Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Granddaddy -An Excerpt From "A Boy From Down East" by Larry B. Gray

An Excerpt From My Next Book, A Boy From Down East
(Due Out Whenever I Finish It) 

I had a special relationship with my grandparents growing up. I spent many hours with them having fun, learning and working on the farm.  Much of the person I am today comes from their teachings and example.  I was blessed to have great parents and grandparents who helped guide me to adulthood.

I idolized my granddaddy and spent as much time with him as I could.  We even shared the same birthday, April 24th. He was born on April 24, 1903 and I was born on April 24, 1953, fifty years apart.  He was born in Bonnerton, N. C.  to Michael Meager Gray and Sallie Stilley Gray and lived his whole life in Bonnerton.

On the day I was born he was transplanting tobacco.  Grandmomma always told me that on the day I was born she told Granddaddy she wanted to go to Washington to the hospital to be there for the birth. He responded, “I don’t have time for all this foolishness; there is work to be done.”  Yes, this was the beginning of that special bond.

He was always working around the farm and house, except on Sunday.  I cannot remember him ever sitting still during the work day.  In the evenings, if he didn’t have to check his tobacco barns, he would sit in the living room and read the paper and it was off to bed early because sunrise didn’t wait for anyone. 

He always wore a hat when he left the house whether a clean dress hat to church or an old worn farm hat.  He smoked a pipe and I can still remember his sweet smell of aftershave and pipe tobacco. He kept a cigar box of Tampa Nugget or Hav-A-Tampa cigars in his truck and would smoke them while out in the fields.

When riding around checking on the farm he offered rides to people from the community who were walking and take them to the store or home.  I have seen him go out of his way to drive someone home who did not have transportation. I can remember him telling me “If you want people to help you then you have to be willing to help them.”

It was not until the late 1960s that my grandparents got an indoor bathroom in their house.  I remember Granddaddy bathing at the sink on the back porch and they did not have hot water unless it was heated on the stove.  During the very coldest part of the winter he bathed at the kitchen sink.  He had an old safety razor and powder to make his shaving cream.  Grandmomma made sure we all bathed every night when I was there and at times it was cold.

I can only remember my granddaddy losing his temper twice in my life.  The first time was with me when I punched my brother Mark.  He took me out back of the house and put a belt to my backside.  That was the only time I can ever remember him punishing me and I am glad of that.

The other time I saw him lose his temper was at the cucumber grader at Porters Creek.  After picking cucumbers all day we would load the truck and go to the packing shed to sell them each night.  On this particular night it was late and we were in a long line of trucks waiting for our turn to unload at the grader. I remember I was sitting on top of sacks of cucumbers in the back of the truck watching when another man tried to drive and cut Granddaddy off.  He came out of the truck yelling things I had never heard come out of his mouth and he had a great big old fashion pipe wrench in his hand.  The other men in the area came running over and grabbed him before he reached the guy. They all made the other man go to the back of the line and I can remember one old man saying as he walked by “He should have known not to cut in front of Mr. Willie like that.”

My dad and Granddaddy were active members of the Richland Township Ruritan Club when I was growing up.  I remember each year they had a Father and Son banquet and Granddaddy, Dad, my brother Mark and I always went. It was held in the cafeteria at school and I often wondered how they got such good food out of that kitchen after what we had during the school day.

The other Ruritan event that I attended each year was the annual fish fry at Jarvis Landing.  This was held in the summer and was a lot of fun since many of my friends were there and we would go swimming in the river and play. The fish, slaw and hushpuppies were good also.

When I was in the 7th or 8th grade I remember getting out of school one afternoon and walking up to the pool hall.  When I entered I saw Granddaddy sitting with a group of other men talking and drinking beer. I had never seen Granddaddy with a beer and I remember thinking, “cool,  I bet Grandmomma doesn’t know where you are.”  But, then there was that bottle of whiskey I found in the back of her closet.  When I asked her what it was,  she said cough medicine.

Granddaddy had a sure fire cure for anything that bit you.  If you got stung by a bee or wasp you soon learned to keep it to yourself.  If he found out he would grab you and spit chewing tobacco juice on it.  But now that I think about it, it did take the sting out of the bite.

