Leading From Your Story

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It was 2009, the mortgage crisis was in full force and my mid-life / career crisis was just beginning.  I started reading a book called “Getting Unstuck” by Timothy Butler.  Once I finished reading the book, I realized that I was at an impasse and was clearly stuck.  It was time for a change and this change required action.  I quickly sent off an email to Timothy Butler the author of “Getting Unstuck.”  Here is what it said:

Mr. Butler- Dated August 13, 2009.

Three years ago, I found myself in a “ditch” related to my career.  My Vistage leader recommended your book “Getting Unstuck” it helped me climb out and gain clarity.

 I have since made a directional shift and now find myself desiring to continually evaluate and get closer in terms of living a life of cause.  My present position is close, but not quite.  I want more.   I would like to solicit your coaching regarding the following areas:

 * Evaluate current situation

* Discovery of true life passion 

* Direction toward launching into a career / business that would allow me to live out these items

One day later, Dr. Butler replied to my email and provided me with a name of a coach on his team.  The coach challenged me to complete an  extensive career exploration process.  After 90 interviews with some outstanding people over a period of 50 days, a few job shadows and numerous hours of reflection it became clear that my cause was to help leaders flourish.

This crisis is a major part of my story.   It is from this crisis that I learned some critical lessons in leadership.  Here are the top 5 lessons:

1.) Don’t Live Out Someone Else’s Cause – Live Your Own

Throughout my exploration the leaders that stood out were the ones, who had identified their own cause and were pursuing their vision.  In my career, one of my challenges has been relying too heavily on my supervisor’s vision vs. identifying what mine was.

“Find a cause that enrages your soul and provides a service to others.” Wayne Dyer

2.) Lead From Who You Are; Not From Who You Aren’t

Comparison is a primary death trap for leaders.  We look outside ourselves for validation and even justification for our actions.  I think about the wasted time in my story spent trying to lead by becoming someone else.

Instead turn this on its side and focus on your unique talents and skills.   It is not about becoming more like someone else, but rather embracing you are.  This is about acceptance.

3.) Enthusiasm Matters

In the age of big data, certainty addiction and social media it is easy to disregard the importance of enthusiasm.  Deep in the halls of corporate America throngs of executives pine through sheets of data looking for an exact and certain answer.  Sometimes, it is helpful to just be enthusiastic about that next initiative or approach.  When was the last time you were enthusiastic about your work, team and vision?

4.) You Are Not Fooling Anyone. People Can Tell If You Are Behind The Mission

I remember this day vividly.  I was sitting in a 1:1 with my sales coach Bryan Neale and he said: “I think you are fairly happy with what you are doing, but I think you are fooling yourself to say that you love it.”

Two years later, I left my employer and started my own company.  Thank you Bryan Neale for pushing me to love what I do.

5.) Listen To The Small Voice That Says ‘It’s Time For Change’ Before The Small Voice Becomes Loud

Just today, I spoke with a client, who had waited 11 months to speak with her manager regarding her career and job fit.  The small voice became extremely loud for me when my daughter Claire said “Dad I like you more on vacation because when you come home after work you are grouchy.”

That small voice was loud because my kids were watching me experience an unhappy life.  It was time for change.  Listen to that voice and trust your instincts.

Share your story at your next meeting.  People are desperate to connect.