Wednesday, September 29, 2010

I See Light..

... and I don't think it's a train heading this way!!

I felt sorry for My Dwight during our meeting yesterday.  I could hear sadness in his voice.  When asked how he was doing and how things were going, he quickly told me he was "busy."  That's his typical response over the years - he's BUSY.  Normally he's busier than anyone else in the company and obviously most of his tasks that keep him busy are more complex and more time-consuming than what anyone else is working on.  He's a martyr.  But this time, rather than ask him what he was busy with, I quickly started inquiring about tasks and results I was needing him to focus on THIS WEEK - like over the next 3 days.  With each inquiry, I could hear the sadness getting louder and louder.  And his responses became not laden with pride in his busy-ness, but instead his tone was a little more of defeat - "OK - I'll get it done by then."  Like a child that had lost a battle. 

You see, I really didn't care how "busy" he was.  He has several items on his punch list this week that MUST be done THIS week.  And he's been farting around for 6 weeks - procrastinating - giving his "busy" excuse and now he's down to the wire.  I wasn't mean.  I wasn't snarky.  I was merely stating the facts firmly about what needed to be done and the deadline.  I could also hear a tone of irritation in his voice.  As if his tone was yelling out "you're an idiot and you have no clue how busy I am, yet you just keep repeating these deadlines to me."   In some ways I was amused - in a sick kind of twisted way.   Because for so long he's thrived on presenteeism and being "busy".  But now?  Not so much a matter of interest to me. 

He got nasty with another employee and refused to help some teammates because he was upset about not being chosen to be an administrator for the new phone system.  The employee with whom he got nasty pointed out to him that his attitude was not hurting those who had made the decision to not make him an admin on the phone system - but was instead hurting his teammates who were trying to achieve results.  I had to laugh.  I just wonder how long it will take until he's totally stripped and denied of everything by which he's always defined himself.  I wonder if he'll redefine himself in the process or just merely get fed up and walk away.  It's a shame he is the way he is.  Because it slows us down - this migration and transition to a new way of thinking.  He so badly wants to keep everything status quo - and his desire to maintain tradition must be repeated through negative comments over and over to anyone who will listen.  Hopefully, now, most are shutting him down or tuning him out. 

On a positive note - when I spoke to some other team members yesterday, I did NOT hear the frustration in their voices that I had picked up on two weeks ago.  I could hear them moving forward and their conversations were focused around results - how to reach them in certain situations (upcoming wedding, etc).  I wasn't hearing the "can't happen because...."  - I was hearing requests for coaching on HOW to MAKE IT HAPPEN.  That was a nice glimmer of hope! 

This morning - off to coffee with my recently retired mom - first time in the 44 years of my life we are spending time together during the week  - and neither of us are sick or on maternity leave!!!  I feel sad for her  - having lost all that time "working" - yet happy for me that I am able to make time for my children - and still meet results!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Follow Up to "Sigh"

So the water issue resolved itself.  After my last post, I refused to even acknowledge the irrelevant discussion about the storage of the water.  It's non-productive.  And about 12 hours or so after that, I got an email from the staff member who was complaining, indicating that he just realized the water bottles were SEALED, therefore he could live with them being stored under the sink.   DOH!  Of course they are sealed.  Seriously?  I didn't even respond.  The whole thing was childish to begin with. 

It's funny to watch this particular staff member.  For as long as I've known him and worked with him at Company X (forever)  - he's begged and pleaded to work from home.  And yet, he complained about where the water bottles would be stored in the new office.  He also commented that he had just had his photography mounted and framed for his office and NOW?  He cannot hang things on the walls in the new space.  I'm beginning to think he might just like to hear himself complain.  I suggested he hang them on this one wall in the new space if it meant that much to him - an area for all to enjoy - a gallery of sorts. He liked that idea and did just that!  He's quite proud of them and thanked me for the opportunity to display them.  See?  It's even BETTER than having them in a dim, old, crappy, isolated office.  Here, everyone who comes through the door can see and admire them.  Let's think of the positives people - NOT the negatives! 

