5 Steps to Team Management Mastery

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SHOW DATE: SEPTEMBER 17, 2014

Building a functional team is one of the hardest leadership skills to master.

All the negotiation, all the management that goes into it is paramount to mastering leadership, getting promoted and skyrocketing your career. Basically what Job Talk is all about.

So let’s dive right in.

In essence, teamwork is a bunch of moving parts that all have to work together.

Susan hates Harry. Harry has a thing for Jeff. Jess doesn’t even listen to you because you’re not the “official” boss (the official boss is having a three-martini lunch). And so on.

What are you supposed to do?

This happens all the time. Team members engage in verbal sparing matches and you’re supposed to magically create a functional, respectful team.

It’s just like the coalition building thing that’s happening now.

The U.S. and its allies are forming a coalition against the ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and Syria) terrorist organization.

In a nutshell, President Obama is building a team that will support an airstrike against ISIS.

One problem though: ISIS is in Syria.

This is turning out to be fraught with disaster.

There’s three big players in the game.

One of the players is the Syrian government. They have to allow the bombing to occur in Syria.

The second player is the Syrian rebels, who are amidst a civil war. The rebels are the people in the frontlines, fighting against ISIS. But they’re also fighting against the Syrian government.

And then there is ISIS itself.

Now President Obama is having to walk this tightrope between the Syrian government and the rebels, who hate each other but have the same common enemy.

The first two players share a common goal: stop ISIS. But they also hate each other.

Sort of like how two co-workers who hate each other have to work together on a project for their boss.

This is happening at our very own office at Forster-Thomas.

Our office manager Roberto (who has an enormous ego) and Dan (who also has an enormous ego), one of the mentor leads for our non-profit group, Essay Busters, have been put together on a team project.

Tension runs hot. Roberto, who’s also the Essay Busters coordinator, either loves or hates Dan—there’s no in-between. Basically they have a hard time working together.

At first we were hoping the problem would get resolved on its own.

That rarely happens.

So Auntie Evan stepped in.

He literally took the two of them and dragged them into a room and said, “all right, now we’re going to work it out.”

But that didn’t work. Auntie Evan figured if he just told them the truth, that there’s a common goal here, to just pull it together, all would be fine.

Didn’t happen.

So why doesn’t Auntie Evan just take over the project and do it himself?

This is actually one of the worst things you can possibly do. We’ll explain in a bit.

There’s several things you can do to solve these conflicts.

Uncle David shares his five most solid points on resolving team conflicts:

  1. Don’t stick your head in the sand.
  2. Don’t be the white knight who just swoops in and does it all himself. Yeah, it seems like the only solution. But it solves nothing and only inhibits your leadership abilities and doesn’t get to the root of the problem.
  3. Understand the conflict has no rational basis—it’s rooted in emotion. It’s about grudges and feelings. You can’t move past a grudge until your address and recognize how the team member feels.
  4. Create a social event where some relationship building can occur outside the office space. Resolution does not have to happen on the job.
  5. If you want to be an effective leader, you have to cut to the root of the issue. A simple, “pull it together” will do squat for team building efforts. Yes there’s always a bit of that pep element. But you also have to find out the why behind what their feeling, and then focus your energy on resolving that.

The Dirty Truth About Lying On The Job

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SHOW DATE: AUGUST 13, 2014

Everyone knows when you lie on the job. They can practically predict everything coming out of your mouth is utter..

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When we go to the car dealership, we prep ourselves for “lie time,” where Jack the car salesman will talk sales for the next few hours. What a waste of time: when Jack tells the truth, we are more apt to buy and it saves time for everybody.

It doesn’t get any simpler than that.

The other day, Auntie Evan got ready for an 8am meeting at the office with our accountant. The accountant comes in with his gold earring and slicked back hair and double tan, and on the side shadowing him is this big nameless muscle thug that he randomly invited.

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Walks in, sits down, we tell him what we want done with our house. The first thing the accountant does, and we could swear his tan triple-darkened and his gold earring started to twinkle a little brighter, was jump in with a suggestion for a realtor—from whom we knew he would get a percentage from.

Not a good start.

He should have addressed us first and then truthfully acknowledged that he knew a REALLY good realtor, and despite him getting a percentage from the referral, the the guy would do wonders. It would have been more honest, less “sales-y” and more authentic.

