A Day in a Leader's Life
Maybe you noticed the different name of this newsletter. Your eyes do not deceive you. After pondering, asking others and then pondering more I decided to change it. While I love the original name observations and annotations, it was long and hard to remember. When coming up with a name initially Suzan’s Fieldnotes was my second choice. It’s short, easy to remember and still conveys the feeling of the newsletter: down-to-earth, based on real life and my observations. Nothing else is changing, just the name. Hope you like the new name and logo.
I thought I understood the pressures of being a leader. Then I became a COO —was I surprised. The pressure, the schedule, the demands, the ambiguity in decision making was far more intense than expected. This edition attempts to share what the experience might be like so leaders don’t feel less lonely. I hope this glimpse helps potential leaders prepare for the rigors.
Start your day with a 1:1 meeting. Follow it up with a team standup. Realize you have five minutes before your next one. Check your messages, respond to the most urgent. Sip your latte while mentoring a team member. Feel yourself wake up as the caffeine hits your nerve endings. Check the status of an important initiative. Discover a prickly Slack conversation between two leaders who can’t seem to get along. Scarf down a bagel before your next meeting. Notice a team member seems disengaged lately, wonder if they’re at risk for leaving. Make a mental note to ask more questions the next time you talk.
After much consideration you decide to change vendors. Wonder if you made the right choice. You hope it’s worth it. This shift means changes across the company. Consider how to sell this plan to your peers. Hope your peers respect you enough to go along with your ambitious plan. Add develop implementation strategy to your to do list. Remember the last time you made an unpopular decision. Try to forget it. Get a message from HR asking about your hiring plan. Send them the details. Wonder how you’re going to get enough candidates. Add networking to your to do list. Wonder when you’ll have time to network outside the company. Spend 30 minutes on the budget that’s due next week.
Realize it’s lunchtime. Grab a sandwich. Respond to Slack messages between bites. Receive a message telling you the deadline for a key project is in jeopardy. Ponder what to do. Observe anxious feelings rise. Check your text messages. Send a funny GIF in response to your best friend’s message. Flip back to your calendar. Notice that performance reviews are due next week. Put performance reviews on your list knowing you’ll finish the morning they’re due.
Spend an hour tackling the pile of emails that appeared this morning. Peruse Slack looking for urgent issues. Slurp down a cup of coffee. Hope the caffeine carries you through the afternoon slump hours. Give the dog some scritches, feel your shoulders relax. Mediate a brewing conflict between two team mates. During a tense moment, remind yourself to breathe deeply so you can stay calm. When it goes long, arrive 10 minutes late to your next meeting with the leadership team. Present your strategy for the next quarter. Field questions, taking note of the ones you can’t answer right now. Stay a few minutes late at the request of the CEO who wants to discuss alternate strategies if the team misses the deadline.
Afterwards catch up on the Slack messages you missed. Briefly wonder if you should go back to being an individual contributor. Have a working meeting with a peer. Realize your working styles aren’t working well. Wonder how to solve this. Make a note to get your bosses perspective. Remembering your promise to exercise more, take a quick walk.
Make dinner plans with your partner. Delay your plans when a team member messages asking if you have time to talk. Agree to pop on a video call. Thirty minutes later return to your inbox one last time. Notice three new meeting requests, all conflicting with other meetings. Determine which to decline and which to reschedule. Shut your computer.
Shake off the day. Stretch your arms, turn your neck side to side. Remind yourself to be present as you eat pasta with your partner. Dip your bread in the sauce while you ask about their day. Try not to talk about yours too much. Enjoy slowing down. Relish a heart-shaped chocolate cookie with salt sprinkled on top.
After dishes are put away, bring your laptop to the sofa. Pull up the emails that require more thought. Figure out what to do about the deadline in jeopardy. As the dog snuggles next to you, jot down some notes for performance reviews. Decline one meeting, schedule another. Answer a message from a team member who is unhappy with a recent decision you made. Be as transparent as possible without revealing confidential information. Worry it won’t be enough to satisfy their concerns. Notice your stress raise, wonder how you make the role sustainable so you don’t burn out. Remind yourself to mention it with your exec coach during your next session.
Review your to do list to see what else you can knock off tonight. An hour later you discover it’s 9pm. Shut your laptop. Remember you have an early morning meeting. Set an alarm. Grab the book you’re reading about OKRs. Hope you can get a few pages in before you fall asleep.
Whew. My heart’s beating faster just writing this post. I see you leaders.
Until next time, be well.
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