Volume 37, Issue 11, November 2002
by Lyle R. Hill
Editor's Note: After numerous requests, we reprint the following article, which first appeared in the November 2000 issue of
"Mr. Hill, I don't want to be pushy but I really need to have your final draft of the employee memo by the end of the day if I'm to have enough time to process it and get it ready for mailing."
Bobbie Rovner and I began working together in January of 1976 … more than 25 years ago … and she's fantastic. But by now, I know the difference between the words she uses and what she's really trying to tell me. For instance, by calling me "Mr. Hill" instead of one of the other names she commonly uses for me, I know that she wants me to take her seriously. And by saying that she "doesn't want to get pushy" she's actually letting me know that if I don't respond in an acceptable amount of time, I'm in big trouble. I've seen her reduce grown men … big men like T-Bone and Meat Hooks … to trembling, whimpering shadows of their real selves. But I was busy ... she would just have to wait.
"Listen, Bobbie, I'll do the memo first thing tomorrow. Right now I'm trying to finish off an article for USGlass and Ellen Chilcoat left me a message saying it had to be in today. And if I don't get it done, she'll have that editor with the funny name, Tara Taffera, call me or worse yet, the Levy Lady. So you see, I gotta get this done."
She stood there … silent … staring at me. She didn't say a word but I knew what she was thinking. She was challenging me … daring me not to give in to her wishes. In essence, asking me who I wanted to disappoint … those three tough cookies from USGlass or her. Well, let me tell you right now, I'm no pushover. I can be plenty tough when I need to be, and I don't particularly like being threatened or told what to do by anybody. And who does she think she is anyway? Who exactly is working for whom? Enough is enough and I intended to deal with this situation in my usual, straightforward manner.
"Hand me the memo, Ms. Rovner, and I'll get right on it."
Now at this particular point in time, I was trying to decide which article to finish off and submit to USGlass for the November edition. I actually had two that were just about complete. One dealt with the story of a smart-mouth hardware storeowner that I had encountered. It was to be titled "The Wise Guy," and would touch on everything from short pay issues to the arrogant demeanor that I think infects our industry in certain circles.
The other article had to do with the absurd manner in which we certify our industry's technicians. It was to be titled, "Certified … But Not Qualified." In both cases, a fair amount of fun was being poked at the way business is done in and around our industry. And let's face it, there's more than enough absurdity and craziness to go around, and I'm not always sure that anyone needs me to point it out. In fact, from the letters and calls I get on a pretty regular basis, some of you see the wackiness even better than I do. But in looking at the memo that Ms. Rovner had asked me to finalize, I realized that maybe the articles I'd been working on should wait … at least for a little while. For you see, the memo Bobbie wanted me to finish dealt with the Thanksgiving holiday and talked about the positive side of all that we have. And to be sure, it was a bit of a change if not a relief to look at the positive side of things for at least a few minutes. No, I'm not losing it and no one would confuse me with a starry-eyed dreamer, but in spite of our problems and concerns, we've got a lot of good for which to be thankful.
To begin, we have a great country … and be thankful for your right to vote. Be thankful for your health … for your family … I certainly am! And while you're at it, join me in being thankful for the opportunity to worship in keeping with your beliefs. Many a Sunday I've sat in church thinking about the importance of religious freedom and how fortunate we are to have it. It wouldn't hurt you to be thankful for some of the people in this industry also … yes, I know some of them drive you nuts … but a lot of them are honest, hard-working people … people who actually care about their customers and who treat co-workers, suppliers and everyone they deal with in a respectful manner. And lastly, let me say THANKS to you for putting up with me and for reading this column from time to time. Your comments and encouragement really are appreciated and I honestly do thank you. Oh yeah, I got Bobbie's memo finished on time so that worked out OK, too …
Lyle R. Hill is president of MTH Industries of Chicago. firstname.lastname@example.org
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