I used to sit down at my desk by 7AM and write. I might work on a 1,000-question business proposal, tips on stress management, articles to improve health literacy, or the CEO’s Blog. I’d write for eight to ten hours. Sometimes 12 if we had a huge proposal with a short timeline.
No such thing as writer’s block for me. What I learned was to put something—anything—on paper. If I had time, I’d go back and edit, revising as needed. I usually didn’t have time.
You want discipline as a writer? Try a business proposal worth millions of dollars that HAS to be at the printer by noon.
Writing fiction is totally different. Time doesn’t matter. I spend a few hours on a piece, then tuck it away to ‘chill’ before editing. At some indeterminate later.
The downside? Revision seems to be never-ending.
This morning, I’m struggling to figure out whether to keep chugging away at the latest work-in-progress, or stop and rethink the outline. Meanwhile, the cat is sleeping in the office chair.
I’m thinking about joining him.
I ran across an ad on the Next Door website. A single mom asking for house or yardwork to make some extra money. Affordable.
My flower gardens have been misused and abused all summer. I haven’t been well enough to keep up with the usual weeding schedule. As for watering, I’ve managed to water weeds. I look out from my office window to the front flower bed and see–gasp–grass seed heads waving in the wind.
I could use some affordable help in the garden. After a brief discussion with Jim, in which we verbalize the usual pros and cons about ‘hiring it done’, I give single mom my telephone number via the website, let her know its all about the weeds, and wait for her call.
She doesn’t call me right away. Too bad, too, because the weather turned nice last week. Cooler. Wetter. Better.
On Saturday, she calls me. We dicker for a while about how much she expects to make per hour. She tells me her rate for ‘landscaping’ and I tell her what I’ll pay for weeding. We finally agree on a per hour price and then I say, “You know, it’s gonna be really hot next week. I’d prefer to start after Labor Day.”
But no. She’s hot to get started. For all sorts of reasons. We agree on Tuesday–that’s today–and set 9 am as the start time. I give her directions to the house.
So here it is, Tuesday, 11 am and where is she? No sign of a car. No calls or texts. Nothing.
And I’m left wondering. Did she drive by and, after seeing the yard, decide it was too much? Or maybe the dogs scared her? Did she get a better gig? Or maybe she overslept? Or her kid(s) held her up?
If only she’d call.
Well. Here’s what I’d say to her after I told her that I can’t use her. If I can’t trust you to show up when you say you will, how can I trust you to do a job?
Was it really Woody Allen who said 80 percent of success in life is showing up?
How quickly plans can change! I tried taking a photo of THREE blooms, but one fell off during the ‘arrange to be prettier’ process.
I tried finishing up my outline board for my current work in progress. But first the printer stopped working and then I was hack-attacked. Two days later, and five hours remote chatting with experts, I’m finally back to square one.
No point in working now. I need to go for a walk.
Remember? I was looking for a boss who completed her sentences. The search was a little like buying a house based on the desire for a fireplace and a bay window, but ignoring everything else. I did that once, too, and subsequently spent thousands of dollars on the foundation.
WBE was my boss for more than a decade before she left the company. A long, unrelenting, and never-to-be-forgotten decade. I still have flashbacks.
WBE started off by being more than two hours late for my job interview. I shoulda known, right? Why did I wait? I really wanted a boss who completed her sentences. What I didn’t pick up on–given her lovely verbosity–was the charming nature that spelled bully. She seemed so smart, so filled with precise vision, so nurturing, so much the perfect person to have as boss and mentor.
I should’ve guessed when she called me on the phone to tell me I ‘got the job’, “Listen,” she said, “either it’ll work or it won’t and you’ll be gone.” But yeah, I was desperate.
WBE loved to ambush people at staff meetings. She had one meeting and one target every week. That person who was ‘IT’ got a seemingly innocent question. Why did you do this? What happened to the stats on that? Are you prepared for this aspect of the site visit? Why is the call-wait time this many seconds.
And the issue at hand always related to a never-before-questioned problem. So, of course, IT wasn’t prepared. Lots of stammering and stuttering followed, leading to the WBE’s pay-off. The humiliating lecture. The unnecessary advice. The admonition to change. Or else.
I once sent her an email with the subject line: AMBUSHED! asking if she could please prepare the person who was IT.
Making me IT for several weeks thereafter.
WBE was also significantly late for every meeting everywhere about every subject. When she arrived–no matter how late and no matter whose meeting it was–everything had to start over. And in public venues–community meetings, sales meetings, conferences– she always introduced herself as Dr. So-and-so with her full business title. Embarrassing. And total insensitivity to social cues.
Did we complain to the CEO? You betcha. But for more than a decade, our complaints were ignored because, like bullies everywhere, it appeared as though WBE’s tactics brought strong financial and quality results.
In school and at work, experts tend to intervene with the victim instead of the bully. Here’s a shout-out for more bully-interventions. In the era of #MeToo and #TimesUp, embracing this as another aspect of harassment seems only right.
Jim and I moved to the acreage south of Louisburg in 2000, and back then, had long drives to work. Twenty miles one way for him. Thirty-five miles one way for me. One hundred ten miles per day (55×2), five days a week. That’s a lot of gas.