One of my colleagues read my last post and sent me a private message - some unsolicited advice.  Which I appreciated - because I respect her and admire her perspective on things.  She suggested that I need to have the tone of hope and positiveness in my voice - otherwise if the naysayers hear frustration, I'm giving them the upper hand.  (I totally just summarized what she said and hope that is really the message she was giving me - ha!)  She's absolutely right!  And that's JUST the kick in the butt I needed to keep plodding forward. 

I'm sure I'll have another post today as I have a meeting with My Dwight.  And that always proves itself to be interesting.  When I zipped through the old space yesterday, he still had mounds and mounds of shit that he needs to sort through.  He's a hoarder.  Bottom line.  Hoarder.  Of shit.  Electronics shit.  He was nowhere to be found so I just kept adding more stuff I found to his pile of shit to sort through.  I also emptied several bookcases and drawers and threw the contents away or set them out to be donated.  These people have had 6 weeks or more to go through and decide what they want and what is junk.  At this stage, we have 3 days to get ourselves completely out of the old space so I'm making the decisions for them - it's ALL junk.  I loved how the spaces that were once occupied by former employees and which have sat vacant for 2 years were untouched by anyone.  Did they think those former employees were going to come back in and clean out their areas?  The sense of entitlement and lack of accountability we have built and established with these people over the years is just staring me straight in the eye right now.  It's quite a large dose of reality!

After leaving the old space, I zipped into the new space to do a quick run through.  I was pleased to find the boss emptying a hideous file cabinet and to hear him tell me it looked ugly and he was getting rid of it.  (I had told him that LAST week, but it needed to be his idea).  I was NOT pleased to find a mound of trash sitting on the floor.  I asked who the boxes belonged to.   No one spoke.  So I again asked and when I got no answer, I said, "Well my instructions were that each of you dispose of your own moving boxes and to NOT pile trash around - so obviously this stuff doesn't belong to anyone here."  Yes.  I was pissed.  I should have left them laying there and given instruction to get it cleaned up.  But, falling into old routines seemed easier at the moment and they all "looked busy" - so I just cleaned it up myself.  Someone did get up and assist me.  It was tough - hauling that cardboard out the back door to the recycling dumpster 20 ft. away.  And I looked over at My Dwight and there he was, front and center, "working".  And I looked at the gal who never opens her email and had to take the remaining cubicle that wasn't claimed.  Her.  With her 3 computers and 4 monitors on her desk.  She looked VERY busy.  And it dawned on me at that moment - it's safe.  That's their safe spot.  Their security blankie.  Sitting at their cubicle - with tons of equipment - "working".  On what we do not know, per se.  But I've been at Company X for 12 years now and never EVER, through ANY of it - been so damned busy that I can't look up from my desk.  Or read my email.  Or communicate with others on my team.  It's a crutch.  A cocoon. 

Now.... to rid them of that cocoon and allow them to be butterflies -  - - that's our task and our biggest hurdle.

Sunday, September 26, 2010


I always envisioned this blog would be inspirational.  A vehicle for delivering to my devout readers all the amazing things this culture shift has brought to my life and the life of others.  Instead, what I find is irritation, frustration and the urge to scream.  Is this how it's supposed to be?  Is this normal?  Or are we just dysfunctional beyond hope? 

Friday was our big "move".  We had known for weeks that we were moving.  And yet, as I walked through the space we were abandoning, all I saw was shit.  Literally, piles and piles of it.  Granted, the old and now un-used cubicles are being hauled off Monday.  And Tuesday, a charity store is coming with a truck to pick up many of the odds and ends.  But there will still just mounds and mounds of items that had not yet been sorted through and identified as "stay" or "go".  It was frustrating to me. 

