Friday, October 26, 2007

Death of Naivete

Being idealistic can have its downfalls. Expecting a certain level of vested interest from colleagues doesn't seem too crazy, but it can cause problems when working in a team environment. Group projects, team homework assignments, steering committees - all require a level of commitment from everyone involved, though motivations for that involvement may vary, and that's where we get the death of naivete.

In school we see this problem in group projects. Invariably the hard-working over-achievers get stuck with a lemon, and spend much of group time convincing said lemon what needs to be done. Worse, the group is forced to teach aforementioned lemon concepts learned in class because he or she wasn't interested in paying attention.

Retribution can be had through the process of peer evaluation. However, when that peer evaluation is only a small percentage of the final grade, one wonders about the effectiveness of a scathing review.

The Death of Naivete is when we believe everyone working with us holds the same motivations and interest in achieving organizational success. Let me clarify: everyone wants to see the organization succeed, but the reason they desire it is different.

Examples of those different motivations?

Idealistic : The good of the organization, the good of the clients/customers, satisfaction of a job well done,
Realistic: all of the above plus higher organizational profits, bigger paychecks, self promotion, etc.

Some motivations are to serve the self and some are to serve the organization.

As we begin to realize that another team member is not as vested or interested in the success of our project, our naivete begins to die a slow, agonizing death. We may become a bit jaded and increasingly frustrated that these few, who agreed to help the rest of us, were agreeing out of an interest of personal gain. Rather than hoping to see a successful project, they wished to obtain a bit credit for that success through as little effort as possible.

Perhaps their motivation has many facets, and the personal gain is just one, but we can't help but roll our eyes as they produce yet another excuse as to why they cannot participate in team activities, or finish their assigned portion of the work. Inside we scream, "Then why did you sign up???" Sometimes we add a sarcastic, "Duh, we're all busy yet we manage to pull our weight."

The most important thing to remember is that the Death of Naivete is a process. Like any death, we experience grief. A brief illustration:

Shock: What? Why are they not doing their part? Don't they want us to succeed?

Denial: They want to do a good job, they're just really busy. If we leave them alone it'll eventually come together.

Inward Anger: Why am I such a tool? I don't want the team to do a bad job, so I cover the slack, but seriously, stop being such a push over!

Outward Anger: Wait a minute, why am I blaming myself for this stress? That jerk is the one who isn't participating. I'm talking to their boss/professor!

Depression: No one cares about what we're trying to accomplish. They're just in it for themselves, and I can't persuade them otherwise. The world's going to hell in a handbasket.

Acceptance: Okay, so they aren't going to do their part. The other team members will share the burden, and we'll finish the project successfully. We can deal with any issues afterward.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Supermarket Stories

I was standing in line at the supermarket the other day. It's one of those small town grocery stores that has photos of the town of olde (yore?) plastered on the walls.

As I was standing in line, with nothing to gaze at but a bloated Britney Spears on the cover of the National Enquirer, I began to take stock of what the other store patrons were purchasing. The woman in front of me inspired the most curiousity.

A 50-something, great-aunt type, she placed but two items on the conveyor belt: a bunch of bananas (five in total), and a bottle of Peppermint Schnapps (generic label).

In pondering the type of person who purchases two such items at the same time, and what kind of life that person must lead, I came to the conclusion that both items would only be purchased by 2 types of people:

1. Homeless drunks who prefer a minty fresh breath with their alcoholic aftertaste, and who panhandle for change with the help of an adorable pet monkey

2. 50-something spinsters with a gaggle of Red Hat Society friends back home eager to start a roarin' game of Canasta, and waiting to make a drinkable York Peppermint Patty

I left, not sure which of the two best described this lady.

Friday, October 12, 2007

The Accidental Sales-Person

I don't particularly enjoy selling things. Nevermind the fact that I went to University and studied Marketing. Don't believe the endless pages of search results you see on Career Builder; sales is just one small part of Marketing, not the lifeline. Regardless of the fact that I hate selling, in the past two days I've discovered that I'm pretty darn good at it. Without even trying!

Yesterday I had a volunteer group of corporate executives working with the kids. They came, they ate lunch, they toured, they glued, they made scarecrows.

My organization also just happened to have a matinee performance for our cultural arts program. We stopped in to listen to a song, and afterward I mentioned that we had a new BOGO (buy one get one, for those of you who've been living under a Payless ad-free rock) ticket special. Guests could buy two - two tickets for the price of one!

We continued on the tour, and then to the project. As the group is leaving Exec 1 comes to me and wants to buy tickets to the evening performance. (Great job Me!)

I head to the office and return with tickets; the exchange is made. Exec 2 then comes to me and wants to purchase a season membership. (Awesome!) The transaction is made and customer leaves happy and excited for great music.

Today I arrive to work and another matinee performance is on the docket. I head downstairs to usher the kids to their seats when Teacher calls me over and says she would like to buy tickets to the evening performance. (Deja vu?)

I go to my office and return with the tickets (remember: two - two tickets for one!). She then asks about student prices. Yes, students get a half-price ticket so she decides to bring the whole family to the show tonight. (Wahoo!)

