My new BOOK!!!

My new BOOK!!!
Improve your leadership relationships

My Leadership Workbook

My Leadership Workbook
The Accompanying Workbook

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Road Trip!!!!

With the end of summer almost here and Labor Day coming up, many families will be taking their last vacations for the summer. To save the money for airfare and the hassles of a crowded airport, many families in America decide to drive to their destination. The downside of such trips can include being crowded into a cramped vehicle for hours with everyone just wanting to arrive.

                A couple years ago Dawn and the kids and I drove from Idaho to Michigan for a family reunion. As with most things, we did some things right, but there were few things I wanted a “do over.” For example, I wish we had taken some time to see more things along the way. Of course this would have either added to the length of the trip or limited our time with family. In our case, because the kids do well academically, I would have opted to extend the trip a day or two.

                This brings me to my first suggestion, take plenty of time. Adding a day or two to your trip is not likely to break the bank, or in the case of trips during the school year, cause your kids to become high school dropouts. If you can, arrange to get any schoolwork they will miss before you go and they can do the work while on the road. This has the added advantages of keeping the kids mostly quiet and allows you to help them and be involved in their education process.

                In this same vein, try to stop at places of educative value and places you are not going to see very often. We made the mistake of not going 50 miles out of our way to go to Mt. Rushmore, but one time we stopped at a small town festival we ran across and it was really a lot of fun, with great food and incredible hospitality.

                If at all possible, travel in a vehicle big enough for the length of the trip. We were in our suburban that allowed the kids to spread out a bit.  Please make sure everyone keeps their seatbelts on, trouble can find you quickly on the road.

                Technology has found its way into road trips. GPS has had the benefit of keeping us from getting lost, but unfortunately we miss out on the adventure of getting lost and the camaraderie of figuring it out together. We did not have a DVD player or one of the entertainment center so many vehicles have these days, but one of the kids brought a portable DVD player that had been a Christmas present. I don’t know who bought it for them or how much it was; but when the kids got tired, or Dawn and I wanted a little time to talk to each other, that person was my nominee for “Person of the Year.”

                On long trips, we have found it a lot of fun to take one route there, and another route home. We haven’t found it to take that much more time, the new scenery makes it seem like two trips in one and well worth the effort. A little planning allows you to take advantage of more scenic destinations along the way.

                Long trip or short, family or fun, school year or summer vacation, road trips with your family can be a fun and fairly inexpensive way to spend quality time and see some of the wonderful sites our nation has to offer. My family wishes you all a safe trip with the sun in your face and a fair wind to your back. Bon Voyage!

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

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Restaurant Behavior

For many parents, there are few events that fill them with greater dread than the misbehavior or worse, meltdown, of a child in a crowded restaurant. Of course, being in public with your well-behaved children will often lead to praise and congratulations to both the parents and the children from appreciative fellow restaurant patrons.

People who know I write this column, often make the observation to me that children are not as well behaved as they once were. I don’t know if this is true or just seems true, but I will say that we are in public far more than our grandparents, and we certainly eat out more than our parents or grandparents generations did. With most of us taking our kids into public more often than the past we open ourselves to more chances of meltdown.

However, this also means we have more chances to work on behaving appropriately and politely in public. I must confess I do not have much experience with my kids misbehaving in public. I was spoiled in that our kids usually picked up on their surroundings and acted appropriately. When MarkII was a toddler we were quick to correct his behavior, but we also did some things to set him up for success.

His early success led to people complimenting his behavior and he quickly figured out that if he wanted to be praised he just had to be good in public. By the time the twins came around, they just watched their older brother and followed his lead. Usually if the kids were too rowdy in public it was because I had instigated it!

Success in public is tied to success in private and I maintain there are some things you can do to help yourself and your child. Consistency of both expectations and consequences is something that must be part of your discipline system. Having Mom and Dad on the same page is also critical. You don’t like to serve two bosses at the same time and neither do your kids.

When the kids are behaving well, provide plenty of attention and positive reinforcement. Pointing out a kid’s success is a lot more pleasant for everyone than correcting mistakes and the lesson lasts longer. Use other children’s behavior to highlight what you expect from your kids. Although, once in a crowded restaurant, a child had melted down and the mother was trying to get the kid outside. During a lull in the melee, my youngest son, who at the time was three years old, loudly pointed out, “Daddy, that boy needs a beatin’!” The woman and I were both mortified, but the older couple behind us dang near had a stroke from laughing.

Some other helpful suggestions: try to go out when your kids are well rested and if you can’t go to a restaurant where they have a playground for kids to burn off some steam and be with other kids. From the time the kids could talk, I had trivia questions I would ask from history and science. The kids would stay entertained and after a time, could answer questions that again brought positive attention from other patrons who would overhear the exchanges.

Most of the kids I see who are misbehaving, in or out of restaurants, do so because they want an adults’ attention. If they can get it through positive means, great, but if they have to get it in a negative manner, so be it. Make sure you aren’t so wrapped up in adult conversation or your own needs that you forget to make the evening enjoyable for them as well.

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

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Sure you’re who you say you are…

This week I had the pleasure of talking to one of my high school classmates; but the conversation was blunted by the harrowing, frustrating, tale he had to tell. Two years ago, he and his wife had their identity stolen making a purchase at a local mall.

It took two weeks for them to realize their identity had been stolen; and they only found out when a Wal-Mart employee called to check a credit application that looked strange. After finding out, my friend cancelled credit cards and sent out letters to the credit checking agencies. This barely began to stop the nightmare.

During that two weeks, the thieves managed to steal over 250,000 dollars, and came within a postage stamp of taking out a second mortgage on my friend’s house. The thieves sold the identity after it was stolen, and one of the buyers managed to obtain a driver’s license that was a very good copy of my friend’s, with the exception it had the buyer’s picture.

The buyer then went to a jewelry store to buy a $5800 necklace. The cashier checked the ID, then called the “safe number” my friend set up after reporting the theft. When she began talking to my friend, in Texas, she confirmed her suspicions, as she was in Virginia! Thieves, using my friend’s credit, have purchased at least three vehicles.

Credit is usually stolen in one of the following ways: going through your trash, stealing your information with a special storage device when you make a purchase, by pretending to be a financial institution thereby convincing you to reveal personal information, stealing your wallet, or using false pretences to get banking institutions or utilities to divulge your information. Once they have one piece of your information, they will use that to get other information to make a more complete picture. Once they have enough information, identity thieves can get a job using your social, open utilities accounts in your name, commit all kinds of bank fraud in your name, and even give your name to police if they get arrested.

The government website,, has lots of useful information about preventing identity theft and what to do if your identity is stolen. In brief, you should file a police report, check your credit reports, notify your creditors, and begin to challenge any disputed charges already on your accounts. Time is of the essence because identity thieves act quickly, knowing you will take these steps once you realize you are a victim.

If your identity has not been stolen, consider getting identity insurance. Most insurance companies have policies that will help pay to restore your credit and good name. However, if you purchase the policy after you are a victim, then the insurance is far less effective, because the insurance won’t cover you between the theft and purchasing the policy, and you will have a difficult time convincing the insurance company it wasn’t related to the earlier theft.

My friend and his wife are still recovering two years later. It has taken a huge toll on them, their relationship, their kids and of course their finances. Every time they think they are at the bottom, a new hit appears on their credit. I hope you make it a point to safeguard your information and check your credit reports often just like a medical checkup.

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