Thursday, July 31, 2008
Today is my very last day at the college where I have worked for the past two and a half years. It seems odd that after today I will be turning in my keys and my badge and not returning to this place.
I am very much ready to move on to the new position I have accepted. I think this transition will be a good thing. Still, today I am thinking about all that I will miss.
On the absolute top of that list is the chance to hear Cow Stories from my boss, Dr. Harvey Franklin.
Harvey has been a great boss. He has taught me a lot. He helped me learn to navigate my way through a sometimes complicated political climate. He gave me room to take chances and try new things without ever making me feel stupid if I failed. He was always available to listen and offer support. But best of all, he told me cow stories.
I remember a particular day when I was trying to set up some new technology the college had purchased, "clicker" response devices. I needed to do a demonstration of how they worked, but I had not yet used them myself. I was having a few problems getting them to set up properly. I double checked my installation. I checked all the cords. I re-read the manual. But I was stumped. Time was ticking by before I would have to be in front of people sounding confident, encouraging them to adopt this new tool. But I didn't have a clue how to make them work. I was nervous and frazzled to say the least.
So I took a break from it all and went into Harvey's office to hear cow stories. He told me tales of "Babygirl" a calf that he and his wife were bottle feeding. It's one of those "you had to be there" sort of things. To sit and listen to Harvey weave his stories just always made me smile, relax and feel better about whatever challenge I had to face.
After a little while I was sufficiently calmed down to go back to the table where I had the technology all spread out and yes, I did figure it out and did my presentation just fine.
Another time Harvey and I were doing a presentation together in the auditorium in front of the entire college faculty and staff. Let's just say it did NOT go well. The person who had set up our equipment for us used a cord with a broken clip so we lost our Internet connection part way through. They gave us a different remote for the ITV than what we had practiced on. Here we were in front of the whole school trying to present a smooth demonstration of using these tools and everything went wrong. It was horrible. But we got through it and Harvey's support that day meant more to me than he will ever know. When I was feeling angry and humiliated he helped me put it in perspective and even to laugh about it later.
We have a standard joke about a very long cord...another snafu. We talk about "pumpkins" and we talk about cows. I'll always remember him slowing me down, teaching me patience, teaching me to "get the lay of the land" when I wanted to charge in blazing. He was right. He taught me about checking perceptions. He taught me how to ask questions more effectively.
Harvey has been more than a boss, in many ways he has been my mentor and friend. We've been a good team. I will miss working with him, but most of all I'll miss his stories. I WON'T miss staff meetings. But I will miss sitting in his office talking about all sorts of things. I'll miss his wise council and support.
I've had some great bosses and some terrible bosses. I've learned much from both. Now that I will be the boss at my new position, I hope I can be half as good there as Harvey has been to me. Clearly, there are things I will do differently. But much of what I know about how to manage people and projects has been influenced by this man. So I'll be thinking of Harvey and the cow stories as I head off to my new job tomorrow. I'll be a little bit sad. But I'll also be grateful for the chance I've had here to learn and develop new areas of expertise. Now it's off to a whole new adventure. Ready or not, here I come.