I am now diligently stationed in the lobby with the express purpose of cajoling passers-by into purchasing tickets for tonight's performance. Actually I'm not, but it was threatened to be so.

So, while I never enjoyed sales and never purposefully meant to do it, I have become the Accidental Sales-Person. Money seems to flock wherever I go; however, rather than that money landing on my paycheck, it is given for whatever I happen to be selling at that moment. And get your mind out of the gutter.

Monday, October 8, 2007

The Antiquated TV Date

Remember when you were young and, as your mother was cooking dinner, dad was busy setting up the TV trays before the next episode of Leave it to Beaver debuted? No? Well neither do I, mostly because I'm too young to have experienced an original viewing of Leave it to Beaver.

I did, however, grow up before the remote control was widely available, and my household was one without cable TV. Far behind my peers in pop culture references, the four channels (ABC, NBC, CBS, PBS) we did get were chock full of fascinating television like Dallas, The Cosby Show, and Charlie's Angels.

On occassion mom would bust out the TV trays and we would gather 'round to watch our favorite show (or, Dad's favorite show as the case may be), and enjoy a healthy meal. Sidenote: Unsolved Mysteries always freaked me out as a child, but now, oddly enough, I love a good story of mystery and/or haunting.

I'd like to announce that my friends and I are reviving the practive with weekly TV dates. Monday is Double D (Dexter & Dinner), while Wednesday is the always-anticipated Kid Nation Mockathon '07.

Seriously, have you ever seen Kid Nation? It's the latest in "shows so easy to mock it's almost not fun yet only more so."

My favorite is Taylor who is learning that, while Mommy and Daddy call her a princess, everyone else hates a tyrant. It's a great lesson to watch being learned. Although I'm not a fan of the Southern accent. I can't hardly understand a word she says, but can only infer her meaning by the expressions of shock and outrage on the other children's faces.

A little irony to leave you by:
"Someone who can take control of all situations while considering everyone involved and listening to everyone's opinions. Also someone that makes sure that the job gets done and that everyone does his or her part." - Taylor when asked what she thinks makes a good leader

Sunday, October 7, 2007

The Right Message the Wrong Way

Yesterday I took part in the Memory Walk in Milwaukee. My place of work organized a team because we receive a lot of funding from the Alzheimer's Association for our geriatric center. The program coordinator asked people to donate money and/or time to give back, which sounds a bit backward (we donate money to an association that gives money to us), but we do this with a lot of foundations and non-profits that give us money, so what can I say?

Interruption from Annoyed Mandi: a new family moved in upstairs and they have a toddler. This annoys me because a) small children make a lot of unnecessary noise, while b) other tenants are trying to sleep, concentrate, and/or live in peace. There's a reason why I have no children as of yet. Where was I?

So a friend and I are taking part in the walk. After much confusion at registration, we get our complimentary t-shirts and head off through the gauntlet of carnival clowns and various mascots in giant foam suits (think Brewer's sausages and Piggly Wiggly), as we try to find my teammates. Shaken, but not to be deterred, we finally make contact a few minutes before starting time. Mere minutes later Miss West Allis, complete with far too much makeup and a bad dye job, announces the start, and we're off.

Not 1/2 mile into the 3-mile walk, as my friend and I are discussing just how much the purse dog that the women ahead of us is carrying looks like a gremlin, we hear a plethora of shouting. Yes, I just said plethora. I'm studying to take the GRE and am trying to improve my verbal score.

The shouting turns out to be an "evangelist" preaching the saving grace of Jesus Christ. This is disturbing on many levels, the least of all being that this man knows nothing about the hundreds walkers and is, therefore, unable to make a connection meaningful enough to warrant a change in any of our religious beliefs. There are many, more disturbing, issues about the "shouting witness" practice of evangelism, but there's another website that explains it much better. Click here to read it. The author is a bit snide in his criticisms, but he does bring up some thought-provoking topics.

It's a very interesting post, especially in light of all the churches seeking to be more "relevant" yet falling short by giving visitors a great show, but little gospel. More on that in another post when I discuss my church-shopping expeditions in Milwaukee.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

A Novel Idea

It's no secret that I like to read. Anyone who's seen my "library" can attest to the fact that I have many books. I haven't read them all, but I'm working on it. Usually I'll come out of the bookstore with a few new books, with the best of intentions to read them, and then I'll get sidetracked when I make another trip to Barnes & Noble and find even more tomes.

Yes, it can be an expensive habit, but I rationalize it by telling myself reading is good. After all there are other, worse, habits on which I could spend my money. Nevermind that the library is within walking distance from my apartment.

Recently I've been reading a book by Marek Halter called, "Sarah: A Novel." It's the story of Abram and Sarai (later Abraham and Sarah) in novel form. The author takes a few liberties with adaptation, but the overall affect is a vivid depiction of life in the ancient world.

The story stays true to the Biblical text, with a few "interesting" embellishments (read: Lot's infatuation with Sarai), but I particularly enjoy how the author wove research of that time period into the Biblical story through geographical descriptions, food, dress, and ritual traditions.

It was good choice after a few harrowing days of reading, "God and Country: American in Red and Blue," which sounded like it would be an excellent read, however, was a bit cumbersome.