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wondering about Promise…

by | Dec 4, 2020 | Promise, The Avett Brothers, wonder

I know I have written before about the great office I had for this season – whiteboards on both big walls – and a big conference room table – a very nice dining table, actually.  Anyway, none of that mattered as it was very early in the morning, and the whole team was in there, seated around the table… and if you wonder about tech guys and mornings, that is never a good sign.  Overnight there had been a hiccup that meant none of the users of the NeXT computers could log on, work, or run their applications… and we really didn’t know why… but our pagers had been going off since very early, and now we were all gathered to … what? 

A small aside – my Dad was a computer person, when my Mom couldn’t sleep, she would say “Tell me again how computers work.”  I will try to NOT put you to sleep, but a little discussion of “the cloud” is warranted.  You have to remember in 1994, a 56K modem was a big deal… We had small servers set up on each corner of each floor of each building providing local services on behalf of remote servers.  So the wonder was it felt like the computer you were using was “next door” – when it was actually across the street (literally) or if it was a REAL disaster, not in DC at all, but out in Herndon, VA.

Those servers needed to know 1) who you are, 2) what you are trying to do, and 3) that you are allowed to do that.  And just for good measure, we updated that information every night in case we got a new employee, or someone left, or you changed roles… all from a trusted  “master source”. Except the master source was actually pretty flaky.  For reasons another team was sorting out, it had decided that it was reasonable we had NO users, deleted all of them … and our downstream servers all dutifully deleted all of the information, and were now sitting there about as helpful as a doorstop. If you were paranoid, and we sorta were, you could have thought they did this just to the NeXT computers…but no it hit everyone, and that meant a LOT of people running around… 

Watching a high-performing team work together turns out to be rare.  I wondered once if people in a different team of 30 had been on a good team… ever, in any context, church, non-profit, sports.  Anywhere.  Half raised their hand… but that meant that to half, “Team” was a bad experience… which completely floored me, and I am not sure I ever asked that question again. I started assuming that “Team” was a dirty word to many, and I had to demonstrate the need, ability, and skills to making every member realize their part to build one.  I had been on so many good ones (and a few…. well..) it was sad to realize that this Promise was not normal… 

Songwriting is like that also – we so rarely see it happen, but as I always implore you, watch this video.  You will actually see Seth start the process, and then Scott come in, and add his part, and the magic starts to happen, and you will see it on their faces… as they start to complete each other’s thoughts, statements, and end up with a good song that then completely changes into an amazing different song.  Stay with it till 4:25… 

…that is what I got to watch that morning…the times that building the team pays off. Luckily we had been together long enough that we almost had a silent language of who would do what.  And the character I want to talk about was Owl – the wise, calm voice that is the mentor/teacher of others, and appears as the most intelligent character but is actually quite scatterbrained and long-winded.  Ours was all of that, and brilliant with a critical quality – he could think deeply with the ____ hitting the fan all around him.  That calmness/detachment I still have no idea where it came from…. 

… but we knew that our team had others who would get the system up immediately and that by tomorrow, Owl would Promise to have found a way to program something so THIS would NEVER happen again… the ultimate compliment you can pay an engineer.  So the “scatterbrained and long-winded” we all knew – just let him be… and it will make sense to him, and we will eventually be able to sort it out, and catch up to him.  An amazing wonder was pairing him up with Pooh:  life-changing, or life-threatening, depending on what they were up to, and how they were feeling. The creative wonder from those two, when coupled with another member of the team we’ll describe tomorrow, well, they are the benchmark of the best team I have ever been on… 

…. and notice I say “On”.  I mostly got out of their way, ran interference with those above, and added a little encouragement along the way.  I am currently working with a new team, and it has been a journey of exploration, and today, as I was driving to meet with them, I started to map them to the Pooh Characters… and now I have a roadmap on how to help them move from a group of random players into a team that will, I have great confidence, be amazing.  You can do that too… if you really start to realize what roles are needed, and that, those characters are metaphors for the qualities humans bring differently, and the same, to everything.  So use what you have, instead of always playing… I Wish I Was…

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