I'm sitting on a plane. I'm in an exit row, still a big guy in a little seat. I go to sit down and notice the seat to my left has water on the seat. Not so deep that it is a puddle. 5 to 10 big drops. Enough that you wouldn't want to sit in it. The person who this seat will belong to hasn't made an appearance yet.
I sit down and try to politely wave and smile at a flight attendant to get her attention. I think she sees me, but she doesn't respond by acknowledging me. I want to fix this before the seat is filled.
It would be a rotten way to start a trip by finding tour seat with water on it. It's a modern conundrum. How do I attract attention on a plane when the line is boarding, while not becoming that guy who attracts the wrong kind of attention.
I wave again and try to smile as I think I am acknowledged. Still didn't work.
The call attendant light! That's the ticket. I hit my button, eyes locked on the flight attendant. BINGO! She sees me.
She mouth the words from across the plane, "Did you push the button?".
"Yes", I mouth back.
"Hit the button again", she says across the plane.
Okay I think, now I can simply point this out and get it taken care of. The water will be cleaned up. Everything will be right and in order before the seat gets filled. Wrong.
After I turn off the light the flight attendant goes back to talking with the people at the front of the plane. She must have assumed I did it on accident. Again I am discouraged. I mean it's not even my seat. If I just wait when the person arrives they can hold up the line and at that point it will have to be fixed.
I can't leave it like that.
It is something simple, but it is so much more than that. As a kid I loved Superman. I was always a fan. I probably slept in a cape more times than I didn't. I tried too, at least. My Mom was convinced that I would strangle myself in my sleep, if she caught me wearing one she would make me take it off. And I would. Until she left the room.
The thing about Superman was he helped people. That was important, even as a child I knew this. I think at that age we all do. We are supposed to look out for other people. We should help them. As an adult we tend to get jaded about that.
We realize there is only so much that we can do. We can't help everyone. We cannot donate all of our time or all of our money to charity if we have a family or children at home. It wouldn't be wise, as a matter of fact that would be wrong. We have to take care of our families first. So we begin to make realizations over time. The innocence of our childhood fade away. We realize we cannot save everyone.
During my brief time as a football coach for my boys a couple years ago I had a phrase I fell in love with. You play how you practice, you practice how you play. Simple but true.
I still tell my kids that on a weekly if not daily basis. If you have a good strong work ethic at practice you carry that over to the game. If you quit at practice you will probably quit in the game. If you are sloppy at home or lazy about getting things done... you practice how you play.
If we cannot look out for others over simple things, how can be expected to look out for our coworkers, our customers, or our clients. It's simple, but it is more than that. We have a responsibility to make the world better.
Period. Not just better in business. Better. Period. End of sentence. It doesn't matter if the goal is to lead employees, a team, or any effort that we under take in life. We have the chance to effect change for the better in every action we take. We can act with others in mind, and by doing so we will make things better for them. You practice how you play.
This thought was fresh in my head because of work.
I lead a team of highly skilled highly talented consultants. We love fresh and new ideas. At Pragmatic Works, my job, we have had a very innovative approach to raises and reviews that allowed people to control their own destiny. Like many ideas it looked good on paper, but after several years we could see cracks in the system.
For the past four months we've been working to replace to old and determine the new. This isn't new to us. Every year we take the feedback from our teams and we look at how we can do things better, how we can make changes that benefit us personally and professionally. However, this year marked our largest set of changes we've introduced since I've been with the company.
The core thing that drove us was how we would grow, encourage, and support our team. How do we help them? Not just internally for the company, but how do we help them technically and professionally. If people are here for years or only a short while, the goal is to help them leave better than when they arrived. We need to help make you better. As leaders for our company it is our job to help our employees. Period.
We sat down with people and had a lot of 1 on 1 meetings discussing ideas and asking for feedback.
We took that feedback and kept some things and threw out others. We increased vacation, changed the review process, increased the benefits to help people be active in the SQL Community, and other technology communities. We are working on redoing our mentoring program and some other very cool things to help people grow.
After all if you are in the business of helping people, which we are; what good are you if you cannot help the people who work for you. You practice how you play.
"So Balls", you say. "There was this water in a seat...."
Thank you Dear Reader. So I stood up, waved to the flight attendant, and in my most polite southern accent I asked if I could get a napkin to clean up the water in the seat next to me.
She walk over to me with a puzzled look, as though I had spoken is some foreign tongue. As we both looked at the water she realized why I had been waving. She rushed off to get a couple napkins to clean it up. About 20 minutes later I began to laugh inside. The seat next to me was still empty.
What if it was all for nothing and no one sat down.
Before long an elderly woman boarded late and took the seat next to me. Her seat was nice and dry. I think my kids would be happy with me, after all you practice how you play.
As always Dear Reader Thank you for stopping by.