When leaders become the square peg in their organization’s round hole

Square Peg in a Round Hole

Why was it so predictable that in such a short period of time Donald Trump would become the lightning rod for so much criticism from the media and the public?  Why did he trip so many political land mines in in the first few weeks of his Presidency?  And why did a man who many credit with having built a successful business empire have so much difficulty transitioning from the gold plated environs of Trump Tower to the Oval Office in the People’s House?

The answer is found in the old idiom…a square peg in a round hole.

Trump, like so many other entrepreneurs, sole proprietors, self-employed professionals (i.e. physicians, attorneys, accountants, real estate investors, etc.) may have excelled in their business or professional life but when thrust into an environment when accountability is required and where process is as important as product these individuals fail as leaders.  Such is very often the case when an executive of a privately held company finds her/himself at the helm of a publicly owned business and even more so when they are expected to lead government or nonprofit organizations.

The CEO of a privately owned enterprise has no responsibility to a board of directors or shareholders.  Decisions are typically made by taking one’s own counsel and not taking or even spurning advice and input of others.  This is the person who manages rather than leads.  This is the person who projects his own views, opinions and policies in an autocratic style without taking counsel from others.  The consequence in a private business environment is typically limited to personal gain or loss and not the benefit or harm to others.

These are the people that expect and often demand complete obedience from others.  They may be an imperious or domineering person who is most comfortable holding absolute power.  They often believe that their point of view and their opinion is always correct.  Hubris, arrogance, and narcissism often characterize those who have only themselves to answer to.

But when these individuals assume a leadership role in the public or nonprofit sectors they often fail to adapt to a new way of doing business.  They bristle at the idea that they need to include others in their decision making process.  They struggle when confronted by resistance from the loyal opposition. They can’t understand why when they say jump their followers don’t ask “how high?”.

Trying to lead in the public or nonprofit sector the way one has led in their own closely held enterprise is when they often find themselves as the proverbial square peg in a round hole.  Their business practices, behaviors, personality and business style may have worked when they called all the shots without push back.  They can’t and won’t accept their mistakes or foibles.  And their lack of compassion, humility and dedication to others more than themselves make it impossible to force their sharp edged peg to fit neatly and comfortably into an environment which favors smooth and round edges.

Donald Trump is the most notable and visible example of a square peg trying to hammer himself into a round hole.  But he is not alone.  Too often, volunteer leaders of nonprofit organizations ascend to the head of the board table with either a lack of experience in a very different environment or an unwillingness to learn from the new playbook.

Inexperience is not a fatal flaw. What one doesn’t know can be learned when a leader is open to coaching and counsel.  The unwillingness to modify old ways of doing business and the failure to adapt to the necessary group process that is required by publicly controlled business, government or the nonprofit organization is a prescription for failure.  Success without change in one’s leadership style is often a bridge too far.  Leaders fail when ambition overreaches capability.  And the biggest possible sledgehammer will never force a square peg to fit neatly into a round hole.

Give but Give Wisely

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Giving Tuesday is a global day of giving fueled by the power of social media and collaboration.

Celebrated on the Tuesday following Thanksgiving and the widely recognized shopping events Black Friday and Cyber Monday, Giving Tuesday kicks off the charitable season, when many focus on their holiday and end-of-year giving.

Yet most people make their decisions to give to charity based on little more than bumper sticker slogans and carefully spun information from professional and volunteer spokespersons trained to appeal to us in the hope that we will reach for our checkbook even without thoroughly vetting the worthiness, impact and relevance of their cause.

So how can we become better informed and more responsible donors? It may require a little work, but it is really not that difficult to pull the curtain back and let some much needed light shine in on charities.

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Perhaps the single most reliable and comprehensive source of information about a charity comes from its annual IRS Form 990 (Return of Organization Exempt From Income Tax) which most charitable organizations are required to file each year. Religious organizations such as synagogues are not mandated to file a 990 but most other 501(c)(3) organizations are. To find a 990 for a charity, go to www.guidestar.org and sign in if you have used Guidestar before or create a free account for instant access to their database of tax returns on more than 1 million charitable organizations.

The IRS partners with Guidestar to make all 990s available to the public for examination. Charities are required to provide the public with a hard copy of their 990 upon request, but looking online is fast, convenient and free.

What will you find on a 990? Just about everything you could possible want to know. The form includes extensive information about an organization’s demographics, mission and purpose, financials (revenue, expenses, assets and balance sheet), fundraising expenses, cost to raise a dollar, program services and accomplishments, board of directors and management, compensation of key employees, compliance with policies and procedures that help determine the organization’s willingness to be transparent, how they use their money, and much more.

