The Michael Brown Effect

Please know that I am not judging the victim, the accused, or anyone else associated with the Michael Brown case in Ferguson, Missouri, but the implications of a post by an ex-police officer on Facebook speaks loudly to the effect of, not unhealthy leaders, but unhealthy employees – those doing work – in business enterprises.

The ex-police officer contends that the fact the accused police officer, Darren Wilson, did not know that Michael Brown was a suspect in a recent store robbery was inconsequential.  The key fact is that Michael Brown knew.  He contends that because Michael Brown knew of the crime (caught on video) that when confronted by an authority figure in the person of Officer Wilson, he behaved in an aggressive way as most would do if they thought they were being caught.  He offered numerous examples where this phenomenon has ended in police officer/highway patrol officer deaths.  The officers were ignorant of who they were confronting, but the people confronted were wholly aware of their previous activities and crimes.

This event had a horrible ending for all involved – especially the friends and family of Michael Brown.  A lack of respect for authority or an aggressive response thereto, often solicits a response.  Hopefully, the response is not inappropriate.

This is not dissimilar to business leaders interacting or intervening with employees in the context of work.  Very often, a business leader is thought of as heavy-handed or aggressive if they approach an employee about the need to improve something.  How often might the employee’s response, often aggressive in return, be a consequence of them knowing they can do better and that they violated expectations they know to be important in the enterprise?

Organizational health trumps everything.  (Patrick Lencioni – The Advantage)  There is no such thing as an unhealthy organization; only unhealthy people – both leaders and employees.  Please share your thoughts about this.

Jobs, Debt And Home Prices Since The Crisis, In Five Charts

Jobs, Debt And Home Prices Since The Crisis, In Five Charts

The charts in the linked post are interesting to talk about on whether we should be positive about the economy currently or not.  Home prices have rebounded, which seems great, but the chart makes me think about how we referred to home prices as a bubble when it was bursting 5 years ago.  The chart saying we are back to bubble level pricing does not make me feel warm and cozy, but makes me wonder if depressed interest rates are inflating home prices and setting us up for another fall.

The second chart is unequivocally good in my opinion.  Less debt per household should make the economy more stable.

On to the third chart and the one type of debt load that has grown, student loans.  I am biased toward higher education for obvious reasons, but I have friends who have struggled with student loans, so this could be a bad thing.  There is too much here for me to discuss in a short post.

Their fourth and fifth charts are concerning in some ways and in others may just be indicative of a shift in how our country lives.  A smaller work force that that makes more per worker may make for a more efficient economy.  It also may mean that standards of living on a per household basis my go down.  That sounds bad, but if people are willing to accept it so that one of the parents can stay home or other such reason it could lead to happier people even if our country takes a hit in wealth.

 

Investing In Graduates

http://video.foxbusiness.com/v/2637118287001/investing-in-college-graduates/

This is an interesting idea, thanks to Andrew Gowasack for the link. Upstart allows recent college graduates to find people to pay off their student loans with the idea that the debt reduction will allow them to follow their entrepreneurial ideas. You agree to give the backers a percent of your salary for a 5-10 year period to entice them to pay off your student debt. It is interesting but may lead to a double whammy should your venture fail and you now have to pay part of your corporate salary away to boot.

Our First Day of Classes

Monday was our first day of classes at the Maastricht University School of Business and Economics. The university is a 10 minute walk down the cobble stone streets of the inner city. We leave Hotel Derlon at 8:00 every morning.

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Professor David Geenens, the Director of the BC School of Businesses, leads his students to classes. Notice that we walk down the middle of the street, instead of on the sidewalks where the pedestrians technically belong! Cars, trucks, and bikes usually slow down enough to give us time to get out of the way.

Maastricht University was founded in 1976, so the school is located in various buildings throughout the central part of the city. The School of Business and Economics is located in an old Jesuit monastery.

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The main entrance to the School of Business and Economics.

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EMBA students entering the university for the first day of classes.

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Settling in for our first lecture

Benoit Wesly, a well-known entrepreneur from Maastricht, welcomed us to the university. He used to own a lot of property in the Westport area in Kansas City, and received honorary doctorates from Missouri Valley College and the University of Central Missouri. Dr. Morgan and Mr. Wesly met in Kansas City a number of years ago, and their relation eventually lead to the EMBA residency in Maastricht.

Our residency includes lectures from local entrepreneurs and university professors.

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One of these local entrepreneurs, René, told us about his new project in the Netherlands. He and some of the other university students joined us for the lectures and added some good perspective to our group conversations.

