Facing outwards, on a self-imposed schedule

Taking a cue from The First 90 Days (notes), I set up some regular 15-minute meetings with people at work—every other week with my manager, which I think handles the more business-like aspects of work, and then also staggered bi-weekly meetings with the two technical experts I take directions from, which handles the functional aspects of work. I guess that's not groundbreaking—my wife has been doing that at work for over a year now so I guess I... wasn't listening?—but I had never done that before. I just did the usual work-required performance management cycle type things: set up some arbitrary goals at the beginning of the year, get judged specifically against them at the end. (Go through an annual performance reviews or sit Fear Factor style in a bathtub full of snakes... tough call.)

I'm just under three weeks into a stint on a new team, so I've only had two of these kinds of meetings and therefore really can't say whether it works performance-wise or not, but I can say that just having to approach one of these meetings makes a world of difference. Now I have to prepare myself to ask or answer three to five questions about what's going on, what's on deck, what I ought to be doing or learning, etc., every week. So, it's just like signing up for a race: I might dabble with running regularly just to Stay In Shape™, but if there's a discretely defined race in the future, then I'm gearing up for performance. Then, even if it's still fun to do how I want to do it, it's still serious and the upcoming ends are supported by the everyday means.

It also gets at another thing that I really don't like: measuring what I'm working on and then talking about it. Without forcing myself to surface periodically and explain what I'm doing, I might have a tendency to quietly work on things, pulling people in when I need them but otherwise not bothering them (they're busy also), which has the outward appearance of not looking like much is going on even if the end result is presented as it ought to be. Setting up a regular meeting obliterates that wall.

And, to be honest, it is interesting to approach a new gig after faceplanting on the previous one—and I don't mean faceplanting like there was a hidden dip that I didn't see and stepped into but more like that one time I tried to jump a bike off of the loading dock of the ElectriCOIL Lab and just flew ass-over-teakettle into the asphalt below. We've all had that experience before, right? (No, not the specific one, but you know what I mean.) Professionally, I've never taken a horrible experience—of my own making or not—and projected it on a wall and made a conscious plan to do Better. I was going to say "never" more globally, but I remember two cases in other contexts where I did this: (1) after freshman year in college, when my BAL was probably higher than my GPA for much of the year, I overhauled the way I took notes and studied for class, and added a full grade level sophomore year; and (2) after bombing at the 2011 Ozark Trail Endurance Run, I put together a linear and demented (mileage-wise) training plan to go sub-24 hours at Western States after I got in the lottery for that, and then I went 22:32 for a silver buckle. So it's possible, I just never thought about it like that. It's like the opposite of a gambling problem, where instead of forgetting the losses and remembering the wins, I tend to remember the losses and forget the wins.


Postscript

I had completely forgot that I took up WSER on their offer to pick my own race bib number when I registered. I picked #80—my birth year but also, more importantly, Jerry Rice's jersey number. That's just what I did for senior year in high school football, where I borrowed jersey #80 for senior pictures, and then just kept it for the season.

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