Wednesday’s Leadership Lesson

As I continue to observe and reflect upon the behaviors of human beings in a work context, I have developed standards for judging the usefulness of people as they go about their assigned tasks.  What I am looking for in others is:

  1. Orientation to reality
  2. Competence (and it won’t develop/exist without orientation to reality)
  3. Some evidence of basic goodwill – not a false altruism that thrives in the absence of an orientation to reality

If you haven’t got the first or second of these qualities, you’re not going to be able to produce value or function as a leader.  If you haven’t got the third of these qualities, you will fail to build and maintain trust necessary for the work group or unit to function.  Failures to have and develop these qualities lead inexorably to the Potemkin Village model of public service and, unsubsidized by redistribution of taxpayer wealth, to the collapse of commercial and industrial ventures.

Monday’s Leadership Lesson

If you’ve been hired to work as a manager, understand the “product” the unit you’re responsible for produces.  You’ve got to understand two things in this regard when you work in an agency that provides services:

  1. What it is the agency has been chartered to do
  2. What the agency actually does

In regard to each, if you have a lick of sense, you will apply a value test.  Simply put, you will ask yourself, regarding the service or services provided, “Is it valuable?”  Your task is to promote and encourage what is valuable and, if you find your agency or company is all about something loathsomely else, to find ways of providing or producing value.  You have a moral obligation to promote value and work to transform a bogus waste of “customer” money into a producer of value.

If you got your job because you convinced the person or group that hired you that your goal is exact abject compliance with their demands, that you would, in essence, “suck-up and kick-down,” then you are an unworthy person deserving of nothing more than contempt.  If you are a careerist hack committed to the Potemkin Village model of public or any other service, you have another kind of problem, but are still deserving only of contempt.

You have a moral obligation to foster, to promote value.

Post-Surgery Check-Up

A two hyphenate headline 😮

The Vzzzt-Bot family got up crack of dawn yesterday morning, dressed in haste and hit the road by 6:30 am to drive to the orthopedist’s clinic for an 8:00 am appointment. Looong school zone slow down about a third of the way there. Then traffic backed up at least one mile to make the turn on to Hwy 96. No accident, just normal rush hour for that part of Middle Tennessee. The left turn off Hwy 96 to I don’t recall the name of the street or avenue narrowed from two lanes turning left to one lane without warning – road or utilities work. So we arrived at 8:15. Longish wait. Caution-Lady had packed Seventy-Six’s diaper bag with every necessary except a diaper. While I continued to wait, she took the boy and went in search of diapers.

Not long after that, I was taken back to see the doctor. Showed me pictures taken with the “scope” of horribly frayed cartilage in the joint, another torn bit of cartilage forming a flap, and the acromium bone spurs that looked like the roof of that cave I paddled in Winchester. Then he showed me the partially torn supraspinatus – he said he left it alone because it looked as if it had enough strands holding that it would heal on its own with the other wreckage cleared away. The “After” photos showed that he’d done a very neat, workmanlike job removing the frayed bits, the torn flap, and the bone spurs. He said it is “unlikely” the spurs will recur, but if they do “it would take a long time.”

The problem with my left wrist and forearm, as well as similar left-side problems, he said, are residual effects of the nerve-block administered at surgery. “I’m sorry you’re experiencing this, but it will clear up,” the doctor said. He reported that the longest such effect he knew of was similar to mine and afflicted his medical partner for some six weeks after he’d repaired the man’s rotator cuff. Two to three weeks is apparently the norm for this side-effect.

He asked about physical therapy, and I explained about my experience Monday with the group his clinic recommends. “Hmmm, that doesn’t sound good,” he said. So he wrote me an order that would be accepted at any physical therapy clinic. Our realtor, Brenda, was horribly injured in an automobile wreck when a Stepford city policeman drove his squad car into her van. She’s recommended another group that she said helped her a lot. I’ll be calling them today.

Finally, the doctor told me to “come back in two weeks, and we’ll decide then” when I can return to work. In the mean time, I am not to lift anything heavy one handed, nor two-handed as much as 10 pounds. And I still may not drive a stick-shift car.

