Saturday, 9 March 2013

Plate Spinning

I've just started a week-long break from work, using up annual leave before the end of the financial year.  As is usually the case, I was in a flurry of activity to clear down outstanding work and to leave ongoing work in as tidy and manageable a state as possible before I left. Inevitably, and despite my best efforts and intentions - one or two things didn't quite pan out as I'd hoped and I had to leave some tasks unfinished or still 'in flight' (bingo!) and delegated to others to complete or maintain in my absence.

I've been a functional and people manager for many years now (both at work, and as a Husband and Dad), and for much of that time, have likened my role to that of a stage juggler, spinning plates on sticks.  It often feels as though my line of sticks gets longer and longer with more and more plates needing to be spun up and kept spinning simultaneously. Easy to keep the plates directly in front of me spinning nicely, but then I would have to rush from one side of the stage to the other to keep the wobblers from falling to the stage with a resounding crash.

When I was IT Training Manager at Sussex Police, my team picked up on the analogy and we would have 'work-in-progress' discussions around which plates were spinning nicely, which were wobbling and needed spun up and which had completed their performance,  been caught and placed in the 'done' stack.  I got huge satisfaction from team members coming to me and saying things like "I spun that plate back up for you yesterday, Niall".

That's how it felt on Friday at 5:00pm, when, due to a complete oversight on my part (I had forgotten to book a meeting room for an all-day team meeting on the day I get back to work and all rooms appeared to be now unavailable), I had to phone lots of people and ask them to sort it out for me.  But, apart from feeling like a prat for not having booked it myself, I have gone on leave confident that the team and those who can assist, will do so and will do it willingly and we will have a meeting room for my return.  The plate was wobbling and was dangerously close to falling off, but others have shaken the stick and spun it back up.

I tweeted to that effect later that evening, thanking those colleagues - and my lovely wife - for helping me to keep my plate spinning act going, even 'tho I was not actually going to be on the stage myself for a week or so.
An ex-colleague from my Sussex Police days, now a senior L&D Manager herself, immediately tweeted back how she remembered me using that analogy nearly 10 years ago. That gave me a nice, warm, fuzzy feeling of consistency, connection and cooperation.  I am surrounded by family, friends and colleagues who, whilst I may take a coordinating role, all feel that they can, and are prepared to, step in, take responsibility, and keep the show on the road. 

Who's helping you keep your plates spinning? Are you giving them permission to do so? Or are you running the show yourself, dashing from one side of the stage to the other, wearing yourself out whilst others can only stand and watch, waiting to see your plates start to crash around you? 

I'm not expecting any broken crockery on my return.