Archive for July, 2013

How’s the View?

How’s the view from where you are?

I am sifting through my camera roll looking at the pictures I took during a recent vacation that my husband and I took to North Carolina. I would be attending a conference and he would be amusing himself at many of the local shops and the mall, an arrangement that suits us both just fine. While looking for other interesting sites in North Carolina that would be accessible to us before I started the three-day conference, I discovered that the Great Smoky Mountains lies at the state’s western border. Of course, I should have remembered this from geography class, but that was a long time ago, and frankly, I just can’t remember all of the highlights of every state. The discovery that we would be relatively close to the mountains sparked my interest.

On our first mountain day we peppered the rangers at the visitors’ center with questions, armed ourselves with maps of the interesting trails and made the drive to Clingmans Dome. The observation tower at the summit of Clingmans Dome offers spectacular 360-degree views across 100 miles. Knowing how much my husband enjoys overland pictures, I was motivated enough to accompany him on the steep half-mile climb (trudge) up the path leading to the observation tower.


Do you know the song, Jacob’s Ladder?

Verse 1
We are climbing Jacob’s ladder (3 times)
Soldiers of the cross

Verse 2
Every rung goes higher, higher (3 times)
Soldiers of the cross

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The song is sung slowly, as if imitating the motion of slowly climbing the ladder rung by rung. That is the song that settled in my mind as we walked up the steep pathway to the tower. Except there was no ladder, but the clouds that we passed through constantly reminded us of the high elevation. With each step, I felt colder. I put my sweatshirt on and reminded myself that it was still July. I shifted my camera from one hand to the other to ease the burden of its weight. I heard someone ask, “Are we there yet?” more times than I can count. We passed people taking advantage of the benches strategically positioned for rest stops on the way to the summit.

Finally, the tower came into view. I say ‘finally’ because we were practically at the base before we could actually see it, so thick was the cloud cover. We followed the voices of other visitors who had already reached the lookout point, our goal, without a realistic idea of what we could expect. I remember feeling my heart rate increase with excitement as we reached the tower and looked across the tops of the spruce-fir forest.

Clingmans Dome is the highest point in the National Park at 6,643 feet. It offers magnificent views over 100 miles with this caveat: when the weather cooperates. Otherwise, visibility can be drastically decreased to less than 20 miles. On the day that we visited, we could barely read the plaques that described the views we were missing. Then it rained.

On the soggy descent, we passed other visitors making their way up to the tower, in the rain, on a day when visibility was only arm’s length at best. Some were resting on benches until they caught their breath enough to continue the journey. Many were laughing and joking about being “on top of old Smoky”. Others taught their children about the vegetation along the way. No one seemed bothered by the obvious—there would be no famous view as a reward when they reached the top. They would read the plaques and imagine what the view looked like on a clear day. They would take pictures of themselves smiling in front of a cloudy background. They would comment to the people they passed on their way back to the parking lot, “Don’t stop now. You’re almost there!”

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So what if there is little to see when you reach the top. As a friend of mine often says, “Life is a journey, not a destination.”

Teaching the Team a Lesson

I work in the corporate learning and development field so I read a lot of training material in an effort to keep abreast of developments that could help my company’s employees learn or build on skills that will make them successful—and happy—in the workplace. Websites, articles, professional association blogs are all part of a day’s work—and research—for me. I came across this question in an Admin Pro forum today:

How do you deal with the ‘lesson-teaching’ co-worker?

Question: “On our admin team we have ‘Karen’—a good worker except when it comes to helping out others if they haven’t met her precise expectations. Her view is that if people don’t follow procedures to the letter, then their problems should be ignored in order to teach them a lesson, even if this means a deadline is missed, a report goes out incorrectly, or a very minor mistake that could easily be fixed is left to become a bigger one through her inaction. I know she has a point about showing people the need for order, but aren’t we here to help those we work with above all things?” — C., Operations Clerk

A couple of things jumped out at me when I read this admin’s question: lesson teaching and procedures.

As a travel enthusiast, I relish every opportunity to travel, whether physically or virtually. During July, virtual travel absorbs my attention through the “toughest cycle race in the world”, the Tour de France. This year’s race began on June 29, and I diligently watch the nightly replays to see what happened at each stage and root for my team retroactively. If you have never watched the Tour de France but you dream of visiting France someday (a bucket list item, perhaps?), check it out; the scenery of the French countryside, villages, mountains and ultimately the streets of Paris as the cyclists speed toward the finish along the Champs-Elysees provides a virtual tour that is second only to actually feeling the whoosh as the teams race by the crowds. I also owe much of my enjoyment of the race to the commentators who report on and educate me on the strategies that the teams use to win the coveted jerseys and stages. Imagine, then, if a member of Team Europcar, for example, took Karen’s approach: What if a team member refuses to help his team’s sprinter get back into place in the peloton after a crash or flat tire? Who suffers the consequences—only the sprinter or the entire team?


Wouldn’t it be better to give a team member or co-worker the benefit of the doubt and treat the mistake as just that, a mistake. Use the moment to guide and correct rather than to set up the person and the rest of the group for a bigger defeat? On the Tour, as in the workplace, each person’s goal should be to contribute whatever it takes to move the organization forward. To sabotage a team member is to sabotage oneself.

The second point is on the strict adherence to procedures. I like rules and procedures. I like structure. When everyone on a team is following the same procedure, time is saved, results can be measured and compared more easily than if everyone did their own thing. However, if a person does not “follow procedures to the letter”, is it possible to achieve the desired result? Whose expectations are we talking about—Karen’s or the company’s? Is there any room for flexibility, creativity or improvement? Not in the minds of the “Karens” who lie in wait for the offending team member to crash and burn. The result could be a lost—very important—contract. Or the adjustment of a piece of machinery that, if left faulty, could result in a serious injury. The result could be a lawsuit, a missed flight, a wrong diagnosis. “Karens” may feel validated about being right when things go wrong, but who loses?

The very, very (enormously) large majority of us will never wear the yellow, green, or polka dot jerseys in the toughest cycle race in the world. We are, however, all team members of the human race. It serves no purpose to sabotage the next guy just to teach him a lesson. Let us, instead, help those we work with above all things.


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