Note: Every month our local newspaper, the Casey County News, graciously affords me valuable space to contribute an article on behalf of our local Chamber of Commerce. The below article ran in last week's paper. I almost didn't send it in because I thought it might be too personal and not "newsy" enough, but I have received more comments about it from our local residents than any other article I've written in the past 2 years. On the assumption that maybe I did something right, I thought I would share it here.
Five years ago I almost got fired.
It was a shocking experience, because nothing like it had ever happened to me before, and I never saw it coming.
For years I had been a sales manager with VERITAS Software, and a good one at that. But the head of our department – my boss – was entirely self-serving. Under his “leadership”, a similar attitude was bred among most of my fellow managers, and while they were busy furthering their careers, indulging in 3-hour lunches, and pretty much doing as they pleased, their employees lived in a neglected, hostile work environment.
I tried to keep myself apart from my peers as much as possible. I was committed to those who worked for me, rather than for myself. My own employees frequently told me how glad they were that they had me as a boss, while many others told me that they wished they did.
And then one day we got a new department head, and everything changed.
I loved my new boss. He was down to earth, grounded, and dedicated to doing the right things for the right reasons. 3-hour lunches were suddenly a thing of the past.
I felt a great deal of excitement, not only at the prospects of what the future might hold, but also in the knowledge that my self-serving peers were finally going to get what they deserved.
So imagine my surprise when less than 2 months later I found out that it was my head on the chopping block. I went home that day with an ultimatum from my new boss: “decide if you want to work here, but know that even if you say yes, one more mistake and you’re gone”.
I spent that night in a confused daze, trying desperately to understand what was going on, until finally, I had no other choice but to look at myself. I didn’t like what I saw.
Ever since my new boss arrived, I had been waiting for my fellow managers to get what they had coming to them. What I hadn’t noticed, however, was that none of them were acting selfishly anymore; now that they had a true leader, they were working together as a team for a common good.
But I wasn’t.
Because of my own vengeful desire, I was working for their failure, and as a result, every word I said was motivated by that desire, and it was all negative. Without even realizing it, I had somehow allowed myself to become the very thing that I had always fought against.
Instead of being a pillar of strength for my new boss to lean on, I had become his biggest problem. I was a cancer that was eating away at his organization from within, and like any cancer, I had to be removed in order for the body to live.
Understanding this brought me incredible amount of relief, as well as an equal amount of shame. This was not who I was. Luckily, I still had a chance to prove it. So I did. I forgave the past, I let go of my hate, and I started clean. From that point on, everything was different. Everything was better.
So what does this have to do with commerce?
All of the organizations here in Casey County – whether individual businesses or the community as a whole – have a lot of issues to deal with. The good news is that there are a lot of good people working really hard to make things better. But there are also a fair number of people who have allowed themselves to become predominantly negative in the comments that they share.
The irony is that those people who voice negative comments truly do want things to get better, and yet their own negative words actually work to prevent things from changing.
All of us would like to see a brighter future for Casey County; for our businesses, our organizations, our churches, and our community as a whole. But to accept a brighter future, we have to walk away from the past. We have to let it go.
There is no other way.