Archive for the ‘work’ Tag

Better 

It has been gloomy, hot and humid ever since Friday’s Dark Day. Hot, yucky weekend followed by humid overcast early week. In fact, it stormed all night and well into this morning. Buckets of rain and growling thunder made for a tense night of restless sleep. 

Yet, it’s getting better. The storm clouds have passed and the sun is shining. A robin has been visiting the ledge outside my office window, serenading me for the last hour or so. There’s a light breeze waving the bright green trees adorning the lawns surrounding my office building and fluttering the flag at the entrance to the campus. 

Seems like the physical changes might be reflecting, or even driving, the mood shift around here. What seemed so dire and intense on Friday has largely eased into a determination to overcome. A few words from the C-Suite, a pep-talk of sorts, has set a better tone and a challenge to win despite taking an unfair licking. That’s a welcome change and a goal I can get behind. 

I hope your week is looking positive and you find something good to appreciate even when there’s gloom. 

Dark Day

I can’t and won’t get into the details of what makes this sunny, warm, beautiful, Summer Friday a grim, dark day. Suffice to say my company hit a wall in dealing with an important legal matter today, and the mood among the executives is bleak. I’m fairly confident that my job won’t be impacted and that the company will definitely recover. But it’s a high stress day on top of a high stress week that followed a high stress month. This is the Monday-iest Friday I’ve had in a very long time. Hence my need to get it out of my brain and off my chest. 

The interesting thing (I can’t yet say “good thing” about any part of today) is the spectrum of reactions to the news among the leaders who know. It doesn’t seem to have had the same effect on everyone, and I m not entirely clear why that is. Some seem to have immediately soaked it in and shrugged it off. Others aren’t certain what the appropriate response is. Still others have had a fairly predictable response. 

Whatever the reaction has been from person to person, the prevailing theme is disbelief or, maybe more precisely dismay, rather than anger. I’m thankful for that. While there palpably is anger, people are still simply trying to make some sense of it before letting anger drive action. That seems a healthier pattern than I expected, I guess. 

Maybe that just shows I’ve misjudged some people. But I won’t lie: I went to my boss’ office this morning after receiving the result with the full expectation of having to ride out a wave of blinding rage. Not directed at me. I know I’m blameless in this and he is fully aware of that. But I am often his sounding board and confidante. He vents to me when he can’t say what he needs to say to others. So, I expected red-faced, fuming, barking anger. Instead, it was sneering contempt and disgust, with a side of simmering anger held in reserve. That’s something, I suppose…personal growth? Or maybe just resigned acceptance. Either way, I’m glad there’s been no shouting. 

Now, all that’s left is to pick up and move on. In the biggest picture, this will be a mere hiccup. In the near-term big picture, it’s a dark mark on a year that was poised to be shining and victorious. I hope we have the leadership and fortitude to refuse to let it be a roadblock for our success. 

In the immediate, small picture that only matters to me, it just totally blows and I can’t wait for this day to end. 

Running the Gauntlet 

I’ve been flat-out swamped for weeks, getting ready to host my semi-annual conference with my global legal team. I have an amazing support team in the Executive Assistant for our department. She has done all the coordination and logistics for this event, coming to me for only budget approval and signatures. She’s amazing and I would be so lost without her help. 

But I’ve had plenty to do with arranging speakers, topics, consultants, and preparing my own remarks for two of the sessions. All on top of fifty bazillion other details of my day job. It’s important, though, so I’ve worked hard to juggle it all. It definitely feels like I’ve run the gauntlet, only to see another directly ahead. 

The conference starts with dinner tonight. A few of the international travelers have been delayed by weather, so will miss that. But the substantive program starts tomorrow and runs through Friday morning. I’m hopeful that everything will run smoothly and it’ll be the fun, challenging time I’ve planned it to be. 

The last one, in October of 2015, was the same. Worked my butt off to put a program together that combined a lot of fun down time as well as interesting speakers and some skill-building. I thought it went well. Had positive remarks throughout the week, but when given the chance to comment anonymously, I received a surprising level of negative feedback. Surprising because there was not even a hint of that in any conversation, even those I just overheard and didn’t participate in directly. 

I hope that doesn’t happen again. I’ve gone out of my way to incorporate every bit of feedback and proactive input from my team. I’ve got the speakers they requested covering topics they suggested. I’ve balanced break, meal and team-building time evenly with speaker time, so no one should feel overwhelmed with content to process. And I’ve arranged for some fun freebies and prizes for everybody. So hopefully no one will have reason to gripe about anything. 

