Finding the Path

“No!” replied the client and hung up.

“I quit!” said Bill out loud. “I haven’t made a sale all day.”cubical-drewfromzhrodague

Jill, Bill’s big boss, happened to be passing his cubical as he announced his intent to terminate his employment, or at least sales calls for the day. “Bill,” said Jill, “We don’t quit. If you are having problems, I expect you to find a way to over come them. Getting to YES is an important principal of our division. I want you to spend the rest of the afternoon examining what what you have been doing and work with your team leader to figure out what you can improve. Both of you will report to my office in the morning with your findings.” Jill did not wait for a response. She turned and left. When she returned to her office, she called Bill’s team leader and told her about Bill’s problem and her expectations for corrective action.”

Jill said, “Getting to yes is an important principal.” She did not scold Bill for breaking a rule, but rather for failing to comply with a guiding principal. Guiding principals liberate leaders and employees from restrictive rules that require and prohibit behaviors by establishing clear boundaries, not rules. Employees operate within their boundaries established by guiding principals without fear of breaking some arcane rule. Employees use the principals to break the molds of past successes improving the organization. Sometimes people make mistakes, but in principle based organizations, leaders allow people to learn from errors, reorient themselves, and continue on the path to success. Guiding principles establish boundaries, not specific routes, for people to travel to achieve successful outcomes.

In the example at the beginning of this post, Bill probably violated several rules in his organization. Jill elected to call out Bill for violating a principle instead. According to Robert McDonald, Secretary of Veterans Affairs, “A rules-based organization is a safe place to work…because as long as you follow the rules, you’re never going to be criticized. You go to the General Counsel for each opinion, so you never have to take any personal risk.”1   boundry-jesse_loughborough Rules tell each employee what to do and what not to do in a given situation. The problem with rules is no organization can write a rule for every situation, and organizations like the VA have tried. Often rules conflict in a given situation. When faced with a situation not covered by a rule, or one where the rules provide conflicting guidance, people have to make decisions. That is why guiding principles are necessary.

Guiding principals, sometimes called values, are a short list of ideas that establish behaviors for employees to accomplish the organizational mission regardless of the situation. In some organizations, they establish their guiding principals a single words like, duty, honor, country. Others may use short phrases like, get to yes, respect all stake holders, continually improve. Organizational leaders boil down ideas until only those most important remain. An area cannot be established with less than three points. More than seven and people will not remember the principals; the area is too large.

The following morning Bill and his team leader Jane were waiting outside Jill’s office when she arrived. After being invited into her office, Bill explained to Jill that he and Jane spent the afternoon reviewing his sales pitches. They discussed some small improvements he could make to be more effective. Jane told Jill that she would check in with Bill a couple times in the next week to review his progress and make additional refinements to help him get to yes. Bill said, “I’ve learned the importance of seeking help when I need it to deal with frustrations.” Jill smiled. Bill’s outburst helped her develop Jane’s leadership skills and Bill’s sales skills. Had she just reprimanded Bill for disturbing other sales representatives, neither Bill nor Jane would have grown.

Leaders who use guiding principals establish markers to follow allowing freedom of choice cairns-sean_munson.jpginstead of rules that fence in options. Guiding Principals develop effective organizations. They create a climate for employees and junior leaders to safely take risks within established areas. Leaders use mistakes as learning opportunities for the employee and others. Employees respond to increased trust by finding improved ways to accomplish the organization’s mission. All stakeholders receive the results they expected. By using guiding principals, people find their own route to success within establish boundaries. Now is a great time to review your organization’s principals and determine how you can improve them for increased success in the coming year.


Footnote


Photo credits

Cubical: Drew from Zhrodague from Flickr.com

Fence: Jesse Loughborough from Flickr.com

Cairns:  Sean Munson from Flicker.com

All used under Creative Commons Licenses.

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Posted in Leadership

Depth on the Leadership Bench

Everyone recognized Sally and Bill were great leaders. Sally led of her group for six years. Bill ran his group for two years under Sally’s leadership. Sally groomed Bill in the preceding year to replace her. After she moved on, Bill easily assumed the leadership position and started looking for his replacement.teambench-fraser-mummery Developing employees into leaders prepares organizations for both attrition and unexpected opportunities. Both Bill and Sally understood the importance of developing their next leaders for continued organizational growth and sustainment of excellence.

