An Apology? How Refreshing

Alex Q. Arbuckle, Mashable

Alex Q. Arbuckle, Mashable

In a world where apologies are rare, let alone public, an apology of epic proportion was issued late Monday night that deserves mention and celebration.

Gary Szatkowski, chief of the National Weather Service office serving Mount Holly, New Jersey and Philadelphia, publicly apologized on Twitter for predicting a larger than actual storm in the New York City area along with neighboring New Jersey and Philadelphia. New York City received about a half foot of snow rather than the two feet that were forecast. While some people may have felt inconvenienced by the city subway being shut down by Mayor Bill de Blasio, we all make mistakes. How great that an apology was issued. There are lessons to learn here.

It’s better to be safe than sorry. Millions of New Yorkers remained safe and at home on Tuesday night with full refrigerators and bottled water in their pantries. Now they don’t have to shop for a week. Now that’s a rare thing in New York City.

Life is about choices. Choosing the European precipitation forecast map over the American forecast map was the choice that was made. In this case, using the European map overestimated the actual snowfall. This happens in our lives every day.

The apology came through Twitter. There was no need to call a news conference to make the apology. Szatkowski knew that Twitter would be the fastest and most public way to get an apology out to the public and key decision makers. Brilliant thinking on his part and a reminder of the power of social media. The public became engaged in the conversation.

People are cool with forgiveness. Social media was all abuzz about this top news story. People began Tweeting their remarks to Szatkowski and the news media about how cool it was to even get an apology, let alone use social media to do it.

Life goes on. Yesterday, New Yorkers and other East Coasters returned to their normal routine. What this event left behind was an epic story to be shared with generations to come. Think of it, sitting around the dinner table some snowy night in 2050, telling your grandchildren…”Then there was the time when Grandma had to actually cook dinner for Grandpa instead of getting a takeaway at the corner deli…”

Now with Boston, well, that’s another story…that you can follow on Twitter @StormBoston.


Conversation Leads to Understanding


People are in great need today of connecting through conversation. Understanding – and healing – comes through honest, open dialogue.

More than a decade ago, I read an article in Utne Reader about a group called the Conversation Cafe that was looking for people who were interested in hosting conversations in cities and towns across America.

I began hosting a monthly Conversation Cafe on various topics and soon realized that people were craving connection through meaningful dialogue. As facilitator, it is my responsibility to keep the conversation focused and moving. The simple Conversation Cafe model works. What makes this model different is that it uses a talking object, a simple item that is passed from person to person. The person with the talking object in hand has the floor. No one can interrupt that person while speaking. The facilitator can ask clarifying questions.

What makes the Conversation Cafe unique is its agreements. All participants agree to follow the protocol. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could use agreements like this in our workplace or home conversations?

  • Open-mindedness: Listen to and respect all points of view.
  • Acceptance: Suspend judgment as best you can.
  • Curiosity: Seek to understand rather than persuade.
  • Discovery: Question assumptions, look for new insights.
  • Sincerity: Speak from your heart and personal experience.
  • Brevity: Go for honesty and depth but don’t go on and on.

Conversations include a four-step process that helps the group to better understand each other’s thoughts and feelings. During the final round, I close the conversation by asking the question, “What are you taking away from our conversation?” Participants’ comments usually include how glad they were that they came, how much they learned, how they enjoyed hearing other people’s thoughts, ideas or perspectives, or how they will challenge their thinking on the subject. Often, participants transform their thinking on the topic.

Today, the Conversation Cafe model is hosted in seven countries. Eleven states in the United States host Cafes. If you are interested in starting a Conversation Cafe in your corner of the world, visit the Conversation Cafe website.

Companies, organizations, groups, cities, states and countries can benefit from using the Conversation Cafe model to open up dialogue. By listening to each other’s voices in a respectful way, we will be better able to understand each other.

All positive change begins with open dialogue.

