Stepping back to go forward

Last week at work when I was dealing with pretty urgent issues I sent a bunch of emails and visited a bunch of people trying to get some movement. It all came quite naturally to me. I recall one email I sent I copied in a (more senior) colleague. It was a very good email he said, but pretty direct.

In principle I have no issue with directness, either being it or receiving it. I appreciate clarity and solution driven communication. I dislike muddled thinking and indirect communication. There’s no time for that, and it generally creates more confusion than it clears up. I’m diplomatic and reasonable, but there’s never any doubt at what I’m driving at.

About 36 hours later though it struck me: I was sending these emails to people a lot longer established than me, and in much more senior roles. Effectively I was asking for explanations from them, and telling them what needed to be done next. It was necessary, and yet really there’s a strong argument to suggest that wasn’t my place.

None of this crossed my mind at the time. It was instinctive. Instinctive by nature – I’ve always pushed hard, had a clear focus, and it’s one of the things that elevated me from the pack when I was making my way professionally. It’s instinctive by experience though too. Excepting the last few miserable years I’ve either been in a consulting role where I was expected to deliver results; or working in a senior role within the business. I was one of the people I sent my emails to the other day.

That’s not my place now though. Unfortunately the role they’ve asked me to fill has been poorly thought out, as I made clear from right from the start. If they expect me to achieve things they need also give me the authority to make it so. As it stands they expect one thing, but have deprived me of the means to deliver within the constraints of my PD.

That leaves me – and them – with a bit of a dilemma. I can continue to do as I have been and ignore (overlook?) the constraints on me. I doubt they’ve given it much thought, but I’m guessing they would be happy for me doing that until it becomes problematic. That’s the issue though. The responses I received the other day were fine. They understood, and I think some having met me appreciated the authority in my perspective. But it’s asking for trouble – trouble for me. If I keep doing this I’m likely to get my nose bloodied by someone exerting his position. The other aspect of it, which is very real, is that they ignore me altogether – unfortunately that’s been the case with one key person.

I’ve thought about this. I’d rather do it my way, but I’ve decided to back-off. Part of that is just being pissed off by the situation. They’re expecting an awful lot for the money they’re paying me. My experience is a bonus for them, but they don’t feel the need to pay me for it – while expecting me to exert it. It’s pretty cheap.

The greater reason though is that I put myself in an awkward position if I keep putting my head in the Lion’s mouth. If this is what they want me to do then they must give me the clear authority to do so. As it is I’m the one at risk. I get away with it and they benefit; the moment I don’t they can turn around and disown me.

I think I have to make this clear to them at some point, and perhaps the easiest way is to route all these more strenuous requests through them, rather than directly. It will highlight the lack of authority they’ve given me, while also likely irritating them enough to do something about it. Come that conversation I’ll be requesting the dollars to go with it.

That’s a pragmatic take on things, but there is another element at play. I’m continuing to do my reviews, and a consistent theme for me is to take the ego out of it. I’ve always liked being the man. I’ve always liked being the individual. I was happy to take on the system, and effectively be a lone, but very effective wolf. I want to retreat from that. I don’t know if I can be any less competitive (you may as well ask me to be less blue-eyed), but I’m mature enough now to be part of a system rather than feeling the need to step aside from it.

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