by Jan Keiser, San Francisco Bay Region Chapter, Legal and Solo Librarians Divisions
I work in a small company as a solo resource manager, with the title of Senior Informationist. I have been applying excellent research skills to the company’s information needs for eight years.
In the context of my position I see the concept of the “outer brand” as a definition of myself; it’s who I am and the work I represent. We all have a brand–at work, at school, in society–a mark is left whenever we make a personal decision affecting others. The inner brand, however, only I can see and I’m responsible for it. Over the last few months, my inner brand has been suffering and I knew this would eventually affect my outer brand, so I needed to make some changes.
A parallel position for a market analyst was created at my company. Enter “M,” a recent MBA grad from a local university, smart and ambitious, although young and inexperienced. Since no clear direction was provided to the company about our positions, the “market research analyst” would receive an information request and turn it over to me (she had neither the skill nor the resources with which to respond). M assumed these requests came to her because that’s how the system worked – and then after I provided her with the research, she’d receive credit for the project–the work was assumed to be hers. This had been going on for months and I was completely jammed up doing the research while she was being invited to planning meetings. But I don’t think it was intentional – the company lacks clear communication. I’ve learned that you can’t always wait for someone else to jump in and save you.
I decided to sit down with M to see if she understood the difference between our roles. I pointed out that M didn’t have an opportunity to analyze our market or use her survey design skills, all the primary research skills etc. that she had studied in her MBA/Marketing program. I suggested this was an opportune time to demonstrate these skills since the company is making a strategy change. I explained that I’d gather the materials to help her analysis. M agreed this was a good idea.
In a series of planning meetings we finally decided to schedule joint capability presentations. We will begin by clearing delineating our marketing research background. Then we’ll outline the company’s research needs and offer up solutions.
There has been a great deal of interest in this joint “road show.” In three days we will present to the entire Marketing and Sales departments. With customized examples of marketing and sales dilemmas, we’ll explain how to apply our independent expertise to provide solutions. And, we’ll work together as a team – or a pair?
This struggle looks so simple on paper. I think everyone has experienced a similar problem. We don’t want to cause further friction so we say nothing – but then begin to feel anxiety and ill will (and that’s being polite!) towards the other party. I’m glad I spoke up – wish us luck.
The presentation went very well. As I said, I have done this many times. I was more comfortable; I inject humor into my presentation and was thanked over and over for my efforts. Even my partner said, “Well. You shined.”
My partner also delivered interesting information, although she failed to do simple things, such as stand up during her presentation. She sounded bored and shrugged a lot, as if to say, “Well, whatever…” I don’t know if feedback was provided or not to her or not. Since that meeting we have presented twice more and will present again next week. I have noticed she is enthusiastic and really seems to know her stuff. She still doesn’t stand up though, so that’s her style. I was lucky, working in a corporation years ago I was sent to “presentation school,” where you actually have to write a presentation and deliver it before your peers. You are taught how to handle latecomers, people who fall asleep or don’t listen and the entire performance is videotaped and then critiqued. It is excruciating.
So far, we are moving forward as a team. Lessons learned:
- Confront the issue honestly without taking it personally – swallow your paranoia
- Design some plan of attack to seriously alter the issue
- Have this plan complete before you open your mouth
- Rehearse as you would a presentation – you don’t really know how the other person will react
- If it doesn’t work, you have a documented effort to put forward to your boss, if necessary.
Jan Keiser has been providing business intelligence to clients for over twenty years. She has held research positions in corporations such as Foote, Cone & Belding, Pacific Telesis Group, Telesis Healthcare Marketing Group, and SBC, Inc., doing everything from developing customized information products to managing architecture and content for corporate–wide websites. At one point she operated an independent marketing business in San Francisco.
Jan has a B.S. degree from the University of San Francisco in Organizational Behavior and a Master’s Degree from San Jose State University in Library and Information Services. She will be joining a Graduate Program in Healthcare Informatics next year. Jan is an active participant in marketing and information industry associations, writing newsletters and mentoring newcomers.