Creating Hurdles

Don't worry what others think about you--it's more important how you see yourself. Photo courtesy © Can Stock Photo Inc. / auris

Ben felt the tension sink in the minute the alarm went off. Today was his monthly review with his supervisor and these sessions never went well. They always left him unsettled. His boss was a nice enough guy; a little aloof maybe, somewhat cavalier with his willingness to curse in front of any employee—male or female—but a solid leader who took good care of his staff and was appreciative.

The problem was bigger than that. He simply did not speak the same language as Ben. He was a "numbers guy" and got the biggest kick out of saving a dollar here and there. Ben's talent and strength was more on the creative side. His management techniques and negotiation skills were what had propelled his career for years, but his biggest hurdle had always been "selling" his ideas to his superiors. They just didn't see the value in his artistic methods until they were proven and then suddenly his ideas were copied throughout the company. He could cite many examples of that very phenomenon.

He'd be plodding along, toying with a new idea by trying it out on his immediate staff and suddenly, something would click and that process would initiate a new way of looking at the problem. That application would spread throughout the company and due to that dollars were clearly being saved. ONLY THEN would his supervisor stop the bus, open the doors and look for what he had just "run over." For a few weeks, Ben would be lauded as the ever-creative out-of-the-box thinker. Time would pass, the new initiative would become routine and all the water would settle over the changed environment. Back to work.

Just once Ben wanted to hear the boss take one of these sessions and say, "Ben, we'd like to use all those great ideas of yours and put you in an environment where you were free to create, invent, and funnel all that energy into making us a better company every year." See, Ben's ideas weren't restricted to his department. He had ideas about everything from Human Resources to Marketing. He was just a guy who found efficiencies in everything but the company refused to see his abilities except for when he had a particular idea on a particular day about a particular project or initiative; especially when he answered to his designated supervisor; the numbers guy.

Now he sat at his desk. It was 8:45 a.m. Their meeting was scheduled for 9. He was absolutely dreading this. He could hear himself explaining every item he had on the review list. "No—you misunderstood what I was trying to do here" and "That's not what I intended what I was trying to show here was..." He sighed heavily.

The seconds ticked by. At 8:58 he got out of his chair. The walk to the boss's office was about a minute; they shared a passion for punctuality. He turned the corner into the office suite and suddenly nothing was familiar. The art had been removed from the walls and boxes filled the hallway. Ben's supervisor had taken another job with another company, the janitor explained as he hefted a box and dropped it on a dolly with the others. Ben stood there speechless. He suddenly felt a hand on his shoulder and looked over to find the president of the company standing behind him. "Ben, isn't it?"

"Yes sir," he responded, his voice cracking.

“Ben, before your boss left us he went on and on about your creative penchant. In his exit interview he said you had some terrific ideas that we should be aware of. Ben, we'd like to use all those great ideas of yours and put you in an environment where you were free to create, invent, and funnel all that energy into making us a better company every year. How would you feel about helping us make some changes around here?"

Ben stood there flabbergasted. He began to realize that much of what he had assumed about his boss had been his own interpretation, his own fears unresolved. The boss HAD seen his abilities he just didn’t know how to channel or utilize them. In the end, he did Ben the ultimate favor and recognized his abilities and championed them to the supervision. Now the pressure to perform was on Ben and it had been the chance he was seeking. Was he up to the task or had it been easier to simply blame the boss and his lack of compassion and understanding?

Ben went home and did some serious thinking. He closed the door to his home office and wrote out his thoughts, his reservations and a few outlines to implement the plans he had been thinking about. The more he got on paper the more he realized he COULD have been doing all along – even WITH the old boss. When the evening was over Ben had established a good plan of attack. He knew what he wanted to say and how he was going to say it. He knew the pros and cons and could present that as part of his plan. And he knew one most important thing. The only thing that was holding him back all this time was himself. His “misunderstanding” boss was simply one giant excuse; had been for years. It had become so easy to lay it all off on that. Now with a fresh approach Ben looked forward to his new role and had a surge of energy to carry him forward and propel his career. He knew well he almost missed it. He knew even more so that he almost did it to himself.

How many of us are in there creating our own hurdles because of assumptions and misinterpretations? Only one way to resolve all that; get in there and never quit – find a way around the obstacles, over the hurdles, under the brick walls and mainly AWAY from the excuses. When you dig down deep, what have you got in there? If you are at all afraid of what you might find you better stop talking that talk because you just may be asked to walk that walk.

Ron Ciancutti is the Director of Procurement for Cleveland Metroparks. He is not on Facebook, but he can be reached at