Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Like a ferret on caffine...

There are times being passionate about your work can be both a blessing and a curse. Having others want you to be a part of their projects is the blessing. Having the patience to wait for them to decide they need you and your ideas is the curse. And this curse can cause great consternation for everyone including me.

I have a tendency to rapidly connect the dots when analyzing problems and mentally half way through the project before many are even aware of what the problem is (the blessing). This does not in any way mean that my solution is the only solution or even that it is the best, it just means that I have one and therefore I need to share it or I might explode (the curse). The internal battle that wages within me is how to control this desire to be first with the breakthrough, first to the table, and then have to spend the balance of the time explaining and convincing why the idea was valid in the first place.

This is not to say I am not a team player (sorry for the double negative). On the contrary, I enjoy sharing the expertise of others inside and outside of my field. Where I experience difficulty is in not steam rolling the direction of a project just because my ideas jelled more quickly.

My boss calls it being "like a ferret on [caffeine]" (actually, she uses the work crack, but given its connotations, I decided to change it for this entry). She watches me with curiosity these days to see when I go into ferret mode. Fortunately, with her help, the ferret is becoming more manageable. It's amazing what you can learn even as old as I am.

So what am I learning? Well today was a perfect example. We were outlining initiatives for 2012 we want to act on to improve our learning deployment. Everyone on the call had items to contribute including me. As each person went through their lists, I could feel the passion rising, the need to put mine out there, all of them, and quickly. This morning, however, I elected to be patient. And, not only patient, I also decided to contribute but not dominate the process. This of course meant holding a few ideas back for another time or even better, for another person on the team to be able to contribute.

This was a major step for me. To put a few and not all on the table and then sit back to see what else might come. And come they did. And from their ideas I could add to them without owning them myself. And, after so many years, I was liberated in the knowledge that I would benefit from being patient and sharing the ideas of others.

This is especially important as my role is changing to be more and more strategic in nature. Transitioning from a historically tactical position to strategic means looking at the larger picture without being trapped by the nuances of the solution of "how" it will get done before painting the vision of "what" and "why" it is at all. This new found behavior of patience is critical to my success. Fortunately I have a mentor willing to help me recognize my flaws and develop the skills to manage my passion without losing it in the process.

- Ken

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