And people were complaining about just about anything.  There was a "spot" on the wall at the new office that did not match the rest of the paint.  The landlord is picky.  The storage room was laid out all wrong.  But I just kept smiling and would just walk away - refusing to let the petty complaints spoil my day. The comments are unproductive - and have nothing to do with results - I don't have time to listen to them.  Around 10:45, I texted over to the new office, "Do you all want to order pizza for lunch?!"  The response?  "Is Company X buying?"  I just really wanted to break down into the fetal position on the floor and start crying.  Instead, I replied back, "Is it possible to have ONE day without the negativity?  Or are we that far gone?  Of course Company X is buying - why else would I care what you want for lunch?"  Spoiled rotten children.  Brats.  So we got them pizza.  And we continued to plow through the mess and attempt to get ourselves organized at the new place.  Knowing that next week we will have but 4 days to clean out the old place and it's a complete disaster area. 

Yesterday I got an email from a staff member - asking, "Why are the water bottles stored in the bathroom?  That's disgusting."  I responded that I had last seen them in the kitchen, and another employee responded that they were indeed last seen in the kitchen at 8:00 p.m. Friday night.  So obviously, the landlord had moved them.  There must be some reason he doesn't want them stored in the kitchen.  I explained that and then asked if they were wiped down with antibacterial wipes prior to placement on the water cooler, could we live with that or was this really a matter I needed to take up with the landlord.  Response?  "I'll bring my own water - this is disgusting." 

And my whole mood changed.  (of course the cloud cover that came through at about the same time didn't help either).  I mean seriously?  You have your freedom.  You have a beautiful, new tool to use if you choose.  And we're worried about petty shit like this?  It's got NOTHING to do with results.  And guess what?  If we just canceled the water service - it would save us $75/month.  So maybe that's what we'll do.  I hate trivial bullshit.  And this is right up there in that category.  I can't deal with the childish behavior.  I can't tolerate the incessant complaining about nothing.  I can't find anything inspirational in any of it. 

Is it me?  Am I just at my limit with these people?  Am I dealing with them incorrectly?  Is it that perpetual sound of the bass in an Eminen song pumping through my vents at home from my daughter's room that causes my fuse to be short?  My recent management style has been along the lines of STFU.  I even decided to write a book about my style.  It will be short.  Four Words.  Pre-highlighted.  STFU.  What do these people WANT from us?  From me?  Is this still just a normal reaction to their new freedom and a diversion for holding themselves accountable to results?   I don't know.  I don't have the answers. 

I wish I did.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Move Day Tomorrow!

Well, the group made it through their first collaboration effort - that which involved figuring out how to handle inbound customer calls to ensure that a live body was always reached.  Despite the hatred and discontent I was told was running wild through the group over this matter and despite threats of implosion - they survived.  And best of all, they delivered to me a written plan to achieve these results!  I knew they could do it.  Hopefully the next go around, they will also believe in themselves.

But alas, the phone lines have not been successfully ported to the new provider, so we are still farting around with old technology and such, and tomorrow we physically move our offices and lose our existing phone system/provider.  But guess what?!  On their own, and without any instruction, they devised a contingency plan!  They're really starting to get the hang of this "think like a responsible adult" thing! 

As I mentioned, tomorrow we physically move offices.  Rather than assign seating at the new location, we posted the layout and had everyone select their own space.  I posted the document in Google Docs online and watched the flurry of activity as everyone opened the document and quickly claimed their space.  It was funny to watch.  Quite a few people stuck to their "group" and arranged themselves neatly beside each other as they currently are.  Others took the opportunity to remove themselves from others and try to isolate themself from those with whom they don't necessarily get along, or care to be beside.  One person has yet to claim a space, so I guess she'll just take the one that's left open.  It's a shame she doesn't open her email more often.  Always about 10 steps behind everyone else because she lives in her own little world and doesn't follow email.  She'll learn.  Or maybe it just doesn't matter that much to her.

I did have to laugh as I noticed my Dwight placed himself front and center in the office.  That way he could see everyone that comes and goes and everyone could have a good view of him - right outside of the CEO's office.  It's comical.  He's so transparent.  I wonder what would happen if he were the only person to use the office as a tool for several days.  Would he absolutely wither without the audience?  Or would he start phoning people and making up shit to get attention? 

