Feliz 2011 --and Seven Questions about the BJHR

Yes, let me start by wishing you and all around you a great 2011!!!  I hope the coming weeks will have many memorable moments to recharge for the year that's about to start!!!

Now let me share with you seven questions about on which I have been working since last October, when I accepted to be the next Editor-in-Chief for the Business Journal of Hispanic Research (BJHR):

1. What is the The Business Journal of Hispanic Research (BJHR)The newest of NSHMBA’s publications, the BJHR serves as a bridge between research and practice on any business areas relevant to Hispanics.  Using best-available scientific methods and evidence, it educates not just Hispanics about new findings in the business disciplines, but also society-at-large on the situations, problems, opportunities and solutions faced by Latinos in business.

2. How does the BJHR contribute to NSHMBA’s new Vision?  Other than this journal, there is no other publication dedicated to foster and diffuse the most recent scientific findings that may be relevant for Hispanics and business.  Only a “premier organization for Hispanic business professionals” has the organizing capacity and long-term forethought to bring education about Latinos beyond Hispanics themselves by means of a pragmatic, yet rigorous journal.

3. Can the BJHR contribute to NSHMBA’s new Mission and Strategic Objectives? Definitely!  There are four statements that compose NSHMBA’s newly revised Mission:
  1. Increase the number of Hispanics graduating from MBA schools through scholarships, awareness programs and mentorship,
  2. Enhance career management opportunities for Hispanic MBAs from school to leadership positions, through job placement and world class professional development, 
  3. To be the partner of choice for organizations seeking to hire and develop Hispanic talent, and 
  4. Recruit and retain as life-long members a majority of Hispanic MBAs.  
It is somewhat obvious that the BJHR contributes to (1) and (2) by means of the content it publishes --articles that may be used in MBA as well as in professional development programs, in addition to its fund-raising potential. Many articles in the BJHR have described, explained and offered suggestions to enhance opportunities for Hispanic professionals; they are being used in executive development programs by universities across the nation.

Regarding (3), the fact that the BJHR distinguishes NSHMBA from similar organizations (i.e., even though some professional organizations sponsor journals, no other professional organization by ethnic or protected-class currently publishes a journal as part of its offerings to its members and to society!) makes it more likely to be funded by sponsors to the extent that this fact is leveraged during NSHMBA’s fundraising initiatives. 

And, lastly, though not less importantly, (4) recruitment and retention efforts are more likely to be successful if NSHMBA is perceived as a generator and promoter of knowledge useful for its Hispanic professional members by means of BJHR articles and development programs based upon them. 

In like fashion, several of the Strategic Objectives defined by the National Board can be strongly supported by the continued publication of the BJHR; it is much more than another publication on business; it is the tool through which NSHMBA –and its partners and sponsors—foster original Research, the most refined type of education our society has created: generation and diffusion of knowledge!”

4. What is published in the BJHR? The BJHR publishes articles on all functional business areas (e.g., Strategic Management, Finance, Marketing, Accounting, Human Resources, Information Technologies, Training and Development, Education, Operations, Consulting, etc.).  All manuscripts include implications or guidelines for practice; its five sections are: (1) The academic scholarly section; manuscripts can be empirical (quantitative or qualitative) or conceptual; data-based manuscripts are preferred. (2) The executive section includes case studies, executive insights, best practices, etc.  (3) The executive summary section publishes succinct, pragmatic reviews of research relevant to the BJHR readers. (4) The book review section summarizes recent publications in book form. (5) A research-in-progress section describes studies that are being implemented.

5. Who reads the BJHR?  Its main audiences are: (a) Practicing Business and Academic professionals (of any ethnicity) interested in Hispanics as a source of talent or a growing market; (b) Students enrolled in business and other programs at the executive, graduate and undergraduate levels; (c) Professionals with decision-making responsibilities such as marketing, diversity and inclusion executives, policy-makers and others. Have you read it lately?  Find the latest edition here!

6. How is the quality of the BJHR content ensured?  All papers are blind-reviewed by scholars and subject matter experts.  The editorial board is composed of high-ranking executives and academics who offer recommendations to the Editorial team as to what articles are ready to be published or what improvements may be needed.  The editors are senior-level academics or executives with ample experience in the process. Feedback is actively sought after.

7. Are there any fees or payments for editors, authors or contributors?  No! In consistency with scientific practice in most Business journals, authors, reviewers and editors (with the exception of the Managing Editor, who works for the National Office) do not receive or are charged any monetary payments in exchange for their valuable, highly specialized work.  The National Society of Hispanic MBA’s (NSHMBA) assumes all related costs to realize its vision "To be the premier organization for Hispanic business professionals" and its purpose "to foster Hispanic leadership through graduate management education and professional development. NSHMBA works to prepare Hispanics for leadership positions throughout the U.S., so that they can provide the cultural awareness and sensitivity vital in the management of the nation's diverse workforce.

I look forward to hearing your reactions about these questions on the BJHR!  Let me close by wishing you a Feliz Navidad, a Happy Hanukkah! Happy Kwanzaa! I hope that your worst moments in 2011 are like the best of 2010!!!

…Hispanic Business Research

I am returning from the 2010 Conference and Career Expo in Chicago as I write this note.  What an incredible event this has been, changing the lives of hundreds of individuals who find jobs, schools, talent, and like-minded individuals who are willing to spend their time, their money and many other resources to improve society through education for and about Hispanics!  What a long sentence too, but my batteries get so recharged every time I attend a NSHMBA event like this!!

