Thursday, February 21, 2008

Tremendous Blessings from My Wonderful Teacher, the Building Manager

This morning, because it was raining, I was waiting for a cab on the front porch—remember, bikes are for losers—when my neighbor who most recently grilled came in. I said hello, but he ignored me, so it’s official: he’s not speaking to me.

Fortunately, the building manager has given me a tremendous amount of practice in abandoning upsetting thoughts right away, so I noticed that it gave me kind of a scared feeling in my stomach, but I didn’t otherwise flip out. I gave myself permission to feel scared, and in five minutes it was gone. (I wonder why it feels scary to receive a social slight?)

The building manager has in fact given me a tremendous amount of practice in multiple areas. It used to be that a rude email from her really pushed my buttons, but now it doesn’t. Now I just say, “Oh, another uncivil email from so-and-so.”

It has also given me practice in asking for what I want even when it very obviously causes people not to like me. I don’t so much care now whether people like me or not.

At the same time, I do believe in courteous communication. She might not like what I’m saying, but I don’t think she can point to an email where I have been rude. And if I had to choose between being the person who sends insulting emails or the one who receives them, I’d much rather be the person who receives them.

I’d been thinking that the building manager had probably misrepresented to the neighbor what I’d said to the landlord, but today it occurred to me that maybe she didn’t do that. Maybe the neighbor hasn’t talked to the building manager at all, and is simply mad because the building manager’s note made it appear that I’d mentioned him to the landlord, which I did—but we’ve been over all of this already.

My mother says if I were really Zen, I wouldn’t care who burned what near my windows. I one hundred percent agree, and I will probably never be that Zen, as wonderful as it sounds. However, I do feel great about not keeping the Fume Wars going in my mind.

The fact is, my neighbor has every right to feel however he feels. He has every right never to get over it. It is totally OK that he’s angry. I’m not angry back, nor particularly hurt: I can see the matter from his point of view.

In that frame of mind, I arrived at work to find a small crisis. A colleague of mine had lately expressed that he didn’t feel confident training users on a certain piece of software, so I sent him the training manual I wrote, and offered to conduct a training session for a group of his users so he could see how I approach it.

In addition, I set up a test environment to simulate what the users will be doing later in real life. But when I got to work today, I saw that someone had made half the test environment disappear literally overnight.

I called my colleague and said I was afraid we’d have to reschedule, and he was quite disappointed, so I said I would try to restore the environment in the 30 minutes before our session. I put it back as much as possible, but 45 minutes into the 90-minute training, we ran into an issue that couldn’t be fixed on the spot, so we stopped and will continue next week.

My colleague was enraged at the person who’d made the environment disappear, and sent a couple of sternly worded emails to the whole group, in which he also thanked me extravagantly for all I’d done to try to make things work.

I was extremely stressed out when I was trying to put everything back so hastily, but I wasn’t mad at our other colleague. Obviously it was done in error, and nothing would be made better by my blaming her.

Later in the day, I got a note from our team lead saying, “I appreciate your patience and understanding through all of [the day’s mishaps]. Are you sure you don't want to some day be the Team Lead???”

Such a thing had never crossed my mind, actually. I have many times thought that I would not like to be a manager, but I had never thought about the team lead role one way or the other.

I wrote back that, come to think of it, it might be right up my alley. She said that based on my strengths, she thinks I would make a good team lead. I wrote back that her kind words had made all the difficulties of the day seem worth it, and that’s part of why she's a good team lead.

I was recalling that in my peer review, I had been dinged, relatively speaking, in the areas of mentoring, communication and leadership, so today was particularly satisfying.

Hey! Just like my father said: psychically rewarding, when I do my best.

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