My role is changing some in that I'm doing less "doing" of the work, and more delegating.  Which is something I always needed to do anyway, but never could bring myself to let loose of that much control.  It's getting easier for me, though and I'm trusting my staff more.  My days consist more of managing, touching base with people, checking the status of things, moving obstacles or coaching.  It's been an adjustment for me - but I'm enjoying it.  Some days I feel as if I'm not working.  As if I'm not achieving results.  And it's on those days that I have to remind myself that THIS is what I'm SUPPOSED to be doing - coaching, mentoring, delegating, empowering.  It just feels weird.  I mentioned to my boss that I was working on a project and he asked, "WHY?  Why are YOU working on that?"  Ummm - because my help was needed?  He wasn't upset that I was working on the project - just seemed put out that I was actually participating in the activity rather than managing it or delegating it. 

There are days/weeks I don't even leave the house.  EVER.  And being somewhat of a recluse to begin with, I'm finding that I become agitated when I do have to leave the house.  I need to make it a point to incorporate some type of outing each day to avoid total Howard Hughes status in the near future.  Yesterday it occurred to me that I sit in silence (sans the occasional phone call) most of the day.  Talking to my dog.  (Who loves the attention, BTW).  There is no laughter, no socializing.  And then I missed the buzz of an office.  The laughter.  The fun.  The commaraderie.  But quickly I remembered:  I didn't feel those things at the office to begin with.  I haven't for years.  I've always had to somewhat separate myself from those activities because I am the boss.  And I was more lonely THERE than I am here, at home, alone.  Then I reminded myself that work is not a family and if I was really yearning for some social interaction - I could just as easily hook up with my staff for their update meetings in person instead of on the phone.  I think I might suggest that to a few of them in the coming week.  It's fall.  The weather is beautiful.  It should be enjoyed and not ignored.  I can be a complete recluse when it's 10 below out. 

The boss asked yesterday if we feel or see that anyone is completely off track or if anything is completely being ignored.  I have not had any of these feelings.  I see my staff getting things done - the things I feel are important.  My days are not typically filled with garbage and drama and I just see the results.  I hope that soon others will start to filter the "shit" from their lives and just set their sights on the results only.  They'll really find themselves so much happier! 

Thursday, September 16, 2010

By George I think I've Got It!

I stood back and reviewed a collaboration document my staff was working on with regard to the ongoing argument over phone coverage.  And all of a sudden - it hit me - DING!!!  I've got it!!!  The staff that has been at the corporate office all this time and has the burden of the phones due to antiquated technology harbors ill feelings over that fact and the fact that otherwise permanently remote staff don't have to deal with the phones as much.  So they want the otherwise remote staff to now just offer to take the initial burden so they can feel "free" for a bit.  They're currently meeting.... I wonder if they see what I see?  Perhaps they're too close to it.  Time will tell!

My Dwight....

Forever the optimist, forever naive.  That's me.  I'm a quick study and I always have been... on subject matters that interest me.  On other things - like innernets, hardware, electricity - I like it - I use it - I need it.  But to understand HOW it works - does not interest me.  I let those kinds of things just remain a forever mystery to me.  But ROWE - now THAT interested me.  So when I read the book, I totally got it.  And embraced it.  And immediately started living it, preaching it and spreading the word to anyone who would listen or was within earshot.  And for those that did not "get it" - I just moved on to the next victim willing listener and spread the word some more.  And being the Molly Brown spirit that I am, I, like a fool, assumed everyone at Company X would also "get it" and embrace it. 

Alas, such is not the case.  And unfortunately, those who are not getting it, are clouding my ability to see the beauty of what is unfolding for those who do.  So my frustration with the heel diggers really is a double edged sword.  It slices me down the middle vertically and horizontally.  I'm now 4 people.  Which is not good.  I need to be one person.  A whole person. 