A particularly exciting development (especially at the personal level) is that, starting October 2010, I have assumed the position of Editor-in-Chief for the Business Journal of Hispanic Research, NSHMBA’s most noticeable and recent effort to educate not only ourselves, Hispanics, but all of society! By systematically and scientifically documenting the situations, problems and solutions that Hispanics and non-Hispanics businesspersons encounter, the BJHR bridges research and practice, to serve students, mid-level managers and executives that are interested in going beyond what “common sense” (often the least common of the senses!) and mainstream media tell.

I am excited about this opportunity for several reasons. I have found my professional calling in research because the scientific method has transformed the way we live, work, and study; progress in all areas of life has accelerated since our society has been documenting its problems and solutions in a systematic manner. I also believe that keeping records of a subject of study by means of academic journals helps it transcend beyond time! Let me explain: I have often wondered, “shouldn’t we know more about the Mayans, Incas, Aztecs or other Native Americans than about the Jewish people, who lived in a more remote place and time?” Besides the obvious answer that religions have played a large role in preserving the knowledge our society currently has about the Abrahamic legacy, I believe that a key factor is that they wrote things down in a way that has been transmitted by generations!!!

To the extent that we are serious about keeping our Hispanic heritage alive and passing it to future generations, I believe we need to read, write, publish and promote outlets that specifically focus on Hispanics. Thousands of books are published every year, but very few of them are written by, for or about Latinos. In Business, there are also hundreds of journals dealing with every business function from the mainstream perspective, but only one is currently publishing content that is targeted explicitly to and about Hispanics in the business world, and that is the BJHR.

No other Society or Association of MBAs has assembled a group of qualified and diverse executives and academics to call for, double-blind review and publish content that specifically focuses on its Mission, and I believe that this is one of the more tangible ways in which NSHMBA enacts its vision to become the “premier organization for Hispanic business professionals”! The BJHR distinguishes us as a group that cares about ongoing professional development, and it can be used as a recruitment, retention, and fundraising tool –it simply makes me incredibly proud to be a NSHMBA Lifetime member!

Regarding fundraising, I also was impressed when Andrés Velásquez, from the Cleveland Chapter of NSHMBA, shared with me and Manny Gonzalez –our new CEO—that a most effective approach to sell sponsorships for the upcoming Hispanic Summit (May 19-20, 2011; mark your calendar!) has included sharing an issue of the BJHR with potential sponsors. Diversity and Inclusion executives seem to appreciate the contribution that NSHMBA gives to society through this publication, enough to share some of their scarce resources to support other activities that also carry the NSHMBA brand, again, the only Society of MBAs that has been willing to improve society through educating not only Hispanics but anyone else willing to take the time and effort to read the BJHR.

I can also see many challenges in this road I’m starting. You might be aware that, recently, the BJHR has been published online only, as the printing, shipping and handling expenses have been too high for NSHMBA to bear. Of course, publishing it online only is better than not doing it at all, but, as the anecdote above suggests, fundraising without a printed copy might be less effective. Also importantly, the number of business researchers who include Hispanics in their professional interests is quite low, and peer reviewed research reports take months, when not years, to be completed. Strengthening the pipeline of articles to keep the BJHR fresh and useful for its readers might need special promotion in the form of research grants and other initiatives. I hope that we –all of NSHMBA’s stakeholders, internal and external—will be able to create and support these initiatives so that we can continue to improve society through education.

I feel both privileged and humbled to get the baton from Dr. Donna Maria Blancero, who had the vision to found the journal and is now part of the Faculty at Bentley College, in Boston. I am also grateful to NSHMBA’s Board of Directors and to its Interim CEO, Steven Ramos, who ensured that the BJHR survived through some of the worst economic times that NSHMBA has undergone, and initiated the process that Manny finalized to bring me to this position.  I also have to thank the BJHR Editorial Board which has continued to support the journal through its economic difficulties, particularly Henry Hernandez, Jr., and Drs. Dianna Stone-Romero and Mickey Quinones. The journal also has a debt of gratitude to Drs. C. Douglas Johnson and Rob DelCampo, who worked very hard as Associate Editors but are now moving to other responsibilities.

Ms. Maru Tapia has been working beyond her contractual obligations as the Managing Editor who has “kept the doors open” even before Clarion, my home university and NSHMBA started to explore the agreement that will enable me to serve in this capacity. Jim Huerta has been serving as a Development Executive, finding ways to expand the BJHR influence and sustainability. And, last, but never least, every reader of the BJHR who applies its lessons in their professional life, benefitting not just his or her career, but also their companies and society at large!

What about you? If you haven't read the BJHR recently, please use this link. I'd like to know your thoughts about it; your suggestions or comments are very much needed to make this publication a stronger asset for you, your chapter and your organizations!

¡Hasta la próxima!

…Leadership in Music

Few jobs involve leadership skills as obviously as that of an orchestral conductor.  As I write these words, I’m sitting in the back of the rehearsal room while one of my children plays the violin with the discipline and concentration that about thirty other musicians need to exert in order to play classical music well enough for a future public performance.

This is both a stirring and a humbling experience.  In the background, I’ve been grading homework submitted by my Leadership students while the conductor works intensely to create the harmony that I have enjoyed so many times in the hall, from a seat in the audience.  As I read and evaluate the concepts that my students are applying, I become increasingly aware of how practical Leadership classes can be if we apply them to contexts as different as business, volunteer work, family life, and even musical performances!

I don’t think I had ever fully realized the time, knowledge, skills, and energy needed to make so many talented, individual performers work for their shared objective of executing a piece flawlessly.  It just is so delightful when you spend an hour or more enjoying music considered classic because it has endured the test of time.  Some of the compositions evoke places, moods, emotions, and so many other human experiences even when the listener doesn’t know much about the hours of training that brought them about, but even more when we know a bit of it.