Many supervisors are managers rather than leaders. They are not entirely to blame. Often they were never taught how to be leaders. Why should anyone expect them to be able to teach others how to lead. Managers manage resources; leaders lead people. If an organization only views their employees as resources, they manage rather than lead them. The result is poor performance, crisis after crisis, failure to complete projects, customer dissatisfaction, and lack of growth. Failing to groom today’s managers to become leaders begins a downward spiral in leadership. Supervisors who are not exposed to leadership principals cannot pass them down to their rising stars and the bench becomes weaker.

Organizations choosing to develop leaders sometimes loose rising stars to other organizations because of the lessons they learned. Often those leaders stay even when offered more money or other incentives. They recognize organizations that value leadership through training have more to offer than money. When one star moves on, the boss turns to the bench to replace the loss. Organizations that teach leadership never have a shortage of qualified leaders. They are always looking two or three levels down selecting and training their future leaders. They have depth on the bench so the loss of one quality person does not cripple the rest of the organization. These organizations recognize developing future leaders is the most important thing they do.

leaderropes-nelohotsumaOne up and coming leader recognized the importance of developing young leaders. He examined everything the new guys and gals needed to know. He recognized it would take hundreds of hours to teach them everything. He faced a choice to move forward teaching a little at a time, or to become overwhelmed by the size of the task and quit. He decided to start small, directing three of his proteges to read an article on leadership. The following week he brought them to lunch to discuss what they learned and what ways they could apply those lessons to their own activities.

At the end of the meeting, the manager handed out three copies of the latest book on leadership theory. He challenged them all to read it in a month and gave them a date for their next lunch together. He assigned one of the younger rising stars to facilitate the next discussion. Over the course of the month, the manager met with the young woman to check her reading progress. He taught her how to facilitate the discussion at the next meeting. She did a great job resulting in the other two employees begging for a chance to run the next session. Before long, the manager’s leader development program was recognized across the organization as a model for success. Soon the leader and his followers each were selected for other leadership assignments. The big boss looked at the bench and picked someone to replace each of them and continue the cycle one little step at a time.

Leadership development can be as simple or complected as one wants to make it. Starting slowly allows the organization and its current leaders to find what works. Whether you train your people or not, some stay and some accept other opportunities. Training your future leaders today ensures your bench has depth for the future. When one person leaves, you can bet there will be someone waiting to step up to the challenge knowing they will have the training and support necessary to succeed. In order to experience continued organizational growth and sustainment of excellence, organizations must develop their next level leaders’ skills to develop depth on their bench.

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Photo Credits:

1BN Boxing Team-Fraser Mummery from http://www.flickr.com/photos/73014677@N05/8491853894/in/photolist-dWoYj3-nP6dus-eTVQZn-nFA2Z9-88jr2T-8TLXPF-dUdUqs-9LsNd7-dU8iYa-dUdQwC-n5kvSj-8YcqLU-a1YCNe-dU8cMD-4n4HcF-4CPZhg-eaFCpK-dPgkkg-fCdH6m-fEfvJu-nFFVgg-5KAmwB-8ktTwC-e36jea-hE5oza-49HGS-fAzYDB-4CUy9J-bempLr-8kqWBn-nP7dAM-f7HJ24-8RF5To-rv5yd-dU8jjk-a2QE3r-8tihQC-GYc1M-9uwcTm-dUdQ5Y-oL3fTH-dU8hia-8ku5Rw-8kqUgt-ahCwjp-aVheZ-dM7t9r-Bo2Y4E-fCWz4n-deEtb9 cropped by author

 

Both photos used under Creative Commons license

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Posted in Leadership

The Deck of Death

welcome

Today’s Topic

“Hi. I’m your expert instructor here to teach you how to be an expert almost as good as me. Next slide.”

agenda

“So you can see here all that we are going to cover over our period of training. I’m sure you will notice that I have done all I reasonably can to remove any fun we might have learning this material because I did it all on my slide deck. Next slide.”

