Gene Bell stopped by for a visit today.
And that prompted a memory in me of an interaction we had back in 1987. I was a Shift Supervisor by then at the Chicago Tribune. Just returned from a job interview in Newport News for the pressroom manager’s position. When I returned Gene called me up to his office. He asked me a few questions, how was Joe Cantrell, the publisher, etc… After some idle chit chat, he asked me for my assessment of the operation. Tried to be politically wise about what I said, so I told him the presses were only four years old and in great shape. The people seemed willing to listen. Just empty words from me. He starred at me after I finished and said, "What do you really think?" Well, that released the dam inside of me and I said it was so fucked up. The people are fucked up, the press is not being maintained well, there is a union there, it could not be more fucked up. After I said that I realized I had never heard Gene swear and I could have chosen my words better. He just steepled his hands and said very quietly “Fucked up is good, that is the kind of job you can make a difference in.” Today I realized he was speaking to me in a way I could understand at that time.
So, no lesson learned other than a good leader speaks using language his subordinates understand.