By pretending that it was just a good referral right off the bat, it only created bad blood between us. The rest of the conversation was virtually OVER.

You do this at work and don’t even notice it: you make promises you can’t keep (you may get busy or forget), you say things to expedite a meeting and you don’t lay it down straight to your boss.

Truthful conversations get things done FASTER. Don’t even look at this from a moral perspective. Things are more efficient when they aren’t marred by bullshit. Either you’re not telling the truth, or you’re allowing somebody else to lie. The last thing we want is a culture of lies and half-truths proliferating the working world.

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If you don’t know how to do something, and you pretend that you do, that’s lying. If you don’t say that you’ll be late, that’s lying by omission. I have a suggestion, and this is going to be CRAZY. If you don’t know something (ready for the insanity?): start with, “I don’t know” and… wait for it… “But let me help you. We’re going to find out how to do this together.”

THAT’s the way to go.

Pop culture example? Sure: we LOVE our summer TV guilty pleasure, Big Brother. Everybody was rooting for this guy Cody from the beginning, but he had this nagging habit of saying he’ll do something and never doing it. Now the whole fan base is against it.

After a while, you end up being the lonely guy in the dirty apartment, with a bottle in his hand… OK, maybe we’re getting sort of grim here.

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Check in with yourself. Conduct a mini self-interview. Are you telling a client, co-worker, boss, lover etc. something because you want them to like you more or to avoid confrontation? Or are you telling them the truth?

Tell us the truth and you’ll have us on your side. In fact, you’ll have everything: the trust, the job, the promotion and the career.

Happy Cabby! Or: Shut The F*ck Up and Listen to the Experts!

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The following is a completely true story.

So I walked out of CBS after a great Job Talk radio show and hailed a taxi to Grand Central. After I got in, the driver asked, “You want I take sixty-five street over the Central Park?”

To Grand Central? Now, if you know NYC geography, you get that we’re on 10th and 57th. So, why would he head uptown to go down to 42nd & Vanderbilt? “Why wouldn’t we just go across 57th and take a right on Broadway?” He looks at me like I’m crazy and I realize he’s right—it’s 1pm, and traffic will be insane on 57th.

So I do something you’ll never believe your Auntie Evan did: I let go of my inner control freak. “You’re the professional here, you go the way you want to,” I say as my phone lights up with texts—everyone knows I’m out of our radio show now.

So, off we go. Cabbie driving. Auntie Evan texting.

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Ten minutes later I look up and there’s no trees, there’s no Tavern on the Green, there’s just a billboard for some musical that everybody from LA wants to see called “If/Then,” and a lot of white people in sweatpants and Ohio State jerseys. So I’m confused. Why are we on Broadway? I told him to go the way he wanted! Did I get the one taxi driver in New York City actually afraid to disagree with me? But what’s done is done.

Then Arif casually makes a left onto 46th. And a baaaaaaaad feeling descends upon me. You know what I’m talking about if you live here. It’s illegal to turn left onto 46th from practically anywhere midtown–midday!

And there he is. A handsome NYC cop (ah, uniforms) pulls us over.  Oh crap. It is 1pm on a Wednesday in Times Square and I am with a Muslim man who has just broken the law—I am never making the train. So I calmly tell Arif I need to pay and walk the rest of the way.

Then Officer Handsome knocks on my window. I roll it down and he asks me what time my train’s at. (Apparently Arif had told him we were headed to Grand Central). I tell the officer, and ask “I’m not making that train, am I?”

“Probably not,” he replies.

So, with a blank look, I calmly say to Officer Handsome, “He’s getting a ticket, right?”

“Yep.”

We were all calm, and in the ensuing silence, Arif and I knew what Officer Handsome knew: He was going to run the cabbie’s license, something like an unpaid parking ticket would set off an umber flag, the closest precinct is going to be somewhere not near 46th Street, and Handsome is going to be responsible for taking Arif there.

So I have to ask—while what is probably the entire Big Ten fanbase races past toward Jersey Boys–“For real, Officer? Do you really want to go through all of this?”

Something in my doe eyes must have gotten through, because Handsome returns to Arif, points his license at him and says, “Your passenger just got you out of a ticket. I’m giving you a warning.”