Rain fell during part of the drive home, and I was entertained by the way the water drops were forced to run up the windshield because it had been RainX-ed. Seventy-Six slept most of the way. He’d behaved really well during the diaper expedition (Caution-Lady bought him a Baby Einstein book while they were out) and in the waiting room. At home we ate a hurried lunch. Wife and son wolfed fish-sticks and sweet potato fries, and I ate a turkey sandwich and four generic fig-newton cookies (the name-brand fig bars are way too ‘dry’ for my taste). The boy wanted to bite off the corners of my fig cookies, and I let him. Cautious Wife was a little concerned because those cookies have, I don’t know, trace amounts of trans-fat in them.

Then she took him off to the sitter’s house (remember, the kid weighs more than 10 pounds), and went off to some teacher-training activity to use a computer based learning program that, and this is my guess, doesn’t make up for lack of parental involvement at home and school in the child’s academic endeavors.

I scanned the medical note stating I’d need to be off another two weeks and emailed that to the office, then telephoned and spoke with the manager there. She said Ron, my colleague across the hall who sends me most of my referrals, was wondering if I was going to be home in the afternoon because he thought he would stop by. No problem, not going anywhere, tell him to come on by. Exchanged emails with another co-worker from the office.

Figured Ron wouldn’t leave the office until about 3:30; I set out walking a route through the various roads in my new neighborhood that I figured would be a little longer than the one I usually take. Pretty humid out there; had been some cloudbursts earlier as evidenced by patches of damp pavement here and there. At the first of my final two left turns, I saw Ron turing his pickup truck onto the street as I turned. I called his name, and he stopped, looked over at me surprised. He had passed me walking, but had not “seen” me.

“Get in,” he said clearing a place for me on the small pickup truck’s passenger seat. The thing he’d moved out of the way was a gift basket he’d brought from the folks at the office, along with a card. He said he’d driven around the neighborhood, but couldn’t remember the street name or address, and had thrown away the directions I’d printed for him a few weeks ago. He and his son brought a trailer out to the house to pick up the old carpeting that I’d had set aside for him. An excellent quality carpet, although gray in color and used by us as a drop cloth when painting, he was able to cut clean portions for use in a rental property. In exchange, I had asked for and he delivered a Ducktona Duck River Speedway shirt. I like the logo – way better than the subdued duckhead on the race-track’s website. Maybe the designer, Kim Griggs, will post a photo of the design – but it’s too cool to just scan and post without permission.

Anyway, at the house we chatted about the office, because in spite of myself, I honestly love my work (even though I despise the Potemkin Village model of public service that appears to have gained ascendency in most government venues). Have you ever watched that late 1960s musical, How to Succeed In Business Without Really Trying? Watch it, and you will gain some understanding, if you are capable of reasoning from absurd extreme to actual practice, of how executive branch government operates.

I walked to the mailbox as Ron pulled out of the driveway. As he turned the vehicle to drive off, he rolled down the window and told me that his race car had been nearly totaled in a wreck at the track last weekend. None of the driver’s were hurt, but it sounds like Ron will have a lot of work to do putting the car back into working order.

The fruit basket was an unexpected bonus – I bagged and refrigerated grapes, pears, apples. Two oranges I left on the counter. Some candy was included in the faux grass (like a subdued version of the stuff that goes into Easter baskets), as well as snack packages of cookies and crackers. I ate a few grapes and a small package of Snackwell’s cookies.

By the time Caution-Lady and Seventy-Six returned, I’d got the dishwasher unloaded, reloaded, and the little guy’s high-chair tray cleaned off and dried. At supper we shared one of the oranges; according to the sticker grown in South Africa. Our little monkey liked the orange, and also ate a number of blueberries. Great kid – loves vegetables and fruit.

After dinner we cleaned up the kitchen. The Cautious One got some laundry in the machine. Seventy-Six and I played on the floor with a cookie sheet. He gets them out of the drawer under the bottom oven and carries them around beating on them to make noise. I got him to sit down on top of the rectangular metal thing like one would sit in a kayak, bracing his feet against the raised edge in front. Then I reached around from behind, took hold of the pan’s corners by his feet, and pushed him around on the den’s carpeted floor. He thought that was really fun, and I had to push him around the room at least three times making whooshing sounds until he became distracted by what Caution-Lady was doing in the kitchen.

