Recovery Connections

John Schwary is CEO of Transitional Living Communities, an 850-bed recovery program he founded in Mesa, Arizona January 9, 1992, when he had a year sober. He's in his 28th year of recovery.

In these posts, he views life mostly through the lenses of recovery. While the blog is factual, he often disguises events and people to protect anonymity.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

I didn't Listen

Sometimes I get so busy that I don't listen to what people say – at least not very carefully. Or maybe that's my excuse. I'm not sure. I'm not a guy who likes to deal with a lot of minutia or detail. Instead I like to look at the bigger picture and let others work out the things that I find boring. That’s the way my lazy brain works.

However, sometimes I get in trouble. For example, about 10 years ago we found an accountant in our population who’d just been released from prison. Since we were looking for an accountant we thought he might be a pretty good deal. After all, he wasn't in prison for fraud – he'd been sent there for his second DUI. And he was willing to work for the paltry wages we were able to pay him.

However, at one point early in his employment he made a statement that I kind of let go by. What he said was "I've never worked for a company that didn't go bankrupt." For some reason I didn't connect the dots and maybe suspect that his incompetence might have had something to do with their bankruptcies. And sure enough, while we didn't go bankrupt, we might have if we hadn't terminated him when we did.

Which brings me to a recent situation where I didn't really pay enough attention to what a new employee told me.

What this person said was that he liked to give the clients a full hour of counseling to make sure they got treated "fairly." Implicit in that statement – which I let drive right by me – was that our company was not treating clients fairly by giving them less than a full hour. However, it's typical in the counseling business to not give a full hour so counselors can make progress notes before meeting the next client.

While some companies may do it differently, the reality is that our company pays people well to work the schedule we provide. Which we think is quite fair because we give clients twice to three times the counseling sessions other providers offer – even very expensive programs.

The bottom line is when you accept a paycheck you must do things how the employer says – or move on. Which is what this person did on his own when he realized the company wasn’t going to do things the way he thought they should be done.

And me? Will I do a better job of listening to these clues to behavior? Probably not. I’m too optimistic that people will do the right thing.  But sometimes they don't.