Yesterday, one of my Facebook friends asked for inspiration for his blog. I told him to write about what inspires him. As I thought about what I said to him, I reflected that I’ve felt a lot like a CIO under siege lately. Then I thought, physician, heal thyself. How can I keep pushing and driving staying in the ring … round after round … taking it on the chin while scoring enough points to win the fight? I gotta find a Muse.
The ancient Greek and Romans had lesser Goddesses, called Muses, who inspired creativity in music, dance, poetry, and writing. Yep, I think there needs to be a Leadership Muse. Absent that, I’ll talk about three things that inspire me.
It’s inspiring helping people learn and helping people be successful and self-actualized. I’m frequently counseled that I probably think too much about people. I don’t care. I feel good breaking things down into terms that people understand. And I feel good when I can make complex things simple … like IT Governance, Algebra, and Sweet Potato Crescent Rolls. Being able to relate things to Star Trek inspires me also.
There has not been one thing that I have accomplished in my leadership walk without people. I am humbled to note that what I have accomplished has been solely due to being inspired by the people who have helped me. Maintaining this attitude of humility and gratitude inspires me to press forward during adversity.
Maybe this is the value of the song Whistle While You Work. Sometimes I have “theme songs” for interesting times. Gloria Gaynor’s I Will Survive helped me through a tough job assignment. Jazmine Sullivan’s Bust Your Windows helped keep me from actually busting the windows out of someone’s car. More recently, I hummed On a Clear Day while I prepared a power point for a panel on Cloud Computing.
For me, the real value of music is that I am a right-brained person in a left-brained workplace. I can do both reasonably well, for sure. But, I prefer right-brain. So, humming through mundane, detailed-oriented and sequential tasks is actually entertaining for me.
I hate computers, but I love technology. I am motivated to figure things out. Try new things. Or try old things in new ways. I’m not afraid of technology. Second Life seemed to be pretty cool technology. I was motivated to learn about Virtual Worlds it by volunteering to moderate a panel on it. Being a PC person, I’ve just taken the dive and started playing with a Mac. Kind of fun, actually. Oh, and I love my iPhone.
Technology for technology’s sake is downright stupid. But, finding ways that technology can solve a problem is … as they say priceless. In my youth, I needed to teach myself Basic Programming language. Couldn’t really get into it really. Then decided that I would write a Hangman Game. Wow, a purpose. It worked. Technology needs to solve a problem. Not just exist in a vacuum.
Leading an organizational change to transform how we manage IT in a pretty stubborn workforce wears on you. And during this leadership gig, like any other reasonably capable leader, inspiring and motivating a workforce to work hard doing the things they wouldn’t normally want to do.
One thing that gets overlooked by leaders during organizational change is how to manage the impact of the change on themselves. In my personal leadership journey, I have consistently been challenged with my own needs for motivation and inspiration. I really need to find that Leadership Muse.
However, not everyone actually lives up to what they say they can deliver. And we also started running into our fair share of crazy people along the way. Usually, the conversation would go something like this:
Them: “Oh my god, I love your project! Vampires! Spies! How can I help?”
Us: “We’re looking for investors. Do you know any wealthy folks who might be interested in coming on-board?”
Them: “Yes! I have an aunt who has a ton of money and she loves television. I’ll bet she would invest.”
Us: “Awesome! How can we get in touch with them?”
Them: “Uh, well, the thing is she’s kind of dead.”
Us: “Kind of?”
This exchange actually happened more than we ever would have believed possible, leading both Jaime and I to surmise that people are either a) blissfully oblivious as to the exact nature of death and how it might interfere with such mundane things as financial and investment transactions or b) a lot crazier than the evening news would have you believe. I suppose they could also be both.
But the crazies we dealt with usually by chuckling about the whole thing and continuing on our merry way. We had scores of people yet to talk to and a few minutes taken out for a grin or a smile was a welcome thing – especially when rejection has been a constant companion.
Liars, however, are something else entirely.
We met one woman who swore she could help us. Turns out her mother had worked for a guy who owned his own energy company. Every year this guy threw a party for his employees that ran him at least a million.
To Jaime and me, that sounded like a cool dude – someone who took care of his people - and one we’d like to speak with. We told Hillary that we would welcome her help in getting our material in front of him. My wife went out one afternoon in the pouring rain to overnight copies of my novels, the prospectus, and everything else to her.
According to Hillary, this man was worth at least three quarters of a billion dollars. He had money to burn and had even looked into getting involved in the entertainment industry a few years before. He loved movies and TV.
More pluses in our minds.
Hillary told us it would probably be a few weeks before we heard. She wanted to make sure she caught this guy at just the right moment. She knew him very well; they’d been friends for a long time.
After three weeks, however, we still hadn’t heard anything. And my usual gut instinct told me that something was wrong. We emailed and called Hillary who put us off, saying that she needed more time. We gave it to her.
Another week or so passed. Hillary she came back and told us that she hadn’t heard anything yet, and that she didn’t want to pester this guy too much. We understood that to a point, but when days stretched into weeks and we still didn’t have an answer, both Jaime and I started getting concerned.
We called Hillary back and spoke with her. The outcome of the conversation didn’t sit well with Jaime and I. Both of us started to suspect that Hillary wasn’t being entirely honest.
So Jaime called the guy’s office and here’s how the conversation unfolded once Jaime explained who he was.
Personal assistant: “Yes, we received the material. It was very interesting.”
Jaime: “So would he be interested in coming on-board as an investor?”
Personal assistant: “No, I’m afraid not. He actually decided not to invest about a month or so ago. We told Hillary that he’d decided not to invest. Didn’t she tell you?”
No. She hadn’t.
We immediately contacted Hillary and asked her why she hadn’t told us. Instead of admitting her mistake and the fact that she had obviously lied to us, Hillary went off on a verbal rampage, accusing us of being unprofessional and that she’d never been treated so horribly before in all her life.
We told her to send the books back and while Hillary updated her Facebook status with snide oblique references to us, we scratched her name off the list of helpful people who actually have supported THE FIXER along the way to reality.
The thing is this: we’re always glad for help. But Hillary had made herself seem like she could deliver our entire financing goal easily – even going so far as to tell Jaime that she was 90% certain she could get the money. Well, if you tell that to two guys who are eager to set the world alight with a new kick-butt TV series, they’re obviously going to ask you to step up to the plate and deliver.
If Hillary had simply gotten back to us and said, “he said no,” that would have been fine. Case closed on that prospect; on to others. And we had plenty of people yet to speak with.
Instead, Hillary chose to lie when she told us she hadn’t heard anything. She tried to ingratiate herself into the actual production of THE FIXER and secure her own standing there before telling us it was a no. And by doing so, all she actually guaranteed was that we would never trust her or employ her in any fashion.
As we’ve found, people will say almost anything. But getting them to step up and deliver is something else. We don’t have time for liars.
Only for success at what we’ve committed ourselves to achieving.
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