LEARNING GOALS

“I made sure to include some learning goals because everyone expects them, but we really are not going to talk about anything like this; don’t worry, it is all in the slide deck because I am such an expert on this topic. Next slide.”

slide-deck

Anyone still awake, or have you all succumb to the slide deck of death? To often, out-of-town experts are hired to train people whose only real expertise lies in preparing really cool slide decks. There is more to training however than a wiz-bang slide show, especially if the topic is mostly information known to the students. Slides have become the go-to choice for training because they provide consistency across a variety of training presentations regardless of the ability of the instructor or the knowledge of the students. There are other forms of media available for instructors to communicate ideas and guide discussions. Learning to use them well improves your presentation.

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These two forms of media are often overlooked for a variety of reasons including poor penmanship, artistic ability of the trainer, and lack of standardization over multiple presentations. The biggest reason is a lack of imagination. Several years ago I learned a little trick to improve my drawing ability in Richard Neil’s book, Police Instructor. Neil suggests creating an image in your favorite graphics program them projecting it onto your paper. Using a #2 pencil, lightly trace the lines. When you reach the point in your presentation to introduce the sketch, grab your marker and draw away while you talk to your students. You end up with the same image from class to class and impress your students with both your knowledge and artistic ability.

I used this secret in an instructor development class I was teaching to explain the training cycle. I asked one of the students to step up to the easel and sketch out a diagram of the cycle while I talked about it. He was a bit apprehensive until he was close enough to the board to see the lines. The class was equally impressed with mine and the student’s knowledge of the cycle, and the secret, once it was revealed. Two lessons in one, how to improve your use of media and improve your understanding of the training cycle, a grand slam!

It may not be possible to recreate a fancy drawing or diagram on a white board in the same way, but for basic imagery it is a great tool. Create lists revealing one point at a time so students are not overwhelmed with information. Alternate colors so students can track lines easier. Practice so your writing is recognizable to others. Simple diagrams that are well thought out ahead of time are easy to draw on a white board with lines and arrows to make connections with thoughts that are expressed in text. Try it out in your next class; you might be surprised how it catches your students attention.

POSTERS

Posters seem like they have gone the way of the dodo bird. They are a great tool to ensure continuity from class to class. They work even when the projector bulb doesn’t. Use dry erase markers to high light important words or ideas on laminated posters.  This technique helps make connections between ideas.

You can create posters using a professional service, or in your living room using markers. Boil down your ideas down to the most essential elements to reduce the number of them. Too many posters end up being nothing more than a low tech slide deck that you have to lug around. The more you have, the heavier they are!

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Too many people use boxed PEs they like from other classes. Using the general format and adapting it to meet your needs however allows you to end up with a product unique to yourmarshmallowtower-marktighe class that is designed specifically to meet your training objectives. Good practical exercises are copied by instructors because designing them is tough work. The first time you have a student build a pasta tower to the ceiling and perches his or her marshmallow at the top, you realize it is better to use your own ideas to reinforce your learning points.

Good exercises challenge students to apply the lessons you teach. They make students think critically about using new skills in familiar situations. They provide students the confidence to adapt your lessons in their every day life, changing their habits and behaviors, and that’s what training is supposed to be about, changing behaviors.

VIDEO CLIPS

Video Clips are great to introduce problems, demonstrate your point, show how to complete an activity, or as part of a practical exercise. Too often trainers use videos as the basis for their entire training, instead of supporting their training and learning points. There are plenty of good videos available on any of the video host web sites. If you are using video for an educational purpose then it should spur discussions and questions about topics related to your learning goals. If not, then it is entertainment and you may have problems with copyright laws. If your video does all the teaching, then students are unlikely to see you as the expert you profess to be.

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Next slide please.  Slide decks have become an important part of the training landscape. Slide decks are not going away soon. Trainers communicate better using other forms of media instead of only using slides. Other forms of media require trainers to think about the points they want students to learn. Each media offers opportunities to engage students, keeping their attention to improve learning outcomes. Posters, chart paper, white boards, practical exercises, and video clips each offer instructors opportunities to break away from the slide deck and improve learning. Each form of media has pros and cons. Use a variety of media in your training to break up the boredom of the slide deck and show your students you really are an expert.

