Life is a Business – Chapter 34
A series of essays on the past, the present, and the future
Growing up out in the country at the foot of the famous Monteagle Mountain in Tennessee, our Depression/WWII era parents believed that all aspects of a young person’s body, mind and spirit must be nourished and then well disciplined. They worked each day to input the highest quality ingredients into our mouths, ears, eyes…and unfortunately, onto our rear ends with a belt or switch when we did not hear or see the lesson the first time! All in all, we are better off for the hard knocks, for once we got away from the farm, the rest of the world was relatively easy for us to navigate – I was never afraid of any man again after leaving home at 18. There were many lessons that we carried forward into adulthood we learned around our big six -foot wide “lazy Susan” dinner table. For those of you who never had the pleasure of one, it requires process control, teamwork and cooperation to function, just like a business. Those who want to spin it backwards, too fast, or not stop for each person to serve at next food bowl are quickly ostracized, disciplined or sent away from the table. I learned a great business lesson on the nights Mom served Dad’s favorite…fried calf liver.
I loved Mom’s mashed potatoes and gravy; they went with everything. As much as I loved them, I was forced to sacrifice and waste them for a higher purpose…hiding that darn liver underneath them so Dad would not force me to eat it! Year after year, I played that game, never thinking about Mom cleaning the dishes and knowing my secret. About the age of 16, she announced that I was big and strong now and did not have to eat my liver any longer. She freed me to be honest about reality and not waste food…she taught me a lesson I have used hundreds of times in business in several different industries: be brutally honest about circumstances and do not waste precious resources trying to hide a poor outcome or bad decision. It is far more efficient and effective to deal with an unpleasant situation as quickly as possible, with the least amount of waste and pain as possible rather than to work overtime to bury it among some other good news. Call it what it is and deal with it!
Burying that liver never made it get better, nor did I ever feel enough shame to put that disgusting stuff in my mouth again. How many times in your own workplace life have you sat silently around a conference table and wanted to just stand up and shout:
“This is a bunch of crap…we should stop this today and never do it again!”
Unfortunately, we all just bit our lips, nodded our heads and allowed someone we feared to hurt our companies and our careers with repeated management failures…simply because we did not have the courage to tell them that we hated the liver they were serving and instead, found places to hide the problem.
One day, there were no mashed potatoes left to use as cover and the company failed.
At home or at work, you don’t have to see a dead mouse to know he’s there. Your nose never lies, but your brain will.
By Bill Hewgley