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The Promise of observation…

by | Dec 3, 2020 | observe, Promise, The Avett Brothers

Like children, you don’t really have favorites on a Team… or shouldn’t.  It is where the analogy with Pooh may break down, as he is Christopher Robin’s best friend and confidant, and also the center of the story.  And like Piglet, the name and character can sound a bit harsh – other than those to whom it fits naturally don’t notice, or care ;-).  Our Pooh was naturally naive, absent-minded, friendly, thoughtful, insightful, and always willing to help his friends.  And made a lot of mistakes… which in Ops was not helpful… and made me nervous answering the call from HR… 

… now what?  As I walked down to meet our HR Business Partner, my mind was racing on “what has he done now?”  And with good cause, as I had many times had to step in, and in one case he told me years later, he was sure I was going to fire him.  But how could I?  He reminded me so much of … me… at both my best and worst.  I was slightly ahead of him on growing up, and while I didn’t have favorites, this one like Pooh always brought a smile to my face regardless.  As I sat down, the HR person simply wanted to know …. what I was doing to develop his career, because they were tracking him as a diverse candidate.  The fact I didn’t KNOW that… yea, I bluffed through that, and walked out with an even bigger smile.  I had absolutely no idea about his  “diversity”…at least THAT kind of diversity 😉 

Seth is the youngest Avett, and in most family systems they are the “fun” kid, and that certainly was the case with him.  Like a lot of the musicians we have looked at, he started at an early age, got into bands in high school, and had some success.  And eventually found that there was not much acceptance for their rock music, and fell into playing with each other.  It is hard to discern which brother takes the lead on what as they both bring songs to the table, and then jointly edit them, which ends up with a blended voice.  

There definitely was a “looking up to the older brother phase”, but now it feels very much like a real partnership across the whole band family. The bio of the band he wrote shows his amazing creativity with words, and I can easily imagine that he is the Pooh who brings those thoughts to the table to start the process… 

Like Pooh, our own teammate was always cooking up new and crazy ideas on things to do.  He even had the hair of a “mad scientist” … as I was losing mine, partly because of him.  But the creative energy was something we needed to make the big leaps in ideas that rocketed us forward.  He would often site in our meetings and suddenly say “I know!”… and we would all be quiet and listen… what we had been observing would shift …to a new Promise…and then, bring our own talents to, as you will hear through the next few days.  One was figuring out how to get a mission-critical application that ran on NeXTStep to be portable.  This was when laptops were expensive, and NeXT didn’t really support them well… and yet, he stuck with it… mostly.  

He got one to work.  Check.  Could we come up with directions to give to the “desktop” team to do 70…. Sorta.  It was lucky he fell in love, and that gave me a deadline – you can’t leave to drive 12 hours to see her…  until I get the directions.  So – on the back of a piece of a cardboard box( as in he reached for something and tore off the end of a box…), in purple flair… I WISH I had saved it because people don’t believe 1) that was what it was, and 2) I accepted it.  It was and I did, because I knew it was going to work, and it was the best effort he could do.  Turning that scrawl into something better was a bridge too far, and I had other teammates that thrived on that part of the work.  We were able to get many built, and because it involved more than “his” work, it was a team accomplishment… 

The work world doesn’t really tolerate Pooh’s well.  I have actually had multiple senior leaders say that “our team doesn’t make mistakes”.  Yea – and guess where innovation comes from?  Who do you have around you that has the blinding flash of “wow we could…”  It is not an easy thing to find, nurture, and reward in our task-oriented, deadline-driven world.  And yet, observe around you carefully – everything, including again the iPad or iPhone you are likely using now, was exactly that once:  

An idea… that a Pooh had… and someone nurtured, and now we take it for granted. And then handed to other team members, breeding cooperation and collaboration – something that everyone TALKS about we desperately need. And, unless YOU observe how to construct work this way, it slips into yet another “individual achievement”.  Which is why so many leaders have no idea how to work together – it is not taught, modeled, or rewarded. 

This song harkens back to the reality of accepting what people are, versus what you want or need them to be. This season and these teammates taught me:  well-formed teams don’t have a lot of perfect people – they have a perfect combination of… differences.  Blending the unique talents together is not only more productive, but it is also more fun. And given the way times are presenting unique “opportunities” that we can NEVER anticipate or plan for, I Promise you better start building that team… now.   Think about Christopher Robin and his merry band – individually they are characters… but together, they are skipping and bouncing, twirling and swirling.  And the quicker you observe your role and your players and start to lead that way, the better your teams will be, and the more you will be able to smile as you … Live and Die. 

 

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