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Photo Credits

Author except the marshmallow tower.  Marshmallow tower by Mark Tighe under Creative Commons Attribution license from flickr.com:  https://www.flickr.com/photos/mjtmail/14113827338/in/photolist-o2yZKQ-8W4FUQ-8W1CxZ-nvc49E-9NDbrG-9NDcWb-9NDdLs-9NApRH-9NAur2-9NAmLB-9NAnBt-jeQaVE-9NAtKa-9NAsga-9NAsXc-9NDhzm-9NAorP-Hsu3i-bDzKGQ-dc4jeH-8xac39-BMSG49-BXt5Le-8Ur9Rp-rV2Uwa/

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Posted in Training

Wandering Leaders

Colin Powell said if people stop bringing you problems you’ve stopped leading them. People cannot bring you problems if you are not accessible to them. An old management maxim is leading by wondering around (LBWA). wander-david-gutierrezThere is more to wandering than aimlessly walking around. For LBWA to be effective you have to wonder around the areas and among the people least likely to otherwise have access to you or that you would ordinarily see. People only bring problems to accessible leaders. You have to be accessible to hear people’s concerns.

Imagine an organization really dedicated to providing training to employees from experts within the organization. The leaders send these experts to school to learn best ways to train others. They develop training programs to take to field sights where people work. They advertise the availability of the training to lower level leaders, yet none of the organizational sub-units request the training. The leaders figure they have prepared the wrong stuff, or that the training is not wanted nor necessary.

Some time later as part of a periodic organizational assessment, select members of the organization’s headquarters visits a branch office. During the visit staff look at records, business activities, and leader actions. The office fails to meet the organizations expectations. The head of the visiting team asks the local manager why they did not request the training the organization worked so hard to develop? The answer, “We did not know about it.”

Now instead of just emails. Posters, fliers and other traditional advertising, corporate sends out key leaders to branch offices and operations months before a scheduled staff visit. The leader meets with the local manager and tours the facility. She notes the same deficiencies and asks the managers plan to correct the problems before the inspection. The manager states they have a bunch of new people and lack the resources to develop a ground up training program. The senior leader talks with the manager about the training prepared by central office for just such situations. They set up a time for the leader of the training branch to visit and assess the location’s training needs and works with the local manager to identify the training available. The training branch sends out training teams to meet the need. Several months later the branch passes inspection.

The manager is invited to the central office to talk to the c-officers about her experience with the training branch. They learn that even though the training was well advertised, the tasks, purposes, and abilities of the trainers was never fully communicated to local managers. The manager points out the only reason the became aware of the available opportunities was because the senior leader paid a visit providing the manager access to the organizations leaders.

As the meeting breaks up, the local manager looks across the table to the training branch chief. “Because of the training you gave our foremen on how to assess processes, we have identified several employees who need some training. Can you have the process guy call us so we can schedule a training for them?’ The training manager is thrilled at the request. The CEO is impressed the local manager asked for help and that the front-line leaders have been empowered to conduct assessments and request assistance for corrective actions. The change was the local branch having access to the leaders in the organization.

If organizational leaders never go where the work is being done, their junior leaders rarely have the opportunity to bring problems to them. Opening the lines of communication between organizational leadership levels allows junior leaders to bring their problems to those best able to achieve success. Junior leaders who lack access to their bosses never bring problems up. When people do not bring your problems, you are not leading, but allowing others to lead for you. Get out of the office and go to where the real work of your organization is done. Lead by wondering around.  Only then will people bring you their problems.

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Photo credit:  David Gutierrez from flickr.com under a CC license.

