Crushing It: The Turning Point Series

I know I’ve broken a few souls in my lifetime. No, not soul-breaking as in my karaoke singing dissolving ones will to live, or even like breaking someone’s heart. Although selfishly, I would hope somewhere out there, I meant enough to someone for them to have felt ‘heartbroken’ by my absence in their life (is that sadistic?). What I actually mean when I say breaking someone’s soul is the act of breaking down someone’s spirit. I didn’t do any of it with cruel intentions, it was unfortunately an unnecessary by-product to what I thought were stepping-stones to success.

I worked in profit-driven industries in my 20s and my bosses were great in that they provided me with rare opportunities and infinite room to grow as a manager, but they, themselves, were also hardwired with sky-high expectations. Praises were hard to come by and because they were infrequent, they were often sought out as a source of motivation. I’m ashamed to admit it, especially now, because I am more cognizant of how dramatically work cultures have shifted in North America within the last five years, from an autocratic style to a more democratic approach. In the height of those years, I was a tough manager; a militant, no-bullshit manager. The word “perfectionist” is a good way of sugar-coating the harshness. As a female manager, I was told I would be taken less seriously than a male colleague. I was encouraged to push people to the max. I began to believe that to be good meant to be ruthless and tough without much regard for anything but the best results from a company-profit perspective. I had people quit because of me. I had people cry because of me. In most ways, I was efficient and successful in the traditional sense, but my methods were uncompromising. I knew the tenacity it would take for me to get to where I thought I wanted to end up and I wasn’t going to let anyone make me look bad. Truthfully, I thought I was crushing it.

If those people were asked who their best and worst managers were, I could see myself easily landing in either category (but probably more the latter) depending on if they felt like my direct and no-nonsense methodologies helped their growth in any formidable way. 

Looking back now, though, I see what was missing. Empathy. True human compassion and empathy. It barely existed in my world then, and I rarely doled it out. I know better now. Perhaps my 180 outlook is because of the monumental shift in where work-life ranks in the grand scheme of the average person’s life post-pandemic, or perhaps I’ve had more sympathetic bosses since then who have shown me that hard and tough doesn’t always necessarily mean better. You can still be respected as a strong leader while being assertive and knowing what you want without being merciless and insensitive.

For now, I am crushing it still- just not souls. And that feels way better!

I drafted this post a year ago after reading and being inspired by another blogger’s take on the subject. For some reason, I never finished writing it but hey, better late than never! Please check out her piece here.

Read other posts from this series:

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30 thoughts on “Crushing It: The Turning Point Series

  1. It’s so uncomfortable to face up to the harm we caused in the past. Growth, though, is always the point, and it’s so beautiful to see how those past experiences and every step along the way have helped shape who you are now.

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  2. I’m grateful that you have embraced empathy in your managerial style. The trickle-down effect on other people’s lives from our own actions and reactions isn’t something to be ignored. You were influenced by one management style, to have it enhanced by another. This in turn impacts the influences upon your employees who were affected by those changes, it would not be presumptuous to say they, in turn, affected other people. Bravo for changing this!

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  3. No wonder I’m always excited to see another of your blog posts. Your content is always thought-provoking and spot-on.

    I immediately thought of the bosses I worked for and which ones I most connected with. I believe empathy is one of the traits I’d put on the list of essential leadership qualities. I think it’s possible to be efficient and no-nonsense while still being empathetic. For example, let’s say you arrived late to work because you had a sudden-pressing problem with Charlotte. There should be a moment of acknowledging that employee’s feelings as a fellow parent. It would seem cold and uncaring if the boss suddenly said, “I don’t care about your problems. We’ve got work to do.” When I liked my boss and thought they cared about me as a person, I respected that attitude and did not want to let them down.

    I’ve also listened to our son talk about some of the head coaches he’s worked with in his career as a college football coach. He has learned something from every coach, good and bad. If he continues to advance in his career, he will apply these experiences if he ever becomes a head coach.

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    • That must be amazing to see your son’s career progress in a positive way! Yes, as I mentioned above, my greatest managers have been those who were able to put work aside and see me on a human level.. it truly makes a difference because as an employee I am also making sacrifices, personal sacrifices sometimes for the sake of work and to be able to see your leader put aside work to grant you the empathy you deserve makes it that much more rewarding…

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    • hahaha kind of like picturing teachers as people lol… when I was a kid I once accidentally popped my head in the teachers’ lounge and it was such a foreign sight to see them … eating… and chatting together lol like… what??!!

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  4. I love this post. How you’ve learned to be a better version of yourself. How you have acknowledged your past mistakes. How empathy will save you– and those who you manage. Leadership is difficult for everyone with a soul.

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    • Yes, leadership didn’t come naturally to me at first (aside from my blog moniker lol)… when I was younger, I did not want to be a decision-maker, I didn’t want my words to have final say/impact… it was a lot of pressure for the middle-child in me lol but gradually I found it to be more natural to lead with a pack than to lead on my own… if that makes any sense….

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  5. This is so very self-knowledgy of you. (I know there’s a better term. My brain is failing me, however. Help me out?) Let’s hope that, if nothing else, those people learned what not to do. haha. 😛 I mean, though, some, probably a lot, you taught to be better, work harder, etc. This reminds me of a third grade teacher (not mine, one I knew as an adult) who was really strict. Her classroom was a tight ship, but she was also short, sweet, and a little squishy. She managed to balance that demand for order with a love for her students. That truly is the winning combination.

    Self aware! That’s what I was going for!

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  6. I so RELATE. My parents have been the tough love kind of parents and it’s broken my soul so many times. Without realising, I slowly started doing the same as an adult. But I’ve really worked hard to change and not be that way. I totally get where you’re coming from and I’m glad that you’ve improved upon it too.
    My favourite bosses at work have been the ones who’ve nourished me, who’ve seen my mistakes (and blunders) and still found it in themselves to find a way to motivate me. I hope I can be that kind of manager to my mentees in the future. ☺️

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    • Absolutely – I always felt like I had to be perfect, no mistakes in front of my boss. I felt like his disappointment was the worst thing that could ever happen to me. Weirdly, it almost felt like Stockholm syndrome lol…

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  7. Just had a conversation with my husband where I told him I’ll be glad when women stop thinking they have to be like men to get ahead (and also when times change and this male energy isn’t so dominant). He asked me what this would look like, and I didn’t have a clear example. Now, I kind of do.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, this was my first real job and unfortunately, I learned some managing techniques that didn’t serve me or the employees I managed well (in hindsight). You’re right, everything seems to be based on a paternalistic agenda.

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