Arif begins to explain himself to the cop, and I reach through the partition and gently place my hand on his shoulder. “No,” I stage whisper. “Don’t speak.” Officer Handsome giggles, and I announce, “We are going to leave now, and this young man is going to take me to Grand Central….” Arif looks at me, and I finish my sentence: “for free.”

I glance at both men and ask “Are we good, boys?”

Officer Handsome looks at Arif and says, “It would be a good time for you to leave.”

Arif is the happiest cabbie in New York City. “How do you want me to go to Grand Central?” he asks.

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“It’s all up to you!” I say—making damn sure he heard me this time. “You’re the expert.”

Moral of the story:

Always listen to the professional, be he a cabbie, a tragically not-yet-famous radio show host, a lawyer–or anyone who has or does spend more time than you doing something, anything you rarely, if ever, do. If you hire an adviser or a consultant, if you are a numbers guy and you find yourself working with the PR department, or if you are a parent hiring a college admissions consultant, shut the f*ck up and let the expert do his job! And if you get in his way, it is your responsibility to get him out of a jam.

And also, at the risk of using an overused phrase that originated with people who we shook off like dandruff across the pond in 1776, “Keep calm and carry on.”

Because today, I went from 46th Street and Broadway to Grand Central for free.

–Auntie Evan

SIMPLE FACT WHY YOUR JOB IS EXACTLY LIKE MARRIAGE

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When you work with people long enough, there are things you should just know and adjust to accordingly. Your boss is a neat freak? Then don’t leave half a sandwich out in your cubicle. And yes, your co-worker Sue is always ten minutes late. So, when she says 2pm, know that she means 2:15pm. Wrong or right, you know who she is. Style, procedures, practices, and personalities: if you’ve been there a year and still don’t have all of these down? #ForReal? Fire yourself.

If you’ve been there a year and still can’t anticipate your boss’s and co-workers’ needs, likes, and dislikes, you don’t deserve to be there. Jobs are like marriage: after a year, there are no surprises.

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I had a client who wrote an algorithm to figure out when his boss would need a latte each day. He didn’t have to ask, his boss didn’t have to tell him, and everyone knew where he was from 11:15 until 11:33 each morning. Anyone who didn’t wasn’t at that company for long, and guess what? That client got promoted, and now he has an assistant who’s (hopefully) figuring out his algorithm.

One of the reasons you got hired is because you’re really good at what you do. Therefore, it shouldn’t be hard for you to anticipate what your boss or co-worker wants, because you already know. You just don’t know you know. Here’s how you find out. Put yourself in the other person’s shoes and ask yourself: “What would I want in this situation?” (Example situation: your pants are down around your ankles and there is no toilet paper.)

Some things to remember:

  1. Know where everything is
  2. Know what’s missing
  3. Know what’s needed
  4. Make sure you can answer any question asked
  5. Be one step ahead of everyone

The bottom line: just get things done.

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P.S. This blog is by Katherine Kennedy, who has worked with Auntie Evan for eight years. (There’s always toilet paper.)

GET FIRED-PROOF EVEN WHEN YOU’RE ABOUT TO GET FIRED

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SHOW DATE: JULY 2, 2014

No matter how long you’ve known your co-workers or boss, no matter how buddy buddy you are with your work peeps and superiors, you can never rely on friendship to save your ass on the job.

Let’s make this crystal clear: friendship is NOT leverage.

If you had to choose between your favorite co-worker and your job, which one would it be? We all know the answer. There are very few people on the planet that will willingly throw themselves under the bus for you at work.

Don’t rule out the fact that great work relationships are a bad thing. It’s only when you use them as a support beam for your career when you discover the foundation won’t hold.

You ALWAYS, ALWAYS have to have leverage when it comes down to matters concerning your job. What does leverage mean? It means you have options, some sort of barter than can be taken place to cover your ass in case of emergencies.

Friendship is not barter material. It’s not something used to tip the scales in your favor.

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Let’s get practical. You’re walking into your boss’s office, about to have the Talk about the fate of your job. How would you prepare? How do you make sure that you have enough leverage in the interaction to tip the scales in your favor?

