One of the most challenging lessons I had to learn early on in my management experience is this:
Just because someone does not do something the way I would do it, does not mean the way they are doing it is wrong.
You might say I’m a bit of a control freak. In high school and college I was always the one who did the entire group project myself to ensure that it was done up to the standards I expected. I was no different once I entered the workforce. I found myself in the position of constantly having to redo the work of others to achieve a level of excellence, and as a result was promoted quickly and offered many opportunities.
As my career advanced, so did the number of people I managed and was responsible for. While it was easy to monitor a team of 4 and micromanage every step of their processes (yes, I was SO that manager), I quickly discovered that with a team of 20 or more, it was impossible. Actually, it was possible, but my sanity suffered.
Somewhere along the line I had a fantastic mentor who suggested that I just take a step back and let it happen. Hire good, qualified people, clearly communicate my desired end results including the standard of excellence I expected, and see if my team could get there.
Amazingly, they did. Time and time again we achieved goals, and as a team we succeeded because our focus was where it needed to be, on our strengths and those things we were hired for because we do them well.
Over the past year I’ve undergone significant (but not unwelcome) change in my career and as a result my title and responsibilities. I am no longer in management, and in many ways I’m grateful for it. I’ve been told by people who have been on my team over the years that I’m excellent at it, but I struggled daily to be a strong leader, no just a “good boss.”
There are certainly moments where I wish I still had “veto” power. There are also times when I can see colleagues of mine struggling and wish I was in a position to be a leader or mentor and help them to find their professional path as someone once helped me. I wonder if I made the right choice in taking my professional life the direction that I have, as while it is saving my sanity, it doesn’t always challenge me or let me apply myself in some of the ways I am the strongest professionally.
Today is a day that I seem to be particularly stuck on not necessarily where I am, but on what’s next. I’m satisfied with my current role, but also have a constant need for growth and achievement. It’s unsettling for me to not have a long term plan, and as you can imagine given my control freak nature, it’s even more unsettling to not be driving and steering myself towards that plan every minute of every day.
For the past six months I’ve pacified myself with non-work related goals and achievements, and have passionately taken back my personal life and sanity. Now that I have it back, and have found the illusive work/life balance, I can’t help but wonder… what’s next?