Thoughtful Thursday

Before I head off for the last of the current Thursday training classes, I wanted to send you a “Happy Thursday” and a thought for the day…Personally?  I’ve met my share of people who I wished would go climb the nearest tree – but it wasn’t because of their mental acuity.  Excel in your realm;  at the least have a good day.

Shoop Shoop Shoop – Are You With Me?

Driving home from yesterday’s 4th training session, the “Shoop Shoop Song” from “Waiting To Exhale” was playing in my head.  In many ways it’s also the perfect Friday song, and given some of the posts I’ve read this week, it’s appropriate for the end of what appeared to be a tough week.  Seems like a lot of us spent much of the week just waiting to let it go…

“And sometimes you’ll laugh, and sometimes you’ll cry

Life never tells us the whens and whys

But when you’ve got friends to wish you well

You’ll find your point when you exhale…”

You can add the ‘shoop shoops’ yourself – there are a lot of them.

Yesterday, I facilitated the last training session with the remarkable group of people of whom I’ve written before.  Next week, a colleague will join me for the last part of the program.  So in some ways, I had to say good-bye to a dynamic which has fueled, inspired and challenged me once a week for the month.  We’ll have a great time next week, and the team united as we know will morph naturally by the presence of a new person.  The thought of the upcoming farewells has my stomach more than just a little knotted.

Our topic yesterday was Performance Management – with emphasis placed on the fluidity of the process – the need for it to be a constant loop of communication, not the culmination of twelve silent months with no conversation about a person’s performance.  We addressed some of the real issues managers grapple with – the star employees who don’t receive enough feedback because ‘they know’ they’re terrific and other people require more attention; the poor performers who supervisors avoid because ultimately the anticipated hostility/tears/aggressive/defensive reaction (pick your adjective) is just too painful to endure.  The challenge of actively listening when studies show that adults really attend for about five minutes within a twenty-minute conversation.  How commentary is far more critical than a ‘score’ and how to move a firm and its people away from the numbers and in to substantive feedback.  Including the employee in establishing goals, and how to build those goals effectively.  We went straight through, with a quick break to bring in some lunch, and just kept going until we could go no longer.  They crushed it – figuratively and in a good way.  The examples provided, support given to those with a tough situation to handle, enthusiasm and trust in each other – all were so impressive.  They inspired me more than I can adequately describe.  Do you sense a ‘but’ in all of this?  Good – I’m so glad you picked that up.

When our sessions end, they go back to work.  At best their supervisors ask them if they’re enjoying the program, if they’re getting anything out of  it,etc..  That’s it – the curiousity and interest in the manager and his/her development stops there.   They are coming away from these meetings with new ideas, a renewed sense of purpose, some thoughts about bettering themselves and their department.  There wasn’t one person who affirmed that his/her boss would be interested in pursuing anything other than things as they are.  The most frustrating aspect of this reality, is that I just know what will happen to their enthusiasm, focus and intention.  Worse still, they do too.  I’m committed to being available to them should they need me,  but let’s be real –  as time passes everyone gets caught up in the rhythm of their days, and without someone encouraging movement and effort from their supervisors, there is an inevitable return to the norm.

If you are a director or C-level officer, are you really giving your direct reports the room, support and mentorship they need?  Are you working with them to formulate opportunities to practice that which they’ve learned once training programs end?  What’s your stake in their growth and how do you show that commitment?  I’m just wondering, because from where I stand this seems to be the most important part of your responsibilities and the easiest one for you to minimize or disregard.  I’m just sayin’…I know there are some exceptional senior executives who read this blog – it would be great to know what you do with and for those managers you send for professional development training once they’ve completed the program or class?

I will miss these Thursdays, yet that doesn’t diminish the value they have held for me.  I have met outstanding people, forged a bond that is predicated upon a shared desire to do the right thing for those they supervise and for their firms.  I wish them all the success, growth and all the happiness their hearts can hold.

So it’s Friday morning, and the sun is slowly rising.  The week ends with some exhausted by the emotional toll that the last few days have exacted; others are thrilled that the week has gone so well.  For everyone,  I hope the time arrives sometime today when you get to exhale.  Happy weekend all.

