Back to the security company job I had in college.
This one is about Big Fred.
That is what everyone called him (I wonder if his last name was really Fred. hmmmmmmmmmmmm).
Big Fred was a mountain of a man.
Big Fred’s job was always the same job at every event.
He managed the artist/players entry area backstage. He was the last line of defense to the performers. He said who got in, what got in and in general provided oversight for their well being. So when I was a backstage supervisor I was kind of de facto under Big Fred’s supervision.
I would say that everyone I talked to believed Big Fred had the sweetest job in the company.
And … well … he may have. But. As with most things … everything in life is a trade off and the grass always looks a helluva lot greener if you aren’t the one mowing it.
After a couple of months watching Big Fred in action I was pretty confident if I paid attention I could learn a lot and very confident you couldn’t pay me enough to do his job.
<by the way, while I didn’t follow closely I do believe he was recognized for ability beyond being big because I believe a number of bands hired him to manage their backstage tour>.
Big Fred had a big job that was easy to miss how big it was … because of all the glitz and glamor surrounding everything taking place.
Big Fred had a huge pain in the ass job with massive benefits.
Big Fred was constantly squeezed.
By those within <the performers> and those without <those who wanted to be near the performers>.
He had to balance all that and make it all seem like it was under control. I am pretty sure I never once saw Big Fred freak out <even as the oiled up dancers came racing out of the Van Halen dressing room>.
I have Neil Young at the back entrance wanting to be let in. I don’t have his name on the list <and you learn VERY quickly it doesn’t matter who it is if you don’t have them on the okayed list they don’t come in>.
So, me, capable of making many decisions, frankly ain’t gonna make this call.
“Hold on a second, will you Mr. Young.”
Back to Big Fred.
Now Big Fred was a master of this crap.
He knew if he should ask someone, put someone on the list or just say no <all while he has one eye on caterers wandering in, random special guests and keeping riff raff out of the way>.
Here is where he shared an even bigger lesson to me (the kid).
Big Fred:“Nope. He can’t come in.” (‘Oh shit’ bubble over my head) … but he then says “Hold on. Let me come with you and we can tell him together.”
And Big Fred kinda had a great sense for how to defuse things as well as delegate and empower.
I know I say in my bio I have always been a collector of moments and Big Fred gave me some of the most thoughtful formative management moments.
I will tell you the biggest lesson he taught me.
To say “no.”
And to be fearless with regard to whom you said ‘no’ to.
You quickly realized in this position that it wasn’t a “power thing” but rather a clear decisions made that met the needs of the situation.
Into my 21 year.
I became comfortable saying ‘no’ to Sting, Stevie Nicks, Nick Nolte, a slew of people I don’t have time to list during Eagles shows because they never let anyone backstage, a governor, a senator and others who you would know but may not know because it was the decision of someone else.
This was not abusing power.
This was simply becoming comfortable saying “in this situation at this time I am going to have to say no to what you want.” And, frankly, I moved up in the organization because I wasn’t star struck and just dealt with it.
And, frankly, I probably moved up in my career because afterward I was rarely star struck and made decisions at had to be made.
And Big Fred gave me my first lesson on this.
I am unclear whether others saw the same thing but I hope Big Fred is still doing well.
He taught me some basics I still utilize today.
Do not be afraid to say no, to anyone <regardless of their title or stature or fame> if you are in the right.
That is the lesson for the day.