Submitted by Adta74 on
I had a great year in the last year. It was mind blowing! It was the best year of my career and it was also the greatest fall that I've ever experienced. I'm still doing a bit of a postmortem trying to make sense of it all and I'm in a bit of a grey fog as to what to do next. In my reflection, I figured I'd share some of my big mistakes ... Sort of like a cleansing of my managerial soul ;). One thing is for sure, you can be great at what you're doing, but Mark and Mike are right ...relationships really can affect your perceived success .
I work in a very structured organization in the public sector. I've been listening to manager tools for over two years now. Although I haven't completed a disc profile, I've done similar tests and can hazard a guess that I'm a high C, high D ( I definitely want to validate this though!).
I'm a manager who is generally known for gettin' 'er done and for being a pretty positive, energetic and helpful person.
I had just returned from maternity leave when my senior manager (an excellent leader .... "manager tools" quality) became a director and his position was left vacant. Two of my colleagues assumed his role temporarily, but were never extended to stay on. At that time, I initially thought there's no way that I could do his job. I had just come back, I was getting back into the groove with my core team and I loved the work that we did in my unit for the region. But, with changing bosses and their lack of expertise in my area, I nervously put up my hand when the position was becoming vacant again and asked the executive director if she would consider me ( well first I recommended that she extend one of my colleagues but when she declined that idea, I said,okay if not her then ... me ... perhaps?) Go figure, she said yes.
The position carried 4 major portfolios and had a span of control on the RID-ON-CU-LOUS side. My former boss was very good at never saying no and always found a way to take on anything that was asked of him ( kinda like a "manager tools" manager should.... you can see how he became a director). Problem was, nobody could keep up that tempo and he fell short on creating a #2 to take takeover . I however, foolishly thought that if I put my mind to it, no complaining, that I would be able to figure out a way to maintain the tempo. Looking back, I should've asked for help. I should've admitted that I couldn't do it all.
To make matters worse, the department was going through a major performance management overhaul and because I was known for my managing skills ( taught by the best!!) and for having an amazing team that could make miracles happen on a large scale (I love them!!) I was asked if I could be the regional project lead on this initiative. What was I going to do ...say no?? The top dogs of our organization were looking down on me ... Like as if they were saying, "so...can ya bring it??" ... so, my ego said yes.
I won't go through the looong details of my saga.
On the plus side, I was extended to stay on for an entire year, met all of my budget requirements, successfully implemented the New performance management initiative into our region, received accolades on a national level, successfully implemented strategies in major areas of our organization, influenced the realignment of our work structure and implemented an HR resourcing strategy that will last 2 to 3 years. I definitely yielded results.... Although this required an insurmountable level of effort, unlimited number of hours and stress... I could look back and say, yup, I got 'er done. The C and D in me was euphoric :).
On the downside, the two colleagues who took a shot at this job instantly turned on me from the moment I started. Naïvely, I couldn't understand why at that time.... I thought that all was good. I had treated them with respect and helpfulness when they had their shot at the big seat, so why the sudden beef? I instantly became resentful and chalked it up to the big green monster that was lurching out of them. Let's just say it got ugly and leave it at that.
Perhaps this is when you, the forum, could kindly teach me a thing or two on what I could've done better with them.
And it didn't just stop with them. My senior manager colleagues also eventually began to withhold their support on many of the decisions and recommendations that I was proposing/supporting. When I was a manager, my relationships with the senior managers were really good.... I was effective at doing favours for them, helping out, etc. Now, as a temporary senior manager, my relationship with them was different.... It had instantly changed. Here I was, a workhorse, and there they were watching. I guess the problem was that I never stopped to take the time to develop a relationship with them in this new role. It wasn't so much that there were issues between us, it was more like I was isolating myself in my work, getting lots of attention and getting the support of the executive team but I wasn't including them. It was a weird situation. And the more I yielded results, the more I felt their distance. Looking back, I'm not sure that I even understood that I had to do get them involved in some way... (cue in the " help" card again).
