Managing Expectations

by on Sep.08, 2010, under career

After nearly four years at my current job working for ‘the man’ and over a year acting as the lead dog in my team, I’ve been officially promoted to management … though of a different team than I had recently been leading.  I’m very happy with the transition, I agree with the changes that were made, and I feel that I will rise to the challenge.  But it is impossible to avoid having some level of trepidation when taking on a new role.

I’m a tech geek.  And every job I’ve had has required me to be a creative problem-solver.  In many of them I’ve been an army of one, so while I often became accustomed to being the go-to guy, the things that I flubbed on or that slipped through the cracks often were glaringly obvious and sometimes led to breaking points (usually by my choosing, but not always).  I’ve never had a job where I could blend in.  And even if I did, I don’t know that I could.  In even the more recent roles where I have had a team, I’ve managed to stand out (in a good way, of course).  But this shift has come with some hesitancy – some of which came from me.

You see, in my last job I had become a rock star in my role.  So the powers that be felt I could easily rise to the challenge of managing something bigger.  And not knowing fully what I’d be getting myself into I leaped forward with confidence and optimism.  Unfortunately, my new role was equal parts avoiding doing the things I used to do so well and being a scapegoat for anything that didn’t go well as a result.  It wasn’t a good experience.  I was fortunate enough not to get canned and ended up stepping back to my previous role after a lack-luster 90-day run as a Project Manager (they realized that the title of Scapegoat would generally be unappealing to most comers).  But as they say, with some things there is no going back – while I certainly climbed back up to rock-star performance levels and was greatly appreciated by most, some members of management didn’t know how to drop a grudge.  So I looked for my next opportunity.

Luckily that next opportunity was where I am today and my only regret is that I hadn’t discovered this company sooner.  And after I got through that initial ‘learning the ropes’ phase, I quickly attained rock-star status once again.  But any time that management came up as a career path, I gave it pause.  This job was too good and too important for me to fail again as I had before.  And the last thing I wanted was to shift to a role where I didn’t get to do the trench-work that I so enjoy (seriously!).

But this shift now is different, and it’s better.  First, I’ve had a good stretch of time to adjust to being able to delegate to and manage other resources as a team.  And as such I’ve stretched my own skill-set to be able to think as a member and leader of a team rather than a single point of service.  So now as I make this transition, I know what I’m getting into, I know what is expected of me, and I know that I can rise to the challenges I’ll face in this role – most importantly I know the team that I’m leading and I know that they won’t let me down in this transition either.  Plus I know that even with this change, I will still be allowed and even expected to ford some trenches of my own.

Am I excited?  Yes.  Am I nervous?  Definitely.  Am I worried that I’ll go down in flames?  Not in the least.  I know where I stand, I know what is in store for me, and I know that I’m not walking this new path alone.  What will I do when shit starts hitting the fan?  I’ll manage.  I am now, in fact, ‘the man’ (well, one of them at least).

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