Why I'm Thankful For Feeling Uncomfortable

Has anyone at your workplace ever told you to lean in?

This is a term used by Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg. In fact, this is the title of her top-selling business book, Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead. In her case, Sandberg uses this term to represent assertiveness—moving toward being a leader, rather than a follower.

Over the years, I've always used this Thanksgiving Eve issue of Promotional Consultant Today, to share what I'm grateful for—it's our collective PCT tradition. And this year is no different, as I explain why the term lean in is of sudden relevance to me.

As you may have read in previous issues of PCT, I recently started a new role with a new company. The reasons for my move to a new organization are irrelevant, except that I felt like there was a guiding force, beyond my control, leading me to this new place, as I wasn't actively job hunting. In retrospect, I accepted the role without asking many questions. The job looked good on a paper and the salary was right. I had all the necessary skill sets and industry experience, and the senior leader that I'd be reporting to seemed like a great person. And frankly, I was ready and itching for a change. So I swallowed some courage, took a leap of faith and within a few weeks' time I was sitting in a new office just down the street from my old one.

The first few weeks were miserable—and I mean awful. It turns out my predecessor quit this role because the business unit he supported was dysfunctional. When I began making rounds to meet leaders within my department, they all said, "Good luck to you; no one likes working with that team." Apparently, the business unit I would be supporting had rotated out many marketing leaders; no one lasted there. My direct team seemed a bit impersonal and too busy to connect with me. And the processes and procedures to accomplish anything were astounding.

So, what did I do about it? Besides crying every night for the first three weeks and wondering what I had done to my career, I started creating a task list of what I could accomplish in this new position. Then I rolled up my sleeves and jumped in, working on tactical things that needed to be moved across the finish line. I also began connecting with key direct reports, both within my team and within the business unit I supported. As I met with leaders my list of to-dos got even longer. But as I worked harder, I began to experience a few small wins, and along with those wins came opportunities to build trust. That trust led to more "asks" and more tasks on my to-do list.

Then came the big requests. Managing our exposure at a major trade show just two months away. Producing and delivering a major industry report. Leading a team on designing a high-level strategic campaign for 2019. The list was mounting by the minute and I was ready to say, "Mercy!" Then a funny thing happened. Our senior leader took a pause and reorganized our team to be better aligned to deliver on a new corporate strategy. On this alignment day, I was called into the leader's office, and immediately I thought this wasn't a good sign. You know, last one in, first one out. Surprisingly, however, I was promoted—just two months into the job. But instead of celebrating, I cringed, because this meant even more responsibilities in a role where I already felt like I was drowning.

Fortunately, I have a leader who is passionate about development. So, she began introducing me and other senior leaders to her executive leadership. While exciting, it felt very uncomfortable. She also shifted over people-leading responsibilities, and she left some ambiguity in the role to be determined. Finally, she set the tone and expectation with us that we must be role models by showing energy, ability, focus and, in her words, courage.

The workload continues, and the challenges are there, but my leader helped me realize something about the reason I took this new job. I wasn't looking for change; I was looking for professional growth. And realistically, growth doesn't always come easily, but rather, it comes with growing pains—and those can be uncomfortable. But that sense of not having a solid foot on the ground—like not knowing how you are going to deliver a new strategy or how to obtain executive buy-in on your proposal—are those exact moments when growth happens.

So, as we take time to be thankful for our blessings tomorrow, I am thankful to have the opportunity to feel uncomfortable. I am thankful to be able to lean in, be assertive and grow in my new role. I am thankful to meet new people, build new relationships and earn the trust of others. And believe it or not, I'm thankful to have the opportunity to push myself with energy and focus until my gas tank is empty. And of course, I am thankful to have my health, which allows me to show up to a job every day, as I know many who do not have that opportunity. All of these work blessings make me very full.

From our team at PCT to you and your work families, Happy Thanksgiving!

Source: Cassandra Johnson is a tech-savvy marketing communications professional in the health care industry, and a freelance writer. She reports on the latest trends in the promotional products industry, public relations, content marketing, and more.

filed under November 2018
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