A Practical Guide to Dealing with A “Crazy Person”

Let’s set the stage:  The “Crazy Person” (or CP) is a business owner.  He/She grew the business from nothing and built it into what it is today.  No denying it.  They did something majorly right to get them where they are.

You?  You are a lowly consultant or employee tasked with the job of improving the performance of the business in some particular way.  Well…wait a minute….You THINK you are tasked with improving the performance of the business in some particular way.  A CP might not see it that way.  …and thus….the problem begins.

There are some basic and common threads to CP’s behavior.  Here is a collection of them along with some recommendations.   I do not guarantee these suggestions will work or that they’re the right answers.  They are, fortunately or unfortunately, focused more along the lines of self-protection.  I also do not claim that these are healthy solutions either.  They just happen to have worked a little for me in a “path of least resistance” kind of way.

 These approaches are also targeted to a person who has managed to acquire a position on the “bad side” of a CP and aren’t recommended for anyone on the CP’s good side (like “PET 1” or “PET 2”).  They, (“PET 1” and “PET 2”) GENERALLY can do as they please.  No one is safe, however, and once you’re on the “bad side” you must realize that you’ll never come back.

 These recommendations deal with:

  1. The “Triple A”
  2. Living in the Weeds
  3. Line Level is the Right Level
  4. Herd Mentality
  5. Email is the enemy
  6. Battered Wives Syndrome


The “Triple A” Situation:  Audience, Arbitrary and the Argument

 The battleground is a meeting.  The comment or suggestion was a good one.  It might be yours or it might be someone else’s.  The conversation bursts into unproductive flames.   CP dives into a tirade that makes no sense, is random in nature and just won’t stop.

Why does this happen??  Simple:  He’s the smartest guy in the room and he must demonstrate it.  He’s built this company from scratch…not you.  When he has an audience, he has to say something shocking to get everyone’s attention.  He’s the Howard Stern of the corporate meeting.  He loves it when everyone roles their eyes and groans.    It’s a form of attention.  He will go on and on and will target you to make you seem small, insignificant and stupid. 

He also LOVES the art of argument….especially with that audience.  He will argue for arguments sake and not because he doesn’t like your idea.  He LOVES the heat of it all.  He just feels like arguing with someone and damn, if you just didn’t walk right into the trap.

What do you do?  For Pete’s Sake SHUT UP!!!!  Don’t engage when he is in this mood.  Don’t express your opinion.  Don’t comment.  Just put your head down.  Don’t make eye contact.  Let the tirade run its course. (This can take a long time….)  Then get the hell out of the room as fast as you can. 

If it’s your idea or a decision that was being presented, wait for another day and use the “Herd Mentality” approach outlined below.

And remember….24-48 hours from now what he was railing against in this meeting could be the greatest suggestion since sliced bread.


Living in the weeds…

A CP loves the details and tactical execution and is not so interested in the strategy.  Strategy didn’t get him where he is today so he doesn’t want some punk telling him he needs to have one now.  Don’t try to engage on this level.  By doing so, he ASSUMES that you have not done your homework on the tactical elements of the plan and he contents himself that you don’t know what you’re talking about as a result.

Discuss strategy with “PET 1”  and “PET 2”.  Lay out the plan with them and only expose the tactical details to CP.

If he wants to do something tactically that doesn’t make sense, let him.  It’s his company.  He doesn’t want to hear your opinion or listen to your expertise. If it’s important, let “PET 1” and “PET 2” figure out how to change his mind because you won’t.


Line Level is the Right Level

Don’t answer questions….even if you know the answer.  It’s a setup.  He is setting you up for an argument.  He thinks he knows what you are going to say and is already angry about it before you ever open your mouth.  No win situation. 

When you’re on the bad side of CP, he just simply won’t listen to you.  Doesn’t matter how brilliant you are…you have been dismissed.  Bring in the line staff.  He wants to hear from them and not you.

While exposing the line staff to a CP goes against everything I believe in, it’s what he wants and will keep him happy.  You have to figure out a way to position it with the staff so that they aren’t 1)  freaked out and 2) learn the associated bad behavior.  (Good luck with this part….its a tough go.)

Another variation on this theme is that he will go around you directly to the line staff himself.  Just let him.  Try not to let it bother you.  Don’t question him and just manage the staff perception as best you can.  Be prepared that he will find something in what they are doing that he doesn’t like, will assume it was your idea and will be angry about it or change it without telling you. 


