Thursday, August 16, 2007

Leadership and Podcasts...

I work for the IRS. I actually work the area that levies bank accounts and wages. We’re the people who send you the letters asking where your taxes are. I love my job. No seriously I do. A misconception about what the IRS does is that we go after the little guy. A discussion about the Earned Income Credit audits might end up with that resolution, but overall, in my part of the IRS, if you fail to file or pay your taxes, and you are honest with us about why and how you can get caught up, we will work with you and you won’t face any nasty levies or undo penalties. Try and cheat and hell yes we will come after you. Back in they day when I worked cases I did it. We decided some joker was just stalling and was never going to pay so I levied his bank and garnished his wages.

These days, I am a manager so I do not work cases anymore. But I still love what I do. Well as I briefly talk about in my profile, part of my job involves a yearly event we call the Leadership Conference. Basically all 140 or so managers who work in my building get together and celebrate the accomplishments of the past year. While we are at it, we hopefully get fired up for the coming year. The conference is a lot of hard work to organize.

Of course since we are the IRS, the event is not well financed. Basically HQ pays for the location but the rest is largely paid for out of whatever funds we can squeeze from our local budgets or straight out of the pockets of upper management. This means that most everything from designing the printed materials to making the decorations is done with a budget of zero. Where I come in is with the multimedia presentations.

I am no expert with making videos or PowerPoint’s, but I have some knowledge of creating presentations and I work for free. So in the weeks leading up to the conference, I work with the other managers making presentations that celebrate the work they have done and when the actual conference comes, I work the multimedia displays and the soundboard.

This year was quite frustrating as I had to deal with a TON of PowerPoint issues. What a lot of people don’t understand is that when you make a PowerPoint on your own computer, when you copy that presentation to the computer we use at the show, none of your music or fonts will be there. Not unless you get there ahead of time and install everything and adjust the file references in your PowerPoint. So half of the presentations we had were not fully functioning 24 hours before the show. Big headache since fixing them ate up hours of my time and basically eliminated any rehearsal time we may have had to run through the entire show before the big day. Very Frustrating!

Anyway, the main speaker at this year’s conference was a guy named Les Wallace.

He is a really well known speaker with a penchant for helping group’s breakthrough whatever barriers they are having with achieving success. He is what they call a dynamic speaker. Les was a lot of fun. As the multimedia sound guy, I got to spend a lot of time next to him and we exchanged little quips and bantered throughout the conference. He seems like a fun, smart, funny guy.

Problem. At the IRS, we have a culture of non-discrimination and all managers are hyper aware of the need to not use bad language or make any inappropriate comments. Les was 99 percent into this. But he did let a few bad words slip. I mean just a few and nothing major. But sure enough, as we looked at the feedback left by the people at the conference, the one complaint people did have was about the verbal slip ups.

The message is that no matter how mind blowing the content of something is, if you frame it in a certain way, some people will tune you out and never get anything out of what you are saying.

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