Boss by Day, Student by Night

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As you probably know, I lead a team of 18 scientists in my day job.  As the boss, I’m frequently expected to have all the answers.  Of course, I work in a large corporation and as a first level supervisor, I’m really just one link up on a massive food chain so there are many times that I really don’t know the answer.  There are many days when I’m not sure anyone really knows the answer.  It fits with my personality style which is much more go with the flow and adapt as needed but it doesn’t suit the real planners in my group.

At night, I’m the struggling ballroom dancer full of dreams and doubts and punishing myself for my mistakes.  I guess all the confidence I project at work is left at the office and I come face to face with all my insecurities and, many times, they get the best of me.

And then there are times when I’m the one pushing someone out of their comfort zone.  When I’m the one who sees potential in someone that they don’t see in them self.  That I get to deal with their fear and their doubt and their insecurity.  And I have to be the one that tells them they can do this and help them through it.

The irony of this is not lost on me.  I think there is some karmatic force at work here (no, karmatic isn’t a word but it just sounded good, work with me here) so that work situations seem to come up that flip me from student to teacher.  In a story, I’d take these opportunities and get some grand learning out of them and it would be a catalyst for me to face down my own fears and become that champion dancer.  Of course, we live in the real world so I usually just get a kick out of the irony and you sometimes get a blog post about it.

This is about my one special project where I’ve got a lady who seems to have suffered a set back in her own confidence.  I don’t know where it came from but I’ve decided to help her get it back because I’ve seen her do great things and so I know she’s capable.  Plus, I’m not getting any younger and one duty of a boss is to prepare people to take over when needed.  Spreading my knowledge and expertise and helping other people that I’m not the face of a particular part of my group is a good thing.

And part of being the face of a group is making presentations which is not fun and can be especially scary when you are an introvert and really scary when you are an introvert with confidence issues.  So we had another opportunity this week.  I let her know on Monday and, to her credit, she jumped at the chance.  There were several sessions where I reviewed her slides to make sure she was on the right track (she was).  Today, about 45 minutes before the presentation, she came by to see if I could review her notes with her.  I will admit that the first thought that flashed across my mind was something along the lines of “how much hand holding do you need”.  But, I did think back to my fear and fear is not rational and sometimes you do need just that little extra boost.  So we sat down and went through things and I gave her some pointers and she went and really did a great job with the presentation.

I guess if there is one takeaway it is that at least some good has come out of my own issues with my personal demons.  It gave me the opportunity to better understand how she felt and how scary it can be outside your comfort zone and I think that gave me the extra patience to deal with it.  I’ll also admit that another thought I had was whether Kid T ever sees me as that needy.  Probably, just like I’m sure she can get frustrated with my insecurity from time to time.

Well since I seem to be in a chatty mood, I’ll share one other little event from my life.  As you know, there is a very famous coffee chain located right off the same exit I take to get to the Famous Franchise.  Given that I’m usually dragging and in need of artificial stimulation, I always stop in for a coffee (my current fave is a Grande DoubleShot on Ice).  Since I’ve been going to the studio for eight years, I’ve seen a whole city of people come and go from the Coffee Chain.  Yet, somehow, they still treat me like Norm from Cheers.  I guess it is just something that is passed down from crew to crew.  A new person comes on and they see the others being friendly to me and then they start and then the cycle continues.

I’m guessing that being right off a highway, they get their share of stressed out types who just want to get their coffee and get back on the road.  Someone who is not an a-hole may stand out a little more.  It isn’t like I’m a witty conversationalist because I’m not.  And I don’t really tip that much either.

So last night, I get there and there is a new person at the register and someone with their back to me.  I give me order and she recognizes it is me and turns around while getting on her mike to tell the rest that I was there.  Two others come screaming out of the back room to say hello.  We got to talking about how it was the day after Halloween and the Coffee Chain already had their Christmas drinks up.  Somehow, the conversation ended with them attempting to adapt Christmas carols to become Thanksgiving carols.  Basically, they were just young ladies being silly.   Its nice in a way.  Its a little embarrassing at times because I’m not always wanting to be the center of attention but it beats being served coffee by someone speaking in monosyllables and grunts.  Maybe the moral of that story is don’t be an a-hole.  Well maybe I should say be nice to people.  Its better.  And they may return it.

OK, I’ve got to go get ready to get to the studio.  Only three more lessons before Showcase!

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