Last spring, I got a fancy new title: Vice President of Global and Channel Partnerships. This new fancy title also came with the task to support our company’s mission — to change the world, one conversation at a time.
My primary goal? To take something that existed within Fierce and transform it into something that would ultimately champion the organization into becoming a truly global company.
This is a very lofty task for anyone no matter your business’ size.
Our President, Stacey Engle, shared that this first year of my transformation plan I would be supported with the budget of my creativity and the strength of her support – two things I’ve relied on for the better part of a decade, so I happily agreed.
Day one into my new role, with my 90-day plan empty and staring back at me begging to be filled in, I suddenly realized that my accomplishment of this goal would be almost entirely based on others. I would need to find a way to strategically align with people outside of my team in order to be truly successful in my efforts.
As someone who subscribes to the adage of, “if it’s meant to be, it’s up to me,” this was terrifying.
With no team and no budget, my colleagues would have to support what I was building not because they had to, but because they wanted too. Because they believed in what I was building, believed in me. That means that what was up to me, was driving and building deeper relationships because ultimately, my relationships with others were going to determine my results — my strategic goals’ success wasn’t in my hands alone.
CONNECTING THE DOTS
Now, I haven’t always spent my career at Fierce. I have worked at a large corporation where I was one of hundreds of thousands. I’ve also worked at a small start-up where I was one of five.
What I’ve learned, is that no matter the company size or how much resources a team or organization has, in the end, the true work of getting something accomplished is rooted in the relationships of people who are working together.
I’ve seen when the antithesis of this is true when there is a lot of money to throw at a problem but because the relationships were not strong enough and there was no trust, the ultimate goal was not reached.
So here I am, starting in my new role and grounded in the reality that my first 90 days must include strategically aligning a team of people who don’t report to me, who don’t care about my fancy title, but do trust me, and do believe in our vision.
I’ll tell you that this was incredibly difficult. While I always felt that my colleagues supported me, sometimes I felt the limits of that support as they grappled with their assigned workload and my asks and requests were extra work.
So, the question was: how was I going to respond to this? What was I going to do to build that relationship in order to get what I and Fierce needed to be accomplished?
Luckily again, I had the tool of conversations: C=R, also known around Fierce as the conversation equals the relationship. I remember the first time I sat through a Fierce workshop, almost a decade ago, and heard this concept. I was young in my career and it hit me right in the gut.
Being a bit of a Type A personality, I loved it, because it was something I could control.
Whatever you put into the conversation, that is what you’ll get out of the relationship. If you have authentic conversations, you’ll have an authentic relationship. It’s such a simple concept, however, in practice, it can be quite difficult.
Why is it so hard? Because it takes energy, and it takes guts.
PUTTING CONCEPT TO ACTION
For me, and this first year with my new fancy title, I came up short quite a bit in this arena at times. I didn’t confront certain behaviors because I didn’t want to “rock the boat.” I didn’t want to upset a colleague who was helping me but, in fact, some of their help was slowing me down. I was not authentic with them, and so the relationship over time had thinness to it on my side, and I think on theirs too.
I didn’t delegate well to those who agreed to help, so there was a lot of frustration at times on both sides. I delegated like an all or nothing sum game rather than looking at it strategically and with the tools at my disposal.
There were also times I didn’t stop to realize the impact of my ask – simple from my point of view but completely void of the full context of the person on the other end.
I know I left people who were helping me feeling a bit underwhelmed and I think even hurt. Completely unintentional on my part but that’s the thing about how we make others feel – it’s not about us.
So, it’s a new year, I still have my fancy title and now a team and budget, but in reality, my work will live or die by the relationships with others who don’t report to me, and for those who now do, I still have to have a super strong relationship with them or they won’t be inspired to give it their all.
The next step for me is figuring out what I am going to do differently this time around to ensure the growth of our company doesn’t die in its innovation stage.
Below are three areas that I’m putting a strong emphasis on this year and where I recommend you do as well to guarantee you succeed too:
1) Confront behavior right away
This may seem antithetical to building stronger relationships, but it’s actually the best way to be effective.
This is because it’s incredibly important to remember that the person you need to confront is more often than not aware of the impact they are having on you, and that is on you to recognize.
For naysayers, just recently when talking about this with someone else, I literally said, “But I don’t want to make it a big deal.” To which that person said back to me: “Why is confrontation such a bad thing?”
That stopped me in my tracks.
It’s healthy for two people to see things differently, to have different perspectives, and when out of that an issue arises and we ignore it, that’s when we make it a big deal.
She then asked me, “If someone had an issue like this that involved you, would you want to know?” Of course, my answer is yes. I’m a people pleaser, I like giving feedback because it feels safe but still authoritative, however, it’s not always the conversation that is needed.
2) Delegate strategically
One of the first lessons I learned in my business life was being dele-dumped on is terrible. I never wanted to be that person that just gave people the tasks I didn’t want to do.
That train of thought, however, led me to think that everything I was responsible for was my sole obligation – which is false and a very selfish point of view because now I didn’t delegate tasks or strategic pieces of my role. I hoarded everything to myself and brought people in when I needed them which was confusing for others.
I’m currently working on a Delegation Tree, the tool in our Delegation Model at Fierce, for everything I own with my new fancy title. I’ve bucketed my responsibilities into three main groups, and I’m in the process of filling out the tree for those who report to me and those who are supporting the vision of what I’m trying to build.
This includes strategic work down to administrative tasks. After that, my goal is to set up meetings with each person, to talk through the decision tree and get their feedback, with the hope we land on responsibilities by the end of the quarter.
More clear conversations will lead to a relationship of trust.
3) Be responsible for my emotional wake
This is one of the 7 principles of Fierce – Take Responsibility for Your Emotional Wake. The idea is that you can either leave an aftertaste, an afterglow, or aftermath when interacting with someone.
I take pride that I think I’m pretty good at this philosophy. I am intuitive with people and yet, when I know I’ve made someone upset and I go back and apologize, I need to focus on the next step, which is to actually be able to ask: what feedback do you have for me on this? What am I missing around my ask?
Everyone is carrying a heavy load. At Fierce, we hire such passionate people — they show up 110% every day, and we pride ourselves on being lean and mighty.
That also means that there is a lot going on for every person within the organization. My “simple” ask may in fact not be simple at all. I had a colleague the other day ask me to stop saying something is “simple” in reference to design. Sure, the act itself might not be hard for our amazing designer but the coordination of that act, alongside everything else she is balancing is masterful and disciplined.
I’m also dedicated to bringing more people to strategic meetings early on, so they have more context and transparency behind my asks.
What holds me back, and I’m sure many leaders can relate, is I honestly feel bad sometimes inviting people to meetings. I know they’re busy and don’t want to take up more time. This is my issue and I have to trust, not assume, that they know what’s best for them.
My goal is that by getting curious with others, I’ll create relationships that have power behind them.
No matter what you do this year, it’s imperative that you realize no one can rely on fancy titles to get others to coalesce around our vision and strategy. It’s the relationships we build and ultimately the conversations we have that will or won’t determine our success.
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