Something small….

I read an article today (at LinkedIn) about a manager refusing to engage in ‘Stack Ranking’ of employees. It was a good article, and although I’d heard of it, I was really unaware of how the practice worked. I work for a state agency, and I’ve heard that it’s been used here (but heck, raises come so infrequently around here, period….that it rarely even comes up!)

But, it made me remember something I used to do when I worked in healthcare administration. I used to like to do the old ‘Memo’ containing ‘Supervisor’s Expectations’ with many of my employees. It wasn’t ‘negative’ per se, or really even meant to be ugly, but now, with many years of life and working under my belt, I’ll say this: I wouldn’t do that kind of crap nowadays….I just wouldn’t. If you’re a good manager, and you know how to motivate people, just through talking and chatting, your people should know what’s expected of them…..without a silly memo.

It’s demeaning and as a minimum, pedestrian, to treat your people like that.

Interesting comment

While reading a WSJ article today about Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf defending the corporations’ actions in recent days, I was struck by a comment left by a reader at the end of the article:

“The legal, safety, environmental and quality control departments in corporations spend a lot of time making sure that high level executives are insulated from the undocumented pressure they put on lower level management to achieve revenue goals by any means. As long as branch managers (low-level scapegoats) get fired instead of people like Stumpf having charges brought against him, the implausible explanations for rampant consumer fraud will continue.

PS: The windows on many older GM SUVs shatter spontaneously (even while parked). Its not a common problem but known in the auto glass industry. GM knows about it. No recall……….  I guess they will wait until a kid in the back seat bleeds to death. I am sure the VP’s and CEO know nothing about the issue.”

Now, that little post-script rant….I’m not sure about that…..but I will say that the first part is VERY MUCH in keeping with my experiences (short-lived as they were) in corporate America are TOTALLY in keeping with that explanation. Everybody is ‘spinning’ to everybody else.

 

Maybe this’ll help someone……

I generally don’t get too carried away here in terms of mental health stuff, but I thought I’d toss this into the ether as it might help someone out there. I could make this a REALLLLLL-LLLLLLYYYYY long post but I’m busy and not in the mood to do that right now.

This summer, while away on vacation, I had some time to do a little thinking about a few things…..to take stock of where I am and what I’m doing in my life. I’m in my mid-40’s (and sliding rapidly toward my LATE 40’s!)…..so these kinds of thing tend to happen around this time in a person’s life.

I make my living in the field of social services, which as anyone knows DOESN’T tend to reward workers in a large monetary sense of the word! A good number of years back, I spent some time in healthcare administration….and made EXCELLENT money, but it was VERY stressful on me and my family. Here’s the critical thing: I had several flavors of superiors (‘Senior V.P.’s’ blah-blah-blah….you get the idea). I generally DID NOT feel like I was cut out to climb the ladder and become one of those types of corporate talking-head type guys…..fine, great, groovy. In my self-talk, I might say: ‘I’m just not that type of guy.’ …….and hey, that’s perfectly fine. HOWEVER,  during my ‘epiphany’ I came to realize that, in very subtle ways, I’d been insulting myself for NOT TRYING TO BE one of those kinds of guys. I’d been tormenting (so-to-speak) myself for not being one of those conquer-the-universe type guys! On one side of my brain, I knew what I was/wasn’t…..but on the other side of my brain, I spent a lot of time calling myself a ‘loser’ etc.  That’s really twisted……..and so strange to me that I was just ‘deaf’ to that.  To continue this thought further, I’ve often been a ‘You’re OK, I’m not OK’ kind of person. I lean toward…..’Everyone else is on a cruise’……’Everyone else is getting promoted’…..’Everyone else is getting a raise’ in my mind……..all the while, ignoring the people who’re failing/struggling left-and-right!

So, here’s the deal: Life is hard……..FOR EVERYONE! That neighbor of yours, who’s always doing great…….he isn’t……….trust me on that. Everyone you know is struggling, and clawing and huffing and puffing their way through the day JUST THE WAY YOU ARE. One of those guys I know (I respected him, and still do today)……he experienced HUGE amounts of success in a company I worked for. Then, one day, his wife couldn’t pick up a dish. He took her to the hospital, right during the midst of his perfect life and his perfect kids (each of whom belonged on a magazine cover)….and his amazing house and his incredible salary…….to learn she had a massive brain tumor. She died 18 months later, at 42…..and his world got turned upside down….his beautiful, sweet, intelligent wife, who adored him and their kids.  I don’t glory or revel in that….I care about that guy……but life didn’t hand him perfection……’cause it NEVER promised that it would to begin with. No one gets perfection…..no one. 

On Dreams Re-Realized

When I was young (as in, very early 20’s)…..I had BIG dreams. I didn’t, however, have a solid plan mapped out for how I would bring those dreams to pass. Oh, I had a ‘map’ (metaphorically speaking), just a teeny scribble on a scrap of paper floating around up in me head. My plan was to, ultimately, become an amalgamation of Dr. Phil and Donald Trump….I like to jokingly say (technically, this was LONG before your common bear had even heard the name Dr. Phil and eons before ‘The Donald’ decided he wanted to be The Chief…..but I digress).

