It was January 13, 2012 when I realized I was ready to give my notice and leave a comfortable executive position because it wasn’t big enough for me, it didn’t allow me the space to make the impact I wanted to make. I realize that may sound strange and, in many ways it is, which may be why it took me so long to realize it wasn’t a good fit for me. Some of you may remember, from an earlier post, that this was just 9 months after I survived a stroke. I didn’t act impulsively of course but rather, took action, after exercising my curiosity over these 9 months to figure out what path could open up possibilities for me to feel challenged, happy and satisfied in my work again.
During the week of January 9, 2012, I booked a vacation to attend a certified coaching program. It was a surprise to me to learn my peak career experience was actually years earlier. I had to go back to a time when I served as a provocateur and internal consultant to leaders. I was at my best when serving from the outside looking in, rather than occupying the chair myself. Don’t misunderstand, I have been well served by my experience serving as a President and CEO but it became clear it wasn’t the best fit for my strengths, style and desired approach. I wasn’t sure how I’d create a new reality that fit this realization, but I was certain I needed to take the leap.
Sunday afternoon, January 15th, was the Board Meeting and I watched for my opportunity to share my decision. The conversation, as usual, was both robust and varied on every agenda item. I was doing my best to remain focused and engaged. As I was expressing myself carefully in response to a question, a member of the board leaned across the table as if to look at me more closely and said, “What’s up Rox? Something’s different in how you are expressing yourself. Tell us what’s troubling you.” Well here was my opening. It had not been my intention to interrupt the work of the board – I had planned to share my news at the end of the meeting unless a perfect situation, such as this, presented itself.
I shared my news – short and sweet. Silence. Then, without missing a beat, the Board Chair said, well 3 months is great but we require at least 6 months notice. And I was just as quick to agree.
On the ride home that afternoon as I considered the huge decision I had made and the big changes ahead of me, I found myself reflecting back over my career. For whatever reason I thought of the work of Stephen Covey – I had taught many of his principles early in my career. Specifically, I thought about his concept of the Emotional Bank Account. Why had I agreed to extend my notice to 6 months? Well largely because the members of the board had banked a lot of trust and goodwill with me. I had worked with them for 4 years and while it had been very difficult just after they bought the business, we learned to respect and appreciate each other very much.
By the way, I ultimately gave the board an additional 11 months (with some conditions) and I plan to share the painful story of the final month at some point – I am not quite ready to do that.
This metaphor of an Emotional Bank Account was always powerful for me. The accounts usefulness is driven by the make-up of the deposits themselves. When you have reserves of trust, respect and caring, in my experience, the return on investment is vast – compounding interest I suppose. This type of account is rarely subject to significant fluctuations in the market – although possibly impacted by the climate and culture you inspire and support as a leader.
In my observation too many leaders make superficial deposits and then, through their demands and their focus on outcomes and tasks, are frequently overdrawn. These leaders rely on their positional power rather than the personal deposits that would grant them meaningful influence. The leader who understands the limits of positional power (power-over) and the vast potential of relational influence (power-to), is the beloved leader who will be followed anywhere. This is the leader who, because of their relationship-orientation, has significant reserves on which to draw when needing to navigate the unexpected or most difficult times.
How can you be or what can you do differently to exercise your “power-to” – the relationship-orientation? What impact will you make when your deposits or investment strategy is more relationship focused?
ImpactBank was created out of my experience with and recognition for the significance of generating an Emotional Bank Account. (This week’s podcast episode tells the story – 054 What Are You Banking On?) Initially, when no longer in a formal leadership role, the struggle was in identifying what I wanted to bank. Then one day it became clear, my mission was to make an impact, one leader at a time. And by caring for and about you and the impact you want to make I could impact all the people you touch. It seems big and a bit overwhelming some days and yet I feel compelled to keep pressing forward to realize my vision.
In my recent post, Get Set for Success I share a few of my goals for the coming year – it’s all about making or having an impact. While it may start with how I am being and inspiring, it must always be about the impact my actions and choices are having.
I love my clients. I love you because you have chosen to step into the arena. Not just any arena but the arena of leadership. This arena is not for the faint of heart. A senior leader is called to step up and step out, to wear the results generated by many, to honour the contributions of every individual, and to inspire more than even you sometimes believe is possible. My advice to you is to focus more on the emotional bank-accounts you are building realizing that all of the other pressures you experience and accounts you need to maintain will be manageable when your Emotional Bank Account is overflowing and available to serve you and your mission.
NEVER forget….Your currency as a leader is presence, purpose and passion so make a deposit every day.
Roxanne is an Executive/Leadership Coach & Mentor who specializes in on-boarding senior leaders moving into a new challenge. Her practice, ImpactBank, exclusively focuses on the the first 2 years with an emphasis on the first 120 days.
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How can I help?
If you are in senior leadership and have recently transitioned into a new role – OR – if you are about to on-board a senior leader and want to support their success, contact me for a no-obligation conversation about what you need from your senior leaders.
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