Monday, May 18, 2015

Inspiration from my sweet daughter Marie

It’s rare over the 130+ essays on this blog for me to use this forum to tout the exploits of my children.  While I am certainly a very proud father of two wonderful kids, Bryson 16 and Marie 14, I try to reserve my expressions of parental pride for other moments and venues.   Well […]
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Inspiration from my sweet daughter Marie

It's rare over the 130+ essays on this blog for me to use this forum to tout the exploits of my children.  While I am certainly a very proud father of two wonderful kids, Bryson 16 and Marie 14, I try to reserve my expressions of parental pride for other moments and venues.   Well today I take a momentary break from that tradition to share an amazing and moving poem from my daughter.

Marie wrote this inspiring poem for a project at school, and she is referencing the illness and ultimate passing of her grandmother, Jane Firmin Saliers.  Jane passed away in 2011 and we miss here deeply.

Empty House
By Marie Levisay
May 2015

You know when you move out of a house
and you clear everything out
It's still the outside of a house you know and love
But the inside is unrecognizable
empty lacking all the personality and possessions once there?
That's what it was like when you got sick.
Before it happened, I would visit your house and make you read to me for hours.
the books I chose scattered across your weathered couch
The words floated of your tongue like beautiful songs you had written yourself.
Each winding storyline a maze only you could solve.
You'd look at me and smile before each page turn
Your big reading glasses covering your face

We went to your library and checked out books every week.
When my teacher asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, I said a Librarian.
Just like my grandma.

Then it started
Your memory slipping through your fingers like water
Once when we couldn't find you
I remember moms hands shaking as she called the police.
we found you down the street
we asked what you were doing
with a pained look on your face you said you didn't know
The word dementia whispered on the lips of my family
I pretended not hear the fear in their words
Your stories slipped away when you could no longer read to me.
All the words mixed up in your mind causing you to stutter and slur.
I remember the last letter you wrote when I broke my arm.
The writing was slanted and it was hard to understand but I kept it next to my bed and I'd read it when mom thought I was asleep

Your mind like a thousand broken puzzle pieces that couldn't fit back together.
When i looked into your eyes I knew you didn't know who I was
I remember when we were eating and you started choking
Mom called 911
I asked my brother what was happening
He said you forgot how to swallow
You weren't really with us anymore.

Grandpa sat me down and said death almost came last night but I didn't believe him
You couldn't  be leaving me.
You were a survivor.
Breast cancer.
Broken hip.
Growing up poor and raising 4 kids.
Losing your youngest  to an eating disorder.
Never complaining about the horrible cards life had dealt you

They say you went in your sleep.
The family said
you were in peace now.
It was good in a way that
they were relieved that you were out of your misery
but I didn't understand how it could be good if you weren't with us anymore.
And I know in the end you weren't really yourself
But an empty house is better than no house at all.

I don't know If I believe in heaven
But if there is some kind of afterlife
I hope that wherever you are
You always  remember your stories

Thursday, May 7, 2015

The Story of the Distracted Distributor: If you are present, be PRESENT!

This week I had a client in town that travelled across the country to meet with one of his key distributors. This client also happens to be the owner of the company and brand and makes these kinds of “market visits” just a few times a year.
Well we had a two-hour meeting planned yesterday, with three folks from our extended team participating, and two or three key executives from the distributor. While we had a short presentation, the primary objective of the call was to discuss opportunities to improve retail execution and performance; literally we needed to have a very open and candid dialogue about underperforming markets and retailers and to develop tactics, tools and incentives to improve the current performance trends.
As the meeting began, I sensed we might have some challenges when the senior exec from the distributor set up his Ipad AND IPhone on the table. He encouraged us not to be distracted, but that he needed to “keep an eye on a few fires” during the meeting. Sure enough, fifteen or twenty minutes into the discussion he starts responding to text messages and tells us “don’t worry, I am a good multi-tasker.” While it was certainly a distraction, we tried to plow forward. After another five or ten minutes his cell phone rings (yes the ringer was ON), and he walks out of the conference room and takes the call. Long story short, this combination of text messages, emails, and calls literally shuts down the meeting; not only do we not accomplish our objectives, my client leaves the distributor offices feeling unheard and disrespected…. Not a very good combination.
Unfortunately this story is not unique. There are too many instances where technology has enabled us to be “wired in” at all times, tempting all of us to be distracted from the primary topic at hand as we handle the texts and emails piling up every hour, every day. There is a lot being written about the dangers of “distracted driving,” and the trends of the rise of “distracted driving “ deaths since 2005 in the United States are staggering! In a related sense, the reality of a distracted work place is also dramatically on the rise. While certainly not as lethal as being distracted while driving, the outcome from our meeting yesterday certainly was not positive. I can’t imagine that the distributor’s senior executive came into the meeting with the objective to disrespect and ignore an important customer that had flown to Atlanta primarily for that two-hour meeting!
While the story seems extreme, I think we all need to reflect on our actions in past meetings and be careful not to emulate the distributor’s actions and impact. If we choose to lead or even to attend a meeting, we need to put the technology down and be present; not just physically in the room but completely present. We need to play an active role, advancing the topics and positions at hand and using the “two ears, one mouth” adage to listen twice as much as we talk. I highlighted in a past essay, “Selling: the art of the question,” that the best sales people I have ever been around are actually the best questioners. It’s important to be reminded by my story of the multi-tasking distributor that it is hard to listen or ask questions when you are distracted by multiple texts, emails and calls. We should all work hard to be fully present in those types of moments, respecting others who have taken their time and resources to be with you, and if there is a crisis (and they do happen) excuse yourself from the meeting to FULLY deal with that issue so when you return you can be FULLY present and active to the issues and topics at hand.