12/29/09 Gratitude ~ Acquaintances

In today’s post I am choosing Gratitude as the topic, and this will be my topic for Tuesdays until I run out of things to be grateful for or available time does not allow me to post every day.

There are so many things I am grateful for that I could write or talk about these things for the next millennia. Today though I want to discuss acquaintances’. I view this as the people we run into on a day to day basis, maybe even going through periods where we speak to or hang out with a specific person or group daily or more frequently.

As a business and technology consultant, I have had met my fair share of people, more than I can count to be sure. With every location I visit, or am deployed to for a long term, there is always a connection with one or two people. You know the connection, there is an instant click. They’ll get the humor and I’ll get theirs, which is often tough for me.

Each person I have come in contact with has provided me the opportunity to learn something new. From my acquaintances I have learned many great things. One of the most memorable happened recently. I brought a man in his mid fifties onto a project. His resume had all the right qualifications, and the interview indicated he would be a technically competent addition to my team.

Three weeks of working with the client told a different story. He was viewed as a problematic person that would not complete tasks as requested within the given timelines. So I tried talking with him about the comments that were coming back, gave him a heads up on the perception he was creating, etc.

Another week went by and the client insisted he be replaced. Before I took that action I called the man’s manager to have discussion about previous assignments, ethic, previous evaluations, etc. I was told within three minutes of the conversation that if there was a problem it belonged to me.

Well, that was a complete shock. The manager had such a deep seeded trust in his employee that her view was that I was not a good manager. Another shock.

I stewed on this information for a couple days before I did anything drastic, and am thankful for that. We traveled to the client sites on Monday mornings, and when my guy arrived we went for coffee. Over a cup of Starbucks finest brewed coffee, I explained to the man my concerns and issues. I dislike confrontation of the personal nature at work and find it unnatural to have performance based discussions. But here I was having that exact conversation.

My guy listened to me, understood my point, then asked if I was done. Taking a drink I said “Sure I’m done”.

What came next was devastating. I was informed that my communication style left a lot to be desired. I assumed everyone I talked to carried the same fragmented knowledge in their head and could make the same informational connections I made. I sat there thinking “wow, the hits just keep on coming”.

He was right however, and taking his critique I changed the way I talked to him about project related information. Every issue that had been reported instantly went away and he was asked to stay for the better part of a year, based off a 60 day initial assignment.

So what’s the moral of the story?

Our opportunities to improve can come from damn near anywhere.

My guy and I have moved from a professional acquaintance to a personal one. We have spent hours talking about belief systems, coping mechanisms, and all sorts of other ethereal topics. Its truly rewarding, and had I gone with the direction I was given I would never of had the chance to get to learn from this terminally patient man.

Have patience in your conversations, smile at the newly introduced for you have no idea what they can help you learn.



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