“Thank you so much for your time. I know how busy you must be.”
This is something I heard all the time as an executive.
My reply: “You’re welcome. And I’m actually just as busy as you are.”
There is a general belief that the higher up you go, the busier you are. It’s a belief that’s often encouraged by the leaders themselves – many wearing a Busy Badge like a good scout should.
It’s not like executives are sitting around eating bon-bons, but the great ones – the ones leading through inspiration and focusing on growing their business by growing their team, aren’t putting in many more hours than many of their hard-working employees. Their position is a reflection of the quality, not quantity of their work.
Many people look at the next step up the corporate ladder and feel conflicted. They believe they are intellectually capable of thriving in the position, but there are common myths that make them turn, run and hide under their desk if promotion is even considered.
I’m here to tell you that much of what you believe (and a lot of what you see), is nothing more than myth.
Here are my top 3 executive myths
1. Each step up is more work.
It’s not, people. Or at least it doesn’t have to be.
Don’t get me wrong. As an executive, the gravity of the work – the issues, the focus, etc. – does increase. You often get to only hear and deal with the biggest issues or meet with the toughest customers. But, if you do it right, you are likely going to work the same hours as the rest of your employees.
You have more help as you climb that ladder.
For example, the time I spent putting together presentations drastically decreased as I moved up. Instead, I spent more time reviewing, editing, and giving guidance across more topics and presentations.
If you’re saying, “WRONG, Erin. I have evidence that these crazy execs are working so much harder than I am,” I’d say they’re either doing it wrong (i.e. trying to be superheroes instead of coaches) or they’re playing pretend.
Still not convinced? Jason Fried, the Founder and CEO of Basecamp, is very vocal about how he limits himself to a strict 40 hour work week.
“To me, what’s way more impressive is if people can work a normal eight-hour day or a 40-hour week, get wonderful work done, and come back Monday and be rested. I don’t want people to brag about how long they worked, but about how well they worked,” he says.
2. Your boss will be scary.
Oh gosh, this was a myth I definitely used to believe!
We often see our boss’ boss, or other executives, as these mythical beasts…unrelatable and untouchable.
I’m here to tell you something shocking.
They are just human.
I have worked for many executive bosses in the past – some very tough, some not so much.
But even with the toughest, once you report to them and get to know them, you quickly realize how non-mythical they are. The toughest ones are typically “tough” because they are masking their own insecurities.
Just keep that in the back of your mind, sympathize a bit with this burden they’re carrying, and be yourself.
3. You have to sell your soul.
Look, you can sell your soul if you want to. I just preferred not to, so I didn’t.
You’ve heard this a million times – only you can set your boundaries. With every step up that ladder, those boundaries become more critical.
When you make it into the executive tier, no one is setting your hours or managing your tasks. You typically have one macro goal, (e.g. getting to $50M in earnings next year or managing a budget of $100M while hitting your top service metrics) but how you get there is 100% up to you.
Of course, there is always more than one way to skin a cat.
I chose to organize my calendar so that I left the office at 4:00 once a week to coach my daughter’s basketball team.
Does that mean that I jeopardized my company’s annual financial goal?
In fact, I’d argue that it helped.
By setting aside that time, I showed my employees that they could choose family first. And guess what? All the best employees want to work in that kind of environment. And the best employees make the best businesses!
If you need help setting boundaries, check out this advice from Entrepreneur.com. The article is geared toward the self-employed, but offers a lot of pointers for using boundaries to become a better leader – regardless of whether you are leading yourself or a whole team.
These are just my Top 3 myths. Closely examine the myths you’ve personally accepted as truth, and ask yourself a few things:
1. Is this belief really true?
2. If it is mostly true, is it something I could change?
After all, that’s what great leaders are supposed to do – change things!
I’d love to hear from others about myths you’ve identified and debunked.