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Ted Markle: Are you sitting in the stands or playing on the field?

Teamwork
Teamwork

There are a few we meet in life who make a real impact – people we never forget. Early in my career, Jean-Pierre (or JP) was such a person. He set an example on character and leadership I will never forget.

I was a young lad working the evening shift as part of a team responsible for getting the newspaper out on time and JP was our night production manager.

It was do-or-die for our little daily, as ownership had made it clear that without a turn-around, “all strategic options would be assessed.” We were frantically innovating at the time (a little bleeding edge) and in the middle of a painful shakedown of new streamlining technologies. Stern-worded memos and job cuts were commonplace as we struggled to improve our operation and our bottom-line.

It was in this high-stress setting that I first met JP, an entirely authentic individual who regularly came up with inspiring and sometimes unorthodox expressions, thanks to English being his second language.

On our first meeting, he strode into the room and dropped a box of Rosebuds on the table and proclaimed, “The pressure of the deadline crushes some people, and for others it’s like chocolate, they can’t get enough. What will it be for you?”

If you were one who preferred to blame others, or make excuses, he always gave you the choice: “In the stands or on the field? You choose.” He also made it abundantly clear that anyone who chose the stands had no place on his team.

You never had to think twice about the honesty of JP’s messages, as he is a man of total transparency. He is about getting the job done – about embracing the differences between us – and insisting on commitment to the team. He challenged us and expected us to challenge him – all in the name of getting better together.

While other members of management specialized in sending emails from behind the safety of a desk or focused on morning-after second-guessing of our every move, JP’s sleeves were permanently rolled-up, pushing us forward. He strongly defended those that worked as hard as he did and never seemed to be bothered by the Monday-morning quarterbacks. “No matter,” he would say, “hindsight’s 50-50.”

JP believed we could work hard and have fun at the same time and he made us laugh with colourful versions of common expressions that were at times – unbeknownst to him – better than the original.

Concerned over the potential for angry reactions from an unfortunate event, JP would say, “The shit’s gonna’ hit the roof,” prompting his staff to respond that they were just waiting for the other poo to drop.

Following the publishing of an error in a certain edition, JP approached the woman responsible for the miscue and said, “I have a boner to pick with you.”

Her quick-witted response was even better, however. “OK JP, but I’m thinking this is going to have to be a short conversation.”

JP was blind to office politics. He never used people to get ahead nor put the vulnerable down in projects of distraction. He doesn’t think that way and can’t understand why others would.

As Abigail Van Buren said, “The best index to a person’s character is how he treats people who can’t do him any good, and how he treats people who can’t fight back.”

By this measure, JP sets the gold standard.

Ted Markle, a media industry veteran of more than 30 years, is a keen observer of the humorous side of the human situation. He appears in this space every Monday. You can reach him at ted.markle@tc.tc. – Twitter : @tedmarkle

I was a young lad working the evening shift as part of a team responsible for getting the newspaper out on time and JP was our night production manager.

It was do-or-die for our little daily, as ownership had made it clear that without a turn-around, “all strategic options would be assessed.” We were frantically innovating at the time (a little bleeding edge) and in the middle of a painful shakedown of new streamlining technologies. Stern-worded memos and job cuts were commonplace as we struggled to improve our operation and our bottom-line.

It was in this high-stress setting that I first met JP, an entirely authentic individual who regularly came up with inspiring and sometimes unorthodox expressions, thanks to English being his second language.

On our first meeting, he strode into the room and dropped a box of Rosebuds on the table and proclaimed, “The pressure of the deadline crushes some people, and for others it’s like chocolate, they can’t get enough. What will it be for you?”

If you were one who preferred to blame others, or make excuses, he always gave you the choice: “In the stands or on the field? You choose.” He also made it abundantly clear that anyone who chose the stands had no place on his team.

You never had to think twice about the honesty of JP’s messages, as he is a man of total transparency. He is about getting the job done – about embracing the differences between us – and insisting on commitment to the team. He challenged us and expected us to challenge him – all in the name of getting better together.

While other members of management specialized in sending emails from behind the safety of a desk or focused on morning-after second-guessing of our every move, JP’s sleeves were permanently rolled-up, pushing us forward. He strongly defended those that worked as hard as he did and never seemed to be bothered by the Monday-morning quarterbacks. “No matter,” he would say, “hindsight’s 50-50.”

JP believed we could work hard and have fun at the same time and he made us laugh with colourful versions of common expressions that were at times – unbeknownst to him – better than the original.

Concerned over the potential for angry reactions from an unfortunate event, JP would say, “The shit’s gonna’ hit the roof,” prompting his staff to respond that they were just waiting for the other poo to drop.

Following the publishing of an error in a certain edition, JP approached the woman responsible for the miscue and said, “I have a boner to pick with you.”

Her quick-witted response was even better, however. “OK JP, but I’m thinking this is going to have to be a short conversation.”

JP was blind to office politics. He never used people to get ahead nor put the vulnerable down in projects of distraction. He doesn’t think that way and can’t understand why others would.

As Abigail Van Buren said, “The best index to a person’s character is how he treats people who can’t do him any good, and how he treats people who can’t fight back.”

By this measure, JP sets the gold standard.

Ted Markle, a media industry veteran of more than 30 years, is a keen observer of the humorous side of the human situation. He appears in this space every Monday. You can reach him at ted.markle@tc.tc. – Twitter : @tedmarkle

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