Tuesday, April 10, 2012

In my MBA course called "The Global Manager," I wrote the following quick reply to a question about Ethics and Morals in the workforce. It's not polished; it's just a quick run-through of my thoughts about the topic. Maybe it will be of interest to you?

My concern with ethics is that it is varies relative to the social system in which it resides; it's an external compass about what should be done within a place and time. It's a value system, based on perceived priorities and implied actions that support goals or systemic cohesion. Conversely, morality is about character, which is internally driven by individuals. Also, morality is principle-based and does not vary relative to perceptions of the social milieu. Right is right (morality) instead of right is right only if it is accepted and valued (ethics) by others.

In my view ethics has a tool of its trade: accountability. Accountability is about evaluation of an outcome - at the end of a process. Accountability is often a scapegoat that facilitates blame-assignment. It's a cop-out, so to speak. It says, the error was caused because someone else dropped the ball or didn't follow the rules.

Morality focuses on responsibility, which is personally driven. Through responsibility one makes the right choices, even if they are tough, but the choice has nothing to do with acceptance or compliance. Responsibility never seeks to obtain approval, nor does it seek to comply to social rules which may or may not be just for all. Rather, responsibility is driven by a desire to do the right thing for the right reason, regardless of the consequences that relate to acceptance or compliance.

Also, accountability, which I conceive to be a tool of ethics, is reactive; it's after the fact. Conversely, responsibility, a tool of morality, is proactive; it's before the fact and influences the outcome.

I've written extensively in this MBA program about ethics, morality, accountability, and responsibility, and I can summarize my main points as follows:

Ethics and Accountability go hand-in-hand, and they tend to tools of assigning blame.

Morality and Responsibility go hand-in-hand, and they are are fundamental components of proactive behavior: components that seek to do what is right, regardless of the consequences imposed by those who will judge.

In my view, Morality and Responsibility trump Ethics and Accountability all of the time.

When I was a child my grandma, who an avid reader and well-educated for a woman who went to school in the early 1900's, said to me, "Tommy, there is a difference between legal-law and moral-law. You can be right by the law of the land and wrong by God's law."

I read stories about the Nazis of Germany who captured, imprisoned, and killed thousands of Jews. It has been written that one fine family, who was not Jewish, had nice neighbors who were Jewish. The Nazis thugs were going door-to-door in the small town where both families lived, and the non-Jewish family hid the Jewish family under the floor boards of the house where the non-Jews resided. When the Nazi police knocked on the door and asked if there were any Jews in the house, the father of the non-Jewish family said an emphatic "No!" and the Nazis did a quick look and left.

So, the question, was it ethical for the father to lie? Or, was it moral to do so? Did his action break a code? Should he have been punished for lying?

Take care,


Saturday, February 18, 2012

Lunges and Heel Raises

Running requires strength, but is that weight room strength?  Strength is specific to large degree. Just because one guy can squat 500lbs in the weight room doesn't mean he can run faster than a guy who only squats 250lbs. In my opinion, the best two strength exercises that anyone runner can do, anywhere, are lunges and heel raises.

Lunges can be done many ways. One way is the standard step far forward, drop your hips low and then press hard on your foot and push backward, so that you return to an upright position. A key tot his is avoid letting your forward knee go past your toes; otherwise you strain the patellar tendon in your knee.

A second lunge that works great is the backward lunge. Instead of lunging forward, which is the common way, step backward, drop your hips and back knee and then pull your body back to the upright position using the forward leg muscles. You'll feel a lot of pressure on your hamstring muscle in the back of your upper thing.

You can also perform side-lunges; although these are not as specific as the forward and backward lunge, side lunges to help create strength in your hip stabilizer muscles. Side lunges are simple too: step to the side and drop your hips down a few inches and then push with your outside leg (the one absorbing the weight of your body as you lunge to the side) in order to return to the upright, neutral position. Be sure to perform side-lunges to the left and to the right.

