Thursday, April 26, 2007

Hard at Work

It's almost 6 months since I was seconded to my new (current) post as Project Manager. The change of role was hard in moving away from the team that I had worked hard to pull together, and also provided a steep learning curve as it was a very different role.

The last couple of months there has been a major restructure going on at work - an occupational hazard of working in local government I now realise. Because my current secondment is the result of a domino effect of people moving around and acting up to cover vacancies, some of which may have been filled in the reshuffled and some deleted, it was not very clear how secure my post might be. Several of the projects I was working on had reached 'sticky' bits - which needed some complex problem solving with specialist knowledge, or a few risks to be taken, or close working with people who were quite resistant to the project - and with my feeling of 'newness' I didn't feel very confident about my skills in tackling them which dented my confidence overall. Given that during the same period Paul was having his work contract terminated, and my main post is only a jobshare, none of this helped me feel particularly secure at work.

The last couple of weeks have been really hard. There is still no clear news about the security of my post. Unconsciously, I had taken my 'eye off the ball' on a few projects, and suddenly there is a backlog of work - people demanding answers and progress, and I haven't even written up the minutes of the last meeting let alone acted on most of them! Several of the risk issues came to a head, and I could only really wait with sweaty palms to see if they turned out OK. I still have so much to learn, but people cut me less slack now because, after all, I have been in post since before Christmas. And on top of it all, I finally have an (long awaited) assistant who will take a lot of the pressure off my workload but, of course, at the start I need to invest time and energy in skilling her up on her role and the projects we are working on and I had precious little of either of those things!

This week though I turned a corner. I realised that I can't just put things on hold whilst I wait to find out about my post. After all, it's been 7 weeks now. (I knew this, I'd advised other people to do this early on, I just had failed to act on it myself). The only solution is to take a pragmatic approach of getting on with it until someone tells me any different. Getting on with things I had been putting off, and feeling that I am starting to catchup with myself, and suddenly the workload is still hard and heavy, but maybe it might become manageable. I realised that the tasks which felt like they were taking all my time, in fact needed very little time. I actually needed to do very little work, but was expending enormous amounts of mental energy being anxious about doing them. Hardly a productive use of time! I spoke with my supervisor (and mentor). She pointed out that I had skills and knowledge; that I was capable of doing the job. She told me that it is a difficult job; the things I struggle with, I struggle with because they are difficult. The bit that I am not getting right is around having enough confidence. Which leads to a paradox for me. My confidence comes from getting things (at least approximately) right, from feeling capable in a task. So, I need to feel I am doing better at work, to increase my confidence. But, now I've been told, increasing my confidence is the way to get better at what I am doing. Hmm.

But the only real way though this is just to get on with it. So I'm going to. It's a relatively small decision, so how surprising that my shoulders feel so much lighter now that I have made it!

1 comment:

Patrick said...

If it helps I have had a very similar experience with work recently. Because I contract the level of work can be sporadic but I suddenly had my 2 largest client contracts come up for renewal simultaneously and I struggled to deal with either because I tried to do them both at once. I was an idiot because I should have just done one and then the other, but when you are overwhelmed it can be difficult to see a clear path.
I hope everything settles down for you now and yes you do have the skills and ability to do the job otherwise they wouldn't have appointed you!
Patrick x