…There is no why.” – Kurt Vonnegut
…So I think I may have grown more professionally in the past ten months than I did in the proceding few years. Within this time I’ve (i) found my voice, (ii) learned how to hold people accountable, (iii) learned how to lead a team, and (iv) learned how to flex my communication style to have tough conversations with leaders regardless of job level.
^Within this same time frame, however, I have also ridden through some of my toughest personal and professional lows. I’ve agonized over my future; I’ve made a half-dozen difficult choices with significant implications and questioned every single one; I’ve made mistakes – some of which still haunt me today.
I have at times felt very confused, and very alone.
But honestly? Ten months later, as I (kind of) come out the other side of it, I am grateful for a lesson that I don’t know that I could have learned any other way, and it is this: I now deeply grasp the importance of understanding; understanding other’s points of view, understanding the role that at times seemingly irrelevant outside variables can play in decisions… and perhaps most importantly understanding myself: How I behave and react to stimuli when stressed, angry, happy and upset. This collective understanding has helped me to make sure that I am always in the right frame of mind and have the right information to make good choices – and to eject from situations and/or otherwise defer decisions when I am not.
1. This is actually a quote from the literary classic Slaughterhouse-Five, and not necessarily reflective of the author’s personal worldview.…In this week’s quote 1, Vonnegut comments that sometimes things happen for which there is no discernible reason – that they are a product of the moment in time within which they happen. He says that there is no why – some things just are.
…I disagree. And further, I think that as leaders it is our responsibility to understand why anything of importance is happening the way that it is. We need to listen to our teams, listen to other relevant stakeholders, review relevant outside variables and take a close look at ourselves to ensure we make the best choices possible.
With all that said, I am under no illusions that I have made my last difficult choice or had my last sleepless night. But I now have a process in place to ensure that I make the best possible choices I can, all the time. And this knowledge gives me both confidence and clarity as I move forward.
As we wrap this week up, let’s take care to own the responsibility of understanding ‘why’ our people make the decisions they do, and why things are as they are. The extra work we do here can fundamentally be the difference between having an employee that thrives and one that leaves the organization; it can be the difference between a team that grows together and one that withers apart; and it can be the difference between having a culture that pushes an organization into the future, versus being part of an organizational culture that leads to a firm’s death because – rather than moving forward – it keeps standing still.