Currently I am giving a keynote presentation at the 16th annual SEDA conference in Birmingham. In reality I am sitting at my desk, at home, in Islington, not even talking into a microphone because I recorded the whole thing about three weeks ago. Being today 36 weeks pregnant with twins we decided it was too risky for me to make the event in person and even too risky to think I might be able to talk through the whole thing in person. Hence the pre-recorded version.
Has been rather weird giving a virtual keynote but enjoyable too – certainly I have been more organised and planned than I usually am! And that goes for the rest of my work too. As I was convinced the babies would be here by now I tried to finish off all the work I could a few weeks ago but to be around until 37 weeks (one more week) in case of problems etc. The “handover” process has made me reflect on how I work and how much is in my head too – quite scary actually and just sharing folders on dropbox doesn’t quite give access to my head entirely. Last time I went on maternity leave with my daughter, she was born 4 weeks early so I never had this “organisation” or waiting phase. In fact, I was finishing off the team plan after my waters broke and writing a handover list the week after she was born. Never again, I said!
I have always tried to maintain that if I am a “good” leader, then if I am not around, I will have inspired others and left a sufficient legacy that the work that I was doing would continue. This is not to sound big-headed but in terms of the initiatives I lead I have tried to foster the view that they should and could carry on without me. And in the main I think this is true although gradually phasing myself out over the past few weeks has really been a test of my mettle on this. That is not to say that those who are taking over are not skilled enough to do my work- far from it! And in fact they are more than capable and those areas I have been leading will benefit from a new perspective and fresh pair of eyes. It has become apparent to me, as gently pointed out by one colleague, that I am becoming the problem not the solution. I think she was probably also hoping the babies had been born so I stop emailing her more “ideas” or “suggestions”.
I have also tried to maintain that when handing over jobs or delegating that you have to let others get on with it and although they might not do as you would do, if the end is the same that is ok. Again this has been tested. More by my guilt at feeling like I am dumping all these things on others and trying to “help” by telling them what I would do and organising etc. Or worrying that a certain situation wouldn’t have happened if I had been there. This is fine up to a point but again I fear becoming the problem….
So, I just need to let go. Am sure once the babies arrive work will be the farthest thing from my mind but in these last few weeks, gradually withdrawing has been a challenging process for me. I know that everything will be fine when I am gone and I’m so glad that others in my team have the opportunity to take over some new work and develop things in new directions. I’m also lucky that I have had such support from work and my team and that I have good people to hand things over to!
I have to accept my strengths and weaknesses – yes there are some things that won’t happen in the same way as I am an individual and I have a particular way of looking at things – but that is fine. And other things will happen which would not have occurred if I was there. New developments will take place and new relationships will be formed. I trust everyone to do the right thing, that might not be my thing, but it will be right for them, for that time and that place. And if I want to leave any legacy then it should be imbuing that faith and trust in others.
A colleague emailed me this today telling me to relax – so I should heed their advice!