Take Your Medicine Mein Muenster

Dear 45,

I bet you didn’t know that when you declared war on the media that it would bite you in the butt, did ya?

I bet you didn’t expect that when you declared the most credible news outlets as “Fake News” that the result would be overwhelming support for those outlets and their First Amendment rights, did ya?

I bet you never fathomed that subscriptions for print news would grow by 300%, did ya?

I bet you couldn’t even imagine that left leaning and centric cable news stations would see a tremendous growth in viewership. With the increase subscriptions came increased profits. Did ya see that one coming?

Did ya know that with the increased interest in online news would come an increase in the number of journalists needed to keep up with the circus that you created? I guess you can take credit for creating these new jobs.

Did ya know that with more journalists media now has the resources to dig deeper and deeper into the world of Putingate? Journalism and investigative reporting in its truest rudimentary form is actually taking place and uncovering your deception and lies by the minute. I bet you never dreamed this would happen, did ya?

Sure, there is still a base of believers out there that are sticking to you like those poor souls who foolishly followed Jim Jones. With each lie that unfolds, that group is finally beginning to realize that the snake oil salesman has done a con job on them. Just think, none of this would have happened if you hadn’t declared war.

Sit back and reap what you have sown.

 

Why I think Donald Trump is Brilliant

Before you declare me insane, out of touch, or just plain “lost it,” hear me out. I have for the past 12 months watched the political shenanigans of the Trump sideshow and like most people, have been utterly amazed. The carnival barker has taken a public relations strategy that conceivably on paper should fail. Instead, he has risen to new heights. With minimal advertising dollars and communications savvy, Donald Trump has managed to retain an unprecedented presence in the media for more than 18 months, and he is not even the president. This level of media manipulation takes a keen understanding of human behavior. We all should be paying attention. Close attention.

Using data from his own reality show, The Apprentice, the Donald learned a few tricks about how to grow and retain an audience. Watching and studying the Nielsen ratings for his show, he learned firsthand what behaviors invoked responses that lead to viewers. From Dennis Rodman to Piers Morgan, idiocracy and meanness were the ingredients for success. Conflict, chaos and ridiculousness seemed to be the tools of greatest response. With years of data and a new platform, the presidency, Sideshow Trump crafted his diabolical plan to woo the masses of the uninformed, poorly educated and pissed off blue collar worker.

The strategy in a nutshell: do whatever it takes to be this week’s headline. When I was in college taking journalism classes, I had a teacher who once said, “All PR is good PR.” Trump is a shining example of that philosophy. The more outrageous and asinine, the larger the headline font. Stay on top of the latest news event – but make sure that any statement is counter to mainstream and the more absurd the better. Incite riots, and when you do, take no prisoners. Create sound bites of sensationalism. At the end of the day, insult as many groups as you can, but remember to stay loyal to your base.

Like giving candy to a babe, mainstream media has been in a voodoo like trance. Leaning in to report every repulsive statement and stance, the Donald found the perfect formula for mass confusion. Assignment editors have scurried to appoint staff to monitor social media for the latest Tweet or post detailing the most current scandal. Only one outlet, the Huffington Post, has managed to back away from the pull the pins out of the voodoo doll and say that they will no longer report the foolishness.

“It was all a scheme.”At least that is what Trump communication strategist,Stephanie Cegielski, penned in a recent post after resigning. According to the strategist, Trump was only supposed to come in second place – a position high enough to shake up the establishment. However, they did not bank on Trump’s narcissism taking control. With each vitriolic statement and stance, his power and control has grown. Didn’t someone once say “absolute power corrupts, absolutely?”

The monster has been unleashed. Imagine how brilliant this would be if Trump actually had substance. Stay with me here. What if Trump really did have the business acumen to create a plan that would grow jobs positively affecting the economy. What if he had stellar negotiation skills and diplomacy to bridge relationships with foreign allies. What if he actually took the time to study and understand the issues of greatest importance to the American people.

That would be greatness. But instead, we’re stuck with the creation of Dr. Frankenstein. Brilliant, in theory only.