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Donors should spend as much time researching the performance and impact of charities as they do evaluating the performance and features of their next smartphone.  As with all consumer choices, the watchword for charitable giving at all times is caveat emptor – let the buyer beware.  And with resources like Guidestar and other tools that help donors make wise choices, there is no excuse to send money to any but the most effective organizations, which fulfill missions that touch the hearts and the minds of donors. For the sake of those who truly need your support, please give – but give wisely not just on Giving Tuesday but every day.

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Music hath charms to soothe the savage breast

The shouting and screaming is over. The mean spirited commercials are gone. The daily animus has ended. The vitriol is finished. The nastiness, ugliness, lewdness and demeaning has stopped. At least for now. And hopefully we won’t see it return this way in our lifetimes.

In a matter of hours we will have a newly-elected President.  We will begin the peaceful transition of power.  There will be time enough for celebrating by the victors and their supporters, grieving by the losers and their followers and moving on by all of us.

But for now these two musical numbers put me in a better place and I hope they will for you, too.

Enjoy Israel Kamakawiwo’ole singing OVER THE RAINBOW & WHAT A WONDERFUL WORLD 

and Leonard Cohen singing HALLELUJAH

‘Twas the night before the election

Twas the night before the election
When all through the land
All the pundits were spinning
With projections so grand

Campaign bunting was hung
From the rafters with care
By staffers who hoped that
The choice would be clear

No surrogates were nestled
Anywhere close to their beds
Too many visions of pollsters
Were filling their heads

People were glued
To their TV’s all night
Hoping the finish line
Soon would be close or in sight

The networks were frantic
To fill time with their chatter
About candidates some felt
Were like Alice and The Mad Hatter

Remotes were clicking between
Each of the channels
To see what was said by the
Talking head panels

It was dark in the East
And light in the West
America waited
To learn who’d be best

Red states and blue states
With their R’s and their D’s
Were counting the votes
To see who’d be pleased

The commercials were over
No more ads would be run
TV watching would return from
Frustration to fun

Analysts and catalysts were
Whipping up their crowd
Provocateurs and raconteurs
Were competing to be loud

Now Wolf
Now Anderson
Now Brokaw
Now Holt
On Pelley
On Kelly
On the bright ones
And the dolts

The hate and the anger
The nastiness and rage
Exhausted us all
No matter our age

Would it be him or be her
We wanted to know
Would it be left or be right
Which way would it go

Would we get gifts in our stockings
Or a big hunk of coal
Would our fav come up short
Or would they reach for their goal

Would we cheer as a nation
Despite who had won
Would we all come together
With the new era that’s begun

Will there be grace and humility
Will love of country prevail
Despite the hurt feelings
And the pain and travail

Will civility and pride
Be the rule of the land
So the nation can move forward
With a sincere outstretched hand

The campaign was contentious
And some said pretentious
So let’s abandon behavior
That’s demeaning and licentious

A new leader will be named
After the last vote is in
The losers will lose
And the winners will win

The nation’s not perfect
But it’s best among others
It’s time now to rejoice
My sisters and brothers

That power will transition
Without intimidation or gun
Democracy is the winner
It’s freedom that’s won

Let the past be the past
Give the new leader a chance
To start bringing us together
After the last inaugural dance

When the TV’s go dark
And the radios are off
When the last post has been posted
And the last vote has been voted

Sleep well America
Tomorrow’s a new day
The process has worked
There’s no more to say.

Except God bless our nation
And our President-elect
We can hold our heads high
And stand proudly erect

The peaceful transition of power
Is the price that some gave
So we might live peacefully
In the land of the free and
The home of the brave

And one thing’s for sure
Through the smiles and the tears
We can count on doing it over
In just four more years.

Social Media – The 21st Century Soap Box

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When I dropped my completed ballot in the mailbox I joined with 20 million other Americans who have or will vote early and avoid lines at polling places on November 8.  Early voters are typically those whose minds have been made up for some time and who are not among those who still remain undecided about one or more candidates or issues.  Despite the fact that I’ve already voted I’m not inclined to refrain from political posts on social media.  That’s just not very likely to happen at least until the acceptance and concession statements have been made on Election Night. If I can sway one undecided voter between now and then it will have been worth it.

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I realize that some may have “unfriended” or “unfollowed” me. If so, that’s the price I’m prepared to pay for engaging (some may say over-engaging) in this Presidential campaign.  I guess I could have chosen instead to volunteer to make calls, go door-to-door armed with leaflets and talking points or found other ways to be politically active.  Instead, I chose to make my own online commentaries and share those of others in the belief that social media is the modern day version of the soap box.