Here’s a few golden tips from Auntie Evan and Uncle David:

1) Never walk into your boss’s office asking about the fate of your job. It’s like waddling into the room with your tail between your legs. Powerlessness and pleading only make you an easy target.

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2) This is not the most helpful tip when you’re too far down the rabbit hole, but vital to the Job Talk mantra nonetheless: you have to be really good at what you do if you want some serious leverage.

3) Create leverage if you don’t have it. The best leverage is having another job offer. Have a place you can go to in the worst case scenario. Just like your partner looks at you more lustfully when someone else is vying for your attention, you’re a much most attractive prospect when there are others vying for your employment.

4) If you don’t have that offer to fall back on, get out there. Get a headhunter, get your resume out. Afraid you’ll be found out? It’s a bogus fear: if you’re going to be fired, there is nothing to lose. If you’re looking to be promoted, now you’re just that more attractive. It doesn’t mean wave that acceptance letter in management’s face; just don’t leave yourself at somebody else’s mercy.

5) If you’re playing high-stakes job poker and put up the “I’ll quit” bluff, you better be willing and able to follow through with it. To add on to the metaphor, get your poker face primed and ready: walking into an office full of emotions (read: anger) is sure to spell disaster. Emotions are easy to manipulate, and are the biggest form of anti-leverage on the planet. Additionally, when you’re going through your spiel, start off with what you want and need, and then transition to the fact that you’ll be looking for alternative employment otherwise, not the other way around.

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Bottom line, steel yourself. Stop thinking everyone is your friend, and if they are, don’t count on their support when shit hits the fan. When the reaper comes knocking, keep the five tips listed above taped to the inside of your eyelid: in the tentative job world, leverage is king.

Secrets of an Office Dominator

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SHOW DATE: JUNE 18, 2014

Most people need to be dominated in a relationship, be it in business or in life. One person is going to be the good guy and the other the bad guy.

And if you’re one the one receiving the commands and complaints, it can be quite frustrating. But is it crazy to think that if you removed the dominant figurehead from the relationship, your job, and your life, wouldn’t function as well?

We don’t find it crazy one bit.

If Auntie Evan doesn’t tell Uncle David to take out the trash during an in-home client Skype call, would Uncle David, as frustrated as he is over the domination, ever do it? If Auntie Evan doesn’t forcefully impose the company’s new pricing model in front of their employees and Uncle David says squat because he doesn’t want to embarrass the image of the company, would the business ever progress?

The dominator, essentially the task-master, whips you into shape. Every office has one. We get it (at least, Uncle David does), we realize it can be a pain in the ass to be told what to do all the time.

But it’s necessary. Every yin needs a yang. This doesn’t mean you can’t make the relationship with your dominator a synergistic effort that produces ideal results. You can even become a dominator yourself.

Coming straight from the horse’s mouth, Auntie Evan reveals how you can make a relationship with a dominator work for you, not against you. Use these points to understand the necessity of a dominator, or become one yourself.

There are three things dominators do that lets them stay in the position they’re at:

  1. They are loud, forceful and tenacious. Like pit bulls. They are the first ones to get their head into the discussion.
  2. They find a weakness and exploit it (Uncle David doesn’t like loud confrontations, for instance). They know you’ll give in, and they do solely to get ahead with their vision.
  3. This is the big one. They are willing to walk away from a client if things are not going their way. They have it in their heart that what they have to say is the right thing, and they know they’re really good at what they do. So for the relationship to be maintained, the client must be good at what they do, be a hard worker, and comply with the dominator’s vision. For a successful dominator, everything is replaceable, be it a client, a teammate, a spouse, or even their own role in the company.

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A dominator is committed to a cause, such as making more money for the company. If she loses a few clients along the way to get to the ones she needs, so be it.

The office dominator is an essential chess piece, because they’re the ones that gets results. Become one of them, or be dominated by one (and later become one yourself). Either way, you’re moving your career, and more importantly the company, forward.

Do the Right Thing at Work Without Everyone Hating You

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SHOW DATE: JUNE 4, 2014

There’s an age old problem that plagues us incessantly at the workplace: do I do the right thing, or the popular thing?

Say the popular co-worker who’s always coming in twenty minutes late, and you’re covering for him, or his co-workers are covering for him.

He’s a decent guy, a family man, and you don’t want to hurt him or his career. But it’s starting to affect the team and the office morale.