 

 

 

 

When you lose your mother at 19

Anger, rage, heartbreak are all of the feelings that I am experiencing right now as I read the comments regarding the young teen girl who was recently thrown like a rag doll across a classroom floor for “not complying.” Since they have not released her name, let’s just call her “Alice.”As I read the countless posts that blame the victim, I realized that I am grappling with my own feelings that are resurfacing.

You see, Alice recently lost her mother. As a woman, your mother is your foundation. She is your soul. She is the source of compassion in your life that is unconditional and never wavers. Mothers teach daughters strength in the midst of tears. Mothers teach daughters endurance. Mothers teach daughters that failure is not an option. Mothers are love.

In addition to losing her mother, Alice also lost her grandmother. Grandmothers are the next best thing to mothers. They provide that backup love and when things aren’t going well, they give you cookies.

I understand the grief and despair that Alice is going through because at 19, I lost my mother. I was a bit older than this girl – but not by much. I too was a teenager. While I was considered an “adult” my life experiences were still very shallow in the deep pool of my life. There were things that I still had not learned from my mother and her loss for me was devastating.

I can only imagine the dense fog that surrounds Alice’s mind. She is in Wonderland. Like Alice, I could not focus or concentrate. My escape was sleep because sleeping allows your mind not to think. Sleeping also allows you to dream. I often dreamed of moments of clarity where I could hear and feel the presence of my mother so clearly and deeply.

When your suffer a loss this great, you cease to be. Things happen around you and you can be unaware. To this day, I cannot tell you what transpired in my life from the Spring of 1982 through the following Spring of 1983. It is a total blank in my memory.

So when I read the accounts of what transpired to Alice on that tragic day last week, I am not surprised about her actions. Her “non-compliance” was not her acting out. Alice was disengaged. Alice had checked out. Alice was in crisis and no one noticed. No one cared.

I have been Alice. I pray that Alice’s story can be shared so that Alice can find peace.

I wish you all peace.

Sonya

A Mustard Seed – Sonya Spencer

Recently, I shared phenomenal news. My daughter was hired as part of the cast of After Midnight aboard the Norwegian Cruise Line. This is a first for cruise ships – presenting actual Broadway performances. This is a first for my daughter – her first long term contract as a professional performer. Believe me. The accomplishment did not happen overnight.

To understand our journey, you must first know my daughter.

Bright, beautiful and talented, The Diva, as I affectionately call her, has not had an easy journey. Like most teenagers, she has never had the ability to see herself or value her full worth. While attending the prestigious Booker T. Washington High School prepared her technically for the world of performance, it did not prepare her for the reality of the world of dance beyond high school. I do not say that to place blame. It is what it is. How do you tell 600 students all in the pursuit of their dreams that there are 10 times that number of others out there wishing and hoping for the same thing that you are and make them believe it?

College life was not a smooth transition. After getting it wrong initially in her choice for higher ed, and two years grappling with that reality, she transitioned to a healthier environment where her skill and her psyche were nurtured. The Diva flourished and grew in her art form. However, her confidence had been shattered and rebuilding it would take time. She blossomed her senior year in college, was cast in all four of the final dance works (including a key role in Bill T. Jones’ D-Man in the Waters) for the Spring Concert. At this point, I just knew that all was well in the world and life of The Diva and she was ready for the world.

Then she came home.

As a mother, you know when something is just not quite right. From the very beginning, I sensed that with her. She proclaimed her next step in life would be to move to New York and began making preparations. The Diva flew to New York for auditions – each time making it to the end, but not quite getting the gig. She applied for employment, but found that searching from outside the city proved to be fruitless. With each attempt to move forward, I noticed a hesitation and a slight resistance to the change that such a move would create. The hesitation quickly became doubt. The doubt then became a lack of confidence and self esteem.

It was a wise and wonderful friend who suggested a Plan B. Plan B had already been suggested by the parents – but you know how it is when you have kids who think you know nothing.

Plan B created a safe space in time. Plan B involved settling in at home, working and saving enough to make the move to New York with comfort and a better constructed plan. So, The Diva began to work in retail locally and to develop her plan. While The Diva was home, we discussed her past trials and her triumphs. We developed a better constructed plan for the move to New York. Six months later, she announced that she was prepared and ready. We sent her with our blessings and many prayers.