Later, my wife, called “Mimi” by our son, played the piano for him, then set him up on her lap and let him hammer away at the keys while she played actual music. That kid loves the piano – an old Chickering upright, a gift from my mother, that predates my own birth. We sang silly songs. After that, we played with soft foam balls, throwing them around in the entry hall and playing “Bwaaawwwaaooong!” by flipping the doorstop affixed to the baseboard. Makes a great sound, and looks cool, too. We read nursery rhymes. We read a Goodnight Moon counting book. Exploring the house, Seventy-Six grabbed one of Caution-Lady’s running-shoe sneakers from her closet and tried to put his foot in it. I helped him balance, and he succeed in walking with one bare foot and one adult sneakered foot. Just to experiment, I put both shoes on his feet, and he walked a bit like that, too. We got some photos. Funny kid. He’d had a long and eventful day, and was ready for bed early. About an hour later we conked out, ourselves.

Bold Italics, Sound Familiar?

When we left the flat frozen northern farmland of our Christmas holiday, I also left behind the two books I’d been reading, Metzger’s The Canon of the New Testament: Its Origin, Development, and Significance, and Rossiter’s The Liberal Mind: The Psychological Causes of Political Madness. So, when the first Sunday of January rolled around and we had potluck at the Zachariades home with most of the Cafe Church congregation, I asked to borrow a couple of books. One, a book written for masses purporting to set forth the history of Arthurian legend and fact, and the other, a revisionist tome dealing with the factual basis for the claims and charges of the late United States senator Joe McCarthy.

Yesterday, reading on a break from my own writing and prep-work for today’s interview and testing, I read the following, and found the bit I’ve italicized in bold, infra, particularly applicable to our own time.

As with Chambers and the response to Martin Dies, there was as noted a cultural subtext embedded in the reaction to McCarthy. He was a rough-and-tumble scrapper from the boonies who hadn’t been to Yale or Harvard, spoke in blunt phrases, and taunted the smooth sophisticates in the salons of Georgetown and plush corridors of official power. His targets, often as not, were Ivy League respectable types in the mold of Hiss or Duggan. How could one believe such outlandish charges from such a lout, aimed at his social betters? One couldn’t, and one didn’t.

In which respect, it’s worth recalling that Hiss-Chambers, the original McCarthy fracas, and other security battles this side of the Atlantic erupted in the period 1948 – 50, before the truth about the Philby ring came filtering out from European sources. Guy Burgess and Donald Maclean didn’t abscond to Moscow until May of 1951, well over a year after McCarthy’s initial speeches. Kim Philby would be cleared of “third man” charges in 1955, only to bolt in 1963. Anthony Blunt wasn’t exposed in public as a Soviet agent until the 1970s. Had the truth about the Cambridge spies been general knowledge in 1948 or 1950, it’s likely the Chambers allegations, perhaps even the charges of McCarthy, would have been viewed in a different light. If it could happen in Great Britain, it could just possibly happen here. And, in fact, it did.

The parallels between the British and American cases weren’t coincidental, but sprang from similar intellectual and moral causes. In both countries, there had been a long decline of faith in Western institutions – beginning with religious faith itself, then spreading to other aspects of a culture that appeared in the depression era of the 1930s to be on its deathbed. To many already afflicted with anomie and dark misgivings, the economic/political crisis of the age looked like the coup de grace for traditional views and customs. The supposedly ironclad theories of Marx and Lenin and alleged wonders of Soviet planning were thought to have the answers no longer provided by the older culture.

Aiding the transition was the vast flowering of party front groups that has been noted. In these Potemkin village outfits, Communist ideas and projects were presented in appealing masquerade, and many who weren’t Communist to begin with, or ever, mingled freely with those who were – Marxism and its subspecies made respectable and fairly trendy by the systemic crisis.

Evans, Stanton. Blacklisted by History: The Untold Story of Senator Joe McCarthy and his Fight Against America’s Enemies. New York: Crown Forum, 2007. P. 64, italics mine.