It’s a relief to be off the road for a couple of weeks. I’ve been traveling a lot for work, and when not traveling, I have been in daily meetings with BP and/or our clients or associates.
Since BP is on the road solo and I have nothing scheduled, I am working from from home, which means I am working from my sofa, feeding my caffeine addiction, and trying to deftly resolve last week’s horrible business mistake made by one of our clients while holding everyone else in place.
A huge part of my job is playing “hurry up and wait.” There was a great line in Mad Men last night that reminded me at first of BP, but it actually reflects what I do daily: When Don Draper was firing his secretary (who was saying that she covered for him all the time): “You do not cover for me; you manage people’s expectations.” That’s really what I do — I manage people’s expectations. Because I am balancing people and resources and assets in a few countries, I have very little control over our timelines. Scratch that: I have zero control. My only role is to keep everything appearing to move while it’s all being held in place. Little pieces of the puzzle click into place at random intervals and everything else remains still — but, if you are one of those people being held in place, you want to and do see the (non-existent) flurry of activity surrounding you.
Honestly, it’s the hardest part of what I do — making you feel like everything is advancing while I am doing everything I can to make sure nothing moves until I am ready to move the one or two key assets for that moment. I do not always succeed — and I famously undermined my own authority with an equity partner by appearing less than responsive while trying to hold him in place while another piece moved into position.
At this moment, I am holding a banker, an equity partner, and BP in stasis while I become comfortable with something I need to deliver. If they rush me, my delivery may lack something important. For now, they are all on hold while I think it through and check and re-check the strategy.
Everything appears calm, while progess is being made. But in reality, I am taking a break from my document to enjoy a pot of earl grey and give myself some space to ponder if I am making the right move.
I had no idea how much of my career would end up being a multi-dimensional chess game. The stakes are so high; the rewards are great. Any error at this point has enormous implications across continents in our little industry. Two minor mistatements by our international partner has caused a two-week delay and may have killed the project — a project we’ve worked on in earnest for years.
That’s why I need a break, some time for a cup of tea, and to think through yet again every single word.