Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Blogstorm: Glorious morning, a stressful season, and the calm that's followed

As I drive in to work each morning, the last stretch of my commute faces my car and I almost due East. Dry and rocky hills line the horizon and occasionally, just occasionally, the skies fill with fluffy clouds and the sun cuts through in hundreds of shifting lancets. About three weeks ago, we had one of those glorious mornings. Thankfully, I had my camera with me, and fifteen minutes to spare.

By midday those wonderful clouds had cleared, leaving the skies empty and the sun blazing down. I work on the fourth floor of an eco-friendly office building, with a long balcony along one side. It's a beautiful and, sometimes, peaceful place to work.

On this particular day, I was feeling bloated and chubby again. Triamterene is a diuretic. Getting off the drug is, in the long run, a great thing. But, short term, it left behind a parting gift: five pounds of weight, gained in three days. It's water weight, but it's weight just the same.

Over the next couple of weeks, I struggled with the removal of the drug from my daily regimen. My blood pressure never got dangerously higher. In fact, it never really got much higher at all. But I had headaches for days. I felt tired and down.

It didn't help that I went through a very stressful time just then. Each year, as in most companies, our company conducts annual reviews of the employees. I manage a small team, and lead another, separate small team. So I had reviews to deliver, and more to contribute feedback to.

I take this part of my job very seriously. Feedback about performance should be constant, honest, and always constructive. It's a year round responsibility, and the part of my job that I take the most pride in. The annual reviews, however, are special. They're the one moment, during that year-round feedback cycle, where everything comes together, on paper, and transforms itself into adjustments to salary, and into bonuses.

So, for each of the people I manage, I gather feedback from many of their peers and leaders. Each person writes a self-review. I add my own opinions and notes into the stew and boil it down into, hopefully, a meaningful summary that balances recognition of all of the great talents and experience each person brings, with opportunities to improve, and to have a broader and more impactful influence on the team and the business.

It's important. I love this part of my job. But it's a LOT of work. And here's the really difficult part: the other part of my job, keeping up relationships with the other teams that depend on us, managing changing priorities, running interference for the team and removing their roadblocks, doesn't stop during review season.

So, for about two solid weeks, while my body was screaming and complaining, I was working all day, then going home to work on reviews at night. Often until the wee hours. The stress brought on another relapse of snacking, a reprise of my Diet Coke addiction, and a lapse in my exercise regimen.

Here's the good news: my reviews are finished. And well, I think. We're on to the next phase in the annual cycle: setting career development goals for the coming year. The stress is gone, replaced with a sense of accomplishment and some new energy. I've been working, over the past week, on renewing my commitment to eating well and exercising. And enjoying the little, very good, things in life. More on those as this blogstorm blows on.

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