Stuff I’ve learnt from getting it wrong

This blogs more of a ‘bluergh’ where I chuck thoughts on virtual paper, rather than it being anything considered — or even interesting :) I changed jobs recently and its got me thinking. I didn’t change jobs because I didn’t like my old role, or because I didn’t like the people I worked with or the place I worked…..far from it, the last few years have been the greatest privilege of my career to date with the most incredible people doing the most incredible things. I always thought you left jobs when you weren’t happy but I’m now seeing you sometimes change jobs just because opportunities come up which give you the chance to do something different yet still be an extension of what you have been doing/have learnt/skills you’ve developed. Every job I’ve ever had has boiled down to one thing…..people. Every job has been about developing relationships, negotiation, edging nearer to a common goal and ultimately trying to make the world a better place. My job title or who employs me hasn’t changed that regardless of whether I’ve been a ‘manager’, ‘advisor’, ‘worker’, ‘head of’ or the job titles in between. I’ve learnt a massive amount through my roles, about myself, about leadership, about delivery, about how well I can get it wrong and how getting it wrong can lead to getting it right.

(Quite) a few years ago, I did a 360 feedback exercise where someone I directly line managed absolutely slated me, honestly and bravely. Once I stopped crying, I thanked her because everything she’d said was true. I’d mistaken leadership as something which needed me to be quite dictatorial (confusing fear for respect), had a heightened sense of my own importance and was just somewhat awful at my job. I confused leadership and management, didn’t recognise there was a difference and saw people more junior to me as subordinates not colleagues. That 360 feedback was the single best thing anyone did for me in a work environment. I don’t want to paint myself as a dragon, I wasn’t all bad, but I looked to others I thought demonstrated great leadership and tried to emulate them. I’ve learnt that a) they weren’t great leaders and b) I don’t need to emulate anyone. I’m a very different ‘leader’ now (I think — ask my team for more!!) but hope I’ve learnt some stuff;

  1. Being a good leader doesn’t mean you’re always alright or always right.

2. People are the most important thing in any role, in any organisation. People are more than their job title or role. Get to know and understand the people around you and decide whether they are there to support you or you are there to support them (fyi, my choice is the latter)

3. Good leaders listen more than they talk (I still have to work on this!) Good leaders ask more than they tell.

4. No one is better, worse, more or less important than me.

5. Being a good leader means looking after myself too — someone told me once that I should be very aware of what was, and what wasn’t, my monkey. ‘Not my monkey’ is my most commonly used phrase.

6. Using big words to try and make myself seem like I know what I’m talking about or feel clever is pointless. If people don’t understand what I’m saying because its all jargon, they won’t be impressed, they’ll rightly think I’m not communicating well.

7. Being a good leader doesn’t mean agreeing or being overly accommodating, it means being able to disagree and challenge in a way that's helpful and being able to have (sometimes very) difficult conversations in a way that move something forward and leave all parties feeling heard and valued.

8. Being a good leader means being kind, patient, considerate, considered, able to understand and get the best from people and bring people along with you. You also consistently get stuff done.

9. Leadership isn’t about your job title or where you sit in a structure. Its about how you act and behave. Everyone can be a leader.

10. We can all influence whether the world is good or not. We can all change it in our own way and we can choose if we use our own superpowers for good or for bad. Good leaders choose good.

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