Our Man in the Field:

I was fired from a job. OK, I wasn't totally removed from the job, actually the portion I was relieved of is the portion that I had no business taking in the first place. I know, public scrutiny says that the last thing I ever want in the public eye is that I may have been fired by someone. God forbid that I did a lousy enough job that it would deserve firing me, especially in an industry where my reputation could be damaged. However, the lesson learned ... again, is that there was a time in the job where I could have said "No" and avoided the net result.

So what happened? I started a job with a client as a subcontractor ... a simple job ... a job well within the expertise of my background and training. I was to review the current and existing CCTV system, make suggestions for upgrades and improvements, design the specifications for the upgrades and turn them over to be put out for bid. It was a good job for me. However, as the job went forward, the customer continued to throw things on the table that were not so much beyond my expertise as much as they were beyond my ability to perform. I am a small company and do not have the man power necessary to fully facilitate all portions of a large job by myself. I offered on more than one occasion to subcontract these "new requests" out. I even used firm language, at least at first.

"This is not what I do."

"This is not my expertise."

"There are people that can do this better."

"I know them all, I could suggest someone."

"OK, I guess I could manage it for you."

The bottom line is that I caved. I took on what I knew I couldn't handle well and proceeded to do the best that I could. The net and expected result is that I spent so much time distracted by all the little things that I fell behind. Not just on the job at hand, but on a lot of other work that I do. I literally worked all day and night for weeks on end and produced a third of what I could have or should have had done in the same amount of time. The worst part is that I was subcontracted into this job for my expertise in design. However, the whole fault is not mine alone. My employer, the client, also dropped the ball, by his own admission, by not intervening and stopping the customer from stacking work on top of me. There were multiple conversations, emails and conference calls between the client and I that followed the old path of "You can do it" ... "your doing great" ... "this stuff is looking really good."

So I was fired. My client was horrified that he had been asked by the customer to recommend someone else to manage the project. He was equally horrified by the idea of having to call me and let me know that this portion of the project was being taken out of my hands. And when the conversation first started out between us, I felt the pit of my stomach wretch. I have never in my life been fired. I have never been let go. I have never been told that the work I was doing or had done was sub-standard. This has always been a great point of pride to me. However, as the conversation between my client and I continued, I realized exactly what was being done and I suddenly felt a great relief. The customer was not rejecting my designs or suggestions. The customer was dissatisfied that the job was not being managed well. And frankly, despite my best efforts, it wasn't being handled well by me or my client. I suddenly found myself standing in a mixture of feelings. I was almost completely happy because the customer had finally decided to hire a reputable firm to manage all of the portions of the job that I was not qualified for. Luckily, the work that I produced toward the design was not trashed, but remains in tact with full compliments from the client, the customer and the new leaders. So, I remain on the team doing what I do best designing and writing job specification. My client could not believe that I was saying thank you for this move. He was worried that I would be angry and walk off the job or that I would throw it all back into his face and make it his fault, his problem and his nightmare.

I am, however, a bit sad that we had to come around the full circle after so much lost time and costs. I should not have caved in the first place. My client should not have caved and allowed me to become overburdened. We both stand in the same puddle.

In an industry where I am continuously screaming for professionalism, and so critical of the slack and slop that I see, I suddenly found myself looking into a mirror. I fell into the same trap that many companies do, big and small. The same trap that I have been critical of these past 30 years. Christmas was coming and the cash looked good. Now, the teacher side of me says that to avoid being a hypocrite, I must use this firsthand experience as a lesson plan for all others around me, as well as those ahead of me and those following close behind. This trait of self admission is, after all, what made me famous in the first place. The ability to publicly stand up and say, look here at what I have done wrong and learn from it what you can.

My lesson and warning for all today is simple: Beware the idle and formidable power of pride and ego. That's a lesson that I have learned more than once in my life. The last time almost cost me my farm. Leave pride and ego behind whenever you venture beyond your own front door. Do not let your pride hang onto false images of grandeur and do not let your ego hide the truth in those images. It is not a crime to admit that you do not know or cannot handle something, as an individual, as a professional, or as a company. Actually it is an obligation of professionalism. It is a slap, however that will come back and hit you hard, to cave in to your pride and ego when you should have just said "No!" Keep that as your motto in the new year!

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