I found myself all choked up today after dropping Ryan off at pre-school. She had her five year old checkup and had to get her Kindergarten shots. She was trying so hard to be brave but she couldn’t hold back the tears. I told her that sometimes when we get scared we cry because it’s a way of releasing the anxiety and frustration we feel about something.
A few minutes after getting her shots and regaining her composure she told me that she had been real brave. She just had a lot of ‘frustration’ and so she needed to cry a little.
When we finished up with the doctor, I brought Ryan back to pre-school and left her on the playground with all of her friends. All the kids gathered around to gawk at her Tweety Bird band-aid, wondering if it hurt. Maybe it’s the fact that she’s going to Kindergarten next week, or maybe it’s because there have been so many blessings pouring down on me these days, but the ‘frustration’ got the best of me and I needed to cry a little, too.
Mack Web contracted with a business consultant back in June to facilitate StratOps. It’s a strategical operations exercise for your business that helps you take a hard look at where you’ve been, where you want to go, and what it’s going to take to get you there.
StratOps normally kicks off as a two-day, off-site retreat with select team members (because Mack Web is a small team, all six of us participated). Then, once you’ve had a couple months to work through all the stuff that came out of the initial retreat, the facilitator comes back to do a scrub. Progress is checked, challenges are discussed, new initiatives are set. And the process repeats.
After our first run of StratOps – two days of intense questioning and looking at the hard truths – the team agreed on four initiatives we were going to work on for the next three months. Team leaders were chosen and tasks were assigned. And for the first time ever, nothing was assigned to me.
I had no idea that’s how it was going to play out. And actually, I was really uncomfortable. I felt anxiety about whether they would be able to accomplish this very important stuff and guilt about the extra load the team would need to carry in order to get it done. Our facilitator assured me it would give the team a sense of ownership that would catapult them forward.
She was right.
StratOps was my first big girl lesson in letting go (which was, ironically, a challenge one of my mentors had given me just weeks before). I didn’t realize how much I was holding on to until I was away for a week at MozCon. It’s amazing how much clarity you get when you go away. In the months leading up to my trip, we had hired three people. They were new and their roles were new and I was working hard to train them at a level that was new to us, too.
I thought I was being thorough and leading by example. But in actuality I was holding them back. I had done the hard work of hiring well and it was time to get out of the way.
Letting go not only lightened my load, but there’s stuff happening right now. Better stuff. Stuff that I never could have put in place by myself. The team seems more in control. More willing to take initiative and try things out. It’s kind of amazing how it was just that little thing to start with and now it feels like a whole new company.
Learning (not) to react
When I went to Seattle, I took one of our new Strategists with me. Moz was generous enough to provide each speaker with a comp ticket, so I took Julie. She was the more seasoned of our three new hires and I was grooming her for leadership. I wanted her to experience first-hand the power of conferences in our industry and what better first one to take her to than MozCon?
A week after we got back she quit.
What’s amazing about Julie (and a big reason why I hired her) is that she gets people. She’s a gentle observer. She’s incredibly intelligent and she can read people and see things that sometimes I can’t.
When we were at MozCon, Julie told me she was amazed by how at home I seemed in that space. Those people were my people, she told me. She could see how happy I was and how much it energized me to be around everyone. Watching me at MozCon helped her to get me and it also helped her to get herself. She realized that it didn’t matter what role we moved her into at Mack Web. She had to find that for her and it wasn’t here.
I don’t think either of us have regrets. We joke about how Julie is Glinda our Good Witch and that she was meant to come to Mack Web to help us figure some shit out. And we did, and we still are, but her leaving brings clarity on roles that we would not have had this soon if Julie decided to stay. And that clarity will take a huge load off the team and really help our company this year.
And so it goes.
I was actually really surprised at my reaction to Julie’s news. I was calm. I didn’t get overly emotional about it. I realized that this is just part of the process of people. They will come and go. We will do good things together and I will learn a lot. And the less I choose to have a Jerry Maguire reaction, the better:
I do a lot of yoga and one of my favorite teachers says this a lot:
How you do anything is how you do everything.
So for now, I’m working constantly to figure out how to do things different. How to do things better. How to enjoy more. How to just leave things alone. Between growing Mack Web and raising a family, I’ve got a whole lot of opportunity to practice.
But the good thing is that I’ve figured a few things out:
- My kids are all that matters.
- None of the travel and speaking and exciting (but emotionally exhausting) Mack Web stuff that I get to do would ever be possible if I wasn’t married to a man like Jon.
- I’ll never get there. Just like raising my kids, this running a company thing is always going to be full of struggle (and I have to remind myself of this every. single. day.). There isn’t really a balance. But I do what I can with what I have and I know that there is going to be some really good stuff along the way.
There already is.