My new BOOK!!!

My new BOOK!!!
Improve your leadership relationships

My Leadership Workbook

My Leadership Workbook
The Accompanying Workbook

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Moving Day

Americans have always been a nomadic people, ever since our ancestors came here from divergent places around the world. We still move on average, every five years. Largely, our moves are driven by the economy, mirroring our career moves. Sometimes we move due to divorce, and sometimes moving is a catalyst for divorce. Summertime is the most common time of year for moving, partly because kids are out of school and the weather is good.

Recently I was asked to help someone move their things out of a rental property they sold. The day was difficult because they were not prepared for the help when it arrived, and didn’t have a plan. To be fair, moving is a stressful time and almost never goes as you envision or hope it will.

In the hopes of saving some of you the pain we endured, allow me to make the following suggestions when contemplating a move:

  1. Don’t do it! Convince everyone else to move where you are. If that sounds like a lot of work, remember the last time you lifted the couch rearranging the living room furniture, only to throw out your back?
  2. If you are unsuccessful convincing your new company and your family to move near you, then begin by deciding whether you will hire someone to move your stuff, will you do it on your own, or some combination of the two? If you decide to have someone move you, maybe your new employer will be willing to defray some or all of the moving expenses, and often you can claim moving expenses when filing your income taxes. Whatever you decide, make sure you thoroughly investigate the moving company.
  3. As you begin your plan, start with a timeline of when tasks such as renting a truck, or turning off utilities at your old place and turning them on at the new place, need to happen.
  4. Make a checklist to help you keep everything straight. It is very unlikely you will remember everything; but in the stress of moving, you may forget something very important without a checklist.
  5. Make a list of those things you do not want other people to move, those things you don’t want on the main truck because you will need them immediately, or things you are leaving behind.
  6. Consider a garage sale a few weeks out from your move. You will lessen the amount you have to move and may make a tidy sum at the same time.
  7. If you are towing a car, make sure your car will fit on the trailer you are renting, and then make sure the towing vehicle can safely pull the loaded trailer. Make sure your car insurance or homeowners insurance will cover you as you are driving the rental truck. If not, consider the rental truck insurance.
  8. Once you arrive at your new home, consider replacing flooring or painting, if needed, while the home is empty of furniture. While another stressor, you won’t have to move the furniture in and out of the house in the first couple of months.

Moving is something most of us will do several times in our lives, and for most this will never become pleasant; but with some planning and “a little help from our friends”, our move can go smoothly while providing an opportunity for new family adventure. Just don’t attempt it during a Texas summer!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Water Safety

When I was eleven years old, I saw a boy drown. As a brand new Boy Scout, I helped adults try to save his life. When he didn’t make it, I determined I would never see another person drown.

Two years later, I barely weighed 100 pounds with five pounds of shot in my pocket. Despite the concerns of my parents, in June of 1978, I took Lifesaving merit badge at a Boy Scout summer camp much like our own at Camp Easton. I passed the merit badge, came home on a Saturday, then on Sunday saved a girl from drowning while we were at a family reunion. There is no doubt my training saved my life and hers.

Accidents in the water are all too common in America. Part of our propensity for trouble around the water is that we love the water so much. People will swim, dive, fish, canoe, kayak, tube, boat, ski and scuba dive in any body of water big enough to hold them and their chosen activity. We will do these activities without lifeguards, no thought to preparing and inspecting the swim area, with little to no adult supervision, in spite of poor environmental and weather conditions. All too often, our activities around water involve the use of a substance we in the South refer to as “ignorant oil”; most other places in the US know this substance as alcohol.

Given that 97 percent of US children ages 8 to 12 say they have been swimming in the last year, it is not surprising the CDC reports there are roughly 5,000 drownings or near drownings per year in the US. With drowning claiming 859 children under 14, drowning was the second leading cause of injury related death of children as of 2001, despite a 40 percent decrease over the previous decade; seventy-five percent of these drownings occurred because of a lapse of parental supervision. You may be surprised to know that most drownings happen both quickly and silently.

Under the best circumstances water rescues are dangerous, should only be attempted by trained personnel, and then only with equipment. The number of drownings that are double drownings are a testament to the danger involved. Far better is to prevent the need for a water rescue at all. With the summer sun and the water calling, please do these simple things before having fun around the water.

· Please adequately supervise your children. Many children drown while in the presence of one or both parents. Children can drown in the time it takes you to answer the phone, not talk on it. Do not play cards, make lunch, or go get lemonade while watching your kids in the water. Do not read or drink alcohol while children are in the water.

· The Red Cross and most YMCAs provide swim lessons for kids and training for parents on how to conduct water activities safely. These classes are very inexpensive, especially when you consider the ability to swim is a lifelong skill providing confidence and safety.

· You can make or buy simple devices to help in case of an emergency such as a shepherd’s crook, or a gallon jug with some water in the bottom for weight tied to a good nylon rope.

· Use life vests if boating. Yes, I know you don’t like them. I usually don’t either which is why an investment in a good PFD that fits properly is such a good idea. If you have a boating accident many times you will not have the time to grab a life jacket and if you have little eyes around you can bet your bottom dollar they are looking to your example.

Almost anything that can be done is more fun when you do it in the water, but please do it safely or it can cost you your life; or worse, the life of someone you love.

