Definitely not me at my best…my plate-spinning self. Sometimes, borne of necessity we find ourselves doing too much at once and the more I think about my choices, I realize I am my own worst enemy. Most tasks do not need to be accomplished in Herculean, super-human style. I choose, very often, if I’m honest, to test my limits and load up my plate…and then add more plates and before you know it, I’m the plate spinner and I’m not happy. I don’t like to see things roll off, fall off or crash and burn. And they do.
So, welcome to a Thursday morning session of Self-Talk with Vicki 😊. No admission fee and you’re free to leave…but if you linger, I promise a chuckle or two, at my expense. Never yours.
Other than my chronic failures as a juggler, the inspiration for this noodling comes from my friend Kendra and her blog, “An Audience of One”. Kendra posted recently about whoopsie issues where she candidly made a few honest, relatable mistakes. So relatable that I think it’s time for me to come clean. Take a look at her post…you’ll enjoy it, especially the part about sharing her screen in a meeting.
Here’s my story…my confession. I should know better because I’ve done this more than once but the most glaring example was in a professional setting where the stakes were high. The issue was student conduct related on a college campus and my hearty team and I were rallying at light speed for safety reasons. (Still, that’s not an excuse for poor execution on my part.)
The venue isn’t important to the story – just think of any urgent situation you’ve been involved in and swap out my details. A common denominator, though? Good teams practice and conduct drills, in advance, to be diligently prepared. We did many, many ‘tabletop’ simulations and involved stakeholders at all levels within the campus community. If everyone stayed in position, ready to do their part, we were as prepared as we could be. Maybe I got comfortable? I don’t want to share all the details for privacy reasons, but maybe one day over a cup of coffee, I’ll fill you in.
The good news? There were no life-threatening injuries and the person of concern was successfully transported to a local hospital. To get to that point, however, substantial sweat and adrenaline were required…and multiple conference calls on land lines, cell phone group chats and team site messages. So many touchpoints, but they’re necessary.
The incident in question was nearly under control but one player – one very key player, Jim (not his real name) was out of position and incommunicado. He didn’t respond on his cell, ghosted me on teams and when I asked, no one had heard from him.
A few of us paused in a meeting room and tried an old-school conference call…and since Jim was the one we were trying to locate, it never occurred to me that he might be on the other end of the call. Note to self…forever and ever, amen: Victoria: Never open your mouth – especially if a rant is bubbling up – unless a roll call’s been done first. Know who’s there. Did I do that in this instance? No ma’am and no sir.
Before anyone could get a word in edgewise or sideways, I barreled forward – and I was mad. I could’ve said it more delicately. Something like, “Hey – has anyone connected with Jim?” Of course, I didn’t do that. My delivery was more like this: “Bloody hell – where is JIM??? In addition to everything else we’re managing, we need to send out a search party for him!?”.
I think my actual delivery was less venomous, but I know the tone was bad and the “bloody hell” part was for real. I was honked off and everyone who knows me could hear it, picking up on the take-no-prisoners tone that’s my trademark blend of angry mom and overwrought teacher. Still, I carried on, starting a fresh rant when a quiet voice, on the call from the conference room across campus, interrupted and said, “Vicki – umm…you might not know this, but Jim…Jim’s right here.”
Egg on face. Actually, a whole omelet…maybe a frittata. I felt terrible, embarrassed, and realized I’d just delivered an excellent portrayal of what NOT to do in a leadership position. Communication at my worst. The best I could do was respond, “Thank goodness, Jim – I’m sorry about my flash of anger. I thought you’d gone AWOL on us. We’ll talk later…” and I tried to carry on but I felt about two inches tall.
Later that morning, as I licked my wounds a bit, I realized my lashing out at Jim, publicly, was a teachable moment – for me. I was trying to spin too many plates of my own, while managing a tense situation and could’ve delegated better, improved my own response…if I’d been more self-aware. I apologized to Jim again, and he acknowledged that he dropped the ball and should’ve been more responsive. Maybe so, but still. I didn’t need to…as my dad would say…’show my ass’.
And this concludes the Thursday morning installment of Self-Talk with Vicki. Don’t do what I do. Do better and if you are prone to juggling, maybe spin fewer plates, if you can.