Sometimes things just get so complicated. This can be especially true at work. You ever get to a point that you want to go around your boss and try to talk to the next person up the ladder to get something done? Do you ever feel that if you were truly given the opportunity to strive for greatness that you could achieve it. You just need to be given that chance…and for some reason you keep getting passed over?
I used to feel like that when I worked for someone else. I used to sometimes feel that the company saw me as a terrific way to make money. I was something they could harness. Someone they could control and dole out the opportunity as they saw fit. After a time, this got frustrating and I went out on my own with some people I respected and we started our own thing. We wanted to be relevant.
We strived, just as all things do in their “beginnings”, to create a place that people would feel relevant. And, if for some reason they did not…they could call to the top get some answers.
Then time passes and the company gets bigger. And bigger. And bigger. You hire “management.” You create departments and layers. You have three candidates for a promotion and when you pick one, you have two that are upset. You suddenly have politics…
They don’t teach you how to deal with this kind of stuff in business school. It is hard. The Finances of “Bigger” can get easier, but the people part gets much more complicated. And the people part is all that really matters…
I spend a great deal of my time talking to people about how they “Lead” not “Manage.” I talk about building teams not creating layers. I “hope” people know if they are frustrated or thinking they can achieve greatness if given the chance they will reach out to their boss or mentors…or me. I always hope that they know my feelings on the “beginnings” have not changed much now that we are in the “middle.” I still want to be a company full of leaders that treats people the way they want to be treated. A company that takes the time to notice and reward effort while being wary of those that feel a sense of entitlement. In short, I want to Strive for Greatness and have everyone striving and feeling valuable/relevant right along with me. I want to be a company I would be inspired to work for.
One can dream…
Then I got an email. It was long, but since I write a long winded blog I probably deserve that.
The email reads as follows:
Within minutes after reading you blog post, especially the part on luck, I came across the following… on a bottle cap of all places: “Luck is on your side this month.” (Pic Attached) Lucky coincidence? Perhaps. Sign from God? Perhaps. I’ve been meaning to write this response for a few days now.
Killing/Curing an illness that should have taken me a month or two to get over in only five days flat this last week, luck? Perhaps. Paying attention to a f*** ton of blood work and noticing one small blip, plus being more up to date than an MD certainly helped, but that was really only luck itself. That knowledge spun from getting pre-maturely and erroneously diagnosed with cancer (You know how they say those tests are 99.99% accurate…? I’m the one percent of the f***ing one percent for false positives.) Lucky? Hell to the yes, never considered myself more lucky. Lucky to meet an amazing person who may actually want to start a relationship with a giant nerd who’s never available? F*** Yes. Just happening to be in the right city at the right moment to have a chance encounter with the right people from the most interesting and appealing tech startup I’ve seen in recent times? Total Luck.
I’m going to push my luck. I’d like to ask a few industry folk for their thoughts on your post (with your permission), folk who have or can have, a direct impact on Trace3 from a partner perspective. Chief Among them is someone I’ve had opportunity to speak with and hear from at length in the past: A Senior VP for Cloud infrastructure products at VMware. A CEO of a cloud hosting company who I know personally, A President from another cloud hosting company who I know personally, A director of DC ops from a large datacenter provider. An acquisitions editor for a large technical publication house that I know professionally.
And you just bonused me $5K. Well, my minds made up on the next part now. I like to create new experiences and new opportunities. To a certain extent, I believe in creating your own luck, in investing in your own growth.
Hayes, we constantly hear that we should take the opportunity to shadow others and to get engaged in new opportunities. Engineering engagements, Pre-Sales Calls, AEs on lunches, a strategic partner for a new product release meeting. For the very useful purpose of growing our understanding and knowledge of the Trace3 business: Our clients, the Tech, Our Partners. But there is one significant part of the equation that I feel most people miss: the Leadership. Has anyone shadowed you in recent times Hayes? What would you think if a lowly engineer wanted to shadow the CEO of the not-so-small company he works at for a few days? And if this engineer said he expects to cover the travel expenses himself and to take this shadowing opportunity during one of his previously scheduled weeks off? (So as to not interrupt existing projects). Is that something you would be open to?
And yes, he did send his CEO an email with that many F***ks in it. In most companies, that might be an issue. I only saw passion in them. The sender was already identified to me by his leader as a Star. The leader has never tried to take credit for his successes. The leader was asked by the sender if it was okay to send an email like this to me because he did not want to go around her. You know at most companies this would have been immediately shut down. It violates the “chain of command.” I could keep going about why at most places this email would never be sent, but I won’t.
This is not an blog post about an email…or me…or the sender…or the leader…This is an email about hope. A hope that as a company grows IT IS POSSIBLE to hold their “beginnings” to heart. It is possible to help one another strive for greatness/relevance. A talented engineer of a $400M company asked his boss if it was okay to send an email to the CEO and see whether it was possible to shadow him because he wants to learn more. The leader, secure in herself, said yes. The email was sent. The CEO will probably say yes. I bet many of you wish you could send something like this to your CEOs, or VPs, or Dir, or even just your boss. Maybe, just maybe, you can… Maybe, just maybe, some of you will. Then you may get a sense of what kind of company you are working for. Maybe you will be heard right when you need to be heard.
I believe our job is not to “harness” or “control” others. It is to help them achieve relevance both individually and for the company. We must lift others up, be generous with our time, humble in our successes, and vocal about our failures. It is simply a decision that takes some follow through. Every voice matters.
I have been working on a project for the past three months that is going to help everyone be heard. This email inspired me to work even harder on it knowing I am on the right track. But that is for another blog post.
Sender, thanks for the reminder of why we started Trace3. Leader, thank you for not managing. Readers, I hope this small example gives you hope that greatness is in the small simple everyday actions and is DEFINITLY within reach.