Copyright © Luanne Lawrence | All Rights Reserved
121 Middleton Way Sacramento CA 95864 US +1.916.698.2809 Luanne@LMLMarCom.com
I vividly remember sitting in a meeting about two years ago and discussing with a potential client the possibility of a pretty amazing and novel, creative project. My juices were flowing, and my mind was swimming with ideas. My client was flexible, trusting of my office’s talents and ready to take a risk in a campaign she was asking my team to develop.
As I was leaving the meeting I was polarized by the feelings inside – excitement that I was bringing in a new project that would stretch my staff’ talent, and dread that my staff’ reaction would be less than excitement. Sometimes in higher education, things become mechanical. Change is hard. Stopping some things to make room for better tasks is sometimes difficult or impossible. Risk is, well, risky, because staff are sometimes seem as expendable. I had learned after 20 years that my own enthusiasm was sometimes the only thing that moved my offices from the expected to the dynamic. But this time, I failed. My client’s great idea never materialized. The staff completely resisted taking on new work, and even suggested that we needed to have her hire an outside agency for the work. I was crushed and knew that this was another sign that I may be emotionally wandering into the world of consulting. I was longing for more of those entrepreneurial projects and a change in routine. I was tired of feeling like I had to say, “no.”
After two decades in an office setting, I internalized some things that I need to drop in order to be a good consultant. The longer you are on your own and working with your own clients, the more you realize the baggage you picked up along the way.
Sometimes I feel myself pulling back and thinking that I am not able to do something for a client, only to suddenly realize that I know I can… or at least nothing will stop me from trying. I have these moments now and then of panic and am only just now understanding that I bring to bear years of experience of protecting my staff and their capabilities and talents. I am training myself to say “yes” first and explore every phone call, e-mail and contact. That “yes” is leading me to some pretty interesting projects, some of which I actually do eventually refer to another consultant friend who would be more qualified. But some are taking me into new areas, and I am on fire learning about new opportunities and worlds I never before explored. I no longer need to stutter as I decide if my team is up to the task. I am my team, and I am up to it!
In my former professional days, I also had to worry about maneuvering through politics. It seemed every task had 10 steps that weren’t related to the project, but to the dynamic between and among others. As a consultant, I worry about my client, and my client does the heavy lifting on the politics. It is a refreshing change, but because I was so steeped in that environment in the past, it gives me the patience and wisdom to help my client as s/he navigates. The release of political tension has freed my creativity and restored my energy for my work.
A pair of handcuffs that I bore unknowingly was also what I call “leadership paralysis.” I was never afraid to take calculated risks, but there was always a part of me preparing my back-up plan in case we failed. I have worked for bosses who did not weather failure well. In fact, one of my first, at weekly staff meetings, often reminded us, “Remember, if this fails, other heads will roll before mine.” That shaped my perspective of planning. I did not realize how I had subconsciously created Plans A, B and C - always on the ready, and those plans were directed at only one audience: my boss. Now, I own my own failures, and I can learn and grow. My fear factor has decreased significantly.
It’s funny how much I am learning about myself. I never really had quiet or reflective time to know myself fully. I pushed through my days, working incessantly. Now, I work long hours, but in my home, I can think. I can be creative. I can enjoy my work and understand that the ghosts of my past haunt me, but now I can confront them and grow in the present to make a much better future.