Monday, January 17, 2022

2007 - Leadership and Fire Drills


Jackie Pask and members of her fire department

(40 Summers 40 Lessons Series)

One of the best Aquatics leaders I have had the good fortune to work with was Jackie Pask. We were both with the YMCA in Tallahassee, Florida and our time at that YMCA was always one where we had deep financial issues and moving from crisis to crisis. (I wrote about some of this in another BLOG featuring Peggy Conklin’s leadership and those lessons as well.)

Jackie had a differing management or leadership style (Can you guess hers?) that has served her well and she incorporates a tenant of the Scout motto to “be prepared.”

“Treat everyday like a fire drill,” she said to me at one of our first meetings. Her theory was that it seemed things happened and went askew every day and followed what Bear Bryant (former coach of Alabama football) said, “In a crisis, don’t hide behind anything or anybody. They’re going to find you anyway.”

I recently touched bases with Jackie and she is still following that tried and true method in her life at home and at work. In the current world of crisis after crisis, it seems that Jackie’s methodology has solid backing.

Eric J McNulty and Leonard Marcus on Crisis Management (Harvard Business Review, March 25, 2020) wrote, You need to make immediate choices and allocate resources. The pace is fast, and actions are decisive.”  To Jackie’s perspective, it is about resiliency and the ability to get thru any crisis.

While McNulty and Marcus did point out, to my opinion and leadership style, that there was an inherent “risk and ambiguity during a crisis because so much is uncertain and volatile,” they also focused on the fact that the order meant subordinates knew what they were expected to do as well as what was expected of others. Jackie’s team gets what they always get from her management and leadership. There is no wavering.

Nietzsche said, “That which does not kill us makes us stronger.” I believe that resiliency is a skill that most young people display and that often times, it is driven out of by some of the mundane tasks of life. If we repeat often enough, there again is that danger of ambiguity.

“Every day is a new opportunity. You can build on yesterday’s success or put its failures behind and start over again. That’s the way life is, with a new game every day, and that’s the way baseball is.” Bob Feller, Hall of Fame pitcher for the Cleveland Indians said and practiced this in his leadership as well.

My thinking on this always brings up the Bill Murray movie, Ground Hog Day. Murray wakes up each morning to Sonny and Cher singing on the alarm radio and he learns to expect the same results even when he goes off and tries to alter every situation. It is a conundrum to consider. I have felt somewhat like that character many times in the recent past.

The past two years has been a demonstration of a fire drill every day. (Or even more so) It has been an actual fire in different places and in so many different areas of our lives.

Jackie continues her good work and does two things exceptionally well. She has a great way to prioritize issues quickly. She sees the crisis and can change and (yes I am using the P word) and pivot to new priorities. The second thing is she communicates this to her team and those she serves with a great deal of clarity.

I am grateful for my time and work with Jackie and I look forward to hearing from her as she maintains the steadfast motto.

I know that whatever comes up, she will be consistent in her approach. For me, I continue to learn and grow in my own leadership style with her influence. And as former Senate Majority Leader, Mike Mansfield said, “The crisis you have to worry about most is the one you don’t see coming.”

A reminder from Jackie that she has in her home and work.

In this New Year, let’s hope for fewer crisis that we don’t see coming.

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Sunday, January 16, 2022

STEPS to RENEWAL - 2021 Lessons


2021 has come and gone and yes, it is already over two weeks into the New Year. I have been slow to reflect on the past year and I am approaching an anniversary date in a few days, that stepped me into a different year; more so than I ever expected. (Sample run on sentence)

My word for this past year was “steps.” As 2020 ended and I reflected on all the things; I choose steps as it was my intention to take many of those different things in moving forward.

In the fall of 2020 I had lost 40 lbs over the past two years and was walking some 2 miles each day. I wanted to step into 2021 like everyone else with so much behind. I intended to walk more and take more steps in a healthy life.

Then January 20 happened and the car accident. It led to diagnosis of Hairy Cell Leukemia (or as I like to call it Harry Styles Leukemia – because he’s my favorite because of his attitude on kindness).

I spent over 300 hours with doctors and nurses for the treatments, tests, and infusions. Not too mention all the chiropractic, physical therapy, neurologist, and follow up visits for the car accident.

As I think back on the year, it was all about the steps.

At the time of the car accident (which I have very little memory) I recall being in the snow bank inside the car and want to step out of the car. My next memory was that of step forward and leaning on the front end of the car. And then my next memory was stepping into the front door of the house across the street from the accident. The person who lives in that house, happened to be a paramedic and wanted me to get warm and sit on his couch.

The next month or so was the steps to get a diagnosis. For example, the bone marrow biopsy has a series of steps that the nurse walked me through. He was very kind and explained everything as it happened.

The entire year has been small steps to every situation that has been laid out in front of me. There were so many steps to everything. As I look back on those days, I have learned a great deal about control.

There is a Jewish proverb, “Man makes plans and God laughs.” It seems that is my great lesson for 2021. No matter what I planned, the Grand Old Designer had a different direction.

It brings me to this NEW YEAR. I am getting ever so slowly better and I have a desire to find this year's word of focus.

My counselor, Ryan, suggested that I consider focus on what I have the energy to do instead of focusing on what has not been done. What am I showing up for? At the start or end of each day to ask, "Today, I have the energy for..."

He said it in his suggesting manner. Give your self time to renew. As, I wrote that down, it jumped out like their it was all the time.

I look to this to direct and influence myself and a new affection.

And with that, I wish you all a Happy New Year! (yes, I know its already the 16th of January.

Ezikiel 11:19

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