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Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Focus on the Journey, Not the Destination

I spent the last few weeks back in my hometown of Detroit, Michigan for Christmas. It was really nice to put up traditional decorations, bake dozens of cupcakes and reconnect with friends and family. Many people will complain that the holidays are taxing and the true meaning is lost in the commercialism. Perhaps that is true and I sometimes find myself a little disappointed after cooking for hours to see my guests eat in 10 minutes and then move on. There is one person who always grounds me, reminding me it’s the journey not the destination. That is my husband Doug. When I get in a funk and feel that I am putting in effort that is unappreciated, he reminds me of the fun we had cooking including the mishaps along the way and the satisfaction we found in the process. The end result can be interpreted many different ways and that’s just life. Either my guests liked my cooking or not, maybe it was too salty or too bland…but a dinner was provided and that was the basic expectation.

Professionally, there are similar frustrations. I may have spent weeks on a particular project, fine tuning the presentation, reviewing it with the stakeholders only to find the discussion never gets past the first slide in the final sign-off. I may have felt like I had so much to say, or why didn’t the leadership want to look through the research? When the discussion resulted in the decision I was hoping for I am able to move on quicker however when it’s back to the drawing board, especially for a miss on my part, I end up in that same funk I had after cooking for the holidays. Lots of work and I didn’t get it right? Or maybe I sort of did, but still more to do. Just like my home life, there is someone to ground me. I turn to colleagues at work to bring me back into focus. Sometimes it’s just a few supportive statements over coffee, maybe they offer to help me review the next version or remind me that I learned along the way which will help me in the future. I find myself reflecting that the process is just as important as the output whether you are in the kitchen or in the office!

A key ingredient to success and having the stamina to sustain the pace in which we work is a support network. It’s easy to get lost in the details, feel buried in your inbox and think you will never get caught up. Most days I am reminded by someone in the office, where to focus and get grounded in my purpose as a boss, as an employee or a team mate. My support network is not just my supervisor, but a long list of folks from different offices and career levels. One of the best things about my company is the people we hire- for all positions. Sometimes it’s a simple smile from a colleague as we pass in the hall, the people in the mail room remembering who I am and what my weekly request is, or my EA knowing when I need a coffee to help me get through my afternoon. Other times it’s the leadership I find from my direct reports, the solutions they bring to the table or the wisdom they share from being in the company for a long time.

I appreciate these bits of help, and maybe they go temporarily unnoticed when I am having a crazy day. I forget to say thank you or really absorb the feedback that I received. However, when I stop to think about where I am, I am grateful for the people around me and I would struggle if not for their efforts and wisdom – whether that is my home family or my work family.