The level of knowledge that the conductor requires is evident whenever he (or, more often in recent times she!) explains what is needed to better interpret a particular classical author in a given segment of the piece.  Also, whenever they recognize that a particular performer or set of instruments is not joining at the precisely right time that is required.  Their skills are also put to the test whenever the group just “naturally” changes its cadence because the piece itself “suggests” it --but it wasn’t the composer’s original intent!

The way conductors have to be both task and relationship oriented is also shown whenever they have to give feedback in a way that is perceived as neither impersonal nor caustic.  At times, they focus on the music pitch, the rhythm, the chords, and a myriad other details that can be considered predominantly technical.  But often, they also have to work on the interpersonal dynamics, such as the time that a trombone player who momentarily left the room found his instrument filled with water when he tried to start playing!  Fortunately, by the most part this group knows each other well and they seem to have a friendly camaraderie.  But I am sure that at times, jokes, personal preferences, differing levels of ability may be upsetting to some of the performers and the conductor’s implicit job description surely includes defusing conflict and creating an esprit de corps that will eventually translate into a stirring performance.

My child is the youngest performer, but I can see that this is an experience that is paying off by way of providing the most challenging experience so far.  I’m already looking forward not just to the concert in a few weeks, but to share these thoughts with the entire family as well as my students --and with you, kind reader!

What do you think?  Have you experienced “Obvious Leadership” in a particular context that you’d like to mention?  I look forward to reading your ideas and examples.  Please send me your comments via email to drolivaslujan_at_gmail.com or by posting a comment on my facebook profile. 

¡Hasta la próxima!


Transitions are rarely easy, but they should always be for the best…

In just a few weeks, over eight thousand NSHMBA members will be gathering around McCormick Place in Chicago, for the 2010 Conference and Career Expo. Are you ready for it? This might be one of your best opportunities to transition from student to professional. It certainly has been for a few thousands of NSHMBA members in the past twenty-some years or so!

If you don't feel you are ready, most likely you are not alone. That feeling of being unprepared can be typical of finishing many educational programs, even when objectively we are truly prepared. Feelings of uncertainty and anxiety are sometimes exacerbated by the large amount of assignments or by the lack of structure that many graduate-level problems have. Hey, if the problem was easy to structure, it probably would not be appropriate for grad school! You might have also experienced this "Transition Anxiety" whenever you started your MBA program, or when you had your first job after college, or when you went to college. And you not only survived, but now you're getting ready to transition to an even higher stage, aren't you?

Just so you don't feel too lonely, let me tell you that, at the beginning of the Fall semester, several of my well-experienced colleagues who happen to also be facebook friends posted status updates that may be symptomatic of this. To illustrate, Feeling frantic, and the semester hasn't even started yet! or I actually only have to do one syllabus for tomorrow but I haven't started it yet either. Forget "just in time", I go with "just before emergency!" as a response to 1 syllabus done, 1 more to go....

Quite frankly, I didn't post something like that simply because I was busy finalizing the syllabi and websites for the three courses I will be teaching this semester! But the feelings were there, somewhat yearning that the summer break had not finished so fast, but also glad to meet new students, to get back more intently to my research and to continue making my university a better place for those around me.

Then I thought I'd ask my wife, who happens to be one of my favorite educators –you could say that she takes primary responsibility for the day-to-day education of our children- whether she was also feeling this "Transition Anxiety" that my colleagues –and to some extent myself- were reporting. Her answer? She couldn't wait for the school year to begin! Her planning was developing just as she and our friends could possibly want it and the kids were also ready to start working on their new challenges! What a difference in outlook -all discrepancies considered!

What to do?

To me, it makes a difference when we consciously look at the bright side of these transitions. I know it was a major challenge to my wife -and even to my then even younger children- every time we have moved from one city to another, from being a dual-career couple to a doctoral student family, then back to two incomes in a different city, and finally back to a "professorial family." The money was a major consideration, but of course not the only one. We took into account our extended families, our support networks, the potential for our professional advancement, and our children's developmental opportunities -among other things. Yet, we have lived in three cities, transitioning in four occasions and found a mostly positive balance on each. It might not have been easy, but I know that I would not have the fulfilling career I now have if we had not been willing to give it a try.

Nerves and butterflies are fine - they're a physical sign that you're mentally ready and eager.  You have to get the butterflies to fly in formation, that's the trick.  ~Steve Bull

I strongly encourage you to do the same. Every now and then I learn of former students who don't seem to find a suitable opportunity to work according to their potential or their education. It breaks my heart because I see most others making quick progress, especially when they are willing to take chances, move geographically, keep on learning and continue to grow in as balanced and integrated way as possible (with this I mean keeping work and family, body and mind, finance and spirit, etc. without neglecting any of these crucial areas). I do hope they see how sometimes the limits are in our minds much more than outside of us, and make the necessary adjustments.

Lastly, take stock of what you do have! As I said above, quite often we are readier than we feel we are; did you ever experience that transitioning from a school level to another? If you are (as most NSHMBA members are) in an accredited, well-recognized program, you must have received the quality education that many others did before you in your institution. Learn about them, study their career paths and make your own future through your own career decisions, keeping in mind that your story will be unique and different.

Also, if you happen to see Steve Ramos or Manny Gonzalez, wish them your best!  Steve is transitioning after working tirelessly as NSHMBA's Interim CEO and Manny is the newly hired CEO starting this month!!  Congratulations to both!!

What do you think? Are you experiencing "Transition Anxiety"? I would love to read your ideas about how you cope with it. Please send me your comments via email to drolivaslujan_at_gmail.com or by posting a comment on my facebook profile. I look forward to seeing you in Chicago!

¡Hasta la próxima!

