Archives for posts with tag: Work

I only follow a couple blogs but my favorite is Leadership Freak by Dan Rockwell. The site focuses on leadership and culture in organizations. Recently, Dan had two blogs that dealt with working with imperfect organizations and imperfect people.

In the organization one, he emphasized the distinction and importance of the concept of acceptance. His point was that you first need to accept the limitations or constraints of your firm in order to have any influence or chance to improve it. And that by accepting the way things were, was not approval; just a place to start working from.

One of my jobs as CFO was with a firm going through a ton of change. The Chairman/CEO was new as were most of the top C level jobs–HR, Legal and me as CFO. It only took me a short time to realize that the place was a mess. What to do? My old mentor, Frank, said I could not quit as this was a public company with shareholders and debtors counting on the new CFO! So I tried to do what I always did: rebuild my own financial team, forge strong relationships with the other senior people and try to relink the parts of the organization that had come undone. Often I would seek out and work with the second in command of an area when I sensed they were the key to some positive change. All this takes a lot more time and energy but you can improve anything if you really try.

On the idea of imperfect people, Dan’s blog emphasized that you need to take the weak or quirky sides of people as well as their strengths. In staff roles, I saw this a lot. You could have a tax person who knew all the critical parts of the the IRS Code which impacted your firm but could not, to save their own life, try to explain any of this to others who needed to know. A good leader tries to bridge these gaps initially, with the hope that eventually the people will find a way to work together. And sometimes it really works.

The main point here is not a new revelation but maybe a new way to look at things.  Imperfections are a big part of organizational life. In fact, imperfections are a big part of most personal lives and relationships as well. But, the important takeaway is that you can still make improvements if you learn to accept and move forward versus becoming so frustrated that you do nothing. After all, none of us are perfect!

When I retired from USG Corp., my friend, Frank, gave me a gift of a plaque with an Ancient Chinese text called: Master in the Art of Living, which had these thoughts:

-A Master in the art of living makes little distinction between work and play, labor and leisure, education and recreation, and love and religion

-He hardly knows which is which but pursues his own vision of excellence in whatever he does, leaving others to decide whether he is working or playing

My friend, Frank, was an executive coach for individuals and teams at large companies. He wrote me a note with the plaque that he tries to get all his clients to reach this goal. In his mind, somehow I had done so.

Another management consultant I knew once phrased this differently. When you are in a job or career where you are excited about getting up and going to work and don’t worry how long you work and whether its a work day or weekend, you are doing what you should be doing. You are self driven. You are in the right place.

When I was luckily able to fully retire at 55, I spent some time thinking about my work years in light of these two thoughts. I looked back at my four years in public accounting, my dozen or so years each with Donn Corp. and USG Corp. and my last few years at IMC Global. I calculated that probably two thirds of my career, I was truly looking forward to work. I was self motivated and charged up for 21 out of 33 years.

In talking to a lot of people over the years, I have concluded that I was lucky to have had that many really good years. So many people, from staff to line and from secretaries to executives do not feel that blessed in their work lives. Some are OK or satisfied with their work time but this is not the same thing, in my mind.

People ask me how do you achieve this concept of joy and enthusiasm in work? I don’t know. I know that you do know when you have it. But how to get there is very complicated. I was lucky, again, to often be put in complex and challenging situations where I ended up with a lot of control of the outcomes. I also got to work with, be mentored by, and to mentor some great people. These things I know helped me and greatly influenced how I felt about work. I wrote about some of these in my first book, The Business Zoo.

Three thoughts as we end the year:

First, look at your job or career and think about how you really feel about it. If you are not really excited about your work and are able to make a change, consider doing so.

Second, in 2019 I hope to publish my second book which will go into a much more personal level of my work, some of the unique people I encountered, those who mentored me and those I mentored. We will touch on stories from the book along the way in this blog and maybe some of these will be helpful.

Third, that’s for reading, have a wonderful Holiday Season and a great 2019!