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 Management Minute

Just 'cause you got the monkey off your back doesn't mean the circus has left town. ~ George Carlin

LoriFreeman2.jpgWelcome back – to me! It feels as though I've been on a six-month hiatus and am having some sort of amnesia-like episode. I have been on a lengthy hiatus from writing Management Minute and have plenty of ideas about why. It all started when one of my staffers, in honoring her Chinese culture, came in for a meeting in early February, the start of the Chinese New Year. She was dressed fully in red. When I complimented her on the outfit and accessories, she shook her head sadly and shared that Feb. 8 began the Year of the Monkey. She was wearing red to ward off the Monkey and its impacts. Her birth year coincided with a Monkey year and she was beginning a year-long effort to cope with the effect.

Monkey years are believed to be unlucky for people born in a year of the Monkey. A year of one's birth sign is believed to be the most unlucky in the 12-year cycle. Everything pointed to disaster for Monkeys in this Monkey Year. "Monkeys" (who take Chinese astrology seriously) are particularly careful in Monkey years with everything ranging from careers to investments to their personal relationships. The Monkey is a smart, naughty, wily and vigilant animal. You need to outsmart the Monkey. According to Chinese beliefs, we deal with more financial events in the year of the Monkey as well as implications related directly to the status of events changing very quickly.

I was not surprised to hear this. Right around Feb. 8, AMCHP was dealing with the fallout of a last-minute cancellation of its Annual Conference because of a winter storm. We were struggling with decisions about rescheduling, including finding a venue, financial impacts and feelings of substantial loss because we know how critically important this meeting is to our members, partners, constituents and staff. As I sat commiserating with my staff member over the new Chinese Year, joking about wearing red all year long, I became a firm believer in the Year of the Monkey. At least now I had a good explanation for our misfortune.

Although we successfully re-schedule the conference, the Year of Monkey continued. The Zika outbreak came on the heels of the conference cancellation. Our lives in the were forever changed by this terrible virus, the likes of which has not been seen in decades in terms of its potential impact on fetuses and families. Like many MCH agencies, AMCHP diverted time, effort and dollars to addressing the impacts of Zika and to fighting day in and day out for Congress to invest in a response. Our work and your work continue as we begin to see the impacts on children born with birth defects and the long-term effects on moms, dads and families.

The Year of the Monkey continued. On Oct. 1, AMCHP moved from its offices due to an early lease termination. The Monkey was not really responsible for this disruption, because we had been coping with the news for nearly two years ahead of the move. But it's easy to blame the Monkey.

Office moves are like home or apartment moves, only a hundred times bigger. The nice thing is that there's no single pain point or target. There's plenty of stress to go around for everyone, including staff, leadership and those we serve. Although the workload was significant, we had a successful build-out of our new office and a worry-free move. It took us two years to prepare to move and it will take months to settle into our new space. I hope the Monkey is done with us and gives us a break the remainder of the Chinese Year!

To wrap up on a more serious note, it's important to recognize that disruptions in our lives, similar to what occurred this year at AMCHP, can be emotionally and physically draining, and the outcomes can go on for some time. For example, I read a really good Wall Street Journal article about office moves and the impact on staff, which might give you some added perspective. More than once this year, I also was brought back to the important work that you do related to ACES (Adverse Childhood Experiences). AMCHP, its staff, leaders and members will recover from the Year of the Monkey. But children who are subject to this adversity even once in their young lives (let alone more) forever experience impacts on their health and well-being. These children were (and always are) in my thoughts whenever my own challenges seem overwhelming at times. They need the kind of help that the MCH field provides.

Just for fun, I took a look at what the next Chinese New Year might bring. Good news: It's the Year of the Rooster. Although the Year of the Rooster might prove unlucky to some who were born in a Rooster year, to me the Rooster represents a bright start to a new day. I'm looking forward to that in 2017!

Your comments, counter-points, suggestions and thoughts are always welcomed. Email me at lfreeman@amchp.org.