Resumes are interesting things. I guess LinkedIn profiles even moreso. They highlight accomplishments. We’re all taught to write our bullet points and summaries in standard formats (like STAR – Situation, Tasks, Actions, Results.) I am not crying against convention here as there is substantive, material value in highlighting what you’ve done well and achieved.
But where is the standard for self-reflection? Where is the format for all of us to reflect upon our mistakes? To look at where we made mistakes? Where we could have done better? How can we get better at seeking disconfirming evidence and critical feedback, as opposed to succumbing to our narratives and stories of success?
Before taking on a new role I do my best to reach back out to individuals I’ve worked with in the past to ask for their feedback and guidance. I share my request broadly, and I ask for feedback candidly. And I’m always amazed at the responses and interest individuals take in responding and sharing their thoughts. Often I learn as much from the time they take as the words they actually share. In advance of starting my new job at LiveIntent, I was able to connect with a few individuals for this reason:
- Former peer and head of corporate development
- Former boss and CMO
- Former boss and CEO
- Former peer and President
- Former boss turned client
- Former COO
- Former mentor
That makes for seven conversations with people who have worked with me at an executive capacity and were willing to take the time to sit down with me or hop on the phone and share their advice generally, and then directed specifically at the areas and opportunities I have for improvement. I can’t thank them enough. Here’s what I heard, loudly and clearly.
- Listen more than you talk. I heard this several times and by digging deeper into it I discovered that the problem is very obviously twofold: 1) I need to get better at active listening, and 2) I need to do a better job of making it clear that I have heard what’s been shared with me. I have a host of excuses and perspectives that I feel compelled to share here, but it doesn’t change the fact that one of the most universal pieces of advice I heard was that I could improve “how” I listened.
- Enough with the albatrosses. I take my work very seriously, and because of that, I carry my mistakes and the company’s mistakes with me, heavily. Though I do a good job of masking these (mostly) with my team I have been told that I can do a better job of handling these with respect to my peers and my bosses (notably the CEO.) I can’t thank a former CEO enough for this advice. It resonated loudly and actually set me free from some things that have stayed with me from past roles.
- Think a level down AND a level up. A very strong pattern in my feedback sessions focused on how often I sided with my team. It was perhaps the most challenging piece of feedback to hear. I view a core tenet of my job to be supporting for, advocating for, and developing my team. But I need to continue to do a better job of finding balance between my team and the expectations of my role. One of the best pieces of advice I was given here was to think of my role as much from a level up as I practice doing from a level down. In the case of my role at LiveIntent, it’s as much about thinking about my job from the POV of our President and our CEO as it is about thinking of my role from the POV of my team.
- Overcommunicate, and overcommunicate about overcommunicating. I tend to communicate to the level I believe I’m being heard. I’ve tried overcompensating on either side, by either assuming everything is being read or assuming nothing is (culture has dictated both.) But what I have to make sure I do is highlight the reason I’m communicating as much as I am and then validate that the audience finds it to be appropriate. And when in doubt. err on the side of more information and context while providing the recipient an easy out in the form of “here’s why I’m sharing, tell me if it’s too much or too little, and until you do, I’ll keep doing what I’m doing.”
- Don’t stop having fun. When you feel it happening, find a way to reverse it. Walk around the block. Step back and take a day off. Tell your boss the way you’re feeling and why. But find a way to transparently share what’s happening and invite people in to help you get out of your rut. Because when you stop having fun, everyone around you knows it. And when everyone around you knows it, the slippery slope to negative momentum steepens and gets that much more slick.
- Remember why you were hired. And if you’re not sure, ask the question up front. With every new role comes a new layer of accountability and ownership. Don’t outsource your brain, don’t compromise on your values, don’t confuse collaboration and input with democracy, don’t stop moving forward and don’t stop doing these kinds of things — asking questions to find out where you can improve. It’s all of these things that made you the ideal candidate for the role you’re stepping into (assuming you were honest throughout the interview process.) So when the chips are down, reflect back on why you were hired. And put all of those reasons back on display.
I can’t thank the folks who took some time to mold me, in the past, over time, and just these past few weeks. I am whatever and whoever I am today because of your influence. Hopefully, it’s something you take a little pride in.
LiveIntent, here I come. Better for the wear. Better for all the care.