Fingers crossed. 

Stamina + Health Critically Low

I feel like a video game character who has run too fast or lifted something too heavy. If you checked my status display you’d see an empty stamina wheel and a single blinking heart signaling a need for energy top-up. My screen image would be a drooping, panting, limp mess. 

In other words, I’m exhausted. 

My stupid brain kept me awake half the night with ridiculous stress dreams about work for no discernible reason. Yes, I had a 6am conference call, which is unusual, but it shouldn’t have raised the kind of stress found in these idiotic dreams. I’m amazed at the appalling ingenuity of my subconscious in creating images and scenarios that can snap me instantly awake with a pounding heart rate at 3am. Over nothing at all! It’s infuriating. 

Now I’m dragging so hard I don’t know what to think. I’m glad all my meetings were this morning, because my brain is M. I. A. right now and I’m afraid I’d seriously embarrass myself if I had to present or speak intelligently on anything at the moment. 

So, I may be calling it a day a little early today. Just in time to repeat it over another early call tomorrow. Joy. 

I hope you’re well rested and having a lovely day. I’m determined that I will too…eventually. 🙂

I didn’t sign up to be a traffic cop

Well, with this post, I fulfill my #NaNoWriMo slash #NaBloPoMo goal of posting once a week in November. I even squeezed in a couple of bonus posts. So I’m happy with my achievement, even if it wasn’t 30 straight days of posts. 

Recently I talked about having had a really good day after doing some deeply hard-core executive lawyering. That’s happened quite a few times and I’ve tried to celebrate those wins so as not to lose sight of the good, substantive work I do. That’s important, because it seems far too many of my work days lately consist of frustratingly wasteful, non-substantive busy work. And way too much gate-guarding/re-directing of tasks and obligations away from my team. I feel like I’m mostly a traffic cop, hence the title of this post. 

That’s not what I want to be and not how I want to spend my time. But it’s a necessary evil, if I’m to protect my scarce resources from inefficient and productivity-eroding time-sinks. That is part of my job as the boss. But it seems such a low-value activity and a very expensive waste of time and talent. 

So, instead of whining about it, I’m trying to think of strategies to resolve the symptoms and, hopefully, the root cause. It’s challenging, because no problem is one-sided and lots of people and variables come into play. The priorities I have for my team, which make these inefficiencies so problematic, aren’t the same priorities that other teams have. Indeed, these inefficiencies are tools or methods that other teams are using to pursue their competing priorities. 

A good example is when the sales teams try to end-run the approval process and ask my legal team to draft contracts in absence of approvals “to save time”. My team is put into the position of having to create complex, nuanced contracts on the basis of little or no specific information about the deal, while also having to play approval-police to be sure the contract doesn’t get signed before all the business approvals are given. That parallel processing always includes more calls/emails/special handling, with the associated increased time to get work product out, than we ever need when we get a fully approved contract request before drafting. So I spend time talking to sales reps and sales managers to identify needs and clarify requests and push back against the stupid and unreasonable, while my team struggles to provide top quality service amidst the chaos. 

That’s what I mean by inefficiencies making me a traffic cop. 

I haven’t answered all (any) of the questions about how to remedy this condition. But I have been working on it. With the help of cross-functional leaders I’ve raised awareness and received some short-term relief for my team on parts of the issue. And just yesterday I proposed a refinement to the contracting process to the sales leadership team that could resolve the lion’s share of the frustration for both sales and legal. It will require commitment on both sides and a significant behavior modification for the sales teams. But it also could mean removing more than 80% of the procedural friction from the process and increase sales (and the pace of sales) into the bargain. 

It’s a project for next year and I have high hopes. It’s not the substantive legal and executive work I enjoy most, but it’s good work and could bring a lot of tangible and intangible benefits to my team and my company. If the price is my being a traffic cop…where’s my whistle?

Finding the positive in the unpleasant is a win and one very good thing. I hope you’re finding something positive to celebrate today. 

Glimmer of Positivity 

Because my last few posts, like my life and general reality, have been decidedly on the grim side, I have determined that I will be positive and hopeful in this post. And, harking back to the method I used earlier this year, I’m going to allow myself to define positivity expansively. (For example, I think it’s entirely positive that I have successfully avoided strangling a most annoying salesperson for over a month!) Even the small victories over gloom and defeat are to be celebrated, because any victory fuels the fire that will consume this era of hate. 

