I remember sitting in the office of a client. I was in my 30s.

Stereoscopic image of "Diagrammatic chart...

Stereoscopic image of “Diagrammatic chart of functional foremanship under Scientific Management. Frank B. Gilbreth Consulting Engineer.” Shows functional hierarchy of 10 job titles. (Photo credit: Kheel Center, Cornell University)

He managed a team of software engineers.

I managed a group brought in for special expertise to supplement his team.

For some reason, I felt comfortable confessing to him that in assessing myself I generally compared myself to the best of everybody else and, of course, came up short.

While this is hardly the kind of conversation to have with a client, he had come to management late and had the life experience to accept such ruminations without its affecting his view of my team’s performance.

Perhaps he had had these own conversations with himself.

But, understanding what you are doing does not mean you can stop doing it. It is only the first step.

Eventually, my own manager decided she’d had enough of my need for reassurance.

I now understand that kind of behavior is tiring for others.

They want to support you but don’t understand why you need it, when all objective markers suggest you are perfectly capable of taking care of your own business, so why should you need reassurance.

She also must have realized this does not make for good client relations.

Clients need to be confident that they are getting the best professional service possible and a manager who isn’t convinced of this can make a client nervous.

So, on the next software development project I was brought in to lead, my manager took a different tack, setting client expectations and, at the same time, convincing me I was absolutely the right person for the job.

“This is Carol.”

“She’s a pilot.”

“The only time she’s picked up a gun she shot nothing but bulls-eyes.”

“She speaks Chinese.”

“She’s going to be leading your project.”

Since these were all true, though irrelevant to the project, I realized that, from a client’s standpoint, she might as well have said I walk on water.

I don’t. But, I loved leading the project.

And, that’s when I found out that a good manager can make a difference.

Thanks, Mary Hopewell.


Carol Covin, Granny-Guru

Author, “Who Gets to Name Grandma? The Wisdom of Mothers and Grandmothers



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