I’m a big fan of Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events. If you have never read the books or seen the movie, the following quote will give you a sense of its tone.
A Series of Unfortunate Events is the phrase that comes to mind to describe the kind of morning I had today. Although to tell the truth many of the events were self created as the result of several unfortunate choices.
It all began last night, when I chose to stay up half the night reading when I should have been sleeping. Then continued this morning when the alarm rang and I hit snooze. When it rang again I sprang into action, but never quite caught up. And it was garbage morning and raining, two strikes against me.
I was to facilitate a meeting in the city, but my train pulled out of the station just as I was running onto the platform. Any other day I could have caught the next train 30 minutes later and made the meeting on time, but today the sign said it would be delayed by 20 minutes, making me late. I weighed my options and decided to try the drive. An hour later I was stuck in traffic going nowhere and the radio said that there was only more gridlock up ahead. I sighed and pulled off the road again at the next station.
There was no way I could make it on time now, but at least I could send a message pushing the meeting forward by 30 minutes, and better predict my arrival time. Or so I thought. But it turns out that not every train stops at this station. And the next scheduled one was running 20 minutes behind its time as well.
At this point I gracefully gave in to fate, got a paper and set to working out the crossword puzzle. When the train came I boarded and finally made it to my destination 45 minutes after the time I was supposed to be there.
It was challenging work. A team under considerable pressure to perform, having to rethink their roles, responsibilities and processes, while healing some old wounds and laying the foundation for stronger partnering. This kind of work doesn’t happen without conflict. And outcomes are hard to control or predict.
This team stepped up, took responsibility, demonstrated courage, extended empathy and compassion, made some commitments, agreed to hold each other accountable for their impact on each other and the work.
After our meeting I made my way home without incident. The work we began in the morning continued after I was gone. The formal meeting spawned some informal conversations and the good feeling from those spilled over into the activities of the afternoon, and by the end of the day people were sending emails of acknowledgment to each other and acknowledging themselves as well. The sponsor wrote to say thank you, that she was amazed at the shift that took place among the team, and thought I was exceptionally gifted at this kind of work. I look forward to our follow up meeting in a couple of weeks.
So in comparison to Lemony Snicket’s bunch things turned out pretty well all told. After a bad beginning, quite a few good things happened and I predict a happy ending, or as close as it comes given the evolving nature of work and of teams.
Three morals in this story:
1. One bad choice can set in motion a series of unfortunate events.
2. You can reduce the chance of this happening through good planning and discipline.
3. But as Lemony Snicket would tell you, the world is a very unpredictable and not very controllable place. So it is best to learn how to gracefully give in to whatever circumstance you find yourself in. And know that it is possible to turn even the most unfortunate beginning around.
Yours with creativity and imagination,