Category Archives: Workforce Development

Happiness vs. the 5 P’s of Thriving

So why don't I give a frack?

Since the gist of Oliver Segovia’s Harvard Business Journal article “To Find Happiness, Forget About Passion” conflicts with my beliefs on thriving, I was interested in this brainiac’s (HBS ’10) ideas.  He argues we have to be solutionists – find a problem and solve it in order to be happy.

Putting problems at the center of our decision-making changes everything. It’s not about the self anymore. It’s about what you can do and how you can be a valuable contributor. People working on the biggest problems are compensated in the biggest ways. I don’t mean this in a strict financial sense, but in a deeply human sense.

What he fails to mention is that we aren’t going to be effective or even enjoy solving problems that we aren’t passionate about.  I’ll use myself as an example.  Fracking is a big deal right now in El Paso County.  It’s has been linked to water pollution and earthquakes.  But it offers opportunity to reduce unemployment and increase school budgets.   According to Segovia, I should be eager to get educated on the local issue of fracking since it deals with two areas I care about:  the environment and economic opportunity. So why doesn’t fracking push my happiness button? 

Grant Crowell answers my question in his comment, “Segovia is short-sighted when he says for happiness, we should not rely on passion and instead focus on solving problems.” Crowell instead offers 5 P’s to focus our efforts in thriving:

1) Passion: the emotional drive and sense of self
2) Purpose: our need to be connected to something bigger than ourselves
3) Profit: because we need reward for motivation
4) People: because our network and relationship skills make us truly powerful
5) Push: giving as much as we have even when no one but us is paying attention

How Do You Thrive?

Fracking issues don’t fulfill the Ps for me: I’m ambivalent because I don’t see tangible or intangible reward to finding solutions – I have neither the network nor skill set to effect positive change. Thus, I can’t push myself to get going on the solutions.  To thrive, I must focus in areas where I have the 5P’s.

What about you? Does your work fulfill the 5P’s?

Workforce Diversity Does Not Equal Affirmative Action

The United States Olympic Committee has introduced measures to address the fact that its workforce is not reflective of the demographics of the Colorado Springs community where it is located.  This diversity effort, commonly seen as an organizational best practice, is apparently not popular with Colorado Springs Gazette editorial page editor, Wayne Laugesen.  Accompanying his critical article was the following online poll asking readers if the “USOC should give preference to minorities” as part of their hiring process.

Regardless of implementation, affirmative action along with Equal Employment Opportunity laws are designed to support diversity. They are not synonymous with it, as Laugeson’s polling language would suggest.  Workforce diversity is a strategy for increasing an organization’s competitiveness in a global marketplace.  Moreover, it is much harder to implement than the hiring quotas Wayne is suggesting: Attracting and retaining racial and ethnic minorities, females and people with different abilities requires committed effort and innovation.  And, in the case of Wayne’s world, overcoming ignorance of the issue.

A Roadmap for Social Change

"All that is valuable in human society depends upon the opportunity for development accorded the individual." Albert Einstein

Since a perk of my work is learning what amazing non-profits are doing to help families survive these difficult economic times, I was thrilled to talk to Crittenton Women’s Union, an .org located in Boston, MA.  CWU provides direct services, conducts research, and advocates for public policy to better support low-income women in their journey to economic self-sufficiency.

The foundation of CWU’s work is a theory of change for what moves a family from poverty to self-sufficiency, Bridge to Self-Sufficiency.  This model not only provides strategy and internal structure for developing programs and measuring outcomes, it gives the CWU clients a tangible set of goals to strive for in the difficult journey from poverty to economic independence.

CWU has a keen focus on specific, relevant data such as their Economic Independence Calculator that determines the actual costs of living depending on family size and location. A single mom in Boston with an infant and school-aged child knows she’ll need earn almost $60K/yr (about $28/hr) to achieve economic independence.  This data is linked to Hot Jobs, “careers that require two years or less of post-secondary education or training, meet the Massachusetts Economic Independence Index income level for a single-parent family with two children, and currently post high-vacancy rates.”  CWU is giving a woman clear, meaningful data to develop a career path that offers opportunity for advancement and breaks the cycle of poverty for her children.

