Last week, Wednesday, I was surprised when I looked out my office window to see my neighbor and his buddies fishing in the lake. “It is 10am. They should be working. Oh, maybe they had the day off and there really must be some fish in that lake. ” My thoughts were swirling that day. They fished for about two hours, drank beers ate some food and listened to music (while I worked – writing curriculum). I went on with my work and forgot all about the fishing escapade.
Two days later I looked out my office window and saw what appeared to be a coke can floating near the shore of the lake where they were fishing. I saw another red object a few feet away. “oh great!” I exclaimed, “those fisherman are litter bugs! What a mess they left in the lake. Those poor ducks and herons and fish”. But, I didn’t do anything at all. The mowing crew for the Homeowners Association will pick it up – I assumed. I went on with my work and forgot all about the trash incident.
The next week came and I notice that the mowing crew did not pick up the “coke can” and other trash in the lake. I thought, “I should go and get it myself. This is really bothering me.” But, I am seriously afraid of fire ants and they are all over our back yard and the lake property. I watch out my office window and see people mowing their lawns or walking and doing the fire ant dance. In case you live in the north, let me describe this dance for you. First, you bring your knees up and stomp your feet. You stomp and stomp. Then you reach down and take off your flip flops and start beating your legs with them while using your arms to swat and swish your feet and legs. Fire ants are awful if they bite you, it will sting like a bee then it will itch (like you have never felt an itch) for days. Of course, you will scratch and leave a huge scar. On my list of worst things in the world – fire ants rank right up there.
After a week and a day I decided I would brave the dangers and go get the trash myself. I put on my rain boots (ants) and grabbed the skimmer net from the pool. Gingerly, I walked to the lake shore avoiding ant mounds and anything that did not look like grass. Yes, it was its own special dance. Then I saw it, scooped it up. Not a coke can but a red christmas ornament bulb. Then I saw the kit kat wrapper along with a green plastic bag that blended in to the grass. I scooped it all up and did the tip toe dance back to my house.
I don’t think the fishermen left that trash. But, then again I don’t know much about fishing. Maybe red Christmas ornaments are the newest bait in South Florida? I asked myself, why didn’t I do this sooner? Did my OCD or social responsibility take over my fear of fire ants? I often wonder why we as human do or do not do certain things when we know them to be the right thing to do. Do our fears stop us? Are we just lazy? Knowing more about why we behave certain ways (or not) is key to how to get along with others in life. I am pretty sure that is why I am so interested in self-assessments and learning more about myself and others.
Recently, I was working with a team of people and they did not know each other personally or professionally. There was a lack of trust because they had no idea how their jobs related with their “team mate’s” jobs. This is so amazing to me but once I learned the dynamics — I now understood how this happened and how common and prevalent this type of team is in the business world.
“Sure, I know my job and how to do my job”, said Mary. I had no doubts. Mary seemed competent and her boss, Jennifer, gushed about how quickly Mary creates her reports. In fact, Jennifer said her entire team of millennials was engaged in their jobs and got their tasks done efficiently. They seemed to always want more to do. So what could go wrong with this efficient team? It seems they were not a team. They were a group of people doing their own tasks and not talking to each other at all. They also complained to Jennifer about the others. She heard such things as; Jeff is always out of the office, Mary never talks to anyone – she is anti-social and Greg is always criticizing everyone.
I spoke to some of the team members before our “training” and heard these complaints. I realized that they did not know each other’s personalities or jobs. The day we met everyone seemed very upbeat and eager to figure out what this “training” was all about. They all were interested in making the team better but they were not sure how to do this since they did not trust the other members of the team. We started with a simple exercise just to have each person share a bit about themselves. It is a creative exercise where each person draws, writes or colors something about their family, work philosophy, what they do at work, and hobbies. It was amazing how receptive everyone was to get a chance to learn more about their co-workers and teammates. During lunch (we ate together) people actually asked questions, shared stories and laughed with each other (not at each other). For some reason, they never had a chance to get to know each other. They were “too busy” working on their own projects. Most assumed that the boss, Jennifer, wanted them to get their tasks done and not talk to each other.
Just this one exercise turned the tide on the dynamics of this team. Of course, I am still working with Jennifer about how to communicate her goals and working philosophy with her team. But, the team seems happier, they talk and there is not such a trust issue any more.
Say or do one nice thing for one of your team members today. Don’t expect anything in return. Just start to build that relationship. They do not have to be your BFF (best friend forever) but starting a respectful workplace relationship will lead to less stress for you and better collaboration for all on your team.
Yes, I did get the hurricane at my home in Florida. The weather service said that the worse of the storm will be from Thursday night into Friday. On Wednesday I was alone in the house working when the storm hit. Boy, did she hit. Wind and rain and rain and rain. I was getting concerned. But, I decided to work and ignore the wind and rain and rain and rain. I worked for hours.
Then my boyfriend called me. He started the phone conversation with, “I am in a flood”. Now, I decided to panic. My mind jumped immediately to a scene where he was floating away in my little black Toyota Corolla. Then he told me that he was making a U turn and asked me which way to go. I told him “Go East”. He decided to go west toward the beach because he knew the way. I was VERY frustrated that he did not listen to me because the rain was coming down 1 inch per 15 minutes. So, I said, “fine!” in my best sarcastic tone and hung up the phone. He called back 15 minutes later and asked me where he should go because he hit another flood and had to turn around…(you think???) he was back at the spot where he called me the first time. I gave him directions without saying, “I told you so” (much) and he made it home in 10 minutes.
When he got home we realized the pool was overflowing, the lake was rising and the preserve with the trees was flooded with in 1 foot of the side of our house!!! Hermine was only a tropical storm and getting worse. So I panicked. We are going to Flood!!! It is going to just get worse!!! The weather people are saying that Thursday will be the worse day! He was calm. We backwashed the pool and prayed that the side yard would overflow into the lake instead of our house. We waited…Then we did what anyone would do. We watched the weather channel then fell asleep.
He worked from home Thursday and Friday. Schools and businesses were closed. We got bands of rain and wind but not 11 inches of rain in 5 hours like Wednesday. Sometimes, the news is wrong. All turned out great. The house did not flood and my sister flew in to Tampa from Detroit on Thursday night without delay.
For the next storm, I promise to be more prepared. Sandbags and flood insurance. I realize that sometimes there is nothing I can do – but give directions. But, it is your choice if you decided to follow them or not. Choice and preparedness – 2 lessons learned in the midst of a hurricane!