And so…a list of some good, positive things:

  1. I have done, and done well, some seriously deep and meaningful executive lawyering over the last few weeks. From dealing with emergent conflicts, to guiding senior executives in strategic decisions, to managing multiple outside law firms on concurrent litigation matters, my skill as a legal professional and a business leader has been tested and met every challenge. I’m proud of my contribution to my company’s success and proud of my team’s achievements. 
  2. I got an early start on holiday gifts for my team this year. I try to give hand-made gifts that are fun, or useful, or meaningful. I’m happy with my choice this year and glad I started early. 
  3. My skill at diplomatically delegating, whether to members of my own team or to other departments, is increasing. I have struggled with the feeling of failure at having to say no to some things. But I’ve learned that exhausting myself not only compromises me as a resource and leader, but it withholds growth opportunities from others. It’s still a challenge, but I’m doing better and my team and my company are benefitting. 
  4. The weather has been beautiful and I’ve seen some spectacular sunrises and sunsets. The sky is always a source of joy and energy for me. I like its infinite variety and find peace in the loveliness and simplicity of a sunrise. A collage of a sunrise from earlier this week (with the super moon!) is attached below for your enjoyment. 
  5. It may get cold enough to freeze here in the next few days and my eyes and nose are rejoicing the possibility. Can’t wait. Not only will it finally feel like it should for the holidays, but my allergies will abate until Spring and that’s a very good thing. 

This is the Hard Part

So this is where it gets hard being the boss. For the most part, I have a productive, highly respected, engaged and contented staff. Even though there are a few rough interpersonal communication spots among some of the team on occasion, engagement scores are high and productivity is meeting or beating every KPI metric. Yet there’s that one bad apple who screws up the curve.  

Despite nearly two years of coaching and counseling, even rewarding good behaviors despite the risk of reinforcing the bad, this one person refuses to meet the very basic expectations for their role. They are clear, measurable, achievable, and reasonable expectations for their experience level and role, basic competencies that every person in this role is expected to master. Yet this person defiantly has refused to do the basic things required. Even their local HR is exhausted with this person’s insubordination.  

But I’m not allowed to terminate their employment.  

This is the hard part. Acquiescing to the directive from higher up, being the good team player, subrogating my managerial prerogative for “the greater good of the organization”. Dealing with the continuing problem and swallowing any indignation about it is part and parcel of being the executive leader of this team. Or so I’m lead to believe. And I can deal with it for now. But it’s still hard.   

I’m concerned about the effect that this person continuing with the team will have on other members of the organization. By this person appearing to get away with repeated failure to meet expectations, I’m afraid the rest of the team will be demotivated. Also, I’d be lying if I didn’t acknowledge that being rendered powerless in this respect is demotivating for me. And, not for nothing, this person won’t learn or grow if there is no practical consequences for their failure.   

What’s hard, also, is that I was made to hire this person against my wishes for similar “greater good” reasons. So I feel like this is a double punch to the gut: to be proven right about a bad decision and then prevented from getting rid of the problem. Yet, because I’m a good corporate soldier and an excellent team player, I’ll endure. For now. 

But I make no promises that I won’t be insufferably, jubilantly smug and say “I told you so” a bunch of times when I do finally get to fire this festering blister of recalcitrant disrespect. I can wait for that, I guess. 

The Importance of Being Seen

Oh lookit, a bonus post already in this limited #NaNoWriMo effort. Wish I could say it’s a joyful one. 
——

I’ve had a rough couple of days at work. I received some feedback that I find very upsetting and have felt rather let down and discouraged by it. After a private pity party and a little whinge in a journal, I’ve spent some time trying to dissect exactly what’s hurting me about it. I actively seek out feedback, frequently ask how I can improve. Personal and professional growth is important to me. So why this feeling of being utterly crushed by this particular feedback?

I think the core of it is that I’ve already spent a lot of time and energy and emotion on this very thing and believe I’ve improved a lot, eliminating the biggest part of this perceived flaw. Yet…it’s apparently not good enough. 