To see what your community’s livable wage is, visit the National Center for Childhood Poverty’s Basic Needs Budget Calculator.

What is your community doing to support upward economic mobility of disadvantaged families?  I’d love to share your story!

Should Occupiers Take a Stand or Keep Marching Along?

"Make Jobs Not War!"

First, let me say I support the #Occupy movement.  This country was established to be a fair and just society and it’s clear for 99% of us it is ceasing to be so.  As Nobel prize-winning economist Joe Stiglitz pointed out,

“We have a social problem, not only an economic problem. We have this strange situation of a country where we have increasing numbers of homeless people and increasing numbers of vacant houses.”

Watching city parks across the US fill up with occupiers intent on tweeting grievances but no concrete ideas, I’m wondering if protesters have read the  American Jobs Act?

The AJA has several initiatives that would positively impact our economy.  Two in particular would provide relief to the unemployed: 1) Reauthorization of unemployment benefits set to expire at the end of the year; and, 2) Establishing the “Pathways Back to Work Fund” to create jobs for low-income and unemployed youth.  The former is a given, or 6 million people might lose whatever economic stability they have left.  The latter is a proven success in states as diverse as Mississippi and Michigan.

So, occupiers, while you’re marching for jobs can you take the opportunity to help create some?

Make funny signs AND jobs!

How Earning More Keeps You Poor

191,000 kids live in poverty in Colorado


Why can’t poor people just “get a job”?  Hell, they get food stamps, free child care, tax credits, welfare checks…what else could they need?

I’ve heard variations of this question; truthfully,  I used to ask it myself.  What I failed to recognize (and now try to increase awareness of) is the unintentional negative affect of the 1996 welfare reform laws: the Cliff Effect.  Consider the real-life scenario of Shari (not her real name):

Shari began working at McDonald’s 15 months ago.  She is eligible for a raise, yet she refuses to ask for one or accept any promotions that McDonald’s may offer. If Shari got even a 75-cents-per-hour raise, it would trigger a cut in food stamps, childcare assistance, and medical assistance. She cannot afford to earn a little more. In order to escape poverty, Shari must earn considerably more. Like others in poverty, Shari is often stuck in survival mode, unable to imagine a better future and trapped without the support systems that families who are middle or upper class take for granted. It feels impossible for Shari to plan for the future or make long-term decisions because she is dealing with today’s crises.

Shari’s work supports are supposed to provide her family a means for climbing out of poverty.  These include the minimum wage, the Earned Income Tax Credit, the child tax credit,  food stamps, health insurance, and child care.  But as Shari’s earnings increase, she begins to lose these benefits, negating any increases in income. The result? Hard-working individuals climbing to reach the American Dream of prosperity end up falling off the cliff…back into poverty.

Just another Shari

We’ve all seen Shari:  at the Wal-Mart checkout counter, at the bus stop, waiting on us at McDonalds.  And we think, “There but for the grace of God, go I.”  Is that it?  Do we stop there?  Or, do we wonder, “Is there anything I can do?”

“Do not wait for leaders; do it alone, person to person.” ~ Mother Teresa.

How to Grow Where You’re Planted

“Knowing others is intelligence; knowing yourself is true wisdom. Mastering others is strength; mastering yourself is true power.”  Tao Te Ching

"Grow where you're planted!"

What do a real-estate agent, advertising exec, medical student, B&B owner, teacher, development consultant and non-profit professional have in common?  They’re all roles that at some point in my adult life I’ve assumed.  Each has taught me something valuable and helped me make the most of my life at a particular moment.  As my sister, a Navy wife, says, “Grow where you’re planted!” Aphorisms aside, how does one do this?  Or, as a newly-divorced, single-mom friend asked me, “How do I reinvent myself?”

Most of us will come to a transition point:  a change in location, family situation, or career opportunity.  Perhaps we want to to take an interest/hobby to a new level.  I’ve found this process goes more smoothly and produces better results if you know your strengths and use them in this new endeavor.  But how do you go about this?

Several years ago, I became intrigued with Dr. Martin Seligman‘s positive psychology theory.  I took his VIA Survey of Character Strengths which helped me identify key positive character traits.  (This is not to be confused with the Myers-Briggs test, also helpful, which identifies personality styles.)

