Thursday, April 07, 2011

The Two Bills

I had a rough day yesterday at work.  Things kind of came to a head.  I think they had to and I guess I'm glad they did, but it was painful.

When I was at Warner Bros., I had a team of six reporting to me.  We met weekly for a quick meeting.  It was mostly a venting session, most of the work we handled as it came up. If you've seen Erin Brockovitch, you've seen our offices, a rich wood-paneled affair in Glendale.  Irrelevant, but interesting.   My boss handled all of the adminstrivia relating to time off and vacations and stuff.  Each of the team handled 2-3 salespeople.  Even though I led the team, I also handled several salespeople.  One was in New York, but the others were local.  I made a regular habit of wandering down to the salespeople's offices and just hanging out in the doorway chatting.  It was a luxury.  There were also a lot of meetings.  For some reason, it was often me and then Middle Eastern IT team and the Russian programmers and I would kind of play referee or translate even though everyone was speaking English.  I just remember some of those meeting getting heated.  But at the end of the day, we had a lot more staff than work -- we often spent 1-3 hours of work time a day playing Rainbox Six with the full knowledge and blessing of our teams' supervisors.

At Lake Avenue Church, I didn't have anyone reporting to me, but for awhile there I had 2-3 regular volunteers coming in who did work on my behalf.  I was responsible for the seven websites and I also helped out with helpdesk functions.  Because everyone was local and almost all within the same building, and because I was larely responsible for defining and designing my work, I would occasionally make the rounds, visiting the different offices, sometimes scaring up business or discussing an idea, or just seeing how I could help people.  The situation worked really well.

At my current job, I've not felt like I had that luxury.  I've been swamped with email, I'm supporting a team of eight, there's a huge overhead of management, and there's a really strong tension between my customers who want stuff now and my staff whom I want to not be miserable.  But apparently that balancing act is all wrong.  It's suggested that I'm painting myself into a corner, that my collateral is slipping, my influence is waning.  It's all very hard to hear, but it's not untrue.  And so I wondered... how can I reverse this trend?  When I was less busy in the good ol' days on the second floor, I did visit some of my customers regularly.  It was tangentially work-related and sometimes it felt like I was being wasteful but I enjoyed it.  So, apparently I need to focus less on trying to keep up with my email and do more outside of email.  And apparently in the case of a few people, I should swear off responding to them by email if at all possible.

So, I gave it a shot at the end of the day.  Instead of emailing or texting someone, I called them and had a frank conversation that needed to be had.  Then I grabbed my coffee cup and began to wander.  I got in a great conversation with a few people and was able to explain an idea to them that I had and they helped me refine it.  (It requires the permission of two or three other people, but I resisted the urge to email them, I'll ask them in person tomorrow.  There won't be any time lost.)  And then I was able to be a listening ear to two people who were struggling with some news that weren't happy to receive.  And then I was able to talk to a third person about my own rough day.  And then it was time to go home.  So I went back to my desk and wrote out a post-it note for someone instead of sending them an email.  And then I started getting ready to go home (well, after I looked over all the email that had come in the last two hours of the day) and the person I'd left the post-it note for stopped by to talk.

So in the end, I did connect with a number of people and I got a chance to talk about an innovative idea.  It was a good feeling.  I have no problem wandering around with a coffee cup, I'll just need to make sure I'm a McNeal and not a Lundberg.
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