Why I miss having a manager

Why I miss having a manager

Desi Jagger's Blog

Why I Miss Having a Manager

I have had a wide range of managers – from the inspiring rock star “I want to be you some day” to the demoralizing ogre “I’d rather run into the woods than to report to you”. The latter, combined with my strong value for freedom, made me ask myself:

“What if I was my own boss?”

Well, now I work as a freelance coach and trainer and I am my own boss. I can do pretty much whatever I like, whenever I like and most importantly, if I like. I get to be “right” all the time. My idea is always the one that “wins”. And that’s precisely what is so hard about being a solopreneur. Having a manager is one of the things I miss about my corporate job at P&G. Here’s why:

I miss having my thinking challenged.

At P&G, I would spend hours crafting 1-pagers (I use the official term, although we all know these were either 2 pages or font six) for my ideas. Despite the diligent details, a barrage of questions inevitably followed:

“Have you considered the latest competitor launch? Did you get input from the sales team? How about looking at this another way….?”

It’s natural to resent having to justify every point during such “interrogations”. Not to mention the ensuing load of re-work that would delay the project and slowly eat away at my passion.

Now that I am my own manager, there is no one to “interrogate” me and I actually miss it. Challenging my thinking drives me to take my ideas to the next level. It bulletproofs my plans before I spend months executing them – and in a way, saves me from avoidable disappointments. It helps me to position my ideas to appeal to a wider audience, including those who don’t share my perspective. Sure, it’s slower, but the tortoise eventually beats the hare.

I miss being forced to face reality, right now.

One of the most tedious things about working in a hierarchical organization was updating my manager about project status. No amount of creativity on my colorful scorecards could stop this from feeling like a repetition of facts that took time away from real work.

Now that I have no one to update, I also have no one to discuss my challenges with. I can choose to avoid a problem for months, reassuring myself that it’s not a priority or it’s not that bad. But this doesn’t make it disappear. Instead, I keep mulling it over and I feel guilty for doing nothing about it. In moments like this, I wish I had a manager who I had to report my challenge to. Simply vocalizing the problem gives it parameters, makes it more concrete and less scary – and the solution often flows out of this clarity.

I miss getting external recognition

 Having a manager wasn’t just about being criticized or driven to improve. It was also about being recognized for my progress. Having someone by my side meant they could appreciate my struggles and be the first to say “well done, I know that wasn’t easy”. (Of course, getting compliments from a bad manger is rare, but not as rare as compliments from a non-existent one).

Now I have no manager and no one to cheer me on. And whilst I can appreciate my own efforts, I still crave external recognition, a signal that my work is meaningful to others, not just to me.

I miss the pressure of “artificial” deadlines

It frustrated me when my manager asked for a full market analysis by tomorrow – just because he wanted to “check something” on a whim. I could not understand why my slides had to be printed two weeks before the presentation or why new TV adverts always had to start airing on the 1st of the month.

Where did these deadlines come from? And what would happen if I didn’t meet them?

I didn’t miss many deadlines (yes, I was a goody two shoes), so I don’t know. But what I do know, is that without these small artificial deadlines, projects now seem eternal and it’s really hard to gauge how far along I’ve come. This can be disheartening and disorientating, and it often means they take twice as long as they should.

“Being managed” has developed a negative connotation recently, especially amongst millennials. If you need or want to be managed, then there must be something wrong with you – you are not down with the new “independent age”. I invite you to flip this perspective:

How can you leverage your manager to help you achieve things you are afraid to dream of today?

Need help with your manager? Coaching can help you rebuild and get the most out of this important relationship. To find out how, book your free consultation now.

Photo credit: Thomas Shahan

7 Things I miss about my corporate job at P&G

7 Things I miss about my corporate job at P&G

Desi Jagger's Blog

7 Things I miss about my corporate job at P&G

I didn’t leave my safe, well-paid corporate job at P&G to become an entrepreneur. I was under no illusion that it would fulfil the overhyped promises of working from a remote beach whilst sipping cocktails and meditating every morning. Instead, I left to focus full time on the work I love – training and coaching people.

