Friday, November 11, 2016

Trust Falls

One of the hardest things about management is that no one is ever going to tell you if you're doing it wrong.  As deliberate as I've tried to be with approaches to my office -- emphasizing shared values, allowing autonomy, encouraging responsible risk-taking by pre-forgiving singular mistakes  -- I still wonder where I'm falling down.  Am I pushing too hard?  Providing too little oversight?  It's funny to me that I can sincerely trust the people under me to control their own work and create policy and process, but have trouble trusting that they'll be honest in their feedback.  Maybe this is a failure on my part.  Or maybe it's just human to be anxious.  Most of what I'm doing is the result of reflection on my own experiences with being managed, both bad and good.  I quail at the thought that someone in my office could similarly look back at her or his time working with me and think, "Well, I'll certainly never do things that way."

I suppose it could also just be the nature of management.  The power dynamic necessitates that trust relationships in an office be built from the top down.  As a manager, you have to make the first move and allow yourself to be vulnerable to lack of delivery from those below you (and the ensuing displeasure from those above).  It's frightening at first -- especially if your own managers don't share your view of leadership.  But it's amazing to me how consistently people deliver good work when they know and value the institutional goals and are empowered to shape and implement them.  You have to trust in them, and they have to trust in the institution.  Or that's my working hypothesis, at any rate.

Whether and how much to trust in institutions seems to be the defining question of our age.  But I trust in us to get it right.

Saturday, June 04, 2016

I, Robot.

I hadn't realized how stressed I was till I rather irrationally lashed out at a friend over email.  Email is good for revealing ones darker impulses.  I was quite embarrassed to have been outed in this manner.

Being a firm believer that the answer to most any problem is more and better science, I undertook a mental inventory to determine the source of my stress.  Conclusion? Insufficient time to accomplish my required tasks.  The path forward was clear:  I'd need to create more time.

A few immediately operable methods came quickly to mind:  first, I would no longer walk from place to place.  All movements would be be at the speed of a light jog.  I figured this would add as much as an hour to my day, more if I abandoned my work shoes.  I kicked them off forthwith.

Second, all superfluous interactions would need to cease.  Countless "good mornings" and "how are you?s" were taking up precious seconds of my day.  And weren't the responses kind of a given?  What information were these social nicities really providing me?  I considered a few alternatives.  Silent nodding was tempting, but threatened confusion on the part of others -- confusion that might require time-frittering moments of clarification.  Eventually I settled on the most eloquent work-around:  a sign hung from my neck listing out common social greetings and responses.  Added bonus:  writing the greetings and responses in several different languages made this a nod to cultural diversity.  I was pleased at this EEO-sensitive touch.

Third, bathing.  Necessary?  I thought not.

Lastly, daily sustenance seemed an easy way to trim fat from my schedule, though would need to be handled carefully lest I also inadvertently trim fat from my waistline -- I had no time to buy new clothes or fashion makeshift belts.  Making a back of the envelope calculation of daily calorie intake, I determined that dropping lunch and replacing breakfast and dinner with shots of straight cream would maintain energy equilibrium yet gain me the 15 minutes I'd been thoughtlessly spending scarfing down a sandwich each afternoon.  I dutifully added this to my plan of attack and sent the write-up to my supervisor for comment and approval.

She responded with one suggestion:  cutting out my twice daily trips to buy and imbibe coffee would be another time saving measure, especially given the advent of readily available ingestible caffeine tablets.  This, however, I refused.  I'm not a machine.