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Day: December 3, 2015

“The Leadership Secrets of Santa Claus” by Eric Harvey


The Leadership Secrets of Santa Claus” by Eric Harvey

c.2003, 2015, Simple Truths
$14.99 / $19.99 Canada
144 pages


The holidays couldn’t get any busier.

Between mandatory-attendance parties, decorating your home, buying gifts, wrapping them, and getting your cards out in time, your plate is full and you still have a business to run. Don’t pout – instead see how The Big Guy does it by reading “The Leadership Secrets of Santa Claus” by Eric Harvey.

Imagine the logistics: tens of millions of households. Billions of toys and gifts. The biggest team of toymakers ever assembled, and eight tiny reindeer, plus back-ups. Surely, it’s enough to give any Old Elf a headache but, for hundreds of years, without fail, Santa has delivered Christmas with a personal touch.

So how does he do it?

The first thing, says Santa, is to make sure everybody – from senior reindeer all the way down to newly-hired elves – knows your business mission and its meaning. Then, keep your employees first in mind because “you can’t possibly focus on your mission without also focusing on the folks that make your mission happen.”

Hire wisely, Santa says, which is a lesson he learned the hard way: you can well imagine what a mess it is to have a Reindeer Team that’s off-kilter. If you promote from within, be sure the person is ready and able to handle the job; you’ll save yourself a lot of hassle if you do. Once you’ve got a great team, teach them to be successful, then be sure to recognize them for the great job they do for you.

Much like the Big Guy, you’ll want to make your list (plan) and check it twice (to be sure you’re staying the course). Touch base with employees often, to ensure that they’re on-track, too. On that note, pay attention to the people who work for you: both in how they perceive you and in the suggestions they might have for the job.

Help your employees to accept change, utilize “Santa’s CALM Model,” and finally, be a leader. The elves expect that from Santa and “your people expect the same of YOU!”

You’ve already dropped a few hints. Everybody knows what to get you for Christmas, and it might have something to do with your business. Even Santa knows what you need and he wraps it up here.

And while that may seem somewhat juvenile to the Scroogiest of readers, I had to admit that “The Leadership Secrets of Santa Claus” offers good guidance. With humor that sometimes borders on too-cute, (co?)author Eric Harvey easily relates the business issues of the North Pole to that of, really, any workplace. His advice can be repetitive, but it’s sound and simple enough to implement quickly; in fact, each chapter ends with quick takeaways and the book itself wraps up with checklists and final reminders. That’s a nice surprise at this busiest of times.

This particular edition of this book is a new version of an old classic, and it’s worth reading all over again. If you want a happy ho-ho-holiday at work, “The Leadership Secrets of Santa Claus” will make you shout.

Terri Schlichenmeyer is based in Wisconsin.

The United States of Contradictions


     WASHINGTON — With election year a month away, American politics is caught up in tensions, ironies, and a certain amount of sheer madness.

     On the one hand: The U.S. economy is a marvel, driven forward by technological innovation, the promises of Big Data and Advanced Manufacturing, a relative independence in energy supply, and a population younger than most other wealthy nations.

     On the other hand: Wages have been stagnating since the turn of the millennium, inequalities are widening, college is out of reach for many, suicide rates among white middle-aged working-class people are rising and, in a recent PRRI poll, 72 percent of Americans said “the economy is still in a recession.”

     On the one hand: Republicans have lost the popular vote in five of the last six presidential elections and have, at best, a very narrow path to an Electoral College majority next year. The rising groups in the American electorate — Latinos, Asian-Americans and young people — are hostile to the party, a problem its presidential front-runner is making worse with his unapologetic xenophobia.

     On the other: Democrats have their fewest seats in state legislatures since the 1920s, the fewest in the House of Representatives since the late 1940s, and they control only 19 governorships. In the last two midterm contests, they have suffered wipeouts.

     If reality is so contradictory, we shouldn’t be surprised that different groups choose to see it differently. We are divided evenly, 49 percent to 49 percent, on the question of whether “America’s best days are ahead of us or behind us,” according to the PRRI poll. Among liberal Democrats, 67 percent think our best days are yet to come; only 40 percent of conservative Republicans share this confidence.

     One of the tasks of political analysis is to make sense of conflicting information, and a new book by Stanley Greenberg, who was a political scientist before he became a Democratic pollster, does not shy away from the messiness of our social and electoral landscape. My Dickensian “best of times, worst of times” analysis is drawn partly from Greenberg’s new book, “America Ascendant.” It sees Republicans in a long-term demographic “death spiral.” But it is also unsparing in acknowledging that Democratic weaknesses among older white and rural voters leave the GOP “almost unopposed in nearly half of the states.”

     I should say that I have been an unabashed Greenberg fan for a quarter-century. Our political views are similar, and I especially like his resistance to gloom about America’s future. I truly believe (and maybe this just proves I’m a liberal) that only the dysfunction of our politics will keep our country from having another good century. Yes, we face real threats, including terrorism. But we are not paying enough attention to our strengths, including the advantages of a social diversity that is causing such unease among many of our fellow citizens.

     The power of Greenberg’s analysis is that he doesn’t dismiss the anger of these Americans, so many of whom are rallying to Donald Trump. Written before Trump’s rise, the book doesn’t mention him, but Greenberg treats what has become the Trump constituency with a heartfelt empathy.

