Life is not about the destination; it’s about the journey.
A simple way of saying, “be patient and learn to enjoy the ride.”
At least that’s how I’m learning to see it.
Much of the blog below are my reflections as I was driving into work last week. I originally posted the story on my LinkedIn profile, and now have expanded on those thoughts. I hope you enjoy peering into a moment of my “Journey”.
And before I get into it, I also want to say that it feels good to write all this out and communicate it. And I really hope there’s someone out there reading this who it helps- you’re not the only leader who isn’t sure what’s right and what’s wrong. There’s a lot of us fighting that. Talking about it helps. So, reach out if this resonates with you.
As I drove into work last Wednesday, I felt the need to pause the podcast I was listening to and just think. Reflecting on it now, it was hardly a conscious decision; it just kinda happened.
I started thinking about leadership and building a team.
“What’s my leadership style? And what do I hope to pass on to our team?” I pondered.
“Empathy and excellence,” I said to myself.
I believe that it’s exceptionally important to have empathy for your people and understand how your decisions will affect their lives. I also have a very high standard and believe that demanding excellence is paramount in achieving success.
The two traits feel contradictory, don’t they?
How can you constantly demand excellence, but remain empathetic?
Because make no mistake, excellence takes hard work. It takes sacrifice. Sacrifices in your professional life, but more importantly, sacrifices in your personal life. It means pushing harder and harder, just to get one fraction of one percent better. Hoping to gain an edge on yourself that you didn’t have yesterday. In short, excellence is not easy.
So again, I asked myself, “How can you constantly demand excellence, but remain empathetic?”
“You start with the individual, not the employee,” I decided.
What do I mean by that?
Well, the excellence I want to see is the excellence of the individual. Let’s put company results aside. Are you an excellent person? Do you care about those around you? Do you listen and try to understand? Do you take care of yourself mentally and physically? Do you sleep well? Eat right?
Excellence in these areas leads to a more well-rounded lifestyle. I care deeply about our people living fulfilled lives. That’s where the empathy comes in. And I believe if someone is an excellent person, then I can pretty much guarantee they will also be an excellent employee.
I’ll say it again: you start by focusing on the individual, not the employee.
If you only focus on having excellent employees, then eventually they’ll come to resent you. They’ll know that you just want excellent results, and don’t care what it takes to get there. That leads to burnout and stress. Your people will reach a boiling point and not be able to handle it.
Conversely, consider the concept of demanding perfection while being empathetic. Perfection takes the equation too far. Perfection means stressing about every mistake. In fact, it probably means never making a mistake! To demand perfection is to demand dissatisfaction among your people.
“Excellence and empathy are the right mix,” I finished.
As I mentally closed that loop, I came back to the present moment, thinking about the quick journey that my subconscious just led.
Upon reflection, I think deep down what took me to that place is the fact that I have no idea if what I’m saying and doing is right. Which is scary.
Am I preaching the right values? Am I being fair? Am I respecting my team in the way they respect me? Will focusing on the individual truly lead to company success?
In the moment, it’s unbelievably difficult to know the answer.
Days are long. But years are short.
And over the years I’m seeing us gain traction.
We’re all speaking the same language; I see people all around me who not only care about each other, but care about their work and their clients and their goals. You have no idea how proud that makes you as a leader!
And I still see stress too. Although I’m not sure it’s ever possible to get away from that. Because stress is often the emotion that pushes you towards excellence. It’s a reminder that “I can be better”. But in order to manage that emotion and harness it into productivity and achievement, you need to be an excellent, well-rounded, healthy person first.
The results will fall into place from there.
As a leader, your people are depending on you. They look to you for strength. That is a responsibility that you must embrace and take seriously.
With great power comes great responsibility, right? (shout out to spider-man)
If you’re a leader and building a team, I’d love to hear from you. What mindsets do you and your teams have that benefit wellness and results alike? What are hard lessons you learned along the way?
Thanks for reading.
Until next time..
2 February 2022
email me! firstname.lastname@example.org