While the Big Cat was Away
We quietly slipped passed a mini-milestone during the past few weeks of my vacation: May 18th marked 6 months that we have shared this space within the generous Ho‘okipa [hospitality] of The Honolulu Advertiser. I’d say it’s been a good start!
Organizational person that I am (my career was significantly shaped by total quality management and systems thinking, and today I am a workplace culture coach) six months is a long time. I like experiments, projects and pilots, and by long-standing habit I will look at monthly packages of time and measure them by the results of those projects or themes I’d created and assigned to them: What happened? What results were true keepers, and what should I begin to say “No more” to, redirecting my attentions in a better, more useful way?
Life imitates Art for me, and in going forward from today’s starting point I have two mission-critical projects in the works right now. You will hear more about them as time goes by, but for now, as is relevant to my writing here, I am making a subtle change, one which I think will help us both.
My publishing schedule here will remain the same (twice a week, with Sundays an optional and occasional third day), but my posts will be themed to help us solidify our chosen vocabulary, and better internalize the distinctions that our Alaka‘i learning has made between management and leadership as the disciplines great managers must weave into their daily practice. Each Tuesday I will write on leadership, and each Thursday I will write on management.
We start today, a new pilot of sorts to proactively design our next six months together. Thank you so much for being here, and I sincerely hope you’ll decide to stay.
While the Big Cat was Away
The adage goes, “While the cat’s away, the mice will play.” By merit of its size —and instinctive hunger for those bite-sized feline morsels called mice— we could think of the cat as the Big Cat, the one in power, and thus in charge of the territorial romps these two creatures might occupy.
Though the variables are somewhat different, we fall into that same assumption in the workplace, don’t we. By merit of ownership or organizational position, the Big Cat is the one in power, and thus in charge, and usually he or she is called ‘boss’ or ‘leader’ because of their title, though it could also be because of how their actions influence us. Hopefully, their leadership expressions are good ones.
So let’s say you’re the boss. When you are in the workplace stuff happens because of your very pervasive presence; that’s just the way things are, and it almost seems to happen naturally, the nature of the proverbial beast.
But what happens when you are away? You’ve been on vacation, or away on a long business trip. Maybe it was just a three or four-day weekend, such as the one we’ve just had to commemorate Memorial Day, but the office was still opened, and maintaining hitch-free operations was important; someone had to man the fort.
My question for you is this: What do you notice when you get back?
What should the Boss look for?
I’m in that very fortuitous place right now. I put certain things on hold during my vacation, shutting them down completely, where those working with me took their vacation time too. However there were other things that I left in the good hands of others. I considered my time away a golden opportunity for us both, and I can’t wait to see what happened!
When we get back it is so, so tempting to immediately setting our sights on “catching up” and what we really mean is that we are reengaging, and hoping to get back in stride where it can seem like we were never gone. We look for where we can intercept the action and dive in again, seizing back our reins, and getting back in charge.
One word: Don’t.
Leadership is an attitude which never goes on vacation.
Don’t take right up where you left off. Reengage, yes, but demonstrate your leadership by doing so in a different way. I have two suggestions for you.
1. Begin again. Start new.
Show your team that you changed while on that long weekend, business trip or vacation, and you’re embracing it. You got better. You learned something and grew from the experience. Leadership is an attitude which seeks opportunity constantly, and readiness for leadership never goes on vacation. Now that you’re back, you are going to make your new experiences apply in new workplace usefulness. Use your old leadership pulpit to present ideas that are different somehow, and newly creative. Be a visionary.
2. Reengage in workplace action by letting go.
Look for your newly emerging leaders; identify them and allow them to continue whatever leadership initiative they championed while you were away. Give them your recognition, thank them sincerely, and ask them what you can do now in continuing to support their efforts. Leadership is not just for you and about you: Alaka‘i leadership is a team sport which values leadership in every single expression it makes. If you happen to be the one with the conventional title of ‘leader,’ you must be its biggest advocate and champion.
Adopt a new Alaka‘i adage with me
It goes like this: “While the cat’s away, leader-mice emerge!”
While the Big Cat is away, the mice will be more playful, but that’s okay with the Big Cat! New leadership will emerge in that freedom, and the Big Cat cannot wait to welcome it to the party. When it comes to Alaka‘i leadership, the more the merrier and you thrill to the team sport.
Then there are the possibilities ”“ wow! You’re the Big Cat, and you’ve got bigger and better plans and ideas too. Letting go of the old, and allowing it to energize someone new can be pretty sweet.
Let’s talk story.
Any thoughts to share?
Photo credit: Comfortable Enough by Rosa Say.
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