Working it Out

 

Going on a month since the big layoff. I think all of us that were affected are still either reeling from it, desperately grasping for something new or coming to grips with our weird sense of relief. Whatever we're going through, I know that every former workmate I've talked with has the same underlying theme. Authenticity. 

 

 

 

I would say that my state of mind is a slow, slow reeling that requires constant calming, coupled with an amazing sense of freedom. What I lack is patience. I want immediate outcomes. I move very very fast. Slowing down would be a huge asset. Y'all. I am trying!

Maybe you all can relate. Maybe some of you shove it down into your deepest psyche in order to get up and do a job every day. What am I talking about? Creativity. Uniqueness. Bold thinking. 

Why do we think we have  to hide that? What is it about today's work world that makes us believe we're in a cog that only grinds when we conform? And here's the crazy part. Companies advertise disruption, creative thinking, exciting new ideas, fast paced excitement, blah blah blah. 

Here's the problem with all of that. 
An idea is only as good as it's execution.
I've seen a number of executive level leaders throw spaghetti at the wall only to burn out the teams that have to clean that mess up.
That's not groundbreaking. It's not creative. It IS disruptive, but only in the pejorative sense.
It made me realize that Imposter Syndrome goes both ways. 

Whoa!! What?!? Did I just appropriate a term reserved for us non-white males?? 

I did. 

I think we can all agree that there are people in senior and executive positions who aren't qualified to be there. I was told that senior level jobs are offered on the golf course. Relationships outweigh qualifications. Sounds like I won't be advancing my operations career via job boards, but if I'm a good enough “bullshitter,” I may have a chance. There are those who are convinced they are leadership material when they really aren't. I think those of us who are suffering a collective work exhaustion are now or have recently been exposed to poor leadership.

Leadership is not spreadsheets, presentations and schmoozing.
The very first principal of leadership is simple:


Never Forget Where You Came From
 

Period.

Honestly, the janitor may be a better leader than a CEO. 
How do I know this? Personal experience. 
Why was I more drawn to the cleaning woman than my boss?
She was more authentic. She looked me in the eye. She smiled and said hello when she saw me. She listened. She seemed to have time for me. 

I realize that executive leaders are short on time and that they are juggling big responsibilities, but if you make it that far in your career, at least learn the illusion of time. You have one minute. If you engage with your team by using eye contact, standing still, and participating in active listening, that one minute will seem much longer to your employee. 

We were all the new person once. We all had those horrible early job experiences where we felt abused, dumb, frazzled and directionless. My first job as a manager offered the lovely perk of nightly hard cries from my living room couch. A hopeless sense of stress and degradation. No real support, but plenty of accusations and yelling. Even a little harassment that bordered on quid pro quo. Because I was young, I just thought that was how a job was supposed to be. That somehow, that emotional beating would move me right up the ladder of success. It didn't. I had to quit to save my own soul. And that meant starting over in a similar situation, and so forth. It was age that pulled me out of that cycle. Life experience. And I never, ever forgot where I came from. No one deserves to feel that way just to get a paycheck.

I became a fantastic leader of people. A motivator. A shit umbrella. A gateway. A servant leader. I was never afraid to learn my team's jobs and help out. I could pull a poor performer back from the brink because I was really good at understanding what got them there in the first place. I wasn't interested in just my own skin. I believed in people, and I saw them as individuals. And I never thought I was perfect or beyond growth.

I got out of their way and encouraged them to make their ideas work. And almost always, the ideas were a success. 

Now, here I am. Working it out. What's next for me? 
Honestly? I am not technical. I can learn stuff and do it, but it doesn't excite me. 
I'm a creator. I'm a people champion.
I get such a deep sense of accomplishment when I see a young worker excel, grow, promote and succeed. 
I also get a deep sense of accomplishment when I can use my creative mind and spirit to help those in at risk situations step up to something better. Often times, it's these people that are the brightest future for humanity; especially the children. If they remember where they came from, then they will be the compassion and strength we're going to need to evolve beyond a keyboard and monitor.

So, I aged over the last 12 - 15 years. Not just chronologically, but physically and emotionally. I tried hard. I kept my integrity, and I championed a smart and wonderful team of operations experts. And I put up with a lot of stress and unwarranted crap. I feel proud of my accomplishments; even if I'm an older version of myself. 

Now it's time to take that experience and make it a better path for those who come after me. 
I once had an elderly gentleman say to me,
“My dear. We're like horse shit. We've been all over the road.”
 

 

A song about all of this…
Mt. St. Helens


 

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