I Like Sheep
Well, that was the last of them. The only one left was me. It would be a long wait before the team “sheeped” me. Not only did I normally keep my laptop with me, I religiously locked it even to step away for a minute and even if I didn’t, the screensaver lock was set at 2 minutes. I was curious how they had gotten to John, though.
I was manager of the Desktop Operations Team for a large non profit organization. I had been handed the DOT team for two reasons. First was that due to some reorganizations, we were short one team leader. And second, the Operations Team was not particularly functional. The engineers ranged from very good to brilliant. But, the were a bunch of individuals. There was no cross training. Everyone did their own work but didn’t really step up to help when a coworker was unavailable.
My task was to build them into a team. You know that saying,
There’s no “I” in team
Well, you can’t spell TEAM without “ME!”
My philosophy on building team unity has always been that by appealing to everyone’s self interest, you paradoxically get them to pull together. But, you have to be genuine. And you have to let the team know that as the manager, you expect a lot from them. . .AND. . .you are willing to give a lot back.
John was a perfect example. He was one of the guys who was brilliant. But he was also young. I think he was about 25. And while I Like Prima Donnas, still you would like your Prima Donna to also be a leader. John also loved to play jokes on his coworkers. Jokes are a really hard thing to gauge. If the manager totally squashes them it sucks all the life out of the team. If the manager allows too many, especially if team unity is a little shaky already, it can create bad feelings and potentially harassment issues. I knew that if I was going to pull the DOT team together, it all had to start with John.
I addressed it in my first team meeting. John was sitting in one corner with his feet up. (Not gonna fight that battle right now.)
Some of you have asked me about the company policy of locking your desktops. I understand it’s inconvenient to constantly have to unlock them. That’s why I’m implementing a policy that messing with another team member’s machine. . .
Oh, man. Here it comes!
. . .is now an official policy.
If you find a coworker’s machine unlocked, you have my permission to mess with it.
Are you serious?
Absolutely. However, we don’t need to embarrass the person outside our own team, so if you find someone’s machine unlocked, send an email from that person to the team with the subject line: I Like Sheep. We’ll know.
Oh man, this is gonna be GREAT!
John’s feet were no longer on the conference table. He was leaning forward and engaged. So far, so good.
Two things happened almost immediately. First, the team got much better about locking their machines. And second, we started to get “Sheep” messages. Typically, the person who found an open machine only had enough time to shoot off a quick email. Not to worry, the rest of the team soon found a collection of sheep pictures off the internet and would bombard the victim with sheep messages.
And as the team started watching out for each other, they started watching out for each other. You could feel it in the team meetings and the tone of the kidding that happened in the cubicles started to change.
John, was the most enthusiastic about trying to catch his coworkers. But he knew that as the weeks went by, he was becoming more and more of a target himself. He was very careful. The harder his coworkers worked, the more careful John became. I should say that it was at this point we had to implement a rule that you could not hack into a coworker’s computer to send a “Sheep” message.
So, finally seeing the “I Like Sheep” message from John was surprising. Bill sat across the cubicle wall from Joe.
So, how’d you guys finally get John?
Well, it took a couple of us. I distracted him by asking him about some registry entries or something. To talk to me over the wall he had to turn his back to his computer. While his back was turned, Chris snuck into his cubicle and sent the message.
Yeah, it was great!
Yes. Yes it was, in more ways than one.
Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife and thirteen children. He is not fond of sheep.