Wednesday, May 9, 2012

My profession

Two stories from the last two days.

Yesterday I worked with a colleague to help improve their performance. I had observed their practice for 45 minutes and taken comprehensive notes, mostly related to their management and communication skills. These topics had been decided upon in a thirty minute pre-observation meeting the week before. The colleague was gracious and enthusiastic about the opportunity to have someone watch their work. To prepare for the subsequent meeting I spent around 90 minutes reading through various journals, meta-analysis books and handbooks to find the right bit of research that I could use to frame our discussion. I reflected on my notes and chose a central theme that I felt would benefit her. The conversation was brilliant and quite inspiring on both sides. We shared theory and practical ideas that we'd tried and seen work in other settings. All up we've put in a couple of hours work on top of our usual business and it was wonderful. I'll observe her practice again next week to provide further feedback since now I'm invested in her development. I'll also need to make arrangements with two other colleagues to go through a similar process to help increase the capacity of my team to deliver on a number of KPIs and strategic targets. It's a major part of my leadership role in the organization.

The second moment involves a client who has proven, to be honest, quite difficult lately. She has been rude on occasion and while I've worked hard to deliver my service and expertise as required, she has not met her deadlines or obligations. And so it was again today when she kept making strange noises during our allotted time. Rather than draw attention to this I took a positive approach (an idea from the Masters I'm doing on the weekends so I can further myself in my profession). I focused on what she'd done right and recognized that she'd actually asked a good question, in between interruptions, and had acknowledged she wasn't sure how to proceed. While aspects of this clients behavior could be labelled counter-productive, immature and irresponsible, the fact they'd actually called on my expertise was encouraging. I was not about to let out previous problems resurface. I decided on a strategy whereby I help her begin her work and eventually paired her with someone who could fill in the gaps since I had 25 other clients to attends to at the same time. I did however free significant attention regularly and ensured she knew I wanted her to e successful. She left the meeting with a smile, as did many of my clients that day. All in all I saw 75 clients from 9am to 3pm. I gave each one the best attention I could and, using some of the strategies I'd developed during several recent full days of training, ensured each client got the best out of me. On average I only have 1.5 minutes per client a day. The rest is taken up with preparing for clients and providing them with improvement strategies to better their performance.

It felt good.

Until I went to a union meeting and was told that the government, my official employer, doesn't value what I do and wants me to see more clients, more often, at the expense of developing the capacity efficacy of my colleagues. They also don't really want to pay me more since they consider my current profession to be unproductive and inadequate. Apparently I'm not doing enough. Even more disturbingly, my colleague, who participated in the mentoring process on a good-will & voluntary basis, is being told the same thing. She has 125 clients she sees most days. She literally gave up free time in her otherwise hectic day to get better at what she has dedicated her life to.

But dedication isn't measurable.

Ted, if we are doing such an immeasurable and unprofessional job of looking after our children- imagine what our world will look like if we have to stop?