It was one of the best decisions I have ever made. I haven’t once looked back.

 

Until today.

 

Today I am looking back to reflect on the big picture – because there are two sides to everything. I cherish my independence, international mobility and the lightning speed of decision making. At the same time, there are some things I miss dearly, which I used to take for granted in my corporate job:

 

1. Having someone to high-five. I was never moved by the generic “well done team award” shared by 20 other people with varying contributions to the project. What I really miss, however, are the mad high-fives when the market shares came in and we had grown versus last month. I miss the spontaneous high-fives when we finally got the TV copy approved. I miss the “thank god it’s over” high fives after a terrible senior management meeting… In fact I miss all high-fives. High-fives are the best!

 

2. Being “just” a contributor. In a large company, no matter how senior you are, you are just one cog in the machine. My projects were also many other people’s projects and sometimes it was hard to tell how meaningful our individual contributions were. It was frustrating when people didn’t share inputs on time and as a result my work was late or incomplete. Now I realize that no matter how slow and painful these large multi-functional projects can be, they are the only way to achieve something much greater than one person alone can ever dream of.

 

3. The endless back and forth. I had a brilliant idea for a new product claim and I eagerly presented it to my team for quick feedback before going live. Thirteen team discussions, four senior management debates, ten consumer theories, fifteen pages of data and six months later we agreed on the claim ‘version 56 – final – really final’. By that point I had lost all enthusiasm and would even regret making the proposal in the first place. Working by myself, I expected to be liberated from this endless back and forth. The reality is, the back and forth just relocated from a room full of colleagues to a lonely room inside my own head. And now I wish there was someone in that room who cares enough about my work to challenge it.

 

4. The team heart beat. It was the steady pulse of my team that kept me rolling on the good – and especially on the bad – days. Whenever I took my laptop home to finish a presentation late at night, I would see my teammates were also online, working late. Whilst this didn’t speed up my slides, it made me feel like I’m not alone. As a solopreneur, I have to make a bigger effort to connect with others and keep myself motivated.

 

5. The spell of the background noise. As a fresh graduate, used to studying in the dead silence of the university library, P&G’s large corporate open-plan office felt like a chaotic beehive. Every click was a distraction. Every whisper was a thought-breaker. Every rustle of a crisps packet was a wish for lunch to come sooner. Today I work in my own silent space. On a sleepy afternoon, I miss looking up from my screen, watching people get on with business and being urged back into productivity.

 

6. Saying good morning in 4 different languages, the corridor banter, the jokes shouted across cubicles, introducing myself to new people just to get a piece of their birthday cake, bonding over the inevitable breakage of the printer right before top management meetings, hiking up the stairs – where no “ground floorer” had ever ventured – to speak with the legal team face to face…I miss the small things.

 

7. Reporting to a manager. Shock Horror! How can any self-respecting, independent millennial admit to this? Follow me on LinkedIn to find out the answer in my next blog post.

 

I left my corporate job in order to focus 100% on my passion for people. And whilst I absolutely love doing just that with my coaching and training, I still miss the buzz of the office and the motivation that comes with teamwork and depending on others. I have uncovered a different side of social interaction at the workplace. Beyond the fun, it challenges me and improves me as a person. And that’s the bigger picture.

Need help seeing the bigger picture? Coaching can help you explore different perspectives and get clarity on what makes you happy. Take the first step now by booking your free consultation.

Why it took me 3 years to quit my job

Why it took me 3 years to quit my job

Desi Jagger's Blog

Why it took me 3 years to quit my job

It took me 3 years to quit my safe, well-paid job. These were the years of internal dilemmas ripping me apart, spontaneous outbursts of self-pity tears and brining home the unhappiness I had suppressed all day… whilst avoiding at all costs the dreadful question “How’s work?”. It wasn’t all bad of course, there were momentary glimmers of excitement and some amazing people who kept me going. But the overriding feeling was that of being out of place. So why did it take me so long to leave? And what was the tipping point?

