August 2007

Rubicon, It's Not Just A Jeep...


So as it happens it appears that the circumstances of my life are about to throw themselves into a bit of change again.

Which is good.

Change is good. Taco Bell said so.

This Is The Disclaimer...

I have this terrible habit of calling things as I see them. This is not to say that I believe I’m always right (I’d give myself an 80% batting average really), because all one need do is flip through a couple of these monthly instalments to know that mistakes have been made.

And that’s just through the eyes of these things. If you know me you know that I make mistakes on a reasonably semi regular basis.

I lose my car keys, glasses and almost everything else on a regular basis. Oh and that whole yearlong bender. That was bad too.

I try to make a habit of learning from my mistakes. Again, not to say that I do everytime, but I do try.

So lets start heading into this thing with the admission that I am often wrong and more than fallible out in the open.

That Was The Disclaimer...

With that out of the way, let’s get to the crux of this month.

My boss is, shall we say, less than acceptable as a “supervisor” and even moreso less than acceptable as a human being.

At least from what I’ve seen.

Perhaps in his spare time he takes in homeless orphan kittens and works with them in a harmonious effort that relies on their input towards a cure for not only cancer, but heart disease, the Ebola virus and of course the common cold.

And maybe he and his kittens are getting close.

And maybe I’m generating a karmic debt the size of a small country by going out on a limb and speaking ill of the saviour of humankind and homeless kittens if that’s the case.

But I think it’s a pretty sturdy limb, so off we go.

It seems, at least to me, that often those in a position that they fancy grants them a small to medium amount of authority don’t actually know what to do with it.

Very often (and I have consulted outside of my own experience as one should) it seems that the people who have been placed in positions that one might describe as “leadership (using that word soooooo loosely) positions” couldn’t actually lead themselves to a food isle in a supermarket, let alone help others along the way.

Very often, it seems that those placed in such positions are actually very shortsighted small-minded folk. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to be mean, I have no doubts that they think they mean well, but the fact is that nine times out of ten they are using their “power” (and I just can’t stress how loosely I use that term) to validate their own small egos. Rather than approach things from the angle that they have been trusted with some degree of power because they are good at something, they seem to have to wield that power so that they can remind themselves and everyone else that they possess POWER.

(Insert Smurfs Ooooh’s and Aaaaah’s here)

Which leads us to the next problem.

Very often, the people who are placed in “leadership roles” are people who are good at one thing. Maybe two. But certainly not all. Rather than stop and think that perhaps they should expand their horizons or heaven forbid embrace their weakness as a means to overcome it, they often seem to undergo a mental reboot of sorts.

Being that because they have now been granted some authority they are now (at least in their heads) good at everything. They (at least in their heads) are now right about everything. Some mad scientists had the technology and they are now better stronger faster versions of their previous selves! They are the higher power and they are without fail!

So anyways, you get what I’m trying to say.

My current boss is a git.

Odds are that I’ll be changing my job right quick here because if I have to suffer under his self illusionary yolk any longer I may very well go mad and find myself in an upper management position one day wondering exactly what happened and where was it that I left my principles. Perhaps in the Lexus…

So in the event that this petty little husk of a man does exactly what I think he’s going to do, I have been polishing up my resume. In the process I came up with the notion that if I provided a cover letter that clearly explained what I am looking for in an employer I might be able to save myself and perhaps some hiring folk a considerable amount of time. I mean, lets cut straight past the fluffery and get right to the straight goods.

So, prefacing my resume may very well be something like the following.

Ankle Deep...

