My very first job was baking bagels at age 15 back in Connecticut. When my family moved to Arizona a year later, I bagged groceries and stocked shelves until I graduated high school, then sold clothes while in college. After getting my degree I joined Arthur Andersen & Co. as management information consultant where I worked in Phoenix, Chicago, and Seattle. After 11 years I went to Microsoft where I worked for nine years before leaving to homeschool our son. My professional life now is as an author, publisher, consultant, and disability inclusion advocate. It’s a journey that I never anticipated and am thankful for the great life learnings it afforded me.
“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.
It was one of the worst meetings in Greg’s project management career.
“We are slipping by a month,” Greg said to his leader Kavita.
“How long have you known about this?” Kavita asked.
“Um, two weeks. I’ve been working hard to pull it back in but wasn’t able to do.”
“And I’m just finding out about this now? Why didn’t you ask for help?”
Greg stammered. “I thought I could handle it on my own.”
“This is really bad, Greg. We have customers relying on us to deliver on time. Sue, you work with Greg to see where we’re at and see if we can pull this thing back in. Hopefully it’s not worse than a month.”
“Will do, Kavita,” Sue said.
“Good, I need to northwind my management and let them know we may have a problem. Get back to me by end of day with your assessment. Clear?”
“Clear,” Greg said as he looked down, avoiding eye contact with Kavita.
“I’m disappointed you didn’t ask for help,” Kavita said as she left the room.
Asking for help. Something that by nature we know how to do. Whether it’s in the form of a baby crying, a kindergartener needing his shoe tied, or a teenager needing a parent’s help with a flat tire, asking for help is something each and every one of us has experience with. Yet in a professional setting, asking for help can be viewed as a sign of weakness; something that could reflect negatively on a person’s ability to deliver.
This couldn’t be further from the truth.
“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?”
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