Jim’s solution to the issue of keeping the cars filled with gas was to buy a 500 gallon gas tank, creating our own gas station.
You’d think we’d get a premium on the price of gas, but like the stock market, it turned out to be impossible to ‘time’ the price of gas. Over the fourteen years of buying gas in bulk, I’d estimate we paid about ten percent more than everyone else buying gas by the tank. And that doesn’t include such items as Sta-bil, an additive to keep the gas from going bad.
When I finally retired, we moved the tank to the ‘way-back’ acre and I tried to build a garden around it. The Garden of Rusty Things. Despite the clematis and daylilies, still ugly, and the garden was uproariously unsuccessful thanks to weed-creep.
And then one day, Jim up and sold the tank. Goodbye. Goodbye to red and ugly and rusty. Although the convenience of having our own gas station could not be beat.
Was there a life lesson in all this? I don’t think so…
This boss arrived after the departure of my worst boss ever. More about her next week.
At first, he was a breath of fresh air. Super positive guy. We’d had a tough time, but now he was here, things would be–well–wonderful. Yes, he knew nothing about our industry, having worked in some other industry for his entire work-life. But not to worry. He was a fast learner and–after all–he had us to help him.
My mother would have called him a cockeyed optimist. He always smiled. Every problem had a solution. Life was amazing. The team was the absolute best. Things just couldn’t get better.
Right until he called me on the carpet over a conflict with one of the sales people.
Long-story short, putting proposals together wasn’t in her wheelhouse and she wanted me to take on that part of her job. I said no.
Whatever it takes, my boss said. I don’t have time, I said back. What do you want me to give up? His reply to me was crystal clear. Give up nothing. Do it all.
The dark side to a perpetually positive person is that they rarely say ‘no’ to a request. And this guy never said no. As his ‘big project’ person, I was hit hardest. I have lots of fond memories. Working till midnight every night. Working every weekend for months. Spending 60 hours on more than one three-day holiday weekend to get a ginormous proposal written. Never getting comp time. Never taking a vacation. In fact, when I finally decided to retire, I had three years worth of vacation time owed me.
Did he get me more help? Eventually, although he explained that the need for extra staff was due to my failure to manage my time.
I think positive people are great to be around–unless their positivity makes them blind to reality and the constraints of the 24-hour day.
I still have nightmares…
Next Thursday, worst boss ever.
The setting was a small not-for-profit with fewer than 20 employees. The ‘boss’ had been in place for more than ten years. She had a turnover problem. She kept firing supervisory staff.
I was brought on board to supervise. It took me about a week to analyze the problem. The boss never finished a sentence. The one exception? If she gave a speech, she wrote and memorized what she planned to say.
I had a half-dozen explanations for her continual self interruptions. She was creative and had a gazillion ideas. Her thought process was too speedy. She’d developed this terrible end-of-sentence failure habit. She was irrevocably right brained, making her incapable of outlining–step by step–what she wanted me to do.
Bottom line? She thought out loud and didn’t take the time to adequately develop her vision before trying to communicate it.
Yes, that made her difficult to work for. I quickly learned to end her sentences for her–silently. I spent a lot of time figuring out what she might mean for me to do. I got really good at mind-reading in the five plus years I stayed in that job, guessing right about 60 percent of the time.
Her firing problem? She blamed her staff for failure to understand her vision. But she was the failure, incapable of seeing that her inability to communicate what she wanted done caused the turnover. How many people do you need to fire before you ask, “What is it about me…?”
No. She didn’t fire me. I went looking for a boss who completed her sentences. But that’s a tale for next week …
I planned to write this blog after breakfast out with my daughter-in-law, Mati Lamb. Mati’s in process of changing careers, from retail manager to corporate middle manager. At breakfast, she–serendipitously–told me what she looks for in a good leader:
- Listen to your people well.
- Give people credit for their work, along with public recognition.
- Provide opportunities to advance the careers of your people.
While she talked, I thought about my Best Boss Ever and what made him so great. Honestly, I cried when forced to move to a different job in a different state. He was:
- Kind. He never failed to show interest and respect for his people.
- Honest. He never—no not ever–lied.
- Discreet. He never talked to one of his people about another.
If you’re a manager take heed. People stay in jobs (and leave them) because of managers.
As for the lily, it’s my favorite. Hope you enjoy the photo of this year’s bloom.
Next Thursday–third runner up for WORST BOSS EVER.
I went a little crazy last year and bought a gazillion different daylily hybrids. Honestly, I don’t remember how many different kinds.
When I planted them, I carefully made a label for each, using plastic markers and permanent ink. Sad to say, the ink disappeared and something ate most of the markers.
So I don’t know most of the names. It’s sad to think I’ll have to go through the summer, showing you all these great daylilies without identification.
Coming face-to-face with this glitch in my garden design seems to have made me remember my working days. I’ve been dreaming of my four most memorable bosses–and since I dream only nightmares, not in a good way.
Gotta get these four out of my head! So instead of flower names, I’ll say more in subsequent posts about my one stupendous and three dreadful bosses. No names, of course.