8 Lessons to Guide Your Career

Earlier this week I provided the GovLoop community with a brief research update, and gave you all a quick thank you for the transformative work you’re doing. Today, I want to leave you all with a challenge, find some quiet time this weekend to do some personal reflection. Take the time to focus your thoughts around staying balanced and finding happiness in life. Do it for yourself – you deserve it.

The ideas below come from the research interviews we’ve done at GovLoop over the last two years. Conducting qualitative interviews is my favorite part of the research projects we do here at GovLoop. I love being able to hear and help tell the remarkable stories of innovation, perseverance and collaboration across industries that is occurring in the public sector. As I spent some time reflecting on the interviews, I jotted down some notes about common themes and anecdotes I’ve heard about either leading in challenging fiscal times or navigating organizational boundaries.

1- Care About Your Crew

One of the most inspirational quotes that I remember was when I asked a president and founder of a company his favorite part of the day. He paused for a second and said that it’s his walk into the office. When he opens the door and see’s his name hanging on the wall with his partners alongside his, he can’t help feel a sense of pride. As he passes all his employees desks as he walks to his office, he is sure to say hello, do some small talk and head to his office, he reminds himself, he is working for them to support their families and their lives. I just love that mentality, that spirit and finding that kind of motivation to grow and build a company – around people.

2 – Stay Calm in Stormy Waters

There is a place and time for emotion, but save it for behind closed doors. An executive told me that’s one of the major challenges of being frustrated with employees- remaining calm and cool, not always focusing on if you’re wrong or right, but simply just solving the problem to move forward. The executive explained they rarely vent in front of employees, never chews out employees in public, and pays close attention to managing their emotions. This also sets the expectation that employees will follow a similar suit. It’s just another classic case of leading by example. This requires a constant effort to build yourself and grow emotionally. Especially when you’re filled with passion about what you do. It’s not easy, but essential.

3 – Don’t Stay on a Sinking Ship

What’s been interesting is when leaders have basically talked about times when things have just simply not worked, and the hard decisions they’ve had to make to cut a project. Other instances include letting people go, ultimately in the best interest of the employee and the company. The same executive I mentioned in number one also told me the story of how he had to fire one of the most well-liked members of his team. Knowing this, he made a few phone calls and instead of firing the employee and leaving him unemployed, he had already secured him a new job, prior to him being fired.

4 – Waves are Going to Crash

Bumpy roads are inevitable, there are always fires that may have to be put out. I was once told that true colors are shown in times of adversity. It’s easy to do things right when everything is smooth sailing. Deep down I have always believed that it’s our basic nature to know right and wrong, and we can make a choice about our actions. Just choose wisely, and do the right thing in times of a crisis. Honesty, integrity and transparency are all ideals we value in our leaders, so be sure to hold true to them at times when you need them the most.

5 – Know When to Row and When to Steer

It’s awesome listening to executives talk about their team. The lines of “We’ve got a great team” or “I am lucky to have such great employees,” are usually pretty strong indications of a solid leader. Some of the happiest employees and teams I’ve talked with in the last year follow the mantra of putting people in spots where they excel the most. A good leader hires smart, talented and passionate people. A great leader does the same but knows when to stand back, when to row the boat, and when to gently steer. It’s truly an art to balance these skills.

6 – Always have an alternate route

Nothing about our lives falls into a nice sequence of events, we run into roadblocks, challenges and sometimes need to think of a plan B. This is where good leaders who I have talked really practice visualizing their success, foreseeing the challenges and know the ways to quickly move the sails if the wind starts blowing in a new direction.

7 – Don’t be afraid to drop the anchor

Some of the most confident leaders I’ve talked too are the quietest, most humble people I’ve ever met. I’ve noticed they do a couple things really well – they listen, they reflect, and they know when to just simply stop a project or press pause. They have an uncanny ability to rationalize events, and then quickly spot solutions to move forward. They aren’t afraid to stop and make sure things get done the right way. They know how to take a break and recharge, allowing them to refocus their energy and thoughts.

8 – Be ready for the next voyage

The last common theme that I’ve heard is just being ready for what is next. Making the real tough decisions and not being afraid to take a risk. Nearly all the highly successful people I’ve spoken with at some point took a risk, and were thrilled they did. They look forward to solving the next big challenge and tackling the big problems, and do not shy away from them.

These are just some quick thoughts on the interviews we’ve done here at GovLoop, and the lessons learned. It’s my hope that you’ll take some time to reflect this weekend. In our busy lives we don’t do it enough. Above all though, just spend some time thinking through balance and priorities in your life. That’s what’s going to keep you grounded, and help you find happiness more than anything else.

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