Stuck In A Mess


In 2008, I accepted a big job and a big move literally across the world. Before the move I was excited, indeed this was the position of my lifetime! The leadership team appeared to be supportive, after all they flew me across the globe for an in-person interview and they selected me for the position within twenty-four hours of the interview. The leadership team included powerful and influential people. The department seemed strong, the budget was reasonable, and the community described as welcoming.

But within a couple of hours of my arrival, I had a sinking feeling. At the end of the first month on the job, I knew I had made a terrible mistake.

My supervisor was cordial, but never all that interested in my vision for the department, or available to help. The leadership team was more honorific than actual, and its members were uninterested in offering advice, making connections, or supporting my goals.

The budget was large, but no one had mentioned upfront that there was no guidance on meeting the obligations of the population we served.

And my team? They were disagreeable and cantankerous after I moved across the world to join them. I recall sending them an introductory email and to my surprise only one member of my team rendered a response.

During a late-night conversation with a close friend I discussed my interview. We sought to retrace my steps to understand how my assessment of the opportunity could have been so inaccurate. My conclusion: I had been intentionally misled.

The leadership duo who interviewed me, informed me that I was walking into an organization which had historical successes. They prevented me from meeting one-on-one with members of the department. Once on board, my leadership team usurped my authority by entertaining direct meetings with my department members without my knowledge.

There were obvious clues I missed because I wanted this job so much. The resounding question I was face with was: How do I move forward?

I learned some hard lessons about the dangers of excessive trust and optimism and the risks that come from failing to conduct due diligence. After inheriting this disaster, I behaved badly and spent an excessive amount of time blaming my predecessor for his inept leadership and I criticized the organization’s leadership for handing me a rat’s nest to untangle.

In retrospect my recommendation, “Behave better than I did."

What does that mean? What is the best way to respond when you have inherited a terrible situation?

(a) Speak as "us,&quo