Care where it counts

I care a lot. I always assumed my frustration or disappointment at work was because I cared too much. Friends and family always told me that I had to learn to care less. “Leave work at work” was the sage advice I was given again and again. Since you, kind reader, may not know me, allow me to explain: I cannot leave work at work. Work is a part of my life and I can’t stop living a part of my life just because the clock has struck six. I care deeply about the people in my life and our time spent together, even if it’s at work. So, I can’t possibly care less. But I can focus on caring about the right thing.

Luck and great recruiters have allowed me to work with some of the most talented developers, business analysts, architects, and system administrators in the world. They have all proved to me that there are brilliant people who can do their jobs better than I ever could. But through their eyes, I have learned that I do what I do better than they can. In fact, they rely on me doing a great job so that they can do theirs.

Because I started as a developer and because of my management training, I’ve wasted a lot of time worried about the how. I, like many other young managers, felt as though the best way to make sure my project got done on time, on budget, and with high quality was to control all the details. As my teams grew and especially as I began to manage multiple teams, it became clear that my detail-control methodology does not scale. To make sure that I can grow as a manager and to make sure that I give my company the most value I can provide, I’ve really started to dig out of the implementation.

Here’s what I’ve learned for those we are looking to do the same: it’s hard to let go. Those who relied on you to fill in the details will take time to adjust to filling in their own blanks. Know that you will not make the switch flawlessly; you will leave things out of both the details and the greater picture. My advice to get through the setbacks: with each mistake, determine where your care and effort could have been better placed to prevent it. Continuous improvement is the name of the game. Keep the big picture in mind; the light at the end of the tunnel will slowly get bigger. Once you feel the warmth of the light, you will never look back.

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