Here is the second part of my reflections on leaving my leadership role with a Departmental Middle Managers’ Network. Part I is found here.
Keep the lows in perspective: Though all the work we are doing matters, you can lose perspective when you are legitimately worn down. One of the supports to my own resilience is taking the long term view on the crisis of the moment. An article made the rounds recently about the 10/10/10 rule, which suggests that you to ask yourself if your current crisis will matter in 10 minutes, 10 months or 10 years. By the time you reach the last question, you’ll have a good sense of whether the situation has the potential to leave a permanent scar or take the train off its tracks or is just part of the necessary dip on your way to a goal.
Small successes may reap large rewards: It snuck up on me that many after small efforts, the visibility and credibility of the organization began to rise. After negotiating how to send out regular communications to our group (many that were forwards from our National Managers’ Community), and hosting a couple of events which were topical and well attended, the flywheel started turning. I was caught off guard. People started saying sentences with words that I understood, arranged in ways that made no sense to my ears. By this I mean they were positive and enthusiastic: “You have quite a high profile committee.” “How do I get on that committee?” I hope that I can take forward the importance of the small act as I go forward.
Meet people where they are. If you hear crickets when you ask for help, keep asking and get others to ask on your behalf: As a manager, I take the job of helping my team develop and stretch into new skills to heart and I expected this philosophy to serve me well leading this committee. Frankly, it didn’t. Committee members have demanding day jobs and this work is carried out on the side. In time. I learned to rely heavily on the literature around managing volunteers for support. The main thing I learned is that it would generally be best to meet people where they are.
Trying to cajole people to lead activities that they don’t want to, and that aren’t technically part of their job descriptions, is like telling an adult that they have to eat the creamed corn even if it makes them gag.
In the earliest days we asked (and expected) our committee members to be active enough to carry out all the elements of the agreed upon strategic plan. When this did not turn out to be possible, we
were peeved and frustrated moved on.
We always had success eventually in a few different strategies: 1) Asking someone more senior to ask on our behalf 2) Offering specific help. For example, “Would it help you if I called to block David’s schedule?” People can often keep moving their items along with small bits of assistance. 3) Finding help by going as broadly as possible in your call out. We might call out to all middle managers or even aspiring middle managers. 4) Partnering with another already established, well respected network in our Department. Bottom line, stop with the woulda, coulda, shouldas and do what you need to do the land the plane.
Avocation may bring greater joy than vocation: For the number of days that I said to myself over the past two years that I could do so much better if I just had more time to devote to this role, on reflection, I don’t honestly know if I could have enjoyed it as much, if I had done it as a full time gig. In my role, I was spared the, the day-to-day work of finding rooms for events, prepping meeting folders and landing large scale contracts were ably handled by a group in our learning section. Thanks to Larry L for this insight.