Building a skill+mind for operation- heavy role - my learnings
Disclaimer: Everything I say below is my own thoughts/learnings. Does not reflect my current or previous employer's stance.
I have had the privilege to work with phenomenal people throughout my career. One of them is Shiv. As an ex-chief of staff, he knew first hand what operation-heavy roles need and why. He has now moved on to build his own company, I know exactly why it will be successful!
Along with notes from him (over the year we worked together in my previous role), I learned a few other things by facing the fire first hand and breaking my mind and body in the process (a story for another day).
Here are the learnings (perhaps more as a note for myself than anyone else):
The starter for action has to be high. If you don’t act, no one else will. You have all the ownership, but no authority, so you must influence through action.
Slow is smooth, smooth is fast.
Cadence is more important than intensity.
Build rest, delays, vacations, and foggy days into the plan.
Go to the source of the problem, not its interpretation.
Show instead of telling.
Senior leadership cares less about the problem. Always go with a solution when a problem shows up. Show accountability through ownership of the problem and the solution.
Mid management is where the actual work happens. Senior leadership just doesn’t have the time to do it all.
Storytelling: Nuance is for later. Tell the story that will stay in a leader's mind. Aesop’s fables stayed through generations, but Game of Throne stories likely won’t. Talk to leadership with extreme clarity, slowly reveal the nuances when necessary but always be ready with depth.
Control the potential fuck-ups by making a checklist of failures. Think ahead right away.
Your brain is going to fail when you deal with a lot of stress and pressure, trust your checklist, and meticulously execute it.
Identify the points of failure in the system (people) and learn how to work with them in the most peaceful way possible. The goal is to avoid conflict but create a system of high trust, through a meticulous system of showing results.
The team is more than the sum of its parts. Build a support system internally that can guide you and solve blind spots.
Be completely self-sufficient and take one for the team when necessary.
Consistently evaluate whether the firefighting at hand is the failure of execution, planning, or the decision-maker. Often, a leader without clarity will throw you in a fire and not even know it.
Build relationships not on pleasantries, but on trust and dependability. A stakeholder internal or external will work with you if they know they can trust you and it is safe for them to make mistakes.
Empathy without boundaries is self-destruction.
Silently observe people’s actions. They tell you in more ways than one, who they are.
Closely pay attention to the stories and the voices that tell them.
Playing politics is a choice.
If you are an asset and consistently deliver, no one will touch you.
In larger organizations, perception is key. Ensure that your work is building your perception, not your manager.
Proactively build relationships, help everybody you can.
You are responsible for your team.
Build a system that builds the team. Work needs to be peaceful, not chaotic
Your bodies are telling you what is essential.
Burnout is a cultural problem.
No amount of money in the bank is worth the panic and anxiety attacks.
If you have read this so far and connected with some things, I implore you to take some time and reflect on the following questions:
What is the core emotion driving your work?
If the answer of 1 is in the zone of fear, anxiety, think where it is rooted. If it is rooted in your opinions of yourself, work them out. If they are rooted in the culture, find your way out.
Do you have a support system at work?
Do you have a ritual to ground yourself?
Do you have a community that helps you grow?
As always, reach out if you have any questions for me. Always here to hold the space and listen.
Keep growing! Love, Rishi