10 Chapters
Medium 9781626566163

Mending a Broken Track

Jennings, Ken; Stahl-Wert, John Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

Charlie called me today, wondering how my project’s coming along. He’s been checking in with Dad every few days and knew full well that my project has not been coming along. That is, not my Philadelphia project.

As to the deeper project, the project of myself and my dad, so much has taken place.

For three weeks now, I’ve been spending time with Dad and Mom. His radiation treatments ended today. Three weeks of daily trips to U. Penn., new pictures each day, followed by an hour of setup—all in preparation for each day’s mere seconds of radiation. The pictures look better. The blockage is open. But frankly, Dad’s only weaker. He is eating more, and Mom and I are glad about that.

I guess I was not really surprised to hear from Charlie. As much as he understands the fact that I’m going through a difficult time with my dad, he really doesn’t understand. He’s my boss, and he expects me to show him something for all this time. I think he’s losing his patience. I understand more now about Charlie’s sense of indebtedness to my dad. Dad asked him to do this, so he’s doing it. But I sense the day is coming very soon when Charlie will have had enough. So be it!

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The Fast Track Diverted

Jennings, Ken; Stahl-Wert, John Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

Why am I sitting on this train? If I had taken a flight, I’d already be there. Instead, I’ve got four more hours to sit here and fume about what I’ve gotten myself into.

I feel like I’m eight years old again. Dad says, “Why don’t you ride down on the train, Son! It’ll give you a chance to think.” And so I just do it. Like I’ve got time to sit for hours, thinking. Like I actually enjoy trains.

The thing about trains is this: trains only show you what you’re passing, not where you’re headed. Whatever you can see out the window is already old news. Been there. Regularly, the track bends enough that you can catch a glimpse of the journey ahead, but as soon as the train straightens its aim for the goal, you’re left sitting in the back just watching stuff go past. An hour into this trip and I’m way past bored.

Scratch that last sentence. I’m not bored. And, truthfully, being stuck on this train is not what I’m really troubled about. What upsets me is the fact that I don’t know what’s waiting for me at the end of this track. And I’m afraid to find out. I’m deeply worried about Dad. I don’t know how I’m going to pass so much time sitting here just with myself.

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A New Assignment

Jennings, Ken; Stahl-Wert, John Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

Day’s end, and what a day it has been. Mom and Dad are in bed, and I’m back in my boyhood bedroom feeling time warped and badly torn between feelings of exhilaration and grief. I’ve got to somehow capture this incredible and tumultuous day.

Amtrak’s Acela Express pulled into Philly’s Thirtieth Street station at 12:05 p.m., five long hours after my Boston departure. Wanting to stretch my legs, I hiked the short thirteen blocks east along Market, crossing the majestic Schuylkill River—the Manayunk, as I insisted it be called in my boyhood Indian phase—to my first appointment of the day.

Dad had arranged for me to plunge right in with a lunch meeting at the famous Pyramid Club, high atop my hometown’s new, art deco skyline. When I walked in, I was stunned by the gaunt and pale face that greeted me, my dad’s wan smile masking nothing of the seriousness of his condition. He must have lost thirty pounds, and that from a frame that had been quite trim to begin with.

Dad saw that I noticed. Not giving me a chance to comment, he hooked my elbow and steered me to a circle of six men and women standing to the side. I saw the unspoken apologies on their faces—they already knew what Dad would put off telling me for another five hours.

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The Serving Leader

Jennings, Ken; Stahl-Wert, John Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

Ali suggested I try my hand at writing a job description for the Serving Leader. Though it’s been nearly two months since I finished this journal, rereading it now confirms in my mind that it captures reasonably well the key elements of what I learned from my father and his friends—well, my friends now, too. There is much to flesh out, of course, but I’ve not really had time lately to do it. I think I’m ready to give it a try.

Hey, Dad! Take a look!

SERVING LEADERS

Run to great purpose by holding out in front of their team, business, or community a “reason why” that is so big that it requires and motivates everybody’s very best effort.

Upend the pyramid of conventional management thinking. They put themselves at the bottom of the pyramid and unleash the energy, excitement, and talents of the team, the business, and the community.

Raise the bar of expectation by being highly selective in the choice of team leaders and by establishing high standards of performance. These actions build a culture of performance throughout the team, business, or community.

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Action: Raise the Bar

Jennings, Ken; Stahl-Wert, John Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

“BioWorks is on everyone’s list of hot companies,” Ali began. I started a fresh section in my journal. “It’s an innovative, high-science organization committed to next-generation sustainable technologies. Over the years, it has focused on agriculture and energy, especially in the area of biofuels. The company’s work with biomass conversion points the way to energy sources that are totally renewable, carbon neutral, and biodegradable.”

Puzzled, I glanced over at Ali. I had no knowledge of this field and hadn’t understood a word he had just said.

“No greenhouse gases,” Ali explained. “No global warming. And no dependence on foreign oil. It’s big!” he added with a grin, making sure I saw the size of the frontier BioWorks was exploring.

“What you’re going to find really interesting, though, is the competitive edge BioWorks has gained in this new global market through its commitment to Serving Leadership.”

Arriving at a series of low-slung buildings, we were greeted at the door by Stephen Cray, one of the CEOs I had met the day before.

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