I am an external consultant. As my bio says, for the past 15 years I have partnered with leaders in both public and private companies in many different industries. At this point this represents building relationships with a lot of leaders. So you would think when a chief executive that I have been privileged to work with for the past 3 years leaves his company, I would be a practiced pro. And I am. Yet on a Friday night I am writing this blog post because I don’t know what else to do with my sadness. My "go to” fix for all things emotional is to do something productive and thank goodness I have this blog otherwise I might have to clean the kitchen.
I know that I feel sad because work is personal for me and I think this applies to many of us. What motivates me to get up in the morning is working on interesting assignments with people I am committed to and about whom I care. Sometimes I think clients pay me for my work but they really can’t pay me for my care. That is the part that is not included in the invoice. Though I am a consultant I don’t think I am that different from people who show up to the same workplace everyday. Their level of engagement is largely determined by their passion for the work they do, how committed they are to those with whom they work and the clients they serve. For the most part this is the way we human beings are wired: for purpose, relationship and love.
I used to ignore this side of myself. When I was an operations manager I would relentlessly forge ahead and get stuff done. My days were largely measured by how much we (and by that I really mean "I") achieved. I thought my ability to put my feelings aside made me stronger, smarter and more objective. The truth is it made me less relatable, less broadly motivating, less effective and less liked. I was also suffering because I was ignoring part of my inherent intelligence. In my work and life I have endeavored to integrate and bring all of my knowledge, experience, and presence to my work. It makes me more effective and I have lots of data for this. It also makes my work more difficult when things change for my clients as they inevitably do. If you are lucky enough to have work and colleagues you care about, you feel it when a beloved colleagues leaves.
No doubt this is how my clients feel when their leader leaves. They wonder what will happen, how the business will continue and what it will mean for their role and work. Depending upon how they feel about their boss, they will be relieved, neutral, disappointed, concerned or sad. I try to “have tea” with whatever shows up because this is the nature of my work. I wish you the same. Ignoring the emotional side of work has too big a price and I am not willing to pay it these days. I hope you won’t either. This is the true mastery of change – to invite it in (it will enter anyway) and welcome it at the door so that you can give it the space it needs. Once you have done this, you may really move forward and do what needs to be done. Then, as a client of mine likes to say, “onward ho”!
Welcome to Moira's blog. I write a (mostly) monthly post about the work of building better work places: people strategies, systems, teams and leaders.