Is It Really True? Is Corpus Like Odessa By The Sea?


Patrick Lencioni is a noted author and expert related to the principles of teamwork and management.  He is credited with saying: “Teamwork is not about mastering sophisticated theories, but rather about embracing common sense with uncommon levels of discipline.”  Years ago the title of one of his books caught my attention.  It was entitled: “Three Signs Of A Miserable Job”.


If memory serves me correctly, he crafts the story of around a recently retired manager who makes his great escape by moving to Lake Tahoe where he discovers a neighborhood pizzeria where the workforce seems fairly discontent.  Brian Bailey, the fictitious recently retired manager, is puzzled by the contrast of what he senses about the employees in that small neighborhood business in contrast to employees in other restaurants. 


Wanting to lend a helping hand, he negotiates a part time position as weekend manger and moves in the direction of turning the work experience of the pizzeria’s employees into something other than the sense that work is the “curse of Adam”. 


I maintain that work is a privilege rather that a punishment. Yet, we live in a culture where millions of people find their work unfulfilling and purposeless.  Ten years ago, a poll by suggested that 50% of the American workforce is dissatisfied with their work.  Reportedly, the experience is not unique to our country.  Misery seems to be closely associated to the ball and chain that many people associate with as their work.


So what makes the primary difference?  In case you’re wondering, the correct answer really isn’t the level of one’s pay.  There are any numbers of folks with six figure incomes and beyond that are equally miserable.  Perhaps the only difference is that they live with more creature comforts, but work fulfillment and a passion to get to the office isn’t part of their everyday regime.


According to Lencioni, the absence of measurability in one’s work, the sense of anonymity and irrelevance are the variables that make for a miserable work experience.


I guess at some level we all want some way to measure improvement or accomplishment in order to substantiate that we are doing a good job. We all want to feel valued by the folks for whom we work and we need to feel that our work matters.  Lencioni states: “People who see themselves as invisible, generic or anonymous cannot love their jobs, no matter what they are doing.” He also maintains “employees must have a clear idea that their work matters; that it has relevance for others”.


Late yesterday afternoon, the General asked if I wanted to go to Jack Allen’s?  Of course, she knows that I’m interested in “half price” when it comes to almost anything. In case you’re not familiar with the restaurant, there is one in Oak Hill and one in Round Rock.  From 3:00 – 7:00 p.m. M-F, their appetizers are half price.  Okay, so the food is good and the prices are second-to-none.  Under the auspices of true confession, I’ve been retired for four week and I’ve been to Jack Allen’s for “happy hour” once each week. Having an enjoyable meal for half price makes me happy. In addition, I’ve found the wait staff to be excellent without exception.  Yesterday was no different.


That leads me in to the story of Preston.  He was our waiter yesterday. Unlike the other three waiters we’ve had this month, his shirt carried the company name, his name and his job title: “Lead Server”.  What was all that about?


Let me say first of all that Preston rides for the brand. He could not have been more enthusiastic about his place of employment. In the course of our conversation, I discovered why.  The management takes care of their employees, makes them feel valued and important, acknowledges their skills and contributions and highlights their achievements. After all, the designation of “Lead Server” provides Preston a sense that his work is important.  He knows that management trusts him to mentor and support others in their work.


Okay, so what else did I learn about Preston?  He came to Austin from Corpus Christi following graduation from high school to go to culinary school.  He has been with Jack Allen’s for six years. He added, “That is a long time in the restaurant business”.  In addition, I sensed from all he shared that he has no plans to leave.  He likes the people for whom he works and he likes the people with whom he works.  That is a good start for an optimum work environment.


“So where are you from?” was one of my questions.  He answered, “I was born in Odessa”. Small world isn’t it?  The General was born in Odessa. I wasn’t born there, but I spent the first eighteen years of my life there.  I asked: “So how did you like Odessa?”  He responded, “I don’t remember a lot about it. We moved to Florida just before I started to elementary school.  I remember the smell of petroleum in Odessa.  It wasn’t a good smell”.


Okay, so I grew up in Odessa and I don’t remember the smell of anything other than the water.  I asked, “Have you ever been to Pasadena?” He had not. I added: “If you really want an overdose of the smell of petroleum, Pasadena is the place”.


His family moved from Florida to Corpus Christi when he was in the eleventh grade.  He didn’t give Corpus a very high rating either. He said, “It too has the smell of petroleum.”  I laughed when he said of Corpus: “Being in Corpus Christi is like being in Odessa by the sea.”


Bottom line, Preston is extremely personable and easily makes conversation with those he serves.  In exchange for his permission to devote today’s blog to him and of course to the half-price appetizers at Jack Allen’s, I promised I’d suggest to you that you ask for one of his tables when you go there.  Actually, tell him, you heard about him in my blog.


All My Best!

Apple Computer, Inc.




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