The Sibylline Books

1

They say if you want something done, ask a busy person.

Fine. I’ve somehow managed to get what is an insane amount of work done even while juggling other balls. Something like one shocking verbal, drafting two major contracts, finalising a technical document for a very big & complex event, some site acquisition, putting together slides for a channel partner’s pitch (later found out they got a verbal on the deal, yay!), WAPA meetings, getting my visa for China, and heaven only knows what all else … part of what I did in between being a manager. Oh, and there was a company meeting to fill everyone in on the new strategy and answer any questions they had, and a board meeting in there, too.

It’s a funny thing; I’m so busy trying to see the forest for the trees, and paying attention to the trees, that my team and I actually sometimes manage to make so much forward progress that it’s actually shocking when you think about it. Stop to smell the roses and appreciate the small successes!

Also, I’ve definitely taken a page from the management philosophy of one of my telecoms mentors. I’d rather say too much than too little. People need the context so they can make their own decisions; but it’s also a fine line between giving the right amount and giving too much, or the wrong, or misleading information. This is why some people grasp the implications of some of the things I say, and some others don’t. And some just make me want to bash my head against the wall, but then actually I smile even as I write this because really … no es importante. Usually.

The week technically started off in Durban, where I awoke, happily not hung over (unlike most of my compatriots), but without having had enough sleep, and flew to Joburg, where I picked up one of my partners and we went very nearly into the heart of downtown for an utterly fascinating meeting. It did not go how I expected. Not even almost.

Got home to Cape Town, over the moon to see my awesome team (although some of the boys were off at routing training). I also learned that Anita had made her first Wi-Fi joke (and it was a good one!). Love it.

Snail mail. It's still winter in Cape Town.

Snail mail. It’s still winter in Cape Town.

I’ve been listening to some old CDs I brought over from the States. There is this one band called Aim Cryer that played at my high school one time, and I bought the CD. Small little nothing band, but fun, and there is this one line from one of their songs I’ve been loving: “Want pretty or want the truth? You can’t play both sides.”

When I was at Jeeves (aka this one time, at band camp), there were these two companies we acquired. Let’s call them D and T.

Now the guys at D would tell management exactly what was going on. The good, the bad, the ugly, the delays, the difficulties, etc.

The guys at T? They managed up. They gave conservative dates and always hit them. They only reported the good news, unless they really couldn’t avoid it.

Which ones do you think management favoured? You would think I’d have learned a lesson from that. Maybe someday I will.

T was run by a South African, oddly enough, not that I’m implying anything so much as making it crystal clear who I’m talking about for anyone interested enough to Google it.

Actually, I lie. I did learn a lesson from that. I learned what kind of manager I wanted to be.

Speaking of Google, if you haven’t Googled the Sibylline Books you might want to do that. The ENTJ in me means that if I ask you something, or give you an opening, or even simply spend time with you and act as though I like and respect you, it’s genuine. I’m a lousy liar, and I’m a fair player, and I learned negotiation well, which is to say that I don’t see it as zero-sum.

I’ve said before what happens if you double-cross me, or make an unjustified attack. What I didn’t say is what happens if I put something out there and you don’t take me up on it. Nothing bad … but the price goes up. And, the early bird gets the worm.

You join with me when I’m small, or when you underestimate me but give me the benefit of the doubt, or stick with me when times get tough, I’ll respond to that within the bounds of what is reasonable … and sometimes outside those bounds.

Kick me when I’m down or try and play games? Yeah. Don’t do that.

Some games are ok. When the Pats win.

Some games are ok. When the Pats win.

The flip side of being a good salesman is that I can read people, and situations pretty effectively, and I have pretty good instincts for setting up situations so that the end result is what I want. You don’t always get what you want. But I normally do.

What am I trying to say? The next six to nine months would be a good time to be nice to me, I think.

Oh, and don’t be rude to my staff, or else extra handling fees may apply.

My people, my people … there was some time in the week when I was sitting with Rudolph and he was talking about how objectives for WAPA training, and I stopped paying attention to what he was saying because I just got this bolt of affection for him at that exact time. Funny how on the one side the relationship can be [mostly] completely professional, and I have to tell him no or give constructive criticism all the time, because that’s my job, but on the other side – it’s hard not to have affection for people you respect, and who work hard, and who have good ethics.

