Thursday, April 22, 2010

Giving Up At Work

The theme of today at work was giving up.  Not throwing up my hands in resignation, or even in frustration.  Not angrily casting anything aside.  Just coming to the realization that I can't do it all, that I can't be involved in everything I want to.  It's actually happened over a couple of days, but today was the big one.

So, the first one, or the last one, depending on how you look at it -- the Mac.  We have an old Mac laptop.  I'm told it's still pretty decent.  It's kind of heavy but it has a big screen.  Producers use it occasionally for testing the website.  When they're not using it, I use it to display a news ticker from Reuters and stats from Twitter and AddThis and other places, stats about our website.  Someone's taking that laptop and giving us a tiny one in return.  It's newer and sleeker, but it's the antithesis of what I want there.  (I'd run the stats on a PC but the network admins have them way too locked down with screensavers and logins required and all that kind of annoying stuff.)  That kind of giving up is easy.  I have budgeted for a large display and so eventually we'll get that (and then we'll be forced to learn how to get better more relevant real-time reporting).

Yesterday I gave up a task I like.  There's a part of me that says only I can do it.  That's not entirely true.  I have a lot of experience doing it and I have some specifics about how I like it done, but I'm not the only one that can do it, and if I keep it to myself, it only hinders things.  Really, the task is kind of a pain, but I guess I was a glutton for punishment.

Today, I gave up two projects that I was interested in.  One, less so, one, more so.  In both cases, there are fully competent people on my teams who can handle these on their own.  For one project, I told the guy "If I get an email on this subject and it's sent to you and me, I'm going to forward it to you and tell you I didn't read it and then I'm going to drop it into my resolved folder.  If it's something you need me to read, forward it back."  I barely understand the meetings and rely on the other guy for all the specific technical details.  As I think about it now, it probably sends another message as well.  This guy knows what he's talking about and you should feel confident talking directly to him.

For the other project, I asked someone to attend in my place for a meeting tomorrow.  I said I'd be happy to talk to them before the meeting, but I can't go to the meeting.  They were cool with that.  I always worry that I'm piling it on my guys too much when I do stuff like this.  Mostly they're scheduled for 75% of their time on specific projects and I stress the importance of making sure we have good estimates of the assigned work and that they let us know if there's any problems getting stuff done by the due dates, but then I worry.  Perhaps this is a lack of trust.  I don't want to go the other way, though, and seem uncaring, out of touch or just an absent boss who only pops in when there's pain to be brought.  Already I probably don't connect with my team enough as it is.  I was leaving for lunch and a group of them were all leaving together, obviously to go to lunch.  All I could think of was "Going to lunch together, huh?" and decided that sounded really stupid, so I said nothing, which probably seemed even worse.

I'm worried that the next thing I might have to give up hope on is responsiveness with email.  So far I'm mostly OK, but there's been a few times lately where I've just responded back to say that I got their email and that I don't know when I'll be able to get in touch with them.  In one case, it was someone in another country who I had just made contact with, so I feel really bad about that.

Earlier this week, I also gave up my account at one of our vendors.  I started my career doing email marketing and rose through the ranks, was a big part of our selection of a new vendor, but I'd never actually sent a campaign through the new vendor and we had a limited number of accounts, so I had to give mine up to add someone else.

And then I created a project that I'm going to have no part in it.  In the process I inadvertently made a producer take on a dual role of Project Manager and Lead Developer.  But, something amazing happened.  He did the research, consulted with people, and then held a two-hour meeting without me today and so many people were excited about at the end.  He's going to need help.  He'll get it, both in terms of the project management and the development, but I'm just going to be an outsider, getting progress reports and taking the request to my superiors when he wants more time for it.  (Our initial allotment will get him started, but I knew I wouldn't get to done with that, but needed to get a foothold in the door.)  And not just him, the other producers are itching to also work on the project.

But, this is all part of my evolution into management.  With nine people reporting to me, there's a lot of administration to deal with, and that's just taking up way too much of my time.  Which leads to another thing I have to give up.  My timidity, my desire to be nice and friendly, my fear of being the bad guy.  But I've spent way too much time needling, prodding, coaxing and reminding people about administrative stuff.  By the time it rolls around again in six months, it's gonna be a whole different ball game.

I just hope I don't give up who I am in the process.
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