Another memory I have of my granddaddy is that at night when he was asleep he could snore up a storm.  He would make the windows rattle.  I guess that explained why he and Grandmomma slept in separate rooms.

After I got married and move to Florida Granddaddy would always ask me, each time I went home, why I moved so far away.  I would always answer him, “I looked on a map and saw how far south tobacco grew and I moved 100 miles further south.”  He would always laugh at this but I knew the truth.  He felt the same pains of missing each other that I did.  The funny thing about this little joke we shared is I have spent my entire working career in agri-business.

Granddaddy was and will always be one of my role models and mentors. Some of my earliest memories of life are of the times I spent with him and I have many great memories of us together.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

CYA - The Basic Rule of Leadership

CYA – The Basic Rule of Leadership

While attending Florida Southern College I took a night class entitled “Industrial Psychology.” The teacher was a retired Vice President of Human Resources for a major international heavy equipment manufacturer. The first day of class he walked into the room, went to the blackboard and wrote in large letters “CYA”. He then told us if we did not learn anything else in his class we would learn what CYA meant.

He went on to explain that in the real world of business this is one of the most important and basic rules to success and survival. Whether you find yourself in a positive or negative position, using CYA gives you an advantage over your competition. In all areas of business you needed to CYA or Cover Your Ass.

Every class after that he wrote CYA on the board and left it up for the entire period. Then he taught the fundamentals of industrial psychology while weaving in his own personal experiences. Throughout the class he referred to the board and ask, "How can you apply CYA to this situation?"

When broken down CYA involves two processes.

1. Documentation

2. Follow-up


Documentation is simply “put it in writing.” Whether it involves communication or an event, write down what was said and/or what happened. Too often not remembering exactly what happened or what was said results in a totally different outcome than what you expected.

In a conversation what was heard by one party may not be what was said by the other. Often the conversation is held in a noisy or busy area with lots of distractions. Other times the conversation is held while one or both parties are in a hurry and there is no true communication occurring.

To help avoid misunderstanding take notes during the conversation or as soon as possible after the conversation write down what was said. I have always carried a little note pad in my pocket to jot down memory notes to be used later to help retain or recap the conversation. Often when I get a few minutes I will send a note by email to the other party summarizing the conversation. This will also serve a record that we had the conversation.

At times I have kept a business journal or log of my daily activities. This is a great tool for keeping notes on the day’s events and important communications. Several months later if you have to review an event you will be glad you have this information documented.

Another good habit to get into is to save all correspondences in a file. You never know when you may need it. This is one of the great things about email. It is a written record and easy to save.

One of the phrases I hate to hear from one of my managers is, “I assumed ….” I was taught very early in my business career the old adage that when you assume, you make an “ass-u-me” and I get very upset when it happens to me. This can easily be avoided by learning to follow-up on events you are involved with.

If you make an assignment don’t assume it will be done, follow-up.

If you have assignments don’t assume you have done it correctly, follow-up.

If you are involved in communication with another person don’t assume there is an understanding of what was said, follow-up.

If you do anything, take the time to follow-up to insure it is done correctly. This extra step in your work process can eliminate a lot of wasted steps in the future.

If you write it, proofread it, another form of follow-up. Years ago I asked my assistant to type a letter to the Vice President of Operations of the company I worked for telling him of the production record that was broken the previous night by our second shift team. She typed it up and brought in for me to sign and I did.

Several days later I got a call from the VP asking if I had read the letter I had signed before I sent it. I learned a big lesson on follow-up that day. I pulled out my copy of the letter and read where she wrote, “The second shift set a new production standard for the operations.” The problem was she had left the “f” out of shift. Needless to say I now read what I sign.

It may sound like you are being paranoid by keeping all of these notes and constantly checking up on people, but it is not. It is a valuable tool to help make you a better leader and manager. It will help you evaluate your past performance and help you make plans for future improvements. By applying CYA in all areas of your work you will reap the benefits.

So, everyday “Cover Your Ass.”

(First published April 2011)