As a leader you spend a lot of time thinking about others and their professional development. But do you spend enough time thinking about yours? More specifically, do you spend enough time evaluating your current role and its contributions to your future self?
Last week I woke up and I wasn’t particularly interested in Chip and Grey. It was the first time in 3.5 months that I wasn’t interested in feeding the two squirrels, but it wasn’t the first or last time I would question if my current role was fulfilling my professional needs.
It’s easy to forget about your own goals when you’re managing a team with many goals of their own; goals that you will help them achieve. But if/when you wake up one morning and you’re not particularly interested in seeing said team members or you can’t remember the last time you discussed your career goals with someone, I encourage you to set some time aside for some personal and professional interrogation.
Here are 5 questions every leader should ask themselves on a regular basis:
What were my expectations when I took on this role? (Were they met or can they be met?)
Am I going to learn any knew skills in the next 12 months?
How do I feel about the field/industry? (Am I passionate about it?)
Does the culture of the organization align with my values?
Is there room to move up or laterally within the organization?
Why should you ask these questions? Because part of being a great leader is being able to recognize when a role is no longer contributing to your own professional and personal goals. In a previous blog post I discussed how identifying a company’s limitations can change your approach to your team’s training and development, and it’s important to not forget about your own development in the process. The only thing harder than leading is leading without experience.
Take some time to interrogate your current role and ask yourself 5 potentially revealing questions. You may come to the conclusion that you’re happy where you are, or, you may realize that it’s time to take a different route. But one of the most important things you can do as a leader is keep a map in the glove compartment and keep an eye on your personal road. A leader without a map will eventually lead others in the wrong direction.
Please join me in welcoming Grey to our team at Foraging Leaders!
Grey, who has been working with us as a stock management consultant since November 2018, will be joining our team as Director of Strategic Foraging and Innovation.
Grey has spent many years leading the industry towards more efficient and cost effective methods of protein collection and distribution. Known for their creative solutions, Grey has been labeled by industry experts as the “Rocket J. “Rocky” Squirrel” of the Protein Management world.
Grey is excited to be joining the Foraging Leaders team, and we look forward to having them continue their professional journey at Foraging Leaders!
P.S. Here’s Grey sampling some product before heading into their first meeting with head of purchasing
Prior to taking on a managerial and/or leadership role, I highly recommend asking yourself one question: How well do I handle loneliness?
Your answer should not decide whether or not you accept the position – there are plenty of other, more important things to consider. Your answer should, however, decide what support systems you will need if you choose to take on the role. If you’re reading this and are already in a leadership role, join us and ask the question.
Loneliness is frequent in leadership. It’s not constant and it doesn’t mean you will literally be in a room by yourself more times than not. But loneliness can exist while sitting in a boardroom full of people. Loneliness can exist during your birthday party. Loneliness can, and certainly will, make an appearance on your commute to work. Loneliness is a force, a tool of isolation, and above all, an underestimated symptom of leadership.
You’re no longer the one who gets to sit with your co-workers and trash the boss’ decisions. You’re the one who now makes, intercepts, over-rides, rationalizes, and presents the decisions, including the difficult ones. Very few people will understand what it’s like to make 452 decisions (big and small) on your own, in your own head and in a short period of time. This is how you miss birthday parties while you’re cutting the cake. This is how you miss your bus stop because you’re weighing the pros and cons. This is how your mind and body wind up in two places at once. Some decisions you can debate with a co-worker, friend, or family member, but for the most part, you’re on your own. Some decisions will take seconds, others minutes, hours, or weeks. Which is why, as a leader, it’s critical to be aware of and interrogate your ability to combat loneliness.
I recently stumbled across a motivational talk by Gary Vaynerchuck, entrepreneur, author, speaker and internet personality. Over a period of 5 minutes, Gary had me nodding hard in agreement, applauding his transparency, disagreeing with more than one statement, breaking out in laughter, and irrationally thinking, “Thanks, Gary. But we’re not all ’emotionally stable-as-&#@!’ like you are!”… It’s a great 5 minutes! Gary carries us through the emotional roller coaster of leadership, and I encourage you to sit back, relax, and enjoy the talk…
*Warning: Language used in this video may be offensive to some viewers*
The Untold Truth About Leadership – Gary Vaynerchuk | Motivational Talk
…Let’s revisit one of Gary’s thoughts:
“I know that I am emotionally stable-as-&#@! and it’s intense for me. I can’t imagine people that are not as fortunate as I am…” (3:55-4:06)
Gary recognizes that being in a leadership role AND being emotionally stable is a luxury – a rare luxury – and recognizing this will have a large impact on your career as a leader. It will define your approach to self-care, it will determine how quickly you can make decisions, and it will influence your ability to manage how lonely it can get “at the tippy-top.” I admire Gary’s emotional stability (even though my initial response would have you think otherwise), but my jealousy-ridden response simply reminded me of the fact that, like many others, I am a leader who will always have to work hard to combat loneliness. Plain and simple. I am also a leader who, in the past, made the mistake of waiting until I noticed signs of burnout and isolation (by choice) before asking myself, “how well do I handle loneliness?” Which is why I am encouraging you as a leader to ask the question sooner rather than later. And if necessary, more than once.
As leaders and managers we are consistently asked to be pro-active in the workplace. We are required to forecast the results of our decisions based on the known and the unknown. We prepare for failure but aim for success. We have (or should have) a contingency plan if someone is sick or walks away from a job. But do we prepare for our own loneliness?
Prior to taking on any managerial and/or leadership position, ask yourself one question: How well do I handle loneliness?
