The All or Nothing Myth — June 3, 2022

The All or Nothing Myth

The lesson for May 9th in The Maxwell Daily Reader says that just because you are not the Top Dog at your organization or on your team, it doesn’t mean you should give up on being a leader. John suggests finding out where you fit and how you can be most helpful to the team. Don’t let other people or your current situation define who you are to become.

A life-changing opportunity opened up at a company I worked for and I expressed interest in the position. I knew they already had a preferred candidate in mind, and I wasn’t surprised when that person was offered the position over me. I was one of the first people to congratulate her. Over the next two years, I volunteered my time to help her team with several programs and initiatives.

A few years later, another life-changing opportunity presented itself. This time, instead of me going after it, the head of the department walked into my office and offered me the job. They were grateful for the work and support I provided to the other team over the past couple of years. During this time, I developed a reputation for being a team player capable of producing high-quality content.

In the end, I didn’t do the extra work for the other team because I wanted to be recognized or rewarded for it, not entirely. I did it because they were working on stuff that I was interested in and that I wanted to get better at. Had I not been offered the position, I still had achieved the goal I set out to in the first place.

You Get More By Letting Go — June 30, 2021

You Get More By Letting Go

I attended a workshop today hosted by The GKC Group on Executive Presence. Toward the end of the session, I asked one of the Executive Panelists John Drain, CFO at Hearst Television, “What behaviors do you see in emerging leaders that might cause them to derail their careers?”

Here is a summary (my notes) on what John shared with the group:

  • People who have control issues. That is, they always have to be in control.
  • They feel that if they are not always in control, they are going to fail.
  • There is usually something behind this behavior, a fear of failure, low self-esteem, etc.
  • This not only affects them, but their entire team.
  • Some people can be coached to let go, but there are some who cannot and always have to be in control.
  • Those who cannot, put everything on their back and will eventually burnout or implode.
  • At the same time, they are not developing their team. Sooner or later, their best employees will leave to seek out opportunities to grow and develop elsewhere.
  • As a leader, one of your core values must include helping others succeed.
  • You cannot do this if you always have to be in control.
  • You have to learn to let go.

His advice reminded me of a post I wrote years ago for another blog. It is from a conversation film director Kevin Smith had off the cuff with his friend Jason Mewes on his podcast:

I could never understand when I was younger and listening to older directors, how much control they gave up. When I was a young director, I used to force actors to do what I wanted them to do. Now that I’m older, I get it. You get more by letting go. If you put somebody in charge of their own performance, they are ultimately going to give you their best. The best thing to do to create an environment for very talented people is to let them do what they do best and take a step back and don’t interfere; maybe stepping in every once in a while to help shape or tweak something. I know how to get the best out of people and what they do and that is my job. That is what I’m good at.

I shared this quote during a breakout session we had shortly after the executive panel convened and got a few head nods.  For me, it is one of the most important lessons that I’ve learned in my career. I fail at it everyday. But every once in a while, I succeed.  When I do, I get to see my team grow.  There is no other greater reward as a leader.