Tuesday, 28 May 2013

My job (Part 1)

I flippantly wrote a while ago about my 'Dragons Den' type experience. And received some positive comments, and questions.

I had been with my employer since 2001.
I was the cocky twenty-something who promised myself that I'd stay three years, to have something substantive on my cv before moving on.
Things happened, life, work, education and latterly family.
I started in a complete haze.
Waiting to be found out.
I genuinely thought my manager had hired me to prove that the role shouldn't exist.
He had been opposed to introduction of the role across the organisation and I suspected this was him proving the role shouldn't exist by hiring someone incompetent.

It took me ages to have the confidence to speak out at meetings. I thought everyone else knew their stuff, I was the exception.

A few months in, I started challenging my manager. It turned out this was the point, if I believed in something so much, and fought for it, it was mine. If I couldn't be bothered arguing over it, it couldn't be that important.

The group of people across the country doing the same role, who I thought knew their stuff... My confidence had grown enough to start questioning when I didn't understand things. It transpired no-one had the answers.

And through that role I learned something which has served me well- never pretend to know what you're talking about. Always ask the 'stupid' question, because nine times out of ten it's that one no-one can answer.
To this day it upsets me when a manager tells their team 'never admit to not knowing'. The perceived sign of weakness.
I have a million times more respect for someone in an interview situation when they ask for time to think, rather than the person who flies into their answer and rambles, or who uses the same example over and over.
Nothing makes me lose respect for someone faster who says they 'assume', because they're basically saying they made it up.
Probably because when I promise to do something I want to know I can do it, and I expect the same in return.
I hate it when people blame 'management' for decisions. Because it means you don't agree with it. And if you don't agree with something you should present a challenge within your organisation, or acknowledge you have done nothing, and present it as your view, as an employee of the organisation.
I know I live in a perfect world, but it is one that most days, as an employee, has served me well.

I think I learnt from the best. When I worked for Bhs the most memorable thing I was told was 'never ask anyone to do something you don't know how to do yourself.'
And it's so true, how do you know something takes four days as opposed to four hours.
How do you know you're being realistic.
And how do you know it's possible.

I hate it when people don't think things through.
"Yeah we'll do that." It might cost us £20,000 and tie us into something. When I don't have any financial control.
"Yeah we'll do that." I have no idea of what it means, but the tech team have told me it's possible. So what if it ties me into a service agreement for which I don't have any resource.
"I'm going to escalate this." I haven't bothered to think this through. I want someone else to provide the answers. They'll need to work it through. Which I could do, but I can escalate it. I know it's not their job but does it matter? Does it matter they're our customer?

And I think I have high standards.
I like to think people have the ability to do their homework.
I hate being asked questions, or get challenged on things, where a quick search on Google could get both of us all the answers we need.
That people take the time to write lengthy emails, rather than exploring things.
Or as a starter picking up the phone...
Let's explore this together.
It doesn't have to be down to one person.
Not you, not me.

So, I then trained as a project manager.
The first rule of a good project manager is to recognise your own weaknesses and delegate them.
I'm really good at this one. Unfortunately Excel and finance are everyone else's weaknesses.

I went onto become a performance manager.
And for me and my team, this was the best job we've had.
We became accountable.
We developed our deliverables.
The things people could measure us against.
And whether we were in our control or not, we scoped the target accordingly.
And we did a great job.
Because we always had our mantra of continuous improvement.
And as long as you don't pretend to be perfect, or the font of all knowledge, you can't go far wrong.
And now, well most days I feel like a gambler. Or a barman.
I take aspirations, and bring them together, to make something better.
Or at least I think I do.

Whilst all aspects of what I do now I have done to a greater or lesser extent in the past, now it's accountable.
Someone is looking after elements of the Performance Manager role, it's great having someone appreciate the other perspective, the challenges they once made are now the challenges they have to respond to.
And for the other four days I try to manage the unmanageable.

I spent so long nurturing relationships.
Being conversant with other peoples priorities.
Being so sure that i's had been dotted and t's crossed.
And failing, and taking responsibility.
I watch now as people take on the 'tell' role.
No appreciation, in my eyes, as to the relationships which are being affected.
No idea of the repercussions of the decisions being made.
I am by no means perfect. Butt I have nurtured relationships with those with greater experience and knowledge, people whom I am fortunate enough to give me the time of day.
And yet there are people who give commitment, make statements, offer promises, without any idea or appreciation as to how we can deliver against them.
And of course this is all my own doing.
I don't communicate enough.
I am not clear enough in my expectations.
My standards are too high.

It is an odd thing.
It sounds old fashioned, I believe I am here to serve.
I can't serve all of the people, all of the time.
But I can offer the service.
And respond to those who respond in the affirmative.

I still haven't told you about that project.
I've just ranted.
But, hey, now I can create another post with nothing but positivity.

Needless to say, ten years into our relationship, my OH still has no idea what I do for a living.


  1. I recognise so much of what you've said above. It must run through every company huh? I've often wondered whether there should be a work meeting bingo people could use :)

  2. I could have written this. It's hard x

  3. I don't know this world because I work in a school as a teacher, and not in an office; I've never had an office job at all in fact. However, I do know what it's like to work in a large-ish staff (50 of us in the school) and, while I'm currently working as one of the lowliest positions in the teaching staff, I've also been management in a previous school. I think I was quite good at that job as I had five people in my team that I was 'in charge of' and I never once asked them to do something that I wouldn't have done myself. Likewise I always asked them politely, rather than telling them. Common courtesy costs nothing, means a lot and isn't hard.


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