Herd Mentality

Don’t ever present an idea or a thought that you haven’t gotten consensus from everyone on the executive team for.  Before presenting in a meeting, make sure everyone is on-board and backs you up.  Get their agreement to back you up.  If you get into a Triple A situation like above, rely on “PET 1” or “PET 2” to take over.  Get their commitment to doing so up front.  You’re always safer in a herd.  (Don’t forget however, that “PET 1” and “PET 2″will also protect themselves if it gets too hot….don’t assume they will have or keep your back all the way through.)  If it gets too hot, get out….regroup with the herd and come back at it another time.


Email is the enemy…and other communication concerns

 Do not EVER respond to a CP in email.  I don’t think I need to explain this one.  Face to face is the only way with him.  Let him write 6 page emails, but just don’t get sucked in to doing the same.

If possible, don’t take a CP’s cell phone calls.  Let him leave a message and then call “PET 1” or “PET 2” to find out what is really going on first.  Always know the situation before you walk into it. 

Set up regularly scheduled off-site meetings with a CP.  He likes this, particularly at a restaurant or Starbucks.  Let him spend the hour telling you what he wants you to work on.  Take notes and take action.  This might even need to happen two or three times a week to start out with. 


Battered Wives Syndrome

Do not under ANY circumstances allow a CP’s behavior to effect you personally.  It is easy to get sucked into feeling as stupid and worthless as he makes you feel.  It’s not reality.  This will have negative impact on every aspect of your life…work, home and health.  Have confidence in yourself, stay strong and do not ALLOW him to drag you down.

The Client Bill of Rights (Something Every Outsourcer Should Have)

As a client of a service bureau for most of my professional life, I was constantly tortured by my vendors with things that I think they (as a matter of course) take for granted.  As a vendor now, It’s time to articulate and repeatedly reinforce these things with my organization and emphasize the need to put common sense practices into place. 

Here are my top items:

1.      Just say NO to production environment updates:  No production updates, EVER, EVER, EVER without partner approval in advance.  No one is even allowed to “BREATHE” on the production environment……Not (EVER)….Say it with me…. E-V-E-R!!! 

  • No applications changes without partner approval in advance.  E-V-E-R!
  • No database changes without partner approval in advance.  E-V-E-R!
  • No changes to production reports without partner approval in advance.  E-V-E-R!

2.      Provide regular status updates:  Partners are only going to bug you, call you or hunt you down if you don’t communicate (and they won’t be happy doing it either).  If they know what’s going on, they can fend off their angry users and will not have to bite our heads off later.  Status update means 5 bullet points in email….it does NOT mean ‘War and Peace’ on a special 50 page status form.

3.      Check the integrations:  It’s technology…. if you touch one thing, everything else breaks.  Make sure you are talking to all the other developers that code could impact.  Consider all the other touch points in the system as you code.

4.     Test it first:  Unit test and integration test before handing it over.  If it doesn’t successfully take a sales order or enrollment, put it in the database and it shows up on the internal and field facing reporting in all account classes…. DON’T SEND IT TO THE PARTNER FOR TESTING.

5.      It’s not done until there’s a report and a UI:  There isn’t a piece of code that will be written that doesn’t require or impact a report either for internal use or for the field.  Factor this into development every single time.

6.     Partners “heart” SQL:  When analyzing or auditting, send the partner raw SQL to show how it was done.  If we don’t have a report written, just send the SQL to the partner who can turn it into a report themselves.  Watch out for over-writing any existing reports.   

7.      We “heart” questions:  If you don’t know something or have a question about how to do something…. ASK!!!!  Don’t assume you know what the partner wants (that would be just too scary!!)

Mike. (As described by Kris.)

About me:

I control the TV/Stereo. Don’t even THINK about touching that remote….or that one…or that other one over there….or those 6 sitting on the coffee table. (I have made the entertainment system so complex that the mere mortal couldn’t figure it out if they tried….hehehehe!!!)

Oh yeah…I also control the kitchen….the garage…the patio and yes…the driveway too…

I do things in excess and don’t believe in moderation or limiting indulgences.

I love politics and anyone who can’t keep up with my political knowledge is a moron. That distinction allows me to talk down to you or to be as sarcastic as possible…. so beware.

I am a FABULOUS cook….particularly with chocolate souffle….so back off jack!

