In With The Old

I grew up in a small town and I guess some of those traits are hard to shake. I’m told I can still be such a huckster.

I still tell people, “Your lights are on” as they walk away from their car and the lights automatically shut off. A second later as their horn honks because they automatically locked their door with a remote, I turn around and wave as if someone just drove by, saw me and wanted to honk hello. Most people just smile that tolerant smile and shake their head as if they just had a close encounter with Eb on Green Acres.

I pop popcorn in the pan, not the microwave (tastes so much better) and I always buy cars with manual windows because I’ve seen that little motor die too many times in other cars that were intended to last more than three years.

My wife gets roses on Valentine’s Day even though that’s when they are most expensive, and she gets chocolate, despite the social mores that tell you Dr. Phil may not approve. I also proposed to her on one knee.

Despite my mandatory computer acumen, I am still pretty handy with White-Out and no part of me wanted to see the upstart Marlins in the World Series instead of the sacred Cubbies from Wrigley.

I guess it would be hard not to be labeled an old fashioned guy, but does that have to be a bad thing? Can old-fashioned values dovetail with current societal needs and still be successful? In the end, has society really changed that much?

Shock the System

Despite automation, computer driven logic, exit polls, test audiences and product extension, isn’t the human animal basically a simple one with uncomplicated, core needs? If an old fashioned flair was used to resist or modify some of today’s commonplace business buzz, would that be all bad?

What if, instead of trying to have focus groups and therapy sessions we suggested that a troubled employee talk to a good friend? Our job application could have a space that said; “Name three people we should contact in case you flip out one day.”

Now your boss overloads you with work, you have to get the kids to soccer and your end-of-the-year budget adjustments are due, so you stumble down to HR and say, “I’m flipping out!” HR sees you, pulls your file, calls your college roommate from 1987 and says, “Here, talk to Randy.” Randy gets on the phone and says, “Dude! Get over it, man.” Might work.

What if we stopped calling attention to our diversity and started comparing our similarities? Hey… Pretty novel approach, huh?

I worked for a small engineering firm when I first got out of college. In the summer we instituted steak day every payday. Around 11:30 one of the surveyors or civil engineers would light the coals out in the parking lot. At noon we’d grab whatever meat we’d brought in for ourselves, grill out and eat at a picnic table we built.

There were only eight of us. One was African American, one was Hispanic, one was Asian, two were white females, the others were white too (you know –- “immigration white” — Italian, German and Irish). We didn’t know we were supposed to be appreciating our diversity.

We liked eating together and enjoying each other’s company and similarities. As years pass we’ve all been to each other’s weddings, baby’s baptisms, and we’ve shared the emotions of loss too. No

manuals, no instructors telling us how we should value each other, just common-ground friendships.

Those that ever talked the others down learned quickly that such behavior was not appreciated and it was put to a halt; self-policing through peer expectations. It worked well.

What if, instead of hiring the next consultant to tell us how to communicate or become highly effective, we had instructional staff meetings that were led by people in the department who already had strengths in these areas?

For example, if you walked by a placard in the main lobby of your office that read, “Bring a brown bag lunch to the Boardroom Thursday at noon… Chuck from accounting is going to talk about what he does to maintain his flawless state audit record since 1995 and what he does to keep his employees so darn happy,” I’ll bet you’d be there. Credibility would be unchallenged.

What if supervisors had to take staff’s jobs in their absence instead of hiring temporary help? Maybe once they experienced what their assigns went through during a given day, they’d have a whole new appreciation for them.

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