Interesting times continue …

Back on December 24th last year, I wrote about how life sometimes doesn’t follow what we planned. You set out a step by step guide to how you think things will go, or how you would like them to go. Then you find that life gets in the way of your plan.

A few weeks ago, I was moved from my dream job as an educator to help out with a management crisis in my workplace. One colleague called it a ‘battlefield promotion’ and while I was initially repulsed by the military connotations applied to a health care environment, I had to admit that was an apt description. After all, plenty of people tell me I’m a good educator but no-one has ever said I’m a good leader or manager, not to me anyway. So why did I get moved from education to management to help deal with a crisis? This might sound like I’m fishing for compliments, but bear with me as I’m not that type of person.

One possibility is that I was the only suitable candidate for the job that didn’t say “No” so the appointment was done out of desperation rather than merit. Another is that my skills and experience are transferable to a senior management role, and I was the most suitable candidate from a pool of qualified people. The final option I can think of is that my employer had to choose between several bad options, and I was the least bad. Let’s look at each option and see what we can learn from them, if anything.

  1. The only one who didn’t run away. This was very likely a real situation, as I’ve been at my workplace long enough to know all the players, so it may well have been a move of desperation. It may not have been despite a lack of merit though, but then again who am I to say that?
  2. I am adaptable and can transfer skills wherever needed. Ego would naturally pick this option, but that doesn’t mean it’s true. After all, I was ‘managed out’ of a management position in the past due to conflict with my senior manager, so maybe I have some serious issues with communication in difficult situations. These days I have a good reputation for being calm under pressure, so maybe that episode is in the past.
  3. I was the least bad option from a selection of bad options. There is probably a good thread of truth in this viewpoint. After all, I was acknowledged by my colleagues and managers for doing valuable work as an educator, and now I’m not doing that, and neither is anyone else at present. That suggests that my employer was “between a rock and a hard place” and had little choice but to call on me to help.

For what it’s worth, my opinion is that it was a combination of all 3 perspectives, as they are all kind of true, but no one perspective seems to fit properly. I was the only suitable candidate who didn’t decline the opportunity, I do have the skills, experience, education and confidence to tackle the job, and I don’t think my boss was any happier than I was for me to leave the education role unfilled behind me.

A few years ago, I deliberately turned my back on a career pathway into senior management and instead focussed on my dream job as a clinical educator and part time academic. That was the plan. However, life has suddenly thrust me back into management and I’m not sure I like it much. That doesn’t mean I won’t do it well, and give 100% to support the team I am responsible for. Even though I didn’t think to become a manager again, I can’t stop trying to be a leader. I would grade myself as an adequate manager but a good leader, and I truly believe that this is a worthwhile combination. After all, if I had to choose to be strong in either management or leadership, I’d pick leadership every time. This is because good leaders care about people while good managers care about results. It’s not that I don’t care about results, it’s just that I believe that you can’t get sustainable good results unless you care for the people who will deliver them.

The end result of all this for me is that I’m stuck with this “battlefield promotion” until we get our workplace back to some semblance of normal, and I can hand over to someone who is passionate about management. Then I’ll happily go back to being an educator, but hopefully I’ll never stop being a leader. Maybe my skills really are transferable after all?

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