Photos by Dana Hoggard Watkins
Joseph had taken every personality profile assessment you can imagine, and multiple times.
Eventually, he thought, the results would come up different, but they never did.
Joseph was driven, intense, introspective and a strategic thinker. He also had a compassionate heart, and the latter only added to his internal drive for change. He’d always believed, that together, with a like-minded group of friends, they could change the world.
He worked at a small company, independently owned, and somewhat entrepreneurial in culture. Joseph loved the diversity in his colleagues, especially because they were smart in so many ways he was not.
For two years, every morning around 7:20, Joseph arrived early for work, each day entering through the front door.
For all its forward thinking and self-proclaimed image to embrace new ideas, each day Joseph walked in the front door, he quietly wished his colleagues would turn their culture upside-down and get really radical. He wished they’d take on a genuine “what-if” mentality, because the world was changing, and changing fast.
Some days, Joseph did what he could to impose a new way of thinking, but it never quite took hold, and he wasn’t senior enough to come right out and say some things. Imposition of change never works anyway, he’d learned.
On occasion, when he was bold enough to cross a certain line, his thinking was listened to, but not really heard.
The days, weeks and months went on, and the culture eventually took its toll on Joseph. He’d becoming something he really was not – accepting of the status quo.
So Joseph walked through the front door each day at 7:20 a.m., and privately felt as if he were betraying his own heart.
One day, hope arrived.
Before 8 a.m., (everyone in the company was an overachiever), a senior company team called Joseph in to take on a major project for which he’d previously solicited leadership responsibility. They told him to go with it, and to use his own creative gut instincts to get it done.
So Joseph was elated.
Creative freedom was offered, accepted, and now, he started once again to feel true to himself. His strategies were bold, radical and counter to anything that’d ever been done, and he was thrilled with all the possible outcome scenarios.
They might just change the world after all.
At some point, a company client got wind of the culture change to which Joseph had been assigned, and they called senior management with their disapproval. “Things have been just fine for 30 years now,” they said. “Let’s not go and start changing now.”
Yes, the client had been with the company from almost day one – and with that came a certain freedom to call some shots.
Quickly, senior management back-tracked, called Joseph in, and asked him to call the client explaining the new approach wouldn’t be so radical after all.
The follow-up meeting brought only one phrase to Joseph’s mind: “Thrown under the bus.”
Prone to sometimes quick and emotional decisions himself (after so much bs), Joseph got up, and walked out the door that gave him safe passage every day.
For years, he obsessed in disgust, and for years he never went back, until one day something prompted him to go back and visit old friends.
His parking space, long-lost over the years to multiple generations of new “idea” guys, Joseph parked in the back lot, and took entry through an obscure warehouse door.
Oddly, Joseph noticed, the back door was slightly cracked.
He was warmly greeted as he walked the warehouse aisles en route to the area where all the real thinking went on. Around the next corner, he bumped into an old adversary who “managed” the company’s entrepreneurial culture.
Then the adversary asked something interesting.
“It’s just you and me here in the back of the warehouse. Since we’re here, would you remind me about the vision you had for the corporate culture change?