Bad Days:

“Don’t miss the chance to do good just because you are having a bad day.” When I heard this earlier today, it sent my mind in two directions. I wonder how often I do that. How often do I hold back or just not help because I’m having a bad day. Probably more often than I want to admit.

Perhaps even more telling is wondering where I would be today if people had always held back and not helped me just because they were having a bad day. Consider this.

I was eight or nine when I was trying to put the bridle on my pony. I was in a field at the edge of town and Tarzan was not being very cooperative. Instead of standing still and letting me put the bit in his mouth, he picked that time to jerk back and try to run away. I lost my balance and fell, somehow managing to have a stick poke into my leg. Since I could stick my finger into the resulting hole, even at that young age I knew that stitches were likely in my future.

I managed to walk to a nearby house and knocked. I asked the lady who came to the door if I could call or if she would call to get my mother to come and get me. Her response? “I don’t need this today. I don’t believe that you got a hole in your leg and even if I did, I’m not fooling with such nonsense today. You walked here so can walk yourself home.” I suspect that the most important point is that I still remember the incident all these years later. Her bad day turned into my limping walk home.

Like me, you too can probably think of a few times when someone could have helped but didn’t, just because they were having a bad day. What we tend not to remember are those times when someone did help, despite the bad day they were having. The fact of it is that we probably didn’t even know that they were having a bad day. They just helped and nothing was said or hinted at about their bad day.

There is nothing very complicated about this. We all get many opportunities to do good, to help. Sometimes we can follow through and help, we can contribute to the success of someone else and sometimes we can’t for various good reasons. My only point is that we should try to avoid using our bad day as an excuse not to help, not to do good.

Kid Spies:

What if I were to tell you that your location within one meter was being tracked while you are at work or perhaps while you are at most any public location? What if I further told you that there was no way for you to opt out of being tracked? Finally what if I told you that you were being tracked for your safety and for the safety of everyone around you? In addition, I offered no evidence to support the notion that this tracking actually made you or anyone else safer? Would you think the tracking was a good idea and something that you would welcome? I doubt that you would and neither would I.

As objectionable as such tracking would be for us, it is real and in place for many American children in our schools. These young people are being subjected to such tracking and are being conditioned from the age of five or six to see being tracked is normal and to be expected. For those children, the notion of personal privacy is being undermined and the idea of cameras and other technology being used to know where they are at all times is being normalized.

The tracking is managed by the radio signals from their cell phones; and if they don’t have a cell phone, they are required to wear a wrist band that serves the same purpose. Cameras supplement the radio signals. You don’t think anything like this is happening in schools in your community? You may be right, but then again, you may be wrong. The practice is present in many schools today and the number is increasing.

My only point is this. Unless you think that your being tracked with records of where you are and where you have been along with how long you were there is perfectly acceptable, subjecting children to the Kid Spies is not acceptable either.

Does Anyone Know What They Are Doing

Does Anyone Know What They Are Doing?

Have you ever been driven up the wall by a mainliner? ‘What’s a mainliner?’ you ask. Read on. You likely are already familiar with the type.

Mainliners go into things in disorganized and unprepared ways

For these players, their approach is to dive in without any pretense of or need for preparation or organization. They rely on their instincts and agility. They are usually from the group who never bothered to do their homework in high school. Later, they wrote their college papers the night before they were due, without inhibiting themselves with trivia such as a trip to the library. In a pinch, they used someone else’s notes or reading list. The solution is always at hand if the player is observant enough and clever enough to recognize it.

Mainliners start before understanding what is expected

This technique is axiomatic for mainliners. To find out what is expected is a waste of time. The player has no intention of doing anything other than what comes to hand. This is called ‘winging it.’

Someone once said that if you do not know where you are going, you probably will not get there. The mainliner says that if he does not know where he is going, wherever he ends up is where he was headed. If played right, the people who count define it as the only place to be. Ultimately, no one likes admitting getting taken for a ride, especially to somewhere he did not want to go.

Mainliners solve problems before knowing why the problems came up in the first place

It is like a doctor doing surgery for an undiagnosed condition. The doctor raises the knife and slices. Quickly, the patient has a visible condition, usually with a lot of blood thrown in just for good measure. Now it does not matter how it turns out. If the bleeding stops, the doctor is a hero. If not, the doctor made his best effort, but the patient was too far gone to be saved.

When a mainliner in your organization creates a predicament, he tries to find a scapegoat for the problems. People ask, ‘Why do we have this problem?’ The mainliner likes to say something responsive. Whenever possible, skilled players blame the problem on someone outside the organization or on an employee who has left. At a minimum, they attribute it to someone who is out of favor or someone who cannot defend himself. Should an explanation actually be forthcoming, the player refers to it as a cover–up or an attempt to avoid responsibility. ‘Double talk’ is also a good term to work in somewhere. Finding out real causes and explanations is not in the player’s best interest. People might start looking for valid explanations for problems as a routine behavior. This lays the player open to who knows what.

Understanding the mainliner’s motivations is easy. He does not want to be found out. The mainliner does not know how to do the job needing done and would rather foul everything up than admit the truth. The player’s goal is to bluff his way through, no matter what the cost.

Managing Mainliners:

With this in mind, counter play proceeds like this. Do not accept excuses and explanations that are not factual or do not have a ring of truth. If things are getting worse, if problems are getting out of hand, if business is going down the tube, the likelihood is that you have a mainliner at work.

The best counter play starts with a clear notion of what the goal or task is. It then extends to defining what progress is. Finally, counter play sets specific criteria for deciding if things are moving toward or away from the goal.

If there is no movement toward the goal or especially if there is movement away from it, it is time to hold the player accountable. Listen to the excuses and explanations and then hold him responsible.

Much of the time and especially in technical jobs or in complex situations, knowing whether the problems are the work of a mainliner or are unavoidable is difficult.

Frequently, a single person gets into a position where only he appears to be qualified to judge his work. The result is that the mainliner has no accountability to anyone who can knowledgeably and objectively judge his work. He has, for all intents and purposes, a free rein.

The issue with mainliners is that no one knows how to separate problems caused by the mainliner’s behavior from situations that are going sour despite reasonable and skilled action. If you have an active problem, the only counter play is to develop a strategy to evaluate the project and the people objectively. The key here is to be sure the plan includes outside people who are experts in the problem area.

For you, the best counter play is to know that mainliners can and will do in your company while they drive you up the wall, given the opportunity. Since you may not detect them until it is too late, any important project should be mainliner–proofed in advance. Built into every important project should be an evaluation or monitoring process separate from and not linked to the project. This process needs to include people who are qualified to judge every aspect of the project. They also must have the proven ability to tell when circumstances are the problem and when the people in the project do not know what they are doing. Just be sure that the monitoring activity is not itself a haven for a mainliner of its own.

Now you know and there you go.