Rivers of Thought

Life, Leadership, Business & Technology

Could This Be Your Father As Well?

I was scrolling through my LinkedIn newsfeed as I tend to do several times a day, when I saw a post.

A post I can’t get out of my mind.

I’m not sure what caught my attention first, probably the image. But with a glance so quick, I didn’t comprehend the context – other than the man.  

Then I saw the opening lines. 

“Pale Stale Male Privilege at its finest!

The sign, not for him.” 

The sign…what sign…oh, that sign, now I see it.

What yellow and black line? Oh, that yellow and black line, now I see it. (note: apologies for the blurring of the sign – whoever posted this was reflected therein.)

I had to click “see more”… 

The Comments

What followed can best be described as a snarky commentary on this man.

The comments that followed the post were 13 – 2 in the same tone. Because…

  1. he was standing on the wrong side of the tape–he must feel he is privileged.
  2. of the words he used–he must be a misogynist.
  3. of his reaction when confronted–he must be angry. 

I looked back at the picture.

It haunted me.

The Man, The Father

The man in the picture. Standing at the counter. Speaking with the staff behind the counter. Probably oblivious to the sign (I missed it at first glance), probably oblivious to the line taped on the floor (I hadn’t noticed it either).

After all, he’d been in this office dozens of times before. He doesn’t see well – doesn’t pay attention to details. He probably never saw the tape on the floor. Same reason he lost his driver’s license a year or two before. 

Suddenly, I didn’t see an unknown figure.

I saw my father.

The Dementia, The Father

I saw my father as he began to struggle with the onset of dementia. No way Dad sees that sign. No way Dad sees the tape. Dad can’t even comprehend what is happening in our world. 

And his comments to the staff behind the counter? Calling them “darlings” and “lovely ladies”?

There are many forms of dementia. Not everyone who has dementia has the memory problems of someone with Alzheimer’s.

My father had frontotemporal dementia (the behavioral variant frontotemporal dementia [bvFTD]). 

This was the Reverend Doctor Ton. The pastor of pastors. The leader of leaders.

This was the man who was a champion of the civil rights movement in the 60’s and 70’s. He was the man who stood up for the rights of the LBGTQ community in our churches.

My father was the man who hired the first female executive minister in the entire denomination, who first put women on equal footing in church leadership, who promoted women in the ministry every chance he had. 

And yes, this was the man, who at the end of his life, flirted inappropriately with waitresses, nurses, friends and acquaintances. 

Why? Because he was a “Pale Stale Male”? Or because he was a “good boy”?

Because bvFTD is a type of dementia that attacks the brain in such a way as to make you lose cognitive ability.

It attacks the brain in such a way as to make you lose your social filters. It attacks the brain in such a way as to make you lose the ability to effectively process language.

The Fear, The Father

At the end, my father had the cognitive ability of a five-year-old.

His social filters were basically gone.

Can you imagine the fear felt as your world closes in around you? As your ability to make sense of things diminishes? You have the memories of an 87-year-old, but can’t comprehend the sign in front of you? 

And then some stranger points out you are doing something wrong – while you have no idea what it is that you are doing wrong?  

Even though I am an “old white guy”, I am a champion for diversity and inclusion.

I am an ally.

I believe in speaking up. 

We Are In This Together

I don’t know the man in the photo, nor do I know the poster, nor was I in the room during the exchange between them.

What I do know is that we are all in this COVID-19 reality together.

We need to show each other grace and not assume we know someone’s motivations, their attitude, their fears, or their confusion.

Let’s help each other – let’s support each other.

That man is probably someone’s father.

In a few years, that man could be me…or you. 

Note from Jeff: in light of the current environment and the dynamic nature of the coronavirus pandemic, I thought it wise to break from my normal format. I’d like to highlight just a few of the words of wisdom I have seen on LinkedIn in the last few days: 

The first two were shared by Dave Linn:

Do not read about best practices for distance learning. That’s not the situation we’re in. We’re in triage mode. Distance learning, when planned, can be really excellent. That’s not what this is. Think about what you must cover and what might be expendable. Thinking you can manage best practices in a day or a week will lead to feeling like you’ve failed.

