Stepping down...

Stepping Down

This post was originally going to be posted once the formal announcement of the change it describes was announced at work. Having been laid off mid-month, that announcement will never come, but I consider the concepts to be important enough to post anyway.

I resigned from my managerial role today.

Actually, it is more accurate to say that at the beginning of this month, I gave notice that I would be stepping down from my managerial role by month’s end. Today, that resignation simply became official. [Edit: Plus or minus a little…]

The fact of the matter is that I’m not especially well disposed to being a ‘manager’, at least in the fashion my job required. I have a particular set of skills1, and I took on management of my team because I saw an opportunity where my specific skill-set could be beneficial for my company, for my team, and for me.

In taking authority over my team, I was able to work with everyone individually to ensure that they were happy, productive, and capable of doing their best work. It was my responsibility to build a safe space, and I had the authority to do it. Our team flourished, and as a result our projects flourished.

In taking authority over our projects, I was able to mentor teams to listen actively to our customers, to learn to be consultants, and to deliver accurate, quality solutions rather than to hastily respond to customer queries. It was a delight watching my team improve while seeing how strong the client reaction became; to the extent that they would lament the loss of our leadership when we were done with their projects. My crowning achievement is in coaching our teams to make our customers miss us.

In taking authority over our process, I was able to help our offering improve and grow. Migrating us from waterfall toward Scrum was an exercise in steady, measurable, reliable progress. After the initial changes, the time I spent coaching dozens of teams to work cooperatively to deliver better was transformative—I can only hope as much for them as it was for me.

Following our company’s acquisition, my role shifted—subtly at first, but with each passing month it changed with increasing rapidity. Gradually, the skills that I excelled in bringing to bear became less important than my ability to deliver bad news and shuffle paper. I became, in a very real and very unfortunate sense of the term, a middle manager.

Years ago, I swore off from management because I refused to be one of those do-nothing, useless appendages whose sole addition to the organization was a layer of bureaucracy. I naively thought that was what management was. In the years since, I’ve had better leaders than that, and I’d like to say that I’ve become a better leader than that. Once I recognized that my role was no longer that of leader—that I was a mere manager—the right thing for me to do became obvious. I stepped down.

Does this mean that I won’t take on a leadership role in the future? Absolutely not! The past couple of years have been among the most rewarding and enjoyable of my career. This has simply cast into sharp relief the attributes of the role that would allow me to be successful. Given the right role with the right organization, I would be delighted to manage another team.

No, this means the opposite of that: I look forward to taking all that I’ve learned during the time that I was allowed to be a leader to my next opportunity to help a team grow. I learned a great deal in the last few years, both good and bad. All of this has contributed to the leader I wish to become.

This was yet another step along the way…


1 I can no longer hear/see/type that phrase without hearing it in Liam Neeson’s voice