Welcoming Joy – Letting Big Stuff Happen
I’ve always been one of those people who likes to do things myself. As the parent of a five year old, I find that kids entering Kindergarten like the same thing. “I can do it myself, Mommy!” I often hear from my exasperated son, when I’m trying to help him out. It’s something that is kind of cute when a 5 year old does it. I smile a lot. Sometimes if I’m in a hurry it’s less cute. But seeing my little man experience his own sense of power is rewarding.
It’s not so cute when you’re in your….er…ummmm…when you’re no longer at the precipice of grade school. It’s not so cute if you have any intention of accomplishing something big. Not cute at all. It’s crippling. Big stuff is not possible by yourself.
This spring marks OnStage Leadership’s first anniversary. It’s a huge milestone. Over the course of this year, more than a hundred leaders from a variety of industries and backgrounds have attended. It’s been an extraordinary journey for which I’m incredibly grateful. Even so, to make OnStage Leadership a sustainable business that can help people for years to come, the doing-it-myself-jazz wasn’t cutting it. I needed help.
It turns out I’m not alone in this. It seems that there are a lot of grown-ups out there who have embraced the do-it-myself mantra, many of them leaders. But how effective can we leaders really be, alone?
Two years ago, I had the opportunity to partner with my dear friend, Mike Cook, who wrote the book Thrive – Standing on Your Own Two Feet in a Borderless World. Mike talked a lot about your ability to accomplish something big is only equal to the size of your vision + your ability to get others involved. I understood it intellectually at the time. But now I’m beginning to understand it on a much deeper level.
Over the past several months, I’ve spent quite a bit of time leading programs in Chicago. I work with a group of managers and their staff. There have been big engagement issues, communication issues – we’ve been doing a lot of great work, and we still have a long way to go. The managers have spent a lot of time telling people what to do. They’ve solved all the problems. They’ve worked hard. They’ve been frustrated that their staff doesn’t take ownership. They’ve been frustrated by the mistakes. They’ve been frustrated by the apathy and attitudes. Not a lot of joy. For anyone.
On this last visit, I started to see a shift. The managers have begun asking their staff questions about their ideas. They’ve fought their impatience to solve the problems for the people on their teams and have found that individuals are really stepping up. Big projects which would have taken two weeks to complete are being done in one. New ideas are being implemented. They’re better using the talent they have, by involving their team in the process. I even had one of the managers tell me, “I’m starting to enjoy my job again. I don’t feel so alone.” The managers are working incredibly hard to stop trying to create the results on their own, and start involving the people around them. And change is happening. The good kind.
So it’s my turn to start implementing what I know to be true. Something that most self-aware-people in my profession will tell you is that we tend to teach what we need to learn. And re-learn. Giving up doing-it-myself has been both a painful and exhilarating process. But in doing so, big stuff is starting to happen.
Have you ever met someone who, as soon as you spoke with them, you immediately knew that they would somehow make a difference in your life? Well that’s how I felt when I first met Joy Evans. Joy came to us via a personal referral. At the time I had a million balls in the air and was completely consumed with overwhelm. Joy was in transition and was going to help out with some odds and ends that needed done. I wasn’t going to turn over anything significant. As a self-diagnosed control freak, that didn’t even enter my mind. Joy’s plan was to work with me until a “real” job came along. Turns out we both had a change of heart.
So this month, with a lot of support from a lot people, OnStage Leadership is taking a leap into the dark. With a new website, a new logo, a new video, more than a hundred graduates, and a new VP of Sales and Marketing, Joy Evans. Doing-it-myself was never this much fun. Leading doesn’t have to be in a vacuum – people do want to help. We just need to let them. Only then can the big stuff happen. And wouldn’t we all like to welcome a little more joy into our lives?