OH-IO: A Lesson in Responsibility


Cardale Jones Photo: Getty Images

The story – and media clips – of the College Football Playoff National Championship game between The Ohio State University Buckeyes and the University of Oregon Ducks will go down in history as teaching top lessons about the power of positive thinking, team building, leadership and responsibility. It’s this last topic, responsibility, that deserves attention.

If you were in the shoes of Cardale Jones, the Buckeyes’ third string quarterback, would you be able to rise to the occasion as he did? How often in your career have you been asked to fill in for someone else who was originally assigned to lead a project team, deliver a conference presentation or meet with a big client? Each time you were chosen as a substitute, you faced a challenge: Do I shirk responsibility (“I can’t do this…I’m not qualified”) or claim responsibility (“I can – and will – deliver”)? Cardale Jones claimed responsibility and with that came victory.

Third string means there were two other quarterbacks ahead of Jones in the line-up. When the lead quarterback was injured, that moved Jones into second position. When that lead quarterback was injured, that moved Jones into the lead QB position. In this lead role for just a few weeks, Cardale Jones led the Buckeyes’ victory over the University of Alabama Crimson Tide in the Sugar Bowl. Two weeks later, Jones again led the Buckeyes into victory over the Ducks with a 42-20 win, clenching the national championship title.

WOW. Congratulations to QB Cardale Jones, running back Ezekiel Elliott, coach Urban Meyer and the entire Buckeyes franchise for winning the national championship. If the media buzz is any indication, this success story will be told and retold for many years to come in schools, community centers and meeting rooms to inspire and motivate people to do their best.

The take away from this historical event: Anything is possible when you align leadership, team and talent with dedication, drive and responsibility. May we all be more responsible in our lives and in the work we do.

Oh, The Places You’ll Go!


In the classic children’s book, Oh, The Places You’ll Go!, author Dr. Seuss (Theodor Seuss Geisel) begins with:


Today is your day.

You’re off to Great Places!

You’re off and away!

How wonderful that children are given a glimpse of possibility at such a young age. Let me remind you that at any age you can still dream and imagine the possibilities that lie ahead of you in your life.

When I received my Master of Arts degree in Interpersonal Communication in 1997, the commencement speaker used the theme, Oh, The Places You’ll Go! A smart move because most of the graduates in the auditorium that day grew up reading Dr. Seuss books. Many could recite chapter and verse.

You have brains in your head.

You have feet in your shoes.

You can steer yourself

any direction you choose.

As you embark on a new year’s journey, consider the places you want to go that haven’t quite made it to your priority list. They may reside in the recesses of your brain. You may think about doing them more than actually doing them. What would it take for you to focus on what you want in your life? I use a simple A-B-C method, as outlined in my book, Everything I Do Positions Me: The Simple Path to Professional Success. The key word here is simple. Here it is:

A: Where are you currently positioned? (your current status, current behavior)

C: Fast forward to Where do you want to be positioned? What is your ultimate goal? Your desired future?

B: What sandwiches the gap between A (here and now) and C (the future) is B. What action steps will get you to C?


A: Poor presentation skills. (current)

C: Polished presenter. (future)

B: Action steps:

  1. Attend a presentations workshop.
  2. Join a Toastmasters group.
  3. Ask my boss to give me more presentation assignments.
  4. Practice in front of the mirror two hours weekly.
  5. Submit a proposal to present at a national professional association conference.

You get the picture. You can go anywhere you want in your career and life. Focus on the things you want most. Create the action steps to get you there. Enjoy the results. It’s that simple.

You’ll be on your way up!

You’ll be seeing great sights!

You’ll join the high fliers

who soar to high heights.

Visit Seussville or Amazon to order your own copy of Oh, The Places You’ll Go! to keep you motivated! Watch a short YouTube video of the book, read by actor John Lithgow.

Title and quotes are copyrighted material, Dr. Seuss Enterprises.