‘It’s better to have loved and lost than never loved at all.”
–Alfred Lord Tennyson
This is true of any relationship including our bodies, minds, friends, lovers and yes even our work. I’ve been struggling with what and how to write about recent events at work. In the last few months, I lost a love of twenty years and am already entering into a new relationship (i.e. separated from work and found new employment). I’m unable to convey details due to the agreement (i.e. not fired or laid off and I didn’t quit). The details are unimportant. The fact is, I found myself amidst serious life change very quickly. So this post is about respecting the interplay of life and work. Note, I did not say work-life balance as that pop fad managerial term puts work first.
The situation at work deteriorated for me a few months back. I found myself questioning the relationship I was in with work. The growth in the company was amazing yet I found myself unable to keep my career progressing. I asked why I worked there for twenty years. I asked why the teams I had been building were being reassigned. I meditated on what contribution I had been involved with beyond myself. My emotions were trying to do what they do in life trying to feel my way through the situation unfolding within the relationship. I found my value declining and purpose no longer connecting with the organization’s new culture.
Stepping back and looking at my two decade tenure at a single organization helped gain purchase on my situation, thoughts, and feelings. What I found is that our work together as a team helped expand human knowledge. We’ve had our hands on hardware that smashed into comets, flown by Pluto, and discovered water on Mars to name a few. As a leader I worked with people to manage their lives while increasing or maintaining their long-term value at home and within the business. While my passion from the start was about the missions throughout our solar system, what really kept me forty percent of my life was helping people manage the biz of themselves which included what we did together in the aerospace business. We listened and learned from one another. We developed together as unique individuals while managing the daily, weekly, and recurring issues together.
Using information from my leadership, I argued with myself that I could continue with those things while surviving another major change. As I felt and thought my way through my chaos, I found the company culture and recent changes did not match my fundamental expectations for team leadership. The relationship between the company and myself changed and quickly soured to the point of my feeling sick when facing certain situations at work. As a leader I disseminated my knowledge throughout my team so that if a bad day happened the organizational knowledge wasn’t lost albeit spread amongst many individuals. I think that’s what a good leader does. I knew the bad day of me not being at the company was coming rapidly and so I shared the organizational knowledge network I had established as best I could with my replacement. I also think a good leader supports their team so that if anyone of the team falls down, we help each other get back up.
While my relationship of two decades didn’t pick me up, the people who I supported in leaving to find different cultures or perhaps pastures over the last few years did. Network contacts, Teammates, People, no the correct notion is: Friends came out of the wood work to offer assistance even if it just emotional. Numerous friends offered to be references within one company and I was able to move to the greener side of the fence as we say when talking about other companies. The thing is there’s weeds on both sides, but when we look from one side to the other, we see what we need to see. I suck at networking. I don’t manage my LinkedIn, Facebook, or other social networking accounts. Hell, people bitch at me for not responding quickly to email. What I proved is that the basis of networking is not some app on our phone but rather having relationships with people, not personal or professional, but continuously respectful interactions that become trusting relationships. When we are in this thing called life together, we find ways to help one another when we respect our differences as well as our commonalities. But when we get lost in the darkness of you vs me or us vs them, we wind up suffering the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. Helping each other and realizing there’s grass and weeds on both sides of the fence, the slings and arrows turn into a warm rain nourishing the flowers that come out of the weeds and up through the grass.
And there it is, respecting and appreciating what we create together serves us better in the long run than putting products, processes, and people in their appropriate places. Furthermore, relationships and those that comprise them change in ways outside of our control. It’s up to us to manage our personal business with purpose and understanding why we do what we do in order to preserve ourselves (i.e. sanity, schwerpunkt, and happiness) through life’s changes. Every interaction counts.
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