Two Dozen Basic Management Principles (Pt. 10)

Coach continued: “I tell you what. In the next race I want you to run alongside the race leaders. Stay right at the front. Then, if you feel up to it, you can run as hard as you want the last mile.”

A week later, Lopez ran his second meet. This time he did exactly what his coach told him to do. When the gun sounded, he took off but did not break away from the pack. Instead, he paced himself with the leaders. He enjoyed jogging along with them so much that he tried talking to them throughout the entire race. “Hey, guys, my name is Lopez…How long have you been running?….Do you play soccer?” He talked and talked and talked, even though his English was broken. However, the other runners did not answer. The more he tried talking to them, the more they looked at him like he was nuts.

Lopez ran along, talking away until he saw his mom and dad standing at the one-mile marker. Coach had told him that they would be there so that he would know when to start running hard. Barbara yelled: “Yea, Joseph, you can do it!”

“Hey guys,” Lopez said to the other boys at the front of the pack, “there’s my mom and dad. I gotta go. See you at the finish line.” With that, Lopez stopped jogging and took off running. He won the meet, beating around four hundred runners from across upstate New York. He received his first gold medal and wore it all the way home.

The Rogers’ next door neighbors were outside when they pulled up to the house. Tom and Fran were around eighty years old. Tom saw the medal and said: “What do you have there.” Lopez proudly showed off the gold medal while Rob explained that he had beat a field of four hundred runners.

“You know, I bet you can run in the Olympics someday for the USA,” Fran said. Those words took Lopez right back to watching Michael Johnson on the black-and-white television. “Yes,” he said. “That is my goal. One day I will run in the Olympics for the USA.”

The second New York snapshot involved Barbara Rogers and her plans for Lopez’education. Within days of his arrival, she told Lopez: “You may be behind now with your education, but we will make sure you catch up. You will graduate from high school on time, and you will go on and get a college education.” She did not ask Lopez’ opinion. There was no discussion. There was no debate. This was just the way it was going to be.

At that time, Barb’s goal seemed impossible. For starters, Lopez spoke almost no English, and he could read even less. To graduate on time he had to start off in tenth grade. Age-wise he was a tenth grader. Academically, he was a kindergartner. He struggled to read: “See Jane. See Jane run. Run, Jane, run.”He did not know a consonant from a vowel, and the sounds these strange letters made did not match his Swahili patterns of speech. His math skills were not much better. As for science and history, he did not have a clue.

Barb did not see why such minor details should stand in the way. She made hard and fast academic goals for Lopez and she would accept nothing less than everything Lopez could give.

From day one she worked with Lopez on his English. At the same time, she pushed the school administrators and counselors just as hard. Tully High School did not have an ESL program when Lopez arrived in the U.S. in July, 2001. They did by the time he started school that Fall! She pushed and pushed until the school gave in and started the program. Once classes started, she pushed the school even harder. Whenever a problem arose, she insisted the staff meet with her and settle the issue. After a while, the counselors grew afraid of her. Lopez never had anyone work so hard for him in his life.

His first semester didn’t go so well. Lopez failed a few of his classes. Adjusting to the classroom and the constant barrage of English presented enough challenges, and the school environment made life even harder. He had never seen such displays of public affection like he saw in the halls of Tully High School! That type of behavior would never have been allowed in Sudan.

Barb didn’t care. She marched up to the school and announced that he would be given the opportunity to take his failed classes the following summer. No one argued the point with her. The following summer, Lopez passed every class he had failed before.

Management Lesson #13 – Fight for Your Staff

Barbara Rogers was relentless in fighting for Lopez. Likewise, an overlooked management trait is the failure of senior IT leaders to fight for their staffs. You need to fight for resources, recognition, and reality. There should not be a contradiction between stewardship and the staff in your department. Work to make sure they are aligned and then fight for your staff.

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