the one in the middle

April 22, 2008 at 10:43 pm | Posted in Professional Development | Leave a comment

I was listening to an interview the other day with Jim Lehrer, host of the News Hour on PBS. He seemed to be a very well rounded guy who had accomplished many of his life’s goals. At the end of the show, a caller asked him to retell a story about his military experience in the Marine Corps, many years ago. I didn’t figure him for a Marine, but was really interested in where the conversation led.

He recounted how he “corrected” the drill instructor on the first day of his training on how to pronounce his name. The DI responded, “If I tell you your name is Little Bo Peep, then your name is Little Bo Peep, do you understand me!?” He got the point. The host later asked him if the military taught him anything of value. One of his answers was, “I’m the guy in the middle. There is a guy on my left, and a guy on my right, and I need to learn to trust them with my life, and they are counting on me with theirs.”

I then thought about an org chart. Through necessity, the chart presents a top-down view of the world and conveys the authority structure. That’s fine, and it is useful. But in our heads, I wonder if we shouldn’t keep an image of our organizations as a circle. We’re standing with incredible dependencies on those around us. Yes, there will be times when decisions have to be made and it’s lonely at the top and all of that. But it’s equally valuable to remember we’re standing shoulder-to-shoulder in the middle of others. And maybe if we – or at any rate, if I – would remember that more often, an even better sense of teamwork and enablement would develop.

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