It is said that we teach what we most want to learn. Research is “me search.”
One of the exercises I have tried while crafting my “offer” to my ideal clients is to consider the topics I most enjoy exploring through writing. By looking at my “tag cloud” or my category list, well-being and consciousness are big on my list. I also love thinking about and experimenting with how to increase employee engagement and career satisfaction.
Regarding my well-being focus for the past few years: in 2015-2016 I realized I had gained more weight and life felt stressful. More travel and meetings were required of my position as a manager for an international division. I knew something had to change. I did not like the feeling of my clothes getting tighter, or my need to take the “edge off” with a glass of wine as soon as I got home each day.
I decided to take a 10-day pause from my nightly glass (or 3) of wine when I came home each night. Whew, lots of emotional stuff came up. Then I realized I’d started taking the “edge” off by over-eating more often, or justifying extra chocolate or dessert because my day had been stressful and “I deserved it” I told myself.
But what if I could live a life where I did not feel a need to buffer my emotions with alcohol or food? What if I could learn to feel my difficult and uncomfortable feelings, without needing to dull them?
As someone slightly on the introvert side of the introversion/extroversion spectrum, being with people for the majority of my day is taxing. Susan Cain advises introverts to find “restorative niches” of quiet or tranquility in our day, in order not to be overwhelmed by the social interaction required.
As a nexus point for 5 different departments and many different countries and regional units, it felt like constantly being “under fire” from far too many bosses or project managers, to whom I was accountable, even though I technically reported to just one director.
Restorative niche? Only if I could work at home (and I did now and then). I craved “deep work” assignments when I could have uninterrupted time to work on a project or develop a tool or workload model, for example. But the number of conference calls and meetings grew exponentially with the number of different initiatives we were called upon to execute.
I got really good at saying “no” toward the end, and also much better at delegating to fellow team members while developing their skills. Not always a popular choice for the entities which funded our small team. But a necessity nonetheless, since we were not able to deliver high quality results when spread too thin.
So what do I want to teach and learn?
- We must make conscious choices in our lives. We cannot do it all, nor should we. We must decide on what is essential and strategic, and do only that.
- Wellness is non-negotiable. Our employer may think our mid-day run or yoga class is optional, but for many of us, it is the restoration we need to be most productive.
- Working harder is not an option. Most of us are already maxed out. Working smarter is an alternative. Turning down calendar appointments is an option. Setting boundaries and expectations and communicating those is critical.
- Being willing to receive tough feedback as a leader is essential. When people know you trust them, and are willing to listen and make changes, or help influence the process based on feedback, they trust you. Trust is essential to getting the work done efficiently.
These are some of the hardest lessons I had to learn in my time as an operational manager in a very large medical device company.
What do you most want to learn? Do you spend time writing about this topic as well?