I recently worked with a client as their interim Chief People Officer. To say it was an education, is an understatement. It’s been over 10 years since I was “embedded” with a client, even part-time. As an external consultant, I work remotely for most of the project creation and development work I do. I am in the client’s offices for program delivery, facilitation and other team and collaboration meetings. I have worked with the CEO of this company for over 11 years as he grew his career. We know each other well. I think the world of him. So, though this was not my normal “gig”, I said “yes”. I am so very glad I did.
The interim role gave me a chance to work with a CEO I love, an amazingly capable board Chairman and their very committed board. The board meetings felt like master classes. With their rich and varied corporate experiences, I learned so much from all the board members. I got to work with a very intelligent, passionate executive team who were also good human beings. They were a lot of fun. But if I am honest, the thing I loved the most was the chance to have a “do-over” with leading a team.
I was not always proud of the shadow I cast as a leader in the past. I had my first people manager role at 27. My favorite thing about it was getting things done, delivering results and the chance to be a part of developing others. As I continued to grow my career, I did some things very well. I also made more than my share of mistakes. Though I believe I was better able to demonstrate my care for people in my last internal leadership role, it still wasn’t what I was known for. My brand was always about delivering for the business and too much about me driving the results. I was less skillful at being a leader who knew how to inspire the best from others and with whom people loved to work.
When I was advancing in my career, it didn’t get in my way. Thankfully, the standards for how leaders treat and engage people are way higher today and I think they should be. I believe leaders need to be equally relentless about creating value for the business and demonstrating genuine care for the people. And I know that you can’t have one without the other.
After 19 years as an organization development consultant, much challenging and powerful personal development work, heaps of learning in action and tons of practice with client’s real teams and leaders, I felt that I would be better the “next time”. But if I am honest, I still had doubts.
The interim role gave me a chance to put all my learning to the test. I felt I knew how, but could I actually improve engagement on a team, even in an interim role? I am happy to say the answer is yes. We were able to measure improvement of the team’s engagement scores from when I started to when I left. I was also able to measure it in myriad other qualitative ways. What was already a very talented, smart, funny, committed human resources team when I met them, seemed more connected to their true source of power – their ability to work together to leverage their best. They started to realize the amazing value they bring to the business and became more comfortable collaborating with their partners across the business as equals. Though they and I have more development ahead, we made substantive progress.
I am so grateful for the chance to work with them and dearly miss them. And I know they will continue to expand the impact of the important work they do.
Moira Clarke founded Leadership Consulting Partners 19 years ago to help companies advance their leadership and people systems. If you are reading this to the end, and you find value, please say so and share with others on LinkedIn and Twitter. Thank you!
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.