If your answer is anything but “I’m emotionally stable-as-&#@!,” create a support network. Create a list of people and organizations you can call at any time. Write down your interests, hobbies, and passions and post them somewhere where you can see them. Remind yourself that it’s OK to take time off, or, feed a squirrel and take a break from humans altogether. Chip is a surprisingly good listener.
Be pro-active and try to prepare for your own loneliness in the field of leadership. The job is yours and only yours, but don’t allow it to have your birthday cake and eat it too.
It was 100% my fault. Instead of leaving the peanuts on the window sill like I usually do, I decided to hold them in my hand to “see what would happen.” The worst part? I knew exactly what would happen. When I felt Chip’s tiny teeth sink into my finger, I panicked, he panicked, and we both ran in opposite directions.
Chip thought he was grabbing a peanut and I was micromanaging.
Back in 2014, Muriel Maignan Wilkins wrote an article for the Harvard Business Review which discussed the signs, symptoms, and treatments of micromanagement. For a quick reminder, here are some of the signs according to Wilkins:
“- You’re never quite satisfied with deliverables.
– You often feel frustrated because you would’ve gone about the task differently.
– You laser in on the details and take great pride and /or pain in making corrections.
– You constantly want to know where all your team members are and what they’re working on.
– You ask for frequent updates on where things stand.
– You prefer to be cc’d on emails.”
We’ve all had a manager, or been a manager who micromanages. And I think we all know that micromanagement is necessary in certain situations. I’ve asked to be cc’d on emails and I have asked for more than one update. But we also know that consistent micromanagement leads to resistance, lack of motivation/productivity, and the decentralization of any group consensus. We are quick to blame micromanagement for issues in the workplace, but we have also become accustomed to creating a safety net. We have allowed ourselves to believe that micromanaging can be an act of the subconscious.
Wilkins (as well as many others) writes, “If you’re like most micromanagers, you probably don’t even know that you’re doing it.”
I would argue the opposite: if you’re like most micromanagers, you know exactly what you’re doing.
As I held those peanuts in my hand, I knew I was micromanaging. I knew that I had two choices: I could leave the peanuts on the window sill or I could hold them in my hand. Either way the squirrel would get fed, but I chose to involve myself to an extent that wasn’t necessary.
When it comes to micromanagement, we need to resist the urge to look at it as a subconscious act. The fact is, it’s a conscious act. You know when you’re asking to be cc’d on emails, and you know when you’ve asked for the 6th update in 48 hours. We default to the subconscious because accusing someone of being a conscious micromanager associates them with the negative and sometimes fatal symptoms of micromanagement. And being an accuser comes with a great amount of responsibility, especially when someone is innocent until proven guilty.
But why do we need to look at micromanagement as a conscious act? Because consciousness allows us to hold an individual accountable. A conscious act can be coached, mentored, called-out, and developed. It can be spoken about and it can be questioned. It can’t be excused but it can be changed. But if we continue to tell ourselves that most micromanagers don’t know that they are micromanaging, then we will continue to hold the concept of micromanaging accountable instead of the micromanager.
Having to get a tetanus shot because I got bit by a squirrel was a real shinning moment of adulthood. But I couldn’t blame anyone or anything for the position I was in. I consciously chose to hold those peanuts in my hand and it came back to bite me in the ass…and finger.
Labelling micromanagement as a conscious act cannot change the negative impacts of micromanagement, but it can change the micromanager…Who’s ready for more accountability!?
Show of hands, who’s heard the famous argument “people don’t leave jobs, they leave managers?” (Both of my hands are in the air!). If you ask me, this statement is tired and it’s not as accurate as it once was.
People leave terrible jobs and people leave great jobs. People leave crappy managers, and they leave inspiring ones. The reality is, people will leave and for numerous reasons. So, let’s take a break from focusing on why people leave an organization and take the time to focus on developing skills your team members can use when they leave the organization. Why should we do this? Because investing in a team that will branch out and work at multiple companies supports the growth of an industry.
Good leaders focus on the success of the company. Great leaders focus on the success of the industry.
In October I began to feed Chip both shelled and unshelled peanuts. My reason was two-fold: One, I felt that the roasted peanut buffet was lacking in variety (so, purely for my own entertainment) and two, because I knew that in 3 months Chip would be leaving for the winter.
When it comes to training and development, try taking what I like to call the ‘double down’ approach. For every job specific skill you develop, double down and develop one additional industry skill. If we’re playing blackjack, you just split your cards and doubled your return. If we’re referring to commitment, you just doubled down and invested in the future of the company and the industry.
Job descriptions are designed to benefit the company and don’t always take the growth of an individual or an industry into consideration. It’s important for us as leaders to recognize that we, and the company we work for, have limitations and may not be able to foster an individual’s or team’s development for a long period of time. So in the anticipation of turnover, anticipate where your team members might go next.
Ask yourself these 3 questions:
What is the future of the industry?
What skill sets do my team members have?
What can my team members do with their skills in the future?
In order to answer these questions you will have to take the time to get to know your team members. Where did they grow up? What did they study in school? Do they have siblings? Hobbies? If your team member who works in the customer service department has a degree in Fine Art with a specialization in Integrated Media, would you be open to having them sit-in on the company’s next marketing/digital strategy meeting?
Doubling down will require effort, creativity, and disruption on your part. You may have to make a few phone calls, ask for a larger professional development budget, or leave at 5:20pm instead of 5:00pm because you took the time to look at Bob’s vacation photos. But take the time to get to know your team’s passions, interrogate the future of the industry, and double down. Put a pile of shelled and unshelled peanuts on the table and support your team member’s future – even if it’s a future you won’t be a part of.
Everyone will walk away from the table with something regardless of if, when, or why they leave it. But are you willing to double down and invest in the industry?