Sarah the director, the boss of my boss, said to me, “We need to meet some time today.” At the end of the day, after most people had left, we finally had time for me to go into her office. The nice thing about me being a long-term employee is I don’t get scared at the dreaded “come into my office” call. I scooted up a chair. She gazed at me and said simply, “The staff is not working as a team. What can you do about it?”
After a beat I said, “I don’t believe in team building exercises… because, as we say in the rehabilitation field, the learning is not generalized” (into the workaday life) Sarah agreed, reminding me about her own dreadful experience in team building. We laughed. Then we put our heads together.
She shared some recent observations. Some was trivial, like people passing by a growing stack of garbage, but some was serious indeed. As we swapped opinions, thoughts and old work stories, what was coming out of my mouth, I noticed, were mostly stories.
Sarah said, “ At the staff meeting I could give you 15 or 20 minutes.”
I said, “I think I could tell the staff stories…if done properly, it should only be ten minutes.”
“What ever you want to do.”
I smiled to see Sarah using Management 101: Tell the man what results you want, and by when, then let him decide how to do it. Still, I was pleased she felt safe in confiding and assigning this project to me.
So, after an introductory proverb, I told the staff stories from my life, then bridged with Stevey’s job candidate interviewing story, then applied the stories, still using “ ‘I’ statements” to some disguised not-so-hypothetical “what if?” scenarios at work. I tied up the package of stories by repeating the proverb. It all went well. I won’t relate, here in this essay, my job-specific stories of what I expect from a strong team, but here are some life stories about planned responsibility.
“The floor that is walked on by everybody is not swept by anybody.” – ancient Chinese proverb