There I sat in my office, staring at my computer. 50 unread messages. A half-written PowerPoint. A calendar booked solid from 8:30-5:00 with 15 minutes for lunch.
THIS is what I signed up for? What was I thinking? By all measures, I should have felt great. I made it. Senior management. Nice office, great salary and benefits, respect. But instead, I felt useless and listless. Was this what I'd be doing for the next twenty years of my career?
If you're a high-performing individual contributor who loves to create things, the switch to management can be an emotional roller coaster. I went through many stages of grief as I increasingly moved from the concrete, creating and launching great products, to a middle then senior manager who spent most of his day directing instead of doing. And this isn't limited to technologists like me. Accountants, salespeople, marketers. We all go through this soul searching as our job becomes more abstract.
For a long time, I could not find my new purpose. I floated through multiple roles and assignments, going through the motion and still performing well, but secretly I had dreams of escaping it all, starting up my own business, getting back to my roots. I even joined a startup in part to try and reclaim my glory days of creating products from the ground up. (Thankfully, this was the extent of my midlife crisis!)
But over time I realized that wasn't the answer. The reality is that I'm really good at senior management, and that digging deeper I could find a meaning and purpose far more compelling than I had in individual roles.
You see, I discovered that I'm still building things. Important things. In fact, you could say there's nothing more important. What I learned is that I'm building successful people and organizations. Through strategy and execution, I'm building more effective organizations that help an increasingly large number of people - both clients and team members. Through mentoring and coaching, I'm helping build the next generation of leaders that will go on to do far greater things than I'm capable.
So today I sit in my office, staring at my computer. 50 unread messages. A half-written PowerPoint. A calendar booked solid from 8:30-5:00 with 15 minutes for lunch. And I couldn't be happier.
The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership: Follow Them and People Will Follow You by John Maxwell
How Will You Measure Your Life? by Clayton Christensen
True North: Discover Your Authentic Leadership by Bill George