Although late yesterday, I believe I might have received a glimmer of hope from one of the ones I perceive to be a heel digger.  A meeting with that person today will undoubtedly reveal the truth of the matter to me - and I can then fix that.  I can save this heel digger - I can.  This situation is salvagable.  I believe what is driving this person to dig their heels so deeply into the ground and thereby cause me daily anxiety and keep me up at night (after night, after night) is my Dwight Shrute in the office.  I believe Dwight and his perpetual self-contrived bullshit is driving the ones who cannot yet freely depart from the office (due to phone technology that is being replaced this week) to insanity.  While those who are "stuck" at the office have attempted to infuse freedom and liberty into their lives - Dwight never leaves his vigil.  He's there day in and day out - spreading fear and creating chaos through his dramatizations. 

When I spoke last to Dwight on the phone earlier this week, he told me it was a complete disaster at the office.  I pressed on as I really wanted to understand what was going on back there.  He willingly explained that earlier there had been a family matter with one of the employees that resulted in the police arriving at the office and talking to this employee.  Okay.  Fine Dwight.  And now how did that involve you?  Did they solicit you to give a statement?  Were you in any way directly involved in this incident?  No.  He admitted he was not.  So I merely replied with, "Then I'm not understanding why that is causing you to feel stressed and I'm certain the other employee would prefer the matter remain private." 

Not happy that he had not convinced me of the disasterous state back at the office, he pressed on.  "I guess this whole phone situation is just creating problems - the whole 'not knowing' what we're doing with the phones - it has everyone upset."  Well, now Dwight.  I thought the decision regarding the phones had been made - you have ordered the necessary hardware devices and placed the order to have our numbers ported - so it should be live yet this week, isn't that correct, Dwight?"  Yes.  Yes.  That is all true.  "Hmmm - so now Dwight - HOW is it exactly that there are any feelings of 'not knowing what we're doing'?" 

Further irritated that he had not convinced me of the impending implosion back at the office, he again pressed on.  "I guess the right word I'm looking for is total chaos"  Oh - so the office is in total chaos now?  Please - explain to me what is creating this chaos.  "Well there are boxes everywhere, the entire place is torn up, it's in total disarray."  Right Dwight.  That's right.  We're moving.  In a week.  So it's not like gremlins broke in over night and tore the shit out of the office.  We did that to the office - in preparation of the move.  That is next week.

Clearly defeated, he replied, "Will that be all?"  Yes Dwight.  That will be all. 

Having dealt with Dwight for many years now, I'm quite certain that because I did not raise up and display the fear and terror that he was hoping to instill in me as I lay back on my couch eating bon bons each day choose to work from my home each day and have no idea what is actually transpiring in the office, he no doubt ran to every employee that he could find - likely called a few on the phone even - and told the same pathetic, non-productive bullshit stories - seeking his fix.  He's a drama addict.  And if there isn't any real drama - then he creates it.  He thrives on it.  And now that many people have dispersed from the office - he has a smaller audience and as people start to give a shit less about office on-goings and petty bullshit and focus on results - he's lost.  He can't find his fix as easily. 

Ah but alas, Dwight is charismatic.  And has successfully wooed another employee (at least one that I'm aware of) to buy into his drama.  And thus the heel-digging and push back.  And what a ride they've been on for the last couple of weeks - WEEEEE!!  It's fun!  Look at us!  We are the mighty all-powerful.  The voices of two will conquer the desires of 18.  But wait - the one that got drug in all of a sudden feels alone.  Unloved.  Not appreciated.  NOT FOCUSED ON RESULTS.  And admits that s/he is in the middle of a shit storm and can't get out.  AHA!!!  The second I heard this admission - I KNEW what was going on.  And THIS, my friends, I can solve.  THIS I know how to coach through.  Never fear little bear - I can drag you out of that shit storm.  So I'm optimistic about the meeting with the victim this morning.  And in two weeks, when everyone has the technological ability to work from outside of the office - I wonder what Dwight will do?  Plod in day in and day out?  Stand vigil at his post -  - waiting for the next naive soul that wanders in to use the office as a tool so he can apply his charismatic charm on them and convince them Company X is in a state of chaos and out of control?  Go home and work Dwight.  Please.  Everyone's sick of your shit. 

