"I'm puzzled by this meeting. You asked for a chat to go through something you wanted me to help you with but as far as I can see you're the one who's taken on all the work."
I was a bit puzzled too. And a little nervous: had she decided that I had really designs on her body she would have kicked my head in. As it was, we decided to give up and stalk the kettle without getting to the bottom of the puzzle.
Of course, I can leave no scab unpicked so I've been mulling this over. Actually, it turns out to be key to the way that Maybelle and I work together. Milton reckons its a good partnership because we both plan ahead and that while I'm good at seeing how best to do things she's good at getting them done. There's a lot to that but I think there's something else in the mix, too.
The bit of my job that's not explicitly in my job description is talking and listening to people. You need to know what people want to do and why before you can try to apply a systemic solution to it. (A systemic solution may be: "it works as it is, why monkey with it?") Very broadly, we have three groups of people I need to talk to:
- The lacking in confidence. I have to go into sheepdog mode: "I know you don't think you're capable of doing this but look at this, that and that: you're doing it all the time and doing a good job of it. What do you mean, you can't do that? Just look at this that you've done. Honestly, come on you can do it!"
- The lacking in will. I go into sheepdog mode again: "We both know you can do this; and we both know that you want me to do this for you so that you don't have to and you can bitch about it afterwards if anything goes wrong. Now we both know that where are you going to go now?"
- The lacking in restraint. I go into sheepdog mode yet again: "Yes, they're all brilliant ideas and we could do that, that, that, that, that, that and that but we haven't yet worked out how to do this, which is what we got together to decide in the first place."
This is all well and good, and I can do this to a lesser or greater extent. But I am not a natural sheepdog. By all that is natural I am one of those elderly, plodding, golden retrievers that can spend hours staring at Belisha beacons. I've trained myself so that I can do all that mental running around and chasing and chivvying to help other people get started with a piece of work or to help them marshal their thoughts. Unfortunately, I can't do it very well for myself and just lately I've been running myself ragged trying to help other people deal with an explosion of Stuff To Deal With.
It used to work quite well back when I shared an office with Jimmy Huddersfield because he, being resolutely not a theorist and being very practically-minded, was an ideal sounding board for me to get my thoughts in order. I've really missed that since he retired. Thinking it through, I think this is what I'm getting out of chatting with Maybelle. The dynamic's different because they're different thinkers but the function's the same.
It'll probably be safer if I tell her I'm after her body.