Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Creative Thought Case Study: Roxanne

Roxanne is a very successful account executive for a huge company that organizes trade shows and conventions. She is constantly plugged in to her staff via cell phone, Blackberry and, she has been told by those who work for her, telepathy, managing the organization of political conventions and confectionary trade shows with equal aplomb.

Roxanne came to me for help with neck and back problems, and as we started talking she told me about an ongoing problem she had with her staff. The projects she manages can take anywhere from six months to a year to plan and execute; the average timeline is about nine months. Roxanne's problem was that, despite meticulous planning, frequent meetings and constant communication, her staff seemed to desert her at the last minute, leaving Roxanne to manage the eleventh-hour tasks by herself. She was pretty much at the end of her rope and had recently been called into a meeting with two company vice-presidents about her performance on several major events that had had significant deadline issues. Several of Roxanne's staff had gone over her head and complained about the way Roxanne would treat them as things started to fall apart. It wasn't that she was wrong, they said, it was all about the manner in which she did it.

Cause and Effect

As we talked, I asked Roxanne about her birth script. She laughed, then was able to tell me in some detail about her birth, because it has been a chapter in the family folklore all her life. Roxanne was born on a gurney outside the delivery room because her obstetrician was busy delivering another baby and did not make it to her birth. Roxanne, the fifth of seven children, pretty much delivered herself.

Roxanne told me her mother had been seen throughout her pregnancy by her regular obstetrician who had attended the birth of each of Roxanne's four siblings, and joked a little about being there for the fifth. Roxanne's mother was concerned about what she thought would be a very short labor, based on her previous experience, to the point where she went to the hospital twice thinking she was in labor when she was not. The doctor took this all in stride, chuckling a little as he reassured her there would be plenty of time, and that he would be there when she actually went into labor. Other priorities for the doctor intervened in the form of another delivery, and Roxanne, deadline upon her, was left to take care of the matter on her own.

Fast forward to the present, and Roxanne continues to repeat her birth script with virtually every project she works on. Those who pledge to support her and be there for her over an average of nine months (her staff, in the role of her obstetrician) desert her at the last minute, leaving her to handle the big event by herself. This was a huge revelation for Roxanne, who was immediately able to see that she was repeating her birth out of simple habit. Empowered to make a life-altering change by shifting her thinking, Roxanne now views her staff as civilians, not as players in her ongoing birth drama, and there has never been another glitch in a project due to timing.

Remember the staff members who complained to upper management about the way Roxanne treated them? The very words they used were, "Roxanne is great, but her delivery stinks!"

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