When you think you are there, here comes the new challenge.

Making Diamonds

When coaching people, I usually notice that they reach a given level of expertise that allows them to perform well on a given subject. Well, only to fall onto another challenge that originates from the fact that they have mastered the previous level. And this goes on and on until they reach the maximum possible level that their organization challenges allow for. Which may take a bunch of years indeed. For example, I was coaching a system analyst on how to write specifications and handle features. He turned out to be very proficient at that and the project at hand was a complex one. Obviously, reaching that level made visible a set of other issues that do exist in the organization, namely the fact that once specifications were put on paper, people realized that what they explained in the first place was wrong or was pretty incomplete, leading to change cases. This led to demotivating the analyst. He put a lot of effort in doing his best only to see his "child" being criticized. Well, he shouldn't be ashamed of what he has produced since it is key to helping people surface their concerns and agree on scope and difficult issues, or unresolved conflicting terminology. Hadn't he done that, the organization would have started working on producing a completely worthless solution missing the boat. As I tend to say, you'd better stop the train before it runs full speed ahead into the wall. Which happens to be made of top-notch concrete. So, all that to say that frustration is going to be part of reaching the next level since new challenges will have to be faced and dealt with. There is no way out of that. But it is the path to growth and self accomplishment. One has to learn to feel good about having got results and appreciate the assets he brings to the table. And also one has to learn to dissociate his own worthiness from his work products. The work products is just representing evidence that one went trough a given thought process and took care of a given number of concerns. Nobody can think of everything, especially on paper. The point is to take care of the key risks and make sure the we aren't going into the wall. Obviously, management has to be aware of this kind of dynamic and behave accordingly, providing support. Otherwise, why would people grow if their own enlightened self interest tells them that engaging in growth means being crushed down when things go harder? Even if self evident, the crushing behavior happens more often than not. Too bad for everybody. Lots of pain and suffering, and ultimately lost money, lost opportunity down the line. Now, what about you? What is the next level you are wanting to reach or busy going to? Are you aware of the new challenges that you can possibly face? You may not yet be able to tackle them, but at least you can see them in the distance and prepare to get help on dealing with them when the time comes. Knowing when, how, and to who to ask for help is the sign of a confident person. Know it alls aren't going to survive here, since this is a path of never ending learning. So, be proud of reaching new heights and be excited that the journey is going to continue. And you aren't there to please everybody, but to do good work and reduce the risk profile. This is not a job for the faint of heart since it requires a great deal of courage to confront ideas, produce a conceptually coherent picture and reconcile diverging interests in a solution. Making it a success has been more of the exception than the rule in complex endeavors, so ease it a bit on yourself.