Musings from a chunky ‘monkey’

While my tenure with three Machiavellian companies in my career did more long-term damage to me than good, it makes me examine what motivates me.

Right now, it’s money. Give me something, anything that pays. But when I’ve gotten some stability, it will be more of a “nice to have” as opposed to “I will work my ass off to get to X dollars a year.”

I think my main motivators, paying the rent aside, boil down to:

1. Recognition
2. Recognition
3. Recognition

I was going to put “success” and “fear” on that list. But when I think about the best employment situations of my life, success was really only defined by promotions (new title for the resume, yo!) and pat-on-the-back e-mails that came out of the bloody blue.

My favorite leader was Dave. Everybody knows that. Nobody can/will hold a candle to him. And it is Dave whom I seek in everyone I talk to these days — will they know how to handle me the way he did? Will they know when to give me boundaries and when to break down barriers so I can run through them?

What really defined my respect and awe of Dave boiled down to this: I didn’t want him to be disappointed in me.

That’s it.

That is the secret of my success right there — that I never, ever wanted someone to tell Dave that I did something out-of-line or wrong or simply less than perfect.

Dave was a man of few words. But he was a man of action.

For example, we launched a Web portal together. That thing was a bitch and even though it was fully a team effort, I lost a LOT of sleep and free time over that thing … both before it launched and afterward when it needed to be maintained and improved.

Out of his own pocket, Dave arranged a ceremony honoring me and the other two key players. He gave us each a bottle of fine wine from his personal collection, and an amazing display of flowers apiece. He said a few words and made sure that the “swinging dicks” of the company knew exactly who had taken the reins of the Next Big Thing.

That was just him, though. A couple years later, when I no longer worked for him (and I could never truly forgive the company for forcing me to make that decision, although HE encouraged it because it truly was in MY best interest to move on), he funded a holiday party for his department when the company was too broke to do anything for the rest of us.

He invited me to join them, and I know there is a blog archive of it somewhere, because I was always to be part of his work family. I remember crying on my own time, thinking how lucky I had been to have had nearly three years of being his direct report.

I also knew that the best homage to him was to become as much like him as I could. And anybody who doesn’t like my style is insulting him. And that’s worth an ass-whoopin’ right there because that man walks on water as far as I’m concerned.

Sure, we do have our differences. I’m more of a hands-on manager than he was. I front-load a lot more in the way of information, training and support. But his “love note after the fact” approach worked for me. Sure, I got the occasional, “You published THAT?” but for the most part, if I went to him with, “Here’s what’s wrong and here’s how I’m gonna fix it,” 9 times out of 10 I got a heartfelt. “Great. Thanks!”

But that’s the point — I never whined or complained to him or about him. I got his style, he got mine and we figured out how to be on the same side and reach the same goals. Sure, I wanted to clock him some days. But even when I did, I had his back. I think it just made me try harder to make my point when I didn’t get my way. 🙂

This entry is also inspired by BusinessWeek, this time for its writeup on Managing the Idea Monkey.

There are two takeaways from that article:

1. “A scared monkey is an unproductive monkey.”

2. “Bored monkeys are not only unhappy monkeys but also potentially destructive ones.”

I’ve been plenty scared and bored throughout my career. I was neither with Dave. I would likely still be in that position today had it not changed so dramatically and my heart been so downright broken by it all.

Or maybe not. Maybe it took being scared out of my everloving mind at the Den of Iniquity and bored to pieces otherwise to make me long to go back to the ridiculous hours and not-commensurate-enough pay.

But what I’ve lacked since then is passion. Passion for the team, passion for the mission, passion for the content and the leaders and the sustainability of the product line. I’ve had enthusiasm. Hell, I’ve had devotion when it comes to some of the people who surround me. But holistically, no. I’m sad to say not so much. Initially, yes. But it fizzles. Perhaps it always does.

Once again, I should be looking for work today. 🙂 But alas, I need to be sure I’m healed and that my heart is ready. That’s how I am with personal relationships and that’s how I need to be with my life’s work. Because while jobs and men come and go, my passion is mine to give away. I’m not going to do it unless I’m getting something back for it. And really, is a little recognition that hard to give when you’re getting someone’s whole heart in return?

Comments closed.