Thursday, October 28, 2010

Good Boss, Bad Boss

Just read a great book entitled Good Boss, Bad Boss: How to be the Best and Learn from the Worst. It was written by Robert I. Sutton, Ph.D. who also wrote The No Asshole Rule. Based on recent experiences, this was a great book to read and I encourage anyone who is interested in any sort of professional leadership to pick up this read. While have a plethora of good examples of bad bosses, this book has helped me to refocus on my own skills as a boss. I have linked this entry to Dr. Sutton's webpage and have included a couple of excerpts from the book.

"A host of renowned bosses talk about the importance of thanking people, about the power of this small gesture, and how failure to express appreciation to people who are working their tails off is a sign of disrespect. The late Robert Townsend, former CEO of Avis Rent-A-Car and author of Up the Organization, defined 'thanks' as a 'really neglected form of compensation.' Max DePree, former CEO of furniture giant Herman Miller, described saying 'thank you' as among a leader's primary jobs." - page 96

I can recall countless times in previous jobs where a "thank you" could have gone a long way. I even had one previous boss explain to me that they shouldn't have to say "thank you" and that I should just assume I and my team were doing a good job. I still don't know for sure if this particular boss was a bad communicator or just didn't give a shit about me as a subordinate. While it is personally difficult to work in a thankless situation, I also know that I could have done a better job of showing my appreciation for my employees. So, if any of you are reading this, I hope a late "thank you" is better than nothing and I promise to do better in the future.

"After spending several years immersed in the 'asshole problem' and contemplating cures for bossholes here, I realized there is a central theme implied in much of what I say and write, but rarely spell out: Embarrassment and pride are perhaps the most powerful antidotes to asshole poisoning. Consider this pair of diagnostic questions. If you are a boss, ask yourself: When you look back at how you've treated followers, peers, and superiors, in their eyes, will you have earned the right to be proud of yourself? Or will they believe that you ought to be ashamed of yourself and embarrassed by how you have trampled on others' dignity day after day?" - pages 236-7

Take the test!


Thanks Dr. Sutton!

Friday, October 8, 2010

My Interview at Fallingwater

On Thursday, October 7th I had the extreme pleasure of interviewing for the position of Curator of Education at Fallingwater. For those who don''t know Fallingwater is Frank Lloyd Wright's masterpiece, an architectural innovation that combines the beauty of a natural waterfall with the incredible design of this American master. This was, for me, a position of prestige and I was very excited about the opportunity to interview for this position.

When I got confirmation of the interview, I was instructed to arrive 15 minutes early as I had to check in at the front gate, park and walk the long gravel path past the house and up the hill to the offices, which were located in the guest house. As I drove through the beautiful Laurel Highlands to get to Fallingwater, my head was filled with thoughts about the interview and how much I would enjoy the rest of my day exploring this area of western Pennsylvania and taking pictures. I had brought my camera, my tripod and my trusted corgi companion Kippie with me this day. It was going to be great!

Somewhere in my immersion of what the day was about to offer, I lost some time and and realized that I was actually a little behind schedule. My heart rate started to climb as I came to the conclusion that I would simply have to make time and I will admit that the drive became a little hairy as I exceeded the speed limit while going up and down some very steep grades and twisting through broad curves and sharp bends. I arrived at Fallingwater just about the time my interview was set to start. I checked in quickly, got directions and speed walked to the administrative offices. The interviewers were very kind as I explained my tardiness and worked to catch my breath. They joked that getting to the interview was one of the challenges they rather enjoyed watching position candidates overcome. I laughed out loud while I panicked within.

So, here I was, sitting in an office at the historic Fallingwater and about to sell myself and all I have to offer to this prestigious landmark and their educational programs. I was a good candidate for this position. I was ready for this interview. I could feel the importance of this place. I was entranced by the beauty of the location. I was also a little nervous! I don't know if it was the adrenaline from the rush to get there or the sense of being overwhelmed by the place, but I was nervous.

One of the side effects of my nervousness is that I become a little chatty. I sometimes use this to my advantage as chatty can also be made to look like confidence. Things were going well, I thought, and then I was asked a fateful question.

Interviewer: "What is it that you, as Curator of Education, would be able to bring to Fallingwater?"

