I’ve had this blog post sitting in the background for a couple of months now because I never really felt it was quite right and I couldn’t put my finger on exactly what I needed to do with it. It’s been sitting in a file on my computer for some time and, every week, I look at it and wonder if this is the week. And it never is. But, after sharing a fair amount of my back story during a presentation this morning, and then coming back to a message from a prospective client letting me know that she had been fired from a job she’s not long had, I decided that today is the perfect time. This is not one of my typical articles, it’s not full of tips and advice, and it’s possibly a little indulgent, but I’m hoping it will help that brilliant young woman, who may have suffered a bit of a blow, but is capable of a whole lot more (and I know that for sure because we’ve already chatted about her aspirations), and I hope that it will provide an interesting read for you #fingerscrossed
So, several years ago, I started a role, in a new organisation, as I strove to further my operational management career, and I remember being told, in the very first days (and even during my recruitment) about how high innovation was on the company agenda. So important, that two senior managers had even been flown out to Harvard, to learn all about how to innovate. So, in my first Innovation Meeting, just a few days into the job, I was told about the importance of taking risks in innovation, and we were asked to rate who we thought was most prepared to take risks, in that room. Of course, I didn’t know anyone very well, so I voted for myself – I knew for sure that I was prepared to trust my instinct and welcomed change – but I didn’t know about any of the others. As it was, none of them knew me very well either, so I maybe got a couple of pity votes. More importantly, the two senior managers who’d gone to the States, were given the most votes (by a long stretch), which was what I would expect after everything they’d told me.
So, why am I telling you all this. Well, for those two managers, that were actively promoting innovation, the concept of every idea being valid and nothing being stupid, that you should “fail your way to success”, and so on, to be stomping their feet just a few weeks later because they didn’t like the direction of a portacabin on the shop floor, or that I hadn’t consulted long and hard enough, with every department, in order to make a decision about whether I should give people an extra half hour at lunch for an event, seemed to me to be a shocking contradiction.
Nonetheless, I carried on, navigating the unusual politics and bureaucracy and made the best of, what I felt was, a very strange situation.
However, a few months later, when I was accused of being a “Maverick”, by one of those alleged “risk-taking” managers – the MD of our plant – and shortly after by the other one too, I took exception. I was a professional, with lots of management experience, and I was used to being allowed to handle my own department and responsibilities. I had a solid history of making sound decisions (and have made plenty more since) built on data, intelligence and instinct and, while I’m not saying I’d never gotten anything wrong (of course I had), here I was, in a company that spouted, “Fail fast, fail often”, and I was being hemmed in more than I had ever been in my entire career. I mean, I can seriously remember having more free rein when working weekends in a local DIY store, at 16.
So, why was I so put out? Well, first off, I had come from organisations that were much more flexible, where instinct and decisive action were expected. Secondly, I didn’t much like the connotations surrounding the word. Personally, I didn’t see myself as a maverick. In my head, a maverick was a bit eccentric, a loose cannon that couldn’t be counted on, who would make decisions without due consideration. I was bloody insulted! I started to worry that others must also see me this way, and that I had failed as a leader.
And yet, upon reflection, and with the benefit of hindsight, I have come to realise that a maverick is really just a free-thinker. Someone who is independently minded, prepared to take some risks (and bend some rules) certainly, but not necessarily uncalculated ones. In fact, mavericks make the very best innovators, trend-setters and revolutionary leaders. They’re dynamic, with clear long term goals, smart strategies, and absolute dedication to reach them. As a coach and mentor, a trainer, a budding public speaker, an entrepreneur, a writer, and an inspiration leader, I now recognise that I am most certainly a maverick and, as a result, I am perfectly suited to conquer the challenges in my life, and to help you to conquer yours.
As it is, I was eventually “let go” from that position. Not because I wasn’t excelling at it - in fact the work I was doing was saving the company thousands of pounds, improving frontline skills and elevating staff morale - but because I was deemed “not a good fit for the culture”. And actually they were dead right. As my initial shock subsided, having been chaperoned during the process of clearing my desk, I felt the relief flood my body as I drove out of the car park to freedom. I had come to loathe the place, and the suffocating hold it now had over me, and it was stifling my ability to get my fledgling coaching practice properly off the ground. With less than 2 years’ service though, I hadn’t any claim for unfair dismissal and, being just a year out of my marriage, I had heavily depleted our reserves. So, with very little cash flow to keep my kids and I afloat, I did end up taking another management position for a time. But not before spending two months working exclusively in my business (and loving it). The role I took was almost identical to that which I was let go from, but in an organisation with a very different, and much more agreeable culture. And, while I enjoyed my days with the team there, and was free to make changes and decisions as I saw fit, I knew almost immediately that it would never be enough for me. And I was right.
So, several months later, and with no back-up plan, I decided to burn my “little lifeboat”, take the leap, Quit my Job and Get a Life altogether, and leave myself with only one option; success! Why? Because it too was holding me back. Knowing I had a regular salary was keeping me in my comfort zone and stopping me from making real progress. People around me thought it was foolhardy, crazy even to leave a job and build a life around a profession that isn’t well established in this country. And it’s certainly not for everyone. Nor would I recommend such a course of action to anyone else. But, I can honestly say that I have never looked back, and I know now, beyond a shadow of a doubt that I never, ever will. Other than to be grateful for the experiences that have helped make me into the fearless, passionate and determined woman I am today. Suffice to say, I am one very proud MAVERICK!!