…Outdoors Experiences

Have you participated in any outdoor activities recently? In the past decade or two, I had not spent more than a few days in more or less comfortable cabins in Pennsylvania or Northern Mexico. So, now that one of my sons has outgrown the children’s summer camp he used to attend, I thought it was a good idea to go hiking around the Appalachian Trail in one of the state parks in Virginia with other teenagers, some of their parents and a few expert guides. With 2,179 miles, this is one of the largest footpaths on Earth, touching fourteen states, from Georgia to Maine (http://www.appalachiantrail.org/).

Back in November, when I learned about this excursion, it sounded like a neat father-son activity that could strengthen our relationship, in addition to learning survival skills and meeting other like-minded individuals. I also thought that I should experience on my own flesh what I preach in the classroom: in my Organizational Behavior courses, I review the classical stages of group formation and tell my students that outdoor activities --such as the classical “rope courses”--can be powerful experiences for groups of individuals who need to work together. Maybe a similar experience could remind me of my teenage years, when some friends and I used to spend a weekend outdoors every now and then.

It all started quite well on Saturday, after driving for about eight hours, from NW Pennsylvania to the Western side of Virginia. We met in a camp center with a simple but comfortable house near a state park, where we received a general description of the week we were about to experience, and made sure that all participants had all the essential gear that would be needed during the week. Most participants got to know each other there and our guide split us according to the camping tents that we had available. We also assembled the tents we’d be using for the first time and learned the basics of camping ethics, including leaving as minimal a “footprint” as possible by properly disposing of garbage depending on its type. The teens swam in the nearby river, played cards and everyone got to know each other better, as we had come from at least four different states.

On Sunday, we moved to Grayson Highlands State Park, where we learned how to use portable saws, find the best wood for the fire, and properly use our pocket knives to sharpen sticks for cooking hot dogs, marshmallows, and similar delicacies appropriate for the occasion. It was particularly important to keep our tents as dry as possible, as the places we were about to travel are known for “drastic weather changes”!

And drastic changes we had! On Monday, we were able to take a good deal of sun, after walking –with camping gear, clothes and food for several days in our backs-- slightly less than six miles on the Appalachian Trail and some subsidiary trails. That very night, we had some rain after we had set up our tents, had a simple but delicious dinner and our organizer read a few paragraphs from a Western novel in front of our fire. I thought the rain could give us –particularly the younger trekkers-- an incentive to turn in earlier, instead of playing cards or chat the night away. It’s hard to believe how priorities --and energy levels-- vary so much with a little age difference!

“Yours Truly,” sitting on a rock near the Appalachian Trail after cleaning up a bit, Wednesday night of the excursion
Fast forward until Friday; we had gotten drenched most nights, walked about 24 miles, and not used a bathroom since Sunday morning (fortunately, we had found a creek on Wednesday and that night, in spite of the rain, we slept cleaner and more comfortably than most other days). We had also climbed to Mount Rogers, the highest peak in the state of Virginia. One half of our group who did not clean their dishes but left them out at night had their food raided by a half a dozen wild ponies, and most participants had had a blast. After we ate our first meal of the week in a restaurant, dried up our gear, and took showers, we realized how easy it is to take for granted the food, shelter, fresh water and even toilets that a large proportion of people in our world so sorely lack.

Reference mark at the top of Mount Rogers, indicating the highest point in the state of Virginia: 5729 feet (1746 m) above mean sea level
The next day, it was hard for young and old to say goodbye, after having spent almost a week together, at the expense of the elements and helping each other get wood, build fires, filter water, cook, clean up our gear, and admiring the beauty of creation. Email and other addresses were exchanged and new facebook friends were made. I can now more than imagine the strength of cohesiveness these activities may generate on people who work for a particular organization!

What do you think? Have you had similar experiences? Do you find outdoor activities inspiring, challenging, a waste of energy or else? I would love to read other points of view with respect to how organizations use these activities to improve their climate or environment (in the social or interpersonal sense). Please send me your comments via email to drolivaslujan_at_gmail.com or by posting a comment on my facebook profile. I look forward to hearing from you!

¡Hasta la próxima!

...World Cups and Leadership

…I am the master of my fate | I am the captain of my soul. – Last two verses of Invictus, by W. E. Henley

You know that you’re traveling too much when you see the same movie in two separate business trips. This is the case for me this summer, but I am not complaining, as I have very much enjoyed Invictus both times –the movie about South Africa’s underdog participation in the 1995 Rugby World Cup, starred by Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon.

The movie was well-timed, as the FIFA World Cup is still being played in South Africa as I write these lines. Several of our naturally favorite teams have already advanced to the second stage –most notably the USA, Mexico, Uruguay, Argentina, Paraguay, Spain, Brazil, Portugal, and Chile, some of which may still go beyond all expectations!! In the process, from the 11th of June to the 11th of July, the world will have learned a bit more about South African geography and history. Personalities from South Africa and other participating nations will have received more media attention than usual; and firms sponsoring all related events will have earned goodwill from soccer fans and many others worldwide.

I enjoyed this movie for many reasons, including the fact that I love participating in and watching sports just like the next person. I also consider the fall of Apartheid in South Africa one of the greatest historical events in my lifetime, along with the fall of the Berlin wall. I wish we could see something similar in the near future between the two Koreas and in so many other conflicts in Africa, the Middle East, and even in our own continent, where violence, separating walls, and many types of discrimination still run rampant. As the Spanish saying goes, ¡La esperanza es lo último que muere! (Hope dies last!)

