If Work You Must…

… this is the way to do it. I got a client call moments before we were headed out of the hotel.  After a 45 minute call, we went to the beach. I agreed to read an email some time tonight.

So I am on the Internet but let me set the scene. It is 10 pm Kona time (5 hours earlier than eastern) and I am in a comfy, padded wicker chair in an open air lobby using the free Wi-Fi. It is 80 degrees with just a gentle hint of a breeze to keep me comfortable. I have my iPod on and am listening to Billy Holiday sing.

If I could work this way more often I may be forced to find a new descriptor. This just isn’t “work”.  

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The Ride Home

This is more about the ride than going home. Home was the direction at the time. I have a 21 mile commute that can only be done by car — sorry ozone layer. Two things about tonight’s ride.

First, I decided that I needed to shut myself down from the outside world for awhile so I plugged in my iPod. No NPR, no news, no deaths, no disasters. Not in my world, not tonight.

The music was somewhat soothing but I find that I need to work hard to stay in the moment. Not to think about work or what I need to do once I get home. Just concentrate. Listen. Enjoy. Touch that part of me that I do not get to at work. It is not as if I can do much about work or home while driving anyway. Now can I? Almost there when the phone rings. I had not thought about turning it off. Back to working on being where I am.

The second thing about tonight was a tad scary. I have had a bad cold for the past few days. Felt better enough to go to the office today.  As a sophomore in high school a bronchial condition developed. Ever since I cannot get a head cold with it transforming into a monster of a cough. People that have heard it are sure that I am death’s door. No big deal most of the time– you sort of get used to it after almost 40 years, sort of. Only time it matters is when I cough so much that it squeezes the air out of me, when it does that so hard when my vision gets fuzzy, when my vision gets fuzzy and I am behind the wheel. Say , like tonight. It is not as if all sight is lost but this time visual clarity took a few seconds longer to return than usual. Maybe I should keep some cough drops in the car—YOU THINK!

Actually, I was probably no more distracted than some people are on their cell phones. That is really scary.

The Yin and Yang of Today

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Technically of yesterday since it is 12:15 a.m.  I just returned home.

I find myself frequently evaluating whether the thing that is my job, has been my career or 27 years, is what I should be doing. A few days are crystal clear in that they are wonderful work days or hell. Most however are like today. Both Good and Evil. Yin and Yang.

On one hand the work I set out to do went well and much of the day was spent with a client I like and a person who appreciates the help and counsel I provide. On the other hand, the day started early. After the work was through I find myself at a Wendy’s snarfing down a bad salad before rushing to the airport to begin the 6 hour journey home. At least the flights were on time.

Other days the yin and yang represent forces other than those I faced today. The point is most days have strong components of both. Therefore, the indecision of whether to go or to stay. And therefore I stay.

Lifetime Acheivement Beats 15 Minutes of Fame

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Actor Charles Lane recently died at the age of 102. He was a character actor. In fact one site I researched had as an executive summary “grumpy character actor”.  He never played in a starring role but he portrayed memorable characters in dozens of well known movies. Many of us will recognize his face. The great director Frank Capra used him in several films including the classic “Its A Wonderful Life”. He met Lucille Ball when she was still an RKO chorus girl, and the two became friends. Years later he was a frequent guest on “I Love Lucy” and appeared in one of that series’ most-watched episodes, the birth of Little Ricky, in 1953.

He acted well into his 90s. In all he appeared in 250 films and countless TV episodes. All-in-all a rich and full career.

When I read about people like Charles Lane my thoughts also turn to the anti-Lanes. This would include all of the poor mannered, rich, spoiled actors, singers, performers and celebrities that populate today’s culture and dominate the media. People who have turned one or two modestly good movies/songs/sex videos into far more than 15 minutes of fame and too much fortune.

What have they achieved? What will they do with their lives beyond their mid-20s? Will anyone care about them when they hit their 90s? Their 40s?

I do not know about the man that Charles Lane was but I appreciate and value the longevity of his contributions and his devotion to craft. There are certainly many people in other less public careers who demonstrate quiet competence or even excellence that will not get written up in the NY Times but deserve our respect. These are the folks that should be on the cover of People. These are the people that should inspire our children.

