05 April, 2013

CLOUDY...

"I'm waiting on a daydream
To take me through the morning
And put me in my coffee break
Where I can have a sandwich
And remember..."-from the song, Millworker, by James Taylor
He was standing at the back of the dimly lit room, quietly waiting for his introduction. From where he stood, no one knew he was there, yet. He appreciated these few extra minutes, as it gave him a chance to review the message he wanted to deliver to his employees, some of whom had been with him, from the very beginning. "You know, Mike, our people have not had a performance-based increase in over two years. How much longer do you think these people will remain committed to you, when it is getting harder for them to make ends meet?" said Bill, his closest friend and confidante. True, he had banked on the fact that unemployment was at an all time high and the fear of losing the only job they had, had kept his employees from going somewhere else. No one was going anywhere, not just yet. That's what he believed. But did he want people who were hostages to their own fears and insecurities? That repressed anger could manifest itself in so many undesirable ways. As much as Mike loved his company, he loved his employees more.

REALLY.

He was grateful to them, as they had worked hard to give flesh to his dreams. And he remained committed to them and concerned for them. It had been a challenging year, maybe the toughest year his company had faced, since 1981. Back then, they almost didn't make it but it had taken more than a strong will to get his company past all the obstacles. Obstacles that had threatened to squash them, even before they became something real, something tangible. His little idea, way back then, lovingly nourished by himself and his employees had defied Wall Street and they had made it. And yet for all of their success, something started happening a few years ago. It reared its ugly head as an off-hand sarcastic comment in what should have been a positive, new year launch for a brand new product line. And that comment, like many he had heard since then, had hurt him.

He felt a bit betrayed.

He had spent a long time thinking about this. The unhappiness, the bitterness in some of his employees' attitudes had consumed his waking moments. He was puzzled and even, offended by it but the compassion he felt toward his people, compelled him to find a solution. He struggled since then to identify an answer, because he wanted to make his people happy. And what he wanted, more than anything, was for happy people to stand behind his products, to stand behind their company, to stand behind their name. How to address this? The more he thought about it, the more convinced he became about the risk. He had to take it. His people needed to be inspired. They needed to be reminded of the role that each of them played in something bigger than their own selves. And yet, he realized that he would have to deliver the sternest message that he had ever made in his career. The risk? He may lose some employees but he had reconciled this fact and that in the long run, his company might be better off without the negative attitude that infested all that he had worked for. Yes, he needed to disinfect his dream, scrub it, clean it, polish it and make it sparkle again. What he wanted them to remember was the extremely positive attitude that had helped them navigate through the darkest times. And times could not be any darker, than they were right then. He needed to know that the team of people he employed were with him, believed in him and remained committed to the ideals that his company subscribed to.
"Nobody will believe in you, unless you believe in yourself."-Liberace
It was the only way that his company would survive. And so, he had made his final decision and in these few moments, he used the time to psyche himself up to deliver the words he had deliberated on for so long. "...if you choose to work here, at this company, its because you don't want to do anything else. You want to work here. You don't believe there is anything that you can do that is more important than working here. You believe in our products, in our philosophy, in our company." he stated firmly and while he looked about the room, he wasn't so sure that the stone-cold faces that looked back at him, were with him but in spite of what he observed, he continued, "...life is too short and being dead lasts forever. Why would you want to spend the short amount of time you have on earth, doing something you don't like? It doesn't make sense. The reality of the situation is that the door behind you is not locked. No one is forcing you, against your will to work here. If working here is not making you happy, you need to leave, to go out in the world and find the things that will make you happy. It's out there and you have to find that one thing that makes you happy and completes you, so you start to live a more positive life than the one you are living now. I only want people working here, who want to work here. The life of this company depends on the people who still believe that there are no better products than the ones we offer, that there isn't a better company than our company. I want people who are not consumed by what our competitors are already doing. I want people who are proactive, constantly thinking out-of-the-box and developing the kinds of products that will make our competitors take notice, as they struggle to mimic us. I want people who are inspired by our customer's needs and develop the type of products which will help our customer's succeed,  because if our customers succeed, then we will also succeed."

Mike was unprepared for what happened next. His people stood and cheered. They were with him. And he knew in that moment, that he had somehow turned the page, to start writing the most exciting chapter of his company's life...their comeback.
"The farmer grinned and said, 'Old Warwick is just about blind. As long as he believes he's part of a team, he doesn't mind pulling."-from Folks Feel the Rain...Others Just Get Wet by James W. Moore
Believe, even when it feels impossible to do so...your "suddenly" may only be a few seconds away,

Ralph

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