Do you report him or do you keep him safe from scrutiny?

Speaking to him may not work. He might say, “Yeah, sure, I’ll come in on time,” without it ever coming to fruition. And if you ask again, you’ll become that annoying co-worker who’s always nitpicking.

The question to any problem you have in the work place is, is it more practical to say something, or put your head down?

It’s painful to be the hall monitor blowing her whistle. You’re not getting promoted for it, and if you are, you’re going to be the supervisor or boss nobody respects.

Auntie Evan and Uncle David have two divergent opinions:

Uncle David: In this economy, you have to put your head down when you see your company is heading in a bad direction or someone is causing a problem. Don’t be the moral police, or you won’t get anywhere.

Auntie Evan: UD, if that’s how you feel, if you can’t step up, then you’re not really there for your company. Then you’re the small individual who only looks after himself and his paycheck.

When it comes down to brass tacks, do you need to be popular or liked to get ahead, or do the right thing and open your mouth?

AE: When things are not going well, you can’t just put your head down and hope nobody notices. It doesn’t matter what company you’re at, when you’re hurting the product because you’re keeping your mouth shut, it never works out for anybody in the end.

UD: But remember when you worked at that organization, and the new, younger program lead got hired and made a bunch of mistakes, and you called her out and were shunned for it? Only when you left the job and they saw all the mistakes go down did they call you up again.

So how do keep the company your number one priority when calling someone out, and at the same time avoiding looking like the hall monitor everyone wants to jam into a locker? Here are Auntie Evan’s foolproof steps to doing the right thing while still saving face:

1) Carefully document when the co-worker(s) makes a glaring mistake that affects the team and the company as a whole. Write down the date and time, and what was done. As objectively as possible (not, “At 4pm on Tuesday the bitch didn’t wash her coffee mug.”).

2) More importantly, take to heart that you’re doing this because you want the company to be great, because you want the country to be great. If you play the “what’s in it for me” game, you’re going to crash.

3) Don’t make it look like you’re trying to cover your own ass. If you get somewhere early, and all you can do is gloat how you’re the only one on time, you’re doing it wrong. It’s about thinking, “how can I get everybody in on time.” Put the organization, the community, before anything.

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The One Thing Sterling Got Right

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SHOW DATE: MAY 14, 2014

The whole Donald Sterling issue is bugging us.

We get it, we know how it feels to be put down for being a minority.

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While all the energy is being put on hating this senile old man, who’s clearly a moron, there’s one little thing he got right: help your community.

Donald has a point when he says Jewish people help their people underneath.

This begs the question: what’s good for the community and what’s good for you?

If you’re a minority, and you’re in a world where your people have difficulty getting a job, and you’re in a position of influence, help them. You become known as a networker that helps people get jobs. Not only are you raising your own standing in your community, you have a better chance of being helped by someone above you as well.

It’s easy to beat Sterling up. He’s a target you can’t miss. But there’s something to learn from his remark. When you can bring in a team of hard-working people that you know and can identify with, you’re going to be seen as a rainmaker in your community and in your office.

Sounds like segmentation, like Auntie Evan is being a separatist, doesn’t it? Jews hire Jews. Black people hire black people. Women hire women. Gays hire gays.

Here’s the fine print: if you’re sitting there with two equally capable people, and one of them is a person who you identify with and who’s had difficulty getting jobs in the past, hire them.

Don’t get caught up in your anger like those raving against Sterling, or you’ll start sounding like that crazy gender studies professor. We’re called Job Talk, not Identity Talk. We’re here to help you excel at getting a job, and one of the ways you can do that (all things being equal) is to help (and be helped) by the people in your community.

Take away the sole thing Sterling got right and look into your world and find someone you can help.

The Secret to Sticking to Life-Changing Resolutions

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SHOW DATE: APRIL 30, 2014

We just got back from an amazing Asia trip, and it’s helped us get a new look on life and work.

We’re here to help you get a new perspective on yours.

The great thing about cathartic getaways is, whether you’re lying on the beach looking up at the stars or immersed in an entirely different culture, it really shakes up your life perspective.

On the plane from China, Auntie Evan made some serious resolutions (including no more wheat; gluten-free baby!). The decision that really stuck out, however, was his promise to stop complaining on the job.

