4 - Humor is not a laughing matter
Jake slid in behind his own mahogany desk. As he did, a boyish looking fellow with a loose tie, an open collar, and sleeves rolled to his elbows leaned in.
"Hey, boss. The suppositions for Providence Glass Composites are going out today. Target about ten days for pre-recommendation summary, give or take."
Jake acknowledged with an easy smile and waved him out. Now, that was how to get a status report from an employee. No lengthy meetings or tiresome memos, just where are you now and what are you going to do next. Self-satisfied by such wise and progressive procedures, Jake felt as though he deserved his status as a management guru. He allowed himself to slip into the didactic to pursue the line of thought further.
You see, the key thing is not to mess with them. People always ask how can you find time to manage your staff, guide the company to continued success, and still write all those books. You may be thinking 'ghostwriter,' but no. The real answer is: Don't mess with them. Not such a great secret; not exactly a rare pearl of datum. But so few really understand it. Simply let your employees do their jobs, which includes letting them fail with tolerance and staying out of their way.
You see, there is a very simple, systematic procedure for the consulting process. It's clearly explained in a two page typewritten document that we give to everyone on staff. Once a week you will report two things: 1) Where are you in the process, and 2) What are you going to do next. No one is suggesting that's the entirety of a manager's responsibility. You'll need an open door policy for those times when more serious situations arise, which will be rare.
You see, it's a creative process really, not an analytical one. Once you understand how to manage for creativity, rather than for quotas or other absolute targets, you'll see your productivity blossom--and you'll find that it's easier than you think.
Jake breathed a deep breath of satisfaction. Writing, as opposed to managing, was never easy; a thing only enjoyed in the past tense. He wrote on company time, between status reports, which would have been permissible even if he wasn't the junior partner because having a highly respected management guru in senior management did more to bring in business than any advertising or salesmanship imaginable.
But these were the times he enjoyed most. He was "between books" right now. The latest one--number three--was scheduled for publication shortly, and he would have to submit to the grind of interviews, seminars, book signings, and ancillary magazine articles that went along with it. For the moment he had some peace. And that meant he could catch up on his fishing magazines.
Hidden under a pile of undifferentiated papers in his inbox--including one to which the Decrepitude had attached a post-it note--was the latest issue of Fly & Tackle. He picked it up, sat back in his chair and instantly felt annoyed. Setting the magazine aside, his lip curled at the thought of the Decrepitude's note interrupting his momentary peace, but he decided it was better to deal with it now so the Decrepitude didn't have an excuse to come see him in person.
The post-it note read:
Please looks this over. The situation has gotten out of hand. I'm tempted to take drastic measures but I don't want to Stifle the Child. Nothing like this could have happened in our day.
Stifle the Child was a euphemism Jake had used in his second book to describe the actions of a manager who took punitive action against frivolous employee activities. Jake argued that such acts are viewed as arbitrary intolerance and lead to diminished initiative and enthusiasm.
There were two documents underlying the post-it, both email messages. The first read:
A man walks into confessional and says, "Bless me father for I have sinned. I'm 65 years old. Last night I told my wife I was going to the store for milk and went to a bar and picked up these two beautiful 18 year old girls. I took them to a motel and had wild, animal sex with both of them all night long."
"Do you regret your sin?" the priest asked.
"Do you have any remorse at all for what you did?"
"Don't you want absolution?"
"Then why are you telling me this?"
"I'm telling everyone."
Jake chuckled. He may have heard that one before, though.
The second read:
A 49-year-old man had a face-lift. He was so happy with the results that he decided to ask people how old they thought he was.
At the bank he asked the teller, "How old do you think I am?"
"About thirty, I guess," replied the teller.
"I'm 49 years old."
Pleased with the results, he asked the cashier at McDonalds, "Can you guess how old I am?"
She replied, "Twenty-eight?"
"Nope, I'm 49 years old."
At the bus stop he asked the same question of an old woman.
"How old do I look?"
She said, "You know, young man, I'm eighty-one years old. In my day we could always tell how old a man was by feeling around in his pants for a few minutes."
The guy looks around and doesn't see anyone so he says, "OK, go ahead."
After about a minute of rooting around she says, "You're 49 years old."
The guy is shocked. "How did you know that?"
"I was behind you in line at McDonalds."
Jake guffawed. Funny, but in somewhat bad taste at work.
Apparently, these jokes had been floating around on the company network over email for a few days, making their way invisibly from employee to employee until someone had stupidly printed them out then more stupidly left them in the printer for anyone to see. The Decrepitude turned out to be anyone. Well, wasn't that just like him? Wandering about the halls aimlessly until he could scavenge an opportunity to engage in what passed as leadership. Then, when push came to shove, he came up with a pretext for Jake to deal with it. Wasn't that just a microcosm of the last twenty years?
It would never have happened in our day. Lord, how he hated to be lumped in with that miserable old fool, even just chronologically. There was no our day! Why didn't he just die?
Jake toyed with the idea of subscribing the Decrepitude to a dirty jokes email list, but his personal animosity wasn't the point here. The point was to make the thing go away so he could read Fly & Tackle. He drew up a quick response:
You were right not to take drastic measures. I'm glad we agree on the importance of being tolerant of a bit of fun now and then; especially considering how hard everyone is working.
He paused and congratulated himself on squeezing so much disingenuity into two sentences. He continued:
I suggest a general memo to all departments stating we--repeat WE, we're all in this together--have to be careful not to let indiscretion get the best of us.
Now for his own fun:
Remember, humor is not a laughing matter.
Jake was pleased with that one. He knew the Decrepitude wouldn't get it.