Putting them away

My team and I got to explore the joys

of chaos in action this week. On one side we had a brand new system

slowly spinning apart. On another, a project suffering from one of

those cursed implementations we all like to talk about over beer as

the “worst installation I ever worked on”. Meanwhile several

other problems dogged our heels until we finally got rid of them.

All in all, a normal week at the office.

Of interest to me, though, was my own

reaction to the whole mess. My thoughts always turn inward in times

of stress; I learned a long time ago that I cannot control others

actions or reactions, only my own. It's wisdom of a sort, though not

always terribly useful.

The question of where to put my focus

dominated the first part of every day. What, exactly, did I need to

focus on to produce the right tactical outcome? Which of the many

things spinning out of control did I want to get hold of first, which

could wait, and which would just have to go on without me? How would

I choose and what measures would I use to determine when I needed to


This was, I'll admit, a fairly

cold-blooded way to go about it. Getting flustered, though it would

convince some of my erstwhile allies of my sincerity, wouldn't

accomplish everything that needed done. Additionally I have a highly

trained resistance to wasteful motion. I'd rather wait, watch, and

then take the shortest path to where I want to go rather than be seen

to move, especially to little purpose.

Anyway, I decided to sacrifice some

tactical outcomes for purely strategic goals. A less airy way of

saying that reads as I divided the work among my team members, worked

with them to keep them focused and get them resources or answers, and

kept my fumbling hands to myself. That last bit took a good deal of

self control; it was tempting to jump in and try to help even when I

had no clue what needed to be done.

This approach meant some things didn't

happen on time. Other times, I wasn't involved with on-the-spot

decisions that I wanted to have a say in. Heck, a few things fell

though the cracks and I may have accidentally thrown someone I

respect under a bus. If I did, I'll have to go beg forgiveness next


You know what though? The things that

got done late were done very well; the issues with their completion

were logistical rather than technical. That means they land squarely

back on my plate. The team member who made the decision made it

EXACTLY as I would have, for the same reasons, and using the same

principles of engagement. In other words, I succeeded as a leader

even if my personal desire for control nibbled away at my heart.

And those things falling though the

cracks? They are, uniformly, things I've kept on my own plate for

too long. Things where I wanted to prove my use and worth by helping

the process along. Things I assessed and planned but failed to pass

on to my team for review and implementation. In other words, things

I tried to individually contribute rather than create though a team.

I know better. In many cases the key

to successful leadership lies in letting go. Grandstands and heroic

actions mean less than creating a balanced environment for the team

to thrive. But, darn it, I'm like almost everyone else. I entered

leadership by proving how much I could accomplish on my own. Letting

go of things, even when its time, hurts more than I want to admit


So, here I sit, with a plate full of

slightly spoiled process pieces. Do I let them go? Clean them up?

Just kind of spruce them up a bit and serve them for lunch next week?

I'll have to figure out what to do

later. For now, I'm tired but reasonably satisfied. The team did

well. Individually they acted with integrity and wisdom. As a group

we accomplished, if not everything we wanted to accomplish, then what

was needful given the tactical circumstances we encountered.

My own reaction to all of these

circumstances continues to amuse me. You see, I'm still. At the end

of every day I feel tired but quiet.

This week the chaos didn't touch me; we'll have to see how that goes next week.

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