Heel raises are golden exercise for runners. People who perform heel raises tend to have strong lower legs (knee to the ankle) that generate a stronger running stride. The ability to run fast and sprint is influenced by lower leg strength and power, and heel raises directly influence one's ability to push against the ground hard. Also, if you want to sprint well, you have to run near your forefoot, rather than your heel, and heel raises give you enough stability strength that you can do that without strain.

Take care,

Tinman (Tom)

Friday, February 3, 2012

Winter Running

I've been very busy the last couple of weeks. I am busy with my MBA school work, substitute teaching, coaching, and creating a new website (wwww.runningprs.com). You can also find me at www.therunzone.com most days (I am known as Tinman, resident coach).

Topic for today: Winter Running

I live in Parker, Colorado, and it's snowing like crazy. It started snowing at 5pm yesterday and it is still coming down heavily. We have about 20 inches on the ground already. Seeing the snow fall reminds me of years gone by when I thought nothing of running in snow. My wife, an avid runner, mentioned today how much fun it is to run in snow. I think non-runners don't understand this concept at all. But, real runners like the snow, I think.

I always had my best winter training when there was more snow. Indoor track racing was a breeze after running on snow. Maybe that's because snow is sort of like sand; it creates resistance. Also, when it's winter, you have to bundle up  - wear a bunch of layers to stay warm, if you live in cold areas of the world - and those extra layers restrict running motion. Though your pace slows in such conditions, it makes you stronger. On race day, when you shed the layers of clothes and don't have snow on the ground, you fly! It's a great feeling, shedding layers of clothes and having a lot of spring in your step, which you didn't have in winter conditions.

Part of my point of this post is to remind people not to fret about winter weather or cold. So what if your pace is slower! On race day you'll be stronger and glad for the extra strength.

My second point is this: Wear layers! You can always take clothes off and put them in your pockets, if you get hot. Just start with enough layers to make sure you don't get cold when the wind kicks up or your get stranded somewhere.

Enjoy winter - it'll soon be gone!

Take care,

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Leading Teams / Working on Projects.

Busy, busy, busy!  Working on my MBA is about as stressful as I can recall!  The hardest task is working on team projects. Since the program is online, rather than in-person, the amount of work is about triple of being in-person (note, I know because I've been a graduate student twice before; I have 117 graduate hours complete already, and the last 87 have all be "A's." So, I think that my experience on the matters confirms that online education is a lot more demanding. It is logical, however, that more work is assigned, because students aren't directly in front of the teacher, but I think online programs go overboard.  We actually interact with our professor about 5-6 days a week. I interact every day with my peers, as we answer discussion questions, evaluate other student's comments, work on team projects, and so on).

Working on teams, when we are unable to sit in one room and hash-out our means of tackling assigned problems is very difficult. As usual, I've taken the lead on the project (I tend to do that because I want an "A" grade, and if I leave it up to others I risk not having a final product that's of high quality; it happened to me once in this program, and I vowed it would never happen again.). Yet, I am fortunate this time around; the people in my group are professionals. All managers at their organizations, older and full of insight, self-disciplined, and they take direction well. 

The key to leading in groups is two-fold, I think. The first is using a "gentle" demeanor; nobody likes a pushy leader! Second, organization and planning. They go hand-in-hand.  When I lead, I quickly organize our team, get input on ideas, quickly, and set a course for the team. I assign tasks, tell people to not worry about perfection, but get some work achieved in their area and share it with the team by a deadline, and then we adjust, work again on the project, and so forth. I believe in adjustments and revisions.

Lesson:  You have to avoid trying to get the job done well in one fell-swoop! Go through cycle of organizing, planning, delegating/assigning, working on segments, and evaluating multiple times. It's like learning a sport skill. How on earth can any person learn a skill in one try? Repetition, spacing, adjusting as you learn more, and upping the challenge improves performance.

Have a great day!


Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Details of Running

Hi Runners & Coaches!

If you need running advice, stop by here and check out my posts and articles. Also, you can find me at www.therunzone.com almost every day.

