Think back as your career grew - who was there for you? Every leader that has popped in and out of your career has had some significance, but you probably did not realize it at the time.
A few stood out as I reflected on how the leaders I had worked for impacted my growth and career.
My first leader
My first leader approached every day looking for a way to build my confidence and help me succeed. She would pull me aside and say, "you know, if it were me, I would do it this way." Or, "you know Lisa (her boss) would be very impressed if you.........." and she would follow it up with "take it - it's your idea," she would smile and walk off. She let me cut my chops, make lots of mistakes, wanted me to feel good about myself and become confident in making decisions.
The one that gave me the big break
I knew what I wanted to do, but HR said that I was "in no way qualified." Way to let you down easy! So he protested and said that he would do without if they were not going internal and I got the job. In all fairness, HR was right, but I had already been building the skills, had a great peer mentor- I figured it out.
The one I wanted to be
A recruiting icon in our industry, she was who I wanted to be when I grew up. I was offered an interview to work alongside her at one point, but at the time could not relocate. Years later, we had both moved on, and she had kept tabs on ME. She flew me to Chicago, offered me the job on the spot, and I got to watch her closely for years. No one did a better job than she did, keeping her team out of the weeds and focused on the right things.
The one that challenged me
It had been a while since someone I worked for was interested in my department. It was an ego blow at first, and let me admit I was a little defensive. After all, I had had great success for years, and no one had interfered in what I was doing or the decisions I was making. However, it was the best thing that happened to me. We got creative, pushed the envelope, and my skills and confidence flourished with a new viewpoint, opinion, and collaboration. It was the turning point for my career to move to the next level.
The one who dreamed big (aka - the risk-taker)
If you have never worked with a dreamer, start looking now. Your career will never be the same. It is the most exhilarating experience to sit in a meeting and watch something go from an industry-changing idea on a whiteboard to a full-fledged program in 18 months. They discuss ideas beyond your imagination, and you become a part of something that you don't understand if you don't live through it. They push you to take risks and promise to stand in front of you if there is blowback. Their ideas are so brilliant that you start to shine too, and your ideas become bigger, brighter, and more brilliant along the way. Find one of these people and quit everything you are doing to live in their ora for at least a year.
The one who made it okay to go
A wise person told me many years ago; you should be reinventing yourself every ten years. When you know your time is up, appreciate the leader who will let you struggle through the decision to make the change and support you in the journey. You can't stay forever. When you feel the chapter closing, leaving something that has been so obviously amazing is a big decision, even when it feels right.
I know this story appears to be about me, but it is a reminder of all opportunities to make a difference in someone's career. It is not only the big moments but the small gestures, pats on the back, and dedicated time that you as a leader often take for granted. You may not even realize the difference you are making at the moment, but what if you were intentional about the legacy you were building.
Take some time to be intentional about whose career you can impact today. Then, as you move through various meetings today and multiple conference calls, find the space to be that paramount leader that makes a difference for one of your colleagues, creating the open space for their career to launch.
Need a little inspiration to stay focused on your forward career momentum?
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