“Oh brother, Moe is on the meeting invite,” Sue said to herself as she prepped for the meeting.
Moe has been at the company for 40 years and considers himself the fountain of knowledge for how things should be done. Even though a lot in the industry has changed over the years, Moe loves to tell stories about “the good old days” and how so much of what the company is trying to do can’t work. “Those idiot suits on the 40th floor . . .” is one of Moe’s go-to quotes, explaining his view that leadership doesn’t have a clue as to how to run the company. Moe can easily take up ten minutes in a one-hour meeting justifying why a new idea won’t work, based on an irrelevant old war story which typically ends with, “If they just listened to me . . . .” Some team members try to be polite, and others try to shut down Moe’s bluster. Moe’s credibility, once well-regarded in the company, is now in the toilet. Despite his attempts to demonstrate relevancy, he’s simply viewed as a pontificator.
“I should have spoken up,” Gil said as he took another bite of his burger. He and his wife, Pat, loved going out to their favorite burger joint on Wednesday nights for their two-for-one hamburger specials. Gil told Pat how he had sat through a three-hour meeting where his work team wrestled through a nasty problem. Gil had come up with an idea an hour into the meeting but never spoke up. Someone else came up with the same idea two hours later, which was supported not only by Gil’s boss but the other team members.
“This isn’t the first time,” Pat said. She and Gil had been married for ten years and she knew him inside and out. She not only knew his strengths, but also his weaknesses.
“I know, I just don’t like to monopolize a meeting,” Gil said.
“I think you’ve got a long way to go before that happens,” Pat said as she popped a French fry in her mouth.
“What do you mean?”
“If you do this, you’ll definitely increase revenue,” Mark said. Mark was a brash young consultant out to make a name for himself on his first consulting gig since graduating with an MBA. The client, Paula, was an experienced sales manager. She patiently listened to Mark’s presentation filled with consultant-speak and tired cliches. It was the “definitely increase revenue” claim that got her to chime in.
“Increasing revenue is always a great thing. Tell me, Mark, where have you done this before?” Paula asked.
“Well, our firm has done this with a lot of clients.”
“That may be true, but you’re pitching me on work that you specifically would be doing for us. I’m curious as to where you’ve specifically succeeded with a project like this and your experience with increasing revenue. Where have you done this before?”
Mark stammered for an answer. “I would have a team working with me that has the experience to deliver.”
“Mark, I’ve been around the block a lot and can tell when someone isn’t being up-front with me. You’ve never done a project like this before, have you?”
“Well, yeah; when working on my MBA we did a case study on this. I’m confident I can do the work and deliver results for you, Paula.”
Paula smiled politely. “Very good, Mark; let me think about it, OK?”
“Certainly. Can I call you next week?” Mark asked.
“I’ll be out, but I’ll give you a ring if we decide to pursue further. Thanks, Mark.”
Paula got up from her chair, shook hands with Mark and led him out of the office.
“Sheesh, what a poser,” Paula thought as she walked back to her desk, knowing she would not be calling Mark back.
Fred was livid with his performance appraisal. He had consistently been a strong project manager in his organization for several years, having received top-of-tier raises and bonuses from Gary, his previous manager. Earlier in the year he was reorganized into a new organization led by Janet, a seasoned and well-respected leader in the company. While Fred’s raise and bonus were respectable, he was not rated in the top tier of the organization. The two sat down to discuss his performance appraisal.
“Janet, this is the first time since working for this company I haven’t gotten an outstanding rating. I delivered everything on time, on budget, and within scope. Gary always gave me an outstanding rating and I did everything this year I’ve done in the past. What gives?”
“I’m glad we’re talking about this, Fred. Do you remember the discussion we had when you first joined my organization?”
“I do,” Fred said. “We talked about needing to be excellent in our delivery.”
“Yes, and what else did we talk about?”
“Thanks for meeting with me today,” Ann said as she sat down with Jim.
“Jim, I’m starting up a new customer relationship management project and my boss suggested I talk to a couple of other project managers to get some lessons learned.”
“I’m happy to help. First off, on my last project we delivered our intended scope, came in under budget and ahead of schedule.”
“That’s impressive,” Ann said. “How did you do it?”
Jim went on for a about 30 minutes talking about what a success the project was, and how there was a lot Ann could learn from their project.
“That all sounds great,” Ann said. “If you had it to do all over again, would you do anything differently?”
Jim paused for a moment. “Well, our user representative wasn’t pulling his weight.” I would have demanded he be replaced.”
“So your lesson learned is about the user assigned to the project?”
“OK, thanks for the time, Jim,” Ann said as she got up and left.
“Something’s not quite right about this,” she thought as she went back to her desk. She decided to interview a couple of the leads on Jim’s project and got a different story. They told her how the project was in chaos from the beginning, how the claims of under-budget and ahead of schedule were only after management granted additional budget and schedule relief due to an unplanned overage and schedule slip, and that none of the leads would work with Jim again.
Brent was having a routine one-on-one with his boss Gail in her office. Over the six months since joining her organization, Brent noticed something different about Gail compared to his past bosses.
“Gail, can I ask you a question?” Brent asked.
“When you share your wisdom with others you are so transparent, even willing to admit when you were wrong about something. That’s very different from other bosses I’ve had. How did you get there?”
“Good question,” she said. “I learned a long time ago that wisdom is extremely valuable. Seeking and sharing it can make the difference between success and failure. Because I deeply care about not only my success but the success of others, I decided I needed to be willing to not just seek wisdom from others but candidly share my wisdom with others to improve their chances of success. I adopted what I call a wisdom steward mindset.”
“Wisdom steward?” he asked.
“Yes,” Gail said just as her phone beeped. She looked at the message. “Darn, I need to prep something for the board meeting in an hour. Can we continue the wisdom steward discussion at our one-on-one next week?”
“Sure,” Brent said.
“OK, see you later then.”
Brent got up and went back to his cubicle. “A wisdom steward?” he thought to himself as he sat in his chair.
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