Love Me a Good Do-Over, part 1

Real-life experiments thrill me.

One of my most favorite things is to have the opportunity for a do-over of something I messed up the first time. Do-overs are just as much fun in real life as they are in a kid’s game.

Biggest example:

I was working at McDonald’s corporate headquarters outside of Chicago, in their training department. I’d been assigned to lead the primo project: the redesign of the restaurant management and middle management curriculums.


Everyone who managed a McDonald’s shift, a restaurant, or several restaurants anywhere in the world would take this training. Leading the project brought honor and pressure.

One slight snag: my boss (let’s call her Cindy) was assigned to my project team, full-time. I believe my boss’s boss did this hoping Cindy would resign.

Cindy quit working, but she didn’t resign. She did absolutely nothing on the project.

Zero. Zippo. Nada. Niente. (Can you tell I still have feelings about this?)

When I asked her what was going on, she said, “You never give me any work I want to do.”

I held back my anger to stay curious. “What work do you want to do?”

When she described her desired work, she described my role as the project leader, and I said so.

“Well, that’s all I want to do.” Cindy sat back in her chair and folded her arms across her chest. It was a dare.

I let the dare fester.

It took me four months to resolve the problem. Months during which Cindy’s non-performance caused the project to fall behind and mutilated team morale.

In six weeks, twenty people were flying in from all over the world to view our proposed designs for the new curriculums.

We weren’t going to be ready.

I went to my boss’s boss and asked her to cut the baby in half, split the project, give Cindy half and me half. I didn’t even care which half I got, even though the split wasn’t 50/50, more like 60/40.

My boss’s boss gave Cindy the 40. I got the 60. When I presented the proposed design of the restaurant management curriculum to the global review board, it was approved.

I don’t know how Cindy’s presentation of the middle management design went, but the next morning, I was given the entire project. Cindy resigned.

This outcome was a vindication but not a success. I put my team through four months of conflict that made the work more difficult. Cindy was a problem that I made worse, a leadership lesson I never forgot.

Ten years later, I got the opportunity for a do-over.

Chewing the Cud of Good

Close up of deep red Coleus during the golden hour, with lines of scarlett
Thankful for summer evenings.



Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top