I wish I hadn’t worked so hard. (Part 1)
I don’t think it was the total amount of work I did in my life that I got wrong. I think it was the distribution of the work within the different parts of my life plus my chronic inability to play office politics that was my downfall.
I’ve never been a particular fan of the “first impression are crucial” school of management. With new colleagues I was far more interested in how they were performing three months after I had appointed them than I was after three weeks or three days. Some of these newcomers would demonstrated wild bursts of enthusiasm for every aspect of their new role: nothing was too much trouble for them and they soon started receiving favourable attention from the senior management team.
Almost inevitably their rabid enthusiasm quickly faded and they soon started performing at the same, or sometimes even at a lower level, than the more prosaic plodders who joined at the same time. But of course by then their reputation was established, favourable impression had been passed up the chain of command and if a promoted post becomes vacant they were regarded as “the obvious candidate”. Then the whole cycle of boom and bust started again.
When I was lower down the food chain I became a victim of this technique. DMS joined the department about a year after me. He didn’t bring anything special to the table other than some rather narrow experience as a school teacher and his day-to-day lecturing was no better or worse than the rest of us. But his rise through the ranks was meteoric – he was on this second or third promotion before the rest of us had got so much as an incremental rise.
It was a supreme irony that he left the college to work for the Local Authority by showcasing at his interview all the professional development he had been given within the college as a high-flier. Nobody played the game better than DMS – nobody!