Taking Charge vs Leading

Did you know there is a difference? Once upon a time I didn’t know and when I say once upon a time I pretty much mean most of my life. I can think back as far as a 3rd grade group science project that I was in charge of and how little patience I had for two of the kids in my group that didn’t “get it.” Oy vey! Just thinking about it now messes with my blood pressure-it wasn’t a hard project (yep, I can remember the project exactly too!).

I just know what you should be doing...
I just know what you should be doing…

Anyway, at my last position I had many trials and tribulations in the area of leading… mostly because I have an obvious lack of patience and a low bs tolerance, but I learned a lot!  So my aha! moment came one Thursday night after work when I was sitting at my desk with absolute shock and anger at the fact that my staff wouldn’t do their jobs the right way, CMON MAN! And I was called to the carpet that very day for being short with them… My response to that was just blank stares and a lot of “REALLY?”… [what an amateur response right?] So I dial-up one of my allies in the company just to get some perspective and kind of vent, SOOOOO NOT expecting this person to give me an aha! moment. He asks me what happened and what I said so I begin to tell him… he stops me in mid-story and says “THERE, RIGHT THERE!” What? Right there what? “If someone said that to you, you would be so offended…” You know what, I would’ve been, but my defense counteracted with a smart aleck “No one would have to say that to me for me to get offended because I would be doing it already!” Well sass-pants that’s not the point now is it? The point is you can’t talk to people like that and expect them to respond… So the back part of the aha! moment was this: I’ve got to stop talking to my staff like I’m a co-worker and start talking to them like I’m their leader. When I say that I talked like a co-worker, I think many times I did & it’s similar to when a parent tries to play the role of a friend and not necessarily the role of a parent – it’s confusing. I was pretty much creating my own problems because I wouldn’t let go of my stubbornness because “If I can understand it why can’t they?” was a staple in my reasoning.

So after a few days of licking my wounded ego and pretending I wasn’t in the wrong I started a change, a change that wasn’t as evident then as it is now, in how I talk to people not just staff. It started with little steps like replacing some words in a request with nicer words, becoming sincere, practicing patience of course and trying to understand why it is that someone doesn’t understand what I feel I easily understand. Some of these were steps that I already knew I should-be doing, I was just too stubborn and some if it is advice from my great group of HR peeps and of course a book or two helped guide me. It’s exciting for me to see the difference in how people respond to requests from me and I feel like I’m really back on track to getting this leadership thing down. Taking charge of a project has always come easy for me, but leading a project, I know now, is way more enjoyable!

Just for fun...
Just for fun…