Monday, November 17, 2008

He may be old, but the dog still hunts

I have been doing what I do for 20 years and by far, the last five have been the most frustrating. Before I left for Canada I had a supervisor tell me that I was a natural leader and that I would make a great supervisor. I told her she was probably right but that our organization does not look for leadership much when it picks supervisors.

Everything since then has pretty much proven that.

When I was in Calgary there was a supervisor slot open and it came down between two of us. The guy who was selected over me was the type of guy who puts more effort getting out of doing something than it would have required to actually perform the task. The boss explained to me that he chose the other guy because he had been in the Service longer than me. I saw it as a cop out and most of the others in Calgary were flabergasted by the decision.

So I transfered to Vancouver.

The situation in Vancouver when I arrived was very adversarial between management and the work force. I am a good inspector and I have a lot of knowledge and experience. It bothers me when I see supervisors who seem to have less knowledge of the law. It manifests itself in decisions that they make. It wears on the morale of the office. Vancouver, and many other places in my job have management but lack leadership.

Now that I am transferring to a port that is not large but will be growing in the future, my thoughts turn to maybe putting in for a supervisor slot again. I've confided in a few in Vancouver that my thinking is such. I have been emailing the supervisor in Salt Lake, who happens to be an acquaintance, and asking about the situation. It seems that he and the boss are disappointed in the officers there. When I get there I will instantly be the top of the pecking order in both immigration experience and overall time in service. He has told me that they, he and the boss, are hoping for great things out of me. They're looking to me to step up to the plate and restore the level of enforcement that has been long gone. He said that the next supervisor slot may be mine for the taking. Of course they may not have the final say because SLC is ultimately under San Francisco but it's encouraging.

What is interesting is that I know if the two guys in Salt Lake were to ask my current supervisor about my ability to do what they are asking me. If they were to ask about leadership qualities, they would hear words like cynical and lenient. They would not get a hearty recommendation from the two chiefs here either. But they would never have the benefit of actually working with my supervisor or chiefs or talking to other officers for opinions.

So I will ride into Salt Lake like a new marshall and I will seek out and find what others there are missing. And if all goes like it should, I will be rewarded. And some of my old supervisors will hear if I get promoted and wonder what changed in me. The answer will be nothing changed in me. I am, and will always be the same inspector. Somebody will have merely had the sense to finally recognize it and do something about it.

I read a quote in Reader's Digest and I do not know who said it but I remember it and it has been my greatest learning tool.

I have learned far more from bad bosses than I ever will from good bosses.

I've learned a lot about how not to be a bad supervisor and that will make me all that better a leader if I ever get my chance.

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My dad always says "half of the jobs I applied for they should have begged for me to take, and I didn't get hired. The other half they should have had their heads examined for hiring me." That and "Apply for jobs the night before the opening so your resume will be on the top of the pile."

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