Time to fire myself

Letting go turned out to be harder than I thought it would.

Next week, a big project begins at the office – and it will be the first project that won’t be led by me. Instead, it will be led by a person we hired to do just such a thing (among other things).

Since The Wire launched and until now, I was its science editor and product manager. I was also a social media manager and its sole developer but haven’t been since the start of 2017. And now, with this project, I will finally be just the science editor. The project will be led by our product manager who joined in December.

Nonetheless, I didn’t notice the reluctance to let go until earlier this month. As the information necessary to make decisions was moving from one person to another, like signals moving through nodes in a network, I realised then that I had embedded myself in certain places in the chain with no demonstrable effect on the outcomes themselves.

For example, I would’ve asked a colleague on one branch of this network to consult with me before making a decision simply because I’d wanted to feel included. In another situation, I would’ve asked another colleague to keep me posted on the proceedings of some review meetings for the same reason. If I hadn’t been a part of these things, nothing would’ve changed – except perhaps some people would’ve had more time on their hands.

My removing myself from such networks began earlier this week and culminated today with the final move. Now, I’m just that guy in the office who will have occasional doubts – but will not be expected to be responsible for their existence.

It’s particularly stressful to lead projects that involve bigger teams, more coordination and more consequential decisions, so people usually think that when the time comes, they’d let go in a jiffy. That’s what I thought, too, and I was wrong. Things like this become hard to let go people either get used to being in power or because they become addicted to the excitement.

I was never in power, so to speak (our team is small and I encourage everyone to question everything). For me, it was definitely the addiction, especially to solving unique problems that no one else was tasked with, that at times no one even knew existed.

But it’s okay. I think it’s more important now to fire myself. The problem-solving me needs to leave so it can be replaced by someone who solves problems about problems, who strategises about which ones to solve and why. There’s always bigger fish, isn’t there?

Featured image: Not my office. Credit: mcgraths/Flickr, CC BY 2.0.