After returning from a relaxing Hawaii vacation I felt recharged. I had planned to write more regularly, but ran into multiple work emergencies that even bled into my free time. This can be an entire post all on its own, but the main culprit of my work stress and angst was our new IT consultant.
A month and a half ago, Cliff walked into my office. He seemed nice enough and was brought in to spearhead some initiatives that have been sitting in queue since Chet and I have been swamped. Right off the bat, I got a bad feeling about him. This guy could talk your ears off. He was intelligent, knowledgeable, and very experienced. He worked for big name tech companies and seemed to know his stuff. He was very passionate about life, which is very admirable. He dabbled in the stock market, side businesses, and real estate. He loved being a dad, basketball, and travelling. I was initially hypnotized by his zest for life. But as days turned into weeks, he spent more time talking than working on his assignments.
Unfortunately, the more time he spent talking to us, the less time we had to focus on our own work. Chet and I tag teamed and tried in vain to manage him. I emailed a task list with expected completion times. Chet had a whiteboard session with him to attack a very complicated project. I met with my manager and defined roles. I would task Cliff and he would follow up at the end of the week. Cliff was encouraged to work from home more so as not to be so disruptive to the team. Nothing worked. The rubber met the road when bills came pouring in. His company was billing us for 40 hours of work when he only delivered a fraction of that. I would have no problem paying his exorbitant fees if he produced results. Sadly, not only was he not productive and unorganized, he actually took away from our own output. To add insult to injury, he took calls from other clients and internet surfed most of the times. Can you say lose-lose?
In the end, we informed his company that we would no longer need his services. We are currently looking for someone else off their bench and fielding resumes from some of our other partners. We still need help, but not this type of help. Here are my takeaways.
Trust Your Instincts
From the first moment I met him, my gut was turning inside out. He would want to talk about everything other than work. He would hijack conversations. He would interrupt me while I’m in the middle of something. He would invade my personal space. He could have been Bill Gates, but if his EQ was so low or non-existent, any value he did bring to the table would pale in comparison to the disruption he was causing. If this happens to you, don’t fight it or ignore it. Take prompt action instead of prolonging the inevitable.
Don’t Be Desperate
To be fair, he did accomplish what he was brought in to do. The first engagement was slightly more productive because there were clearly defined tasks we could hold him accountable and he had a limited time frame. However, things unraveled when he was extended for three months because my manager wanted the extra help. I was going on vacation so the timing was just right. Although my manager and I tried to set newly defined tasks and time frames, we quickly saw it was going no where fast as he dodged responsibility and deadlines. Our desperate need for additional manpower blinded us to the early red flags.
Appreciate What You Have
I don’t know how many times I told Chet how much I appreciate him now and vice versa. After going through this bad relationship, I am reminded not to take the good ones for granted. The saying it’s hard finding good help couldn’t be more true. I am again reminded that personality fit trumps knowledge and experience. Take a moment to appreciate the good working relationships you have. On a side note, reach out to good old friends and acquaintances to see how they are doing. Adding to that phrase, don’t burn your bridges, it is very difficult to build strong new ones with Cliff being Exhibit A.
We are again left with many tasks and projects without the resources we need. However, after this experience I am fired up to try and handle some of these myself. In actuality, I could have tackled the project Cliff accomplished. I just didn’t have the confidence to pull it off. My mind kept thinking about what would happen if things went wrong. I would bring the company to its knees without having the ability to restore things to normal. However, there were a few times when I had to disagree with Cliff and stand my ground. After seeing him complete his main project in his very unfocused style, I am confident not only could I have pulled it off, I could have done it even better. As I help with finding a replacement, here are some interview questions I will be using myself.
Do you have any suggestions?