The VIA Classification System’s goal is to identify what’s best about us and how we use those optimal characteristics to build our best lives.  Why is this important?  Well, research shows people enjoy their work and life more when they are using their strengths.

Success = Energy + forward momentum of strengths

So, are you ready to find out what your unique strengths are and put them in action?  If so, click here.  Please let me hear back from you once you’ve taken the survey to share what you found!  If you’re already using your unique strengths, please share how it’s going!

The Other 99% of US

After reading Joseph Stiglitz’s article on America’s social inequality (in Vanity Fair, just under the hyperlink to the International Best-Dressed List) I wondered what is it that allows us to maintain this idea of America as the land of opportunity?  Are we truly a nation that believes in equality and the American Dream?  Or is it an ideal we clutch on to like a worn-out teddy bear to give us a semblance of  comfort while equity vanishes from our homes, our jobs are shipped to other countries and our kids’ academic performance continues to decline?  Are we a nation of equal opportunity or a society functions on survival of the fittest?

“While the law [of competition] may be sometimes hard for the individual, it is best for the race, because it insures the survival of the fittest in every department. We accept and welcome, therefore, as conditions to which we must accommodate ourselves, great inequality of environment, the concentration of business, industrial and commercial, in the hands of a few, and the law of competition between these, as being not only beneficial, but essential for the future progress of the race.” Andrew Carnegie, “Wealth,” in the North American Review, June 1889

Andrew Carnegie

And if social darwinism is the driving force for opportunity that concentrates our country’s wealth into the hands of a few, what does that mean for the well-being of the other 99% of us?

A sign of things to come?


¿Cómo Se Dice Philanthrocapitalism?

Classroom instruction

Mi Casa Resource Center, a Denver non-profit with a 35-year history of advancing the economic success of Latinos, has found an ingenious way to support the benefits of economic development and diversity in their community while providing financial institutions a means to build market share among Latino consumers.

Now in its third year, Mi Casa’s Bilingual Bank Teller program trains students fluent in English and Spanish for a career in the financial sector. During the five-week training course, individuals learn banking products and services, transaction processing, sales and customer service.  A career coach assists with resume-writing, practicing interview and networking skills and conducting online job searches.

Practicing with Cash Drawer

Mi Casa graduates currently employed at Wells Fargo, FirstBank, Key Bank, Charles Schwab and TCF Bank have seen hourly wage increases of 150%.  Health insurance and tuition reimbursement are additional benefits for which they may qualify.

Achieving full-time employment with a career path and a establishing a means of building assets is critical to a growing and influential Latino community who represent an important component of the economy.  According to Denver newspaper, La Voz Nueva, Latinos account for over 35 percent of the Denver Metro population. In disposable income, Denver Latinos rank as the 8th largest market in the nation.

However, research shows cultural and language barriers can limit access to traditional financial services which means many Latinos rely on payday loan and check cashing institutions for banking needs.  The Denver Office of Economic Development reports Denver residents spent $26 million on payday loan and check cashing fees in 2006. The average full-time worker not accessing a bank or credit union will spend $40,000 in his or her lifetime just to turn wages into cash.

With support from the Denver Office of Economic Development, JP Morgan Chase Foundation, Wells Fargo Foundation and Sara Lee Foundation, Mi Casa’s Bilingual Bank Teller program trains bilingual individuals to provide excellent financial customer service in Spanish and English.  By opening a bank account,  direct deposit and a no-fee savings account, individuals avoid predatory lending fees and can increase savings.  See Bank On Denver’s Savings Calculator to see how much can be saved!

In October 2010, Mi Casa’s Bilingual Bank Teller program’s success was recognized by the National Council of La Raza at its annual workforce conference, ¡Listo! Preparing Latinos Workers for the New Economy, in Chicago, IL. During this event, many non-profits across the United States learned how to develop their own bilingual bank teller programs.

Mi Casa's Bilingual Bank Teller Graduates

Additional programs would help communities build social and financial capital through increased employment and savings while banks further develop a diverse workforce necessary for attracting new customers.  The result?  An excellent example of the philanthrocapitalistic, “do well while doing good” philosophy in action!