Or: Finding my own business philosophy and what matters
The training room was packed. Nearly everyone from the department was there and we were all interested to know what the all hands meeting was about. Things were going really good. The company was doing great. We’d gotten past the uber release of the year and were all breathing a sigh of relief. My job might not have been exciting or “filled with growth opportunity” but it was nice and safe.
Then boss of all the bosses in the room stepped up to speak and we all settled into quiet. Our eyes open and ears listening.
I know he said other things, but somehow everything he said was lost in an unrelenting roar of six words as they repeated in my head, over and over again. “Your services are no longer required.”
My jaw dropped. That’s okay though, the floor had fallen out from under me and my jaw was just trying to keep up with the rest of my body. What happened? This was a safe job! How did I miss the writing on the wall, I mean there’s always writing on the wall. Isn’t there?
“Of course there is.” I turned to look for the source of the voice. I didn’t recognize it, but the voice was somehow familiar. It was almost like I should know and was just having amnesia.
“Selective amnesia, sure I’ll give you that.” The voice was attached to two rather large, extremely hairy feet. Said feet were propped up on the table next to me. Following the feet back up the equally hairy legs I was eventually greeted by the visage of an 800 pound gorilla.
“What the hell are you?” Not exactly the most sane response to meeting a talking gorilla but I can’t imagine Elwood P. Dowd handled meeting Harvey much better.
“I’m your fairy career gorilla.” He grinned, showing a mouthful of blindingly white teeth. “Well technically I’m your ‘So blindingly obvious you can’t avoid it’ combined with ‘That problem you know is there but would rather ignore, gorilla.’ Course you could just call me Hogarth, that’s my name.”
“I must be hallucinating. Or maybe this is just a bad dream. I’ve been under a lot of stress lately, this is just stress giving me bad dreams. Yeah, that’s the ticke…”
I think I’ve mentioned before how unnerving it is to be smacked by a figment of your imagination. The first time was no less so. And it’s damn hard to ignore a figment of your imagination that makes you see double. Blinking, I looked at the fuzzy image of two gorillas. “How long have you been sitting there?”
Hogarth folded his ample hands over his chest and spoke serenely, “I have always been here, you just were not prepared to see me.”
“How the hell can you miss a 800 pound gorilla in the room?” I asked in complete disbelief.
Hogarth’s reply was to wave about the room. All about me were faces in shock, disbelief and sadness. HR Minions, the dislike of their current job evident on their faces, moved about the recently dispossessed like clerics ministering to their flock. But no one paid any attention to Hogarth. “People see what they want to see, they understand what they want to understand.To truly understand the source of a problem, one must be prepared to look for it in ever increasing circles about oneself”*
*This quote is paraphrased from Mark Horstman
MY AHA MOMENT- I’D BEEN CAREER COASTING
And so was my “aha moment”, my “game changer”, my “Waterloo”. Or in normal speak, it was getting laid off from this “safe” job that finally made me stick my head up over the cube wall and look around.
In the days right after the event I went through the normal five cycles of grief, denial, anger, bargaining, depression and finally acceptance. It was with acceptance that I found out something fundamental. Something that changed how I looked at everything. With acceptance I gained the realization that getting laid off was the best thing that could have happened to my career. I felt like that guy in the romance comedy movie. You know, the one who’s in love with the super perfect, if not a little boring, woman and is devastated when she leaves him, only to realize his best friend has been the girl of his dreams all along? Being shaken from the safety of my job made me realize how much I was to blame for where I was.
For some of us, it takes a two by four to the head to see the blindingly obvious. My two by four was being laid off and what I ended up seeing was Hogarth. Okay, I didn’t really see a 800 pound gorilla, but what I did see were things that had been right in front of my face all along and I was too focused, blind or in denial to notice.
And so I began to make the changes to take control of my career. At first it was the absorption of knowledge I’d ignored for so long. Reading books I’d long owned, long had looking impressive on my office shelf and had never read. Checking in with the real world and what was going on. And discovering new voices that spoke words of common sense, words I’d been deaf to before.
And then I began to realize I had everything I needed to take charge of my career. I learned enough to see that I already knew how to be more than what I was. I started to understand I already had a set of principles, a personal business philosophy. I just needed to start following my own inner gorilla.
Over the last two years I’ve put to writing my own guiding business philosophy. Covey might call it a mission statement, Agile calls them values and Manager Tools just calls it being Effective. They are still a work in progress, but they color my daily work and the blogs I write here.
The one caveat I should give is that this isn’t anything new or profound. This isn’t rocket science, or as the fine gentlemen at Manager Tools like to say “Management is boring, but it is effective.” I’m not the guru of a new world order, I’ve just put some common sense into a coherent form and am doing my best to follow my own guidance.
The Gorilla Philosophy:
1- People, not projects
2- Communication is 100% your job
3- Process is a tool, not a roadblock
4- There is no, one, right way
4- Everything leads back to the Customer (Stakeholder, End User, etc.)
Stick your head up and look around, is there a gorilla waiting to talk to you?