The view from under the bus

Certainly, I am familiar with the subtle differences in the undercarriages of various bus manufacturers, as I am often flung under the nearest available motor-coach.  It’s not much fun, but that is okay, because if someone on the team needs to be the fling-ee, so that ultimate success can be realized, I (typically) don’t mind to be that guy.

But when I was thrown under the bus yesterday it came as a total unexpected shock.  And while I came closer than I ever have to actually throwing whatever things happen to be close by due to absolute rage and frustration, at that moment the proverbial flash-bulb went off, and the importance of much of what the VALOR program has focused on was blindingly obvious.

I own several pieces of equipment in partnership with others.  These arrangements work well for specialized “handy to have” machines that are not strictly necessary for everyday tasks on the farm.  (Though, really…have you ever installed fence posts with a hydraulic excavator?  Or painted the gingerbread on a house from a bucket truck? It’s da bomb…)

We had a major breakdown in the transport system with one such piece recently, and while we had the ability and know-how to fix the problem, time was something neither of us had in excess, so the repairs were farmed out.  As theses things typically go, there were difficulties and delays, but finally the repairs were complete, “tested and confirmed” and so after its return, I am the first to take the helm.

It was not pretty.  There were many problems, but the most obvious was that, when you operated the controls to make the machine turn gently right, it turned left, and not just a little bit.  The repairs did not directly deal with the steering of the machine, but certainly this behavior had never been present before.  Time for a board meeting of the machine’s owners.  The company that repaired the machine is summoned and makes several trips out to address the issues, each time declaring that the problems were fixed, and while each time progress was made on most of the issues, one was constant and unchanging: trying to turn the machine gently right resulted in a left turn.

Further tests reveal that the new parts installed in the transport system repair are operating 40% slower than spec.  Now the erratic behavior begins to make sense.  The owner of the repair company offers to come out to look at the machine.  He and the head mechanic do, and are getting ready to leave as I arrive. Pleasantries are exchanged.

For the very first VALOR seminar, we were asked to participate in the “MTBI Instrument”, something I had never heard of at that point, but found exceedingly spooky as I received the results. Like all the cool people, I am an INTP,   ‘Nuff said.

More light conversation about inconsequential things, and the mood is good.  Then:

“We don’t find anything wrong.”
“Really?! Lets go for a ride.”

I control the machine to turn gently right.  It begins to turn left.

“You see?  It is turning left.”
“No. It is turning correctly.” His manner is not confrontational, more akin to being sympathetic about my mistaken view.  I am floored.

“No, no.  Watch how I move the controls to turn right and it is turning left?”
“It is turning right. Yes, it is working correctly.” His manner almost sad to witness my crass mistake.

Is it?  Is it really turning right?  We’re all friends here…maybe I am mistaken. He seems to want to help.  I hope I did not inconvenience him only to find out it is I who is wrong.  This could be embarrassing..

But then I look down at the controls.  Then the ground.  We are turning left and I am telling it to turn right.  WTF is going on here?  My brain shifts into observer mode.  How did he evoke this response in me?

Twice more he states that all is working as it should and that we are turning right as we turn left.  I am flustered, unable to see how to deal with someone looking at the sky and insisting that is yellow when it is clearly blue…

At our last VALOR seminar, the Fellows witnessed how a very personal, highly charged situation was handled, and discussed the impact of how skills developed in the program were used.  It was a very powerful object lesson.  I did not do nearly as well at finding those skills in a situation that, while suddenly heated, was not nearly as charged as what was discussed that morning in the group.

Time for another ownership board meeting.  It is agreed that the machine must be fixed, and it is taken back to the repair facility.  Another of the machine owners gets a call from the repair company’s owner to come in an see the machine.  And so it begins again.  Pleasantries are exchanged…light conversation…banalities…

“Mr. Heatwole believes that are major problems with this machine, but this is a good machine, and we just don’t see much wrong with it, lets go for a ride”

More deliberate light conversation, but a bit different now, as it is tailored for maximum effect.  They’re off on the ride, and now back.  Here comes the bus….

My partner: (to the repair company owner) “It doesn’t seem that bad”

Calm down…Just breathe…

What in the hell just happened here?!  How did everything that was agreed to just get swept.. Wait…
<Cue flash-bulb>

What just happened was effective communication and connection brought about by being aware of all of those things we have been exposed to over the last 20 months of VALOR.  Personality types, recognizing them and communicating accordingly, KAI, Eq, aspects of all of those pieces I was exposed to during the various seminars was all right there on full display.  This is the power that VALOR was developing among the Fellows.  (Albeit, for good, not evil ends.)

The realization of the importance of all those things has come into sharp focus.  Now the challenge will be maintaining the discipline to practice those skills once there is not an upcoming presentation to force the issue.  And lets face it, it wont be easy… I am an INTP.

How does the story end?  I guess you will just have to follow BeanCrusher, aka @IanHeatwole on Twitter to find out…

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