I have been a Boss and a Leader for most of my working life.
I held leadership positions in youth programs, in the Army, as an entrepreneur and in the world’s largest humanitarian organization. I had the lives of hundreds of paid and unpaid staff in my care, not just their pay and careers, but theirs lives.
I made choices that put people in harm’s way and made decisions that directly impacted their lives, hopes and dreams. I’ve laid people off due to economic reasons, fired people for cause and even put people in jail. It wasn’t always perfect, but I could sleep at night because: I believed in what we were doing; how I conducted myself; and, that people were treated fairer than fair.
As challenging as those times were, by far my worse leadership experience was during the implementation of a massive organizational change. A change I fundamentally agreed with, but it was disastrously implemented.
As part of a leadership team making the change, I have my share of blame to shoulder because I wasn’t 100% behind it. I had direct reports which would be moved to a new department, and one person, in particular, was at risk of losing their job. Possibly, I could have done more to protect this person, but in the end, a corporate decision was made to terminate.
As the boss and I took responsibility to do the ‘dirty work,’ by telling this person that their employment was ending. Though some may disagree, I conducted myself well, respected the company, the decision made and the person impacted.
I worked hard to act professionally and respectfully, but I could not justify what was happening to anyone outside of work. I wasn’t sleeping, was irritable and very unhappy. Without a doubt, it was the worse time of my professional life, and when asked I could not explain or justify my actions to the closest and most trusted people in my life.
Maybe what you are dealing with isn’t as drastic as what I faced, but if you can’t explain your actions to a trusted confident, you are dealing with a moral and ethical problem. And, you likely won’t be getting a good night’s sleep anytime soon.
Hopefully, none of your issues as a boss are as dramatic as my example. But remember this, if you can’t explain in simple language, or don’t know, what you are doing or more importantly why you are doing it you have a problem.
What was the lesson in this?
If you aren’t sleeping well as a leader, take a look at what you are doing at work, and if you can’t explain it to your Grandmother You shouldn’t be doing it!