What a year!

Oct 01, 2023
Two paddleboards on a lake

Well, what a year! Last October, I decided it was time to take an extended break for the first time in my career. I wasn't sure when I set out if it would be a sabbatical, a gap year, or permanent semi-retirement. Over the first few months, I decided a year was the right horizon. I committed to myself that I would spend a year without doing any consulting and instead reflect and discover what kind of work I really wanted to do and understand the impact I wanted to have on the world long term. 

I mostly succeeded in not working, and I far exceeded my expectations on reflection and exploration.

I relaxed. I reconnected with friends and family around the world. And I put in a lot of time that sure looked like work from the outside. There was one significant difference. For the first time in my career, it was all focused on myself rather than the goals of my current client or employer. I invested my time consolidating the vast library of knowledge I have collected and created over my career, exploring a number of different potential businesses I could launch, and really reflecting on what part of my work really lit me up. That last one became the most important: figuring out what I would love doing day in and day out for the next 20 years. As I reflected, a few important themes emerged:

Impact - "Help everybody on a project sleep better at night" was my mission statement as early as 2006, and it still stands. These days, it's framed a bit differently, in that I believe a less stressful and more rewarding workplace will allow people more positive energy to invest elsewhere in their lives. I believe people with more energy will in turn invest that energy into their families, communities, and individual passions, and that this investment will inevitably make the world a better place to live. I will continue to seek work that achieves this impact.

Human - The most important thing I realized is that the work I needed to do must be intensely human and maintain my connection to the people I am working with and helping. Several options emerged for hands-off knowledge and course creation, and those weren't inspiring to me. I want to work closely with the leaders that I am supporting, and engage in the learning that comes from the two way conversation so that I am growing each day as well as helping others grow, and I am remaining closely connected to what's happening in the real world at my clients, not just a theoretical abstraction.

Leveraged - I hope to create leverage from the impact I have. I believe investing deeply into a small number of people will lead them to pay that forward in their careers, in turn making hundreds or thousands of people's lives better.  Thus, I will focus more directly on mentoring and helping leaders grow individually and in smaller groups and will focus my time into the most interactive activities wherever possible to maximize the impact I have.

Sustainable - Sustainability is becoming an ever more important theme in both my individual life and in the life of our planet. In service to this I intend to minimize and consolidate my travel to help reduce my personal impact on the planet, and I intend to prioritize serving companies that are improving our environment and protecting our planet through their work.

I compared the long list of ideas and businesses I've explored this year to the principles above, and one option clearly emerged as the best fit for my personal and professional energy. I'm focusing my time and energy going forward into a new program that helps director-level leaders as they adopt additional roles as agile change agents and lead their organizations through the journey to being better, more responsive, and a better place to work. I’m deeply excited about the potential of the Leading Effective Agile Change program, the opportunity to bring these incredible leaders together, and to see them flourish in their lives and work.

Many of my most rewarding moments during my career have been when mentoring and coaching these managers, coaches, LACE leaders, and executives. My most satisfying personal impact is seen in the impact these leaders have in their roles, their next roles, and their future companies. I'm excited to share the many things I've learned (and the mistakes I've made!) with leaders who can both benefit immediately and pay it forward to the next generation of leaders.

Stay tuned!