|Barbara Mintzer's Newsletter
The Power of a Vision... a Leader's Journey
This month's Newsletter is in response to an e-mail I received regarding last month's Newsletter on the qualities essential for leading from influence. The Newsletter subscriber wishes to remain anonymous, however, her e-mail could have been written by any one of us. She says in part "I believe I have the qualities essential to lead from influence, but I just don't know if I care anymore. How do you know when you have outgrown your job?" Who among us hasn't asked ourselves that question at least once every year? I certainly know I have. How to answer that question is a little more complicated, but I will try.
When I started my career as a professional speaker I had a "fire in my belly" that wouldn't go out. I could not walk into a large room ANYWHERE without seeing myself standing on a platform in that room speaking to an audience. I had no idea who the audience was, and I had no idea what I was talking about ... but I was on stage talking ... and I could see it, smell it, taste it, I wanted it so badly. I didn't know what I didn't know about the speaking business, and thank God I didn't. If I had known all the hard work and rejection involved in what I do, I probably would not have ventured forth. But, since ignorance is bliss, I gave it everything I had. And in the 21 years I have been doing this, I have had a lot of ups and downs along the way. I have thought about "retiring" many times, however, when I close my eyes and try to vision what else I would be doing, nothing comes to my mind. I still see myself on stage motivating people to be the best they can be. As long as I still see myself doing this work, and as long as I believe it has value and merit, I will continue doing it. The day that I no longer feel what I say has value, or I no longer care about my audiences, that is the day I walk off the stage for good.
I believe that is the same for most of us. We tell ourselves we will continue to do what we do until we cross a certain line. The line is different for everyone, but that line is usually a criteria that must be present in us in order to continue. When that criteria is no longer there, i.e., I believe my work no longer has value or I don't care about the people I lead, that is our signal that we have outgrown our jobs. Sometimes the criteria comes from the outside, i.e., I no longer respect the person I am working for, or I am not given enough authority or resources to carry out my job duties to the best of my ability. How do you go about assessing your particular situation?
"The first rule of holes: When you're in one, stop digging."
Molly Ivans, Columnist
When you find yourself in a rut, take a step back and look at what caused you to feel the way you do today. Are you not feeling appreciated for the work you do, either by those you report to, or those who report to you? Was there a particular incidence that brought this on, or have you been feeling this way for awhile? Who can you talk to about it without fear of punishment or retribution, and with assurance that confidentiality will be respected if you wish that? Now is the time to get some feedback from an objective perspective. Your perspective can only be subjective because you are in it, and a person whose opinion you value who is away from the situation can see it more clearly.
A BIG QUESTION TO ASK YOURSELF: If outside circumstances changed and I felt more appreciated or I had more responsiblity, would I STILL feel like I am ready to move on? This question is crucial as it forces you to look at what is going on INSIDE as opposed to the cirumstances around you. Case in point: If you can honestly say to yourself that you really do not wish to lead your employees anymore, a change may be better for all concerned. It doesn't mean you don't wish your employees the best, or that you don't like them, it means you no longer wish to invest your energy and time into their betterment. Nothing to be ashamed of or guilty here. There may come a time when putting your eggs in someone else's basket is no longer meaningful or purposeful for you.
On the other hand, it is easy to let the hum-drum of everyday work get us down. Sometimes I spend all day putting out fires and taking care of problems. I don't get to do what I intended to do, and that is very frustrating. Many of you have my t-shirt which, by the way, I am wearing as I write this ... that says "I am not pushed by my problems; I am led by my dream." I have to know that problems, annoyances and irritations come with the territory. Any territory. I can't let my buttons get pushed by my problems; I must still be led by my dream to get up on that platform and do what I do. As long as I can honestly say that the joy of speaking outweighs the frustrations in the office, I am where I need to be. If that ratio is reversed, it would be time for me to do some serious soul searching. The truth is, that every job, every company, every person you work with, can be annoying, irritating and unreasonable. That will not change. So if you are running away from someone or some circumstance, come to terms with it
before you think of leaving. Life is funny that way ... your next job will give you the opportunity to finish what you didn't finish before you left this one. Think about it. By the way, in response to a number of requests, the above t-shirt will be available for purchase in time for the gift-giving season. You can let me know now if you are interested in purchasing them for your staff, and I will give you the details.
GET OUT OF YOUR COMFORT ZONE: When was the last time you initiated something significant in your professional life? What can you do to make your job more interesting, meaningful and purposeful? How willing are you to take a risk? Not a foolish, ill-thought out risk that can cause harm. But a risk that could lead you into proposing a new innovation for your department or company; or a risk in trying a new way to give your customers/patients/students a different experience of their circumstances. Take some quiet time at home and reflect on this: If money were no problem, and I was in control of this company/hospital/school, what would I do differently? What innovations would I put forth? What would I like my company/hospital/school to look like in five years. Then, take some of the seeds of your innovation and try them out. Since money will most likely be an obstacle, and you will probably not have complete control, DO WHAT YOU CAN WITH THE HAND YOU ARE DEALT. You may be surprised at the impact you make, and how many people will help you make it.
"The measure of success is not whether you have a tough problem to deal with, but whether it is the same problem you had last year."
John Foster Dulles
How long have you been dealing with this problem? If it is the same problem you have been dealing with last year, and the year before, make a contract with yourself to come to terms in 2004-2005. You are the only person who can determine if there is room for innovation and creativity on your part to make your job more interesting and purposeful to you. Only you can decide if it is time to move on to another position in the company, or to look elsewhere. Take your time and do your research. We live in very uncertain times today, and you should have a clear concrete idea of where you want to go and how to get there before you cut the ties where you are now. After doing your research you may come to the conclusion that you are really much better off where you are than you thought you were. If that is the case, your next step is to "re-invent" yourself and your position so that you come to work each day with a sense of excitement and purpose. I'm in your corner cheering for you on whatever path you choose to follow.
If you have any insights, feedback or experiences you would like to share, please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org If you would like me to share your feedback with the other readers of my Newsletter, and you wish to remain anonymous, it will be honored. If you wish to pass this Newsletter along to a colleague who may find it of value, feel free to do so. If that person would like to receive the Newsletter, e-mail me with the address, and I will put it on my database. Have a wonderful month.
About the Author
Barbara Mintzer is a nationally recognized speaker and consultant with over 30 years in business and health care. She speaks from experience! Her how-to programs provide participants with immediately applicable skills and strategies for getting buy-in and commitment from staff and staying on top of their professions in today's competitive and constantly changing workplace. Barbara presents keynote talks and breakout sessions for international, national, regional and state Conferences. She also conducts management retreats and in-house seminars. She facilitates panel discussions and roundtables at the same meeting...a good investment for your meeting budget. To explore the possibility of having Barbara speak at your next event, or work with your staff/leadership team, please contact her office.