Thursday, June 04, 2009

Jennifer Pautler Deserves Trophy, Award (Something)

Jennifer Pautler deserves a trophy, blue ribbon, award, your sympathy, etc. Her name was Jennifer Pautler back in 1991 (she may be married and it may have changed by now). She was my first boss in the news business back in 1991 when the two of us were the editorial department at the Farmington Press-Leader, a two-day a week newspaper in Farmington, Mo.
I thought of Jennifer the other day when one of my employees was down in the dumps over a mistake he made in one of our magazines. He was reading a blog about "the biggest mistakes ever " to make himself feel a bit better. I took the opportunity to explain to him some of my biggest bloopers. It was a long conversation.
My biggest happened in Farmington when I wrote a hard-hitting story about gun control legislation. The legislation was called the Brady Bill, named after James Brady, who was shot during President Ronald Reagan's assassination attempt in 1981. Like most of my news stories back then, it sucked. (At least I was consistent. Some readers of this blog might be thinking some things never change.) Readers expected that, so that wasn't my blooper. For some reason, I referred to the legislation as the Baker Bill (Jim Baker is the former Secretary of State). I didn't just make this mistake once. I called it the Baker bill during the entire article and the headline. Even though only 10 people actually read the paper, all 10 called to yell, laugh and ridicule.
It was brutal. When you work for a paper that publishes just twice a week and you make a front page blunder, the worst part is seeing it over and over and over. Go to the grocery store, there it is. Walk the dog, there it is sitting on lawns (calling your name: "Ron, you idiot.")
That was one of many. I won't even get into the "7 Dwarfs" column, my commentary on the 7-member local school board.
Looking back on my early mistakes, I don't think I would change a thing. You have to make those mistakes to learn and grow. Even though I've made many mistakes since (and more to come), I learn from each mistake. I'm much more supportive of my own employees when they makes mistakes. I'll always remember Farmington.
Now back to Jennifer. She took the heat for many of my mistakes in Farmington. Even though she graduated just six months before me, she gracefully took the heat time and time again.
She once told me I was "not coachable." Who? Me?
The bad part about the Farmington experience is that I was so bad that I think I drove her out of the business. She quit her job, left journalism and headed back to school and pursue a teaching certificate. A few months of supervising me and that was it.
If anyone ever runs into Jennifer, pat her on the back for me and let her know you are sorry she had to deal with me. And if you read this Jennifer, realize that payback is hell. I'm now dealing with my Mini-Me's everyday.
--Ron Ameln, SBM

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Is Your Reality Clouded?

A friend of mine coaches high school soccer. His job is to put the best team on the field as possible, regardless.
When it comes to judging the talent of these high school athletes, can you guess who the worst judge of talent is? Their parents. According to my friend, the parents just can't see that junior can't run as fast or kick the ball as far as his other team members. And who can blame them. They are the parents. They love these kids unconditionally. They see things in their children others don't.
What is so ironic about this is that the parents are clueless. They really think Junior is the best player on the team. Saying anything to the contrary elicits anger. They really think they are looking at this in an unbiased fashion.
Keep this in mind when you are staffing your company and searching for the best team members. Maybe your kids aren't the best team members. Maybe you're not really seeing reality. This also goes for friends, Uncles, Cousins, that guy that saved your life back in the second grade, etc.
Be careful not to put yourself in a position to see a clouded reality. Don't say it won't be me. Yes, it will be you. Maybe there is no hope for soccer Moms and Dads, but if your job is to put the best team on the field for your company, this is something you can avoid. If you don't, you (and the other players on your team) may regret it later.
--Ron Ameln, SBM