Swimming Up Stream
With over 16 years of experience at her organization, Patricia* had worked her way up and was promoted to be the director of her department. As she started in her new position, she was excited about her new responsibilities and the impact her team could have on the organization as a whole. She really believed in the work her organization did and was excited about how she could lead her team to move their mission forward.
With this promotion, she now reported directly to the head of her organization. She soon learned this leader was focused on other aspects of the organization, and not so interested in her area. Unfortunately, her success depended on his visible support and participation with key stakeholders outside the organization. Without that, there was only so much she and her team could do.
“I felt very isolated from the rest of the leadership team. It felt like I was constantly swimming upstream. I saw how important the work my team was doing was to the success of the organization, but the head of the organization really did not. It was problematic because his partnership was really crucial to our success.”
“And so the obvious question is, well then why did you stay? Because I really love this place. I love this place a lot. This is a fabulous, fabulous organization for lots of reasons. I love my team. I wanted to be able to support the good work this place does. And I maybe took on a little bit of a Catcher in the Rye thing with my team – I thought, ‘I’ll save, you. I’ll stand between you and disaster.’”
After a year and a half, Patricia realized she could not go on any longer without some kind of change.
“I just didn’t have the skills to navigate the situation. A friend told me about her experience working with Alida. While our situations were different, I saw how much Alida had helped my friend navigate uncertainty in her career and establish herself as an authentic leader. I decided I wanted support as I led my team through this really difficult time.”
As Patricia and Alida began to work together, the first thing they did was establish clarity about what exactly was happening in Patricia’s organization.
“How I am describing the situation now sounds so articulate, but I didn’t understand the situation this well at the time. Alida helped me clarify my role. I began asking myself, ‘So what’s my role here?’ That really empowered me to think about how I can positively impact the daily challenges I faced. This question also allowed me to take things less personally. I could not control every aspect of what was going on at work, but I did have a choice in how I responded to what was happening.”
Patricia also worked with Alida to learn strategies that helped her manage up.
“I learned the importance of partnering with my boss, working to get on the same side of the table as him, and thinking about what his needs are. I learned that it was important my boss knew the outcomes my team was achieving. I also knew he was really busy and honestly, not that interested in my team’s work. So, I began typing up short weekly reports for him, highlighting what had been accomplished that week. An added bonus was implementing this practice gave me a really good handle on my team’s work.”
With a better handle on her day-to-day work, Patricia had the mental energy to make longer-term plans. Alida and Patricia worked together to figure out where Patricia wanted to be in five years.
“I knew I wanted to retire in the next five years. Working with Alida helped me clarify what that retirement could look like. I wanted to leave, proud to have done a good job, to have made a difference here, to have no regrets. I left one of my previous jobs feeling not proud with a million regrets and I knew I did not want to leave my last job feeling like that.”
When her boss left and the organization got a new leader, Patricia was able to apply everything she had learned about creating a strong partnership with this new boss. That partnership paid off.
“We hit the ground running. My team brought in more revenue this year than ever has been raised in a single year in the history of this organization. We had so much fun. My new boss is really affirming of me, my work, and my team. He’s a huge cheerleader and a great partner. I got to have fun. I got to feel proud. Everything that I imagined in the visioning exercise with Alida happened in this past year.”
Life at work not only got better for Patricia, but as Patricia became a better manager, she was able to pass on what she learned to her team.
“This isn’t just all about me. Working with Alida allowed me clarity in terms of the people I manage too. I am now able to guide my team members to acknowledge the emotional reactions they have to situations. And then help them think through the best response. I guide my team to clarify what their role is in each circumstance so they can take things less personally too.”
This ripple effect didn’t stop there.
“I’m a little embarrassed to say this at my age, but in simple terms, Alida really helped me grow up. When I started working with Alida, I realized how little I knew about myself. I learned self-knowledge is crucial in your career. Knowing my strengths and personal style made my professional life so much better. It also spilled over into my personal relationships, allowing me to strengthen my bonds with my family and friends.”
Patricia’s confidence in herself allowed her the mental clarity to make a difficult decision.
“I decided to retire early. Things were going so well that the board voted to start a new 5-year project. I knew I either need to leave now or commit to the project for the next five years. I wouldn’t be able to leave in the middle. So, I decided that now was the time.”
“It was so bittersweet because I was having the most fun I’ve ever had, and it was time to leave. But I told my boss about 6 months ago and was able to finish out a really great year. This past year has actually been better than I even dreamed of. It’s really incredible. I am leaving with no regrets. I’m leaving proud. I’m leaving happy. I’m leaving with a good feeling in my heart about this place and about the work, my work here.”
“Everything I learned from Alida was so foundational – I know I will keep growing from here. Working with Alida is an investment that paid off for the rest of my professional life and I know my payout will certainly benefit me way beyond retirement. My recommendation to anyone thinking about doing this program is to start as soon as you can. The time to make the investment is absolutely now because the payoff will be longer.”
Are you ready to grow into your full potential? Let’s talk.