There is a person I used to know who was not one of my favorites. I saw him again last week in a meeting where he seemingly experienced a blood pressure spike after learning about a growing threat to two of his projects.
The teams were doing great, self organizing, planning, working the cards they had scheduled already. All except for one of the most critical work streams that just happened to traverse both projects with a very real potential of cutting into actual project time even as executive leadership was talking about cutting the project time lines.
This guy listens, builds the picture, scopes the issues, identifies the members and then delivers the harsh truth with as little bias as possible because these kinds of messages are always difficult. He knows that these are people and it’s going to hurt to hear someone tell them that they have a problem delivering or even prioritizing their work. But the two multi million dollar projects were at stake and, well, it was his job to raise a flag.
It’s funny that after all the meditation, running and breathing exercises that I’ve come to practice over the last two years I still find myself reverting back to my old Dallas self and feeling the emotional cost of it for days. One of my old Texas AS400 buddies used to call me a “smart ass” because I would not hold back or back down from an argument with a colleague. Hell, sometimes I would instigate them just to try and push an idea forward. When you are in tech for as long as I have been you visit many quasi “religious arguments.” Yet that person I used to be reminds me of the Greek myth about the guy who was cursed with pushing a boulder up a mountain forever. Anger and conflict are like the boulder. Having to be the guy that delivers this kind of information, even momentarily as with last week, just wears me the fuck out. Saps all my balance and inner strength.
So yeah, that was me. My teams and leadership thanked me for the effort, I heard back from the individual and that leadership branch and then backed away as the gears began to spin. Hopefully in a direction that will be beneficial to all players involved. But, last week, I felt sick afterwards, literally, from the stress I internalized over the incident. It’s why I have always suspected that, while I can definitely step up to the management place, I’m not necessarily cut out for it. I think way too much about how the other person is going to feel, react and actualize the feedback. Truth be told I’m a much better coach and mentor than I am a manager. And that’s OK. We all have our strengths these are just two of my personality components I guess.
That’s where the lesson comes in for me. Given the above, I think I will try to delegate the formulation of these kinds of messages to other leaders. Provide the same level of detail and remediation advice but bow out on being the person responsible for ruining someone else’s week before a Holiday. Another thing to remember is to use the techniques we see in meditation and breathing so that we can more objectively observe a chain of events. Even ones that spell disaster, missed deadlines and budget blow outs. Just observe, reflect and report. That’s all.
Next week? I plan to remain calm, observe and push where I can but not so hard that it hurts again.