If anyone tells you there is only one way to do something, they are lying or very misinformed. And it is particularly true in IT systems – both being told there is only one way, and that not being true. Our current predicament was caused by an IT person who was disgruntled with the way systems were being built, and left the org to build systems “in the business” – otherwise known as “without oversight”. And because he built them quicker and also knew more about the underlying business, the business used his group more and more. Now – those systems had to be replaced and completely re-implemented by “our” official IT group… and I had to be his partner…
… if you know me at all, being told what and how to do things is not an effective approach 😉 Here, not only did I have to do it that guy’s way, I had to smile and make him think I was actually his “partner”. Prima Donna is not high enough on the scale to rate how he lectured us on “how to do things”… and I just had to smile, say “thank you” and implement what he said to do. Because with his stamp of approval, our system would be implemented, and at least my portion of the madness would crest.
Journey’s manager is another piece of the band that came from the wreckage of Santana ending. Herbie Herbert was “just a roadie” who realized that these pieces could be put together as partners into a much better band. It was his guidance that had found Steve, and now the rewards for everyone were clear. With a sharp business sense, Herbert brought everything in-house under the name of Nightmare Productions and pioneered the use of large-screen videos (via the creation of Nocturne Productions), impressive lighting, and sound for stadium-sized concerts.
He also partnered with Stanley Mouse who was a graphics artist in the Bay Area in the ’60s who was responsible for much of the iconic artwork you would know: the Grateful Dead’s Skeleton and Roses, many of the posters promoting acts like Quicksilver and Big Brother and the Holding Company, and… for the style of the rest of the Journey Catalog. Like my own use of empower, the band had stumbled into one-word titles for their albums from the start. Now Stanley and his partner Alton Kelly, another great designer, came up with the idea of a beetle with wings being the image to signify the band. All of the graphics on stage, albums, and other references to the band were emblazoned with the images that are now iconic.
The prospect of “aiding and abetting” a prima donna, someone who played a role in this was disgusting… and yet, I had a partner that completely changed my approach. He had learned how to work WITH this person to make him THINK he was doing what he wanted, and yet, was actually doing what we all needed to be completed. I watched as he not only managed our business leader, but also me – helping keep me from getting angry, and directing my energy into a much more positive use. We built a great team, and sure, that guy “thought” we were doing things “his way”, but we ended up with the first piece, and for a long time, the ONLY piece of the solution that was completely built and managed by IT… and was completely Sarbanes-Oxley compliant… and if you know about that, my condolences.
He also was such an attentive partner that he realized I didn’t have a good coat. Seems odd, but coming into the building before 6 and home after 1am each night, I just didn’t really think about it. Run in, run out, who cares. He did – and this time of year, I always break out “his” coat. His point was that I owed it not to me, but to the team. I couldn’t afford to get sick and let him and the other members down. Again it sounds odd now, but that shift made me realize that he was right – my capacity was critical to all of our work together.
We would complete our project together, and I would later have another challenging partner, but I had learned this approach from the master by then. We would slowly box yet another team trying to go around the proper systems and approach, and rather than cause a confrontation, we eventually would win them over to working with us. That partner years later would reach out and talk about what a great partnership we had – not realizing my own personal view of him was… for another time 😉 For today, Courage takes many different forms, particularly in complicated partnership situations. Step back from what appears to be an ‘easy fight’ and you may find an approach that can work much better for all. In fact, it could be called a Departure… Any Way you Want it…