Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Facilitating & Communicating

I was reminded today of how I described myself and my job to a colleague several years ago. My job is facilitating and communicating, I said. What the hell is that?, was her reply. (She's such an engineer....) I'm all about skimming across the surface of everything my engineering and science brethren do and trying to connect the dots. How does this technology connect with that client issue? How does the person in this cube bring something to the team three states away? Has this project manager ever heard of this computer model we built in Saudi Arabia that might solve his problem in Tucson? Does HR know they don't need to hire someone with this skill set because we have someone not fully utilized in another group? Need someone who is fluent in Arabic to translate something - I know who they are.

Some of it is within the function of my job...some of it just comes my way by virtue of the number of meetings I attend, databases I access, research I conduct, conversations I have over lunch or dinner, or just those water cooler moments. And you know what? I like this part of my job. It's definitely the most intersting and rewarding.

There are a lot of parts of my job that I find tremendously less rewarding...and less inspiring...and I've just had several days in a row where that has been the case. On these days I get next to nothing done (shhh! don't tell payroll or they might dock me some pay). On a day like today, packed from edge to edge with meetings though, I actually accomplished alot. And I'm energized. It's sick, I know. My friends here roll their eyes and zone out at meetings, but I admit it. I'm a meeting junkie. As long as people in them are not totally painfully stupid, and as long as I don't come out with so much to do that 24 hours a day becomes a work schedule, I can always learn something and put it in my back pocket for that next facilitating/communicating moment.

Today I had a meeting with my VP and our CEO. We were kind of tossing some things around, regrouping on tasks for the next couple of months, and trying to prioritize our attention. At one point, we were talking about a service offering we are trying to get our arms around that is so big and touches so many parts of our organization and so many types of clients, that we are struggling. We have lots of talented and smart people sitting around the table on this topic once a month and not getting anywhere. It needs a leader...a service CZAR if you will. CEO and VP were stalled on what to do next and decided to postpone our next scheduled meeting as a result. Then I threw out an idea which I thought might have gotten me laughed out of the room, but it was worth saying. What, I asked, if we ask all these smart people to come to the next meeting and make a brief pitch as if it was their call on how to take this service forward, how would they do it? I know they each have a very distinct point of view based on their current roles, but let's push them to think about everything we've talked about in the last four meetings and broaden their outlook. Based on this the CZAR may just be identified by the person in the room with the best ideas and the most enthusiasm, or at the very least, maybe we'll get some ideas on how to move forward gleaned from selected ideas from each pitch. To my surprise, they seemed to like the idea.

See that? That is rewarding. Coming up with an idea that just might get us moving instead of treading water. Maybe I'll actually be able to facilitate and communicate my way up the ladder of this organization. They do say that C-students are more likely to get to the executive level than A-students....maybe that's also why they call it the C-suite! I knew my lazy grades would serve me well someday.

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