Rivers of Thought

Life, Leadership, Business & Technology

Wow! It’s been a minute since I posted something here on Rivers of Thought!

My last post was a Christmas wish and now it is St. Patrick’s Day! To say the first 10 weeks of the year have been a blur is an understatement. While it may seem from the perspective of this blog that I have not been doing much. Nothing could be further from the truth! Let me catch you up on a few of the goings-on!

JANUS Program

In January I had the honor to deliver a two-day workshop based on my book Amplify Your Job Search to a group of America’s finest! I spent two days at Camp Mackall in North Carolina with 30 Green Beret. These were soldiers who were within 18 months of their transition date out of the military and into civilian life. The JANUS Program provides transition assistance to our heroes to ensure a smooth entry into life outside the military. Job search skills training is an integral part of that transition.

This was only the second live event I had participated in since the COVID lockdowns in 2019. I was a little hesitant to fly given the pandemic and some of the wacky things going on at our Nation’s capital in January, so I rented a behemoth SUV and drive to North Carolina. The drive was mostly uneventful, other than the six inches of snow that fell as I crossed the mountains one way and the dense fog I encountered coming back the other way.

Institute for Digital Transformation

Late in 2020, I was welcomed back as a Fellow of the Institute for Digital Transformation after a several-year hiatus. The Institute’s mission is to help prepare leaders and organizations for transformation. The Journal is the Institute’s blog. My first article since returning appeared in March 2021. “Is it time to disrupt the IT service desk” takes are hard look at the state of the IT service desk, the impacts of the pandemic on the service desk professionals, and offers up some thought about transforming the service desk through people, process and technology.

The Institute has also been hard at work on the creation of the Digital Transformation Manifesto.  With so many conflicting ideas about digital transformation, we thought it was time to release a manifesto in the same ilk as the Agile Manifesto. The manifesto will provide a definition of what digital transformation is…and what it is not! Be on the lookout for it coming soon!

Status Go

In January, we celebrated our 100th episode since launching Status Go in 2018. That is 100 episodes of great, actionable content from nearly 100 guests on topics ranging from technical, strategy, and leadership, to gender and racial diversity, and everything in between.

So far this year, we’ve released (or dropped in the vernacular of the podcast biz) twelve episodes, including:

Forbes Technology Council

I continue to write several times a year through the Forbes Technology Council. This is one of the many councils Forbes has developed. These councils provide a community of thought leaders across several disciplines such as human resources, finance, and, of course, technology. One of the benefits is the access to write content to appear on Forbes.com. In 2021, I have had two posts appear.

In February, I published the third installment of my Race in Tech Series, The Funnel. This post blows up the myth that there are not enough minority candidates in the job pool and challenges business leaders to “open the aperture” by reviewing their job qualifications. The Funnel looks at several organizations that are working diligently to expose unseen candidates to organizations across the country.

Part one in the series is Race in Tech, Part I: Inside the Numbers, a look at research results into the current state of employment in the tech sector.

Part two in the series is Race in Tech, Part II: Being ‘The Only’ provides a glimpse into what it feels like to be the only underrepresented minority at work or at an event. I go on to highlight some organizations whose mission is to support “the onlys”.

People Development Magazine

In March, I wrote a piece for People Development  Magazine, published out of the UK, Gender Equality in Tech – It got worse…and it may be your fault is a hard-hitting piece that reveals the adverse impact the pandemic has had on gender diversity. If you are in a leadership position in the tech sector, the reason for this regression may rest on your shoulders. For this article, I asked eight women around the world what actions men who want to be allies for women in tech can do immediately to start to tilt the scale.

Making Grandpa’s Donuts is an annual tradition at the Ton Household. 2020 brings the reminder to “do this in remembrance of me [those who preceded us]”.

This year, we took the opportunity to make a video of the story and the process of creating these delectable treats!

“Do this in remembrance of me”. Growing up in American Baptist Churches as the son of a minister (yes, Jeff IS a PK), these words were always front and center. Carved in the communion table in front of the pulpit, he would read them countless times over the years. However, it wasn’t until much later in life that these words took on a new and different meaning. With apologies to the author and translators of the New Testament, at this time when the Christian world celebrates Christmas, we would like to talk about donuts. Yes, donuts.

Our favorite thing about celebrating Christmas is the traditions, rituals if you will. Every year we watch the same movies: Scrooged (laughing at the “toaster” line like hearing it for the first time); A Christmas Story (“You’ll shoot your eye out, Ralphie”); Christmas Vacation (reciting all the lines); and of course, It’s a Wonderful Life (crying at the end for the 50th consecutive year). For many years we attended the Christmas Eve service with Jeff’s mom and dad. And, of course, each season is highlighted by the gathering of family and friends, exchanging gifts and cards, and music across the generations.

However, of all these traditions, our favorite one is making donuts…it is never officially Christmas until the donuts are done. We call them “Grandpa’s Donuts”, in honor of Jeff’s Grandpa. 

