We called my grandfather Banjo. It was his job to collect all the grandchildren and keep them out of my grandmother's way while she put the meal together. So we would gather round while he played the banjo and sang with us. We each had our favorite song and he made sure that each kid felt especially favored during these frequent music festivals.
He was an amazing grandfather. He would always have work projects lined out for all his grandchildren when we came to visit. We loved working for and with him. He had a way of turning the most menial task into a huge adventure. We had to plan and prepare before we jumped into the tasks. He would make a big deal about how important each task was and why it had to be done just so. I remember how important he made me feel and how excited I was to "get to" work for him. He always paid us, but we would have probably paid him for the privilege of working for him, if we could have. I later learned that other children in the neighborhood felt the same way. He apparently had enough work to keep the neighborhood kids busy year round.
I figured out some time later that Banjo must have attended "The Tom Sawyer School of Leadership." I still love the famous story about how Tom figured out a way to make whitewashing Aunt Polly's fence fun enough that he had every boy in the village lined up turning over their trinkets to him for a chance to paint for a while. That's the way we felt about working for Banjo.
Each morning as I look at my daunting "to-do" list, I remind myself that I have a choice. I can be "Good Boss" or "Bad Boss" to myself that day.
I can survey the list with dread and "deep melancholy of spirit," as Mark Twain described Tom's dread of the 30 yards of board fence, 9 feet high. I can look at all the stuff I've got to do and fret, stew and worry about whether I will be able to pull it off, stressing and carrying on. That would be "Bad Boss." Or, I can remember that everything on my list is something I get to do. When I remind myself of all the things I get to do today, it's amazing how easily and effortlessly they all get done. And, that would be "Good Boss."
I believe this one practice from "The Tom Sawyer School of Leadership" extends way beyond how we manage ourselves. I believe it extends to how we lead and manage the workloads of those who look to us for leadership. Are we able to help others see just how important their role is to the overall organization, to the customer, the student, the patient or client? Are we able to make work a little lighter for those who look to us for leadership?
"If Tom had been a great and wise philosopher, like the writer of this book, he would now have comprehended that work consists of whatever a body is obliged to do, and that play consists of whatever a body is not obliged to do." — "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer" by Mark Twain