Mark Altman is a speaker and leadership consultant with the Altman Leadership Center. He has graduate work in Marriage and Family Counseling and is working on a PhD in Leadership studies at Gonzaga University. He can be reached at

Friday, June 12, 2009

D-Day Anniversary

Last week our nation, and much of Europe, celebrated the 65th anniversary of the D-Day

landings. As I watched the speeches from Normandy, and the specials on the History channel, I couldn’t help but ask myself, “Does the world still produce such men?” Each of us can have our own answer to the question and I don’t purpose to hash it out here.

While I would have guessed the number to be much higher, World War II veterans only made up roughly ten percent of the nation’s population in 1945; as of 2006 there were only slightly more than 3 million surviving. Growing up, I only knew three WWII veterans. I should say, three I knew well. One was my Great-Uncle Ralph, and the two others were adult leaders in Boy Scout Troop 143 in Conroe, Texas. From my Uncle I learned a zest and love of life and humor, while the other two gentlemen taught me about adventure, the beauty of the outdoors, and reinforced the lessons my father provided on how to be a good man.

While I am historian enough to know that the soldiers, sailors, marines, and airmen who fought against the Axis saved the world from a darkness we might never have come out of; I am tempted to argue the service they performed as citizens upon coming home has been of as great of value. When they came home, they enrolled in colleges and universities in greater numbers than at any time in our history, providing our nation with an educated workforce that brought to light technologies their parents could not have dreamed.

I do not wish to forget the spouses and sweethearts they left and came back to and then built lives with. Without the women who provided goods manufacturing, war support and morale, the prosecution of the war would have likely been impossible. Like their veteran, these women continued service to nation as a way of life, by helping to heal those scarred by their war and raising the generation who would finally push civil rights over the tipping point.

They built and bought homes, largely thanks to VA loans, in staggering numbers. The high percentage of homeowners changed our economy, and our attitudes about home ownership and personal finances. Many of them, having experienced true terror, found the courage to risk enough to start their own businesses and became captains of industry.

For many of them, civic activism and service became a way of life and they found themselves drawn to politics. From the early 1950s through the early 1980s, it was virtually impossible for a non-veteran to beat a veteran in almost any election, and it wasn’t until the early 1990s that we had a President who was a non-veteran.

If you have never been to the beaches of Normandy, you cannot appreciate the feats done there in early June 1944. Go see the landing site and cemetery if you possibly can. Like the Battle of Thermopylae, I believe the beginning of the end of WWII, will echo through the ages.

These veterans, whom we owe for so much more than their war records, are leaving us in ever-increasing numbers. The last service they may provide for our nation is to continue a debate on whether the development and defense of societal ideals, and love of service, are born through the sacrifice of hardship and separation during prolonged national emergency, or is it possible to develop these traits without enduring the heat. If so, how do we propose to make it happen? If you do not know a WWII vet, please get to know one.

Mark Altman is a speaker and leadership consultant with the Altman Leadership Center. He has graduate work in Marriage and Family Counseling and is the author of Leadership For All the Mountains You Climb. He can be reached at

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Sum, sum, sum, summer time fun!

Every year in the US, millions of school kids end a school year of reading books, writing papers and doing math problems. As important, or maybe more important to the development of a child, is the growth in logic systems and imagination. No less than the eminent physicist Albert Einstein commented, “Imagination is everything. It is the preview of life's coming attractions.”

While formal schooling provides it’s own set of growth opportunities, as a parent you can provide other opportunities for imagination building, physical fitness and cultural growth. Here are a few ideas:

Make a lemonade stand. There are several organizations to help with plans and advice as well as charities who benefit from the proceeds of lemonade stands each year. Great opportunity to learn about most of the aspects of running a small business. Don’t forget to check your municipality to see if you need a permit.

Build a fort or tree house. This provides a chance to learn building techniques and historical fort construction. An internet search will provide a plethora of plans, from historical scale projects to playhouse style forts made from old fence pickets. You can use “the fort” as a reason to study history, “a castle” to study literature, and both to fire an imagination.

Take a hike. Almost everywhere in the US families will find interesting hikes local to them where families can see art and architecture, flora and fauna, and even opportunities for a small community service project.

Take swimming lessons. Everyone should know how to swim, and organizations like the Red Cross and YMCA provide lessons for thousands of children every year.

Go to outdoor art exhibits or plays. Most communities have art exhibits or sales in local parks, and some community theatre groups perform plays in the parks during the summer. These can be a great way to introduce your family to the great playwrights and their works. I never liked Shakespeare in particular, or theatre in general, until I saw a play in London at Shakespeare’s New Globe Theatre; but my son, Mark who was with me, has always loved both.

Enroll in a personal growth class at a local community college such as photography or sculpture. Being on campus and the interaction with college students is worth the price of the class if your child comes to think of higher education as something everyone does and is expected of them. Beyond that is the growth due to obtaining a new skill that maybe far removed from anything they have done before.

These are just a few of the activities you can enjoy with your kids during the summer, which will provide a fun, family friendly backdrop to spending time together. Academic information can be taught, family history passed on, and life lessons imparted. I know that most parents have to continue working during the summer, but with school out of session and no homework to worry about, it makes the planning a bit easier. Older kids can actually take the lead in planning events, providing another growth opportunity.

As a parent you only get a limited number of summers, don’t let a one slip by.

Mark Altman is a speaker and leadership consultant with the Altman Leadership Center. He has graduate work in Marriage and Family Counseling and is the author of Leadership For All the Mountains You Climb. He can be reached at