Okay, you got me. I like to be in control — most of the time. I don’t need to make every decision about everything for everyone, but I can and I will. Most people, including colleagues, coworkers, friends and family believe I like it that way.
They think, “She’s the bossy one. She likes doing everything. Let her take the reins (and the blame).” Sure thing.
I effortlessly pick out restaurants and color schemes, and invitation designs and themes for special events. I can decide on promotions and radio copy, or what photo to use and what caption to create. I’m comfortable with choosing the games for the office holiday party, and determining if we open early or stay late because of the weather.
Give me an option and I’ll give you a final answer. Or better yet, let me jumble around all the options in my head and then spew out, without banners and balloons, the one that is truly the best. Then we can all move on — I don’t like to dwell.
As a freelancer, this pattern worked well. I could choose which clients to keep and which to discard, what project needed my immediate attention and which one could wait after I digested two cups of coffee and a full hour of Dr. Phil.
As an independent contractor (I love that title), I set my own schedule and fees. It was a beautiful thing — having control of my day and balancing the lives, meals and social calendars of my husband, children and aging parents without a lot of influence or interference from anyone. They just let me take the lead for years.
It was exhausting and it was lonely. I often wished maybe, just maybe someone else would raise their hand or voice and say, “Let me be in charge.”
Then I started working for someone else. I had an office that was not in my basement. I had regular hours, a regular paycheck, co-workers and, most significantly, a staff. I had people to help. I did not have to be that lone wolf: Miss Bossy Pants, the do-it-all superwoman. Someone else could take part of the load.
If only I would let them, at least.
This was, and is, not easy for me. As the director, my job is to direct. I do create, dabble, write, fiddle around and obsess over design, data, words and photos, but I have two capable people who look to me to supply them with these types of tasks so they can earn their paychecks and self-actualization.
True, I set the course. But I have to be hands-off on projects and let them make the decisions to provide their own creativity and twist.
But what if their twist is, in my mind, a wrong turn? “I wouldn’t have done it this way — their way,” I think. “But is their way wrong because it’s not my way?” Sometimes, but certainly not always.
I may envision something in red, but they see it in blue. I may really love Comic Sans (obviously joking) but they think Verdana has a wider appeal. I may think the video should be a heart tug, and they’ve storyboarded it to be more of a parody.
Why can’t I just make all the decisions? Because I didn’t want to anymore — or so I thought.
Every day, I do some internal tongue-biting and eye-rolling when I view some things that come across my desk. I have to differentiate my opinion from fact, making sure even though I may not be in love with something just because it wasn’t my idea, I have to concede the same something meets or exceeds the objective for which it was created. In summary, I have to let go.
In doing so, I have made my peers feel loved and appreciated. They see I trust them and their input to the greater good — the website, video, annual report cover, or whatever the heck I placed on their plate to devour. And they are hungry for the challenge.
Of course, I still get asked for my opinion. In those cases, I have to listen instead of jumping in with just that: my opinion. If the fact stands the objective was met, within branding protocol and spellcheck accuracy, I often return to the person to gain clarification. I ask, “What do you think about it?” Does it exceed the objective? Is it your best work?”
If they present a strong case, I’m good. If they stammer and stutter, refuse to make eye contact and shrug, I interject with the open-ended, “Well, what would you do differently?”
Many times, their realization would be the same as my nudge. They feel empowered and I feel like a good boss.
Then I have another cup of coffee — black and strong, just the way I like it.
Judi Christy is the director of marketing and communication at the Akron Area YMCA.
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