How had she missed them?
Ally could barely hide her surprise when Stacey and Diana joined the Huddle circle, both with those telltale coffee cups in hand. Warming for them perhaps, but seeing those unmistakable paper cups gave Ally an instant chill up her spine, and she stiffened. She quickly smiled, probably too broadly, mustering whatever nonchalance she could, and said, “Morning ladies, coffee good today?”
She’d watched for them just a half-hour earlier, as she often did. Way too often. Reconnaissance normally didn’t take her this long.
The two girls always had their heads together chatting and laughing (or rolling their eyes) about something. The corner Starbucks was large, perpetually busy and quite noisy, and Ally got braver with each passing morning, for they never noticed her watching them.
Or had they? They were so self-absorbed, center of their own universe —just like at work. She made sure she arrived before they did, ordered her own coffee, then grabbed a table and sat with the morning newspaper, pretending to read it as she covertly watched for them. However this morning they hadn’t showed, and the line snaked so long Ally was sure they’d do an about face and not bother since they were late.
Were they onto her? Had they gone to another Starbucks to avoid her?
Ally knew the pulse of the office usually flowed straight through the racing palpations Stacey and Diana brought to work with them each day. When they were “on it,” they seemed to magically flip everyone else’s switch; when their energies trickled the power dimmed; lights could go out for the others too. What Ally was trying to figure out was if she should use them or lose them; energy can come from different sources, and she only wanted the reliable ones. Just how much would these two girls matter?
They both did a damned good job, no doubt about it. That is, they did a good job yesterday, and would likely do so today. But would they still do so tomorrow, and the day after that, when Ally finally told everyone about the changes to come? Could they up their game? More importantly, what shots would they take if and when they tried to?
Stacey smiled at her, answering for them both. “Mm, real good. We each got an extra shot this morning, just for the heck of it, so we’re ready Ally. You can lay more zooming to the future on us; this rocket ship is ready to shoot for the moon.”
Mitch groaned loudly, “Great, just what I need. You two on more java than normal.” He made no effort to mask the fact that he wasn’t kidding about his distress. Mitch cruised in one gear, and he had no interest in rocket ships.
“Oh Mitch, you love us. You know you do.”
Stacey was ready. Ally could instantly tell this would not be another Huddle where Stacey relinquished the floor to her. Well now, so be it.
Ally smiled again, this time imagining herself the Cheshire Cat for an extra boost in confidence. She glanced at Diana to see if they were of one mind; were she and Stacey both prepared to storm the battlements? However Diana was enjoying watching Mitch grump, saying “Mmm Mmm” as she noisily sipped her coffee, and added, “Moon and stars Mitchell!” For the moment, Ally didn’t interest her. That bothered Ally even more.
Ally suspected, no, she knew, that everyone felt she was blowing company vision way out of proportion: She could feel their impatience, and worse, their thinly disguised boredom ”“ and Huddle was only 15 minutes long! She’d barely given the new vision ten of those minutes the past few days, and the time sped by, seeming to be much less. Nevertheless, she’d vowed to cut her next installment down to just five today and get them to speak up, but there was something she feared more than any objections they could throw at her: Their silence.
Ally felt she’d successfully earned enough management stripes to deal with all manner of pushback from her new staff. A verbal barrage was one she could fence and rally from; she did so with the best of them, and she enjoyed the parry. Silence however, disarmed her. It drove her crazy, and it took all the self-control she had not to scream, “Speak up for Chrissake, I cannot hear what you are thinking!”
She hated that she’d been watching them for this long and still didn’t know where she stood with them. She wanted to be in control, like she usually was. She needed to be in control so she could focus. And there was a lot riding on her focus. If they only knew.
As she’d sat in Starbucks and waited earlier that morning, her impatience growing, Ally caught a story in the business section about the way President Obama would commemorate the 09-09-09 palindrome: He was preparing to address a joint session of Congress to lay out his argument for health care reform. She’d hoped reading would calm her, but it had the opposite effect:
“So as the President huddles with his speechwriter to determine exactly what to say and how to say it, he would do well to recall the example of Winston Churchill. As Oxford philosopher Isaiah Berlin wrote in Mr. Churchill in 1940, ‘The Prime Minister was able to impose his imagination and his will upon his countrymen . . . and lifted them to an abnormal height.’ Furthermore, and here’s the key point, Churchill made the British people feel as if they were part of the action and vital to the cause of victory.”
Did Ally want Stacey and Diana to be part of her action? Were they vital to the cause, necessary in her victory?
She was about to find out. The waiting was over. She’d make sure of it.
Imagination. Will. Ally liked those words. And again, she smiled.
“Okay guys, let’s Huddle.”
The newspaper clipping in my story actually came from a good blog post by John Baldoni for HarvardBusiness.org: How Leaders Make Big Issues Personal (and Possible).
I had chosen this clip for the best visual quality and shorter length, but realize the sound is quite soft: You can click directly to the YouTube page for related clips here (or if you are reading via RSS and don’t see it at all!)
Postscript: About my fiction
Writing fiction is a new exploration for me, prompted by a wonderful new community of writers and tweeters I discovered in my Leading with Twitter project, by following the #FridayFlash hashtag. If you care to follow the rabbit trail this Alice had followed in her @talkingstory Wonderland”
1-First path: Wrote and posted this two-parter to up my game with Twitter: 5 Twitter Tips for Leading and 5 Twitter Tips for Managing. In between them, I posted An idea is a fragile thing: Oh the irony!
2-Winding trail: To lead by example with those two articles, I tried two new Twitter follows knowing they were in the publishing industry: @MariaSchneider and @NathanBransford. By the way, I highly recommend both of the blogs they write: Follow their bio links on Twitter.
4-Rabbit trail? My first attempt was awful, but in the spirit of full disclosure: The Vision. It was much shorter, and you will learn more than Ally did about Stacey and Diana :-)
5-Another playful path: The end of that first post does share more about my thought process on why I would continue to pursue flash fiction. The links I have inserted into the story today are not necessary for the fiction, but are for Talking Story readers who will recall the references to my management and leadership coaching articles.
I may not fit #FridayFlash into every week, much going on right now —and after this one I think it important I be a good community member and fit in more commenting/listening before more writing, but I still love the creative thought aligned in the parallels of my workplace mission and non-fiction writing.
Brings us to today :) Thank you so much for reading! Just made it under that 1,000 word limit, I know.
Now, as Ally might say, “Speak up for Chrissake, I cannot hear what you are thinking!” I mean, the comments are open… not much darkness in my Wonderland!
Trying the Comment Luv plugin here for the first time too: Check it off and it will capture your last blog title, sharing your #FridayFlash as well.