What was it like for you?
That first official leadership role.
When you first met your team.
Just a year or so before I was working as a middle school science teacher trying to navigate earthworm dissections with a group of 12-year-olds.
If no one ended up with a worm stuck in their nostril that was a pretty good day.
A long story later I was a freshly minted, front-line supervisor at what was then the largest bank in the world.
I was full of ideas.
Full of energy.
Full of hope.
Scared out of my mind.
The only preparation I had managed for my new career was powering through a timeless classic in leadership literature titled, “25 Ways to Avoid Being a Terrible Manager”, or something along those lines.
I figured at least I knew what not to do.
We were starting up a brand new operation and there were only about 6 employees on the team. Since everyone was new to the company we were all equally dazed and confused.
They gave me business cards embossed with the title “Unit Manager” and a polo shirt with a company logo. I felt like Steve Martin when he finally found his name in the phonebook.
I was ready to change the world.
Since I didn’t really know what to do I just kept thinking like a teacher. I focused on connecting, building trust and participating in the process of learning our new operation rather than trying to establish my authority or enforcing the rules.
Life inside a huge bank could be pretty absurd and crazy but in our little corner of the building we developed our own caring community.
We created a lot of great memories that still make me smile and in the process built a high performing team. Many of us stayed in touch long after we went our separate ways.
I moved on to many more leadership roles from manager to COO and I’ve always tried to stay connected to the impressions of those early years.
The simple, human elements of leading.
Connecting with each other.
Playing with new ideas.
Laughing at the craziness.
Helping each other through the hard times.
Sharing our stories.
I’ll admit there are times when I really wonder if I can go on.
I just don’t feel it anymore. The frustration, the pressure, and pace have worn me down.
That’s when I try to reconnect to those simple joys of leadership.
When I didn’t know what I didn’t know.
I remind myself why I’m here and where I find my inspiration. When I can’t change my circumstances I try to change my perspective.
Where do you find your inspiration?
Do you remember your first or best leadership experiences?
Do you remember a time when you were excited for each new day?
What made it that way for you?
Stay connected with the memories and the stories that inspired you. Whatever your circumstances, I’m betting that they will still bring you joy if you let them.
Recovering your leadership joy gives you renewed energy to serve, create and inspire.