A Project Manager’s Game Plan for Dealing with Incurable Cancer

Segment Fifty-Two—The Little Dog’ll Get You!

Growing up, we had two dogs. The toy poodle was Felix. The German Shepherd was Newlie (short for Neue Liebe—German for New Love). If the German Shepherd in this photo looks huge, it’s because she was. 125 pounds of lean power. She was the dopiest, friendliest dog on the planet (except for the ugly hand-biting incident where she bit the hand of a boy who teased her relentlessly). Outside of that single episode, she was the classic example of “bark is worse than bite.” Her bark was ferocious. And in the backyard, if no-one was home, she could terrify anyone who didn’t know her.

Contrast that with Felix. He was not a yippy little dog. He rarely barked and was small enough that no one ever truly feared him.

In work, and in medical treatment, we should recognize the metaphor presented here. We look at the concerns that present themselves loud and large. In many instances, the loud and large is just like Newlie. Demanding. Impossible to ignore. I had clients like Newlie. I’ve had friends like Newlie. I’ve had vendors like Newlie. They share a belief system.  They believe they have the right to my effort, my time, and my energy. Because they make themselves so visible, I can manage them. They have never stopped forward progress for any extended period of time. Oh…but the LITTLE dog?

Lesson Learned: When I was growing up in Columbiana, Ohio, there was a grocery/butcher shop called Crawford’s Market. It was small-town enough that Crawford’s delivered groceries back in the 1960’s. They had a delivery boy (I’ll call Ted). Ted knew our family, our house, and our grocery habits. One day, he had to deliver when no one was home. At the back gate, he explained, was Newlie. Barking fiercely, she had the Stephen King movie-style intensity that would drive fear into any sane human being. But Ted knew Newlie and talked her down as he forced the gate open and shoved her 125-pound frame aside. At that point, the dog went into “puppy mode”, seeing that Ted was a friend and just wanted to come in.  She ran around the yard, picking up the occasional toy along the way. Ted continued in the back door of the house, planting the groceries on the kitchen table. He turned to leave. Ted said that was the moment of truth. The 12-pound powerhouse of a poodle charged from the rec room into the kitchen and, without a bark, sunk those tiny poodle teeth into Ted’s ankle. Ted shared that he had to literally pry the dog off his ankle and squeeze his way out the back door. My parents apologized profusely and took care of Ted’s medical treatment for his injury. His biggest shock? “I never saw it coming.”

How often do we “never see it coming?” More often than we care to admit. It’s an object lesson of the need to review the very real concerns of the German Shepherds in our lives, but never ignore the lesser-sized characters who can suddenly become larger than life…without warning.

How do we do that?  First and foremost, we need to conduct a personal inventory of the actors in our life stage play. Who are the big players? Who looms largest? It’s easy when you’re thinking of your immediate family or your biggest clients. But we also need to do an inventory of the “Felixes” of our world. Who are the secondary players who can readily prove to be small, but mighty? When you catalog those individuals, they need to know what Ted should have done when he got in our house. We need to acknowledge them as players. We need to inventory their needs. And we definitely do not want to turn our backs on them.

Lesson Learned: Another note about Felix. We got him as a pet when I was six years old. (His name was my mother’s idea, as he had a from-birth habit of eating out of the cat’s bowl). He passed away at almost 20 years old. Just because he was small (and in his old age, almost toothless), it didn’t mean that he didn’t still loom large in the family. In this personal and business metaphor, it points to the fact that some of the players in our universe last a lot longer than anyone expects. It’s yet another reason they cannot be ignored or downplayed.

If you’re conducting an inventory of your life’s players, just ask yourself what individuals do you encounter on a regular, ritual basis? What are their stakes as stakeholders?  What are your stakes with them?

If you remind yourself of their status from time to time, you go a long way toward building out your relationships and ensuring your personal safety by letting them know they’re noticed, appreciated and recognized for what they bring to the table.

Up next? Personal Typing, The Underwood 315 and the IBM Selectric Correcting II

If you want to review the previous elements of this e-book or blog, they’re all posted at www.carlpritchard.com/blog If you have insights you’d like to share or comments or conversations, my e-mail is the best way to reach me at carl@carlpritchard.com.  I’ll always get back to you within 24 hours.  Always.  And if you think I missed the mark?  Check your spam folder.  Thanks for joining me on this journey.