Nevertheless, with my nose to the grind I was pumping out the results. I was blind as to what my "hard work" was doing to all the relationships around me. Prewiring was a moot point. I couldn't even find a way to communicate with them enough to have them open the door. I just kept on going. And yet, I was successful without their support. I think that it was because the executives were very pleased that results were being generated and they really weren't looking deep enough to see that collaboration and teamwork was falling a "bit" short ( yes I'm grimacing a bit). I remember one time, one of the executives saying in a meeting, "...you know, there isn't a major initiative out there right now that your name isn't attached to..." and I took such pride in hearing that. Now when I think about it, i wonder what my senior manager colleagues were thinking... i'm beginning to have regrets....
And then began my demise. The vacant position had to be put up for competition and I fell short (shoot ..... with all the effort that I was putting into generating results, I didn't even give myself enough time to prepare properly for the job competition!!). As for the work, once the results were generated, everyone and everything moved on. I felt like yesterday's news.
The ironic part was that when I returned to my manager job a couple of months ago, the restructuring that I was successful in influencing ended up in having me report to a senior manager who certainly has my face plastered on the first page of her "bad books". My new boss won't even acknowledge my presence even after countless attempts to reach out to her. We communicate only through email and when she holds meetings, she speaks to me as part of the collective.
And so, this is where I'm at. For all the hard work and success that I had in generating results, there is no trophy, no promotion... No relationships. I'll be honest, It was great to see how the work that was done blossomed into action and success for the organization. It was also great to see how far my work drive could take me personally ( I work my butt off!!!). But I feel like I've failed. Burning bridges, coming off too big for my britches...call it what you will .... it's not fun.
The only thing that has kept me going these past couple of months has been my team. Going back to my team and my roots, establishing the Management Trinity again (excellent refresher exercise!)and reconnecting my relationships with each team member has been very healing. They have congratulated me, supported me, and showered me with compliments. ... They just see the success of the work that I did .... Little do they know of the hidden failure.
So after all this reading ( thank u by the way!), my question for the community is...now what? How do I begin to moving forward again in a weird situation where I did so much ... but lost so much as well. It's funny, I have so many factual and excellent high level results that I can use as experience examples to rock it at a job interview, but, there is nobody from the senior management team who will vouch for it. Knowing that the next shot at moving will likely come in 2-5 years, what do I focus on in the interim? What feedback if any can you share?
The rise and fall queen :)
Been there, done that.
For what it's worth, I experience the same thing: I get tunnel vision in producing results that I often forget the relationship side of the equation. In my previous role at a major corporation, I worked in the same division and department for about 10 years. Within that time, I reported to 11 different people. The turnover was at the managerial level for the most part - the deck would get shuffled and we'd get a new reporting relationship almost annually. Within that context, the relationships were negligible - I was producing results and that was fantastic as far as each new manager was concerned. My warning signs were there when I was a manager there for about 10 mos and the entire company (over 40,000 employees) underwent a reduction in force. The guy who'd promoted me, gave me a team, he was also a high D like me and I wasn't paying attention to his subtle hints. (I'd've thought someone that high in the D range would've been more direct.) My relationship with him wasn't strong enough to overcome my colleague's tenure in the comparable role. The colleague kept his managerial role and I was demoted back to individual contributor. At the time, I was just thankful to still have a job with benefits since my husband had also been laid off for reduction in force reasons. I chalked it up to "the other guy had more tenure, it was the most logical business choice" and it may have been but the relationship piece should've been a bigger indicator for me.
Thereafter, I moved to a different division and lasted just less than 18 mos before I bailed on the company entirely. During that time, I reported to the same guy and we'd known each other through various committees for about 7 years. He was definitely a high ... the influential, sales-y one (I always mix up I and S.) He was definitely all about relationships and I was again too focused on results. He tried to tell me to focus more on relationships with my peers and his peers but I was too focused on my relationship with my DR's and my own team's results. He ultimately took my team away (along with another peer) so I/we could "provide more valuable support to the larger group of front line contributors." I couldn't get past the loss of another team and it didn't seem like he was ever going anywhere as this division shuffled things much less frequently so I started looking. I landed a gig at a small sole proprietorship in another state.