Perhaps I'll order him out of the office for a two week period.  But seriously, if everyone would just stand up to Dwight and say, "What does this conversation have to do with meeting results?"  And if they said it to him again and again and again - he would eventually GET IT.  I think at my next staff meeting, I'll just make reference to non-productive discussions - especially those that are negative in nature - and encourage everyone to feel empowered to shut it down when they hear it.  Ahhh - Dwight.  You will NOT win this game.  Not this time. 

Thursday, September 9, 2010


Working in a ROWE is rather bizarre.  I honestly have no clue what day it is.  All of my adult life, I've awakened and KNOWN what day of the week it is - and either dreaded it (bleh - it's only Wednesday) or I've celebrated it (woo hoo!  Friday).  It occurred to me this morning when I woke up - I have no clue what day it is.  None.  And I don't really care either.  That's the really bizarre part.  It just doesn't matter.  It's a day - and I am alive.  And I will work on activities that drive me to meet results and I will play some and I will have no stress and I will be happy and content. 

I'm doing something scary this week - NOT going into the office at all.  And I'll admit that by Wednesday I was starting to have some angst over it.  But I'm over it.  I almost dropped by the office - but then decided there was actually no purpose for me to do so - so why waste the gas?  All it would have done was eat up an hour of my life and it would not have been helping me to meet a single result.  So I stayed put.

I'm starting to get the swing of having freedom - although I admit it does involve building structure into my day.  I figured out quickly that I just don't function well without structure.  Get up early, work a little.  Focus on my family and getting the little one off to school.  Work some more.  Throw in some exercise for good measure.  Work some more.  Focusing on what NEEDS to be done. 

A friend asked me yesterday how my "deal" is working out.  I told him my "deal" works out in such a way that I'm getting my work done, meeting results, my boss is happy and yet - my house is clean.  There is food in the pantry.  Healthy snacks are provided for the girls when they get home from school.  Their homework is done at a reasonable time. We eat dinner at a normal time.  The laundry is all done.  And I'm not stressed or pissed and I'm in bed every night by 10:00 like I prefer to be.  THAT is how my "deal" is working out.  I feel balanced.  I feel content.  I feel like this is where I should have been all of my life. 

We've just about got the phone situation at the office figured out and soon  - others in the company will be able to experience this feeling of balance and freedom - I'm excited for that day to arrive because a few are forced to be there on-site during "core hours" (and forced meaning they've chosen to handle the situation that way - I left it up to them to figure out how to accomodate incoming calls and this is their choice).  I look forward to the day they can feel freedom like I can.  And when they can experience that, I hope to see great results from them and really watch this new culture flourish.

The boss told me an awesome story yesterday.  He said he was talking to friend of his over the weekend and explaining to his friend that we were working under ROWE.  His friend said that she knew of a former company that worked under a similar arrangement.  (At first when he said former company - I was nervous - certainly this story wasn't going to end well).  He explained that the company was much like ours in terms of annual revenues and sales.  Then they went into a similar culture as a ROWE and revenue quadrupled - they were striking on all cylinders - they were growing the way they wanted and they were successful. 

But then, the owners decided they wanted to get more involved - wanted to really understand the day to day business and what was going on.  So they came in and started getting involved and discovered what the CEO had done - this ROWE thing - people doing whatever they wanted, whenever they wanted.  And they quickly retracted this freedom - and replaced it with a traditional work culture - they needed to see the people to know they were working.  They didn't care that results were being met previously - but likely assumed that if they could see the people - then the results could be even greater.  Quickly they started losing all of their employees and eventually - the company tanked.  True story y'all.  He's supposed to be getting me the name of the company (because I'm curious and nosy).  But I loved the testiment to ROWE. 

Pipeline shows 8-12 new contracts will close this month.  THIS MONTH.  Did you know that in some YEARS we don't even close that many?  I'm nervous.  But at the same time - totally pumped.  Those contracts come into my group for delivery and handling.  And my staff will have total control of the delivery  - can they delight the customer?  Will they delight the customer?  Oh - how I so badly want them to shine!  I know they can - they do every day - can and will they do it under ROWE?  The true test is just around the corner!!!