Thus began her new adventure. She immediately found employment within her first week there, In fact, she accepted 2 jobs – which was too much she discovered later. But, she was on a high from the acceptance. She discovered the studios for taking classes and began to network for opportunities.The audition season was coming soon and she was determined to be ready.

She did her research about each opportunity and began auditioning. She auditioned. And auditioned some more. And auditioned some more. Each time, it was a “no.” With each audition came the cycle of highs (getting to the end) and then lows (not getting selected). A lifetime of rejections seemed to be compounded and steadily affecting her ability to move forward. With each phone call, I tried to encourage her from afar. I reminded her that in the midst of “no’s” somewhere, there would be a “yes” and to keep trying. But each month, I could feel her falling deeper and deeper into despair.

I began to quietly speak to her spirit of doubt. In listening, I was able to discern her fears and the source of those fears. I asked her, “where is your faith?” I was not ready for the response. She said to me, “I have none.”

This shattered my very being. It made me angry. It frightened me. Most of all, it made me feel as if I had not prepared my child for this stage of her life. What did I miss? We attended and were active in church. She participated in children’s and youth activities. I was not ready for her to say this. My child was on the other side of the country, far away from home and I felt helpless.

Then, I was reminded of a story. So I asked her, “Have you ever seen a mustard seed?” She said, “no.” So I told her to find one the next time that she is in the grocery store. I told her that a mustard seed is just a tiny little thing. But from that seed comes a whole lot. I told her about how God only requires us to have a little faith in Him, and He will do the rest. I encouraged her to find just that little bit to hold onto.

I wasn’t sure if she heard me. I didn’t know if she had written me off and said, “oh there she goes again with that Bible stuff.” But I knew that I had planted the seed.

Fast forward a couple of weeks. The opportunity presented itself for the audition for the Cruise. A friend and former Booker T. Washington alum has recommended her for the audition that is “invitation only.” She goes to the audition and makes it to the very end and is waiting for the decision.

So I asked her, “how did it go.” She said, “Very well. I really really want this one and feel like it’s mine. And I have tried to have faith like you said.I have been praying”

Hallelujah!The tears began to pour down my face. Even if she did not get this one, her faith had been restored.

I thank God that she did indeed receive the blessing. There are still obstacles to overcome, but I am praising God in advance for this small miracle of faith and her journey forward. So if you see me smiling, there is a reason.

The Diva’s story is a story not unlike the stories of those that choose performing arts as a profession. It is a common story. However, stories of triumph should be shared if for no other reason than to give hope to the hopeless.

I wish you peace!

Sonya

Why Black Lives Matter

It’s open season on Black People. I’ve said this several times over the past few weeks. Now before you roll your eyes and stop reading, just hear me out. I promise there is solid, concrete evidence to support this theory. And I intend to make my argument clear enough for even Stevie Wonder to see it.

Think back to November 2008. For the first time in the history of this country, a Black man was elected into the highest position of power in the Free World. Fox News predicted the end of the world and looting in the streets as every major news station (except them) called the race in favor of President Obama. In the days immediately following, self-proclaimed racists vowed to move to Canada. Texas began a petition for secession. Political cartoons of monkeys in the White House began to circulate across the internet. Hunting season began.

Trayvon Martin. We all know the name and we all know the story. Other than the trial of OJ Simpson, never has a trial of this proportion divided the country so clearly down the lines of color alone. Black America clung to the innocence of a teenager merely walking to the store to get a can of Arizona Tea for himself and a bag of Skittles for his little brother. White America assumed that here was some thug who managed to overpower a neighborhood watch patrolman, twice his size. Instead, here was a boy, a mere child. Knowing what we know now about the additional encounters with George Zimmerman, I wonder how many have come to question this outcome. How many people even understand the despair of this mother and father who laid their son to rest just because he went to the store. He was guilty of what we call “(______) while being black.” Hunting season is open.

Black children no longer have the luxury of just being children. Sure, we think little Riley Curry is cute and sassy as she exerts her independence during post game interviews. She side eyes her Dad and gives plenty of attitude. How cute are we going to think Riley is ten years from now when she questions the police officer at the pool about her First Amendment Rights and her freedom to assemble?

