Grace at work

About four years ago, my company afforded me a terrific opportunity to manage a team of talented engineers on an important project. From the outset of the project, I championed the use of a modern engineering process that I had learned about in school and had been experimenting with for a few years at work. This new assignment was the perfect scenario for putting the full process into practice, and the team agreed to implement it according to my direction. It wasn’t long before we all gelled around the process, and before I knew it, I was witnessing a group of people working more productively and harmoniously than any other team around—and those above me were crediting my leadership with the good results. Once the team hit stride, I could almost step back and watch, providing snippets of direction here and there, and enjoying the good results.

The project lasted two and a half years. In the early months, business at my company was brisk. It appeared that we were sowing the seeds of a potential dynasty—as future work would come in, the business would want to leverage our success, and would split off members of our team to grow new teams, all of which would adhere to the same engineering process and thereby look to my leadership. However, as time wore on, business conditions changed. Many new business opportunities fizzled out as a result of an economic downturn. As our project entered its later phases, visions of a mushrooming empire had faded, and we were left hoping for just a single new project that could keep the team together. If we got to the end and there wasn’t anything new lined up, our team members would be scattered to other departments and divisions, and that team chemistry, along with my position of leadership, would be gone.

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