Easy question....I thought to myself. "My love of corgis..." Wait! Did I actually just say that out loud? Oh God, I did...I could tell by the look of surprise of the interviewers' faces. This was a real turning point in the interview, I surmised, and in my busy little mind I plotted a strategy to deal with this slip of the tongue. I had a corgi in the van, in fact, and could provide proof if I felt my back was in a corner.

"Yes. I love corgis and I'm proud of it." I continued...confidence being the pervasive strategy. 

Interviewer: "Yes, we saw the corgis on your web page in various costumes and arrangements."

Oh God, I thought again. Wait...this could actually work. I rolled with it and continued through the interview. I did pretty well I think and now will just have to wait to see if they offer my the position. 

As I continued on with the rest of my day, my faithful companion Kippie by my side, I re-hashed the interview over in my head. There were so many other directions I could have taken the conversation. Corgis, heh....I was either an incredible idiot or and incredible genius. For now, I vote genius...corgi genius.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Kippie's Bad Day....must be Monday!

I was awakened this morning, as usual, by Quinn running restlessly up and down the bed. This is a ritual that is repeated frequently as Pam typically gets up before me these days. As I roused from my slumber, I heard a noise that sounded something like a puke...a soft, swooshy kind of sound. I couldn't convince myself that one of my precious corgis threw up, especially since there was no throaty build-up, but I decided to get up and investigate anyway. And investigate I did. After recognizing only a small splash on the comforter, I continued my examination by placing my right sock right in a small puddle of puke on the floor. (Yes, I was sleeping with my socks on last night!) This was not a good omen for the day to come.

After breakfast, Pam and I were hanging out, watching the morning news and trying to take care of some of the minor tasks we had in line for the day. We were having a quiet morning and Kippie seemed content to stay settled rather than participate in the raucous wrestling that has come to mark the dogs' morning routine. It was a nice calm morning and then BAM! A scuffle broke out between Kippie and Quinn. Pam and I both jumped on Kippie to try and correct the situation but all we did was scare him to the point that he peed on himself. "He's gonna need a bath," Pam exclaimed as she relegated Kippie to the back yard to think about things. I'm not sure but, looking back on these events, I can't help but wonder if the poor little fellow just wasn't feeling well.

As Pam and I continued through our day, we were preparing to head to town to run some errands. As I gathered some things together (job applications don't ya know), Pam let the dogs out to do their business. Recently, we've been working with a dog whistle and giving them a treat for coming back when we call. Oonie and Kippie are mildly excited by this game but Quinn immediately starts to wait for you to blow the whistle once he's out. On this afternoon, he was hiding in the bushes waiting for the game to begin so he could instantly claim his treat. After Quinn was inside, I could hear Pam calling and whistling for the other two corgis. As Kippie finally approached the house, I could hear Pam yelling "Oh my God!" When I inquired as to the problem, Pam could only say in reply, "No, this is really bad...really, really bad." When I looked out on the back porch I could see that Kippie had found–and scented himself with–the worst, nastiest, grossest, green coyote poop you could ever imagine. He stood there with a proud and confuse look as the shit ran down his back. Pam began to think out loud about moving him in to the bathtub when I encouraged her to go for the nearby garden hose. Poor, poor Kippie. Having a spray down bath with cold, cold water. (Remember, I wore socks to bed last night.) Kippie's emotions ran the gamut from frustration to sadness and he was a pitiful sight to see sitting there shivering. The smell was awful but we got him good and soaped up, then we rinsed him off thoroughly. He felt much better when he had the chance to shake himself off and get rubbed down with a towel. He's kind of funny when he's wet because he has a way of shaking his butt out so that it puffs up first. When we finally got Kippie inside, we quickly gathered ourselves up and headed off on our errands. About half way to town, we realized we forgot the things we needed to drop off. Oh...the distractions only a corgi could bring!

When we got back to the house Kippie seemed to be in a much better mood. All three of the dogs were really glad to see us and gave us the usually enthusiastic greeting. I struggled to move past them and carry my bags into the kitchen when..."KIPPIE!" Someone had yakked in the kitchen and you-know-who got the blame. Anyway, some days it's just not your day and TODAY was just NOT KIPPIE"S DAY. Better luck tomorrow my plushy little friend.