That next Monday morning Scarlett was glad she had a session with Jack. She had a lot she wanted to discuss with him.
“Hi, Jack,” she said as she walked into the conference room.
“Hello. How have your last two weeks been, Scarlett?”
“They were a little daunting at first. I’m not used to sharing with my co-workers. I’ve had so many walls up for a long time that it felt uncomfortable, but I knew I needed to change.
“How did you feel when you began sharing with your employees?”
“I have to say that I am making some progress with Melissa and Steve. Having lunch with them, showing them some genuine appreciation and opening up a little bit about my life is making a difference. I’m beginning to enjoy seeing them every day instead of dreading it and I can see that is helping all of our performance. I really like the small changes, and I think they are cautiously pleased as well.”
“That’s great, Scarlett.”
“Yes, and I really didn’t understand that better relationships with my direct reports could take such a weight off my shoulders. We’re still focused on doing good work, of course, but I’m realizing that I can loosen my grip on what they are doing and truly begin the process of building trust. Trust was missing for a long time as I didn’t truly believe my employees would be to do as good of a job as I could.”
“Yes, trust is a big catalyst. People will step up when they feel trusted and sense you’re open to getting to know them. You’re treating them more as adults and contributors, helping them to want to step up and create an even better working environment. It’s a huge shift for all of you.”
“I also had another realization – I really do want to invest in my relationships outside of work. I went on a really good date this weekend and saw so clearly how having my guard up was really limiting my personal life as well.”
“Ok, tell me more.”
“Well, I haven’t really put an effort into building personal relationships before. I would typically date someone for a few months and then find some excuse to break up. After the date with Lee, I realized that I want something real in my life now.”
“That’s interesting, Scarlett. As you know, our primary purpose here is to work on your relationship-building skills to help you prepare to take on a partner role here at the firm, but everything is interconnected so these skills certainly translate to your personal life as well.”
“But this won’t come overnight. It takes time and energy to invest in relationships and truly build strong ones. It takes learning how to give and take and a willingness to be strong and powerful and yet vulnerable and open. It takes real courage to let people in if you have had walls up for a long time. Are you truly willing to work on that?”
Scarlett exhaled deeply.
“Yes. It’s scary, but I realize that I want strong relationships both inside and outside of work and that takes trust not only in others, but also trusting myself that I can open up to them.”
“Scarlett,” Jack continued, “I think you’re off to a great start!”
“Ok so what can I do next in order to continue moving towards partner?”
“Well the next step of the process of moving you from the manager you are to the leader you want to be is to begin to put together a vision of your professional (and personal life). For next time, I want you to focus on creating a vision for yourself for one year, five years, and ten years out. Write a letter to me explaining both personally and professionally what you are doing in those years, what you have achieved, and who are the central figures are in your personal and professional lives. As a leader, it is important to have a vision of where you want to go in order to truly understand what is important to you as well as to create the steps to achieve that vision.”
A month ago, Scarlett would have had a simple answer for most of these questions. But now, the possibilities overwhelmed her.
“In the meantime,” Jack went on, “continue building the relationships you are developing with your subordinates. Stop at their desks. Ask them how they’re doing, and how you can support them. And most importantly, listen to the answers. Keep investing in your relationships for that is how they will grow and prosper.”
“Thanks, Jack. I feel like our work is pushing me in the right direction, both in terms of becoming partner, but also a more well-rounded person.”
During that week, Scarlett found, oddly enough, that this assignment was harder than her first one. She had never really let herself take the time to dream because she was always so busy. She got frustrated. Who had time for this?
She took a step back and realized, however, that whatever Jack had been guiding her to do up until this point had been working, so she was at least going to try it. For her goals she had always been so focused on becoming partner. After that she knew that she wanted to go into politics. But she had never really fully developed her vision beyond that, and she certainly wasn’t sure about her life outside of work. She gave it a lot of thought, and wrote down her vision for each of the assigned years in anticipation of her next meeting with Jack.