Michael Scott, Tamir Rice, Akai Gurley,  Kaijeme Powell, Ezell Ford, Dante Parker, Michael Brown, John Crawford III, Eric Garner, Victor White III, Yvette Smith, McKenzie Cochran, and Jordan Baker are all Black Americans who have been unarmed and killed by police since January of 2014. Some of these cases have been dismissed finding in favor of the officers. Some are still awaiting decisions. All are tragedies. The recurrence of wrongful shootings is so frequent that many conversations on the subject begin with, “now which one was that one?” Open season.

Now that we have established the background, let me add some context. Insert the media. Some say the media is liberal. Most liberals would disagree. The media is sensational at best. Sound journalism practices flew out the window with the need for speed – the need to beat Social Media and TMZ with breaking stories. Sound journalism rooted in investigative reporting has been replaced with sound bites and op eds. Stations like Fox News have created a spin on news reporting that further divides and can even be deemed dangerous. Hunting Season.

So then let’s talk about what happened last night.  Why would a 21 year old white male, with less than a ninth grade education, who has read all kinds of propaganda, witnessed the degradation of Black People from the police and the media, commit the heinous crime yesterday in South Carolina? Why would this young man claim, “You rape our women. You have to go”?  Fox News questioned the fact that this was being deemed a “Hate Crime.”

Why? Because in his mind, Black Lives Don’t Matter and it’s Open Season on Black People.

The Dreamer

I met a man today who asked me my name. Why is that odd? Well, it was the first thing that he said to me. Not thinking anything of it, I replied, “Sonya.” He then said, “Ah..Sonya. In Spanish, that means ‘the dreamer‘.”

I chuckled to myself after he said it. He was spot on. I am indeed that – a dreamer.

I spend countless moments throughout the day dreaming of possibilities. It’s not always about myself. In fact, in most cases, it is about others. I dream of the day when my children will each reach their destiny and fulfill their hopes and desires. I dream of the days when my friends will be able to live comfortably and securely without any troubles or anxieties. I dream of a time when the world will stop being a place of such hatred and condemnation. I am a dreamer.

I am that person that envisions the glass half full. I’m a half-fuller. LOL. I made the t-shirt – glass on the front with the saying, “half full of it.”

I haven’t always been this way. There was a day when depression ruled my every thought and being. I was quick to snap and bite like a rabid dog. I was not at all pleasant to be around or a joy to be with. There was this dark cloud that hovered over me and shadowed my very being. I was miserable and I made my family even more so. My kids and husband walked around me as if on eggshells. At first, I thought it was just a part of “going through the change.” Sure, I knew how to mask it when ever outside the home in the presence of strangers. But in the confines of my own home, I was hell to contend with.

I can say that now, because that’s who I used to be.

All of this came to a shattering halt one day when I was at work. I found myself totally incapacitated. I couldn’t think clearly. I had panic attacks after panic attacks that were relentless. I felt like I was losing my mind and I didn’t know why. Was it just stress? Was I merely exhausted. Why couldn’t I control my thoughts or my rapid heartbeat?

It felt like my heart was going to jump out of my chest. I was in crisis.

I knew NOTHING about depression or how it could manifest itself and rear its ugly head. I didn’t know because it was one of those things that you just didn’t talk about in our community. Sure, there were a few conversations here and there – mostly held in the confines of groups of church folk. I had often heard that depression was one of those illnesses that you could just “pray” away. With this level of ignorance, I found myself very much unprepared to handle something that was very real.

Had it not been for the wisdom of a co-worker (a younger one at that) who had dealt with depression, I shutter to think what could have happened. She insisted that I call my physician IMMEDIATELY.

It was through a diagnostic evaluation that we discovered that this was not a one time occurrence. Throughout the various stages of crisis in my lifetime, I had learned to mask the symptoms just to survive. I learned that depression is indeed an illness. Just like our heart, lungs, liver, kidneys and other organs get sick, so can our brain. And just like those organs, sometimes it requires invasive strategies to heal.

