This article was initialy published on Forbes.com.
Two years ago, I reached a point where I was experiencing borderline burnout for several months. I was a director and I was struggling to balance training sessions, clients, business development and other responsibilities. I desperately needed to do something different and get myself out of that environment.
One day, I finally hit my breaking point and decided to leave my team to pursue entrepreneurship. In conversations with management, they offered an interesting alternate proposal: What if I could stay with the company and reinvent myself by having the chance to explore my entrepreneurial side?
I made the decision to begin a new entrepreneurial and leadership journey while remaining at Pyxis, and here are some of the lessons I learned along the way.
Year 1: How Do You Reinvent Yourself?
The first key lesson I learned was what it meant to reinvent myself. I kept working as a coach with my current clients while also taking the time to reflect upon the kind of consulting business I wanted to build. I homed in on my desire to build a niche consulting boutique with a mission to contribute to a greater cause and make a difference by cultivating collaborative, purposeful organizations.
I fed my entrepreneurial side by practicing a new approach to coaching with my existing clients. Essentially, I worked on delivering the kind of results I wanted my new business to deliver in the context of working with Pyxis clients. I also explored various networking events to put myself out there in a different market.
The key challenge that first year was creating the time to do business development in one city while working close to full-time in another city with clients. The major lesson I learned was that it’s very difficult to build a business if it’s a secondary project. You need to dedicate significant time to building your business and make it your top priority.
Year 2: Learning By Doing
The second year was all about learning by doing. We created a separate business unit for me inside of the company, which turned me into an intrapreneur of sorts. It allowed me to learn by doing by taking ownership of and actually running a small business while still remaining inside my current company.
Instead of forcing myself to build a business in a different city, I accepted that I would learn more by hiring people to work with me and my existing clients. I searched for people I truly wanted to work with and invest time in helping them develop their knowledge and skills. During the hiring process, I shared my vision, hopes and dreams for the business and listened to theirs to see if we were compatible and wanted the same things.
Year 2: Learning To Lead Again
During the first year, I was basically on my own working with clients and supporting others at Pyxis. After hiring two people for my internal business, I created a new leadership journey for myself and I needed to learn how to lead and be part of a team once again.
I do a lot of coaching, teaching and writing about co-creative and conscious leadership, and now my team is challenging me to truly embody the type of leadership I promote to my clients.
Stepping into this leadership role over the past year raised very interesting questions for me, such as:
- How much vision and direction do you provide while still allowing a shared vision to emerge?
- How can you be the leader you want to be while leaving space for the leadership of others to emerge?
- How do you take care of your team while letting them take care of you as well?
- How do you create opportunities for conversations, even when these may be difficult conversations for some people on the team (including you)?
- How do you push yourself to listen closely when you are uncomfortable because the team is challenging your existing beliefs and paradigms?
- How do you build a team where it is OK for everyone to use their strengths, wield their superpowers and be excited, happy and proud about what you are doing together?
- How do you create a safe environment for people to experiment and fail?
Having the chance to explore all these questions is a gift as well as a challenge, but it keeps my life interesting every day.
Key Takeaways For Entrepreneurs And Leaders
As we now launch Pyxis Cultures, the business-within-a-business I first envisioned two years ago, we begin to write the exciting next chapter of our journey. Looking back, here are some of the key takeaways from my experience over the last two years:
- Be mindful of what you are trying to build for your business and take your time to do it right.
- Organizations need to allow people the time and space to reinvent themselves within the existing system. If they do not, they may be losing good people for the wrong reasons.
- It is both difficult and exciting to be an awake and conscious leader. Embodying and practicing it with my team makes me a better coach, consultant and trainer.
- Take the time to hire the people you want to work with, discover their strengths, share yours and find ways to combine your superpowers!
- Make yourself vulnerable and open as a leader. Share your dreams up front, and be open to the dreams of others and how they feed one another.
What kind of leader do you want to be and how will you embody this with your team?