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Feature--Flexibility and Engagement

D. Ben Knoble on 29 Jun 2018 in Blog

Physical and temporal flexibility.

Let Me Tell You a Story…

My grandfather was, at one point in his career, a manager at GE. For all its current troubles, it was, at the time, a hotbed of engineering prowess. My grandfather, himself a Ph.D. electrical engineer with several patents, the man who had sold newspapers, washed dishes, collected glass bottles, and worked in a steel mill to pay his way through university, was proud to be among them.

He tells me stories about his employees and time there sometimes. And I never hear complaints; I never hear, “She was always late” or, “He didn’t Get Things Done™.” There weren’t any. What he did talk about was cooperation, flexibility, about making things work and recognizing that people are human.


For Granddad, this meant that requests to work different hours to be able to pick up a small child, or to find a different office with a quieter atmosphere to help concentration, they were important. His employees had their own lives, and work was but a single piece of that. They needed the time to do other things, and the space in which to be productive.

He always felt the return on that investment was worth it.


I think my dad has inherited this mindset. Consciously, he has been working to make his firm an attractive and fun place to work. It started with casual Fridays and a coffee machine many years ago, and now the office is closed on Friday.

He talks about how people actually only work about 36 hours on the new schedule, but I can see that what really excites him is that they enjoy working with him. He still works on Friday, from home, but he gets to be home. And so do they. And subconsciously, he and I have always thought it was important to help people do the things that were important to them. That means kids, hobbies, camping trips, you name it. And now he gets to be a part of sharing that.

Home on the Weekend

I bring this up today because today I took a half-day in order to drive down to Charlotte and participate in a Black Belt Recertification. Essentially, it’s a little mini-test in between Black Belts to make sure we continue learning the curriculum. It helps keeps us accountable. I’m halfway from 1st Dan to 2nd, but it’s been a number of years since I did those recerts and I’m very excited about the opportunity to do the next ones.

But that meant I needed a half-day. And I am grateful to my manager, who allowed me to shift my hours around and take it.

P.S. I’m skipping today’s TIL for mostly that reason. I did learn things, like how not-ok it is when the builder breaks (because then builds can’t even try to break). I’m just not going to write it all up.


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