Thursday, September 28, 2006

I Can See Clearly Now . . . Right?

Almost daily I am astonished by some insight into human relations that I could not have imagined before I entered my program two years ago. I'm not talking about general understanding or theory here. I'm referring to the way I view and participate in my own relationships and interactions with my colleagues, family, and friends.

It's almost as if I used to be blind to certain aspects of my own experiential reality. I didn't have a frame into which to place some observations, and so the observations were either discounted, processed as intuition, or ignored. In many ways I thought I was "crazy." In other words, I knew that I was observing some things, but I didn't know what it was I was seeing or how to interpret it. It was like those people whose eyes can actually receive light, but whose minds cannot process the visual data they are receiving.

Today, I "see" aspects of relational reality that I could not previously interpret. I can intentionally participate in ways that used to be impossible. It's as if there is a whole new world out there for me. Yet, I know that world must have existed before I could see it - I just didn't recognize it.

It makes me wonder what else I might be missing.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006


It seemed I had things at work under control yesterday. I was feeling content and satisfied that maybe I'm potentially competent in this job after all.

When I walked in the door at home, I was greeted by distressed little boy who expressed his worry that I might someday "not come home from work because of a terrorist attack."

Competence is situational.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Imitation is the Sincerest Form of Flattery

If and/or when I ever create a professional blog, I want to remember to create a page like this one for it: eLearning Technology: First Time Visitor Guide.

Got to Have a Good Vibe

My masters program is one of only two in the country that incorporate the word "Positive" in the title. The program name created a psychic tension that both intrigued and repelled me.

Fully believing myself to be a realistic pessimist, but wanting something more, I signed up with some trepidation that attending anything that included the word "positive" in it would make me a laughingstock with my intellectual and professional peers. (Or at least reinforce my standing as a fluffy nonconformist.)

While the 18 months I spent in the program weren't relentlessly positive, they did help me switch figure and ground mentally. (You know - looking at the same glass and seeing it as half full instead of half empty. That kind of thing.) My cohort was committed to seeing the world in new ways, and I think we created a supportive community for the changes we were trying to make in our personal outlook and our impact on the world.

This week I attended a workshop in improv, and it hit me full force that since graduation in May I've been imperceptibly regressing into my old ways.

According to the workshop instructor, the key to improv is the "Yes, and..." principle. You always accept what the other person gives you and build on that. Talk about positive! We did exercises where we cheered each other on no matter what was done or said. We told each other how wonderful we were. We said "Yes!" to any idea or suggestion. It was miraculous! All of a sudden I felt creative and competent, and I'm sure others did as well.

Over and over again I am amazed at how our social environment shapes our attitude and our abilities. I knew when I left that cozy "positive" community at Case that things would change, but I didn't think that within four months I would be completely out of practice. I need to find or create a small community here that will help keep me focused on the positive. This is essential to my ongoing well-being.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

You're So Vain

I read Tuesdays with Morrie last weekend. I don't know what to make of it. At first I was truly put off by the author's tone and self-centeredness. He started to move through that as he experienced the failing of his professor and friend, Morrie, which I guess was the point.

It was difficult to hold at bay the thought that Albom knew he would be writing a commercial book as he taped his old friend's dying words, especially since he got back in touch with Morrie through a piece on national television. Clearly, here was an opportunity to capitalize on someone else's fame (and wisdom). For some reason the whole premise struck me as self-serving and self-congratulatory.

I know I'm in the minority with this opinion. Sorry to those of you who loved this book. Obviously, Morrie Schwartz was a wonderful professor and human being - I just didn't care for his biographer.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Here at the End of All Things

I received an automated flush letter for the "Detroit" gig yesterday. I guess I'm not completely surprised (or heartbroken), but I thought I had a good chance with that one. If I decide I care enough, I'll write and ask for feedback. (Tried that on another opp and never got a reply. It's hard to keep putting energy out into what feels like the blackness and vacuum of space.)

Lots of anxiety today - project status meetings, deadlines looming, tire repair scheduled, etc. How do I turn this anxiety into positive movement - need to change the frame somehow, but I grow tired and lose the ability to focus and redirect the energy.