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Posted in Leadership

A Call to Action

bullhornspeaker-firefightersdaughter-CalltoActio

I recently listened to a short piece on my local public radio station from the TED Hour (http://www.npr.org/2015/02/06/379184277/what-s-the-antidote-to-political-apathy). The speaker talked about getting people to the polls and ways to overcome apathetic voters. As I listened, a light bulb appeared over my head about a way to improve training. If trainers expect students to change behaviors based on their training, they need to issue a call to action to participants. A call to action ensures students leave knowing how to change their behavior, possess excitement to change, and where to find help when they run into road blocks.

In this TED talk, the speaker noted in an unscientific study he conducted that in local publications, the editors would include information about how to contact a local charity, the hours of a new eatery, or the phone number to the box office of a show they reviewed. The reader knows how to learn more. When the local periodicals ran political pieces they often present information in a fair and balance way. They explained the issues about the topic. They did not include information about websites, phone numbers for involved organizations, or other information to make the reader take action on that subject.

Often trainers and leaders behave the same way. They call for changes. They show people one way to do something that works in the classroom. They may even provide some sort of high energy event that fires up the students and employees so they feel motivated. When they return to their cubical, they stumble on road blocks and because the trainer or leader provided no information about where seek help, the change they and their proteges hope for starves on the vine.

The fix is easy. After providing students their call to action, provide resources to use for follow up. When students return to their offices and run into a roadblock, they know where to find more information to help overcome the road block and successfully implement the desired change.

Provision of follow up resources requires more than a short bibliography at the end of your note-taking guide or a sheet tucked into the back of a participant folder. The trainer should call attention to the resources. He should provide screen shoots of the websites. He should point out email addresses and phone numbers of people who are willing to help. He should also provide a short sales pitch for each of the follow up resources provLearningSailing-John-ModsOK-croppedided so the student understands help really is there.

Many trainers already provide such information and calls to action for their students. Adapt a page from Keith Ferrazzi’s book Never Eat Alone by sending out a group email reminding students to look up a website, read an attached file, or how to find a book.  They are more likely to click on a link and incorporate what you taught them after leaving your class.

At they end of your next training, issue a call to action for change. Motivate students to implement what they have learned. Sell them on the resources available to help them over hurdles. When you issue a call to action, change will happen.

 _____________________

Photo credits:  Both photos downloaded from flickr.com under a Creative Commons license and modified to fit the space here.

Speaker photo by firefightersdaughter.  Sail boat photo by John, yes, just John.

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Posted in Training

Respect & Forgiving Misteaks

Leaders in learning organizations demonstrate two critical qualities: respect and forgiveness. Most people learning new skills make mistakes. People stop creating in organizations lacking tolerance for honest mistakes. Respect instills confidence for people to try new things. They their first attempts result in failure, yet respect acts as a safety net encouraging more attempts. As workers gain courage and skill, eventually succeed. Respect allows forgiveness; forgiveness spins the safety net of success.

spilled.milk-elycefellzForgiveness is often seen as a weak, outward display directed at those who offend us. Unlike respect, viewed as strong, outward behaviors directed towards others, forgiveness is a strong, inward action directed towards ourselves. Holding grudges does little to change someone’s behavior. Instead, grudges harm the holder, preventing him from developing better relationships.

Years ago two people worked together in difficult circumstances. The leader treated him well and thought he earned the other’s respect. One day the leader became aware his previous employee blamed him for many things that occurred on the job. The employee held that hatred for years. The employee’s hatred of the leaders offenses did nothing to harm the leader who was unaware of his offenses. The hate attacked the employee everyday, preventing him from achieving greater successes in life. The leader moved on in life, building new and better relationships and increasing his successes. The leader was was hurt after learning of the grudge because he believed he did the best I could do at that time with his skills, knowledge, and abilities. He reached out seeking forgiveness from his former employee bur received no response. I suspect the employee still blames his former boss for many of the bad things that occurred during the time they worked together. The boss offended and was offended by others during that time. He carried grudges against some people for a while. He forgave some people and some people forgave him. One day the boss met one of those who offended him and realized they were clueless he was angry with them. He noticed the person moved on and felt no pain from his lack of forgiveness. In a period of reflection the leader realized forgiveness was not about the other person, but rather about him. Once he learned to forgive, life improved.

