As a child I grew up on a steady diet of a certain kind of sitcom. Their names kind of run together — All In The Family, One Day At A Time, The Jeffersons, Good Times, The Facts of Life, and M*A*S*H.
In many ways, the producers of these shows shaped my worldview. They put characters out there whose lives were tough, and even dangerous. Relationships provided a temporary respite at best from a largely harsh existence.
In the show M*A*S*H, Hawkeye Pierce (Alan Alda) played a wiseass doctor struggling to get through the Korean War. He’s stationed far from home, with too many patients, an unpredictable case load, a life-threatening environment and not enough good staff or supplies. While the overall head of his outpost was decent enough, Hawkeye always had too much on his hands and there were politics galore to be navigated.
But he was also a gifted doctor, and he made the unit work. As a much older person now, I look back on the lessons I got from that show and think frequently that I apply them in my work. As follows:
- You have to have a sense of humor. Hawkeye could make a joke out of anything. Work is often tense and scary. It’s good to help people let down their guard a bit and unfreeze some of the tension.
- Being technically competent doesn’t give you permission to be a jerk. Hawkeye had a special way of taking egotists down from their perch.
- Everyone is different, but everyone is part of the team. Even though he worked with a lot of different kinds of people, some of them very difficult to get along with, Hawkeye had a way of making everyone fit into a single coalescing whole. The sense of unity didn’t come from changing who people were, essentially. It came from understanding the nature of their mission and its urgency.
Now, you may be thinking that seven year olds shouldn’t think about management much, if at all, and I can’t say that I disagree with you. The truth is, way back then it was just funny to see Hawkeye give Frank Burns the business.
But ideas have a way of getting into our heads, and the younger we are the more firmly they implant themselves in our subconscious.
Maybe this isn’t the biggest deal, but I think I learned a lot from watching Hawkeye Pierce in action.
By Dannielle (Dossy) Blumenthal, Ph.D. All opinions are the author’s own. This blog is hereby released into the public domain. Photo via Wikipedia.