An example of calm

Posted by steve | General Commentary | Saturday 17 January 2009 6:44 pm

My wife and I were recently discussing how we’ve seen people handle crisis so differently.  I was reminded of an experience.

Lately I’ve been on a strong technical career path, at least for the past 7 years now.  Prior to that I spent some time in technical management, and before that a blend between the two.  When I was a manager I had a reputation as being someone that handled crisis pretty well.  It took a lot to shake me up.  But nothing compared to an experience I remember from about 25 years ago.  It was how my boss at that time handled a crisis.

I’ll avoid names as the story gets retold.  Back then I worked for a manufacturer in their Systems Engineering department.  And one day, pretty late in the day, some of use were still hanging around at the office going over a few items before leaving.  There were 4 of us standing around this Remote Telemetry Unit (RTU) that some of our engineers had created as part of one of our projects.  The person who wrote the firmware in the RTU, the lead graphics interface developer, the boss, and me (I was the tech lead) were standing around having a discussion about how the unit should respond when a customer would press the Emergency button.

And the phone rang over in the boss’s office.  It was about 20 feet away.  He left the conversation, walked over to his desk and spoke briefly on the phone.  We were unable to hear any of the conversation.  He came back over to our little group and we resumed our discussion.  After about 10 or 15 seconds there was a lull in the conversation.  So the boss says, “We’ll let’s resume this discussion in the morning then.  I’ve got to go home.  I just received a call that my house is on fire.”

We were amazed at how calm he was.  He walked back to his office, put on his coat and walked towards the exit.