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A Little History

My life has been filled with many ups and downs, wins and losses. But who's hasn't? This is all a part of life. I've held many jobs, from packing groceries to flying first class for lunch dates in California and back the same day. After graduating with a Master's in Counseling Psychology, my priorities were to find a job in psychology. When I began interviewing, I did land a job at a local hospital as a MICA counselor. (mentally ill/chemical abuser) dually diagnosed and complex population to work with, but I had done it before in emergency settings and step-down houses. I had to be available for crisis intervention and, at the time, on-call via beeper. I was so excited that all of my schooling had finally paid off. The excitement ended pretty quickly when they told me that I'd be making 23k a year. My Masters cost more than that. At the time, I worked as a secretary at a major successful corporation full time as an administrative assistant. It paid the bills, and I went to school at night and on weekends.

23k wasn't going to do it. So I was being paid more to make people travel arrangements and answer phones than to help people who desperately needed help. I stayed in the same company for just shy of 20 years, moved up the command chain, and learned a lot. While it wasn't my dream job, it was a good job and good company.

One day I was asked to be a manager for all the domestic branches. I was younger than many of the staff that I was being asked to manage. Being nervous doesn't even come close to explain the anxiety of those first weeks of managing some people old enough to be my parent. Who was I, this new, young inexperienced person to be asked to have this position. I accepted the position, read many books about management and conflict resolution, and did a lot of listening. I remained humble and advocated for my staff, and we had a great run while it lasted (10) years. Below are some of the books I read. The First 90 Days was very powerful.

"By walking you through every aspect of the transition scenario, Watkins identifies the most common pitfalls new leaders encounter and provides the tools and strategies you need to avoid them. You'll learn how to secure critical early wins, an important first step in establishing yourself in your new role. Each chapter also includes checklists, practical tools, and self-assessments to help you assimilate key lessons and apply them to your situation."

Change is uncomfortable, especially if you have been asked to manage people who know more than you technically and have more experience than you. My advice is to keep your ego in check and do a lot of listening. I used a checklist to celebrate small wins and acknowledged anything extra that people were doing. I didn't micromanage and empowered my staff. At times this got me into trouble but I didn't know any other way. As a leader, I felt it was my job to be the cheerleader for my staff and challenge them to be seen amongst senior management. It was a great opportunity for me, and I learned a ton. The only part I hated was conflict and complainers who did not directly go to the source and instead called me. My first question was always, "Did you bring this up to my staff?" The answer was generally always no, and my phone became sort of a bat phone for complaints, most of which were silly and would have been best addressed directly in person.

In my experience, if people can avoid conflict and have an out by calling someone's manager, they will use it. That is the part of my role that I hated. If I were to bet everyone that has been a manager in some capacity has felt like a high-paid babysitter at some point. In some of these circumstances my masters in psychology did come in handy although I was in a corporate environment.

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