There’s a fine line between being able to be easily replaced (think: entry level retail, contractor) and being irreplaceable. There are many jobs that exist in this fine line and are able to be replaced or even covered easily. The details of the job shifting each time a different personality takes the lead but overall the job can be handled by several different people over the course of a year without much notice from the outside world. But when you essentially create your job-role, this suddenly is a bit more complicated.
I often think that my job is just a collection of things that other people were doing and can easily be covered by taking all the pieces back out and giving them back to where they originated. That used to be true. When my daughter was born, I had less than a day to train my coverage (whoops, preeclampsia) and she left after a few weeks. The next person they brought in did a good job, but had to leave early so all the pieces that were left to her were divided among coworkers. They managed very well without me, but some were glad to have me back since it meant their time was freed up again and things were running a bit more smoothly. No major problems, well – no major foreseeable problems. Nobody forsaw an accounting change breaking a major process that took another month or so to fix.
This time around we planned ahead. There was someone to cover my job completely. I trained her for about a week and a half of mornings. She felt comfortable. I told her to email if she had questions and I’d get back to her as baby allowed. Nothing major seemed imminent, and the things that were major seemed to be under control or handed off. Not really. They were just lurking under the surface. First there was the new application – which had a bug that wasn’t apparent, and a user issue that we hadn’t anticipated. Then, there was a coordination effort that needed to be spearheaded…except I was the only one that knew who the hand off was supposed to be handed off to. And then there were all the little things that operated just fine – just not in an ideal manner.
But, overall, it was great. I’m not coming back to anything majorly broken, just a few PR things. I was okay’d to skip the national meeting, since it was this week, and this allowed me to leisurely go through my inbox and find all the pieces that were scattered in there from the last two months and start to put the remaining pieces together. This is, of course, not easy since clear communication seems to be in direct opposition to being a salesman. Of course, now that I’m back, some folks have realized that maybe this needs to be a little clearer. So off I go to dig into the pieces of what make this process and see if they can be streamlined so all parties know what is expected of them. The upside is if this works, I get a pat on the back and less of a mess in the future. Downside is that I think I did all this stuff about two years ago and it got shot down then.
Next week though, they’re all back from the national meeting. Then it is time for fall planning sessions…and the summit followed by the holidays and we’ll roll right into the research summit. Maybe we’ll be breathing normally by spring?