What. The. Crap.
You know what else is pissing me off lately? Leadership. Listen: I am no leader. I am not a born leader, I have never had a wish to lead, I am not a control freak (unless it comes to the grey in my hair). Yet I read Colin Powell's book on leadership, and while Colin and I don't see eye to eye on much of anything politically, I do admire his stance on What Makes a Good Leader. (Which is why, I'm 110% certain, he resigned from the Bush Administration...some people simply aren't trainable.) (And I think you know who I'm referring to...not mentioning any names, but his rhymes with Forj Sub-o-you Tush and he had an untrainable sidekick that rhymed with Sick Pain-y.)
Here's what I think good leaders should do:
1. Trust in your people.
2. Trust in the process.
3a. Be a good listener.
3b. Don't have an ego.
4a. Don't micromanage.
4b. Treat your employees like the grown ups they are.
4b. Treat your employees like the grown ups they are.
5. Encourage fun.
The end. It's as simple as that. Are you going to have lazy dickheads in your employ? Of course you are. Everybody has bad hires, every profession has dead weights. But the vast, VAST majority of your people are going to be doing their very very best for you. And you know how you know they want to do their very very best? They come through for you. Because they know you trust them. When they know you have their back. When they know you believe in them. Right now, I do what's required of me via my contract. The end. They've exhausted me, and I don't sense they trust me; and when I sense you don't trust me? Guess what? I don't trust you. Vicious. Circle.
I see it in my students. I get MUCH more work out of them when I just let them do it the way they want to. The work doesn't turn out necessarily the way I'd envisioned it, but my students actually have some pretty good ideas sometimes. I instituted a Caboose job because one of them noticed kids were fighting over who was going to get to close the door/turn off the lights when we left. Line Caboose job started, in-house fighting problem solved. Onward, little soldiers.
I don't understand this new way of thinking, this new way of seeing people as things to be micromanaged, pieces of data to be honed and pounded upon, molded and manipulated. I don't like how it feels, and it's making me angry and stressed out. The only thing I can think of for why it's happening is there appears to be a Noxious Culture of Pervasive Fear everywhere these days, and people think if they just make more rules and dictate more things, everything will be okay. If we just give teachers a script and tell them exactly what to say, how to say it, when to say it, and we make everything and everyone THE SAME (except then turn around and tell them to differentiate to meet everyone at their various different levels...except make sure it's THE SAME), then the data will be achieved. The children will magically overcome their home lives and genetic issues etc and so forth, and Nirvana will ensue. If we just combine 10 jobs into 1 then people will be more productive and we'll save money and make money and Nirvana will ensue.
Meanwhile, teachers and Corporate America friends I know are popping Xanax to get through a year. That doesn't sound like any kind of Nirvana I want to live in. And here I am dreading Mondays and hitting up monster.com now and then to see what else is out there for a 43 year old woman overly skilled in teaching verbs and nouns and adjectives. Preferably something that doesn't involved data, dickheads, or drudgery. Three Damned D's.
The irony being, of course, that usually the very thing you're trying to control and contain ends up controlling and containing YOU. You try to fix it, and you break it more in the process (here, I should put up a picture of the holes I drilled in my bedroom wall when the wall wouldn't cooperate with the curtain rod. I "fixed" it...i.e., put a band-aid on it. And now the whole frickin' thing is collapsing...meanwhile, I get to stare at all the big, gaping holes I gouged in a wall, every time going: jesus god, THAT'S gonna cost me when I move out).
I'm not advocating mass anarchy; we need rules to keep the sociopaths in check. What I'm saying is: loosen up, trust your people, and watch some magic happen. Will there be dickwads who take advantage? Yes, of course. But those dickwads will eventually move on or you figure out who they are and make their lives a living hell until they're encouraged to move on. Everybody else? Ice Cream Mondays! Nap Time Tuesdays! Wear What You Want Wednesdays! so on and so forth. I have tons of these. I think Congress needs to start a Ministry of Fun Day Events Planning. I won't even need a staff. Just a comfy work chair and peace and quiet. And let people do what they're best at: their jobs. You do your job, I'll do mine, and let's call all this weirdness off.
Just some thoughts I'm having on this exhausting but insomniac night.
But I want to end on a happy note, or at the very least an amusing story. Sort of as a reward to you for getting through all the crap I spewed above. There are happy things going on in the world, and so I'm going to end on a happy note plus one fun story:
Once, a long while ago, I was at a South African friend's apartment (sadly we were in Buckhead/Atlanta, NOT South Africa). She was from Johannesburg, and while she was dressing, I watched a news story about the baboons of Johannesburg. Apparently, they're all thugs. People have built up Johannesburg so much over the years, it's encroached upon Baboon Territory, and so they've all come down from the hills to walk the streets and mug the humans. Baboons are bullies. Bullies and gangsters and thugs. They'll walk right up to you, in broad daylight, and snatch your purse. Or open your car door and start rifling through your things, not even caring. Cops schmops! Go ahead and make a baboon's day. Very Planet of the Apes.
So I'm watching the baboon news story, laughing my ridiculous butt off, and I call to her, "Hey! This is hysterical! Baboons are robbing people in your hometown!" And she comes out of the bathroom, very very somber, and goes, "Oh no no, Amy. No. It's not funny. It's a very serious problem. I was once mugged by a baboon. He stole my sunglasses, some gum, and a very expensive pen from my purse. I was just thankful they're usually not interested in money. They can be very frightening. One time, my cousin had one open up her car door and go through all of the things in her glove compartment. Every time she moved, he growled at her. She was terrified. And they can't even arrest them. They bite."
Whenever I need a pick-me-up, sometimes I just close my eyes and try to envision what this looks like. I'm sure it is very frightening as you're experiencing it. I'm sure. And yet, honestly. HOW many people can go around and God's truth tell people: Once upon a time, I was mugged by a baboon. I mean, seriously.
And in Japan? Maquaque monkeys use coins to buy snacks. I don't know where they get the coins from, but if they're mugging people in Tokyo to pay for the snacks, that is just going to make my whole damn year I'm not even kidding.
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