Another important reason why I feel this movie deserves attention is the transformational and charismatic leadership exhibited by Nelson Mandela (Freeman’s character in the movie) and by François Pienaar (Damon’s character, the captain of the South African team). One can almost feel how the South African team grows in esprit de corps as the movie advances and they realize that the world, and –most importantly—their own nation change their perception about what can be achieved when people put the past behind and work together for a better future. This type of leadership and change is needed in many organizations that have been decimated by recent layoffs or merged with others as our economy emerges from the recession and new business realities have to be dealt with.

Nelson Mandela in 2004 with the FIFA Cup, after South Africa was Awarded Hosting this Year’s Championship. 
 Photo Credit: FIFA World, June/July 2010.

I could not help feeling a bit of sadness when I learned that South Africa is the first host nation for the FIFA World Cup that does not qualify to the second stage of the tournament. Still, as the host nation, South Africa will have brought between $1.1 and $1.5 billion to its local economy. Airports, roads, stadiums, and more infrastructure will have been renovated and hopefully, the dream of making the world a little more peaceful through sports will have been achieved.

Local businesses also benefit around the world. While it might be true that soccer does not attract audiences in the US like it does in most other nations, we know that there are several local and regional markets in which this sport generates just as much passion –and consumption! Among my acquaintances, I perceive a stronger inclination among Hispanics to follow the World Cup, although I also remember my own –very much Hispanic!—mother being tired of her teenage son watching so many games in such a short time a few years ago –OK, more than just a few...

Mass media and sponsoring multinationals tend to be among the biggest winners, but even Mom & Pop’s restaurants around the world draw significant crowds when the locals gather to see the next big game with other fans. Of course, there is also the danger of collective euphoria going wrong as it often happens after major competitions hold their title games. We only need remember what happened in Los Angeles a few weeks ago after the Lakers won another basketball championship against the Boston Celtics. Again, while I would hope that unfortunate events like these do not occur when the final game of the FIFA Cup is played, a certain level of caution and prudence are advisable. I sure hope that the Cup is earned by one of our Ibero-American nations this July (yes, this “region” includes the USA, Brazil, Spain, and Portugal)!

What do you think? Are you also keeping track of several teams during this tournament? Or, are you tired of so many grown men running after a little ball, like a good uncle of mine has been heard saying? Is your business in some way supporting or being supported by major sport events like this? If you would not mind sharing your thoughts on this matter, send me your comments via email to drolivaslujan_at_gmail.com or by posting a comment on my facebook profile. I look forward to hearing from you!

¡Hasta la próxima!


We can’t become what we don’t believe we could become...

I recently gave a talk about the “global mindset.” Essentially, mindsets are sets of knowledge, assumptions and attitudes that enable an individual to perform adequately in a particular context. International managers have to develop a “global mindset” to excel at their work. Knowledge such as cultural customs, being able to speak a second language (or more!), abilities such as being persistent to get to the bottom of a misunderstanding while communicating with people from other cultures are part of what we call a “global mindset.”

Traveling through Germany last May made me think about how some enchanting palaces that are now museums started out as simpler shelters for the rulers of the area. At some point in history, the owner –often a descendent of the original builders but sometimes an invader or its representative—decided to add a branch, and a few years later another individual added another one, until the building at some point is turned into a museum. Nowadays, these buildings are full of stories, legends, objects from the past that attract visitors from all over the world, creating an industry that brings jobs and creates wealth in a way that few other places are able to.

Vineyards and Old Homes along the Rhine River

Admiring the beauty of these almost millenary places made me wonder… what type of a mindset did these individuals have in order to create a mansion out of a house, a castle out of a mansion, or a museum out of a castle? Would I have been one of them if I had lived their circumstances? Do I have a “creator’s mindset”? I earned an MBA and have been an administrator for some years, so, how about a “manager’s mindset”?

Some of my fellow researchers have written about how entrepreneurial work might need a different skill set –a mindset?—from the one required to be a manager. The efforts of many hundreds of individuals –including dozens of managers—are needed to maintain, let alone improve or revamp, any organization like a museum or a company. Usually, a few individuals are acknowledged for creating or turning around any project that lasts a decade or more, but there is a need to give credit to those women and men whose daily work ensures that the project keeps on providing value as time goes by. MBAs and other training programs give students the skill sets to sustain, rather than revolutionize the organizations they work for; the latter mindsets are harder to identify and even harder to nurture, but Leadership or Strategy courses include topics such as Creativity or Innovation that are designed for this purpose.

At NSHMBA, we owe it to our founders like Henry Hernandez, Maggie Peña, or Victor Arias (apologies for not mentioning many more influential individuals but these are some of the names whose contributions are now salient in my mind) that they had the creativity and perseverance to envision and launch an organization that promotes business education among Hispanics to improve our increasingly diverse society. Also, our CEOs, chapter presidents, officers and any participating member, past and present, have also been able to offer contributions, with the support and dedication of every staff and volunteer member of the organization in each and every chapter. It is this mix of entrepreneurial and managerial skills; of creativity and dedication mindsets that make our organization one we can be proud of.

In a variety of contexts, it seems human nature that we are often tempted to see ourselves as creators or innovators to the detriment of assuming a more necessary role of managers or “stewards.” Just like in professional sports, many organizations have thousands of “Sunday night coaches” who are able to identify –with the help of instant repetition and “20/20 hindsight”—every error that the team committed. We might want to call this the “Sunday night coach mindset.”

If you are still reading this, I encourage you, like I tell my students, not to bring such a mindset to your work. This “Sunday night coach mindset” might be very helpful to strike interesting conversations, but within companies or non-profit organizations, an excessively critical, non-constructive attitude may lead to a lower commitment that eventually translates into an impoverished organization.

