Well, I clearly wrote the last post too soon. Immediately after, I attended a staff meeting where I thoroughly embarrassed myself, and my team, in public. There are five new work streams and I’m in charge of one. We were to give reports of our progress. I prepared nothing. I thought it was going to be an informal chat. I don’t know why I thought that. The discussion had clearly indicated that it was going to be fairly formal. So I watched as the other four teams put up very professional presentations. Then it was my turn and I fumbled over myself for five minutes looking like an amateur, unprepared, unprofessional idiot.
The next day I spoke to my director. I said, “I know I dropped the ball Monday, I’m sorry. That was my fault and no one else’s.”
“Well, self-awareness is the key.” She said.
She tried to offer me a few little outs, to be nice (at least she’s nice). But I didn’t take them. I completely fucked it up. It was pathetic, and frankly it was the kind of thing you get from someone who doesn’t belong where they are. This wasn’t just, “He doesn’t have managerial experience.” This was, “He’s totally incompetent to take on this kind of project leadership.” And I am. Not only have I never had the training, I’ve never wanted it. I don’t have much interest in being a departmental co-leader. I want to have my own department, where these kinds of make-work, do-nothing projects aren’t ever assigned.
I want to lead a computer simulation program. I don’t want to lead a performance improvement department. But if I’m ever going to lead a computer simulation program, I need to prove I can function as a leader in the environment I’m in. And, well, based on the project they’ve given me, I can’t. I lack even the most basic management skills. I don’t know how to lead a meeting that isn’t about my own expertise. I don’t know how to deploy paperwork tools. I don’t know how to delegate things to people, because I don’t know how to estimate the size of tasks.
In one fell swoop, I’ve proven that I can’t do what they promoted me to do. I am in the unfamiliar, and uncomfortable place of not being good at my job. Maybe it’s time to go look for a soft-money position. Where I can hopefully get a grant, do some simulations, hire a couple of students, and quietly ride out my career writing dull papers no one will ever read. That’s what I’m good at.