No matter how hard we try, offending others is inevitable. Often we do not realize our faux-pas and therefore see no reason to say, “I’m sorry.” For those who do not understand forgiveness carry their hate while the offender remains blissfully ignorant of their mistake. Forgiveness is a vital part of respect because acting respectfully to those we hate is hard. Forgiving requires releasing hatred.

Without respect, others lose confidence, fail to grown, or learn new skills. It is equally difficult to hold a grudge against someone we respect. Leadership is about influence. There are plenty of examples of leaders applying influence motivated by hate. History views those leaders as failures. People who learn to lead from a positive influence motivated by respect gain more power permitting even greater influence and success.

Many of the problems facing our nation and the world revolve around forgiveness and respect. Examples of extreme grudges include mass police murders in Baton Rouge, people protesting police violence coming under fire in Dallas as officers protect the crowd, terrorism in France, a military coup-d’etat in Turkey, Islamic extremism in the Middle East, Muslim against Muslim, Christian verses Christian, Jew fighting Jew, and each against the other because of hate and disrespect.

Violence is not an answer for past slights, insults, past violence, or perceived disrespects. Jim Collins talks about the fly-wheel effect in his book Good to Great. Acts of violence begin a downward spin of of the violence fly-wheel; every additional act increasing the fly-wheel’s momentum. Forgiveness acts as a break on the violence fly-wheel.

Treating followers respectfully creates a positive position for the leader to gain increased influence. Good leaders recognizes everyone makes mistakes. Instead of being offended by a follower’s error, a good leader forgives, respectfully corrects, and allows the person to try again. This cycle allows growth and improves the organization. Grudges hold back offended parties. Offended parties may seek to retaliate through acts of violence. Recognizing most people do not intend to offend us with their actions allow us to forgive. Forgiveness stops grudges and restores peace. Respect is the greatest gift we offer others; forgiveness is the greatest give we give ourselves.


Photo from elycefellz on flickr.com  Creative Commons License https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/

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Posted in Leadership

Of Veterans and Veteran’s Families

SoldierFlagOn Memorial Day, we take time to remember those who died in combat. We should. There are two groups who we should also remember; the family members of those who died, and those who later die by their own hand because of internal injuries sustained on the battlefield no one can see.

Veteran suicide has been in the news over the last several years and yet remains an unsolved problem. The problem in not new, but rather dates back probably to the first war between humans. War requires otherwise good people to do terrible things to survive. Most sort out the internal conflict and lead productive lives. Others suffer for years as they try to work out their turmoil. Too many find they cannot contend with the pain any longer and end their lives.

Some of the veterans who choose to end their suffering through suicide can be helped. It only takes one person to reach out and offer help like the rescue ring on a ship. If you know a combat vet who seems to be struggling with life, toss them a line. Ask them if they are thinking of killing themselves. Care enough to help them find help. Escort them to a place they will be safe. DO NOT leave him or her alone! Stay until help arrives. The ACE program (Ask, Care, Escort) is taught to every Soldier in the Army. It has helped many survive, buy someone, you, have to start by asking the question.

Family members of the dead also suffer from invisible war wounds. The military’s response to the families of fallen heroes changes with each conflict. At times, little more than a written condolence was offered. Other times assistance teams provide families a guiding hand dealing with the red tape.

Unfortunately, the families are also shunned and forgotten in their communities. They move on with their lives covering the pain in public, suffering with it in private. The gold stars they wear go unnoticed by those who do not understand the meaning. Time passes. Like combat vets, some heal well while others suffer long periods of pain.

Both combat veterans and families of fallen heroes deal with many of the same issues. On Memorial Day they remember the true cost of war, human life. They know the pain, but do not always understand why. Reaching out to a veteran or family member shows you care. Sometimes a little caring restores hope and brings comfort. Today, don’t let your Memorial Day activities end with the parade, reach out to one touched by war and care.

___________________________

Vet Centers help Veterans and their families deal with a variety of issues.  Find out how you can help a Vet or his family get the help they need and deserve at no cost.  General Information:  http://www.vetcenter.va.gov/    Bereavement Counseling:  http://www.vetcenter.va.gov/bereavement_counseling.asp

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