Wow. Where did the last six months go? I last blogged the day before I started my new job. So I guess that’s my answer. Thoughts rich, time poor. But here I am enjoying the last few days of a two week break, thus giving me the time to order those thoughts and commit them to this post. So much material to choose from, and I’ve settled on a reflection of my personal learning since joining a new organisation.
As my last post indicates, this has been the most mindful job transition I have ever made. In its build-up, I focussed less on whether I could do the job itself (it’s familiar territory), and much more on how I would find my ‘fit’. I’d been pretty thorough about it and was embarking on this new journey attentively and proactively…wasn’t I? Well yes, I think I would still maintain that was the case, but of course this doesn’t mean I possess the power of prescience. So, here’s the learning, the things I had not anticipated, or under-estimated. It fills the gap between my preparation and my real experience:
1. I didn’t realise til I left it just how much of me I had invested in my last job, and therefore how difficult it was to be separated from it, and the people who made it. Familiarity and shared history are enormously comforting in tough times. I didn’t have either anymore, and my time with it was over. Letting go was harder in the aftermath than it was in the moment.
2. I was a stranger to my new colleagues, and I hadn’t anticipated the impact that would have on my ability to make a positive impact at pace. What I know about me and what they knew about me was worlds apart. I know enough about my impact on others to understand it can be difficult to know me (why remains a mystery to me), but I don’t think I had really tied that up with being able to get on with the work at the pace it so needed.
3. the spotlight was brighter than it has ever been, not because I had done anything to earn it but because there was a huge sense of expectation of the new post holder (as distinct from me personally). It’s not my natural place of comfort at any time, but more than that, it wasn’t right. I’m of the very clear view that the days of the hero/villain leader are over, and the focus on a single post holder to hold the destiny of services in their hands is wrong in every way. Yet a new approach has wide-ranging implications for everyone which means it won’t be achieved easily or overnight.
4. the status quo bias amongst people is real – it doesn’t matter how illogical it may be, it does get in the way. We know the status quo is unsustainable but we are so weary with change that we just have nothing more to give. I really struggle with this and it’s been the toughest of all my learning – connecting with it, trying to address it in a way which isn’t about judging it, but is about validating it and building the energy and capability to break away from it.
5. an executive job title brings with it a whole load of assumptions and prejudices from others that bear no relation to me and my values as a person or a professional. Rationally I understand why this is. Personally, not so much. The idea that I should be motivated by anything other than helping people, including me, to be the best we can be is offensive and exhausting. I spend much more time than I expected talking with people about this shared purpose as the basis for our shared effort.
6. talking about things once, or twice, or even ten times may not be enough. There’s no right number. I have learnt to reassess constantly, check in, encourage, coach, clarify, seek feedback, to understand if we are all in the same place. And if we’re not, to talk more until we are, while trying not to let any frustration on my part show.
7. going home at the end of a long day and wondering ‘is it me?’ is OK. The important thing for me is to have space for reflection and objective challenge from people whose judgement I trust, and to come back the next day to push forward with what I believe to be the right thing to do.
If I had known these things six months ago, would it have made a difference? Actually I’m not sure it would, because this is an adventure and I feel I am better for the experience. While I hope that familiarity will, in time, help me to create a smoother flow in my leadership of our services, these lessons are valuable at any time. I try hard every day to approach them with humility, courage, quiet confidence and an openness to learning. I get it wrong at least as often as I get it right, but I hope my new colleagues can see in me a determination to do the best I can for as long as I am here. If I can achieve that, I will be happy.