Thursday, April 23, 2009

Quality Time

Kevin, the General Manager, came to my desk and told me we were going to go do some volunteer work at the Chamber of Commerce. “When?” I asked. “Now. Get your coat”. Kevin had bright smiling green eyes, and always with a ready laugh, but his smart and serious character made him one of the best bosses I ever worked for. On the way we talked about the beautiful new yellow iron just delivered at the site. We didn’t know it at the time, but Caterpillar was putting out some of the best waste handling equipment it ever produced in the early 1990’s. The 826C Compactor is still a favorite among old school landfill operators.

We got to the small chamber of commerce office and the secretary showed us into the conference room. I guess I was expecting a bigger crowd. It was just me and Kevin. After the secretary showed us the mailing that needed to be sent out, I arranged the stacks of fliers in order and got down to business. Kevin’s eyes went wide and he smiled broadly when I started rapidly and efficiently pulling, folding, stapling, stuffing and stamping, with a steady rhythm, buzzing through the piles.

I asked him why we were the only ones there and he said “Well, Karen wanted me to have a talk with you.”

O shit.

So we talked. The work we were doing seemed to take all the pressure off; and Kevin appeared to be changing his mind about me as we talked and worked. You see, it was my first “real” job after college, and two years in the Peace Corps. Looking back, it was simple. Get the payables and all supporting documents assembled and approved, key them in before the deadline, and send out the checks. But I never seemed to beat the deadline. Fact was, that wasn’t what was taking all my time. Even though when I started working there the year before, I didn’t know a thing about their systems, within six months everyone there was asking me to figure out their printer, copier, spreadsheet, database, network, phone, fax and computer problem. And I never said no to anyone who asked for help. Kevin started to get the picture. Accounting just wasn’t for me. That being said, we agreed that I needed to prioritize my work, and focus on my duties. And say no once in a while.

I’ll never forget him telling me “it’s a nicer place to work since you came on board, Mark, but you have to get your work done.” Within a few months I was promoted to be a manager trainee, which changed the direction of my career forever.