Self, self self………

Sometimes being selfish is awfully hard.

I enjoy my work, I genuinely love what I do for a living. I am lucky. Mind you, I do it quite well……

During my work I meet a huge variety of people, most of whom I like, all of whom I respect and from all of whom I learn something, usually profound, but even if it is  just how not to do something or how to achieve a serious level of being-annoying-ness it is worth knowing! It is my genuine pleasure and privilege to do what I do with whom I do it.

Sometimes during a project I find I have done as much as I want to do or achieved as much as I wanted to achieve and run out of steam. I plunge all my energy into my projects – that is why they generally succeed. I energise the planning and research, I embrace with enthusiasm the refining of the planning and the partnership working that supports success. I review and refine and refine and review, and I lead a team towards success, making sure that they know they are succeeding. Then, the project is complete. Either because it has concluded and achieved resolution, or the parameters have changed and it is no longer attractive to me.

Not long ago I moved on from a project because it had concluded for me. Lots of reasons, the shape had changed, the direction changed, and someone with whom I could never have shared oxygen for any salary joined the project, and I would have to share oxygen with them if I stayed as I was.  The project was still Live, had legs and was moving onwards. It was me that had concluded, for all of the above reasons.

Like any relationship it took some reflection, pain and work to draw to an end, especially as it was me ending it and I had been invited not to end it. It was, like the end of any relationship, painful to a degree – not devastating, but painful enough to sting. But, like many relationships, enjoying it at the beginning was no guarantee that I would keep enjoying it or that it would continue to be attractive to me. The people I worked with were fascinating.  The work itself was the work that I love:  the planning and actioning and the drive towards excellence and the leading of a team and the thinking and the slowness and the rushing and the remorseless need to respond quickly and the hustling and wheeling and even the dealing. All the component parts were there, and I loved it. And then I didn’t.

Knowing what it is that attracts you to a particular project or job ( or partner…..you can see where I am going with this!) matters, because if you get it right and choose correctly you will be happy. If you are happy you are more likely to succeed, and to form good relationships. Equally important is knowing what repels you, or what the warning signs are when the role begins to lose its lustre.  I have been in some conversations about a role when I have instinctively thought “back away slowly, this one will bite”……..and on analysis it is clear that it was because of the interviewer who, be honest, is the representative of the organisation for whom you may one day work. In one, I sat with my back to a biggish window facing out of the guys office onto the open plan area. Not a good start and either he meant it to be uncomfortable or he was an eejit. He spent the entire time peeping round me at the open plan office area. Eventually I politely asked him if I could help him find who he was looking for so that we could get on with the interview in peace. I did not wait to hear if I had been successful………

In another, I brought along as requested a carefully crafted, well planned and thought through, rehearsed and (I thought) effective presentation only to be told the laptop was not working and cheerfully told not to worry as it didn’t matter anyway……this did not make me feel valued and it certainly did not impress me with the interviewers skills……..I left.

I have also had conversations with people of great charm and courtesy, who enthused me so much I took even more care to make sure I shared with them my achievements and enthusiasm, people who had infectious and bouyant interest in not only their jobs, but mine as well, and were clearly genuinely interested in the people around them. I liked them, and I have worked with most of them. We clicked.

I think what I am driving at is one of my favourite phrases: “Life’s too Short”. I don’t have time to spare to work with eejits and bores who have no prospect of change or any redeeming features. Why would I? I spend a lot of my time and energy at work, with the people with whom I work – if the chemistry isn’t there, what is the point? Eejits and bores can pass the time well enough but don’t ask me to spend my working days with them. I don’t spend my personal time with them either. Life’s too short………and if you have tried hard, reflected and thought it through and there is no realistic prospect of fresh developments or of repairing any bridges, well……………..

BUT,  in any relationship there are subsidiary relationships. I have left behind some dear people about whom I care deeply, and with whom it was a pleasure and a privilege to share space. And this is the point of this post: I had to be selfish and back away from a project that was still in progress, and leave behind some great people, because otherwise I would have been too unhappy to be as effective as I would want, and that would have been toxic for those relationships. Painful as it was I had to walk away from some people with little warning, because of the need to be selfish. And being selfish was very hard.

BUT, I urge you to be selfish. If you want those good relationships to survive, want to keep the sanity of the “family” of people you have had the honour of working with, be selfish. Know yourself, know your warning signs,  understand if the role is worth struggling to revive, and if not do the decent thing and stride off towards a new adventure with those lovely memories intact for everyone. Make sure you do as much as you can to relieve the pain, tie up the ends, tuck in the straggly bits, smooth over the jagged bits, leave a nice smell behind if you can. But make sure you do just that: leave. You and they will be happier – and who knows, perhaps it will prompt some development in someone else as well. And you can be proud of that.

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