To Whom it May Concern,

As customary, I would like to thank you for taking the time to consider my resume for potential employment with your company. I have an extensive background in retail as well as management of several different types of companies. I also believe that I possess a considerably wide and varied skill set with particular strengths in communications, psychology and human resources management. I do hope that you’ll forgive me for taking a somewhat unconventional approach to a cover letter but in the sake of saving you some time and effort I have decided to clearly explain some of the qualities that I am looking for in an employer/direct supervisor. It is through this brief summary that I hope you will not only be able to determine if I am a candidate for your further consideration, but also if you are able to provide the type of environment that I describe. So, without further adieu… The first characteristic of the type of supervision I am seeking is best summed up with the word “transparency”. Effectively, this could also be described as the courtesy of being dealt with as up front as possible whenever possible. To be sure, I have no interest in working for an employer that fancies themselves to be some sort of mastermind moving his chess pieces across a board that only he can see. Or play on for that matter. I am not in any way seeking employment under a supervisor who constantly has ulterior motives and clumsily acts on them in attempts to manipulate situations towards some far flung end that only they are aware of. In my experience, supervisors who employ this strategy are not only doomed to failure, but also invariably end up alienating most of the people that they are trying to get close to in their attempts to manipulate. I completely understand the need to maintain secrecy for some company initiatives, but I feel very strongly that almost any decision directly affecting me is one that I should be at the very least be provided for a simple explanation of why. I thrive in an honest inclusive environment and very much would like to be employed by a company that that not only provides a policy of open and honest communication but practices it actively, particularly at the leadership level. I find it ironic that very often this policy is in place but that more often than not the opposite occurs. Subordinates are often told to be open and honest but then are made to feel as if they are wasting their supervisor’s time when they raise a potential concern. Worse still, the supervisor sometimes reacts as though they have taken the employees concerns or comments personally and returns the favour with some degree of reprisal. One of my personality traits that I am proudest of is that I strive to be as forthright as possible in all situations and I have no difficulties speaking up if I find something to be morally or ethically compromising. It is extremely disheartening to do this in an environment that does not truly practice what they preach and is one of the highest causes of employee loss according to several major surveys. If you encourage an environment where honesty, integrity and the ability to challenge when needed are truly encouraged practiced, I would in my opinion, make an excellent member of your team. As I mentioned above, I completely understand that there is sometimes information that I do not need to know, but the invention of half-truths and outright falsehoods only serves to create an environment of distrust. I strongly believe that in order to be in any sort of leadership position, a person should have a minimum set of values and ethics they operate on. There are many people out there in leadership roles who in a panic resort to dishonesty and make knee jerk panicked decisions. It seems that leaders of this ilk often find themselves in this position based on having been caught in a trap they made themselves in an attempt to manipulate a situation or people. While by definition, experience takes time I also very much want to find employment with a company where the person to whom I report has an understanding of leadership principles that extends past what may have been published in the most recent management trade paperback. I by no means am meaning to suggest that I am only seeking employment reporting to someone who has been in his or her role for a particularly long time. Rather, I am stating that whoever my supervisor may be, I feel very strongly that they should possess a conceptual understanding of leadership principles as opposed to simply a practical one. Too often management principles such as “engaging your employee by discussing their personal hobbies” are used by people who want to demonstrate that they have an interest in their subordinates because a book told them that they should display that, not because they feel compelled by a genuine concern for their staff. This posturing of management tactics is almost always transparent and comes across as patronizing and fake. I would much rather a leader who was up front about the fact that they may not be interested in my stamp collection than someone who is going to pretend in order to “fool” me into liking them. Perhaps the climate that I wish to avoid most in a potential employer is an atmosphere where the staff is sometimes, if not regularly, motivated by fear. Many in leadership roles have found ways to manipulate the English language so that they can make use of veiled threats without actually clearly stating a threat. For me, this sort of environment is extremely demotivational. While I understand and appreciate the need for correction when mistakes are made, having been in a management role for some time myself I do understand that situations arise where decisive action is required. However, Job Security is consistently among the highest rated in surveys of what employees value most in their employment and threats of any nature, direct or implied as opposed to constructive criticism is in my opinion