Early on in my management career, I faced a number of challenges with my role as “leader”; most of which came from within. Prior to my role in management, as Michael Gerber describes in his book, “The E-Myth,” I operated as a “Technician.” A technician drills through problems, and tasks; operating on procedures, formulas, and technical know-how. I would race to finish my work, as if it was a game; I’d do so with proficiency, speed, and “best practices.” Whatever that means.
However, that did not mean I was in a rush to finish work, just for the sake of crossing things off my checklist. In fact, when the work required me to learn a new technique, or a new software, I was just as quick to teach myself something new. I hungered for it, like In-n-Out during
the summer any time. To me it was all about the technical, the things that are hard to learn, and require immense precision. You know, software skills, nunchuck skills, SEO skills, web skills, blah, blah, blah. I’m boring myself listing them.
To me, I defined career growth like Batman’s utility belt; each skill learned was another doodad notched on the ol’ belt.
I thought the proven/only path was by way of technical skills, leveling-up, and self-reliance. No need for people, no need for help; I, and I alone would help myself. I was so very wrong.
But alas, this was how my brain worked when I first started “managing” a team. I thought my individualistic skills would translate to my leadership skills (embarrassing yet true). Here are just a few of the things I believed:
I pretty much thought I could do no wrong.
So what changed in the time I’ve been in a leadership role? I failed, and often. My hubris embarrassed, humiliated, and torched my ego. I engaged in screaming matches, made tons of mistakes, and took my team for granted—the same team, that got me there. On one particular occasion, I had someone who I managed tell me “You need to prove to me, that I can follow YOU.” BAM! Throat punch right in my soul. Things hurt so much more, when you know just how true their words are. Luckily, I’m good at holding my tears for approximately five minutes, just enough time to run away. All that said, failing was the best thing that could’ve happened to me, inside of work, and out.
So what did I learn from failing? That I’m still going to fail, and like all emotions you need to embrace them to move past them. You need to embrace the SUCK, as it’s the only way to GROW from it. You need to understand each challenge, to feel it, to dissect it, and then eventually, to separate yourself from it. Only then can you gain clarity and focus. When shit hits the fan, and you are in the unfamiliar—embrace that moment. These moments are inevitable, leadership role or not. If you circumvent the issue, you won’t see where you need to change, and if you cannot change, then you cannot grow, because growth requires change.
If you’ve made it this far, you’re probably like “What the shit Matt! I came here for answers? What are the tangible things that you learned?” Welp, this is what I learned:
You may try to circumvent failure on your path to leadership or whatever your course may be in life, but to become a truly great leader you must walk through the fire and feel the flames. Honestly, do this in your job, do this with your family, and do this with strangers. These daily micro-interactions work like compounded interest, and if you can change your day, you can change your month, and if you can change your month, you can change your year, and if you can change your year, you can change your life, and if you can change your life, you change somebody else. Do it for yourself. Do it for others.
And above all else, you never get there alone. If you’ve worked with me, for me, mentored me, all I’ve got to say with the upmost sincerity in my heart is—Thank You.
They say the best kind of ship is friendship, but I think you can find the same kind of friends on a leadership. Finally I’ll leave you with this quote.