Criticism is hard for all of us, I think. But I find it especially difficult to take onboard as constructive feedback in situations where I feel my efforts in the area at issue have been ignored or overlooked. That’s where I’m at right now…feeling invisible, not seen, un-acknowledged. Or at least my work on a particularly challenging aspect of personal growth feels dismissed and ignored by people I respect and admire. 

I’m familiar with the concept of “being seen” in the context of personal identity. Telling someone “I see you” is a sacred act of validation, an invaluable gift to those whose identity has been erased, ignored, vilified, criminalized. Being seen has weight and meaning far surpassing the surface affect of recognition. Especially for those in marginalized identities, being seen can mean the difference between a life of freedom and a life of struggling to exist. 

But the concept applies equally well to situations beyond identity politics. Being seen and heard is a fundamental need in all types of relationships and interactions. When we feel acknowledged, validated, valued, our relationships and interactions thrive. When we feel invisible, ignored, erased, they fail. That is a binary I do acknowledge. 

In an age when employee engagement and talent retention are actual corporate priorities and not just buzz-words, I can’t help but think that acknowledging someone’s response to coaching, validating their efforts and progress, is critical to those goals. I’m not interested in flattery or asking to be praised and petted. I merely think that if criticism is acknowledged and responded to with genuine effort to improve, heaping on further criticism without any acknowledgement of those efforts is dispiriting and demoralizing. It’s the difference between fine-tuning with judicious editing, and bludgeoning with a hammer. 

That all sounds like a load of self pity and whining. An adult professional should be able to receive criticism without crying about it. 

Yes. 

But at some point, even responsible adults get a gut full of being picked-on. And when the criticism comes without any direction or guidance on what to change or what constitutes success, the unacknowledged efforts seem futile and will eventually stop. That is the very definition of disengagement. 

So, yeah, that’s a grim way to end the day. Perhaps the gloom and chill outside my window has seeped into my thoughts and leaked out into this blog. Sorry. 

I hope you’re feeling seen and valid and valued today and every day. 

April Means Spring 

Well, I pretty much neglected this blog in March. Kind of a shame, following such a good effort in February. But, it’s April now, springtime on the American prairie. Since spring means renewal and fresh starts, I’m treating April as another fresh start to blogging. I’m setting a loose goal of weekly posts. We’ll see how that goes. 

Today started of epically Monday-ish, with a full iPhone reset/restore and non-functioning badge readers at work. But things picked up and it turned into a productive day that I’m proud of. 

One good thing about today (and many days over the last few weeks) has been the steady stream of compliments I’ve received since my video segment aired at the all-employee meeting on St. Patric’s day. I was quite nervous when HR and the film crew showed up in my office unexpectedly to film a short employee engagement video to be shown to the entire company. But it turned out to be really fun and they edited it so well that it wasn’t totally cringe-inducing to see myself on the screen. 

Since the meeting and after the video was uploaded to my company’s intranet, I’ve received dozens of enthusiastic compliments from folks near and far in my company, saying how much they enjoyed it and how much they admire my bow ties. 😎 How cool is that!? 

Folks appreciate that an executive can be fun and funny for the employees and is relatable through something as quirky as a fun bow tie. That’s a very good thing! 

29 Days: Long Weekend 

Coming to the end of a long week and the oddly extended month of February. I have the next four days off, YAY! 

Gonna pretend to- or, as I like to think of it, aspire to – do some long-neglected chores. I may go to this cool new theater-in-a-tavern that opened recently and find a movie to watch while I have lunch. I may hang out at the bookstore. I will spend some quality time with my pillow and also with my family, but not at the same time.  I will do a few errands on Monday. 

But more than anything I will devote real energy and concentration on NOT working, NOT checking work email, NOT serving as the emotional pacifier for executives and coworkers who need constant validation that their backsides won’t be pinched off by the monumentally stupid choices they want to make against advice and reason. Ok, maybe I’m not quite as relaxed and positive in this moment as I hope to be by next Wednesday. Hence the 4-day weekend. 
These next four days have loomed large in my imagination for most of the month. Not because of any plan for glittering events or exciting experiences, but because it’s almost 100% me-time. I’m working hard not to feel guilty about that, about both wanting and taking me-time. That’s always a challenge for me, resisting guilt. 

But I think it’s ok to focus on yourself once in awhile. And even if I end up spending four straight days in my pjs doing nothing but watching shows on my DVR, I’ll have spent time with myself and let the job rest for a while. I’ll count that as a win and one very good thing. 

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