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 :)