Doing it Yourself

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March 16, 2017 by Mike Hillwig

I trust my team, and I trust them a ton. Every once in a while, though, it’s a good idea to jump in and do the work yourself.

More than 20 years ago, I worked for a powerhouse of a woman named Mary Lou. She was a brilliant manager and a force of nature. I was in customer service, which was really a three-person call center where we took orders for the company’s products. This was a few years before online ordering existed.

Every once in a while, someone would step away from their desk to eat lunch or use the facilities, and the phone would ring. That’s when you’d hear “Customer Service. This is Mary Lou. How can I help you today?”

Let’s talk about a wakeup call here. I was probably 22 and getting a serious leadership lesson. As an effective manager, you’ve got to understand what your team does and what their challenges are.

After she’d got off the phone, she’d huddle up with us and ask questions. She asked if we noticed certain things in the computer system we had. She’d always find some little thing and want to fix it. She wanted to make our processes ran more smoothly. And she did that every time she talked to a customer. A few extra seconds on the phone meant that we had customers on hold. Customers on hold cost money. Her phrase was always “Let’s fix that.”

This weekend, I’m doing a service pack upgrade on one of our core database servers. The member of my team who would normally run that upgrade is away for the weekend. Rather than reschedule, I’m doing it myself. Over the past couple of months, my team has done hundreds of service pack upgrades. It’s time for the boss to answer the phone and see how we can improve the process. We’re always going to have service pack upgrades. Let’s find what’s broken and fix it.

Tomorrow, I’m doing a decommission of a server that’s been around the company longer than I have. I’ve asked my team to let me do this one, too. I’ll take great pleasure in retiring my last SQL 2005 instance.

I’ll learn something when I jump in. I always do. Thank you, Mary Lou.