Take the Good With the Bad, and the Worse

Given the Community Learning Center's opening day deadline - next Monday the 9th - I did not have the typical Christmas and New Year's break most people enjoy. Therefore, I have not begun 2006 feeling very rested. A lot of the time since the open house event has comprised follow-up to ensure kids will remember to show up here after school, that parents will remember to pick them up, and designing the curriculum's flow. We have kids of varying ages, so we are trying to group them and move them among two or three classrooms each day depending on their workload and the availability of the teachers.

Another important aspect has been designing the vision of day-to-day operations with the educators I have hired. This has been one of the most fun parts of this experience. I am a devotee of the FranklinCovey method of identifying vision, values, and mission on a personal level. To have the chance to walk a group through the exercise and determine these things for us as a team has been incredibly rewarding. I believe if all team members have input, they will have a personal stake in the outcome and be that much more dedicated to it. They own a piece of the bigger picture. By contrast, my old company handed us small plastic cards containing its guiding principles. They were not objectionable, but they meant nothing to me because I had not stake in them. They were someone else's.

That puts two pieces on the board in terms of what I am looking for in a new career: working on problems whose solution serves a greater need, and organizing, or leading, teams. especially if part of my job is to put them in positions that are the best use of their natural talents.

In addition, this experience is giving me a crash course in what it means to suffer under a tyrannical micromanager. The Executive Director and I do not always see eye-to-eye. In fact, when I interviewed, I sensed she was not completely sold on hiring me. I thought it might be due to a dearth of applicants until I began meeting the organization's wider network. They have plenty of people to contact. It was not until a board member explained a few things to me last month that things began to make more sense.

Our Executive Director had been recently promoted to replace the Director before her. This community center was her baby, but she cannot do both jobs. Something had to give. Anyone taking over would never measure up, especially an outsider like me. Further, our styles are very different, which only exacerbates a sense of doing things incorrectly, which leads to more micromanagement and tense work environments. Despite the successful turn out and results of last month's open house, to include congratulatory messages from board members, she harps on the gaffes and mishaps.

I can brush it off about 90 percent of the time. The other 10 percent is head butting. Her response to any push back is yelling. When the person does not back down, her response is simply to yell louder. It is not pleasant. My co-workers assure me it is just how she is and it blows over. Everyone simply deals with it. Fair enough. At the very least, I have the polar opposite of the supervisors and managers at my old job, bookends against which to measure any future managers. It is all a good lesson to keep in my back pocket for my own conduct as a team leader: what to do, and more importantly, what not to do.