Friday, November 19, 2010

When All Is Said and Done, Occasionaly More Is Said Than Done

It has happened to all of us. Someone made a commitment. We depended on them to come through.

It was probably unavoidable. An emergency interrupted their plans. Traffic patterns, changed by construction, caused them to miss a deadline.

They didn’t break the promise. They were just unable to fulfill it. Better planning could have helped, but all things considered, they were trying to keep their end of the bargain.

Caught up in the moment, a parent promised to teach a class, bake some cookies, or accompany a group of children on a day trip. Of course, they forgot they couldn’t actually bake, aren’t skilled in teaching, and don’t really like museums.

There are times people commit to a timeline no one can fulfill. Promises for all time, made at sixteen, have a way of fading into the mists of later days.

Few people are confirmed liars. It’s not likely someone said, “Today I will mislead my employer and promise to complete this project.” While their actions betray them, it never enters their mind to say, “The goal of my afternoon is to lead my mate to think I will do what they want, when all the time I have my own agenda.”

Looking back, we knew our vision was in danger of a ragged and ugly death. We sensed our colleague was in trouble. Reminding them of the opportunity for success, we warned them they could get overwhelmed and sidetracked. Even with our efforts the co-worker failed to produce the help we desperately needed.

Whenever or however it happened, someone goofed. Because our friend promised what they could not do, a deadline now threatens our sleep, sanity, and social status. Much to our dread, the truth hovers like a fog over Matagorda Bay. Our vision is in peril of the sand bars and oyster shoals.

To each of us, our project is the most important event on the horizon. However, we’re not the only hungry people at the table when pleas for time, resources and skills converge. We should not be surprised at our free-fall on the co-worker’s list of priorities.

It may be time to step back. It may be time to reassess. It is definitely time for a dose of realism.

There are competing calls for the lives and times of friends and colleagues. We must learn to wait our turn. When it comes to depending on people, patience becomes a virtue highly valued. Remembering this now prepares us for the ugly reality that lunch will be a bit late.

Showing restraint and understanding has additional value. It makes it easier for them to “fess up”, first to themselves and then to us, when an eminent collapse is probable. This opening proves our worth. This opportunity shows we have the right to be in the kitchen.

After all, what is more important; the disappointment that only 100 attended the annual banquet or that we reached out to our publicity chairperson as their life fell apart and someone needed to say, “I understand” when the invitations didn’t go out on time?

Life is bumpy enough. We ought to look for ways that smooth the road and help others miss a few potholes that dog their path.