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For those who may not be familiar with the use of the term soap box, the Boston Common, which dates from 1634 and is the oldest city park in America, was from its creation a popular location for soapbox orators to express a wide range of political views and ideologies. Standing on an actual soap box was the way people gained attention to express their points of view in the public square. Today, social media has become our modern day soap box.

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This long election cycle is coming to an end. And with it comes an end to the tsunami of social media posts on behalf of or in opposition to both Presidential aspirants and their political parties. I hope that when all the dust settles on Nov. 9 that Americans of all political leanings will accept the outcome and move forward in gestures of good will and reconciliation both large and small. Despite the fact that it has, by any reasonable assessment, been one of the strangest and most contentious campaigns in history it has, nevertheless, demonstrated the uninterrupted continuation of our democratic process that has lasted 240 years.

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There are many lessons to be learned from the way both major parties have conducted their Presidential campaigns. There will be time enough to do a post mortem on Campaign 2016 after Election Day. But for now, let’s at least pause to give thanks that despite the vitriol and animosity between candidates and their partisans we still enjoy freedom to exercise the right to vote for or against whomever we choose. And at the end of the day, no matter how the votes are counted and whoever may be declared the winner it will be freedom and democracy that will be the real victors on Nov. 8.

 

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My Long Road from Crystal Radio to Worldwide Broadcasting

My love of radio started even before my first day of school.  I have vivid  late night childhood remembrances of slowly and carefully maneuvering the “cat’s whisker” of my simple crystal radio over a rough piece of galena crystal until a radio signal faintly entered the earplug.  Searching for something to listen to was like mining for gold.  And the payoff came when I discovered a nugget – the sound of a radio station filling my ear with old time radio serials like The Shadow and The Lone Ranger or comedies like Fibber McGee and Molly and The Jack Benny Show.

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Before long the homemade crystal radio gave way to a treasured AM radio on my nightstand.  In the middle of the night I would carefully turn the dial to search for the powerful signals of the giant 50,000 watt clear channel radio stations located near and far from my home near Boston.  Radio became my window into the nation’s news and local  community issues as told through late night newscasts and provocative talk shows hosts.

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Over time when the sounds from American cities began to blur and sound alike the AM radio was replaced by a short wave radio which, when tuned carefully, filled my room with broadcasts of Voice of America, BBC, Radio Moscow, and programming from virtually every continent and corner of the world.

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But radio was limited to listening and I wanted to be able to talk to the world, too.  Amateur (HAM) Radio satisfied my urge to both hear and be heard.  And thus my romance with headphones expanded to include the microphone, too.  It was the start of a lifelong love of the art of communication.

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I grew increasingly fascinated with the way news and information was gathered and reported.  Inspired by Edward R. Murrow and Walter Cronkite, I developed a deep interest in broadcast news gathering.  My first experience behind a broadcast microphone came at WCMO-FM, my college radio station at Marietta College in Ohio.  I was asked to be a disc jockey which I thoroughly enjoyed.  But when the opportunity to be a newscaster was offered it was like winning the lottery.  I later studied broadcasting at the Northeast Broadcasting School in Boston and then I was trained to be a military broadcast journalist at the Department of Defense Information School (DINFOS) at Ft. Benjamin Harrison in Indianapolis.

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During the Vietnam era, I was stationed on Johnston Atoll, a remote Pacific island where I was the news director for the Armed Forces Radio and Television Service broadcasting news on both radio and television.  The highlight of my tenure at AFRTS was being part of the military news team that broadcast the splashdown and recovery of the Apollo 11 capsule carrying the first astronauts to walk on the moon.

Following military service, my professional career took a very different path.  I learned that a career in broadcasting could be volatile and unstable.  So for the next four decades I worked in the nonprofit sector specializing in philanthropy and marketing communications.  But I was still able to stay close to broadcasting as one of the early developers of the Children’s Miracle Network Telethon which supported Children’s Hospitals in North America.  For 14 years I produced local television segments for the nationally broadcast telethon winning a regional Emmy in 1984.  I also produced more than a dozen compilation record albums to benefit pediatric medical centers.