Sure enough, I've dug myself the same hole for a third time: I've focused on giving my boss results and being respectful of her time that I ignored the things that actually make a difference. She likes sycophants and being the sole source of information and decision-making. I made too many decisions on my own without consulting her, even though they were perfectly aligned with previous decisions she had already made. (We process a lot of paperwork and the standards for Accept vs. Reject seemed to be in a state of flux.)
Anyway, just as I was re-dedicating myself to getting onto her good side by first no longer digging my hole any deeper and second by working extra hard at doing the things that she seems to require on the relationship side, she's been out of the office for the past month on a family emergency. (It's her company.) So there goes any headway I might've made! Here's hoping that time has also diminished some of my negative behaviors from her perception of who I am.
I know I've given you way more about me than about what you should do in your situation. I can only hope you can see from my own repeated rise-and-fall things that the relationship aspect is critical to your success. Since we're both high achievers focused on results, maybe that's a good foot-in-the-door with your colleagues and current managers: helping them achieve their own successes. That doesn't mean joining the team or committee and being a contributor yourself. More along the lines of "let's chat, have coffee, do lunch" and coax out of them any small way you might be able to offer insight on how they could get the results they're after. If they see you as a partner in crime rather than a glory hog in it only for the accolades upon great results, the more likely they will be to soften towards you.
Just a thought! (And again, sorry it's so long.)
Reducing the glory :)
Hi AshDenver, I really want to thank you for sharing your story ....I read every word of it. It really does help to know that my missteps are not soley my own. I really appreciate your advice on glory hogging less and helping out more. With this roller coaster of an experience I definitely have lots to share in the time to do it now. I am looking forward to building relationships again and will focus on helping more.
Wow, that's a deep hole. Some thoughts on where you could start.
Make a list of who you need to apologise to and start apologising.
Buy some donuts and bring them in for the other teams with thank you notes for their help over the last 12 months.
Tell your boss you are aware you have made certain mistakes, explain how you want to learn from them, and ask him/her for their guidance on what you can do. Smile, say thanks and follow their advice even if you don't agree with it.
Since you have more time than before, offer to assist and help others without owning/running anything. Just help.
Read 'what got you here wont get you there' again.
Listen to the casts High C and High D Simple Downfall again.
Listen to the cast Resolving Relationships that have Gone sour.
If you can't get any traction, you can either wait it out over quite a long time, or move on.
hope that helps a bit.
Thx for the advice!
Hi Kev, thank you so much for the three references to the podcast. Part of my recent frustration is that I didn't know where to start.... I just want to hear some guidance on anything that can help with my experience. I'm going to listen I'm going to search and listen for those podcasts for certain. Every little bit helps!
Interesting, I almost don't know how to post this. I want to thank you for your warnings and pitfalls, without encouraging behavior you're looking to change. There is a cast for "getting promoted against your peers". Might be too late here. I think the key point is and to reiterate - What Got You Here, Won't Get You There. It's like going from College to Pros. There are only 32 Quarterbacks in the NFL - how good do you think you have to be to perform at that level? That said, even Mike could get past his High C tendencies to get a CIO spot, so there is hope. Clearly you're capable. Have you considered Executive Coaching? Is there a Leadership/Executive training program (don't know about Public Sector, but we have them in the Private Sector). Good luck! Keep us posted.
Thx for the encouragement!
Hi Jonathan, I really want to thank you for your post and for the kind words of encouragement. I really love your analogy with football ;). Now that I'm back in the minors(...had to go there!)... I just want to take some steps to see how I can improve my rough edges and slowly try again. I really want to read that cast on "what got you here won't get you there"... It's been suggested a few times now that and sounds like a good one. Thanks again!
Re-calibrate advice interpretation
I would revisit this. What I see recommended in the podcasts are, "Figure out what your major responsibilities are, deliver on those, and say no to everything else. Once you're hitting on all cylinders for primary you can start saying yes".