Saturday, 19 July 2014

If a snail can climb a tree maybe you can do more than you think

At risk of sounding like one of those cliché quotes that do the rounds on Facebook, if a snail can climb a tree maybe you can do more than you think too. 

I spotted one this morning who had climbed a tree and made its way along a tiny twig and was balancing precariously with its house dangling below.

It got me thinking.

Three or four months ago I was given a new job.

Up until that point I'd always worked in PR - something I knew a fair bit about having studied it at Uni and then spent 16 years practicing.

In the preceeding twelve months leading up to this major career change I'd had it real good. 

As head of social media at Asda I'd somehow managed to shrug off all the hard bits of working in PR like dealing with journalists and managing issues and been left with the fun bit.

I had a team of two including me. And the one person I had to manage was a breeze.

Then following a significant reorganisation I found myself with a job title I didn't even understand the meaning of: senior director revenue management and marketing process.

I felt completely out of my comfort zone.

My team of two was disbanded and I inherited a whole new team of 18.

Not only that but the business plan I also now owned was challenging to say the least. 

We were seen as the problem child. Morale was low. Expectations high. And the pressure palpable.

After the initial shock and bewilderment, I had to get my head around what the hell I was going to do.

I knew very little about the department I was now in charge of. Nor did I really know any of the people in my new team.

So even before I started the doubt was setting in.

In my head I was questioning why the powers that be had opted to place the least commercial person in the whole of marketing (their words not mine in my last annual review) in charge of the only part of marketing that actually makes any money.

I openly joked I can barely operate a calculator, yet here I was accountable for making millions of pounds profit.

It's been an interesting journey to say the least. I've seriously considered giving in at various points. But at all the right moments I've been given a little encouragement or word of wisdom. Just enough to build up my resilience.

And a couple of weeks ago I felt like having reached the depths of the biggest trough in my career I was clawing my way out. 

There was light at the end of the tunnel. The wind felt like it was blowing us back on course.

The confidence was returning. The restless nights waning. The bounce back in my step.

If nothing else the last fifteen weeks have made me realise that being forced out of my comfort zone is essential every now and then. 

It's something you know deep down inside but nonetheless sometimes it takes an unexpected event to make it happen.

As a result I now know I'm more capable of leading a team of people than I gave myself credit for.

Not knowing what they do isn't a disadvantage after all. 

In fact not being an expert means I have to rely on them. At the same time I can bring a new perspective by asking all the silly questions, and can apply the same approach that has served me well until this point:

Don't try and make friends in a crisis. 

Collaboration is key. 

Be humble. 

Ask for help. 

Get the bad news out of the way early. 

Hang in there. If it feels crap know that it will pass. 

Trust your gut instincts and have more faith in your judgement. 

But also don't make hasty decisions. 

So there you go. My new job has brought out the inner snail in me. Who'd have thought it.