My wife Patty and I some time back completed a massive renovation on a townhome in the Seattle area. The townhome was built in the late 70's and was decorated using all of the finest materials that the Disco era had to offer. The original owners liked it so much that they changed precisely nothing for the 30 years they lived there right down to the 8-track player on the guest room night stand. We purchased the townhome in late 2009 with the intention of renovating the townhome and occupying it after our son graduated high school.
Some time back I was having breakfast with a couple of guys that I work with in one of the organizations which I volunteer. In this organization, I have been leading a group of about nine men for about four months to set a vision for the group, decide upon our key focus areas, and lay out activities which the group will undertake for the next year. I was very pleased with how the team "gelled" and the fact that we seemed to be moving the ball forward towards meeting our vision. During breakfast, one of the guys told me that, by and large, the team was happy with me but a couple felt that I came in too heavy-handed and authoritarian. Blech.
During winter my hands tend to dry out and get chapped. One night when my hands felt like sandpaper I asked my wife if she had any hand lotion. "Sure, what kind do you want?" she asked. "The hand lotion kind," I said like the knuckle-dragger I am. She then handed me an ice bucket which contained the following:
A number of years back I was in a meeting with two HR representatives at my company.They were explaining to me how the HR organization wanted to be more “strategic” with its clients and how they wanted to help us with annual resource planning. At the time, our biggest problem was filling open positions with qualified candidates; a number of key positions had been open for months with no qualified candidates in the hiring pipeline. When I asked the HR reps about how they were going to help with this problem, they both told me that they didn’t have time to address the hiring issues because they were tasked with being more “strategic”. Needless to say, the meeting went downhill in a hurry because the HR reps were more interested in fulfilling the HR organization’s “be strategic” mandate than they were in helping me with my real-life problem.
My wife, son and I went to New York City some time back to celebrate my son's graduation from high school. We stayed in a great hotel that my wife scored right in Times Square. While in NYC we took the opportunity to take in a couple of Broadway shows. One that we were all very excited about seeing was Spiderman: Turn Off The Dark. The music, acting, and effects were all terrific and were executed flawlessly....with one exception.
I’ve noticed an interesting trend in working with my clients. There is an increased focus on companies assembling project teams comprised of cross-organizational team members to solve problems. This is increasingly being done in favor of single organizations trying to produce results on their own. More and more project teams are taking on "virtual" characteristics where teams are temporarily assembled and could be located anywhere in the country or the world.
So everything isn't always peachy keen when it comes to working together. At times co-workers are going to get in each others' face and have some conflict. As a bystander, there's some things you can do and not do to help put out the co-worker fire:
In the movie It's a Wonderful Life, George Bailey contemplates suicide after his uncle misplaces a deposit which threatens the closure of his bank. Just as George is about to jump off a bridge, his guardian angel Clarence jumps in the water prompting George to jump into the water to rescue him. After the rescue, Clarence takes George on a journey to show him what life would have been like had George never been born. George got to see first-hand how person after person was worse off because each of them didn't have the opportunity to be touched by George in some way. Even George's wife Mary met the politically incorrect fate of being an old maid working in the city library. After George's alternate reality journey, he emerged with a wonderful appreciation for all of the good he did in his life and how he impacted so many people with his kindness, generosity, and empathy.
I used this story to open up my sister Lori's eulogy.
When I was a kid in Connecticut I went with my Father to take my sister and her infant son to the train station. My sister had a lot of bags so my Father helped her carry her things on to the train. I was standing on the platform waiting for my Father to get off the train so we could go home. Then all of a sudden the train started moving with my Father still on the train! Here I am, an 8-year-old boy standing on the train platform all by myself while my Father is on the train heading to Washington DC. I remember seeing the train start to pull away, and my Father waving at me through the window to go to the ticketing office so I can tell them what happened. This was in the days where there were no cell phones, so my Father couldn't communicate with me to let me know what was happening. I went into the ticketing office and through sobs told the ticket agent that my Father got stuck on the train and I got left on the platform all by myself. The ticket agent was very reassuring and told me that everything was going to be OK. Fortunately the next stop was only about 30 minutes away so I was reunited with my Father in an couple of hours. It was one of the scariest times of my entire childhood, being left on the train platform all by myself.
Several years back I managed a group of very high-energy, spirited, vocal managers. One of the managers was particularly vocal on just about every issue. This manager, who I'll call "Vox", frequently complained to me about other managers, about how Vox's organization wasn't being rewarded appropriately, and how Vox's organization needed more people than Vox's peers. I did a lot of discussing with Vox about the issues that Vox faced but found that I would frequently give in to Vox's demands. Vox's peers became very frustrated not only with Vox but also with me because I was showing preferential treatment to Vox. We would be in meetings and Vox would start complaining about something which would lead into how Vox's team was more important than peer teams, and how Vox's team should be given more in compensation because they were more talented than the rest of the team. Vox was the squeaky wheel, and I would grease it just to stop it from squeaking. I not only allowed Vox to be the squeaky wheel, but unwittingly encouraged it because I gave Vox what Vox wanted. Everyone was frustrated with me. Bad on me
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