My First Eureka Moment

One of the first thing I was lucky to get was a professional coach to help me through my journey into the leadership role. At this point, he already have my personality assessment results as well as feedback that he has gathered from my peers and managers. In one of the assessment, it is clear that I have very little clarity in my life and in my work. He was going through the assessment results with me and asked if I had any thing to question to bring to the discussion. I then start to put forward some of my concerns with the new job. I brought up issues like struggles working with stakeholder and issues I think my team is facing where I would need some help. As he asks more clarifying question, I think he can sense that my thoughts are everywhere and there’s no specific anchor to how I am doing things in the new role.

Think for a moment the situation that I have put myself in. Someone that I have only met for the second time, told me that I don’t have clarity in my thoughts. I was taken aback since really this is an assault to everything that I know. After all the preparations for this job, all the readings that I’ve done, this is someone telling me that I don’t know what I am doing. The defensive mode did come out, asking myself if he really know what I have done in the past and what I have gone through to get here. It is hard to accept. It’s a big blow to the ego.

I took some time to clear my head and decided that no harm trying what was prescribed.

So his homework for me till we meet the next time is to seek clarity by asking the following questions to the managers up my chain and also other people that I engage.

  1. What is your expectations for myself and my team
  2. How can we support you better

I was skeptical that I will get some results from this activities. But i followed the steps asking these are 2 simple question to the management chain an my stakeholders. I find that for some people, one meeting is not enough as I have to pry more information.

As expected, my manager that I am reporting to gave me a list of his expectations. I treasure what he has written so much that I printed the email, stuck it in my cube and look at it every day. One thing that worked for me is that most of the people that I spoke to really wanted to help so they did provide great insights into what is expected of my team and where they think we can be successful.

The feedback was overwhelming and another assault to the ego. This is when I realised there’s a lot that I need to catch up, a lot that I don’t know. Once I put all the feedback together, there are some trends that I can deduce from the list. Can clearly see what’s the most important things for me to work on.

Seek Clarity

Where did I start this journey?

I count my self lucky that I have a very supportive manager throughout my career, especially in the past few years. My manager did give me assignments, support and the psychological safety for me to take on challenging roles. I have been known to take on programs that relate to non-traditional technologies. My first prime time software project management role was to plan for a SOC with cellular technology for the embedded systems market. Basically saying that we take a cellphone chip and make it work for kiosk, handheld controllers, etc. Prior to taking up the current management role, I was the software project manager for the next generation vision processing unit, a technology that was brought in through acquisition. I am new to the technology, the team that I need to work with are new to the company’s culture and processes.

In a way, I thought I had been prepared for the new role as a “leader of leaders”. My manager has publicly announced to the team as well as to the higher management team that I will be his successor should any changes happen in the future. I heard this from him for at least 3 years before I took over the role, therefore I am clear on the path set forward for me. The good thing about being identified as a successor is that the company provides some management training that I can attend. This is so that I get some knowledge before actually taking over the job. Most of the training provided are on the standard process, methodology and management culture in the company. Basically knowledge to do the basic job as a manager.

At the same time, my manager also brought me along to events like offsite discussion, management forums. This exposed me to other leaders in the organisation, so that it’s easier to get help and talk to management.

With all this, I thought I was set.

I was wrong and I realised that I really don’t know what I am doing after taking the helm for the first few weeks.

I feel like a “Post Turtle”, the story goes like this

An old rancher is talking about politics with a young man from the city. He compares a politician to a “post turtle.” The young man doesn’t understand and asks him what a post turtle is. The old man says, “When you’re driving down a country road and you see a fence post with a turtle balanced on top, that’s a post turtle. You know he didn’t get up there by himself. He doesn’t belong there; you wonder who put him there; he can’t get anything done while he’s up there; and you just want to help the poor, dumb thing down.”

I could go around reading books after books, watching videos after videos, I realised there’s a lot to learn in a short time. I am already on the rocket heading to the moon and I better know what to do. This was about a month after I took over, the organisation was trying out a new program where they hired an external professional 1-1 coach for the senior manager. Due to the cost, there’s limited seats for this program but one of the managers that has been identified to sign up to this program has turned down the offer. So happen another manager told me about it and I quickly made a deal to take his place in the program.

We had to take some personality assessment, the coaches will look through our report and try to personalize my approach to management. I was asked to provide names of managers and peers who could give feedback for me. They feedback he obtain is checked against the assessment and tells him more about me. Herein lies my first breakthrough!. The coach went straight to tackling the main problem that I have, and also provided general insights into what others in the industry is doing. Gives perspective and widens the mindset.

GET A COACH!

I was told, and passing the message along, that not everyone who is reaching out to help is sincere about it. Some people will turn on you to using the information that you give them. Having an external coach helps in the sense that they come from outside the organisation, therefore impartial (it could also be said that they would not understand the context of the organisation, therefore would only give general advice). Since they are paid, the external consultant do have my success as their priority.

2020 – The Career Turning Point.

Today is May 1st 2020.

For posterity sake, the family have been locked down at home since April 18th due to COVID-19 pandemic. Malaysia Government implemented Movement Control Order, allowing general public to only go out to get essential supplies. Schools are closed, wife and I have been working from home. Today, the Prime Minister, Muhyiddin Yassin has announced that most businesses can start to operate from 4th May. We can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Continue reading “2020 – The Career Turning Point.”