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Making it Work: A Great Conversation

In: Showing my WorkTips

I’ll admit it: lately, I have been in a serious state of dis-ease at my new job. I’m working with some folks on another team to do a presentation and I have been majorly uncomfortable and struggling to figure out why.

When the Caution Flag Went Out

So we’re supposed to be presenting to faculty on what they are calling microdesign, which, I think means that we are focusing on the actual building of a course. The problem is that every time, I think I’ve got a handle on the problem, someone throws in all of this other stuff that makes everything fuzzy again. Our first conversation, I was way up in the clouds talking about instructional design, and my awesome friend Mike (Hi Mike!) helped me get a handle on the fact that we really wanted to talk about building a course out. So that meant coming down a few levels and talking about my atomic design-type structure that I’d thought about and delivered. That made sense to me. So I was feeling good. Then the organizer threw another person on our team and she and I met and she really introduced me to backwards design (which I think has a lot in common with Cathy Moore’s action mapping) but she cautioned me on the use of the word “performance gap.” She said that, for faculty, that word would elicit ideas about pre-testing and post-testing, whereas, the premise of backward design is to create learning outcomes (I later found out that there are different levels of learning outcomes) and to get everyone to those, regardless of where they started. That seemed to make sense, too. It was a matter of using the right language. Then in our third meeting, folks started throwing out ideas about how will we assess the effectiveness of the pattern design and acronyms like CAT (which I later found out means classroom assessment techniques) and I left that meeting ready to throw in the towel on basically everything and wondering whether or not the way I work can ever actually fit in this new environment.

What is It?

I realized that I was probably just being a bit emotional. I realized that I’m still going through a major period of adjustment. The type of work I’m expected to do here is very, very different from the work that I was doing (and really, really enjoyed previously). But the fact was that I was still really uncomfortable with this collaboration and that I was really starting to question my fit. But I was also bothered by my inability to really articulate what my problem was. Was I bothered that I wasn’t in control? No, I don’t think so. Was I bothered that I seemed to be speaking a different and, seemingly unacceptable language? Yes, I think that’s definitely part of it. Was I bothered about my ideas being challenged and me not feeling that I had been understood? Yeah, definitely. Was I frustrated by a lack of focus and new things being thrown out all the time? You betcha! I always felt that I could pivot and that I was okay with ambiguity. But it seemed like I really wasn’t. What should I do?

Just In Time

So there I was, feeling massively uncomfortable about the whole thing and wishing I had a real-life remote that would fast-forward me past the presentation date so I could get on with my life. That’s when I got an email from someone I’d been in contact with previously for a contract job. She called and man, did she have what I needed to hear. She told how she’d left a job that she LOVED in favor of a new adventure at a different organization. And how, though she’d been really invigorated and excited during the interview, when she actually got the job, everything fell flat and she was incredibly sad and missed what she’d had and the environment that had allowed her to find joy in her work (Starting to sound familiar!). But she said to herself that here she was, she couldn’t go back. How could she learn what she needed to learn at her new job and, at the same time, make them really glad they hired her? How could she add value? How could she reframe her situation so that, instead of fighting everything, she learned from it? This probably doesn’t end how you think. There wasn’t a moment where she suddenly found that she was in love with her new job. But she understood that she could learn from things that made her uncomfortable and, in turn, really gain great experience. And she advised me to do the same.

The Secret Sauce

Here are my takeaways:

  • I need to ask when I don’t understand something.
  • I need to focus on how I can help them achieve their goals. I need to see what I can offer and how I can fit those pieces into the frameworks and mindsets that already exist.
  • I need to be asking how I can make my team glad they hired me.

That’s the secret sauce, folks. Maybe working with this other team will never get better, I don’t know. But I do know that I can learn a lot. I need to take the focus off of me and figure out how I can reframe what’s happening so that I can learn from it. I’m not saying it will be easy, but it will sure make me stronger. Thinking on it again, I’ve also begun considering exactly how I can fit in. As I wrote above, I think that my current language doesn’t really fit in with the current model. BUT, I think that what I can add is the building portion. If we can create a reusable framework where our other team maybe works with faculty on course design, then I could jump in with “microdesign” and ask, “How can I help you build this thing?” For everyone else that may be starting a new position and feeling like they hate everything. Unless the environment is truly toxic (mine isn’t, I’m thankful to say), think hard about what you can learn from where you are. You may never fall in love with your new position, but by struggling with it for a bit, you’ll gain new skills and insights that can carry you to other places.