Flashers and Floaters

Last week I started to be irritated by a black spot that kept appearing in my right eye. At the weekend I then noticed a light flashing in the corner of the same eye. So I did what we all do and consulted Dr Google.

It told me that I should seek urgent medical attention so that a detached retina could be ruled out.

Urgent medical attention?…On a bank holiday weekend?

I rang the Optician first thing on Tuesday morning and they were relaxed enough to tell me to come along to an appointment at 2pm, which put my mind at rest before they had even started examining my eyeball.

While I was waiting to be seen I started thinking about how dull it must be working in an Optician. Quite apart from all the dusting of spectacles and wiping away smeary finger marks from the display merchandise (which must be like painting the Forth Bridge) there didn’t seem to be a lot happening on a weekday afternoon. The occasional customer collecting orders and me with my ‘flashers and floaters’ appointment was the only thing going on.

I quickly realised though that the staff in the shop didn’t seem to be finding their work dull. There was lots of chatter, a discussion about planning a wedding and considerable amounts of laughter. At one point a young member of staff who was obviously on her day off came into the shop to say goodbye to an older man who was enjoying his last day. There was a lot of camaraderie and, as a consequence, a really good atmosphere. Everyone looked like they were enjoying their time there and it was an uplifting place for a customer (who was rather nervous about her eye test) to be.

During the previous week at work I had been involved in interviews for an assistant to a crucial support team. (We know all support teams are crucial but this one is on a growth curve and we had to get it right.) We interviewed a number of very strong candidates who each brought different skills and attitudes with them.

Then we had to choose one.

We talked around and around it. We asked other members of the team and the Senior Leadership Team. We set a couple of the candidates aside, feeling like we were making progress, but then bought them and their skills back into the mix. It was really hard.

The team’s leader decided that he would ‘sleep’ on the final decision over the weekend and our appointee was thrilled on Tuesday when I informed her she’d been successful.

Looking back on it, I realise that the different skills and benefits the candidates offered rather knocked us off course in our decision making and we should have remembered those team member appointment rules;

  1. Keep reminding yourself of the role. We are very lucky in schools that we often get candidates who are massively over-qualified because they are looking for the work-life balance that working in a school offers. Don’t be distracted by a qualified accountant if you are looking for a part time receptionist.
  2. Keep in mind the dynamics of the current team. There is no point in putting a shy and reserved candidate into a loud and confident team (and, unless you deliberately want to shake the team up, visa versa). Teams work best if there is a range of personalities and skills. Remember the bridge crew of the Enterprise and add a compatible candidate into the mix.
  3. Keep referring back to your person specification and the requirements of the role. You want someone with capacity and hunger for growth but you also need them to be willing and able to do the role available now.
  4. Lastly, it’s good to listen to advise of others but often you know what is best for your team. Those within the team itself can often have very different views as to who will ‘fit’ and remember people can be very change averse. Choose with growth, efficiency and with a small nod towards succession planning if you can.
  5. Don’t be worried about taking your time to choose the right candidate. It’s an important decision after all.

So, you will be pleased to hear that after a good deal of inspecting the back of my eyeball with a torch packing the same lumens as a football stadium floodlight, the Optician decided that all is adhering where it should be.

I won’t deny that the flashing continues to be annoying but I can live with it.

The best part of it all is that I now have a renewed admiration for the teamwork that can take place in the most unexpected places and I’ve been reminded that your relationships with colleagues are vital to your own happiness in the workplace. Choose them wisely, look after them and enjoy their company.

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