Keeping my attention where it needs to be

I had two moments yesterday that gave me pause.  It’s annual report season, and my own self-evaluation for my performance review is in draft form, always open on my laptop. So I’m reflecting on accomplishments and failures, successes and places that need more work, just as a general background state of being.  And then I caught myself staring at a space problem, thinking about solutions and my opinions on them, and later in the day I read an email chain and started to compose a reply.  And in both cases I stopped myself. I walked out of the shelving area and closed the email, unwritten.

I didn’t stop myself because I thought my ideas were bad or wouldn’t be a strong contribution to finding a solution to the issue.  I stopped myself because it’s not my job, and I’m not needed there.

As I write my self evaluation, I remember the conversations I had with my supervisor (the Provost) when I wrote the original Performance Plan that I am evaluating now.  We talked about a lot of things, but I remember very clearly our agreement on the the notion that my job is now less an exercise in Doing Things and more an exercise in Helping Other People Do Their Things, and knowing that their successes are my successes.  The Dean Dad elaborates on this particularly well:  “The contribution I can make from my office — and for the record, there is one — is in setting the processes, background conditions, and climate in which people can do their best work without getting embroiled in unproductive conflict or drama.”  That.  I do a lot of that.

And yesterday I stopped myself from stepping into conversations I didn’t need to be a part of because I had already done the That above.  The libraries are functioning well, the processes, background conditions, and climate are in place to ensure that the creative, dedicated and effective staff of the College Libraries can solve these two problems on their own.  They don’t need me.

More than that, I am more and more aware that if I stepped in to the discussions, my opinions or contributions would be heard and interpreted inside a framework of What The Director Says, laden with the implicit and sometimes explicit authority of my position.  Even if I intended it to be just Jenica speaking from her experience as a shelving manager 10 years ago, or as a collection development wonk, it’s What The Director Says, now.  And I need to be careful and sparing in leveraging that authority.

All of which boils down to this: It’s not my job to Do Things like those anymore.  My job is to make sure that everyone else can Do Their Things.  And sometimes that means getting out of the way, and keeping my mouth shut.

3 thoughts on “Keeping my attention where it needs to be

  1. Genesis Hansen

    Brava! Excellent insight! This has been one of my greatest struggles since moving into management – knowing when NOT to get involved. It’s most difficult when the Things To Do are things I LIKE to do, but even when the tasks are less pleasant it’s still my impulse to involve myself. This is a good reminder…

  2. Romeyn Prescott

    When I read something like this, I am reminded of a plaque I once saw on a school principal’s desk: “A good manager has only two things on his desk: his feet.”

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