I remember specifically thinking this several years ago after an extensive interview process to work in leadership development for MGM in Las Vegas.
I had been in leadership at UNLV but felt the time had come for a change. I stumbled upon the MGM job, applied, and was eventually offered a position.
Throughout the process I felt conflicted about whether or not I would take it but it wasn’t until I had the offer in hand that I knew it was a bad fit.
Upon further reflection, the environment wasn’t aligned with what I was looking for, I would be teaching someone else’s curriculum, and I wasn’t confident that the department was really much of a priority for the organization.
I declined the offer and instantly thought, “What a waste of time!”
Here’s the thing: Two months later when I was deciding whether or not to accept an offer to work for Rice University I relied heavily on my MGM experience as a point of comparison. What did Rice offer that was different than MGM?
The environment was different, I would have more curricular autonomy, and the energy around leadership development was high. I accepted the job.
In other words, MGM served a purpose. It helped me clarify my values, strengths, and especially my ideal environment for thriving. I was able to compare the two opportunities which gave me more confidence in my Rice decision.
No application process is ever really a waste of time. Each helps you clarify who you are and what you care about. By their nature, application processes are set up to test and challenge you.In times of testing, we get clear about who we really are.
I used to give this advice often to students at Rice: If you feel, even remotely, like you might want to apply for something, DO IT. Don’t ever preemptively disqualify yourself from a job without at least throwing your name in the hat.
The greatest thing you get from an application may not be an offer at all.
If people aren’t following, leadership techniques aren’t working, and you aren’t getting the results you need as a leader, it’s likely because of your gap.
Every leader has a gap between who they think they are and who others think they are.
The larger your gap, the less your influence.
I tell myself a story every day when I look in the mirror:
I’m likable, charismatic, and committed. I drive to work thinking I’m a good manager, in control, and on the right path. And yet, each person I come in contact with may have a very different story about me. And guess what? Perception is reality, so what they perceive is true for them, regardless of what I think about myself.
The longer I allow that gap to persist, the less I’m able to lead people effectively.
You have two options for shrinking the gap:
1. Self-discovery. As you reflect on who you are and how you may come across you will gain insight that will shrink your blind spot and improve your social awareness.
Try this: Immediately following your next meeting, take 3 minutes to consider 1) how you think you came across and 2) your non-verbals and what they may have communicated. Strive for objectivity. If you were observing yourself in a meeting, what would you see?
2. Observation and feedback. Nothing can take the place of someone else’s unfiltered, honest feedback. As they reflect back to you how you may come across you can gain clarity on areas to improve and close the gap.
Try this: Email three people you are close to and ask them to send you three adjectives to describe you. Then analyze the three words to determine 1) if they align with who you think you are and 2) if you like them. In other words, are you ok being identified in that way? If yes, then move on. If no, then figure out what you need to do to close the gap.
The gap won’t shrink on its own. Gap-shrinking takes diligent work. But the payoff is increased influence and results.
By the way, the larger the gap between who you are and what you do in your career, the less satisfaction you will experience. Fight the gap!
Are you satisfied in your work?
If yes, congrats. It’s likely because you’ve taken control.
If the answer is no, it’s one of three things:
1. Your values are misaligned. You care about things that your employer doesn’t seem to care about or believe things that your job description doesn’t value.
2. Your strengths are untapped. You do a lot of what you don’t do best everyday. In fact, you may actually be good at things that drain you and even praised for them. Meanwhile, what you actually do best lies dormant or underutilized.
3. Your environment is broken. You work in a physical space that is demotivating, or other factors such as your schedule and the amount of interaction you have are off.
Dissatisfaction from work stems from one or all of these three. Here’s the good news:
You control all three.
1. If your values are misaligned, you can have a conversation about it, insert your values more into your work, find opportunities outside of your work to tap your values, or change jobs. Step one, of course, is getting clear about what you value.
2. Missing strengths? First, identify them by tracking your energy. Energy always follows doing what you do best. Then backtrack the energy to identify the strength. Now learn more about it, add knowledge and skill to it, and do it more often.
3. Move! Do your work in a different space. Get up and interact. Find a quiet space and work. Change your scenery, the order that you do things in, and who you do what with.
You are in control. It’s not up to your manager or leader to create the perfect environment for you to thrive. It would be great if they did, but they generally don’t have the bandwidth.
You, on the other hand, can literally change your circumstances overnight.
Hi! I'm Dustin.
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