Meditations on the Middle

Nightstand

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I learned to keep a notepad on my nightstand.

Have you ever woken in a panic, remembering that one task you forgot to do today? Or, on a more positive note, a brilliant idea of how to solve that one nagging problem in your project plan/executive presentation/direct report dilemma? That was me nightly. For some reason, sleep helped me gather my thoughts on everything and I learned that if I didn’t write it down immediately, I forgot once my head hit the pillow.

As a middle manager, I couldn’t find enough real thinking time during the day. There’s a reality to the life of a middle manager that can’t be denied – you really are in the middle. There’s top pressure, bottom pressure, middle pressure- the need to succeed so that my team can succeed. I jump from executive meetings to 1:1’s with my directs to project management calls, and then still have some actual work to do myself. And in the middle of that – we have to think strategically, manage processes, and develop our people.

Half of what my brain comes up with during REM is nonsense – or I can’t read my own handwriting. The other half is brilliant, thought-provoking, remarkably creative. I firmly believe that’s because sleeping became my time to think, even if on a gut level.

Looking back on the middle of the night wake-up calls from my brain, there were some pro’s and con’s.

The Pro’s:

  • Good Ideas – brilliance even!
  • Creativity

The Cons:

  • Randomness
  • Crummy sleep
  • Waking my cat, my partner, and myself

A more useful way of doing things (with less of the downside) has been dumping my ideas, to do’s, and problems on my notepad throughout the day and then clearing my mind (it took practice!) of anxieties, fears, and lists.

I sleep better, am working better, and there’s more room on my nightstand.

MOOC’s and More

minimal-desktop-wallpaper-learn-by-doing

MOOC’s are Massive Open Online Courses.  The wave of the future!  Massive! Open!  Online and available all hours of the day! They’re largely free and offered by important institutions such as Harvard, MIT, Stanford.  And yet,  now we’re finding out the dropout rate of these classes is over 97%.

Why?  While it’s easier than ever to get information, it’s a whole other thing to learn.  It takes more processing than reading or viewing a screen.  It takes interacting with others – teachers, coaches, other students, other people.  It takes doing, experiencing, and reflecting.  Especially when it comes to learning things like leadership.

Read here for more thoughts on MOOC’s and Technology.

Learning to Let Go

Learning to Let Go

Missing the ‘balance’ in your work/life balance? Chances are you’re not delegating effectively. If you manage this way repeatedly, you’re setting yourself up to be overworked and resentful of the employees you have working for you. Delegation not only shifts some of the work to your staff, but most importantly, helps employees learn.

Read more about delegation in HBR’s article by Amy Gallo ‘Why Aren’t you Delegating?’

Middling

Clowns to the Right, Jokers to the Left

Where are you?  Most of us are in the middle.  Between the clowns and jokers.  Stuck in the middle as the song says.

If you’re a manager, unless you’re in charge of your company, you’re in the middle.  I’m in the middle.  Go here to hear and read about What It’s Like Being a Middle Manager Today.  Stay tuned for links and ideas on how to enjoy the journey.