Saturday, December 4, 2010

You knew the job was dangerous when you took it Fred.

Before I started my own real estate company, I worked in the corporate world for many years.  Yes… I was a geek!  I started out programming for a large airline, and worked my way up into middle management with a team of 40 programmers supporting 40 different internet software products.  

Starting up the maintenance department wasn’t easy.  What programmer wanted to be on the support side?  It’s a thankless job.  But, I had a fantastic team of programmers from all walks of life.  We had the most diverse group of any other department, and that’s what made it fun!  

During the interview process, I made it clear that it was a hard job.   In this department, we were the last line of escalation for agents with software problems.  If it got to us, it was serious, and it needed a programming fix.   So to make sure that I got the right people, I basically scared them to death in the interview process!  ‘Our software didn’t always break  9-5 hours because it was used worldwide.’  ‘We would be expected to cover 24 x 7.’  ‘ If  I call at 4a, you’d better answer and be ready to work. ‘  ‘I only hire adults, so don’t come and ask me if you can take a day off.  You know what’s on your plate to be finished, so you decide if you have time to take a day off.’  Anyone that still wanted the job after the interview was a keeper! 

All this “prep work” in the interview process made for a wonderful team of hard workers.  Every programmer had 1 product that they were lead support on, and 2 other products that they learned as back up support.  If they needed a day off, they just coordinated with the backup to make sure there was product coverage. So, they didn’t need to check with me, they controlled their own schedule.    I was totally serious about not asking me for a day off!  They just let me know that they were going to be out, and who was in charge while they were gone. And… knowing that they had autonomy over their job made them work even harder!   

My other rule was NO WHINING!  If you had a problem, you could come in my office to tell me the problem AND your proposed solution.  If you came in without a solution, you were just WHINING.  And you would be met with my favorite line from Super Chicken -  “You knew the job was dangerous when you took it, Fred!’   And I would tell them to come back with a proposed solution. It only took being turned away 1 time to understand that I meant what I said!   I didn’t expect the solution to be exactly right, and many times, we brainstormed the perfect solution together.  However, I did expect that they had at least thought about it and could tell me what they had already tried.    I can’t tell you how many times programmers came in my office with a problem, talked it through and figured it out without me even saying a word! ( LOL – So glad I could help!)  They would thank me for the help, and I really hadn’t done a THING but listen.

And finally, I continually reminded them that I worked for them!  It was my job to remove all the obstacles that were in the way so that they could do THEIR job.   Yes… I was Mama Bear sometimes… Leave my programmers alone – come to me and let me help you.  And there were times that I was doing all the running so that they could stay focused.  But, my team appreciated it!  And besides, I knew the job was dangerous when I took it!   

I never lost team members. Once they joined my team, they stayed.  And when I left the company for another job, my team presented me with a framed picture of Super Chicken and Fred that said ‘You knew the job was dangerous when you took it Fred!   It still sits on my desk today as a reminder not to whine about the hard things that come my way.  It’s a dangerous job, but somebody has to do it!

So... do I use this same logic at home... Absolutely... Being a mom isn't easy, nor is being a good wife.  But then again, being my kid or my husband isn't easy either ... And, when you throw menopause into the mix...well let's just say that  I can go from Mother of the Year to Mother of Fear in no time flat.   But... We knew the job was dangerous when we took it Fred! 

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