I am not suggesting that you should not be a thoughtful critic. In fact, such a mindset might be a precursor of the “entrepreneurial” or the “creator” mindset. To the extent that we are able to identify organizational weaknesses or environmental threats, we might be able to see opportunities that revolutionize our organizations and bring them to a new level. And that proactive mindset is precisely one of the abilities that we, as trained managers who make a difference should more eagerly strive for!

I hope these lines encourage you to monitor on yourself the extent to which you have acquired not just a “manager mindset” but also a “creator” or an “innovator mindset.” Even if we cannot expect that every fellow NSHMBA member will found a similar organization, I believe we can and should expect of ourselves a professional, proactive mindset that will eventually find a way to leave a legacy in our families, our workplace, and in our communities. I will set my mind to that!

¡Hasta la próxima!

…lessons from Martial Arts

Sometimes we can see valuable Management lessons at work in unexpected areas, such as the martial arts. For several years now, three of my kids have been practicing Tang Soo Do, a traditional Korean martial art that is similar in many respects to Tae Kwon Do, the Olympic sport. Last year, I decided to join them, since I was the one driving them to and from their classes.

Though my original motivation was the physical aspect (I felt I had been neglecting my body too much), I have been finding out quickly that there is much more to martial arts than exercise or learning to defend oneself. I have been learning about the history and customs of Korea, China, and a bit of Japan, as a consequence of researching the diffusion of these disciplines. But, more importantly, I have been observing first-hand the application of many concepts I teach in my classes, in a fascinating context that I had not previously considered.

Exhibit 1: Organizational Socialization
Take for example the organizational process of socialization. As you might recall from (or are about to learn in) your management classes, this involves introducing new members to the organization and to its culture, in an explicit effort to integrate them more speedily and smoothly. Identifying and assigning “sponsors” –well-established employees—to guide the newcomers through their new environment is perhaps one of the best techniques to bring new members onboard. Though this is not a formal process in our studio, I have been observing that the new students who have friends or relatives who are more advanced tend to stay longer and learn faster than the new students who come as “pioneers” from their social circles (so-called “boundary spanners” in the field of social networking).

Similarly, Human Resource Management researchers have found that new employees hired through internal references tend to become more productive and adjust more rapidly to their new employer than other employees hired through external labor markets. To me, this suggests that organizations (especially those that depend on volunteer work like NHSMBA) would do well to ensure that every new member is assigned a sponsor if they do not already have other friends or acquaintances inside. Not only would this reduce attrition, it will increase the chances that these new members will be more engaged, committed, valuable, and satisfied.

Exhibit 2: The Danger of Narrow Evaluations
There are ten different belts from white to black belt. To advance from belt to belt, students have to fulfill attendance requirements, self-defense techniques, hand and kick techniques, a few language and culture terms, and a specific “form” (hyung is the Korean term, also known as “kata” in other martial arts). These forms represent a fight with an imaginary group of enemies, who are defeated through the use of specific, tightly choreographed defense and attack techniques. Because these forms are much more complex than the rest of the requirements, they tend to capture to a greater extent the students’ attention. It is easy for the less mature students to think they deserve to skip belts because they have learned the forms that correspond to those more advanced belts.

This narrowing of the evaluation scope tends to occur in businesses too! Sometimes new employees find themselves more deserving than their managers think they are. But other times it is the managers who fall prey to the “halo” or the “recency” bias that cognitive psychology has identified. Of course, this might happen in any martial art as well: if we are not careful, we might believe that someone is ready to take more responsibility than they truly are because we restricted our appraisal to only a few outstanding factors, neglecting to see the full picture.

Of course, it is also true that people often “grow into” new roles; sometimes the best available candidate only has the essential competencies and some training and development in the near future will bring them to their full potential. But the main point remains, that there is danger in restricting our personnel evaluations to only a few aspects, especially when they are a complex, yet incomplete part of the whole picture.

There are many other lessons that have been coming to my mind as I am about to reach the end of my first year as a Tang Soo Do “artist” (that seems to be the preferred term). I know that some of my friends and students have reached the black belt, that highly priced, attainable by very few individuals. If you have been having similar considerations from another martial art or from a different field (for example, music), I would love to hear from you.

¡Hasta la próxima!

…financial literacy

April is our nation’s official “Financial Literacy Month.” Among all the issues that have garnered attention from both the current and the past presidential administrations, I find the consensus this one issue has achieved, refreshing. Both Presidents Bush and Obama have supported the U.S. Financial Literacy and Education Commission, a group established “with the purpose of improving the financial literacy and education of persons in the United States” (mymoney.gov). About twenty federal agencies, including the FTC, SEC, SBA, DOL, DOT, FDIC and other acronyms that many MBAs are familiar with, are supporting this mission.

This Commission’s website is replete with informational resources including information on budgeting, taxes, saving and investing, financial planning, home ownership, privacy, fraud, scams, retirement, and establishing a small business. I thought I would feel a bit more confident using their financial calculators compared to the ones offered by financial firms, but unfortunately, the site crashed multiple times when I visited in preparing this article. Still, I was able to enjoy their Public Service Announcements (PSAs), as well as various other pages offering advice and warning visitors about the classic “Advance Fee Loan” and “Foreclosure Rescue” scams.

As you might imagine, federal agencies do not have a monopoly on this issue. While researching this topic, I found that several states have also created their own departments of financial literacy (VT, WA, WI were some of the most prominent on my searches) and educational agencies –such as Oklahoma’s—have promulgated standards in an effort to make their middle- and high-schoolers more financially aware and wiser than the previous generations.