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How did he reach such a drastic resolution?

After the beautiful Dr. Seussian Silver Cave in Yangzhou, Auntie Evan and Uncle David get to their hotel room overlooking the town and nightlife.

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Auntie Evan looked out the window and spotted this elderly Chinese woman folding plastic bags, slowly, one after another. From the left she took unfolded bags and laid them out neatly on the right, selling tangerines on the side for 5 cents a dozen.

After two hours, she was still there. After dinner, she was still there. She’s there for 12 hours a day.

And here Auntie Evan is complaining about not enough stamps in the office. In retrospect, his life is amazing, and so he decided to give up complaining about the petty things.

But Uncle David was immediately skeptical, curious how Auntie Evan is going to make this stick.

So we called up Roberto, our office manager at Forster-Thomas, on the show. After a hearty laugh, Roberto told Auntie Evan: “In the last 24 hours I wanted to murder you so many times.”

The latest Auntie Evan complaint? A newly broken lock on the file cabinet.

The lesson? When you overlook the 1000 things your co-workers, employees or interns do for you and focus on the single tiny thing that wasn’t done right, it makes those around you at work (and life) question if they’re actually good at their job, and it makes them question if they really want to work there in the first place.

That’s not the message you want to send people.

We get that creating real change in your life is not easy. But we’ve got a streamlined process for anybody who has a resolution or wants to change their behavior and stick with it:

1) First off, keep that moment that first inspired you to jump into action alive (Auntie Evan took a photo of Folding Bag Woman).

2) Empower someone to keep you on track and call you out when you derail.

3) You can’t make the person you give power regret their role by punishing them every time they tell you what you told them to tell you (read that over).

Have people around you act as a support system and let yourself be helped. That life-changing resolution will stick.

Freaking Out About Work Pre-Vacation? Let Us Soothe Those Nerves

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SHOW DATE: MARCH 26, 2014

Uncle David and Auntie Evan are getting out of town. Way out of town. All the way to China and Japan.

Ni-how, konichiwa and whatnot.

They’ve been planning for ages. Now that they’re almost there, Uncle David is having a freak-out.

He’s starting to get really nervous. While Auntie Evan is getting excited over oriental liquor and staying in communication with the team overseas, Uncle David is getting worried about not having a vacation at all with all the micromanagement he might have to do out of his hotel bed.

We’ve all been there: setting off for a vacation with a head full of impending job tasks and inevitable call-ins. And, of course, our main topic for today: the nail-biting subject of your stand-in.

Here is Job Talk’s counter-argument: can’t there be a balance between checking in and throwing your feet up and sipping the sake?

Auntie Evan says YES.

Are you experiencing guilt over leaving your post? What if something goes wrong? Will the vacation be ruined?

Here’s the thing: you’re afraid somebody—whether it’s your stand-in or those under you—is going to screw up without you. And you’re just afraid to admit it because you don’t want to undermine and disempower your team or freak out your co-workers with your nervousness.

Let’s say you do sales at your company. And you know if you step out and your stand-in screws up, it’s going to cost the company thousands, maybe more.

Here’s something you might not want to hear: this is the perfect time for those left in charge of your position to fail up and learn.

You’re groaning.

But if you know they’re great, yeah they might lose some money, but something more important is going to come out of all this: you’ll be establishing a legacy and molding a future leader. Now, unless you’re a narcissist or the jealous type, this is a great thing. This an opportunity for them to rise up and make the company and your position more than just individual parts.

Somebody once told us: “The mark of a great leader is not how well the company runs when she’s there, but how well the company runs when she’s not.”

We can see that you’re expressing doubts. What if somebody asks your stand-in a question they can’t answer during a sales call?

Okay, for this one, we do in fact have an exact response, courtesy of our stand-in, Cousin Tom:

“Well, that’s one of the things we discuss once you begin working with us. The objective of today is to clue you in a little bit how we work and for us to find out a little bit about you, but it would be premature and quite honestly foolish to sit down and nail some of these things down in concrete before digging a little bit deeper.”

That’s our little bone for today. It’s your job to make sure that sort of response is ingrained before you go on vacation, and it’s your responsibility to leave the office a well-oiled machine that needs as few check-ups as possible.

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