penn State’s officials and practitioners would go against such basic human nature just to protect the franchise?

To save the reputation and grooved machinery of the their football kingdom, we see grown men who train and develop, actually mold young athletes, whose powerful involvement in their lives also teaches them morals, values, standards and ways of playing life’s games. We see these men find no deeper calling than just saving the status quo — and the power and money it represents.

What was that assistant coach thinking when he came in and saw a grown man (allegedly) assaulting and sexually violating a child? What did he feel? Wasn’t he horrified? Didn’t he identify with the victim, not the perp? Wasn’t his first instinct to run forward and stop it? Isn’t that genetic? But the perp was a Penn State football coach! What would it do to the kingdom if he confronted and fought him, let alone tell on him? What overrode that first human instinct and made him leave and just call Daddy?

“Fight a coach? I could lose my job! I’d threaten JoePa’s football kingdom, ruin my future — and Penn State’s golden franchise!”

Result? Execs, coaches, those who could have put a stop to it laid low. Did the minimum. Passed it on sotto voce to the next in line, whispering in corners, no action taken. And let Sandusky continue his destruction of young boys’ lives. No sense of responsibility to anything above the good of that franchise. No higher priority.

And when the media finally moved in, (telling us about Syracuse and The Citadel, too) we got our noses rubbed in what has been raised to such a high position on our priority list. Not only that the law wasn’t followed but that a deep human instinct didn’t register with any of those people to want to prevent Sandusky from hurting any more children.

 So — let’s take another look at our priority list — and at where kids fit on it. What other kids’ needs are we missing besides safety and protection from fiendish adults? What priorities are we giving to education? To their health? To helping them grow into useful adults who will direct the future of our society? What other roles do adults need to play in their lives?

And maybe we’ll even start thinking — “Football? Great. But it’s still only a game.”