Reflections from a 20 Hour A Week Executive Director and Entrepreneur

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In September, I began an interim role as an Executive Director. I had fully launched my consulting practice, Think Good Leadership, and was building my fun “side gig” (India Hicks). Today, I thought this might be a good time to reflect on how I am managing and sometimes not managing the juggling of these balls. Leadership is about habit, practice and yes, being vulnerable. As individuals, we are on a lifelong journey and this blog is merely represents some insight into where I am on the journey.

•    Who am I?:  Some days I feel like I am having an identity crisis! For seven years, I was Deb, the ED from Habitat. Because I served as the "face" person for my organization, people were clear about my leadership role. As an independent consultant, things are different. I have been getting a lot of "Wait, where are you now?" and I admit it is a bit confusing. On a side note, further adding to the confusion, I decided to change my last name in January as a 10th Anniversary present to my husband! I am currently working with ten different clients in a coaching or consulting capacity. My largest contract is with Meals on Wheels of Lehigh County, where I am a consultant serving as the Interim Executive Director with a focus on change management.!  Being a “solopreneur” requires a daily focus on my personal brand. I have to remind myself that my priorities with all of these new "hats" is to keep my client organizations and their leaders moving in a forward direction. It is always about igniting potential in people and organizations.

•    Managing energy:  So, how is it going?  Well, I have to be incredibly intentional about how I negotiate every day. My calendar struggles have been real and I am continually in search of a better mousetrap. Some days it feels like my Outlook Calendar, Google Calendar and Acuity scheduler just don't like each other. I'm using every technique imaginable to manage it all and I would give myself an "A" for effort and "C" for execution. This week, I discovered I inadvertently had different meetings during the same time slot. In managing multiple priorities, I know that "common sense doesn't always mean common practice." (Brendon Burchard). The lessons I have learned around this managing energy piece are as follows (in no particular order):

o    Acknowledge when you are at your best:  I am basically one of those completely annoying very early morning people. I spring out of bed and get my day started. Late in the day, my energy tends to plummet. I again have to thank one of my biggest inspirations, Brendon Burchard, for helping me to understand the importance of using the first hour of the day intentionally. It has help me tremendously not to look at my phone or email until I have spent the first hour of the morning putting my daily game plan together. This means actually just getting in a healthy place for starting the day.

o    Time block:  I work with leaders on self management and having the time to work in "not urgent/important" activities (ala Stephen Covey) such as writing, planning and strategizing. Covey’s work has endured the test of time with the four quadrant approach relating to where I focus my energy. I have found that without intentionally time blocking my schedule, I am spending too much time on things that just don't matter.

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o    Stellato Soul Sunday:  If it works for Oprah, it works for me! I reserve Sundays for writing, reflection, planning and social media. This was a real challenge for me initially (especially because of pro football!), but I am finding that using Sundays for personal reflection isn't about more work but much more about recharging my batteries. I actually prefer working seven days a week for shorter periods of time than forcing myself into a conventional 40 hour work week. There is nothing conventional about this journey as a “solopreneur.”

o    Remind myself that I am the boss:  My daughter recently reminded me of what should seem so obvious.  I am allowed to have vacation and sick days. This has become especially important as I struggle with chronic pain. During the last month, my neck has challenged me in all sorts of ways and I have had to give myself permission to say no to certain things and to take time and space to do absolutely nothing...a massive challenge for me.

•    Ask people for help:  Wow, this is a tough one for us control freaks who think they wear a superhero cape and can do it all. As my businesses have grown, I have had to hire a daily pet sitter and, most recently, a personal assistant/social media guru. This is a hard pill to swallow when you are just building your business, but without these external resources, I would continue to feel like I am drowning in responsibilities and work that I could be farming out. In my part time Interim ED role, I also find myself delegating more---I have to.

•    Minimize the drama:  I wish I had one of those yellow signs to indicate that I am attempting to work in a "Drama Free Zone". I am the kind of leader, coach, daughter, wife and friend that works at being there for everyone and who constantly responds to the needs of others. One of my biggest lessons which I learn every day is that drama is a distractor and a massive time suck. I am learning to respond to people and requests differently. I am dialing down on getting caught up in crises and working harder on staying focused on pushing my big rocks each day.

I am far from having this juggling act under control. We live in a culture where “busyness” is valued. Lots of my friends and colleagues proclaim that they enjoy being busy and that they thrive on a level of frenetic energy. I would say that was me in my prior life. In this new universe that I am creating, while I continue to work hard, I am forced to give myself permission to be kinder to myself, my brain and my body.