So, I met my old accounting manager yesterday ... (and yes, I do realize that I start a lot of posts with "So ... " - I guess I tend to write the way I talk).
Thanks for everyones' input about where to meet - I did send her an e-mail with two choices and she picked the brewpub. Agreed, the conversation was more important than the food, but I wanted to show that I was being sensitive to her likes/dislikes, and gave options that would be best for having a discussion. (We both had steak frites topped with a bleu cheese sauce ... mmm ... ).
The position that they want to replace is an Accounting Manager position that replaced me when I left (I wasn't an Accounting Manager at the time, but they've made some changes). When I left, the management core team was pretty set in their ways, and while the firm as a whole was totally into changing with the markets, the Accounting department had remained status quo for quite some time. I explained, quite bluntly, why I and other star players had left - no room for growth or advancement, a reluctance of the core team to trust others enough to let go of some management responsibilities to clear their plates for more important non-operational duties, a tendency to micro-manage their staff to within an inch of everyone's lives - which all came from top down - the CFO set the model. I figured I had nothing to lose with being so blunt, and she whole-heartedly agreed, nodding and smiling with every word I said. I told her that, in my view, the people who had been there the longest were the ones that were adamantly resistant to change, who were perfectly happy performing the same tasks day in and day out ad infitum. And again, she completely agreed. To be honest, if the other manager had contacted me, I wouldn't have been so ready to meet with that manager or to be so honest; the one I met with is now a principal in the firm and the controller, and has always been incredibly respected by me (which I also told her).
Now, the role she wants to replace the current accounting manager with will be different - a new position really, reporting solely to her (the controller) and redesigned as a whole. The CFO has let go of a lot of her day-to-day operations meddling, and the managers (controller and assistant controller) have hired numerous new positions in the year that I've been gone - a tax attorney, two project analysts, an additional accounts payable position. They seem to truly be open to change and progress - finally. The position I would take over would be less of the position I left, and more true management. They want me to oversee and build the accounts payable team, including having the authority to cut out any "dead weight" and restructure the department to meet the strengths of the staff they want to keep, rather than maintaining them in their traditional and time-honored roles. They want someone who will look at the Big Picture and say, "Why are we doing it this way?", and implement change. They want someone who will look at all policies and procedures, challenge them, and come up with new and improved ideas to meet the changing world of the firm, the industry, and the world. How freaking exciting is that??? When I told her (before knowing what she was looking to do with this role) about my strengths as I now know them, how I'm energized by training/mentoring/guiding my staff, constantly challenging the status quo, and building a communal effort that empowers all staff to share their ideas and strengths AND weaknesses with a willingness to adapt, she broke into a huge smile and said "THAT'S WHAT I'M LOOKING FOR!!!!!"
I know the firm. I know the people. I know the good and the bad. She assured me that the things I feared in returning are looking better, that I'd have more authority and ownership of the role than I was given before. She assured me that the whole structure of the entire administrative team is less top-down and more democratic. She said my salary requirement is in the range she's willing to pay.
It was very, very positive. When we parted, I said I had a lot to think about, and was very intrigued by the offer, but would get back to her next week about the next step.
So now comes the hard part. I have to think about the big picture, and the details. Am I considering this position purely due to the comfort level (already knowing the firm, the industry, the people, the systems in place)? If I were looking at all of this from an outsider's point of view, would my interest level be different? Is that good or bad? Am I being idealistic - is it possible I would return and be met with the same brick walls I met in the past, regardless of the changes being promised (and that have already happened in my absence)? Will I meet the same reluctance to trust the next level of management (which would be me) and willingness to advance and promote my position? Would I truly be going back as an equal (or close) to the people who used to be my superiors? Can they handle that? Can I?
I know this is my decision, and mine alone. But - if any of you have any feedback, please, please share. As I said before, I've not been in this position at any other time. I have to balance the opportunity in front of me with the opportunities at my current job (learning a new industry, being well-respected and admired even in the first three weeks - but still being a temporary employee for the next 5 months at least).
Oh - and speaking of "when it rains, it pours" ... my manager at my current job sent me an e-mail yesterday morning about a financial analyst position that's opened with the clinic in the insurance/claims group. She gave me the information with mixed feelings as she wants to hire me in my current role with her group, but wants me to decide, not her.
A few weeks ago, I would have killed to be in this position! Now, it's exciting, and ego-boosting, but quite overwhelming ...