1. Being right. A few months ago I told someone I was afraid if X happened that Y would be the result. Now I’m not an expert in game theory, but I’ve got some small experience with strategic and operational planning. I also have a good sense of consequences and second and third order effects. The problem is being able to see a move or two ahead can be a real mixed bag and sometimes. Being right has a funny way of tasting so much like ashes in your mouth.
2. Group Hugs. About once a quarter the workforce is summoned together to participate in our version of a “town hall meeting.” It’s the preferred method here for leaders to give the impression that communication has happened. It’s fine, though it usually contains no more actual information than could comfortably be put in an email message. We all have our part to play in the show. This week’s iteration, though, included a new feature – the back half of the hall was roped off in order to drive all comers towards the front of the venue where we then spend the better part of two hours sitting elbow to eyeball with our colleagues with space feeling like it was allocated by the same people who decide how much space is need for your average coach seat on an airliner. It’s not so much like being treated as a valued employee as it is being made into a human sardine. Just add oil. Perhaps the reason people so often spread out across all 750 seats is we don’t *want* to sit in each other’s lap. Then again your way looks better for the photo op so at least we know where the priorities lay.
3. Charitable overreach. There are several charities I give to year in and year out. There are some I give to once and then never again. The fastest way to get dropped from my list is to bombard my email and old fashioned mail box with supplications for more money less than two weeks after I sent you a respectably sized check. If I sent you money, I believe in your cause and keep an eye on both you and it during the course of the year… but honest to God, if you keep bombarding me with mailers, you will be dead to me forever.
1. Rain. Not all rain is bad or evil. We need it and in some quantity recently. If it could hold off a bit on pouring it down during the mid-morning through late afternoon parts of the day, though, I would really appreciate it. As much as I still enjoy driving my big red Tundra, I’d really like to continue Jeeping topless during the only time of year when it’s really comfortable to do so. Yes, I know the drain plugs will take care of whatever standing water may be on the floorboards, but that’s an extreme measure I’d just rather not need to resort to unless it can’t be avoided.
2. Q&A. Live, unscripted question and answer periods with “the general public” should never be encouraged. For every reasonably well thought out question that’s asked, three more that are either completely off topic, so specific as to bore the other 300 people in the room to absolute tears, or utterly nonsensical and not formulated in any kind of structure known to the actual English language. In an open forum it’s just not worth the risk. The potential damage due to the extreme rolling of audience members’ eyes is a real and present threat.
3. Trusted professionals. Today, I’m left with a thought from John Wayne in his last role. He said, “I won’t be wronged. I won’t be insulted. I won’t be laid a hand on. I don’t do these things to other people, and I require the same from them.” Now I may have missed the circus this morning, but let the word ring forth from this time and this place, that if any of you trusted professionals decides to to put your hands on me, you’d best have made up your mind that I’m the last thing you want to touch for a good long time because by all the gods, I will break every bone in your worthless hand.
1. Mandatory attendance. If you want me as seat filler, just say so. Don’t pitch it as a great opportunity to hear some very important words if you’re just looking for asses in chairs. With more to do and fewer people to do it, spending two hours bored to tears hardly feels like the most efficacious use of limited resources, but I’m just a guy sitting here so what the hell do I know.
2. Stuff in my head. I’m feeling pretty good, especially considering how absolutely shitty I was feeling last week. I can’t seem to shake the giant wad of funk that’s taken root deep in my sinuses though. If I could get rid of the wondrous endlessly dripping nose and occasional hacking cough all would be pretty right with the world just now.
3. Paving. Roads need to get paved. It’s one of the few things I don’t mind paying taxes to fund. That being said, it would be awfully convenient if it could be scheduled in such a way as to not take place during peak traffic hours. Seems to me that there are large swaths of time in the middle of the night that would be useful for doing that kind of work that wouldn’t cause mayhem and chaos with everyone else’s schedule… but again, what the hell do I know about operations and logistics.
Everyone likes to feel like they are an important part of what’s going on around them. Even though most people wouldn’t be missed much if they spun off into oblivion, organizations everywhere help mollify their workforce by engaging in the ridiculous pantomime of holding “town hall” meetings where everyone troops into the auditorium and tries not to look too bored as executives click through several dozen slides that someone made for them. Then they open the floor for a handful of delusory questions, give the shiny happy answer, and close the meeting because 99 times out of 100 no one in the room wants to ask what’s really on their mind. Most of us leave with no more information than we had when we showed up, but at least marched an hour or two closer to the end of the day. That’s a mercy at least.
Of course it’s only a small mercy if it’s not a two hour town hall scheduled to start an hour before most of your employees are supposed to be heading home. There’s also a good chance that if it’s the third “mandatory” meeting in the last four weeks to cover the same general set of topics and it’s just being presented by a different talking head, it could be overkill. As good an idea as these meetings were when they were held by our sainted forefathers in New England, they’ve lost a little of their zip. Maybe it’s time to get out the ol’ thinking cap and come up with a better way to engage the people.
Of course if you’re not actually looking for input from anyone, then feel free to disregard this idea in its entirety.
Editorial Note: This part of a continuing series of posts previously available on a now defunct website. They are appearing on http://www.jeffreytharp.com for the first time. This post has been time stamped to correspond to its original publication date.