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Jos Nielsen is an entrepenuer in the Agro-Food and Life Sciences field. He gave a presentation on how his company is using the technology in eggs to develop new pharmaceutical products

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Dr. Morgan and Grant in class

After a full day of classes, some of our hosts joined us for fellowship and wine and hors d’oeuvres in an old ammunition bunker.Image

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At the end of a long day, we head back to Hotel Derlon.

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The City of Maastricht

Maastricht is at the extreme southern end of the Netherlands. We are a one-hour drive from Brussels, one hour from Cologne, and two hours from Amsterdam.  The city’s origins go all the way back to the  Roman Empire. The name “Maastricht” is derived from the latin “trajectum ad mosam” or “crossing at the Meuse,” which refers to a bridge that the Romans built over the Meuse river in the 1st century AD. The bridge was a valuable economic and military tool, and over time, the city became an important religious and cultural center. Maastricht is one of the oldest settlements in the Netherlands.

After getting settled in to our hotel on the first day, some of us went on a tour of the city. We were led by a charming guide named  Marieke, seen here with yours truly. (Her make means “Little Mary.”)

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Maastricht’s Catholic roots run deep. Construction on the basilica next to our hotel began around the year 1000. At the beginning of the 13th century, the city was ruled by both a bishop and a prince. This dual authority lead to many disputes between the church and state, both of whom claimed to have temporal authority. The first stop on our tour was an old mill that used to be owned by one of these bishops.

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The wheel out back is still turning, but not functional.Image

 

A small rivers that runs through the city turns the wheel. The buildings in the town are built right up against the river.

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This is the old fortified entrance to the town. Men protecting the town would use the three small red windows above to fight off invaders trying to break in below.

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Here is a portion of the wall, which now only exists in fragments throughout the city.

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St. Servatius was the first bishop to bring Catholicism to Maastricht. The basilica pictured here was built in his honor from about the years 500-1500. His tomb is in the crypt below the church. Blessed John Paul II visited the basilica in 1985.

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A community of canons (priests who live in community, a bit like monks) used to live at the basilica and do their daily prayers in the main church. As the more and more pilgrims began to come to the basilica, they decided to build another church for their prayers, so as not to be interrupted by the visitors. The canons constructed St. John’s Church right next door.

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The red steeple dominates the landscape of central Maastricht. During the Reformation, this church became a Protestant church. Dr. Bruce Morgan quipped that the road that runs between St. John’s and the basilica is called “Purgatory.”

I can’t say that I was surprised to see two McDonald’s restaurants with a few blocks of each other. I believe the “Dominicain” sign refers to a hotel or apartments above. Most of the buildings in the central city have shops on at the street level, and apartments in the upper floors.

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The streets were very full when on Sunday afternoon.

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The city is very clever with how it reuses old churches, convents and monasteries. This church was built by the Dominicans. Now it’s a trendy bookshop.

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City Hall, in one of the main town squares.

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The oldest current bridge, over the Meuse River. The first-century bridge built by the Romans fell into the river hundreds of years ago.

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There are TONS of bikes, and riders can only park them in designated places.

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Chuck, our program’s recruiter, listens to our tour guide. St. Martin’s Church across the river is in the background.

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I hope this gives everyone back home a better feel for the city. I apologize to anybody from the Netherlands if I messed up any of the facts about Maastricht…feel free to add corrections in the comments sections.

I promise, we have been in class! Details about the university and our residency to come.

The Ravens have landed in Europe

Our group left KCI midday on Saturday, and after a brief layover in Atlanta, we flew across the Atlantic Ocean and landed in Brussels Sunday morning local time. (We are seven hours ahead of everyone in the central time zone.) (For those of you who are geographically challenged, Brussels is in Belgium, which is north of France.) After a one-hour bus ride, we arrived at Hotel Derlon in Maastricht.

Hotel Derlon is on one of the three main squares in the city. Two doors down from our hotel is the Basilica of Our Lady, Star of the Sea. Divine Providence would have it that mass was starting right when we arrived at the hotel at 11:30, so some of dumped our bags and hopped next door to attend the liturgy. It was a good way to start the trip…even though the mass was in Dutch and we couldn’t understand a word that was said, apart from “Amen.” Here is a picture of the façade of the basilica.

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To the north of the basilica is a shrine to Mary, under her title “Star of the Sea.” Natives and tourists alike frequently visit the shrine to light a candle and offer a prayer to the Blessed Mother. Today someone told me that many local people are more likely to go in and light a candle than to attend mass on Sunday.

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Here’s a view down one of the city streets. No shortage of shops and restaurants.

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After we all had a chance to grab some lunch and settle in, the university arranged a guided tour of the city. Stay tuned for the highlights.