only destructive. I am also seeking an environment where I am allowed to make mistakes on the obvious condition that I learn from them as I make them. Some supervisors seem to be of the mind that if you make a mistake you are incompetent. Obviously the size if the mistake is something to be considered, but simple mistakes that create no long-term damage are opportunities to be seized upon in my opinion. When a supervisor berates or demeans an employee for relatively minor mistakes it is almost always counterproductive and damages the rapport between a supervisor and their staff. Following from that, it is also very important to state that I am not in fact a toddler. If I am so fortunate as to gain employment with your company I will require time to adjust to all aspects of my role. In the same breath, I also understand that my supervisor may not have the answer to every conceivable question that I might have. That being said I would much rather be told by my supervisor that they don’t know either but that they will find out with or for me. The often-used route of the supervisor presenting themselves as superior and the subordinate as inferior for not knowing an answer is damaging to the rapport between the subordinate and supervisor, as well as the overall trust and morale of that relationship. One of the most important qualities that I am looking for from a supervisor is simply that they are capable of communicating efficiently and effectively. Droning on for an hour or a large portion of one is only a waste of both parties time. If something is understood it does not need to be discussed any further. I also would like to take the opportunity to state that one of the qualities that I do not possess is telepathy. At least not as of yet. While I am extremely proficient at reading body language and tone, I cannot read minds. I will require a supervisor who understands that fact and is able to provide clear and consistent direction as opposed to assuming that I will be able to pick their “true” intentions out of the ether. The characteristic that I am seeking the most from a future employer is in all likelihood simultaneously the simplest and most difficult to find. Having a supervisor that encourages discussion and debate is without a doubt a rarity. Having a supervisor who has the capacity to see a situation from beyond their own perception is even more so the rare, and having those two qualities as well as the capacity to admit mistake and error is priceless to me in my search for employment. Many short-sighted supervisors see admitting error as a sign of weakness, but I personally view the ability to self assess, be open to the perceptions of others and admit when their original perceptions were not accurate is a sign of immense personal strength and a critical quality of a leader. When confronted with a supervisor who cannot admit error with grace I find myself extremely uncomfortable. I find myself concerned with the reality that if they are unable to be objective with themselves, they cannot possibly have a fair and objective understanding or assessment of my efforts or performance. The final quality that I am seeking in an employer is the ability to adapt and be flexible. Most business plans are designed around optimal conditions. There are often times when those conditions are simply not present. It is in those times that a supervisor’s role should (at least in my mind) shift attention to supporting their staff even more actively than usual. This does not mean the supervisor needs to micromanage, in fact it menas the opposite. Prioritizing tasks is critical in those situations and I am very much seeking a supervisor who is capable of prioritizing goals and then allowing me to persue on my own or with assistance when I ask for it. Supervisors who force their way into an already difficult situation, make a series of assumptions based on incomplete information and then impose their solution without regard for whether or not is the best solution are some of the most damaging to a company and almost always worsen the overall situation. I sincerely hope that this brief summary of the qualities that I am seeking from an employer has not come across as arrogant or outspoken as that was not at all the intent. Truly, I simply feel that it is very important to clearly explain what my expectations from an employer are in order to ensure that any further time (hopefully once you have reviewed my resume) you spend considering me as an employee is spent very well informed of what I am seeking. Immediately after this cover letter you should find attached my resume. Again, I thank you for your time and consideration and I hope to speak with you soon.

Nate Pike

Knee Deep

I had an ending for this. I’m quite sure of it. I had it rolling about my head earlier today and I was absolutely in love with it. It tied everything above together quite nicely and had a nice little humorous bit at the end of it.

At the end of the ending that is.

It appears to have rolled around enough that it rolled right out of me.

Damn the luck.

I find myself without an ending.

Although, sitting here with a frustrated expression on my face and the sounds of one of my favourite sci-fi series doing it’s best to distract me from this months effort, another thought has started to show signs of life up there.

It’s a small thought really, no wit to it at all, it isn’t nearly old enough to have developed a sense of humour. Far to early in it’s development right now. But it does whisper in a high-pitched cute chipmunk kinda tone that perhaps this doesn’t need an ending. It’s about change, not ending so it would be fitting if we just left it open-ended. Runs with the theme and all that.

Also it might even make me know what I’m doing a little bit.

So we’ll run with it.

The Other Side...

So that would be the die cast then. Which by the way after years of using that phrase I finally figured out where it comes from.


You know where to find me.