If you are in a meeting, you are there to help make or follow through on a decision. There is no other reason why you are there... unless maybe there were extra donuts and they needed someone to help decrease the pile. Meetings with donut eating visitors are very rare, so a meeting where you leave feeling like nothing happened and it was a waste of time is an indicator that you personally just wasted everyone else's time. Walking out of the room with that downcast gut sense that nothing was done points to the fact that you know more about the topic and you held back. The reason each person is in a meeting is that they are experts (or growing experts) in the matter at hand. To have thoughts, clarity, or just questions and not share has devalued the meeting, those involved, and yourself in your leadership and team progression.
Now you may be thinking of meetings where you didn't know a single thing about the business at hand. No passes here unfortunately. If you are bugged by the meeting it may be the structure of the meeting that is wrong and those running it don't see it. Your natural reaction to what you are experiencing must be leveraged either directly in the meeting or soon afterwards with the appropriate parties for their benefit as well as your own. Not too many are gifted meeting coordinators and all are on the path of learning and growing in their roles. Most individuals you share concerns with will be appreciative.
Of course in a meeting you wouldn't take over if you weren't the facilitator or leading it, so proper delivery of your concerns is key. Guiding questions are effective to move the conversation to actionable topics. Even "dumb" questions are sometimes effective. Ask reinforcing questions to clarify the topic and details. "So I'm hearing..." statement and question is a great way also to summarize where the meeting is with possibly even your own takeaways and then if needed a question or two that when answered by the meeting members will have next steps, decisions, or actions that can be taken outside of the meeting walls.
To never hear or say "Well, I'll never get that hour of my life back again!" ever again would be ideal. There will be mis-run meetings or have the wrong attendees on the roster, but we also must take personal responsibility for the content and actionable conclusions of any meeting we attend.
How many times are you called back home when you are wanting to lead and do more than just solve the problems of the day. You have strategy and goals that you must do to advance your career and objectives, but are constantly hijacked and derailed by expectations that you are the "only" one who can get it something resolved shortly. Is this a curse that we bear? Self imposed or historically grown?
It comes back to saying no, but the issue is that you can't say No to a Yes that you created a solution around previously can you? I consistently have the problem of building solutions that can't be maintained by one individual and to knowledge transfer the moving parts and rational is near impossible. Most times it returns and I am putting other matters aside to tend to another one of my inventory items.
One of a kind. If there was another me we could tag team. If there was a junior me, even better. I would mentor and train them up with my creations. I've tried and it seems that everyone that has been hired are specialized and narrow in enterprise aptitude. My challenge to organizations is to intentionally hire some Orbitals into the mix to augment the specialized work being done by the majority.
If going on hiatus means heading back to where I started with no forward movement path, I might consider vacationing instead of going out on the front lines.
For the majority of my life I have done as much as I could on my own. Music: I only played originals that I wrote. House: I have done the majority of electrical and plumbing work as well as added walls and renovated. Work: From my beginning days as a 20 year old in a consulting company I wrote entire packages, database to front end. This continued on until I reached a threshold a few years ago to where I could not continue to effectively develop and support the business appropriately. I acquired a few "misfit toys" and over time I assisted them in learning new skills and technologies as I became a "manager". For the most part this was a success, somewhat.
Where I am now is that unfortunately I still have my arms around the breadth and those individuals that I brought on are specialized, some with more span that others, but I still cannot back away and let it advance naturally. Some feel that I raised the bar too high and when I am absent progress slows or is at a standstill. Today I was flipping through old presentation slides from 2011 and had a painful realization that we haven't progressed very far from what I had created at that point in time... and it is now five years later. I felt like I just woke up and realized the amount of time that had passed.
I'm not patting myself on the back for what I was able to achieve by myself, but more the recognition that I had failed at some points. In analytics, analysis, and data work there are constant complexities and business to support, but something is nagging me. I share knowledge to grow my team, but in ways where I hand something off knowing the answer in full, only giving a hint. I'll let them work on the task for 30 minutes, two hours, a day, something that should take 10 minutes. After allowable points of time I stop by to check in and guide/instruct and step back. Once I give the answer, the response is "of course" and they get the job done.
How long and how much patience until either it is determined that a resource isn't the right fit or is this just how it is and my expectations are too high? I've watched many teams and individuals through the years and know that every organization would love to have teams filled with Orbitals... or would they? There is a balance. You need the heads down get the work done individuals, the specialized innovators, the hardened experts, and the Orbitals all working in harmony. The situation that most organizational areas fall into is that they have too many of one type and too many that just don't have the aptitude to be filling the position they are in.
"I'm drawing a blank. Bring me up to speed on what I told you last week so I can get my brain moving on this topic again." This is something that I enter so many meetings as my opening statement. If that doesn't give everyone a great feeling I don't know what will! I have just told them that they may have been important last week, but once we parted ways I haven't thought of or addressed their outstanding issues. The reality is that I spent an hour after the meeting fulfilling their hopes and dreams then orbited over into an equally intriguing situation and never got back to letting them know that the world has been saved and they can continue on even better than before.
Being everything to everyone may appear to be what everyone wants, but the reality is that it frustrates. Frustrates me and them. It is a common theme that permeates Orbitals who jump in and out of areas without staying too long to get caught up in the everyday mess. Just like a sunbeam lighting up the darkness, when you leave an area that light is gone and those remaining in the dark are desperate to have you back. As you make the rounds shedding light and illuminating, the past falls back into darkness.
I liken this topic to being in the middle of a woods on a moonless night holding a flashlight with 1 minute of battery life remaining. You would shine it ahead of you for a few seconds taking note as to what you saw and also possibly addressing the most important obstacles that are in the way. Turning off the flashlight you would then proceed as planned and then turn it back on to repeat the process until you have reached the edge of the woods safely. It is just as important to those that we serve that we don't turn on the flashlight, address a few obstacles, point in a general direction, assure them that you'll be back, and then leave with the flashlight never to return... until we hear cries of help from the darkness.
When you leave the woods at night, keep a light shining.
No I'm not talking about U2 the band although they are one of my favorite groups. This is referring to a concept that I have always been burdened by but have struggled to act upon successfully. As we plow through the fertile grounds of our career or wherever we happen to be we leave behind a furrow that displays a barren earth just waiting for new opportunities to be planted. We have broken new ground and normally planted some seeds and have seen some fruit, but there is much to do in keeping out the weeds, pruning, and harvesting. If you are like me I constantly have my eye on new ground to break and with all the best intentions in the world wish to return to where I first felt the joys of newness and unexplored glories, but the quest moves on leaving the prior work in someone else's hands.
Therein lies my dilemma. I have not purposefully mentored and raised individuals who can competently tend to the work that has been started and that I will unfortunately end up neglecting due to other fields to uncover. The act of You Minus Two (U-2) is identifying and nurturing an individual who is two years removed from you in terms of competence and experience. This person should feel somewhat similar to your character and drive and by doing so you can be somewhat certain that they will effectively be able to take over where you left off. A transitional time will definitely be needed, but if you are not actively seeking out and building up individuals to take your place then you will either be prohibiting your movement to untouched meadows or the ground you have previously painstakingly toiled to break and prepare will grow up with weeds and be no more the better for you having had been there.
If you are anxious to break more ground you must be all the more intent on raising your successor.
For much too long standards and formalities, while inherently positive in themselves, have hindered the true value of passion, creativity, and innovation. Hopefully through the topics presented new ideas and ways to change the culture and world around you will jump off of the pages reinvigorating you to take action and lead.