I can control people. They ALWAYS do what I want, when I want. They don’t always start out that way. If they don’t, I throw a tantrum and they give in.

I’m in love with my stupid dog. (Sometimes, I like him more than Kris….but not in THAT creepy PETA way….)

I do NOT enjoy the absurd….I just don’t think its funny…certainly not as funny as Kris finds it. Case and point. Stephen Colbert’s book title is “I Am America, and So Can You”. I don’t get it. Kris thinks it’s HILARIOUS and laughs whenever she see’s it.

I find traffic exceedingly annoying…Especially those people who talk on their cell phones while driving…(Of course…I do that too…but so what?)…and those people who put on their makeup while talking on the cell phone and driving…I’m convinced…somewhat like my brother-in-law Greg… that those people left their house with the specific intention of annoying me personally. (And yes…I drive, talk on the cell phone, change my CD’s and eat a big mac all at the same time…what’s your point??)

I find Costco somehow strangely compelling…

Kris thinks I am a total grouch and joy killer most of the time….but she also thinks I am HILARIOUS (when I want to be). And that I am CHARMING (when I want to be). And that I’m completely thoughtful and caring (when I want to be.) UGH. 

Who I’d like to meet:

Someone who’s been to as many concerts or has as much music as I do.

The power of outsourcing

Here is outsourcing at it’s finest. 

I have 10 Visio drawings to do for an executive presentation.  I hate doing Visio.  I don’t have time to do Visio.  I don’t WANT to do Visio.  So….go to the internet…look up Visio help….find a site called “Rent a Coder”.  (It’s essentially Ebay for programming services.)  I post my request for 10 Visio drawings and within an hour I have 10 people bidding on my job.  They are from around the world, offer ridiculously low rates and send fabulous samples of their work.

Hmmm….I think I’m going to post a job for someone to do my expense reports.  I’ll let you know how that goes.


I would like to thank the academy….

My first introduction to R+F was at a lunch meeting/interview in Salt Lake City with Lori Bush.  Lori described a horrible Jenkon implementation and described the painful circumstances in such articulate detail that I couldn’t do anything but be utterly fascinated.  I remember going home and telling Mike that the situation was a complete trainwreck.  He rolled his eyes and knew right away I was going to take the job.

So through the first year and a half we (IT) tortured the entire R+F staff (and the budget) through a painful conversion.  We ran a mile a minute, throwing in technology, replacing pieces, merging pieces, integrating pieces and tossing out some other pieces altogether.  At the end of the day, we had a fully integrated stand-alone and very solidly workable system.  There are still a few  missing pieces, but all of the heavy lifting is done.  I’m happy with the result and know that there are a lot of very smart people that can finish getting the system from here to there.

Those smart systems people (obviously) include Lacey, Joules, Jared and a more recent and somewhat surprising addition is Lori. I’ve always thought of her as a veritable genius, particularly in Marketing and the Direct Selling business in general, but over the last two weeks I’ve watched her become a technologist.  In just one day I’ve heard her discuss IT project portfolio management, describe what the Avaya phone switch will do, talk about reporting services, ad hoc queries and explain database elements. We may have to let Lori join “the club” and get her her own designer pocket protector.

My next R+F encounter was with Amnon who quickly became obvious as one of the most intelligent and supportive leaders I’ve had the opportunity to work with.  Not only is he a technology advocate but he has also consistently supported the IT junk food habit.  I’ll never forget a particularly frustrating day when Amnon came by and asked if cookies would make it better.  Off the top of my head, I said caramel apples would do the trick (thinking there was no way he could come up with that.)  A week later, a giant case of gourmet apples showed up and it was a party for three days as everyone sampled and enjoyed.

There’s a bonding that occurs over shared misfortune that’s hard to put into words. I’ll never forget the look on Susan’s face across the executive conference table on any number of occassions.  We were bonded in mutual misery (okay maybe “misery” is a little over-dramatic…but not by much).  Sales and/or Marketing would come up with that next “big idea” and it usually spelled nothing but pain and suffering (more drama for effect)  for our respective departments.  She would say “do you know how you are going to execute that?” “Nope” I would say. We would both roll our eyes and then we would go find Lacey.

