Letting Go

This will be a slightly longer, work-related post dealing with some frustrations I have and learning to move forward. Just giving fair warning to any who dare venture forward. 🙂

Two months ago, I embarked on a new journey; one that took me from my previous job as a Team Leader to a newly created role that we’ve now called Project Specialist.  I had been in my previous position for more than five years, having achieved quite a bit.  Over the course of my five years leading my teams, we had seen growth, progress, added efficiencies and a better flow of communication.  While things were far from perfect, I think it is a fair assessment to say that we were much better off than when I had moved into the role.

As with any good leader, you are always looking for ways to improve your team, to become more efficient and to help build people’s capacities and skills.  For years I had been churning things around in my mind, trying to find some way of restructuring our ways of working and bringing added value to our organization.  A few of my ideas (at least I thought) had some promise.  They were sound in approach and would have brought a new measure of accountability and quality to the work being done.  They would have required some work along with a change of mentality from the operational areas that we serviced.  It would be a challenge, but I was convinced my ideas would help advance the quality of the work being provided to our clients.

Of course, there were roadblocks; not the least of which was the corporate structure in place.  When discussing with my manager, she fully supported my proposals and brought them forward to our director.  This is where things appeared to break down.  Never being part of the discussions themselves, I never truly knew where the breakdown was occurring. Was my manager not selling the proposal to her peers and the director?  Was the director on board but his superiors shutting him down?  Did we simply not have enough money or resources to do what I wanted?  I don’t know.  But for the last few years in my role as Team Leader, I was continually frustrated by my inability to move this forward. 

As a means of trying to advance with baby steps, we started to introduce small aspects of my overarching plan into our routine.  But without making changes to our processes or structure, we weren’t able to do much.  The regular workloads were too much; I just couldn’t pile more on top.  So we built a concept.  We did little forays into the direction we wanted to go, but it was never sustainable.

In the intervening months, we had a change of leadership.  Our former director left the organization and a new face was seated in the driver’s seat.  Since that time, there seems to be much more openness to moving things forward.  We are seeing things progress and change more rapidly than we have in the past.  Then, I had an opportunity to move into a new role.  I took my chances and left my old world of leadership behind.

In the two months since I’ve left my role, many of the things that I’d been pushing and fighting for have suddenly started happening.  First, my old portfolio was split into two.  Rather than have one person have 20-some professional-level people reporting to them (comprising of 6 or 7 different functions), the team would now be split among two team leaders.  One leader would focus on Quality Assurance; the other would focus on Training.  This, in and of itself, would have made my life much easier.  I continually felt divided between the two main pieces of my team.  To use the metaphor my manager liked to use, I had a box with many hats at my desk and I kept having to switch them back and forth.  I had never had a chance to fully delve into either side of my team.  It almost felt like a knife being driven into my gut.

Then came more news. Not only would they be splitting up my old team, but they’re going to be recruiting more resources for both.  I’d been arguing that I needed more people to properly do what we were tasked with doing.  Again, for whatever reasons, it was a challenge to have happen during my time.  No sooner had I given my notice, things began to move forward.  The knife kept twisting.

This past week, I had that knife continue to twist deeper and deeper.  The realization came that things were “broken”, for lack of a better word, with one of our QA systems.  The only way to truly correct it once and for all would be to rebuild the entire process from the ground up.  And that couldn’t be done in the middle of everything else, so the decision was made to essentially cease work for the next 6 weeks and redesign the entire QA process. 

I would have LOVED to have the opportunity to do this. But the idea of shutting down the bulk of the QA operations wasn’t even one that would have been considered in my day. (Look at me – I’m already turning into that old, jaded guy. “Back in my day we didn’t have this or that.” ) To quote the famous Disney song:

Elsa singing Let It Go

While chatting with one of the new leaders who’s replaced me this week, I mentioned how jealous I was of them. Not only did they now have more resources allocated to their teams, but they’ve both gotten smaller portfolios so they can properly focus on building and developing their areas.

When we turned to the subject of the QA revamp, I mentioned what I had proposed a couple of years ago as a new way of approaching the work. The idea resonated with her and I could see the wheels turning in her mind. I would not be overly surprised if I hear that this is being considered as a way forward.

On the one hand, it is incredibly frustrating to be standing on the sidelines seeing all of the things you’ve been fighting so hard for suddenly coming to fruition. All the while knowing that you’re merely a bystander and have no role in the matter. On the other hand, it is gratifying to see that all of the ideas you had truly were worthwhile, even if you felt like they weren’t due to your inability to move them forward for years.

I suppose I need to approach this situation the way a parent would with a child. You spend years grooming them, developing them and guiding them along. You always want the best for them. You continue to try to direct things so that they are heading in the optimal direction for success. But there reaches a time where you, as a parent, become nothing more than an innocent bystander watching as your child starts living their own life. All you can do is hope that what you’ve instilled in them will carry them forward and help them to be successful.

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