Over the last few weekends we watched the Lord of the Rings movies. I can really relate to poor Frodo this week - I feel like I'm slogging through Middle Earth with a heavy weight around my neck and strange enemies around every bend.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Wooly Bully

While I haven't written about my struggles at work with a troublesome internal client, some of my friends have heard bits and pieces.

Previously this guy (we'll call him Candor) has ignored my direct questions or responded to me indirectly by going up and down the chain of command. (You know - he goes to his Senior VP, who then goes to my SVP, who then goes to my manager, who then comes to me with this guy's concerns.)

A few months ago I met with Candor and expressed my concern over this style of communication. I asked that he come to me - the project manager - directly with his questions or thoughts about the project so that I could address them. I explained that this would be more efficient and productive, and that it is my preferred workstyle. He agreed to this, and he saved face by telling me (and my management) that he wasn't aware that I was the PM on the project.

Further, Candor has an administrative assistant keep his calendar, which is unusual for someone at his level in this particular organization. If I want to ensure his attendance at a meeting, I have to call this admin and ask her to manually check his calendar. I also assume that she has to ask his permission to place anything on his calendar, because she typically cannot answer definitively whether he will attend any given meeting or accept an invitation on the spot. Just for reference, nearly everyone else in the organization uses an automated Lotus Notes calendar and either accepts or rejects invitations herself as she sees appropriate.

Last week I scheduled a core team discussion at the request of another core team member. The discussion is intended to open up the dialog between the line of business and IT on a more efficient and cost-effective way to implement and operate one of the processes associated with the project. Candor apparently did not like the topic of the planned discussion and had his admin call me to suss out what would be discussed and why. When provided with the proposed details of the conversation, the admin admonished me that Candor had already provided his opinion on this topic and saw no reason for the meeting. I was to "hold the line" on the conversation and cancel the meeting.

I did not cancel the meeting, given that I believe it is a discussion that will benefit the company overall, and he has had his admin call me several times in the last 24 hours to find out why I have not cancelled it.

From my perspective, it appears that Candor, having had his usual manipulations through upper management both named and short-circuited, is now trying a different manipulation approach through his administrative assistant.

I now see Candor as a bully, and I've determined that I will not sit meekly and mutely by while he attempts to pull strings behind the scenes (and from behind the skirts of his SVP and administrative assistant) to obtain his own outcome - an outcome that to my mind is not beneficial to the company overall. Further, no matter the outcome, I object to his methods, and I will work to expose those methods.

I realize that this is a high-stakes challenge. Unfortunately, this guy has bullied those around him for years without being called on it. It must be working for him (and the organization) on some level, and I am a low-level PM. Who am I to question his methods? Then again, if not me, then who? If not now, then when?

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Don't Hate Me Because I'm Bored

My friend JP teaches an entire undergraduate class at Franklin University based on Jim Collins' book Good to Great. He frequently uses terminology from the book in day-to-day conversation, and I finally decided I needed to read the durn thing if I wanted to both understand what he's going on about and support him.

(Just so you don't think I'm completely ignorant - on this topic, anyway - during MPOD we were assigned the chapter on the Hedgehog Concept, which I reread several times, but I never indulged in reading the rest of the book. Another assignment had us researching Meg Whitman, CEO of eBay, who referred to herself as a "Level 5 leader," so I had read something about that subject, too.)

So, I've been reading Good to Great. While it has a lot of solid data in it, I find the writing not particularly juicy or compelling. In other words, it's appealing to my left brain but not my right.

I have about 100 pages of the core text left to read (there are hundreds of pages of epilogue, appendices, notes, and indexes, too, but I'm giving myself a break and not reading those since doggone-it, they aren't "assigned!"). If I spend the next couple of hours reading, I can probably put this baby to bed and feel like I've fulfilled my obligation as a student and a friend. (Although, after reading this post, he may not feel so friendly toward me . . . )

I wish I had taken this one out of the library as a cassette tape and listened to it in the car during my daily commute instead of spending my precious free-reading time on it.