Full disclosure, I wasn’t supposed to be here. (Yes, please queue the classic Deborah Cox throwback right now.) But, seriously, there wasn't a clear career path that led me to a director role.
I know that we want, expect and deserve to have our employers lay out a clear growth path for us. But what happens when your path has never been documented because it didn’t exist? Blazing a trail means that the future you see for yourself is sometimes far beyond what an existing title or career path can capture.
To realize that future often means partnering with those around you to craft it. That has been the story of my life for more than a decade, and I’m in awe to see what some might have called disparate pieces now fitting together.
I don’t want the past 60 days to become a distant memory, so this brain dump is less for you and selfishly more for me. I say that because I am a learner at heart (check my StrengthsFinders assessment), and I believe this truth: The way you think, show up, how you interact with others and how they receive you aren’t the same as anyone else’s experiences. Your road is yours to travel.
But you can travel your road with eyes wide open. So, I share this not as a blueprint for you but as my personal account. These are some of the things you don’t always read when people share social posts about their six-figure promotion and benefits package with stock options. We love to see it, but that is only part of the story.
There is a tax that comes with these things, and if your mind isn’t prepared to step into this journey and to adapt, then what once felt like a blessing can quickly become a burden. In fact, I almost guarantee that feeling will come.
But you don’t have to stay stuck in those feelings, and you need to hear from others — from me — that nothing is wrong with you because you experience those feelings. You will likely feel like you’re submerging in quicksand even though you are more than qualified and absolutely the right person, the best person, for the job.
Now that you’ve read my novella of context, here’s my brain dump over the past 60 days.
Process must still be about people. Shout-out to my company's chief revenue officer for that nugget of wisdom.
The big things are a collection of small things. Treat the small things with respect and importance, especially when people are involved.
Asking for permission rarely moves the needle. Thanks for that one, Paul! You were hired because they trust you to make good decisions. Trust your ability to make the best decisions with the information you have.
Amplify voices like only you can.
Don’t allow mistakes to crush you. Give yourself grace to learn from them, especially when others don’t extend grace.
I guarantee you will mess up. But know that you will and can get up with lessons learned to apply going forward.
Build coalitions. This helps you connect the dots and learn more about your organization.
Listen and then keep listening.
Document while giving yourself a chance to soak in new information.
Not knowing it all can feel unsettling, especially when you’ve been at the top of your game prior to this role. You were likely the subject-matter expert, and you will be again.
Learn personalities and agendas.
Know who you can trust with your truth.
Rarely will you please everyone.
Don’t let fear of getting it wrong stop you from moving toward progress.
Seek support and guidance from those who have gone before you. They can provide a lay of the land and give perspective. This helps with any gaslighting or feelings of inadequacy when they share their stories and fumbles.
It’s OK not to know everything. Ask the question you may be afraid to ask.
Business acumen is a must: knowledge of legal, tech, finance and HR at your organization.
Making enterprise decisions is nuanced and everyone won’t always understand that perspective.
Don’t let people rush your fact gathering, but keep them informed.
Pick up the phone. Some things are best addressed outside email and online messaging.
Making it intact is more important than making it. Don't lose yourself in the pursuit to "make it." Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Nikole Hannah-Jones explains this point beautifully. Watch this clip at the 1:40 mark.
Bring others along with you on your learning journey. Lift and climb, as a former colleague eloquently put it.
Don’t just track what you’ve done but the impact it has had. Learn to tell that story well and regularly. Gather your hero stories. My coach LaTrice Huff is a boss at doing this.
Seek clarity where you can, when you can.
There are so many more lessons that I've learned and that I'm still learning. What would you add to this list of lessons learned when you started a new job or career?