Lately, I have been thinking about titles and how the appropriate title for the right position can somehow bring credibility and clarity to an organizational chart.
Take for instance the time I stopped at the convenience store because I was lost and needed directions to a fundraising function. Before I go any further, let me express that I dislike asking for directions for a number of reasons. The first reason is paranoia. I am convinced that the minute I get my directions and walk out the door, the fellow who just gave me the directions is going to turn to his co-worker and say something like, “how come that idiot doesn’t have a navigator app on his phone?” And his co-worker will respond, “I bet he will get it soon … you just sent him to the Sewage Treatment Plant.” The second reason I dislike asking for directions is because I feel obligated to purchase something prior to my request. This is complicated by the fact that I am always in a hurry, so I tend to buy something at the counter which I will never use. As a result, I have a glove compartment full of Long Haul Trucker Strength No-Doze, Pine Tree air fresheners, and nut clusters shaped like the state of Texas. But I digress. So I walk into the E-Z Shop and place the nut cluster on the counter, pull out my wallet and casually ask one of the counter attendants if he can point me in the direction of my fundraising event. Without looking up, the attendant taps the name badge attached to his lapel, which reads Stan – Fluids Manager, and then motions with a jerk of his thumb to his co-worker. As I focus my attention on his co-worker, I notice her badge reads: Lois – Directions & Logistics Manager. I repeat my question and Lois provides me with a proficient Reader’s Digest version of how to get to my fundraiser. I thank her, decide to opt for the value pack of Pine Tree air fresheners, and ask her if I can use their restroom. Lois jerks her thumb to Stan and says, “You will have to ask him, he’s the Fluids Manager.” See, that’s what I’m talking about … the right title for the right job – clarity at its finest.
For years I struggled with my informal title of “micro-manager.” I found it hard to embrace a title that could in some way reflect my physical stature. I thought the politically correct version of the title should be something more like “manager of the very small details.” It sort of rolls off the tongue and doesn’t make me feel short. Regardless, it is important for my employees to know exactly who to go to when they want someone to be way too involved in their day-to-day duties. Again … the right title for the right position.
I have found that titles seem to have a shorter shelf-life than the average Twinkie. In fact, it might be fair to say that titles may be subject to the same trends and fads that affect any other buzz word.
Just when I was getting used to “micro-manager,” along comes the new kid on the block, “control freak.”
I have to be honest, when I started hearing this new, exciting title being thrown around at the monthly business after-hours social, I was a bit envious. I found myself wondering, “How does one go about getting this cool title? What does one have to do to become universally recognized as a control freak?”
Self-doubt has always been a very close friend of mine and as such, I couldn’t help but secretly wonder if I had the stuff necessary to achieve this new title, and whether I could live up to the expectations of a “control freak.”
While self-doubt is a close friend, determination is my best friend. So, I became determined to bone up on my control skills in order to prove that I was worthy of such a prestigious, trendy title. I started looking for things that I was not completely in control of and committed to overcoming any obstacle necessary in order to become a freak. I committed to this task and promised myself that starting immediately I would take the necessary steps to earn this title.
The first instance of lack of control happened at approximately 6:23am at the condiment counter of Starbucks. I was adding my daily dose of sugar to my Grande coffee when out of the corner of my eye I caught my left hand doing something that I had not willed it to do. While my right hand was pouring sugar, my left hand was contorted in some sort of weird Joe Cocker looking spasm and my pinky was sticking straight up as if in mock aristocratic protest. I did a double take just to be sure that it was my left hand and not someone else’s. After all, no self-respecting Texan (or even a transplanted Seattleite passing as a semi-Texan) would allow his hand to behave that way. I knew this had to be corrected immediately or I would risk being asked by the head barista to vacate the premises.
The realization that I was not even capable of controlling my own left hand on the first morning of my freak quest left me momentarily discouraged. What would people think of me if they found out I had a rogue left hand that had no problem doing a Cirque du Soleil act without my approval? What level of intervention would be necessary to control this inappropriate behavior, and how could I be a true freak if I could not even control my own hand?
I realized at that point that perhaps gaining the title of “control freak” was not going to be as simple as I had previously thought. The transition from “micro-manager” to “control freak” was much more than a perfunctory swapping of a name tag. It was indeed a progression of learned skills that must be achieved and mastered.
As a “micro-manager” with limited skills, there was no way I was going to fool anybody into thinking I was a “control freak” just by putting a box on a chart and adorning my lapel with a fancy new name tag. No, it was gonna take much more than that. First thing I was gonna have to do was find somebody who was a real “control freak” and shadow them for a while. I needed to walk a few file rooms in their shoes, hang out in the employee cafeteria with them and see if I could learn a few tricks. But where could I find someone with such outstanding skills? Surely these extraordinary managers don’t grow on trees. Locating the perfect mentor to emulate was truly my dilemma. Who was I to ask for direction? And then it hit me … Lois at the E-Z-Shop! She was a Directions and Logistics Manager. She could surely help me, and I could always use another nut cluster.