My experience shed a new light on me. It opened my eyes to a whole new world regarding the issue of mental illness. No longer do I think of the images of people walking aimlessly talking to themselves when I hear the term. That’s what the media has taught us to look for. But instead, I am reminded that there are people who look just like me who sometimes need a little help in balancing out what’s inside their head.

I remember my husband attending my follow-up appointment with my doctor after we decided on and began a form of treatment. We both had noticed how much happier I was. I was absolutely radiant and joyful all the time. My husband asked my doctor, “what have you done with my wife?”

He smiled at my husband and replied, “I gave you back the person that she really is.” Amen, doc.

Being Still: In The Midst of Quiet

Today, I struggled with the punctuation for the title of my topic.  Take a look at it.  I wondered if I needed a comma, a colon or no punctuation at all.  Each one would give my thoughts a different meaning. As I thought about what was on my heart to say, I realized that the use of the colon most reflected the direction in which I was thinking.

You see, I am that writer that just flows. I don’t plan what I am going to say.  I just let it grow organically. Sure, I have a few key expressions that I want to include. But for the most part, I just roll with the punches.

For the past few days, I have felt compelled to write about what I consider as keys to listening. In my heart, I feel like if we all learned to really HEAR one another, compassion, healing and groundbreaking work could begin.

So that is why today, I felt the need to talk about “being still.”

I remember as a young child, whenever there was a threatening storm coming, my mother would make us all go sit in the closet. She would sit outside the door and would say to us, “Hush. Be still.”

She would turn off the television. Unplug the phone. She would sit quietly listening only to the elements outside until the storm had passed over. My mother was better than any weather man when it came to judging the magnitude and the impending danger of a storm. It was because in her stillness, she was able to hear.

Stillness takes practice. Stillness takes discipline. Stillness takes patience.

We are a people of “doers.” We want to fix it and we want to fix it with a quickness. In doing so, we don’t always get all the facts and we make mistakes.

Did you know that the Bible contains 35 references to being still and/or listening and waiting? I find that amazing – the relevance for today’s times. People were just as hard headed then as they are now. And even today, we still need to be reminded.

Peace and quiet is needed today. We are in the midst of a storm. We must prepare for the impending aftermath.

As for me, I plan to do as my mother would instruct me: “get somewhere and be still.”

Peace, be still.

The Discomfort of Quiet

Yesterday, I wrote a piece in which I asked White People to stop talking and take a moment to listen. I asked them to stop trying to respond to what is happening in Baltimore and to merely take a few minutes to just listen.

This must have been really hard because I got comments about how “this is not a color issue” and “how dividing us is separating us.”  I even got some sidebar comments from friends wondering if I was adding fuel to the fire.

My request was not to create a dialogue. It was merely a request from those who appear to have the greatest level of discomfort with the guilt of whats going on to experience a brief exercise to aid them in having a balanced perspective. I never imagined how difficult this simple assignment/task would be – being quiet. But if you think about it, quietness is probably one of the hardest things for us to contend with.

Think back to when you were out with someone and you came to the point in the conversation in which you ran out of things to talk about. There was that awkward pause and uneasiness – that discomfort with silence. That’s when we retrieve our electronic devices, or we move to the next person in the room or we just casually dismiss ourselves and walk away.

Or what about when we are riding in the car with friends or family. We turn on the radio so that we don’t have to talk to one another. We ride for miles at a time listening to the distractions of the airwaves all while ignoring the glaring cloud that may be hanging overhead needing to be addressed.

We don’t know how to deal with silence.

Maybe it’s because we know that silence always precedes the storm. If we fill the atmosphere with enough noise, we can avoid the impending storm. If we talk loud and strong enough, we can drown out the potential tragedy.  We can marginalize the root cause. We can make whatever ills that may be more palatable.

Silence scares us.

It scares us because it forces us into the unknown. Silence makes us vulnerable. It opens up our awareness. It allows us to see, to smell, to taste, to feel all that is around us without filters. It leaves us naked and afraid.

Silence puts us on one accord. It frees us of judgments. Imagine, if only we could hear the voices in their purest form.

Then perhaps, maybe we could come together on one accord and have a real discussion.

