In Good Company on the Mountainside

Mt. Hood

Yesterday was a reunion tour of sorts for me. I had coffee and lunch with old co-workers from two jobs ago, and then drinks and dinner out with some other friends from that same job.  They were some of the people that I have worked alongside and known the longest in PDX. For the most part, we have all gone our separate ways and some have reconnected on different adventures. But throughout the day as we talked old business and new, toasted a birthday, talked about another’s recent return to PDX, reminisced and gorged ourselves on food and drink it felt like we hadn’t ever gone anywhere and as if at each encounter we were settling into a regular happy hour after work.  It was so refreshing after the drama of the last few weeks.

It got me thinking about why people sometimes have that bond with co-workers and other people don’t.  In our case we were all relatively young and childless when we started working together and so it was easy to bond together at happy hours after work but that wasn’t the reason we were tight then or the reason we are still tight now. It was because we were all working alongside each other for something we believed in which was to do the best possible work we could regardless of internal politics and client idiosyncrasies.

We were dreamers, organizers, artists, craftsman, nerds and number crunchers and we celebrated each other for it because we all knew that we were working damn hard at it each in our own way. It wasn’t just our job or a paycheck, it was our way of life and when it is your way of life you stretch yourselves and each other to make things work. This doesn’t always happen without pissing each other off and not every day was a cake walk or absent of the normal challenges that all agencies face. Sure we had our complaints and fights, sometimes about and with each other, but somehow we always seemed to forgive, because that is what you do when you are family and we were family.

Like a family we eventually all had to grow up and leave home. It wasn’t easy to separate because the togetherness we formed when conquering the mountains at our agency was akin to the kind of bond one forms with another human being when you survive a tragedy together, but somehow  we  have all survived Separation Mountain as well. We all still see each other as regularly as our new lives allow and just like a family we are there to share in  birthdays, new additions, weddings, when someone comes back to town, new jobs, lost jobs, or sometimes we just plain get together for no reason at all.

Sometimes the laws of attraction brings the right group of people together and a great culture at a company is formed without force, but the real magic happens when that “company” lives beyond the disintegration of the mothership and after the lines of new companies, new buildings or new cities are drawn.

What I realized yesterday was that never have I been so fortunate to be in such “good company”.  My old co-workers are the people that know my kids names and ages and visited me after they were born.  They remember that stupid thing I said in a meeting once (or twice), that I eat tons of candy but I always share and they know that I can sometimes talk fast and loud and way too much. They know that I can sometimes be a stress-ball, but only because I care sooo much…I swear. They have all sorts of awkward pictures of me throughout the years that I wish didn’t exist, but should also know that I have some of them too. They know I went to Michigan State, NOT Michigan, that I might instigate a keg stand only under appropriate circumstances of course, that I loathe fist bumps and that rubber bands scare me. They know what I am made of and lucky for me they have been there lately to remind me of what I can and will be.  Just like a family. 

So for my most recent ex-coworkers and wherever you land remember that what truly makes a “good company” is the culture of its people. Stay  in the trenches alongside each other, don’t just yell from the sidelines. Recognize each other for your hard work, don’t steal each others ideas or demand credit where it isn’t due. Speak your mind when you know it is the right thing to do and most importantly always remember if you are in the position to manage someone, don’t be jealous, challenge them and prop them up so they can do better than even you, because if your team is strong and kicking ass you have already proven that you are a good leader. I look forward to seeing you on the other side of Mount Heave-Ho.

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