Another significant moment in history was with Chris, watching the sales field turn from a group of confused unengaged retailers to much more independent and capable business people. I’ve see a lot of field dynamics in my career, but I have never had an opportunity to be in the room, as a witness to a pivotal moment in an organizations history like this one. I will never forget the collective and incredible “A HA!” that occurred at the January Leadership Event.  It was amazing to watch the subsequent change in sales and recruiting that occurred over the course of the following year.

My fabulous staff, Drew, Lacey, Nancy and Joules are some of the brightest most dedicated people and will be the ones to help take this company to the next level.  They know how much I love and appeciate them and that they will always be “my kids”.

Courtney is the business partner of a lifetime. I couldn’t ask for anyone better to work with who has an appreciation of what technology can and can’t do.  Probably more importantly as well,  is how she can motivate you to do things you absolutely don’t want to do!  I remember early on having a meeting with Courtney when she was still working as a part time contractor from SLC.  I met with her with the intention of hiring her as a project manager for the then languishing Pulse implementation.  I practically BEGGED her to help.  She articulated that she was looking to be an executive at the company rather than a PM.  I thought my prayers were answered and soon found out they were.

So thank you to everyone for allowing me to participate in this great R+F journey.  Know that I believe in you and know that I will always watch your continued growth and success.

And of course, I’m no more than an email, instant message, Facebook, Myspace, Linkedin, Twitter, Oovoo, Skype or phone call away. 😉

Best wishes and much success, 



….Thats how they described it on TV…. The 5-2 win of Team USA Hockey over home town favorites Team Canada.  Can’t say I can argue much.  It was pretty mesmerizing.  We watched a young team with no notable NHL superstars, skate circles around a team with all the big names like Crosby, Thornton, Nash and Iginla.   And that’s not to mention watching them out pass, out skate and out score my own personal favs like Perry, Getzlaf, Neidermeyer and Pronger.

I was having a horrible time reconciling the fact that my favorite NHL players were jumping ship to play for other countries.  Yeah, yeah….I get that they are all from other places and they want to play for their home country, but it still feels like dissertion and downright abandonment.  I pay their salaries here in the States.  There should be some loyalty!  (Mike continues to remind me that only girls think that way….There is no loyalty in professional sports.)

When I saw Corey Perry and then later Scott Neidermeyer take a cheap shot at one of the US players I was pissed off.  I’m still pissed off.  Listen up Team Canada….  you’re my NHL players….making a living playing for my team….living in my country….getting paid with money from my season seat fees….. You shouldn’t be swiping at the underdog-ish kids that stood up to defend their country (…the one you BAILED on).   And these are the kids the big boys play with every single game of their professional careers.  The kids that are on their own NHL team!   Okay…I know…I know….I’m being ridiculous.  There are no “manners” in Hockey much less in a rivalry like this.  I get it.  It still sucks. 

I didn’t have much hope for the US team actually.  (I shouldn’t say that out loud.)  I never believed that you could throw together a bunch of guys who have never played together and have it turn out the way you’d like.  Maybe it’s because I’ve watched the Ducks struggle with team synergy over the last two years and can barely complete a decent string of passes as a result.  So this time I have to eat my words.  I guess it speaks to Burkie’s amazing ability to assemble an unlikely group of kids that just work together brilliantly….  

But at the end of the day, it was some sort of divine retribution.  Watching Rafalski, Orpik, Parise, Langenbruner and little Bobby Ryan stand up my “old” favs at the blue line made me feel much (MUCH) better about the whole thing.  How well, hard and fast they played together surprised me and even better, it surprised the Canadians!  It was the best game I’ve seen since the Stanley Cup finals when the Ducks won.  I was on the edge of my seat with some of the best Hockey EVER. 

Who knows what will happen next week, but for now, I’ll take it and enjoy every bit of it.  😉

Ode to the road warrior…

Ode to the road warrior
Current mood:  depressed
Category: Travel and Places

It’s Sunday night.

The worst time of all for the road warrior.

The time when the electronic devices must be charged, a weeks worth of clothes must be selected and stuffed in a 22″ carry on, electronic tickets printed out, destinations checked for the weather  and alarm clocks set for 4 AM.

It’s the time of day when you realize most clearly that you have no life.

You have to make sure that everything that could possibly need doing during the week is done.  It becomes a massive juggling act to make sure you neglect all things in equal order.

You realize that what little life you do have runs in 4 day blocks of time.  More frustrating is that the 4 day blocks of time are at the whim of irritating clients.

That’s it….no time left….have to go finish packing.


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