I retired in 2013 as the President and CEO of the Jewish Community Foundation of Greater Phoenix but I still provide management consulting to charitable organizations.  One of the joys of my new found free time is being back behind the microphone again as a broadcaster at RADIO PHOENIX, one of the largest community radio stations in the country with a worldwide audience who listen to the live stream over the internet.  I am the producer and host of The Phoenix File, a weekly newsmagazine featuring in-depth conversations about the people and programs positively impacting the quality of life in the Valley of the Sun.  Beginning October 25 The Phoenix File will air every Tuesday from 6:30-7:00pm.

I was interviewed by a Radio Phoenix trainee for a recent segment of the Bungalow Show.  Listen to the interview for a little more background on me and my new show.wwwGuests on The Phoenix File will come from a variety of areas such as:

  • social service, social justice and human rights;
  • arts, culture and education;
  • advocates for equality on behalf of all populations with special emphasis on the underserved;
  • civic, political and other public affairs issues;
  • newsworthy topics covered in-depth with balance, fairness and objectivity;
  • nonprofit volunteerism, leadership and philanthropy;
  • effective and responsible charitable giving and nonprofit accountability;
  • community building;
  • and more topics as suggested by listeners.

The Phoenix File can be heard live at www.radiophoenix.org or with the TuneIn Radio app on computers and mobile devices.  The Phoenix File is both a radio show and an online blog at www.thephoenixfile.net .

My fascination with broadcasting has come a long way from late night listening to radio on a primitive crystal radio kit to broadcasting on a radio station heard throughout the world over the internet.  While the technology may have changed my love for radio is as strong today as it was two thirds of a century ago.

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What have we become?

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Since the formation of the Union, American election campaigns have always been contentious.  Mud slinging, vitriol, personal attacks, hyperbole, lies and ugliness are nothing new to politics.  But the 2016 Presidential campaign will doubtless be remembered by historians as one of our nation’s greatest political embarrassments.  It has truly become a race to the bottom.

How did we arrive at this place?  How did television go from images of Lucy and Ricky sleeping in separate beds to the regular, and some would say gratuitous use, of graphic sound bites which refer to male and female genitalia.  How did we get to a place when we read and hear more about a candidate’s marriage infidelity, boastful remarks about his sexual prowess, his sexual assault of women, his bullying, racist, misogynistic, xenophobic, and homophobic rants than we do about his specific political philosophy and policy proposals?

How did we get to the point where not one major American newspaper will endorse one of the two major party nominees and go so far as to break with their own tradition by endorsing a candidate with a political philosophy that runs counter to the editorial bent of the publication?

How did we get to the point where thirty days before the election, more than a dozen sitting U.S. Senators and numerous members of the House have rescinded their previous support for their party’s nominee for President or never endorsed the nominee at all?  How did we get to the point where the Speaker of the House of Representatives declares that he will not defend or campaign with his party’s nominee for President?

How did we get to the point where parents and teachers who once encouraged children to watch Presidential debates and campaign news coverage as a part of their civics education now keep their children away from the news which is full of content that includes graphic and explicit language suitable only for adults?

How did we get to the point where a candidate sexually objectifies women including his own daughter?  Where he demeans individuals based on their gender, religion. ethnic heritage, immigration status, sexual identity and preference, or disability ?

How did we get to the point where a major party candidate for President demonstrates a life-long pattern of legally and morally questionable business practices and who defies all requests for full and complete transparency of his tax returns?

How did we get to the point where a major political party passed over more than a dozen more qualified and ethically and morally fit candidates in favor of a nominee that may be held responsible for the destruction of what has often been called the party of Lincoln?

What have we become?  What has become of us as a nation?  How did we get to this point?  And most importantly what is to become of us in the future?

When will we be able to return to a time when, to paraphrase Dr. Martin Luther King, candidates will be judged by the content of their policies and not by the deficits in their character?

It is often easier to diagnosis the problem than it is to prescribe the remedy.  We have always been a hopeful nation full of optimism and aspiration.  And while we may have many reasons to believe that the future is bright we should be very concerned about the dark storm clouds that may be blocking the sun from our political process.  And now more than ever we need all the sunshine we can get because sunshine can be the best disinfectant for a process that has sadly been defiled.

Presidential historians, political pundits, academicians, and other analysts will study the many factors that brought us to this point.  Whatever they and others identify as the causative factors, what will be most important will be our ability as a nation to learn from our mistakes and commit to never repeat them again.  Our Democracy cannot afford to have its central pillar eroded by our most recent experience.  We need to marshal all of our goodwill, our national brilliance and energy to ensure that what has become of us will not be what we have become for the future.

