On a recent blog I wrote regarding the one big question, a comment came back that asked this: What are three things that you would do differently on your path of leadership and why would you change them?
Great question, Carrie. I thought about that question in my own life and here would be my personal answer...I hope it helps others:
1. I would have stayed at my first position longer. After three years of leading a band at Minneapolis Lutheran High School I was off to graduate school. It was as if I needed to get on with my life and it seemed as if this first job was getting in my way. What I realize now is that I needed to give myself more time to mature in that position and build a successful program that would have lasted. Leadership is more than coming in to an organization and "wowing" everyone with one's skills and talents. Building a program that would have lasted - and learning how to do that early on - woujld have served me better in the long run. That being said, I had a phenomenal experience at the school and made amazing friends and learned so much about what it takes to build a program.
2. I would have built strong succession plans early on in my career. It took me until last year to build a succesion plan that willl enable the organization to continue at the present level were I to leave tomorrow. Much of what I did throughout my career has been very successful - but most of it did not continue at the same level beyond my tenure. I have come to understand that my style does not easily lend itself well to a continuation of what was begun...it is part of my personality and part of how I get things done. That being said, I now know that is unacceptable and have built a strong interim succession plan for my current position. I know without a doubt that if I were not able to serve in this position tomorrow, most aspects of the College would continue at the same level they are now.
3. I would hire more slowly and fire more quickly. I let people stay on way too long too many times, and it hurt the organization in the long run. I often wanted to give people a second (and third, fourth, and fifth) chance, but I came to realize too late in my career that for most adults, once they are set in the way they do things, they will continue to act in that manner. When people become toxic to a culture, they need to be removed quickly - and everyone needs to know that the individual was removed because they were toxic. None of us like to let people go...but our first responsibility as leaders is to care for the organization and its future. Keeping bad people around hurts the organization - and we are not living up to our vocation of leadership if we allow those type of people to continue.
I hope these three things help others as they are on their own leadership journeys. By the way, regarding #2 above, you do not need to be in a "leadership position" to build a succession plan. Everyone with any type of responsibility should have one of these in place. Succession plans should be written down (remember that these are for interim positions should you not be able to function in that role), 2-3 people identified as to who would take over for you, what the roles and responsibilities are of the interim person (and what they are not), and the plan should be shared publically. More to say on that later...
One more thing...it is good to be back among the "living." I can use two hands to type and move around without being in pain or having to be careful. I hope to keep up with this blog on a more regular basis, continuing the journey of learning about leadership.