You can read the post in its entirety here

While Dave was sharing some insights for educators who are having to face the reality of distance learning, I think the same applies to business leaders who are having to face the reality of a remote workforce with little or no time to prepare. 

In another post, Dave reminds us to see who among us needs help:

How can you help? We’re all familiar with the airline safety instruction that someone should put on their own oxygen mask before helping others. That’s also a commonly used business analogy. Leaders need to make sure they are in the right place before they can take care of their teams.

Read what to do next here

Dave reminds us to look outside of our normal “followers”. As leaders, we need to look next door, across the street, and down the block for those that need our help in these times. 

Next from Phillip Berry: 

Peace be with you. Peace in heart and soul. Peace in your physical environment. Peace in the space between your ears. May peace be upon you in this strange and bewildering moment in time.

To read Phil’s full message of peace, click here.  

We are in a chaotic time, unlike any most of us have ever seen. Phil’s wish for us to find peace is a helpful reminder that we as leaders need to find peace and give peace to those around us! 

Thank you to Dave and Phil for reminding us what is truly important in life!

This Question Of “Should I Stay Or Should I Go” Comes Up Often

A question came in this week in the form of an email from a former colleague with whom I have stayed in touch: 

“I would like to get together with you again for advice on where to go next. I still have a responsible position but didn’t get the leadership position cemented that I would have liked. 

When I met with you a few years ago, I said that I really enjoyed being the decision-maker or at least the one pulling the options together and obtaining approval of the recommended approach. 

After all this time, my boss is still at many times unavailable and leaves me to run many things.

But I don’t get the recognition I desire.

One of our main programmers just told me last week, “You’re doing almost everything.”

It is lonely being in this position, yet I don’t get anywhere asking for a regular 1:1 with my boss. 

Nor do I get the kudos I need to keep going on at this company.  

It’s been crazy busy as we are implementing a new system this Nov or Dec, also, and I’m a key person in the configuration. 

I just need another professional opinion on where to go next.

I don’t necessarily want to abandon all this and I have 15 years at this position, 8-9 in this particular role.” 

I think the question is one we all struggle with from time to time: “Should I stay or should I go?”

Step One: Reflection

One of the exercises I recommend to anyone who is in transition (or, in this case, contemplating transition) is to make a Top Ten List (borrowed from Letterman, but not near as funny).

Actually, I recommend three top ten lists.

Top Ten things you would use to describe the perfect:

  • job
  • boss
  • company 

In the case of someone contemplating a move, they should try not to think about their current job.

The bias may come through and they could end up with the top ten things they would prefer to change at their current job. 

Then force rank each list 1 to 10 (no ties). 

Step Two: Evaluate

Once you have those ranked lists, then think about your current job, boss and company.

Check each one that describes where you are now. 

It sounds like you are dissatisfied with your current position.

Does this exercise support that feeling?

Make you feel better or worse?

Leaving someplace where you have invested so much of your time and effort is difficult. Earlier in my own career, I had 12 years at one employer and 15 years at another. 

Leaving was incredibly difficult.

But…I wanted more. 

I think you have to ask yourself “why”.

What…

  1. drives you?
  2. motivates you?
  3. gets you excited to get up every day and go to work?
  4. things do you want to accomplish in the next three years?
  5. things do you want to accomplish in the next five years?

Step Three: Compare

If, after this exercise, you are still feeling stuck, network.

Talk to people about their roles in their organizations.

Share your top ten list with them.

How would they rank their position on your list?

Go on a few interviews. (This has the added benefit of keeping your resume current and interviewing skills sharp).

How do those roles rank on your list? 

So…should you stay or should you go?

Only you can answer that question.

Your top ten lists are going to be different than mine – chances are they will be different for everyone.

You may find your current role ranks pretty well in comparison…or, you may find it ranks dismally low. 

Do you relate?

If you relate to the above conversation, I would love to hear from you.

What are your Top 10 Lists?

Where does your current role rank?

Do you have different advice for my colleague? 

Post a comment, send an email, or give me a call!

I want to hear your stories! 

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