What I learned from my previous jobs – Part 16
This last post is a bit challenging to write as it is about my current job. And I don’t really have any distance or perspective from it yet, because I’m still doing it. But I’ll give it a go.
v. Manager, Planning and Accountability — One thing that frequently bugged me over the first six years was that we were fairly siloed in our division. There was a planning team, a reporting team, and my performance measurement team, but I really wanted them to mesh better together. We did what we could, but we were three separate teams with three separate managers. Sure, we reported to the same director, but we didn’t seem to be making much headway.
We merged with another division — horizontal policy — and another manager eventually left. We had no one to take those files, and I mentioned to the director in passing that if the planning manager wanted to shift things around, I was completely willing. I wanted to switch off the performance management file and on to the planning file, and I was either willing to shift completely or take it with me. I had zero interest though in the horizontal files. Been there, done that.
The other manager was interested in a change too, apparently, and she shifted to the horizontal policy team, freeing me to become manager for planning and performance measurement. The Director moved on, and I got to act for a while. But when that ended, there was a question…did we need a director? Was it a full EX level position?
With planning and horizontal policy, yes. With just planning, no. And so they moved horizontal policy to another team in the Directorate and I became the team lead for planning, performance measurement and reporting. Over time, the manager for reporting wanted off the reporting files, so they stayed with the larger team reporting to me and she became more of a special advisor. A full team handling all three aspects.
My DG liked it. The team seemed to like it. Me? I loved it.
I could not only see some synergies, but there was also no structural barrier to stop a link from happening. It just happened. And over the last three years, we — my team and I — have managed to make all the little parts work well together.
Almost too well for me, in fact. There isn’t much new each year, just the ongoing cycle. The big projects that I did in the first six years in the division have not re-occurred, I’ve more or less been doing the same job. Which isn’t a bad thing, it’s a great job. Lots of autonomy. I’ve had good bosses. I’ve established good rapport with the DGs around the branch. I get along with the ADM. I’m kind of left to my own devices on most of my files. The team is good. And there aren’t any painful ugly files causing headaches too often. Routine ones, sure, but we usually have a way of handling them. Plus we all have a high tolerance for administrative planning files that would drive other people insane.
Yet three years ago I was going to leave. But then I got to take over the whole team, and I stayed. Two years ago I was going to leave, but I really liked working with my boss, Michel. A year ago I was going to leave, but well, what was the rush? And there was a slim chance I could take over another job in the area that I wanted if the person moved on. A potential dream job for me. As it turned out, it went to someone else. Hard to complain when you would have made the same choice if you were the manager.
But, as I said, there are no big new files at play. Last fall, I was updating my resume for a competition and I was shocked. I looked at my resume and while I could have spun lots of different things, and would do so in an interview, the reality is that the standard description was completely accurate. I only had to add six words.
If you have read any of the previous posts, you know that my jobs were always changing, even when I wasn’t changing jobs. Lots to talk about, lots to update every year if need be. But here I was updating, and it hadn’t changed in two years.
Gobsmacked, I was.
And so I started planning my exit. I needed to renew my French, and that has been beyond painful to get the training or even a test date now.
I’ve had to manage reaching out to people vs. my french renewal vs. also agreeing to do overlap for a month with whoever replaces me.
But it will happen.
And I have to ask myself what I have learned or enjoyed in the last three years.
On the substantive front, we’ve made progress on all of the parts in the planning cycle, and I like the way the team runs. We’ve added the finance function this past year, and that has been interesting to manage with the other manager. Deliverology has been crisscrossing our files, and while it could have had the potential to be big, it didn’t strike me as the best file for my team to invest in for the year. Too much policy spin, not enough performance measurement.
On the professional front, I guess the last three years has been about becoming a full manager. Embracing it from top to bottom. I’ve been a manager for 12 years now, but up until three years ago, it was always very small teams when I did it for any duration. One, two, three or four employees. I’m up to 8 now, 9 including me I suppose, and I’ve had to deal with the full gamut of management issues including performance. Plus, as painful as it was for the employee, I also was exposed to the intricacies of extended sick leave of an employee. I’ve gained insights into the way it works, and the way it doesn’t work. My former boss was a mentor in that regard, and I learned a lot from him just in how to approach the file. Which mostly means being human, not a formal automaton sending form letters that do more harm than good. It’s tricky to navigate the role between manager, mentor, friend, advisor, etc. and over the course of the last three years, or even the last nine, with all the employees in my roster, I’ve had a decent exposure to a large panoply of management issues.
Does that mean leading the division made me an EX? No. And that is because the job isn’t really an EX-level job. I wouldn’t disagree that it is more than an EC-07, more like EC-08, if those still existed (they don’t, not really, we’ve eliminated them). An EX level job is usually defined by the level of complexity, visibility of files, size of the budget, and the number of reports. I only have 8 staff. That puts it on the low end for a Director in my view, at least not without something else to bump it up. My budget for my division is non-existent. Sure, I manage the branch budget, and that is a significant development. But not quite full Director-level work since we aren’t a full BMS, more BMS-lite. If we had more staff, more responsibilities in there, probably yes. I’m extremely visible — but only within the branch. My files rarely extend across the department except as inputs to other processes. I do deal with people, but just functionally. And the files aren’t that complex. They have their moments, sure, but not like a tricky policy file with lots of budget or people and regular dealing with the Minister. It could take on some other roles, and it would jump back up, but in my view, it is not an EX job. And while it might have prepared me for an EX job, I am not yet an EX. Nor do I have a burning desire to move up. I’m only looking for lateral moves right now.
On the personal front, I really like my team. Each one is different, and it is going to be hard to transition out. I have been in government for almost 21 years and nine of them in this division. Three of the employees that were there when I started are still there, and that is a pretty long time to work together as friends and colleagues.
It is one of the reasons I’ve stayed so long. I like the people I work with, I enjoy the files, and I’ve had a good set of bosses. I can’t help but feel like leaving is one of the stupidest things I have ever done in my life. Who gives up a great job without even knowing what they are moving on to do?
Me, apparently. The job search is in full swing. So the real question remains…what am I looking for next?