Not that I should probably say that in public; we’re not supposed to be ethical in telecoms. Or something like that. Whatever. The rules are meant to give you an idea of the boundaries in which they can be bent. Some rules are absolute, but many are arbitrary, and no one ever said you couldn’t be an ethical businessperson. Actually, my own rules require the opposite.

And then there’s my lovely friend and now colleague Ingi, who manages to toe the line very well, in my opinion, between being diplomatic and assertive. Such a tough job she has, where there is literally no winning sometimes. She was saying something about how she always tries to take care to think about whether or not she is actually happy in her life so if she’s not she can change it.

It's spring at Starlings, at least!

It’s spring at Starlings, at least!

For me, who fell into such an epic rut without knowing, it’s a good warning. Am I really happy with where I live? My sport? My job?

I mean, there are always problems, and I’m one of those people who believes you’re as happy or not as you let yourself be, once you’re out of the danger zone of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. But still, there’s a difference between thinking your life is going OK and being psyched about your life.

I do know how to tell the difference. It’s when you sometimes wake up in the middle of the night or have a daydream and think: ‘How awesome is my life right now?’

Well, my shoulder still won’t heal. But then again … I could be more dedicated to my rehab.

That’s the other lesson of the Sibylline Books. The thing with regret is that you often do know better, even at the time, but do what you do anyway.

Regretting not doing your rehab or not making a tough call or not taking a chance: those are expensive choices.

So is saying something mean. I don’t want to be mean. And I don’t mean that I’m vindictive either, although I do hold grudges.

What I mean is that the ones who are early to the party get the goodies. That simple.

There’s another thing. Apparently when you have a decision to make you’re more likely to sprain your ankle. Something about the brain & a high incidence of rugby players getting ankle injuries around the trade deadline. True or not, I don’t know, and even the thinking it makes it more likely. But I’ve been mulling something over and damned if last week in Joburg I didn’t nearly roll my ankle about four or five times.

Then in the UWS Games, it turns out I actually did get a very low-grade sprain during that trail run, even despite the taping. Funny. But I made my decision.

  • “Broadband in South Africa is like bad sex. Absolutely dreadful.” – John
  • “I can’t believe they lied about that! I can’t wait to tell EVERYONE!” – Ellie (yep, I’m finally calling it … I’m a gossip!)
  • “I just like getting to say ‘non-GLA.’” – Ellie
  • “That was such an interesting meeting.” “My life is full of interesting meetings.” – Megan & Ellie
  • “Oh. Oh. Oh. Oh. No. No. That’s evil.” – Ellie (seeing my new programming … !)
  • “Yeesh I’ll knock her front teeth out.” – just a guy on my side
  • “How do you think I sold ___ in one meeting? It wasn’t my stunning personality!” – Ellie
  • “That’s totally not the worst that you’ve hurt me.” – Ellie
  • “The things I think are going to hurt you, you don’t even flinch.” – Mark (the secret is surprise!)
  • “I do have some sort of limit.” “So say all of us.” – Ellie & Kim
  • “Do you know how special you are to have gotten a special contract??” “Noooo…??” “Very.” – Anita & Ellie (spoke too soon, when I wanted to change the signatory on the same contract that didn’t go over so well!)
  • “Why do you think we’re doing this?” “To prove a point?” – Ellie & Charles
  • “See a rock in the bush and see what comes out.” “Maybe a lion?” – Rudolph & Charles
  • “How can you make money off of free Wi-Fi?” – Ellie (prize to the employee who got the answer in a New York second!)
  • “I think we need to get you as CTO of Vodafone.” – Steve
  • “The image indicates that the vendor, not the buyer, is the one piling up money.” – Mom
  • “Agreed I am not planning on offering him anything unless there is retirement money on the table.” – Paul
  • “I just don’t see how they can’t understand!” – Anita
  • “It’s always been war.” “Peanut butter?” “Peanut butter.” “Peanut butter.” – Ian, Ellie, & Ingi
  • “We can see it as ignorance, but it’s a mindset we have to get over.” – Ian
  • “There’s a special department called Retentions.” – Anita3
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