When you were growing up, what did you want to be? At primary school I wanted to be a marine biologist. I didn’t particularly know what was involved, but getting paid to swim underwater like the Man from Atlantis sounded great to me.
The expectations of others started to kick-in at secondary school and sixth-form as my parents and other well-meaning relatives guided me away from areas of passion like Art and English to take subjects like Economics and Politics which would enable me to get what was considered to be a ‘proper job’. A good degree was something to get under my belt to guarantee this ‘proper job’. When I came out of the academic system in the early 90’s to ‘no jobs’, I ran with the expectation that qualifying as a chartered accountant would finally give me this ‘proper job’.
The problem I have come to realise in the years of growing businesses and coaching/mentoring others to grow their businesses is the evil of the expectations we think that others have of us.
As a leader, you’re expected to be out there leading the business, doing the deals, fighting the dragons to keep the growth going upwards and the cash fl owing to keep your employees paid. But..... you’re also expected to be present in the office, to know as many members of your wider teams as possible. If you’re not managing by walking about you’re obviously an inferior leader.
Your partner and children expect you to be at the sports day, the carol concert, the horse-jumping competition. They also expect the salary and dividends to enable those school fees, the pony camps, the nice house and holidays. Do you miss work, telling your team what you’re doing? You’re expected to lead by example aren’t you? Do you want them going to their sports days, concerts and competitions?
Whether it’s that networking event you’d rather put cocktail sticks in your eyes than attend (but you might get that contact that could transform your business); the speech at the conference that wipes-out days of work in preparation and travel (but your marketing director says it will be great for your brand); the member of the team you’ve always felt uneasy about (but your HR director tells you will take 6-months of performance management to exit the business).
Now is the time to say, ‘fuck it’. You’re the boss. Do what you want. Say what you want. If you’re a socio/ psychopath your business is going to fail anyway, so if you’re not you may as well go through your life with as much honesty as possible. If you hate making small talk with your team, don’t: they probably hate it too. Go to all your family commitments if you want to. Whether or not you let your team do what you do is a business decision you shouldn’t be making if you don’t know the answer. Invite people for lunches rather than messing around networking. Send the marketing director for the speech. Tell your HR director that they’re out unless they get that dodgy team member out ASAP.
Ben Horowitz’s first rule of CEO Fight Club was: “The first rule of the CEO psychological meltdown is don’t talk about the psychological meltdown”. I say, two-fingers up to that, we’ll go mad if we don’t talk about it.