A Year in Rear View

December 11, 2015 by

“For last year’s words belong to last year’s language and next year’s words await another voice.” – T.S. Eliot, Four Quartets

A year ago I was a few months into this assignment, still drinking from the fire hose. A year later, the fire hose is more often a garden hose. Every new assignment is like a gift – new colleagues, new experiences, new learning. The trick is to see the experiences as gifts, even if they don’t quite look it upon first glance.

  1. Don’t assume anything. Even the most standard practices, like Incident Management, vary wildly in interpretation and implementation. Don’t check the box upon hearing “oh, yes, we have that here.” Also don’t assume your way is the right way. Every organization is different – variation in approach has its reasons; find them out as part of analyzing what needs to change. The gift: Variation in approach means a new experience.
  2. Talk to everybody, not just your immediate colleagues. The cashier at the coffee shop. The student in the elevator. The faculty member in the writing department. Take people to coffee, to lunch, for drinks. Be the elephant’s child – ” ‘satiably curious” at all times. The gift: Spending time with people who are different than you, because you might be wrong – and their insight can help make it right.
  3. Keep calm and carry on. The now-ubiquitous phrase was developed in 1939 by the British government, to calm the public facing massive air attacks. It’s a good mantra in the face of the inevitable crisis or irate stakeholder. The gift: Assume good intent. You’ll live longer.
  4. Expand your network. The best part of a new assignment is the new people you get to meet. I’ve enjoyed connecting former colleagues with new ones. Be the social you want to see in the world! The gift: Well, for extroverts like me, every new introduction is a welcome gift. For introverts, pushing yourself to grow your circle.
  5. Find a “kitchen cabinet.” You will of course be involved in formal groups – steering committees, board meetings and the like. However, find a group of informal, trusted people who really know the place and can give you the twin gifts of candid advice and constructive criticism. The gift: Informal mentoring.

As the year wanes, find time to reflect on 2015 – the good, the bad, the snafu. Another 365 days are upon us.

“Make your mistakes, next year and forever.” – Neil Gaiman

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