There was a meeting last week of the scions of the Philadelphia business community. The business leaders began to arrive at the suburban enclave at the appointed hour. The industries they represented included medical devices, automotive, retail, pharmaceutical, chemicals, and management consulting. No one at their respective organizations was aware of the clandestine meeting. These men were responsible for managing millions of dollars of assets, overseeing thousands of employees, and the fiduciary responsibility of international conglomerates. Within their ranks they had managed mergers and acquisitions and divestitures. They were group with which to be reckoned and their skills were the envy of many.
They arrived singularly, each bearing gifts. Keenly aware of the etiquette, they removed their shoes and placed them neatly by the door.
The pharmaceutical executive was escorted to the kitchen.
“Did your wife make you bring that?” I asked.
He glanced quickly at the cellophane wrapped cheese ball, and sheepishly nodded. “What are we supposed to do with those?” He asked as he eyeballed the brightly wrapped toothpicks that looked banderillas, the short barbed sticks a matador would use..
“My wife made me put them out,” I replied. “She said we should use these with the hors d’oeuvres.”
He nodded sympathetically; he too had seen it too many times. I went to the front door to admit the next guest. He stood there holding two boxes of wafer thin, whole wheat crackers. Our eyes met, knowingly, as if to say, “Et Tu Brutus”. The gentleman following him was a senior executive in the automotive industry. He carried a plate of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies. And so it went for the next 15 to 20 minutes, industry giants made to look small by the gifts they were forced to carry.
The granite countertop was lined with the accoutrements for the party. “It’s just poker,” I had tried to explain. My explanation had fallen on deaf ears. There is a right way and a wrong way to entertain, I had been informed. Plates, utensils, and napkins were lined up at one end of the counter, followed in quick succession by the crock pot of chili that had been brewing for some eight hours, the cheese tray, a nicely arrayed platter of crackers, assorted fruits, a selection of anti-pastas, cups, ice, and a selection of beverages. In their mind, independent of what we did for a living and the amount of power and responsibility we each wielded, we were incapable of making it through a four hour card game without their intervention.
I deftly stabbed a gherkin with my tooth pick. “Hey,” I hollered “put a coaster under that glass. Are you trying to get us all in trouble? And you,” I said to Pharmacy Boy, “Get a napkin and wipe up the chili you spilled. She’ll be back here in four hours, and we have to have this place looking just as good as when she left.” I thought I was having the neighborhood guys over for poker; I was wrong. So was each of the other guys. We had been outwitted by our controllers, our spouses. Nothing is ever as simple as it first appears. We didn’t even recognize we were being managed until they made themselves known.
Who’s managing the show at your shop, you or the patients? The answer to that question depends on who owns the relationship, who controls the dialog. If most of the conversation about your organization originates with them, the best you are doing is reacting to them as they initiate the social media spin, or try to respond once the phone started ringing. It’s a pretty ineffective way of managing. It’s as though they dealt the cards, and they know ahead of time that your holding nothing.
There are times when my manager isn’t home, times when I wear my shoes inside the house—however, I wear little cloth booties over them to make certain I don’t mar the floor. One time when I decided to push the envelope, I didn’t even separate the darks from the whites when I did the laundry. We got in an hour of poker before I broke out the mop and vacuum. One friend tried to light a cigar—he will be out of the cast in a few weeks.
Be afraid. Be very, very afraid.