Rodney, Allstate is having an email issue and they need you onsite.
Whenever the next plane can get you there. Preferably a flight today, if not, first thing tomorrow. You’re going to be be there until it’s resolved!
This was our life. We were the ultimate WordPerfect road warriors. (How I Saved the EPA, Don’t Tell Pete.) Each member of the WordPerfect SWAT team had their own speciality. I was an email expert. We had experts in networks, printers, database. . .if WordPerfect had a product they sold to corporate customers, we had someone on the SWAT team that dealt with it.
And we could be sent on a moments notice. These were pre-9/11 days. It was not uncommon to arrive at the airport 15 minutes prior to your plane leaving. I once ran from one end of Salt Lake City International airport to the other and literally had to make them open the door and let me on the plane.
But, the job was fun. We thought we were making a lot of money, and we knew we were making a big difference to our customers.
The SWAT Team had two managers, Chuck and Cary. I never really figured out why the team had two. It was rare to interact with them. We were all experienced engineers, and long time WordPerfect employees. We didn’t need a lot of management coaching or direction.
The managers were not always the most aware of how their actions affected the team. Every Friday on www.staging.rodneymbliss.com I explain one of my management rules. Generally, I’ve developed the rules from experiences that I’ve had. I’ve seen what worked and what didn’t. I’m not sure that Chuck and Cary had a set of management rules. They were very happy being in charge. That attitude showed up in multiple ways, but two instances stand out.
I’ve talked before about the beautiful landscapes here in Utah. And even talked about the view from WordPerfect’s offices like this picture of Building G where support lived.
Ironically, despite the gorgeous vistas, or perhaps because of them, the support cubicles on the 2nd floor, had six foot high walls, even next to the windows. Getting a seat by the window wasn’t necessarily a perk since the partition walls gave you the same drab view as everyone else.
After the team had been up and running for few months, C&C got booted out of their office and moved to cubicles. This isn’t uncommon and wasn’t a demotion for them. Although, like anyone they were disappointed to not have an office.
Imagine our surprise then when we came in the next week and found C&C in window cubicles with 3 foot partition walls. They had a gorgeous view and didn’t even need to stand up for it.
So, how’d you score a half-height wall?
And that was their entire explanation. They had no concept of what effect it would have on their team. We had all been sitting in these exact same cubes for months without a window. We were told that company policy prevented lower walls. It pretty much soured us all on our managers. They weren’t looking out for us, but they were certainly looking out for themselves!
And that brings me to the second example of terrible leadership. As SWAT team members we went wherever the customers were. Sometimes, it was Nutley, NJ, or the suburbs of Chicago or Detroit. Other times it was downtown Washington DC or Seattle or LA. You pretty much had the luck of the draw when it came to locations.
So, imagine our excitement when a company in Hawaii started to have a network issue. We weren’t sure if it was really a network issue and Edward would go or if it was an email issue and I’d go. Either way, the prospect of a trip to Hawaii on the customer dime was pretty exciting and the entire team followed the developments closely.
Finally the decision was announced: Chuck was going.
Huh? Chuck NEVER went out on calls. And the absolute worst part of our job was the uncertainty. You were flying into a screwed up system and were expected to fix it. The fact that you might get a nice dinner afterwards, and get a chance to see some of the sights was almost an afterthought.
But, Hawaii. We were talking about maybe taking a vacation day or two after solving the issue and before flying back. Who knew when we’d get to Hawaii again, if ever?
And now, we were informed that management would take care of the Hawaii client. It was one more example of inexperienced managers not thinking about how their actions would impact the team.
In a few weeks I’ll address the management rule: Tell Them It’s All About You, Make It All About Them. If you treat your team well, they will move heaven and earth to live up to your expectations. I’ve had teams that literally created miracles because I asked them to. Doesn’t mean I’m a great manager, but I’ve always tried to make it about the team and not about me, the manager.
So what? you might think. It’s one trip. And it’s a trip to HAWAII!! The employees will get over it! Won’t they?
Think about this, it’s been more than 20 years since Chuck snagged that plum assignment to Hawaii rather than let it go to one of his employees. Did they get over it? Sure. Did they ever forget it? Not so far.
Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife and thirteen children.
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