“The Rhythm Of Life”

In the musical “Sweet Charity”, there’s a song with a chorus that often repeats in my head (and occasionally out of my mouth) – “The rhythm of life has a powerful beat/Puts a tingle in your fingers and a tingle in your feet/Rhythm in the bedroom, rhythm in the street/Yes, the rhythm of life has a powerful beat”

I’m not tingling this morning, let along feeling the beat.  I think I’m working off of the kind of hum a light bulb makes before it burns out.  Ok, that’s a bit severe – I’m not tired of writing (how can I be when this site is barely four months old), or tired of consulting, or tired of being retired.  My rhythm is just off.  my sense of timing has been disturbed.  Ergo, no tingle.Image

We got back from four days in Puerto Rico last night.  On the flight home, I felt like we had been gone for weeks and began filling my head with my ‘to-dos’ and the ache behind my eyes began.  By the time the taxi pulled into our driveway my list had given birth to more lists and I could only isolate the top priorities – check in with the kids, grocery store run, trip to PetsMart for more dog food, piles of critical mail that must need immediate attention…my heart begins to accelerate and I haven’t even put the damn key in the door.

I was wrong on all counts – w-r-o-n-g.  The truth of the matter is that the half-and-half didn’t spoil, we have enough coffee, the fruit isn’t rotten (though we could use some bananas), no need to head to PetsMart for another week or more, more junk mail than real mail and lots of emails but none that make me groan with guilt for delaying my response.  So – four days is just four days.  This is just too much to wrap my head around.  How can it be that absolutely nothing critical happened?  All just went along as it should.  This is clearly a reality for someone smarter than me.

Take me out of my daily environment and I lose all sense of perspective – even when there’s no time difference between where I’ve been and where I’m going.  I become part of wherever I am, almost as if there was nothing that preceded it.  If ever this truth was underscored, it was made clear to me after a late evening boat trip (we’re talking small motor boat holding no more than eight people) out onto a bay in which bio-luminessence is evident in the blackness of night.  To get to the bay, this lone boat winded its way through a narrow lagoon with mangroves for walls and a roof over our head.  Through the lagoon there was no sky, no sense of being anywhere other perhaps the set of a Wes Craven movie.  Occasionally the Captain would shine a light on a large iguana balanced on a branch, indifferent to the intrusion; ribbons of translucent snakeskin left in aged, gnarled roots, as its owner slithered away at some point comfortable in a newer version of himself/herself; a lone bird sleeping peacefully with feathers that were startlingly white and orange and a beak so black one couldn’t discern its beginning or end (perhaps it was the Pinocchio of the lagoon and had a beak so long it was almost endless).  Once out on the bay, the water looked as if it was receiving stars as they fell from the sky.  The scientific explanation is that the plankton in this area light up when disturbed, the fish glow as they skip above the water.  This nexus of nature’s variables – the type of water, weather, fish, plankton, etc occurs in only four places in the world.  The romantic version is even better.  A wooden pole in the water left a shiny wake similar in its smoky silver color to that of a witch’s brew.  The only distinction between the sky and the water was the sound of the waves lapping against the boat.  And stars in the sky don’t jump with such enthusiasm.  My hand in the water took on this ethereal glow – so beautiful and shiny I never wanted to remove it for I was sure it held magic.  The seven others people sharing this experience were equally awed.  At first we all ‘oohed and ahhed’, occasionally we each would marvel aloud..and then quiet seemed more appropriate.  It was too magnificent to absorb with anything other than silence.

Captain Suarez and Mingo his assistant were characters out of a novel – maybe Hemingway, maybe not for they were gentle and reverent.  Their days-old beards covered the craggy lines that define a life on the water, aging hands that were ropier than those which moored the old boat at the end of the day’s work, broken English that shared their knowledge of astral navigation in a language we all could understand.  I asked Mingo why the traveled with little if any light even in the lagoon and he said that one who sailed was supposed to know where they were going by the stars – the light did more harm than good.Image

You can’t be a part of time like this and not feel with certainty that there is something way bigger than we are.  We disembarked with gracious silence.  What had we just seen?  How do we capture this in our memory?  is there any way to do such moments justice?  What day is it today?

I can’t say much else happened while we were gone.  Our most intrepid friend zip-lined gloriously in the rain forest, my husband golfed (that’s not new), he won more than he lost at the blackjack table.  We flew home – gone for not much longer than a long weekend and I’ve misplaced my rhythm.

I read your blogs last night and this morning perpetually shaking my head with wonder at the extraordinary talent of the people I follow (and some that I don’t), wondering how I will ever get back into the swing.  I know I will, for life calls regardless of where one may be, and we adjust accordingly.  But right now, I am slow to re-enter the music of my day-to-day life while the beat of the last four days still echoes faintly in my head.  That’s the beauty and the bane of going away and coming home…I answer to a powerful beat.