If you don't know me, I've been coaching 22 years (since 1989). I've coached collegiate runners, post-collegiate runners, masters runners, and I've been a coach's coach, too - meaning I have been an adviser or I've written training plans for coaches who have university or high school coaching jobs. I'm sort of a mentor if you will, to those who are looking to advance their skills of coaching runners. I also coach cyclist, triathletes, and cross-country skiers.

Today's Topic:  The Details of Running

Several emails from runners in the last 3-4 days have been about illness runners have caught from their families. Joey came home with a bad cold from school and was coughing. My wife got a cold, and then I got a cold. What to do now?

First, I am not a doctor, so if I suggest what I use it's not meant as medical advice. If I get a cold, I take Elderberry tablets, and I take Umcka, which is an over-the-counter medicine that I get at the health food store or at a grocery store that sells healthy foods.  Actually, I take Elderberry regularly, and in the last 2-years I've had only one cold, which was quickly cleared up by Umcka. I started consuming Elderberry when I heard a respiratory specialist being interviewed on TV in Portland, Oregon. She said Elderberry is a natural way to prevent allergies, which I used to have very badly about 3 times a year. So, in two years I've had no allergies and 1 cold that went away quickly. This is a miracle for me, as I have suffered a lot over the years!

Second, sleep! If you don't get enough sleep, regularly, it's likely you'll catch a cold from someone close to you. Sleeping more equals getting sick less!

Third, vitamins! All the nutritionist like to believe that all  we have to do is eat 5+ servings of vegetables and the same amount of fruit servings per day, and all will be fine. Sorry, but most of us just don't have the time or energy to fix healthy meals regularly. Right now I am working on a MBA degree, working half-time, coaching 24 runners, applying for full-time jobs (anyone who has been filling out job application for professional positions will tell you it takes a long time just to fill out one application), answering questions from runners and coaches at www.therunzone.com and I have a family. My wife is busy too, so we are burning the candle at both ends all the time. We fix about 5 good meals a week. Otherwise, we eat leftovers, sandwiches, cereal, and so forth. Ever since I started taking really good, high-quality vitamins, I've been sick less and I feel better. My favorite vitamins are Hammer Nutrition's Premium Insurance. I'm always willing to try other good products, though. To me, it's worth the money.

Fourth, stretch! Yeah, I know research shows the people get injured stretching, and it's happened to me, as a serious runners for 26 years. But, if you stretch within yourself - meaning you don't go crazy and push your muscles to stretch in a state of pain, then you can loosen up muscles and make their capacity to perform improve. I'm not saying it's a big difference - but that's not the point of today's blog-post. It makes a small but noticeable difference, especially as the days and weeks of stretching are stringed together.

Fifth, strength! I'm not talking about bulking up. I'm talking about doing strength exercises that make you a stronger runner, not a stronger weight lifter or body builder. Lunges, heel raises, planks, and arm-swings. If you don't know what those are, read on!  You can do arms swing with surgical tubing or with hand weights, which are technically called dumbbells. All you do is move your arms in a natural running motion, back and forth (forward and backward), as you would while running. But, because you have resistance from surgical tubing or from dumbbells, you stress your muscles in your shoulders.

In 2-3 weeks you'll notice that your shoulders feel stronger while you run. This may be particularly beneficial for people who have weak shoulders. By the way, heel raises are ideal for developing strength of your lower leg. Stand on the edge of a stair step and raise your body upward so that you are standing on the balls of your feet, which are just below your toes. Your heels will be several inches off the ground. Lunges, well those are step forward and down and back or in reverse. You can also perform side-lunges for strength of your adductors and abductors of your hips. Stable and strong hips are important for running fast!

Okay, that's it for today. I have MBA school work to complete.

I'll try to write posts at least 2-3 times per week, and help out fellow runners and coaches. Again, take a look at www.therunzone.com. Many runners join me every day there for conversation.

In the future, I'll post some training paces charts this blog: The Runner's Coach.

Take care,

Tom Schwartz
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