Seth McColley Headline Animator

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Keep Calm and Carry On

It was a bad day at the office. Not your typical bad day. I'm talking update your resume, bang your head on the desk, kick the cat kind of bad day. At the time, I was working for Cingular Wireless (also known as AT&T Wireless, AT&T, AT&T Mobility...pick one) as an HR Manager, living in Denver. I have no recollection, now, about what set me off that day but I was in a foul mood. What I do remember is my wife taking one look at my face when I walked in the door that night and suggesting that we hit one of my favorite restaurants for dinner and a drink. She's pretty smart like that. What can I say...I married up.

So there I was, crying (figuratively, not literally) in my frozen margarita about my crappy day at work as we worked through an order of beef fajitas when we saw a familiar face. Charlie is a good friend and neighbor so he sat down for a few minutes to catch up. I asked him if he was having dinner with the family and he said he wasn't, but instead he was having dinner with some associates to discuss a procedure that they were performing the next day. You see, Charlie is an Interventional Radiologist and at the time, he was like one of 20 physicians in the world that were doing the kind of work he was doing (or something crazy impressive like that). He went on to share some of the details and how unique this surgery was. High risk. Any complications could be fatal. Enjoy your dinner. See you at the pool this weekend.

Any complications could be fatal.

I'm sure that I looked pretty pathetic right about then. Here I was, an HR Manager, bitching and moaning about my day at work and the terrible hand that I'd been dealt. When I screw up, people don't get paid right or on time, the tough conversations don't resonate, my business partners don't get the right information they need to make decisions, etc. When my buddy screws up, people die. How's that for a reality check?

I learned a few important lessons that night about myself and the role we play as HR pros:
  • Don't take yourself too seriously - get over yourself; learn how to step back and think about how others see you.
  • Let it go and live to fight another day - we're all going to have bad days at work, it happens. Know when to call it quits for the day and get after it tomorrow. The work will still be there, trust me.
  • Try to keep things in proper perspective - what we do is important but at the end of the day, we're not saving lives here people.
  • If I ever need an Interventional Radiologist (God forbid!), I know who I'm calling.

Keep calm, carry on and keep it real.

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  1. Great post Seth; I like it! It's usually the thinking about the bad day that gets us wound up, as though it is a matter of life and death. Good perspective.

    1. Thanks, Mike. Your comments remind me of the ABR training we are both all too familiar with from the Yum! days and "self-wind ups". Admittedly, I don't always practice what I preach, but pulling this memory up from time to time always helps me get grounded again.

  2. "If we practiced medicine like we practice management — based on hunch, intuition and ideology — we would have much more malpractice and a lot of mortality and morbidity."
    Dr. Jeffrey C. Pfeffer, Stanford University, Professor of Organizational Behavior

    1. What a great quote, Patti! I've never thought of 'management' like that before. True dat!