What was an unusual compliment you once received, but really appreciated?

While I was working at NewPage Corporation in the Information Technology strategy role, Tom Anderson once told a small group of people, with myself included, that “For most people, we’re trying to get them to think outside the box, but for Paul, we’re trying to get him in the box.”  I guess that fulfills the “unusual” part of the question.  I’ve never heard anyone being described that way. 

For most of my career, I was tasked with creating or managing change.  A large part of that is getting people comfortable with that, whether providing the resources, motivation, or atmosphere to move an effort along.   The biggest part of the atmosphere aspect is reducing or eliminating the fear of failure.  A part of being “in the box” is that it’s a safe place, where you do what’s expected of you and not rock the boat.  It’s doing what you know and perhaps learn one or two new tricks, but nothing where the blame can come back on you when something inevitably goes wrong.  

I’ve completely changed how our network was designed, challenged deeply held “in the box” beliefs, was part of the team that went from day one to first SAP go-live in ten months, pushed Internet and mobile technologies, and made a one-a-month, four-hour SAP outage a reality.  I did this, obviously with the help of many talented people, by taking risks, seeking the true issues, and figuring out how to get people to understand, calm down, and begin moving.  Then getting out of their way.

I really appreciate Tom’s compliment.  It sums up how I approached work every day, being that guy who took risks, saw things differently, and enabled people to grow, enjoy their jobs, and make a difference.  


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