Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Celebrate Small Success but Aim Big

I had asked one of my 2014 mentees, Megan Wood, Edsel and Eleanor Ford House (above) Associate Vice President of Education & Visitor Experience, to do a wrap-up about success, failure and learning in a new job--as that was the focus of many of our year-long conversations. Here's her thoughts.

2014 was a really big year for me.

We bought a house, we sold a house.
We moved to a new state.
My husband and I left our jobs and took on new jobs.
Every one of our siblings either moved and/or had children in some combination.

In my new job, I decided to tackle a few big projects while hiring new staff, learning my responsibilities, and continuing to staff and program the site. The first project was comprehensive visitor studies that would provide us with data about our visitors’ pre-conceptions, understanding and takeaways. The second was a brand new interpretive plan to serve as a decision making tool for all programming and on site interpretation.

Being new and taking on big projects has its real benefits and drawbacks.

  • Coming in with a fresh set of eyes and not being afraid of the outcome.
  • As the “new person” your ideas can sometimes seem fresher, even if someone else has already being trying to accomplish the same task.
  • There can potentially be more support of the project because there is an expectation that new people will do new things.
  • Going down a path that has already been trudged and staff are weary.
  • Accidentally stepping on toes or feelings.
  • It can be hard to navigate project management while also learning the culture of a different institution.
  • Trying to advocate for a project while still building trust can take a lot of time.
  • Learning a new job is hard enough sometimes!
How’d I do?
  • I would say I had 75% success on one project and about 20% success on the other.
  • We’re about to get reporting on a visitor studies project. It is not the full scope of the original project, but rightly so, my boss wanted to see results before agreeing to commit more resources.
  • We are still in the middle of interpretive planning. It has been an evolving process and that has both grown and shrunk over time. Do I wish I was further along? Yes. Do I think it’s actually possible to have this project almost done sitting here almost a year later? No.
What did I learn?
  • I think it is ok to dream big with projects, but I think I can be more realistic in my dreaming in 2015 now that more experienced in managing projects at my new workplace.
  • I will celebrate small success more and not beat myself up for what didn’t get done. Chances are, we’re still doing a lot of good.
  • Continue to be ambitious and excited about the good work I want to do and bring my colleagues along with that enthusiasm. Roadblocks are not the end of the world, just the end of one path. Maybe there’s a better path to follow.
In closing, I want to thank Linda for her year of mentorship. Big years are good years to have an outside, somewhat disinterested, party to listen and give advice. It was a great help and kept things in perspective.

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