BTW. Does anyone know how Lindsey is doing after rehab?

Carnac the Consultant

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I spent the day working with a challenging client. The challenge is that this client asks for your opinion but then takes a tone of “What could you possibly be thinking?” when reacting to what you say. It seems as what is really desired is for me to say exactly what she wants to hear. I charge way too much for me to do nothing but agree–when I don’t.

It made me think of the famous Johnny Carson routine, Carnac the Magnificent, in which he wore a turban, held an envelope to his head, gave an answer and then read the question contained in the envelope. Often it was riotously funny.

Maybe it is worth my outrageously high hourly rate for companies to hire Carnac the Consultant. Now where is my turban…

What A Week It Was

This is about work so anyone not interested please move on to to the next post.

I try not to write about work. It consumes too much of my life as it is and blogging is intended to be outside that realm. However, every once in a while I need a release valve. This is one of those times.

Let’s start with the good since it is far too easy to start complaining. I am a consultant which means that while I have an employer, most of my focus is on the companies I serve. There is a wide range of  people types across these clients. Some are great to work with and others make you wonder if the revenue is worth the pain.

I began working with a company in January that had used another consultant from my firm. Upon the change I listened endlessly to how much they loved the other guy. So be it. Since then, I brought to them a differt way of looking at things. Decisions had been made by focusing on what other companies are doing.  I walked them through  a process that focuses on what their company was about, what its needs were and how it is similar or different than others in their industry. Pretty standard good consulting.

Throughout our time together, the people I have been working with have been great partners. I have also made personal connections with some as we compare stories of raising kids, living in the corporate world, etc.

On Thursday we held a key meeting to present our recommendations to one of the senior executives. Because this client is a two plane ride trip, I participated by phone. Friday morning at the tail end of a hellish week, one of my contacts called to tell me that his boss was extremely pleased with my contributions to the meetings. He went on to say that his boss rarely gives such compliments. While for much of the time my work  satisfaction needs to come from within knowing I did well, the external validation is a major high.

OK. Interesting sidebar. I intended to do alot of venting , and I mean on a grand scale,  in this post. However, just writing about this positive experience has released the negative energy. For the curious, this week I had to deal with a major deliverable for another client using less than competent help in the form of someone I did not hire but was forced to use. I worked 12- 14 hour days to get the work done right. A new hire, on board for two weeks is complaining about her commute, threatening to quit and basically not doing her assigned work. While workiing my tail off on projects I had to juggle these people issues and find resources to cover other opportunies that came in. Oh, and I was sick with some stomach thing in the middle of the week.

One more work related smile. My boss’s boss found out that I am interviewing with another firm. While they have not come by with a bag of money, they are making other promises that would enhance my work experience. The best part is that I am  not interviewing.  Shhh. don’t tell.

Thank You. You are Great.

As 18-25 year olds become employees, these card carrying members of Generation Me come with a different set of expectations. Daily recognition and praise are part of keeping these people happy at work. Not praise for exceptional achievements but for basic things such as completing their work, showing up on time, etc.

NPR had a report on this phenomenon early this week. It addressed not only the need for frequent recognition–think employee of the DAY– but the struggles of their managers and coworkers to understand that this is needed for these kids and to accept it.

Sure enough, that morning I had such an experience with one of the young men that work for me.  AR is 31 but apparently drinking the same kool-aid as the twentysomethings.

In the year AR has been working for me we have discussed many times that he should not come to me with questions until he has developed potential solutions. Demonstrating a good thought process is more important at this stage than whether he has the “right” answer. No penalties for being wrong, just for doing nothing.

It was quickly clear to me that he had not done his homework. It was quickly clear to him that I was not pleased. He had though asked another colleague one question of value to our discussion. He got a smile on his face and asked, “Wasn’t it good that I asked that question?” I bit my tongue to stop the acidic, witty remark intended to display my displeasure. Good thing I listen to NPR! I told AR that he gets Props for asking the question. Now go think about this some more before we continue the discussion.

AR was pleased and even congratulated me for knowing to use the term Props. (BTW what is this slang for?).

I just left his office shaking my head. Kids these days.

Oh before I forget, you did a great job of reading this blog today. Thanks.