Monday, September 11, 2017

Issues with Authority and Producing Smart Answers

I admit it, I have a problem with authority.

Look, I'm happy as hell to follow when things are working. To offer my best efforts and considerations for bettering what is already a good situation. But when you start to realize you're smarter than your leaders (talking jobs, not government, which can be worse and has so much to do with knowing how to play a dysfunctional game, making others smarter than politicians look dumber), it quickly gets hard to keep things under control. Not speaking out, not losing faith can become impossible.

You should and I do speak when I can. But so often you get cut off at the knees, because of the "bigger picture", or money, or just, "reasons". Typically valid much of the time, it is also typically not valid much of the time. Mostly just excuses for not bucking the system by the higher ups.

It's just how it is much of the time.

I learned two things early on in a sizable corporation. Don't talk to much in meetings. You open yourself up to look stupid. A prime motivator for Republicans in Congress. Except they can't take that advice. They speak up anyway and come up with the dumbest crap believable far too often. Well, not so believable actually.

Whenever asked a question, especially in a meeting in front of others, when you do not have the answer to respond with, just say, "I can't speak to that just now but I'll get back to you after the meeting." Then do that. Never let what you promise to not happen. And always come back with a well researched and viable answer. It will give you a reputation and one you definitely want.

I learned right off, in the beginning to just say yes. no matter what, whenever someone tries to give you work. Take on all you can... produce. Then turn it in before expected and do a job better than anyone else.

I took that to another level as a technical writer. I would turn in before the deadline, do an excellent job on the documentation I wrote and frequently would turn in three versions, giving them a choice. The first version was the one they asked for. Then another I thought they really wanted, and finally one that pushed the boundaries and perhaps was the one I thought they most needed (and frequently they never wanted, until they read it).

Frequently, they did not choose the one they asked for and on occasion, would even choose the one that would have been considered too far "out there" when I was initially given the assignment. Things change and you have to be ready for that, prepared ahead of time.

That led to my acquiring a reputation. And a good one. The other thing I did and this was not intentional, but just how I worked. I would turn in typically three drafts but write more. They never saw the first one. As a professor at my university told me...

"We do not show anyone a first draft. That is like showing someone your shit. We just do not do that!"

My first draft then was not my first I would show them, but was meant to be sure that I was in the ballpark for what they wanted. Because managers were not always clear and did not always know what they really wanted. Even when they thought they did. They would typically be concerned in reading that "first" draft that I didn't know what they wanted. Again, typically they thought they were being clear, when they clearly (to me) weren't.

I would then turn in the second draft, usually days later depending on the schedule. I remember one manager who read it, looked at me and said he was very worried I wasn't getting it at all. I told him not to worry, it's just my process.

When I then later turned in my third and final draft, I got an amazed look nearly every time.

They would be stunned I had nailed it so spot on, especially in considering the previous two drafts. Then I would hand them the other two (third) drafts, usually quite a bit different from the initial one I had just handed over. Frequently they would choose the first, sometimes the second but not all that often the third.

This all led to my gaining an interesting reputation for doing way more work than needed, in far less time than they had expected, for merely a single finished product. And this was in keeping up with any and all of my other work.

First and foremost you have to produce and you have to produce quality. But if you can produce quality and volume, if you can also keep quiet enough to at least appear smarter than you are, never letting them gauge just exactly how "brilliant" you may (or may not) be, you will be far ahead of the game. A game that is generally stacked well against us all.

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