If you are a member of the AICPA (American Institute of CPAs), you might be familiar with feedthepig.org, a website developed to “encourage and help Americans aged 25 to 34 to take control of their personal finances;” my guess is that most MBA students –Hispanic or not!—fall within this age range and would find the website’s suggestions quite useful. Among the topics that are covered in this site, we find “Gadget Habit,” “Pack-a-day,” “Weekend Tripper,” “Nails,” “Hair,” “Happy Hour,” “Season Tickets,” “Premium cable,” “Phone Plan Overages,” and many more.  If you can relate with these titles, check out the tests, the videos and the challenges in this site. You might end up with a strong “ROE” (Return on "Entertainment") in this particular URL!

But if your age is in a different range, then you might be interested in visiting 360financialliteracy.org, another website sponsored by AICPA and the Ad Council that includes non-promotional financial advice from childhood until retirement, along with brief movies, articles, questions, books, etc.

Of particular interest to me as a researcher who often writes on gender issues was their section for women. While some of the content within this section was not gender-specific (e.g., “What Savings or Investment Products Are Not FDIC Insured?”), there are articles on advice for newlyweds, baby arrivals, children from previous marriages, integration of health insurance benefits and much more, that can be of particular interest to women who want to make better informed financial decisions.

This site also has information sections for our “Military and Reserves” friends, for “Entrepreneurs,” for the “Sandwich Generation” (individuals who are taking care of both aging parents and children), and several other topics that might be of interest for many readers. I strongly recommend, check it out!

Another information service that I have been subscribed to for a few years is The Wall Street Journal’s marketwatch.com.  Of course, my pension management companies also offer a wealth of helpful resources, but I tend to get a skeptical eye whenever I know that the advice often includes promotions on their own products.

For sports fans, I have to recommend the site financialfootball.com, which is hosting a VISA-sponsored site in collaboration with the approaching 2010 FIFA World Cup. A “Financial Soccer” game is being released in about 21 different versions, for nine different regions of the world and in five languages, including English, Spanish, Brazilian Portuguese, Arabic, and Russian. Various informational modules are offered free-of-charge in combination with a web-based game that enables users to play a game and practice what they have learned. I certainly hope it is widely accepted in the United States, as well as in Latin America, although the regional versions seem to be now available only for Uruguay, Mexico, Honduras, and Brazil.

If your local NSHMBA chapter has a partnership with another group or a mentoring program for younger students, let me suggest using some of these free resources to help them better their financial future. You might have heard this before, but it’s worth repeating: “those who teach learn twice!”

What do you think? Are you familiar with any resources that might be helpful in achieving the goal of improving our financial literacy? Do you have any related experiences to share in a future column? Send me your thoughts or suggestions via email (drolivaslujan_at_gmail.com), facebook, or LinkedIn.

¡Hasta la próxima!

…stream of consciousness

It’s Thursday morning in Manchester (UK). For the first time, I’m traveling to this historical city for a day-and-a-half conference on the “practice of practise.” My word processor doesn’t like the second spelling of this word! Thanks perhaps to Noah Webster and George and Charles Merriam, in the US we prefer not to distinguish between the noun practice –“a way of doing something that is common, habitual or expected”—and the verb to practise –“to do something repeatedly or regularly in order to improve one’s skill”—, like the Oxford dictionary does. Turns out that, for some of my colleagues, the research we do and publish has gotten too disconnected from what practicing (or, should I write “practising”?) managers do and a few dozen researchers have been invited to study this notion in some depth.

I must confess that I feel incredibly honored and maybe even a bit intimidated, as I am the least known researcher in the list of conference participants. But just yesterday, I received an email that boosted my self-confidence highly, as I was invited to give one of the keynote speeches in another conference that will take place in Bamberg (Germany) in May. The paper I sent was blind-reviewed by two referees who rated it very highly, and the organizers felt it was worth giving it more air space than what I had expected. I know Mamá will be proud of me, even though she rarely needs a reason to do so. But enough about me; I thought I’d share with you this month some of my thoughts (the “stream of consciousness”) as I visit this “brilliant” city and here I am wasting valuable air time talking about myself.

Well, as I said above, I have just arrived in town; consequently, I feel slightly jet-lagged. Coffee here is much stronger than what I usually get in Clarion, plus I am excited about this event, so, I think I will get by. I took the train from the airport to the downtown area where the Manchester Business School is located and was reminded that they don’t call it “English punctuality” for nothing. I was trying to make sure I was boarding the right train when the time came, and off went the first I should have boarded. Fortunately, service is offered frequently, so, I was able to reach Manchester within a few minutes on the next train (note to self: stop trying to double-check everything; it’s not like you’re using an unfamiliar language, even if it sounds so!).

I had time to take a few pictures, read the “Metro” newspaper, and review the city maps so I know what to do once I reach downtown. Not a hard task, since the city has enough signs indicating street names and routes. At this point, I’m feeling hungry, even though it’s not even 6 AM for my body clock. I find a little café in one of the alleys perpendicular to Oxford Street, where I have my first English breakfast in Great Britain. I have heard so many times that “to eat well in England, you have to have breakfast three times” that I am ready to experiment –hoping I don’t get “King Henry’s revenge” just like our Anglo cousins often get “Moctezuma’s revenge” when visiting Mexico. I have to say I am not disappointed. The egg and patty are not different from what we’d find in the US, but the sausage tastes a bit different –and very enjoyable! The toast is also good flavored, but the sweet flavor in the beans is not what I am used to, yet I like being able to savor unfamiliar tastes. I also tried the decaf coffee but it tastes too much like the instant brand I use in my office when I feel too lazy to brew a better cup.

The newspapers here seem to be fascinated by the encounter of South African President, Jacob Zuma –and his third current wife—with Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip. Zuma grabbed the press’ attention by demanding respect for his culture –apparently somebody told him that Britons do not approve of polygamy or out-of-wedlock offspring, and that has started a media frenzy like only the British Royal family can spawn.

