I have already written about the right fit (10), the environment (09), the people (08), and strategic (07). A couple of those could perhaps collapse in on each other (right fit and strategic). And this one could perhaps join them.
In multiple positions, I have succeeded in part purely because of my attitude. I take my job seriously, even when it isn’t that important a job or could be done by several other people, not just me. Which had an interesting effect on me.
I realized that I like being in positions where that “can do” attitude, so to speak, also means that the boss comes to rely on me. While for some that might just mean avoiding micro-managing, for me it goes way beyond that. I want to not only be useful, I want to be “extra” useful because of the way I approach my files.
I like to be depended on, for my bosses to know “he has this”, and to rely on me that way. Thus freeing them up for other tasks. With a previous boss, this resulted in an almost shared accountability for management. While she was a director, and I reported to her, she was very open to having conversations about management, what we were doing, where we were going, etc. And eventually, not right away, she started treating it like a shared problem. Partly because of my abilities, partly because of my style, but also partly because of my attitude. We could talk about “these are the range of management problems facing us” and then divvy them up between us.
She trusted me. And again, not just in a “lighter touch” style which I also want, but that I was part of the decision-making process. Flying solo for the last three years i.e. reporting directly to a DG has had elements of that too. And there are structural elements that require it. But outside of that, there are also management styles and file-sharing that allow it, permit it, even encourage it to grow.
And when that happens, I feel like I’m adding value. Because at that point, I’m not just doing the job anyone can do, I’m doing it in a way that only some people actually do…
It doesn’t have to be about the management of files, that is just one of the examples. Back when I was young and freshly minted as a worker at the university library, my approach added value. My approach to being a co-op student and contractor at DFAIT added value. It’s why I was hired back so many times. When I was an ES-04 and was getting multiple acting assignments, and even got to act as Director, it was because I was a “really cheap” ES-04 — because my actual level was closer to ES-05 and -06 at the time. What I didn’t have in years of experience per se, I did have in a more mature approach to my work.
What is interesting too though is that early on, some of my approach was simply that I would get things done that I committed to doing. Even if it meant extra hours, or in the one case I wrote about, pulling an all-nighter. Another time when I was running a conference in Vancouver, our local contractor totally screwed up our badges. APEC didn’t use “country names” and so China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan could all take part in government to government discussion — representing their “economy”. So the nomenclature was “The People’s Republic of China”, Hong Kong, and “Chinese Taipei”. Which meant APEC became the only intergovernmental forum where all three Chinas would participate together. Yet when the contractor produced the badges, they put in whatever people had sent and didn’t alter to match the economy name — so it listed government affiliations, titles in some cases (like Foreign Affairs), and names like Taiwan. I couldn’t use them. And the database was completely messed up. I ended up getting everything else going which took until about 10:30 at night, and then I started fixing badges and some program docs. Yes, you guessed it, it took all night. But everything was ready to go the next morning. Because on-site, I was ultimately responsible. Did anyone know but me? Nope.
Over the years, I’ve realized that making sure it gets done is not the same as doing it myself. I have a team now, and sometimes that is just setting clear priorities. And then pitching in directly when files might overwhelm our timelines. I don’t want people in the team to be crunched, although from time to time it happens. Partly as some of them, one or two in particular over the years, have had a similar work ethic. They take responsibility and deliver, no matter what. And it’s my job to support them so they don’t kill themselves, but sometimes my job is to let them keep a piece so they own it. I try to also make it that if crap happens, it happens to the team, not just one person.
I’m not entirely how to name this job attribute though. Is it the responsibility I want? Not necessarily. Is it the file ownership? Already covered. Is it the strategic nature of my contribution? Again, already covered. Ultimately, it is more about the characterization of my work, to be needed, to be useful, to know that even if I’m not doing the ultimate final product, and instead I am only working behind the scenes, that I am contributing and to see the connection to the end.
06. Value-added — efficient, responsible attitude, being useful.
It’s not quite the right nuance in wording, but it is all I have at the moment. I suppose another way of looking at it almost like not only am is the job the right fit for me, I like knowing that my approach produces results that lots of other people’s approaches do not create. I’ll come back to this in a later post too.