PPPProducing Outdoors & Indoors: Four P's Episode 156

A wise person once said that "Saying one thing well is better than saying four things dumb." If that's true, then it must be even more true that "Saying four things well is better than saying four things dumb."

That’s why these Four P’s are so special:

  1. Returning to the Garden.

  2. Office Back On Again.

  3. Mass Masking Makes Me Merry.

  4. You Down with G.O.P.?


Something Personal: Returning for the Garden

This week, a few weeks later than usual, I finally put together our annual backyard garden for summer. What was once a dirt pit for our kids to play in when they were younger has turned into a rather respectable annual source of sustenance. We used seeds propagated seeds from last year's crop of tomatoes, cucumbers, and various melon (and for the first time ever, butternut squash). With a colder spring, we germinated the plants indoors and just transplanted the fruit and vegetable buds into the ground on a Friday.

I'm sure this will come as no surprise to you, but I've been watching over the plants on a daily (hourly) basis like a nervous parent, ensuring proper sunlight, water, and plant food. I've even been researching tips and tricks to to find other nuggets of information to help these budding plants grow and thrive: the proper soil, organic compost, supporting structures for climbing and stability, perimeter fencing, protection against birds and squirrels, and even irrigation support.

Of course, as we welcomed the first visitors and guests to our backyard this past weekend for a socially-less-than-distant outdoor barbecue, my only rule for the rambunctious children was to stay away from the garden: no trampling feet, no errant balls, no overthrown cornhole beanbags, please!

We all know that the home gardening trend took off during last summer's quarantine, but my green fingers actually took root well before COVID (thanks to free products from longtime client Scotts Miracle-Gro), and will continue long after.  I even downloaded an app where you can snap pictures of plants and trees to learn more about them. I'm that guy now, too!

No, I never thought I'd be a fan of garden porn on Instagram and Pinterest, but  I'd love to hear what you're planting (and when) and see your pics!


Something Professional:  Offices Back On Again

The new great divide in, and across, the professional world is now determined by where you fall on the long-term work-from-home debate. No matter where you look -- op-eds in magazines and newspapers by major CEOs, lengthy LinkedIn posts and comment threads, management consultant research papers or more -- there are many passionate opinions on this topic. There are a number of factors that will determine when, where, and how companies should re-open offices, from location to demography to industry to productivity. We see opinions rooted in the importance of employee and company culture, time management, relationships and collaboration, and individual empowerment/choice. We see generational and geographical lines being drawn. And it's getting a lot of people riled up!

Some businesses and companies have proven that they can be as successful, productive and efficient with a remote workforce. Others require human beings to be together, in-person. There is no magic, one-size-fits-all answer, and we'll have to accept that. We cannot be envious of friends or neighbors whose situations are different than ours. Other factors that companies

For me, the most important considerations about re-opening offices on a case-by-case basis are rooted in issues of DEI and GSE. As employees in the workforce, we are diverse individuals, with different needs, skills, backgrounds, capabilities and ways of working best. Equity is about providing employees and candidates with equality of opportunity. Businesses must balance individual choice with their bottom line, respecting our differences while coalescing as a team. They must also consider how to re-open responsibly, so as to not waste space, energy, resources, and time.

Personally, I do not ever expect to work five days in an office ever again. With a 3+ hour daily commute (combined in both directions), I've given MORE time to my company AND my family over this past year. But as an extrovert, I also know that I'm more capable of greatness individually and as a leader while being in proximity with peers. I thrive on that kismet that derives from spontaneous interactions. But with many teammates all over the world, so much of the interactions will be virtual now anyway. When and where client and team meetings can happen in person, they should... but it's also not clear when other people will be in the office. What if I go in and others are home that day? Coordinating “togetherness” is going to be a significant logistical theme for months and years to come.

So what's the right answer? One thing for certain is that resource management, as a discipline, just became a whole lot bigger than people. Project management now also requires planning where people are, as well as when and how they communicate. My advice for managers, leaders and employees: Be OVERLY employee-centric over these next few months. Be flexible, patient, even tolerant that not everyone's situation is the same. Discuss your balanced approach to productivity (individual), partnership (team) and profitability (company)… and keep the conversation going.


Something Practical: Mass Masking Makes Me Merry

Yes, Covid-19 cases in the U.S. are dropping.

Yes, more people are getting the vaccine.

Yes, the CDC updated its guidance that those who are fully vaccinated can take off their masks indoors.

No, the pandemic is not over. 

The New York Times interviewed more than 700 epidemiologists on when and how Americans about returning to normal activities. Their POV: the true end of the pandemic will arrive once at least 70% of people of all ages are vaccinated. As of this week, fewer than 40% of people in the U.S. are fully vaccinated.

Kids under the age of 12 are still at risk. Teenagers just began getting their shots this past week. People who have been vaccinated are still contracting the virus. You taking off your mask still puts my kids at risk, and while some may be ok with that, I'm still not.

Masks, social distancing and other restrictions proved effective, and while we're all eager to return to normal, we're still not there yet. For those who are vaccinated, we can and should remove the masks outdoors. Even in some indoor situations. But this requires a level of knowledge about those around you, and an "honor system," that I just don't think we can trust yet.

