I had a crazy first week on the job.
As I write this, I actually just finished my third.
I waited for this long because it struck me that I’m still learning what I learned even in my first week of work… and that’s pretty exciting, to my way of seeing things.
After consulting for twenty years, I see how it shapes my thoughts about the next sale, the next customer, the next project…
I see how, in some ways, it seems easy to move on from one place to the next… though I never took an engagement for granted or quit without doing everything I could to hold my promises.
Nevertheless, there was always the next deal. And I always knew that. In some ways, I see how my current position was sort of the “next deal”, too.
There were also many times when my customers didn’t act on what I thought was my best coaching and counsel through the years, my most grounded assertions and assessments, for which they actually paid premiums. Some of my strategies, once delivered, sat on the drawing table and never stood the trial of execution.
How many times have you entered into a situation saying “This will be a great learning opportunity?” It seems to me like a powerful way to think of situations, whether good or bad.
After twenty years, I am pretty confident that I can make a sale, write a strategy, build a team, deliver a software product, audit a technology platform, build methodologies, coach young professionals…
Now I get to do it ALL.
AND I get to learn about our networks and our server environments. I get to hear concerns and complaints outside the structure of a consulting “assessment.” I get to experience outages and I get to work with my staff and our customers as we take care of business.
And I get to see it all through to the end. We don’t just fix a problem, finish a project, deliver an artifact and then shuffle off to the next customer.
That is VERY cool!
Oh, and the stakes are high. I could fail.
It may seem strange to you, but it also took me a while to realize that my mistakes don’t mean I just get fired like a consultant – I get to live with them and learn from them beyond the incident itself.
But losing is the other side of winning. I get that, too.
All of this means I can be more fully invested in the outcomes I produce than I’ve been to this point in my career. Now, I confess there’s nothing special about being CIO that I couldn’t have been just as invested as President or Executive VP of a consulting firm.
It just seems different to me than those roles did. In the past I could fail to make a sale or make a mistake on an engagement, and I could engineer some non-negative story… and then just move on to the next customer.
I didn’t think of it that way back then, but it seems different to me now. My stories now have longer time horizons, there is more we can accomplish, and I get to execute the path I lay out.
One phenomenon I didn’t consider in this “learning opportunity” is the speed at which I can learn so many new things.
In The First 90 Days, Michael Watkins mentions the speed with which a new leader has to learn.
Michael starts from an ROI perspective, and speaks of rapid learning as an important strategic objective and tactical focus.
Holding the promises I make requires me to assess situations and decide whether 1) I can take direct action myself or 2) I need someone to help me (more likely the latter at this point). Then I make promises that matter to my customers, and work to fulfill them and build trust.
Either way I get to learn, and the more help I get, the more opportunities abound for learning.
On being tired
I also noticed in my first week being tired at the end of each day. In that, I saw different ways being tired could appear to me.
In the past I’ve been tired and fatigued, tired and stressed, tired and anxious… even “sick and tired”.
Right now I’m doing something I really enjoy, getting up early, charging through the day and going to bed tired… and happy.
It’s kinda cool, actually. I can’t imagine I’ll sustain it forever, and after all it’s not about my comfort. So I’ll count it as a “season” in my life – my intention is to lean into it and revel in it while the season lasts.
I’m amazed at the speed with which I can learn, as if I were coming fresh out of school again. It’s invigorating and energizing. It’s just what I was looking for, and I’m grateful for all that led me to this point.
Maybe it’s just the honeymoon I’m describing. Stay tuned and we’ll come back to this in a few months.
For now, I’m curious if you’ve had similar “learning opportunities”. Have you been surprised at the velocity you’ve achieved at those times as well? What about a healthy level of being tired? It’s worth writing about.