Abandon Text!

W. H. Auden once said: "Poems are not finished; they are abandoned." I have been abandoning writing projects for many years, since only the pressure of deadline and high expectations ever got me to finish, or even start, anything of merit. This blog is an attempt to create a more consistent, self-directed writing habit. Hopefully a direction and voice will emerge.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Please remain calm

"Kevin, I don't know what you're taking to remain so calm," I said to my client, a VP of Sales for manufacturing company. I had been through the wringer over the last three days. We had a dozen salesmen fly in from all over the country, almost all them needing major work on their computers to roll out a new CRM package. A couple machines teetered on the edge of unrecoverable after some OS upgrades blew up. We made some compromises on the training just to get everything finished in time for them to leave. A few big requirements for reporting and off-line printing came up within the training, and for which we weren't prepared.

All of this chaos provoked different reactions in the people present. Some of the IT staff reacted with indifference, then angry annoyance. The salesmen (like most salesmen) remained polite but pushy, continually lobbying to get their machines up and running as soon as possible. The marketing manager was quietly but visibly freaking out, imagining the worst. I was putting a brave face on it, but verging on freaking out myself. I expected that at any moment people would explode in angry accusations.

But Kevin was cool as a cucumber. Neither apathetic nor overwrought, he did everything he could do to keep things moving forward, and accepted the setbacks without complaint. At one point he turned to the marketing manager, smiled and said, "Tessa, it's just a job. Relax."

How can someone who works as hard as he, with as much bottom-line responsibility as he has, have such relaxed detachment? You'd think he was either a slacker or independently wealthy. But I suspect that he just had clarity. He knew what was important and what wasn't, and he knew that in the big picture, a rough roll-out of a computer system was not that important. It was one of the few times when I saw someone genuinely care more about his people than the things those people did, or the circumstances they faced.

And . . . it worked. I didn't freak out. We finished the job. And I have a slightly different idea of what it means to be a mensch.

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