Mask-wearing is not only effective against COVID, but against pathogens of all kinds. Cold and flu have dropped massively, and we've all acclimated to mask-wearing to some extent. So my practical advice is this: keep those masks handy, wear them in crowded situations, and let's consider wearing them on mass transit and in other indoor, crowded places long-term even starting in the fall and winter. Personally, I will never go mask-less on the trains, subway or airplanes ever again.


Something Political: You Down With G.O.P.?

While Israel-Palestinian tensions are boiling over again resulting in tragic violence and loss of life, the most-covered new story in the United States last week -- by airtime and ink print -- was the removal of the third-highest ranking member of the GOP not from Congress, but from a leadership post within the House of Representatives. Wyoming congresswoman Liz Cheney's ouster was rightly covered as a symbolic move that reflects the splintering Republican Party and the power that a losing Presidential candidate still holds over a sizeable percentage of elected officials. The future of the Republican Party is unclear, but what IS clear, however, is that those who have downplayed the big election lie (that Donald Trump rightly won the election) and the January 6th insurrection at the Capitol still control the leadership at the top of the Republican Party. Make no mistake. This is not about conservatism. Cheney has a far more conservative voting record than her replacement in the leadership role in Congress, but N.Y.'s Elise Stefanik is a Trump loyalist, which is all that seemed to matter.

For the past 50 years, Republicans have preached the same values: character, personal accountability, fiscal responsibility, and support for immigrants. But it's ALL been a lie. With far too few exceptions, the Republican Party has lost the narrative. And Trumpism is the unfortunate result of the past 50 years of Republican racism, anger, and self-delusion that have been at the core of the party. Trump’s appeal to the worst, racist impulses of some white voters is nothing new in Republican politics. But Trump’s white nationalist politics, viewed by many Republicans as a unique characteristic of an unconventional president, actually have deep roots in the Republican Party.

Ronald Reagan is revered by many Republicans as the greatest president since Abraham Lincoln. But many don’t know – or have chosen to ignore – that Reagan used race as a magnet to attract right-leaning Democratic voters. In the run-up to his presidency, Reagan often talked about African American “welfare queens” defrauding the government. This dog whistle that resonates with racists but may go undetected by others, was well understood by many white voters, who threw their support behind Reagan. In backing Trump, Republicans made it undeniably clear that theirs is a party of white grievance. With Trump’s election, Republicans were free to show the true colors of their party. And that color is white.

Despite their claims to the contrary, Republicans and the Christian right have never cared about family values. After all, how could the so-called party of family values support Trump, who has five children by three wives and has made inappropriate sexual remarks about his daughter. But Trump doesn’t represent Republicans lowering their standards. Instead, he proves how little they ever cared about these issues in the first place. Family values never truly mattered to Republicans. They just found them useful in attacking everyone else. The Christian right would like American voters to believe that it’s the political arm of Jesus, come back to save America from its sins. Really, it’s more like a lobbyist group for white America. The politicization of Christianity as a right-wing force is more about gaining power than serving Jesus.

Republicans’ continued support of Donald Trump also shows that they don’t care about fiscal responsibility. One of the reasons Republicans supported Trump as their candidate, and then their president, was because of his supposed business savvy and investments. Remember that Donald Trump is a man, who over the course of one decade, managed to lose more money than any other American. Like Trump, the Republican Party claims to understand the importance of running the government efficiently, but it’s really just like Trump: addicted to debt and selling false promises.

Whereas Bill Clinton was the only president in recent memory who was able to balance the budget, Republicans frequently rail against out-of-control federal spending. But actually, many Republican elected officials hesitate to cut budgets – not because of their deeply held commitment to fiscal responsibility, but because it would damage them politically. And with Trump in office, a period where Republicans controlled all three branches of government, the federal debt has increased to record levels: $2 trillion in just two years.

But the biggest, most detrimental legacy of the continuation of support for Trumpism is the assault on truth. The Republican machine of deception of today - denialism of their role in the election lie and capitol riots as just the latest examples - has actually been in the works a long time, way before Trump came to power. The Republican Party has designed itself to utilize the fear of change – in both its voters and its elected officials. With more than 44 million Americans were born in a different country, this represents the largest percentage since 1910. And this rapid change in demographics has caused some Americans to feel insecure and fearful. In his run for presidency, Donald Trump exploited these fears by vilifying immigrants and playing on the fears of white Americans. Peddling fear is what the GOP has always been about, and in the end, the impulse behind Republican's continued support for Donald Trump is that Republicans are afraid of America’s changing landscape. They’re afraid of losing power, while forgetting the responsibility that goes along with it.

A great deal of Americans voted for Trump. But when the Trump era is studied, it won’t be the belligerent Trump supporters screaming to the press that will carry the most blame. It won’t even be Trump himself, the damaged psychological paralytic from a broken home, who makes up for crippling insecurity with boasting, like a child. It’ll be this Republican establishment that’ll carry the weight of history. The party that has crowed about “seriousness of intent” and “commitment to character” continues to support a man who has made fun of the disabled, defended the murder of journalists by dictators, boasted about assaulting women, and asked foreign governments to investigate his political opponents.

So for those who think the party learned something from its latest electoral loss, that would be a lie.

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