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An Unplanned Succession Plan
A Personal Essay
by Geri Moore
In the spring of 2011, I attended a workshop sponsored by my soon-to-be ex-employer. Of course, at the time, when the company encouraged employees to attend seminars as part of their SUCCESSION PLANNING, I had no idea how different life would soon be for me.
Succession Planning was defined as the method for identifying and developing internal people with the potential to fill key business leadership positions within the company.
The cosmic joke became evident three months later, when along with 15 other 55+ year old women, I was laid off! Succession Planning, in this case, was apparently a euphemism for: You-will-soon-be-out-the-door-and-you-better-figure-out-something-because-this-company-doesn't-want-you-anymore.
Ah! Ignorance is bliss and so with great enthusiasm I went to the conference room clasping a brand new notebook, emblazoned in gold glitter, "Success: Believe In Yourself." I remember being thrilled to have the opportunity to up my game and shine my leadership star.
A year prior, as an outreach worker, I had a scary and life-changing incident. I was hoping this Succession Planning would allow me to change departments. I desperately wanted to transfer from out-in-the-field social service to in-house marketing or special events. I longed to sit safely behind a desk - away from tough neighborhoods and rough realities.
I don't recall the title of the presentation, but I certainly, with great affection and appreciation, remember the Leadership Coach who facilitated the program.
Although the basic lesson - doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results is insanity - was not a new concept, Brad's humor, directness and coach-approach brought a fresh, fun spin to it. One of Brad's suggestions was to go out-and-about our daily routine and spontaneously Do Something Different. A small caveat was that, if spending monies, the amount was not to go over $10.
With my rusty ole' subconscious having been given a new possibility, I ventured to Hyannis one May morning. And, voila, out-of-the-blue got the idea to buy half-a-dozen balloons at The Dollar Store and deliver them to someone I had been thinking about.
The Mylar balloons had imprinted blue and silver THANK YOU, THANKS and YOU ARE SPECIAL messages. Cruising down the card aisle, I spent a good ten minutes selecting just the right card, seeking words of gratefulness written in a respectful yet fun way. Making my "different" gesture complete, I grabbed a pair of colorful, plastic margarita joke sunglasses and popped them onto my small face displaying a big smile.
With the $9.10 purchase, I drove down to The Barnstable Police Station. With balloons in hand and glasses on nose, I went up to the senior-citizen volunteer at the Plexiglas window and enthusiastically asked, "Is Officer (Wishes To Remain Anonymous) on duty today?"
Not knowing the officer I inquired after, the volunteer requested the desk sergeant to assist me. With no comment about my glasses or the balloons, the straight-faced sergeant inquired, "Why do you want to see Officer (Anonymous)?"
And now, the challenge, discomfort, exhilaration and fear of Do Something Different really kicked in.
"Sir", I began, "I am here to acknowledge my appreciation for Officer (Anonymous) who arrested me one year ago today, on Cinco de Mayo, when he stopped me from driving drunk."
Feeling the need to explain more, I continued, "After being attacked by three young men and a pit bull while working in New Bedford that day, I made the very poor choice of drinking while scared, upset and on an empty stomach. I also had several Margatini's, although I do not usually drink hard liquor. I am very grateful that Officer (Anonymous) was there, near Ardeo's, to save me from myself. I'm here to acknowledge how very, very special he is to me. There's no way of knowing how many people he saved that night, when I did a stupid and destructive action."
By now, the margarita glasses are off my face and the welled-up tears of true remorse, immense gratefulness and relief are coming fast and furious.
During my monologue, another officer came to the foyer area, curious about shiny balloons bopping up and down to the rhythm of my heaving shoulders during the mini crying jag.
As the first officer reported a 25-words-or-less summary of me, the balloons and the emotions, the officer gave a broad smile. He took the balloon bouquet from my sweaty hands and said, "This is truly something different. I've been on the force over 20 years and never have I seen a person come in to thank an officer for arresting them. Let alone come back with balloons, joke glasses and a handwritten note. Officer (Anonymous) is not on the day shift. We will give him your anniversary gift and tell him your words. On behalf of Barnstable Police officers, thank you for taking the time to let us know that you are grateful for an officer being there, doing his job and saving yours and possibly others lives."
For the past three years, on Cinco de Mayo, I've gone to the Barnstable Police Station to drop off my thank-you card for Officer (Anonymous). I met him once. He graciously accepted my gesture and matter-of-factly reminded me, "I was just doing my job." I would like to think, behind the calm professional demeanor, there was a personal joy.
Wanting to include the other police officers, I started Cupcakes for Cops. On the various holidays and long weekends, I head over to Stop & Shop Bakery and buy four dozen seasonally decorated cupcakes.
The month of May gets a double dose, as Police Appreciation Week falls soon after Cinco de Mayo. A plain 8 ½ x 11 inch white paper with a hand lettered, multi-colored magic marker message reading "Cupcakes for Cops ~ With appreciation and respect ~ Have a safe holiday… Geri Moore" is slipped under the cupcake display.
I had no idea that following up on a professional coach's suggestion would grow into a wonderful, life-affirming habit that would connect me with brave men and women who serve and protect us every day. My monthly excursion gives me joy and a sense of peace. It is my own version of Succession Planning.
On Halloween, taking the Cupcakes for Cops to an even more fun level, I showed up in the dark of night wearing a Batman costume.
At first the desk officers looked baffled, but when I lifted my Batman hood, raised and stretched out my arms with two giant shopping bags of goodies, and said with a grin on my face as big as the logo on my chest, "I am (Anonymous's) Cake Lady, Geri. These are Halloween Cupcakes for Cops!" The two smiled and I was buzzed into the front desk area to set up. Alongside the orange, yellow and brown frosted treats were brilliant blue frosted BATMAN cupcakes.
This Valentine's, I added the FOUND HOUND AWARD because on January 15th, two Barnstable Officers rescued Jack, my 12 year old Bassett and myself amidst the brambles and thickets of the Meeting House Farm Woods.
The Sergeant and Patrol Officer happened to be at the station when I was setting up the cupcakes, so I had the pleasure of presenting the FOUND HOUND AWARD. Other officers joined in the spontaneity and fun of it. The icing on the cake, so to speak, was, on that same day, receiving the thanks personally from the Chief of Police, who acknowledged he had hear the officers speak of CUPCAKES FOR COPS and it was appreciated.
Although my introduction to Succession Planning was not in the direction I anticipated, I did live out the mantra on the journal book - SUCCESS: BELIEVE IN YOURSELF.
When corporate friends use the term Succession Planning, I cringe, still a little bitter about the association of that term from my former employer. But, I can easily shake that off, reminding myself that the do something different assignment gave me the courage to take a risk.
Bringing cupcakes to the police station once a month may never be seen as a key leadership position in the community, but it is important to me. My very own Unplanned Succession Plan.
Photographs by Geri Moore
Geri Moore, a semi-retired cognitive behavioral therapist, counselor now plans activities and adventures for Later-Life Ladies.
Geri is the humor/inspiration columnist for CapeCodSeniors.org
At 65, Geri resurrected her Rebel Woman and resuscitated the Sassy Scribbler. She is writing a book entitled A Red Head's Revenge: Back from Hell and Living Well.
Geri Moore can be reached at 508-364-5815 or by email GeriMoore@aol.com