Jeff’s fondest memories of his Grandpa Williams revolved around his two magnificent donut machines. Every time without fail when he would come to visit, Jeff and his siblings would run out to meet him as he got out of the car. All four of the kids would jump up and down with excitement, all asking if he brought the donut machines. And, every time without fail, he would look at us, scratch his head and say, “Oh my, I think I forgot those in Milwaukee.” He would then begin digging around in the trunk of his car and, sure enough, tucked back in the back behind all the luggage would be THE MACHINES! 

Jeff’s great-grandmother had given two Brown Bobby donut machines to his Grandpa Williams in the late 1920s. During the Great Depression, he would make donuts to sell at the Post Office where he worked. He charged a nickel for two donuts to make extra money to support his growing family.

On one of his trips to visit Jeff’s family in Evansville, he wrote the recipe in the front of mom’s cookbook. He must have known that trip would be his last. When he passed away in 1971, his mother inherited one of the Brown Bobby machines.

Over the next couple of decades, it was used to make donuts for the occasional church bake sale but eventually fell into disuse. In the mid ’90s, Jeff was a new manager and wanted to do something special for his team. He and his mom rummaged through her closet and there, tucked in the back, behind the boxes they discovered THE MACHINE! He donned his Grandpa’s old apron (handmade by my Grandma, with stitching that proclaimed the wearer to be “The Doughnut Man”) and they plugged in the Brown Bobby, fingers crossed it would still heat up. As they made the donuts and listened to Christmas Carols, something magical happened. They began to share stories about Grandpa. Gone for decades, he was remembered with stories, smiles, laughs, and tears. A new tradition was born.

In the years since, Jeff, Carmen, his mom, and his dad would gather around one of the old machines, listen to Christmas music, and tell the same stories. Stories of our parents, our grandparents, and Christmases past. We drag out the machine, plug it in, and hope that it heats up one more time. Jeff dons the apron and waves his hand over the machine testing the warmth just as Grandpa Williams did. Carmen deciphers the recipe, written in the front of a cookbook by a little old man, a very long time ago. We listen to Christmas music and tell the same old stories. Stories of our parents, our grandparents, and Christmases past. 

In 2012, Jeff’s mom was battling some health issues, so instead of gathering at her house, she and dad brought the machine to our house. She sat at our kitchen island while Carmen, dad, and Jeff made the donuts. We listened to the carols and told stories about Grandpa. At some point, it occurred to us, we were truly making Grandpa’s donuts for the first time. Our first grandson, Braxton, was born in September, making us “official” Grandparents!

As we cleaned up after making the delectable treats, mom suggested (against dad’s objections) that we “just keep the machine at our house”. She must have known this time would be her last. 

In 2019, days before Christmas, Jeff’s dad passed away, leaving another seat empty in the kitchen. Still, we made the donuts. 

This year, once again, we dragged out the machine, plugged it in, and hoped that it heated up one more time. Jeff donned the apron and waved his hand over the machine testing the warmth just as his grandfather had once done. Carmen deciphered the recipe, written in the front of a cookbook by a little old man, a very long time ago. We listened to Christmas music and told the same old stories…stories of Christmases past and of our cherished loved ones. Wondering aloud, if Jeff’s mom, much less, his grandfather could have comprehended telling Google, “Hey Google, set the timer for 2 minutes 45 seconds” instead of using an egg timer to time each batch. 

Over the years, we have given donuts to countless friends, relatives, and co-workers. We have shared the story of “Grandpa’s Donuts”. We will continue the tradition each year as long as the old Brown Bobby continues to heat. Yes, traditions tend to change with time. It is their very connection to the past that makes it so. As the future becomes the present, and the present becomes the past, the past changes. During this holiday season, take the time to pause. Remember those who came before us. Remember the ways they have touched our lives. Honor your traditions and “do this remembrance of them.”

Merry Christmas,

Jeff and Carmen (aka Grandpa and Grandma) 

Leadership Thought: A Gift of Wisdom

The Gift of Wisdom – Leadership from Around the World

We have entered the holiday season. Many around the globe will be celebrating in December. Hanukkah begins on December 12th, Kwanzaa begins on December 26th and Christmas on December 25th. 

No matter your faith, I have a gift for you this season. In this space, on the first Tuesday of the month, I typically share a thought about leadership. Today, my gift to you is to share the gifts from leaders around the world…the gifts of wisdom. 

Beginning today and continuing for the next 24 days, read insights into leadership, personal growth, people development, and more. People Development Magazine is a digital publication from Christina Lattimer from the UK. Christina has gathered posts from authors, speakers, and coaches to be shared each day in the form of an online Advent Calendar. I have the honor of being included in this year’s postings (but I am not telling which day 🙂 ). 

Today’s gift is “Simple Techniquest to Create Great Leaders” by Dr. Todd Dewett. Read it and get a taste of the gifts to come. Sign up to have each gift of insight delivered directly to you. 

Use the waning days of 2020 to grow your leadership! 

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INSIGHTS

Insights is the weekly, thought-provoking newsletter from Jeffrey S. Ton.
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A different focus each week:

Leadership Thought – A lesson-learned, an insight shared
Leadership Q&A – A response to a reader’s or a connection’s question
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Rivers of Thought – A more personal thought, observation or musing

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