Lucy and Ethel Encounter Mentoring Greatness
You’ll have to forgive any creative typos today. My hands are so stiff and sore after yesterday I can hardly make a fist, let alone type. This morning, I nearly shot my coffee cup across the kitchen when I tried to pick it up.
Yesterday, my sister Jennifer and I decided to pull a “Lucy and Ethel” on my husband.
In the classic I Love Lucy TV show, Lucy was always cooking up some scheme to get around her husband. Especially when he told her she couldn’t do something.
Well… he told me NOT to do something.
He wanted to wait until the last minute to remove the Flor carpet tiles from our bedroom and move them over to the new apartment.
But I wanted to get it done now and check it off the list.
If you’ve never heard of it, Flor is this amazing high-end carpet tile that doesn’t have any bad odors, is easy to install, and is 100% recyclable. The tiles come in all these great colors and patterns, and we’ve used (and moved them) for years. Think Ruggable before Ruggable existed.
Anyway, you stick the carpet tiles to each other with these sticky squares. According to the company, these little sticky squares will not stick to the hardwood floor, just to each other.
Famous last words.
A sticky situation
As Jennifer and I pulled up the first time, we realized that all the adhesive had “oozed” off the little sticky square and was now on the beautiful hardwood floors.
I knew my husband was going to have a meltdown when he saw it. We don’t own this place. His former boss does!
Jennifer and I sprang into action. She grabbed the hairdryer to heat the goo and loosen it up a bit. I grabbed a bottle of Goo Gone and some cotton balls. Then I filled a bucket with soapy Dawn dishwater because, as Jennifer said, “If Dawn can get oil off a duck without killing it, then surely it can get this sticky crap off the floor!”
Three hours of heating and scraping
For the next three hours, Jennifer and I crawled around my bedroom floor with pillows under our knees, removing carpet tiles one at a time and scrubbing off the sticky glue residue.
At one point, Jennifer was holding the hairdryer between her teeth so she could keep the heat on the sticker while she scraped at it with a silicone kitchen spatula. Then I came along behind her with a cotton ball soaked in Goo Gone and soapy dishwater. Finally, we mopped the entire floor with vinegar and water to get rid of any of the Goo Gone residue.
By the time we were done, we were both dripping in sweat and looked like someone had drug us through a knothole backward.
The very last step
We were feeling like we had just gotten away with murder and joking about CSI using blue light to find the evidence… when I decided to move the bed back into place.
As I shoved the bed over the last few inches, we heard a horrible screeching sound. It turns out a nail had come loose from the bed and gouged a 3-inch scratch in the pristine hardwood floor. I let loose with a string of swear words that would make a truck driver blush
Lucy, I’m Home!
As Jennifer and I were standing there looking at the floor in complete horror, my husband walked in the front door.
Jennifer whispered, “Maybe he won’t notice…”
We heard him coming up the stairs, and as he walked into the bedroom, I said, just like Lucy, “Look, sweetie, we got all the carpet tiles up, and you can’t even tell they were ever on the floor!”
As he walked around the end of the bed where the gouge was, we both stood there silently, holding our breath. Then said, “Looks great, babe!” and started to walk away.
As he was leaving the room, I broke down and confessed, “So, we actually scratched the floor when we moved the bed.”
An incredible copy chief
And he looks at me and says, “I know I saw it.”
Then he went on to tell us about his job site today, where one of his crew actually hauled a metal hood for the stove across the brand-new hardwood floors and scratched the hell out of them.
He said, “It’s ok, even my subcontractors screw up sometimes.”
I told him he would make an incredible copy chief. Because he did what every top copy chief should do when a writer makes a big mistake.
But very few copy chiefs actually do it… including me!
You see, when you’re a copy chief, and you receive some copy for the first time, you’re often rushed and overwhelmed. You’ve got a whole bunch of projects on your plate. You may be copy chiefing more than one writer, and you’re worried about deadlines.
So you read the copy, and the only thing you notice and comment on is that ”big gouge in the floor.” Because you’re busy and you’ve got other stuff to do, and you just need the writer to fix that.
So instead of taking the time, as my husband did, to pause and say, “Wow, it really looks great, dear!”
The copy chief immediately says, “Did you see that “gouge on the floor”? Get rid of that. It’s not working. What were you thinking?”
Not only that, but instead of making me feel like an idiot for forgetting to put pads under the bed, when I moved it, my husband told me, “Look, even professionals do this too.”
Share a story
And that’s another sign of a great copy chief. When they point out the mistake you made, they don’t make you feel like you’re the only one in the history of the planet who has ever made it.
They either share a story about when they, too, made that mistake, or they tell you about another famous writer who also made that mistake.
So now you feel like it’s just part of the learning process, and you’re not a complete failure.
Some of my copy chiefs over the years were better at these lessons than others, and as a copy chief myself, I often make the same mistake. I focus on the “three-inch gouge” instead of pointing out the eight by ten feet of hardwood that looks fantastic.
Another mistake many copy chiefs make is they forget what it was like to be a beginner themselves. By now, so much of it is second nature to me, it’s easy to forget how hard it was to master the craft in the beginning.
Mike Palmer at Stansberry Research used to say it took two full years on average for a writer to be halfway decent.
So when my husband saw my sister, Jennifer, and I standing in the doorway, dripping in sweat and covered in sticky glue residue, he did NOT say, “How on earth could it have taken you three and a half hours to remove 30 carpet tiles?”
He saw how much effort we put in. He saw how exhausted we were. And all he said was, “Looks great, babe.”
Turns out he had already planned to come back later and fill in the scratch with blonde wood filler.
This is what makes for a great husband, a good marriage, and a top copy chief.
A mentor’s tools
So the next time you’re asked to review someone’s copy, either as a peer or copy chief, remember, you didn’t see the three hours they spent crawling around the floor on their hands and knees with a hairdryer between their teeth and a Q-tip soaked in Goo Gone.
Remember to start with the good, notice what works, and commend the writer for the effort.
Then, when you do point out the “gouge in the floor,” tell them they are not alone. Even professionals make mistakes.
Be sure to offer up a simple solution like “blonde wood filler” and show them how to use it.
And the next time you’re tempted to pull a “Lucy and Ethel,” maybe wait for the professionals to show you the way 😉
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