Ten years ago, I was hired by a company I used to work for. My job was dealing with issues that had unexpectedly landed in the company’s lap, issues for which it had no current experience. I had the experience they were looking for.
The first year was almost magical from a work perspective. No one really understood what I did; I was known as the guy who “handled all that old mess.” I had close to free rein to get the work done. I worked with people from other departments, but my own department generally let me do my thing. When you have an individual contributor job, it doesn’t get much better than this: interesting work, good people to work with (I even liked the attorneys I had to work with), the sense of getting something done.
After about a year, I found myself one day helping to a speech for the CEO. Someone had forgotten to do it, it was to be given in two days, and panic reined. I had a long background as a speechwriter, and I was asked to help. I did, and it worked. For the next 18 months, I was the CEO’s temporary speechwriter, while still doing my regular work.
I was asked to take on fixing a web site project. I had background here, too. You work long enough in communications and you generally have background in just about everything. The web project was over budget and behind schedule. I took it on. We got the new site up and running.
One morning my boss told me I was also now in charge of employee communications, and I would be reporting to her boss. They had asked me to do this before; I said no. This time I wasn’t asked. I now had two people reporting to me. I was told that one of them wasn’t working out, and to fix it. No one had previously told the individual there was a problem. I chose to work through the process for these kinds of situations. The problem was eventually resolved.
Then someone had to take leave from work. I was given most of their work. Instead of two people reporting to me, I now had 10. Within a year, because of reorganizations and expansions, I had 25.
We took enormous care in hiring during that expansion. The functions were planned carefully. They were integrated. We knew what skills we had and what we needed. Four people who had not previously supervised anyone found themselves supervisors. They planned their teams. They wrote job descriptions. They organized interviews and did the hiring. Then they got down to work.
And what work they did! It was beautiful to watch it unfold each day. They were so good they blew people’s socks off. They blew their own socks off. We made major strides across the board. We didn’t have a single weak team, or a single weak team member. We were creative and innovative. People wanted to join our team. Human Resources expressed amazement at what was being accomplished. We were known as “the team who knew how to get work done.”
I knew the organization, though. I knew the odds of this lasting were not good. And it wasn’t long before the clouds began to gather.
I told the team at our meetings to cherish this time. Things could change overnight, so they should cherish the time, use the time to do the best work they knew how to do.
It didn’t last. When you change the status quo it’s often easy to forget that change is threatening, that there can be vested interests in maintaining the status quo. And there were. The vested interests moved one day. And everything changed.
It lasted all of a year. But it was a golden year indeed. It was the best team I’ve ever worked with. There wasn’t one like it before or since. And I work with good people.
Not long ago, one of the people who had been part of the team came to my office to tell me something he had been thinking about. Five years had passed.
“That year,” he said. “That year we all worked together.”
“It was how work is supposed to be.” He paused. “It tells me that it might happen again. One day.”
The High Calling is hosting a community linkup this week on helping employees fulfill dreams. If you have a story as either an employee or someone who helped an employee fulfill a dream, consider sharing it. The linkup continues through Saturday, and some posts will be featured at The High Calling next week.
Top photograph by Michael Drummond via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission. Bottom photograph by me: view from the balcony of Laity Lodge in the Texas Hill Country.