After Checking in…

Make that “After a 2-hour nap...”! I did not really feel that tired until I thought I should feel the bed in my small room. OK, I’ve seen smaller –in Hong Kong!—, but I’m always amazed at how easy it is to get used to our jumbo-sized rooms in the Americas. I exercised a bit, shaved, took a shower and got ready for the initial meeting downstairs.

It’s a neat group of colleagues! We have so many things in common, in spite of coming from such different countries as Austria, Brazil, Cyprus, Denmark, Finland, France, Ireland, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Scotland, South Africa, the US (and I cannot help mentioning “originally from Mexico”!), and, of course, our British hosts. Our dinner is not another English breakfast, but I enjoy it very much. Then it’s time to work –crazy, isn’t it? Well, we have to take full advantage of our being together here for a day and a half, to continue the work we have been doing for several months already and into the future.

I’ll post a picture or two on my blog if they turn out “sharable.” I think I have already exceeded the preferred length for this month’s column. Thanks for reading, I look forward to your “stream of consciousness”!

¡Hasta la próxima!

To learn more: Antonacopoulou, E. P. (2009). On the practise of practice: In-tensions and ex-tensions in the ongoing reconfiguration of practices. In D. Barry and H. Hansen (eds) Handbook of New and Emerging Approaches to Management & Organization, London: Sage.

…February’s “V-Days”

I have been witnessing an interesting twist to an old tradition. I remember that, as I was growing up, the month of February used to be a month to celebrate “love and friendship,” particularly in relation to Saint Valentine’s day; the elusive figure from the early years of Christianity for whom it is difficult to find historical evidence. As you know, this is a welcome occasion for many companies that sell all things imaginable that may be related to friendship and beyond… greeting cards, candy, chocolates, flowers, movies, songs, books, intimate apparel, jewelry, romantic getaways, dinners, and everything in between!

As I reviewed two years ago, this holiday generates spending in our nation to the tune of “teen billions” in sales. Last year, the National Retail Federation (NRF) expected a dip in sales from the previous year: $14.7 Bn in 2009, compared to $17.02 Bn in 2008 –in case you were wondering, no estimates for this particular festivity were publicly available for 2010 at the time of this writing, but a projected increase of 2.5% in sales for 2010 leads me to believe that we might see a slight bump.

NRF’s data also shows that only the end of the year and the return to school generate larger sales than “V-day;” not even Mother’s or Father’s day, Easter, Halloween, the Super Bowl or Saint Patrick’s day inspire our nation to open our wallets as we do in the middle of February. And, of course we are not the only ones stimulating the economic cycles; all around the world, there are variations that celebrate love and friendship, with the exception of cultures that explicitly reject Western influences as do some Hindi and Saudi Arabians.

Where is “the Twist”?
For the past decade or so, I have been observing an increase in popularity, scope, and support for a different type of “V-Day,” the movement created by Eve Ensler, the author of The Vagina Monologues. I would be surprised if you haven’t heard about it, as universities and community centers all over the US have been organizing readings of this work on or around February 14. What started as a presentation of diverse feminine experiences (including one that was highly questionable to say the least) has become a world-wide movement that demands a stop to all forms of violence and abuse against women.

I will admit that the monologues were not particularly appealing to me when their dissemination started. The reviews I read cautioned that one of the segments offered a highly appreciative portrayal of a lesbian rape of an underage, drunken girl, while most other segments categorically condemned –as they should!—any violence perpetrated by males. Critics also pointed out how harmonious relationships between men and women are not given enough “air time” within the event, compared to traumatic encounters. Others have criticized the “hijacking” of St. Valentine’s Day and in a few countries –including European ones like Monte Carlo or Monaco—the piece has been found vulgar or tasteless.

The Redemption of the Monologues?
Still, the activism that this movement has been generating is worth a close look. Among the most noticeable outcomes of the V-Day movement we find a dozen festivals prominently covered by the mainstream media thanks to the support of well-known personalities; thousands of benefit events in cities around the world; and a great deal of grass-roots events with the purpose of educating, raising funds and supporting organizations that year-round help victims of domestic and other types of violence. This year the focus is on the women of the Democratic Republic of Congo, one of many fronts that, thanks to its marginal socio-political status, has gone largely unnoticed by the media. Kudos to Ensler for using in this way the notoriety that her V-Day movement has acquired!!

Another initiative that I find laudable is the grass-roots creation of a V-Men event for 2011. Within the next few weeks, focus groups will be joining men who are willing to contribute their own experiences, thoughts and other resources to stop the violence against women. As a researcher on women’s experiences at the workplace who also happens to be the husband of an amazing woman, father of two little girls, brother of another two great women, and son of a most loving home-based activist, I can only strongly recommend this effort that surely will eliminate the criticism that V-Day is a “man hating” event.

Should We Have a “BV-Day”?
Considering all the disadvantages that women encounter in business –the gender pay gap, the glass ceiling, mommy tracks, double-duty, tokenism, glass cliffs, stereotyped treatment, difficulties in finding mentors and career advocates, to name just a few—perhaps we ought to have a “BV-Day.” At least once a year, we, in the world of Business, should stop to reflect how a very subtle type of violence is perpetrated against some of the smartest, hardest working, underappreciated individuals who just happen to have a body that is different from those of us in the majority.

What do you think? Feel free to send me an email to drolivaslujan_at_gmail.com or post your comment on my facebook or LinkedIn page.

¡Hasta la próxima!

To learn more:

  • This Wikipedia entry summarizes what is currently known about Saint Valentine: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saint_Valentine

  • The National Retail Federation publishes data on consumer spending through the following website: http://www.nrf.com/

  • Ensler’s Vday organization’s website is at: http://www.vday.org/home