"Life always gives us exactly the teacher we need at every moment. This includes every mosquito, every misfortune, every red light, every traffic jam, every obnoxious supervisor (or employee), every illness, every loss, every moment of joy or depression, every addiction, every piece of garbage, every breath. Every moment is the guru." -- Charlotte Joko Beck

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Milking it for all its worth!

A senior vice president recently had a baby. Since the doors in all the executive offices in this organization have windows and, thus, offer no privacy, a separate room – sans window - was set aside so that new mothers could, um … well, pump.

This is a necessary function and part of the beauty of child bearing. I am actually in awe of the fact that a woman can produce food for her young from her own body. It’s a beautiful thing.

I commend the organization’s management team for recognizing their error when designing their office space and ignoring the need for privacy. The office space was obviously designed by men because they never considered this special privacy need for their female staff. I can say this, because I’m a man and admittedly would not have thought of this particular need either. But, then again, I would not have put windows you could see through on private offices - especially for senior management. I do understand that everyone has a need for privacy at some point - whether it is to have a meeting on a sensitive topic or change your shirt after spilling your coffee (the latter is usually me, by the way).

Anyway, our now-enlightened management team quickly compensated and allocated this private room, complete with comfy couch, so the senior VP can collect her offspring’s nutrition. One would think all would now be well. Not quite.

After leaving the lactating room, this woman has a tendency to roam around the office carrying her full bottles. She will stop by people’s desks or offices and chat while waving her body juice in the air. She has shown up to meetings, bottles in hand, and sat them on the board room table while conducting business. This might not be so bad if the bottles didn’t have giant labels on them that say, “My Mommy’s Milk” or if she didn’t say things like, “Sorry I’m late, but I had to pump!” She gets away with it because, well, she is a senior VP!

When she doesn’t bring them with her, she leaves them places. On her desk. At the fax machine. On the counter in the kitchen. Sometimes, she wields her seniority in the organization and asks junior employees to go get her juice and put it in the fridge for her because she simply didn’t have time to do it herself.

To make matters worse, she has begun conducting meetings in the lactation room! While she is pumping! Sometimes with outside visitors, not just internal staff! Can this possibly be appropriate in a business environment?

Don’t get me wrong. I have nothing against breasts. I’m rather fond of them. They are among some of my favorite things in the whole world. But there are times and places for everything.

Every mother certainly has a right to pump at the office, but the rest of the staff has a right also. The right not to be grossed out by their boss!

If you ask me, this leadership style is just in bad taste.

Monday, August 15, 2011

A Quiet Leader and a Life Well-Lived

This past weekend, in one of the most difficult days of my life, I said farewell to a truly inspirational leader and a dear friend. I only had the honor and pleasure of having Steve McCullen’s presence in my life for a few years, but in that brief time, I quickly learned how special a gift that was.

Steve was one of the warmest, most caring and generous individuals I have ever known. He was deeply devoted to his family – his wife and four wonderful sons. If you ever need a testament to the kind of person someone is, just look at the relationship they have with their children. Steve and his family had the most enviable relationship. I’ve never seen a family where teens and young adults would rather hang out with their parents and their parents’ friends on a Saturday night watching cheesy, old movies than go out partying. They hung out with dad because they wanted to.
Steve had the same relationship with nearly everyone around him -- at work, in his personal life, and even with people who just happened to be fortunate enough to come in contact with him.
People were inspired by Steve’s perpetual optimism, his enduring sense of humor and his aura of sage calm. Throughout his career as a county police officer, junior cops would seek him out as a mentor, senior cops would seek him out for advice and entrust him with special assignments.
Steve was what Harvard Business School professor Joseph Badaracco would refer to as a “quiet leader.” A quiet leader is one who leads by example, who instinctually does the right thing, and who empowers others by trusting them.
Admittedly, I had never really looked at Steve this way before. I just knew him as a heck of a nice guy. But this weekend, as I was reading the tributes written by family members, former coworkers and other friends – and even his hair stylist – I learned a lot about how others had seen him. Many called him mentor, and even hero.
That’s when I realized that he was a role model for me as well. Without even realizing it at the time, I had been trying to emulate many of his traits.  
I never saw Steve in a bad mood. Even over the past 10 months when fighting his battle with cancer, he was endlessly optimistic, maintained his humor and kept working tirelessly to rebuild his strength. I think he got through these past months easier than the rest of us.
Steve, my friend, you touched a lot of lives and made each one better for the contact. Your quiet leadership was an inspiration to many. Your kind heart and generous spirit lives on in those you have left behind.

Your work here is done. Now rest, my friend, and know that you had a life well-lived.