Sunday, April 15, 2012

not an excuse

there is a significant work project that i have my head in right now. it will determine where and how the team will function. i find that some of my best visualization, processing, or thinking about alternatives comes when i've stepped away from the computers and do something else for a bit. giving myself the space and the distance to be open and just think. for those of you who have been with this blog since the beginning, this shouldn't be a surprise. i often escape into the kitchen to cook or go to moma rooftop for coffee....or do things like travel to a certain neighborhood to have a break away from work or a project, process a couple of things, and then re-enter the work project with alternate or proper perspectives. i've developed this process for myself throughout the years. i needed to develop a system or process that would ensure productivity and delivery because i work from home. 

right now, i'm thinking a lot about how i managed the team over the past few years. i'm thinking about how the infrastructure of the team reflected the changing needs of the organization, how deliverables had to be mapped and tied to needs/requirements, how to leverage the strengths of the people on the team, how to set appropriate expectations for different members to grow in different ways to improve upon their weaknesses, and how when creating the infrastructure, i pulled in frameworks, theories, and models from many different disciplines. 

in many ways, it was getting done what needed to be done....and figuring out what was the most effective way to get there. it was to not be afraid of change...both big change and continuous incremental editing and changes to improve. 

i'm very much a "step up" or "step out" sort of manager. 

i'm very brutally clear about my expectations. i'm clear about public praise for contribution or leadership of quality work and private with constructive criticism. i'm also very clear that when you work with will work....and when you get all of your base work done and done well....i will do everything i can to keep you aware of where else you can go after you stop working with me....whether it be time off to do classes...or dedicated work time to do a project that seems really off base and wacky...or hearing about other opportunities within the company. 

i'm also clear about where the door is anytime they want to leave.

i know in some ways it drives my current team nuts. 

just when they think everything is all comfy, i go and change something...or push them to work on a different kind of project where there is the possibility for failure. they know i'll be there to make sure that they won't make a catastrophe that they can't recover from...but i do ensure that they have enough personal risk involved to make them nervous.

i don't see this as being evil. i see it as providing proper motivation for them to learn. 

what they don't realize is that i've actually ensured that if they fuck up, it won't have a big audience....and that i have no plans to include it in their performance evaluations if they fuck up....but i don't tell them that when i give them this kind of project. they usually perform pretty well...and when that happens, i make certain everybody and their mother knows about it....and i include it in their performance evaluations as evidence as going "above and beyond".

see how that works?

i also know that they think i'm a bit brutally blunt at times...which is true. i also know that sometimes there are hurt feelings when i point out opportunities on other teams. as if my pointing this out sparks feelings like they aren't wanted. jez. i try not to roll my eyeballs when this happens and reiterate that as i've indicated before....i'm not there to chain them to this team or specific kind of work....and am trying to ensure that they are doing what they want to do and how they always need to be thinking about what they want to do next. 

yet, i don't push them as hard as i push myself. it would be impractical.

i remember a couple of lifetimes ago when the editor-in-chief pulled me aside when i was twenty years old to tell me that i cannot have expectations for others' drive or performance that i had for myself. he said that if i had those expectations i was doomed to be forever frustrated and disappointed.

it was a very memorable experience.

at the time, i really didn't get it. i thought he was writing certain people off. then within a couple of years, i found myself unexpectedly managing a 15 person team (who were all older and made more money than i did) when two levels of leadership left the company at the same time for political reasons. it was a very traumatic learning experience. for everyone. i initiated quite a bit of change, accountability, transparency, and that team had the most productive six months than it had previously. ever. i was promoted because of it and given my own product line to manage making me one of the youngest acquisitions editors.

the manager that was hired later to take over that team was, interestingly enough, the biggest advocate of what i had done. we are still friends now. also, i was working with someone that would become one of my closest friends....there is something about going through traumatic experiences together that creates some strong bonds. for the longest time, i viewed my friendships with these two people as the only really good things that came out of that traumatic experience.

after that experience, i understood more about the EIC was trying to tell me during that time. while i don't agree with just writing people off....but i do see everyone has different comfort levels with change and the importance of seeing people as addition to seeing the team as an entire unit.

yet, i also learned that just because i'm good at something....doesn't mean that i like it. in fact, there is also the possibility that i hate it. yet, hating doing something is not an acceptable excuse for not doing it well.

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