Shhhhhh.

White People, Stop Talking

Yes, I said it. I put it out there. I want the television reporters, pundits, bloggers and everybody else that wants to chime in about Baltimore (and Don Lemon) to just take a moment and be quiet.

I am tired of the noise. Your opinions are just that – opinions. You are not subject matter experts on the plight of Black Americans. You are not qualified to speak on my behalf. I don’t care if you have taught a gazillion courses on African American Studies or published a gazillion plus one books. I want you to take a step back and for five minutes, just listen.

Just listen to the cries of the people as they march. I want you to hear the anguish. I want you to hear the despair. I want you to hear the urgency.

I also want you to hear the songs. Listen to the words of hope. Listen to the longing for better days. Just listen.

Stop telling me about what you would and would not do as a mother. You don’t pray for your sons every time they step outside the perimeter of your home. You don’t pray that your sons live to see the age of 21. You do not share my burden.  You don’t have a clue.

The old adage “if you don’t have something good to say….” is true in this case.

Shut up! Just listen.

CRM – Empowering the Sales Force

In my previous post, I talked about the state of the workforce today and the demise of basic customer engagement and retention skills.  I identified the root cause of this phenomena as a lack of an empowered sales force.  So what exactly do I mean when I say that our sales force is lacking in empowerment?

Many of us have visited the local retail, grocery or fast food establishment and left feeling frustrated, angry or downright put off from the experience. We shrug it off and blame the low grade of pay, the age and experience of the server or even the culture of a generation of workers.

While all of these play a key role, perhaps the single most valid factor attributing to the demise of the service industry is the lack of accountability of the server. This failure of ownership is a direct result of a workforce that does not feel empowered. “Let me get my manager,” takes away the power and the need for the front line server to work through the conflict and to restore the confidence of the customer.

You may be wondering how did this evolve? In the 80’s we were bombarded with Quality Management initiatives.  Disney was the model for how to do business.  “Have it Your Way” and “The customer is always right” were industry slogans.  There were even coveted awards, like the Malcolm Baldrige that companies spent years training their entire organizations in order to achieve the distinction of this highest order.

So what happened?

The recession happened.  The bottom line hit.  In an effort to protect investments and to stay above water on the proverbial sinking ship, managing customers became an archaic practice for a large majority of industry professionals. In addition, the basic tenets of management took a back seat to a new philosophy: leadership (which I plan to address in a later post). A quota system of operating was adopted to measure success and “leaders” were promoted based on their abilities to operate as task masters. The result: leaders that are racing the clock for results with workers that have no loyalty to accomplishing the goals that results in a revolving door of customers.

How do you fix it?  How do you create a work environment that produces staff that actually enjoy coming to work and create customers that are loyal?  You empower them.

Empowerment only works if everyone agrees to the process.  So, that means that the philosophy of an empowered workforce has to be a top-down, bottom-up, side to side agreement.  This agreement should be communicated across the organization and continuously reiterated.  Empowerment is a culture of change and not just a passing fancy.

The Empowered Workforce is an educated workforce. From internal communications to continuing education, having information to make decisions is a key component. Employees want to do good work and they would like to assist customers on the front line. However, many do not have the tools to do so.

Accountability starts with a workforce that is allowed to make mistakes as a part of the process. Punitive results for employees that make efforts to problem solve are counterproductive to the process.  A culture of perfection is a culture that is destined to fail. It’s punishments create a workforce that does not take risks, does not problem solve, and always looks to management for decisions. Great organizations allow their employees to fail without fault. Failure is considered an action, a decision. Failure creates opportunities to think outside the box, explore other opportunities and allows for critical thinking.

It doesn’t matter if your worker is 18 or 68, empowering them will make them more productive.  The end result will be an empowered workforce that is the frontline for your customer relationship management.

Next, I’ll talk about how managing your customers gives you a competitive edge.

Sonya Spencer is senior marketing consultant for her own company, Infinite Possibilities. She has over 30 years of experience in the field of marketing and management and has worked with for-profit and non-profit organizations.  She is also an adjunct professor with the Dallas County Community College District and teaches a course in Advertising and Sales Management.