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Can Thanks manage?

by | Nov 23, 2020 | manage, Thanks, The Avett Brothers

Before I left IBM, my new Boss needed me to come to a very important kickoff meeting before I was supposed to start.  The good news is that the meeting had some people from IBM there, so I sorta blended into that team, although I got some paranoid looks from the other IBMers being from “Federal” – which of course I simply reminded them that the F in Fannie Mae was.  And while I did well in the meeting, and actually helped advance a few critical ideas my Boss brought up, it was not the last time I would feel out of place there or other places…

….I discovered after I started that my role had come directly from a 1991 Business Week article about object technology that the Vice-Chairman read.  That overview made it seem fantastic and easy for us to try, and he provided some funding as an experiment for the role. My first assignment was to develop a plan for helping to retrain 75 computer programmers on Object Technology.  By the end of the year.  It was late March, and if it didn’t work, there was no permanent role.  I had barely found my office, the bathroom, and by the way, Objects were BARELY understood globally.  No problem – compared to what I was doing at IBM, this actually looked easy. 

There is a point in your career where you start to realize that 1)  Very few people know what they are doing, 2)  If you do, or at least can fake it long enough, you can… 3) write your OWN plan for what comes next.  If IBM had given me a taste of that, this was full immersion. The first thing you do is look around and see who else has figured this out, and have some good ideas of their own that simply need some support.  An aerospace company management decided to take their learnings from using Object Technology in the classified community into commercial businesses.  And… had a very extensive training program.  Game on!  

The Brothers were noticed by a local North Carolina music manager who helped them slowly find their own voice, and they cranked out a number of albums and a label he started mostly for them.  One consistent trait was their obsession with Pretty Girls – from Raleigh, from Locust, From Annapolis, Letter to, at the Airport… that is only a portion for 2 albums 😉  Confirming why most young men go into music in the first place 😉  By the track today, they had started to embrace many different instruments, including occasional drums, but they were mostly still called “bluegrass” which is what music with a banjo is called 😉  It isn’t actually – it is much more what we now call Americana that was just emerging… but really, it is Avett Brothers music. 

Of course, there was already a group that “owned” training for computer users, so I had to negotiate between that group and our emerging outside partner.  No problem – easy compared to major divisions of IBM. And Thankfully, I was blessed to have a senior engineer on their team that was easy to work with, listened intently, and positioned their offerings as… our internal teams’ idea 😉 Watching him plant seeds, wait for them to germinate, and then blossom reminded me of another lesson from IBM – things go better if you manage to make it  “their” idea 😉  It is rare that pushing harder works… find a way to get them to steal your idea…and be Thankful… 

As you know I collect sayings, and this one applies today “Just because you’re not paranoid, doesn’t mean they are not out to get you.” Thanks often come from a similar but different stance – looking backward, you can see where Thanks are due that you may have missed at the time.  For me, as I watched IBM layoff 50-60,000 employees who never saw it coming because they had been promised lifetime employment by management

…I was Thankful then, and even more Thankful now.  Where are the managers that took a risk on you, or even helped start the business you are in?  How did they navigate the years?  I have recently reconnected with the family of my old Boss from IBM, who noticed as I did that he was constantly looking over his shoulder, and while not paranoid, always darkness like the soberness that the Avett’s bring to their music.  I am setting up some conversations with them, and his Grandson soon… to show what an amazing gift he was, launching me into this new path, but equipped with just enough.. Paranoia in B Flat.

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