Sunday, June 9, 2013


By Julie Rahm
Litmus is a water-soluble mixture of different dyes and used to test materials for acidity. It is usually extracted from the lichen Roccella Tinctoria. Litmus is absorbed onto filter paper to produce one of the oldest forms of pH indicators.  Blue litmus paper turns red under acidic conditions and red litmus paper turns blue under basic (or alkaline) conditions. Neutral litmus paper is purple. Litmus can also be prepared as an aqueous solution that functions similarly. Under acidic conditions the solution is red, and under basic conditions the solution is blue. Fish tanks, hot tubs and swimming pools account for most litmus testing. Of course, litmus paper measures pH, which is the activity of the solvated hydrogen ion (no kidding!). Pure water has a pH very close to 7. Your pet goldfish likes alkaline water with a pH of 7.5 or better.  Anyway, Spanish alchemist Arnaldus de Villa Nova used litmus paper for the first time in about 1300 AD. Wait there’s more…
I contend that people need a litmus test to aid their decision- making. My husband John, a twenty-six year veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps, used these three “litmus” tests as leadership tools for his decision-making.
Test number one: “Would this action make my mother proud of me?” This first test is the simplest. If your mother would disapprove, you are probably making a poor decision. Picture your mother at church or among friends. If she would be uncomfortable discussing your action with friends, perhaps some more thought on your intended action is required. The bottom line is execute a course of action that would make your mother proud.
Test number two: “How would this read on the front page of the newspaper?” What if your action was reported on the front page of the Pamlico News? How would it be reported? Would it be a positive or negative article? If your action would result in a front page scandal, perhaps you should reconsider. Assume the reporter writing about you is hostile. Consider again your intended actions if reported on the front page. What are you going to do? Now, the last test is a bit more complicated.
Test number three: “What would my boss’s boss want me to do?” When making a decision, think two levels up. Consider the impact of your decision on your boss. Would your boss get “heat” from above? Usually, bosses accept less risk than younger employees. That is why this third test is an important risk management tool. Your boss’s boss will usually want you to choose a less risky, conservative course of action. In addition, your boss’s boss does not want any scrutiny. Do not put yourself and therefore the company, in a bad light.
So, this week I recommend these three litmus tests. I guarantee they will serve you well through ninety percent of your decision-making. For the other ten percent, contact me by visiting my website at 

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