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New Radio Show Launches October 25

I’m thrilled to announce that my new radio show, The Phoenix File, will launch on October 25 and it can be heard Tuesdays from 6:30–7:00pm on RADIO PHOENIX.wwwThe Phoenix File will be a weekly news magazine featuring conversations with the people, programs and issues that are making a positive impact on the quality of life in the Greater Phoenix area.  My guests will come from a variety of areas such as:

  • social service, social justice and human rights;
  • arts, culture and education;
  • advocates for equality on behalf of all populations with special emphasis on the underserved;
  • civic, political and other public affairs issues;
  • newsworthy topics covered in-depth with balance, fairness and objectivity;
  • nonprofit volunteerism, leadership and philanthropy;
  • effective and responsible charitable giving and nonprofit accountability;
  • community building;
  • and more topics as suggested by listeners.

I welcome your ideas and suggestions about individuals, programs or issues you’d like to hear discussed on The Phoenix File.  Use the Comments page on this site to let me know what you’d like to hear.

I look forward to the launch of this new show on October 25 and I invite you to listen live or on demand through podcasts.

About Radio Phoenix

Supported by community underwriters, businesses and people like you, RADIO PHOENIX delivers unique 24/7 programming that focuses on local news and culture, organizations, music, artists, youth and more.  RADIO PHOENIX is one of the largest non-commercial community radio stations in the country with listeners across the nation and throughout the world who listen to programming via the internet.

RADIO PHOENIX was launched in 2008 as a program unit and media service of the Arizona Community Media Foundation, a 501(c)(3) non-profit charitable organization. It uses radio, media literacy, social media and community outreach initiatives as tools for building harmonious human relationships among populations within greater Phoenix and beyond who are generally not engaged by public radio.

RADIO PHOENIX broadcasts from studios at the Phoenix Center for the Arts.

How to listen to The Phoenix File and Radio Phoenix

Radio Phoenix programming streams live 24/7 on its website at www.radiophoenix.org

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Download the TuneIn Radio app and search for Radio Phoenix to listen to programs on your mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets.  Or go to www.tunein.com and listen on your computer.

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All Radio Phoenix programs are archived for two weeks at Radio Free America.  Go to the date and show of the archived show you’d like to listen to or you can listen to the live stream from Radio Phoenix.

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The Phoenix File programs and other interviews I’ve conducted are available on www.soundcloud.com  by searching for “Stu Turgel”.

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All episodes of The Phoenix File will be archived and available as podcasts on demand by going to the Broadcasts & Podcasts page on this site.

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Got Blog?

Most of us have been asked if we’ve “Got Milk?”.  Some of us have been asked if we’ve “Got Game?”.  For the past few years I’ve often been asked if I’ve “Got Blog?” by people who have often heard me say, “I may not always be right but I seldom lack for an opinion”.  My answer to “Got Blog?” was usually, “hopefully some day”.  Well, that day has finally come.  And now that I’ve Got Blog I hope I don’t turn out to be like to proverbial dog who chased the car and then wondered what to do once he caught it.

The nature of my work for four decades required that I very carefully monitor, check and limit my public opinions, my points of view, and the public statements I wanted to make about a myriad of community issues.  The political reality of working in the nonprofit sector meant that I was understandably severely limited about what I could say, how I could comment or ways in which I could advocate for issues, policies and the performance of the programs and organizations that are, or should be, the engines of progress in the nonprofit, government and business sectors of our community.

I welcome the chance to speak more freely now that I am retired.  I look forward to expressing myself in this blog, through opinion pieces in print and electronic media, and through my community affairs show, The Phoenix File, which is broadcast on Radio Phoenix, one of the largest internet-based community radio stations in the country based in Phoenix and heard throughout the world.

This blog and my radio show are both called The Phoenix File and while some of the content of each may be shared with the other they will undoubtedly contain their own unique information.

The blog will be published periodically while the radio show will be broadcast Tuesdays at 6:30 pm beginning October 25.  I invite my readers and listeners to offer their suggestions for topics and provide candid feedback on the content, subjects and positions expressed in both channels.  Both will share the same mission:  to create a forum for commentaries and conversations about the people and programs which positively impact the quality of life in the Valley of the Sun.

I look forward to making The Phoenix File as interactive as possible.  After all, I may have some things to say but so might you.  I hope this forum will provide you an opportunity to give voice to what is on your mind or in your heart when it comes to our community. Comments are invited – feedback is encouraged – and your opinions are welcome because the are just as important to be heard in the online public square as mine.

Please share this blog with others and encourage them to subscribe, follow and join in.  I’m thrilled to finally be able to answer the question “Got Blog?” by saying – I do now and it’s right here on The Phoenix File.

Stu Turgel

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