I pretty much always liked books and learning……but high school was soooooooo-ooooo boring! Theater and music and church were life, man! That’s all that mattered! So, after a stint in the military, I started college at 20…..dreaming of being a Licensed Professional Counselor (or something of that ilk). I was generally much better at ‘the college thing’ than I was at high school stuff.  I thought, that, just a few years down the road,  I’d have a big office with huge windows and a water feature in the lobby and I’d write shelves of books and go on speaking tours and I’d be this wizened sage and would, of course, make waterfalls-of-money on a regular basis. I even went to work for a community mental health center, that schooled me well on the realities of working with people who struggle with problems.

Well, I didn’t bring grad. school to pass. I do ply my trade as a social worker these days, which is a noble undertaking, albeit one that isn’t heavily rewarded in the money category. I finished college…….not long after that, my Mom’s health began to take its final, radical nose dive, though. My step dad left this world 19 months after Mom left it…..and my father is really a non-starter in the parenting department. Those things, plus about 10-12 other factors which I’m leaving out……and I just didn’t make grad. school happen……I just didn’t. Officially speaking…..I never really even started grad. school….I didn’t.

Sure, there was some ‘other stuff’ in terms of college after graduating…….some psychology pre-reqs (which I took too soon after my Mom’s passing….not in a good place for academics, but I still managed to muddle through for the most part). A little computer science……one or two graduate Sociology classes, etc. I even later earned an undergrad. Certificate from a college in West Texas.   I’m rambling a bit, but I’m really going somewhere here, trust me.

Sometimes, when you’re young…….you build this VERY NARROW tower in your mind (more of a ladder, to be exact)….and you think: ‘I intend to achieve success. Therefore, I will do step 1, then step 2, then step 3…………..blah-blah-blah, and when I get to step 30, I will have arrived!! That will be it….I will have succeeded!’  In reality, life rarely works like that! Life is NEVER perfectly linear, for anyone!! Things don’t move in perfect sequence……they just don’t. You might get 80% into your ‘big plan’ and realize: ‘This isn’t at all what I wanted!!’  You might become a parent, and find out your child has a serious medical condition…….that impacts your ability to pursue some of your dreams! What I’m saying, (clumsily) is this: life can hold many rewards for you that you never thought were possible when you were young…….so don’t let them fly right by you! I’ve ‘gained’ things or ‘succeeded’ at things or have ‘become’ [positive] things that I’d never have even conceived of when I was 20 years old.

Take a minute…..look around at your life and congratulate yourself for the GOOD things you are and have done in your time on this earth! Don’t let your ‘little’ accomplishment slip right past you!

It’s All Good

This post has been a long time coming!!  I’m tired and busy right now, so I need to make it brief. I’ve spent too much time thinking my life is ‘small’……..many mechanisms of modern life can contribute to that type of mindset. There’s been a lot of dialogue about that very thing lately; ‘Everyone’s life is great and mine isn’t……..just look at Facebook and you’ll see!”  Poppycock, I say.

I have a great life. I have two amazing kids. I have a (fairly) loving wife. I have a good job and a good home in a good neighborhood. I have a smart brain and a good education. I help others who have a hard time helping themselves.

I can exert very little control over what mean people do to nice people who own a pizzeria in Indiana. I can do very little to impact human trafficking in Cambodia. I doubt that I can do a lot this week to effect polar ice caps or radiation leakage somewhere. Nope I don’t own anything that floats.  But, I can do something and I do do MANY things to help the world while living a full life. No, my life isn’t amazing. It isn’t filled with supermodels and high performance motorcycles (and whatever other stupid material thing that wont come to mind right now!) But I have good people and good co-workers and good neighbors and good fellow church-members in my life…..and that’s good. My life is good and I want to keep giving GOOD back to the world. I’m OK….I’m really, really OK…..and that’s great. Heck, that’s a long way from a ‘small life’!

Remember all the good in your life. Entropy resides all around us. Drink in today’s good stuff….because it won’t last forever!

It is what you make it!

Are you old yet?

Found this article over at CNN Money today:

http://money.cnn.com/2014/11/14/news/economy/ozy-old-age-career-45/index.html?iid=obinsite

Read the article if you’d like to, but I was especially struck by a comment following the article….find it below:

“At age 67, I’m still employed and earning a comfortable salary. I also have plenty of freelance clients (I’m a high-tech marketing copywriter and editor). My situation is the consequence of younger employees’ lack of solid language skills. They are almost universally unable to write clear, engaging, properly formulated business content. They are not merely ungrammatical writers; they can’t even sequence concepts coherently. True, many do not speak English as a first language; they get a pass. However even those born to English-speaking families are appalling writers and can’t punctuate their way out of  a paper bag. Executive management keeps me aboard to avoid being embarrassed by howlers on the web site or by incomprehensible brochures packed with meandering sentences and wince-worthy syntax.”

……an interesting take, hmmmm?