The author Calvin Trillin once wrote, “The most remarkable thing about my mother is that for thirty years she served the family nothing but leftovers. The original meal has never been found.”
Have you ever had a job like that? I have.
You tuck into a new position and after a while you realize you’re mainly trying to clear away the leave-behinds of someone else – like not meeting sales goals, going way over budget or alienating customers.
Sometimes, if you’re really unfortunate, you realize the problem didn’t even start with your predecessor. Judging from how thick and deep the organizational ooze is around you, the trouble might have started back when humans started walking upright.
At least some of them.
The question is – what are you going to do? Let me say from the start that trying to pick up the torch is not always a good idea. Sure, you’re smarter and a better worker than most, but sometimes situations have been so screwed up no one can fix them.
I recommend being realistic. Take a good hard look at the leftovers you’re facing and see if you can do anything with them. If there’s a chance the mess could be too much start looking for another job and be prepared to leave the residue to science.
If you’re going to stay on, you have a certain amount of leeway, because this mess is not yours and people know that. But when does it become yours? Knowing how much time you have before the leftovers start wearing your name can help you choose between the following options:
Add spice – Think the organizational equivalent of Tabasco, which will cover a multitude of missed opportunities. How can you reinvigorate something that’s already had a few trips to the microwave? Perhaps a marketing campaign – formal and external or informal and internal – could rev things up.
Add a grain – It could be rice, or it could be toast, but it should be one of your organization’s mainstays, in terms of values and programs. Can you show how your area helps the company achieve key objectives? Makes it look good? Confuses the competition?
Combine and conquer – This is like turning your problems into soup. If you’ve been left holding the bag, chances are someone else in your organization is going through the same thing. Seek them out and see what you can gain by working together. You can also try to create your own island of misfit toys by finding common cause with other divisions going through tough times.
How do you like to handle leftovers?
by Danielle Dresden