     They have reason to be upset, he says, because the very economic and social changes that contribute to growth also create “stark problems for people and the country that leave the public seething, frustrated, and pessimistic about the future.” There are no wage gains for most, “working-class men have been left marginalized,” and the proportion of children being born to single-parents has soared.

     Greenberg is open to changes in our mores and insists that progressive policies on family leave, pay, taxes and pre-kindergarten programs are more plausible responses to these problems than sermonizing. But if his book provides Democrats with good news about their national political advantages, it pointedly challenges them to address rather than ignore or dismiss the reasons for the thunder on the right.

     A dialogue I would like to see would be between Greenberg and Republican pollster Whit Ayres, who is working for Marco Rubio’s presidential campaign and whose own book, “2016 and Beyond,” was unstinting in facing up to the profound demographic problems the GOP confronts.

     Even better, Republican presidential candidates should propose ways of easing the discontents that Trump and others in their ranks are merely exploiting. “The citizenry is ready for a cleansing era of reform that allows America to realize its promise,” Greenberg writes. It would be helpful it the campaign gave us more reason to think he’s right.

     E.J. Dionne’s email address is [email protected]. Twitter: @EJDionne.

     (c) 2015, Washington Post Writers Group

When hope begins


     WASHINGTON — Donald Trump’s offenses against taste, tolerance and truthfulness are coming so fast that it is hard to pick out individual cases. But let’s linger on his recent foray into Christian theology.

     During a speech in Fort Dodge, Iowa, Trump pronounced Ben Carson’s story of conversion from violent troublemaker to Christian to be so much “crap.” “He goes into the bathroom for a couple of hours, and he comes out, and now he’s religious? Give me a break. It doesn’t happen that way,” said Trump.

     In Christian history, it has often happened that way. Around 35 A.D., a nasty character named Saul got knocked from (and to) his ass on the road to Damascus and became the utterly transformed Paul. In 386 A.D., Augustine heard a child’s voice chanting, “Take up and read,” opened a Bible randomly to Paul’s letter to the Romans, was convicted to the core, and abandoned the life of a hard-partying pagan. Around 1510, a monk named Martin Luther understood Paul’s letter in a new way — one version locates this revelation in the “cloaca,” or bathroom — and “felt I was altogether born again and had entered paradise itself through open gates.” On May 24, 1738, John Wesley heard someone reading Luther’s Preface to the Epistle of Romans in a meeting at Aldersgate, and at 8:45 p.m. felt his “heart strangely warmed.”

     All of these cases weigh against Trump’s theological claim — which also makes little political sense in the state of Iowa, where the Republican Party is heavy with evangelical Christians, for whom conversion is a common experience.

     But this is not really a political matter at all, demonstrated by another conversion. Bob Beckel was, famously, Walter Mondale’s campaign manager in a 49-state loss. He was a trusted fixer at the State Department and White House, then a progressive TV commentator. Through most of this he was also an alcoholic, a drug abuser and a womanizer who kept hitting rock bottom only to find new bottoms beneath.

     We know this from Beckel’s transparent and compulsively readable autobiography , “I Should Be Dead: My Life Surviving Politics, TV and Addiction.” He gained his survival skills from dealing with an alcoholic and abusive father. “I learned how to wear a mask at all times and reveal my true feelings to no one.” Later on, this led to a bifurcated life: Mornings at the White House, evenings in dive bars and brothels. A ferocious political ambition, and a tendency toward self-destruction.

     Professionally, Beckel managed an impressive feat: becoming the political dirty trickster for a president, Jimmy Carter, who abhorred dirty tricks. In pursuit of passage of the Panama Canal Treaty, Beckel ran a rogue operation involving opposition research, tilted polling, visits to “Mama’s Health Spa” and political blackmail. Seldom has a boring, respectable objective had a seedier backstory.

     Beckel was also in and out of Alcoholics Anonymous for years, trying to recover without buying into the “Higher Power” portion of the 12 steps. When George W. Bush prevailed in the election crisis of 2000, Beckel, by his own account, began losing contact with reality. On the eve of the inauguration, he found himself in a bar, with a woman, then with her jealous husband pointing a .45 at Beckel’s face. The gun misfired. The next day he watched the inaugural parade from a room at the George Washington University Hospital psychiatric ward.

     The whole story is really worth reading. But through the intervention of friends (particularly columnist Cal Thomas, to whom the book is dedicated) and after some brutally honest self-examination, something decisively changed.

     After resisting a potentially lethal drink, Beckel sat weeping on a rock in the middle of a field. “And I knew,” he writes, “there was a force that had wanted me not to do that, a force that loved me enough to stop me in my tracks and redirect my steps. That loved me? Me? If there is one moment I can point to, a moment when the idea of God’s grace shifted from being some kind of abstract concept to being something flesh and blood, something meaty and rich, something real, that was it.”

     Conversion, in the Christian tradition, requires the recognition of sin and failure, which is the only way the offer of grace makes sense. This, to be honest, is a difficult concept for many of us to accept. But voices as diverse as Carson and Beckel promise something encouraging: that any moment, early or late, can mark the beginning of hope.

     Michael Gerson’s email address is [email protected].

     (c) 2015, Washington Post Writers Group