A Teaching Moment…Or A 3 Stooges Moment

Two and one half decades ago I was young, new in my career, and in need of someone to help me grow and develop in this world of consulting I had entered. When I started there were two managers and the Big Boss. It was like learning from the Three Stooges. All were bright and good at doing the work. None had a clue about how to manage, train or mentor someone entering the field. From the Stooges I learned how to be a good manager and mentor by doing exactly the opposite of what they did.

Three examples and then on to why I started to write this morning.

 I went to Manager Larry as he was leaving the company to get some sage advice on how to progress in my career before he was forever gone. He looked at me in his most serious, reflective manner and said, “Wear better suits”. Now there may be a metaphor for life in there somewhere or perhaps it was time to upgrade my sartorial standards, but that is the best ya got? After working with him for a year I should not have been surprised.

Manager Shemp (none of the three lived up to the high standards of Curly) once gave me feedback on a report I had drafted. He called me to his office and as I stepped through the door, the papers came flying towards me just ahead of his words, “This is a piece of S–t!”.  I learned so much from Shemp.

Then there was Big Boss Moe. I am ashamed to say that I worked with this man for 14 years. In the bizarro world one can gain great wisdom by doing the opposite. There are too many Moe stories to tell here. I should put the collection of stories in the next business book best seller, “Everything You Need To Know About Management Can Be Learned From The Stooges” or the more simple title of “Stoogeology. Lessons For Today’s Business Leaders”.

OK. A quick Moe as manager story.  It was early in my career and we were working directly with the CEO of a fairly large company. The project had a short time line and we needed to schedule our next meeting with him. The best day for the CEO was in two weeks on a Thursday. Moe looked at his calendar and stated to my great disbelief, “No, I am in a golf tournament at my country club that day.” To this day I do not know if I was more shocked that he put off an important business meeting to play golf or that he admitted it to the CEO instead of just saying that he was booked that day. That was Big Boss Moe.

Fast forward 20+ years. I have been directly responsible for managing people on and off throughout my career. Regardless of my formal duties I have taken it as a key priority to help people coming up behind me to grow. I have been very good at this. However, lately I  have sometimes let the weariness I feel for my work –it has been 27 years — occasionally influence how I interact with my people.

Most of the time I give positive or at corrective feedback in a constructive manner. I regularly check-in with my people to see how they are doing. I take time to work on their skills regardless of whether they are working on something for me or for someone else.  I teach others who seek to learn whether or not they report to me.

Now that I have laid the groundwork that I am really a good guy I can confess to my weak moments. Sarcasm is not foreign to my speech. In fact it is an integral part. When used wisely it can be a good learning tool. When used indiscriminately it can be mean. There are a couple of people at work that frustrate me because they are bright, no longer brand new, and have great potential. Yet they are not growing despite some of the best efforts to guide and teach them. With them I get indiscriminate.

I have not yet gotten to the level of throwing reports at them and evaluating their work with four letter words. (Today, throwing a report would involve tossing a laptop which could not be good in any sense of the word) and yet I can riff one sarcastic comment after another for quite awhile. It hit me the other day when I was riffing to one of the Frustrators and I had to pause for a moment and declare ” You should listen to that last one. This was a teaching moment.”

Yeah, a teaching moment from Curly.

About 48facets
What you read is what you get.

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