The Line

Lagos CONS MBC Newsletter | September & October 2015

From the Desk of the Chief

Greetings to all, and a special hello to our newly arrived staff.

This is the second message I am able to send to you through our Morale Building Committee, and I thank them for their work and for this opportunity. In my first message, I wrote about our team’s successes. I wrote that we have accomplished a lot and that we have many reasons to celebrate. In fact, we continue to receive accolades from Washington on our management of the present high season visa numbers even while we incorporate new staff – and do so with gaps in our mid-level positions. We have accomplished a lot, and we continue to exceed productivity expectations some Consular Affairs Bureau analysts made earlier this year when they told CA and the Hill that (among other countries) “Nigeria will be adversely affected by the continuing visa system problems, and may have wait times that exceed 60 days.” That never happened because all of you, Nigerians and Americans, stepped up and dealt with a hard and sometimes numbing job like the professionals you are.

Thank you.

This time I would like to talk about transitions. A comic once said that “A transition period is a period between two transition periods.” In other words, we are always in transition. I think that’s right and that we often get into trouble when we start to resist transitions or start wishing things would not change. In about 7 weeks I will transition out of Nigeria and start a new job in Italy (eventually, after training). As I leave I know that you are already well prepared to move our team forward and accomplish the goals the Department has set for us. Knowing that makes my transition easier: I am not worried about it.

Your transitions between now and the time when the new md-level managers are comfortable in their jobs may be more rocky. While we still have a great management team in place (Candace, Eric, Amanda, Nardos and Katrina) the team is (mostly) young and there will still be lots of opportunities for cases to be misplaced or for things to be miss-communicated; and the call for consular staff to work in other areas – even in the face of our highest workloads – isn’t going away (which is Candace’s headache now). All I can advise is that you realize that in transitions things are always lost and gained. But you mitigate the ups and downs through trust and working together. Constantly communicate what you are learning on and off the line to others. Adjudicators, as you learn more about the applicant pool, spend more time with our Nigerian colleagues to learn about Nigerian social / business customs. Let our local staff know what kind of cases you are seeing and what seems strange to you. Ask their opinions based on the “facts of the case.” Your life-on-the-line will get easier as you learn more from a Nigerian source. LE staff, don’t ever think of work as yours, or someone else’s. It’s our work - so take care of something that needs to be done as soon as you see it, and let us know if you see a better way to do it. For all, when dealing with the difficult parts of a transition trust your team mates, talk about problems and move forward. There will be mistakes: no worries. As a team, never ask who made the mistake, just ask what can we do to resolve it. Good leaders and teams focus on making everyone look good. So don’t point fingers, identify what needs to be done, ask for help, and solve the problem. There: that is how to manage a consular transition. Actively learn, communicate and collectively take responsibility for the work. The best part is that you already know all of this is true – I see you doing it every day.

Keep using transitions as a challenge to get better, and remember that change is a good thing.

Best Regards,