Year three of being a Chief (of an Omelet)

Photo credit: these are not paid actors. They are members of my team that agreed to let me use this photograph for something it was totally not intended for.

I realize writing these “year in review” posts will eventually get old. Apologies in advance for likely some redundancy from last, but as Whitesnake so eloquently put it, “Here I Go Again.”

Year Three at Omelet. I reckon it was a good one for us! I’m excited about the future we’re building at our agency named after a popular breakfast that I *may* still feel is spelled incorrectly. I’m so proud of the growth we’ve had these last twelve months — both business-wise and personally in the people in our walls. By the grace of Vishnu and every other deity in the universe, we’ve turned our business around to have one of our most successful years as a company ever. By no means have we cracked any codes, but we’re really pretty happy figuring it out together. And I know we’ve assembled the best crew of human beings a person could ever ask for. It’s certainly not utopia, but it’s getting pretty darn close to something I’ve always wanted to be at. And this year is just warming up (I know, November). We’ve launched some work we’re so proud of, we’ve got some incredible new humans that have joined our merry crew, and we’re embarking on some pretty awesome new things in the coming weeks that I can’t quite talk about yet.

So year three looks very different from year two. I think I’m settling further into my boots. But I’m always learning, growing (I hope) and changing (definitely). A few lessons from the year that serves as a bit of catharsis for me (yay journal writing in public!) and hopefully a helpful tidbit in here you can take away as well.

1.The power of a “bias to action.” One of my biggest learnings this year is in a world that is often biased to inaction, the bias to action can be your single greatest leadership tool. My very lovely boss, empowered me early on at Omelet with the idea of “whatever you do, just have a bias to action.” It’s an incredibly simple provocation. Duh. Do something. Don’t wait for someone to triple OK it or do it for you.

Leaders are often paralyzed by the idea of actioning something yourself. Which is what I love about this place — entrepreneurial cultures breed a specific kind of human. In a 80-person company, I’m not looking for someone else to buy the flowers for a company meeting. Or re-test the conference lines with willing and kind clients. Don’t be mired by ego and the idea of “that’s not my job” — if you thought of it, want it done, be prepared (and willing!) to do it yourself. That’s not to say “do everything yourself, always” — but never think you’re “above” any task. Because no matter what letters reside in front of your name, there is no task to big or small that you can take on. That’s why you’re a leader!

2. Relish in the little moments, not just the big ones. There’s something about our industry that’s driven by the *big* moments. Win an account. Launch a brand. The punctuation of months of hard work, sweat/tears and lack of sleep. Those are important. Those drive our business forward.

But I’ve learned the importance of those seemingly “small” moments. When a teammate leads their first presentation. When a team comes together, battles out an idea and they still say “love ya” at the end of the day to their teammates. When the intense emotions and near-tears end in understanding. The hugs to say “it’s okay.” The spontaneous sing-alongs at 4PM. Those are -at least to me- the moments we don’t notice enough. And those are the moments you build a culture without trying to.

3. Don’t be afraid to stop and learn about yourself. This is a lesson I need to get better at, but am trying. Like all humans, I’m deeply flawed, but as a leader you sometimes force yourself to brush away the things that you’re not good at when sometimes you really have to do is stop, look deeper and find out why that thing is a barrier.

The strategy of avoidance runs rampant in the ranks of leadership in the creative world. We are all works in progress. I’m trying different things to work on myself as a leader and human being. It’s some of the harder work to do and you have to do it in your off hours and night. But this year, I learned how important it is to get to know yourself, give yourself space and be as kind and forgiving to yourself as you are with others.

4. Surround yourself with loving, good energies. Related to the last point, but slightly different. Our industry can chew one up and spit one out. It can be cold, cut throat and bring the absolute worst out in people. It’s tiring and emotionally draining. Which is why it’s so important to have humans around you to prop you up, sometimes give you a dose of reality, a shoulder to weep on, or just the opportunity to dance around with like a maniac.

The industry is amazing, but your (real human) soul is more amazing. Caring about stuff outside strategy books and rhetoric. Collect a tribe of people that remind you how lame you really are (I mean this jokingly, but all of us need to have THAT friend who bats you back to earth). Gather your tribe around you and make time for them. Give back more than you take, love them unconditionally and it will pay dividends.

5. Never underestimate the power of working with your best friends. I always said this was going to be important for my life. I’m incredibly lucky to work with my best friend for the second time in my career. There’s nothing like having a person you trust so deeply (with the quirks of all your pizza and salad orders), also be a person in the room with you in an important meeting where nerves would otherwise get the better of you. It’s powerful and special and I never want to forget just how lucky I an.

I said last year, “the air is thin as you move up the ladder” — that’s certainly not untrue. But I’m very lucky to be able to say, I can share my thin air with some pretty spectacular people on the whole. Having a CEO that understands. Having right hands that are so good at their jobs, they can almost render me useless. And I have a team of bright stars who are genuinely some of my favorite people in the world. For all of this I am truly grateful. And far less alone in the every day.

6. Let Go. As Imogen Heap said it so eloquently put it (famously in the scene of the Holiday where Jude Law first meets Cameron Diaz…I digress), the most powerful thing a person can do is let go. This is a continued lesson from last year. *See above with incredibly talented human beings to work with and you’ll see how much easier it is to let go.

I’ve seen people hold on too tight. I’ve not seen it successfully (or peacefully) executed just yet. The harder you hold, the squigglier things get. There’s also a difference between apathetic letting go (AKA “giving up”) and positive release. The positive release is a conscious uncoupling of your ego from a task or mission, to an individual(s) who are ready to take on a new challenge. Here’s the thing: very few things are a zero sum game. As soon as you let go of one thing, other things appear. Letting go is where the growth comes from. Holding on keeps you tethered to the past and no one wants that. Particularly Jude Law.

7. I still *really* don’t know most things. …and I never want to lose this feeling. I never want to lose the feeling of anticipation that I don’t *quite* know how to do something. It’s what gets me up every day. Get comfy with the unknown. She’s a beautiful thing.

And thanks for reading! To all the wonderful humans in my life this year who saw me through some rough, rough times with life: I love you. I see you. I’m eternally grateful to you.

Strategist. Enjoys a good giggle and dance in the desert. Wired for creative leadership…and I'm Canadian 'eh. Chief of a thing.