I doubted my abilities

I was living a paradox. I was working for Procter & Gamble, the school of marketing, yet my self-esteem was low. People outside would rightly say this doesn’t make any sense– yet many millennials working in large prestigious companies will tell you they feel the same. I have uncovered two main reasons for this. Firstly, these companies attract insecure perfectionists – straight A students and club captains whose self-esteem hinges on external recognition and managerial approval. It only takes an “employee of the month” award to keep the insecure perfectionists working through the night for no extra money. Secondly, these over-achievers are shocked when they transition from university where they are surrounded by people of all abilities to an office full of top performers. Suddenly they are a small fish in a much larger pond.

I was afraid I would never find a better company

Working in a big company had lulled me into a false sense of security inside the office walls and a false fear of the unknown outside. Since the company promotes from within, most people around me had never worked in other companies. Human beings prefer the familiar, so naturally most thought it was better to stay than to embark on an unproven path. My own fear was feeding on the fears of my colleagues and I found a strange comfort in that consensus reality.

I didn’t know what I wanted to do next – and I invested zero time in figuring it out.

It took me a long time to admit to myself that I didn’t want my next role to be in FMCG marketing. I would apply for jobs and politely pull out before the inevitable “Why do you want to work for us?”. I dreaded this question because the true answer was “I don’t” and I am a terrible liar.

Since I hadn’t come to terms with the idea that I wanted a career change, I had never actually asked myself what I wanted to do. I limited myself to the menu of local and regional marketing roles. Sometimes I would do what I thought was “out of the box” and apply for a creative agency, but this was just doing the same thing on the other side of the fence. I did nothing to explore different industries and functions: I didn’t leverage my network and friends, I didn’t reach out to new recruiters, I didn’t ask my mentors for help and didn’t even consider getting a career coach. This was partially due to pride – I was working in one of the best companies in the world and any move would be a step down…

I was afraid of what people would say about me

Most training and coaching work is delivered by small companies or freelancers. After seven years in a large prestigious organization like P&G, I was ashamed to admit I would be moving to a much smaller and less known company, let alone be a freelancer. How would I explain this “downgrade” on my CV? What would people say about me, especially my former colleagues who stayed at P&G? Senior people who I had worked so hard to impress would dismiss me at once, forever shutting the door to future opportunities. My peers would look down on me and I would fall from grace.

I allowed myself to be held back by the fears of my parents

My parents grew up in a world where career success equaled a stable job in a big company for life. The millennial dream – trading salary and stability for a meaningful and exhilarating job – was their worst nightmare. Like all parents, they wanted to protect me from what they considered crazy – and what safer place than a large multinational? Unconsciously, I adopted their fears. I let them feel at home in my head. Even when I had overcome my own fears, I was still clinging on to those of my parents because I valued their opinion:

“You work in a big prestigious company and you earn good money – how bad can it be?”

“If you wait, things may get better.”

“Why don’t you find another full time job first and then quit?”

Sometimes the force that holds us back disguises as the people who love us most.

The TIPPING POINT

So who could I talk to? In my first coaching session, my coach asked me one very simple question “what will you give up in order to do your dream job full time”? I began calculating the hours – I still needed to sleep and eat… I could reduce the time with my family and friends, but that was already very little… I could work less hard in my current job, but I am diligent and hadn’t managed to pull that off for the past three years, so it wasn’t realistic…. And then I said it out loud for the first time “I will give up my job”. Three years of tension, fear and paradox melted away. I quit my job that same week and I haven’t looked back since.

It doesn’t need to take you 3 years to get clarity and move forward with your life. I am by no means saying quit your job now, or ever – you have a unique story and need to do what’s right for you. I urge you to get clarity on what makes you happy and what is stopping you from getting there. I urge you to get help from someone independent. If you want to try coaching, the thing that brought about my tipping point, book your free consultation now.

Photo credit: Jerry Huddleston

How I found my passion & 4 questions to help you find yours

How I found my passion & 4 questions to help you find yours

Desi Jagger's Blog

How I found my passion & 4 questions to help you find yours

When I published my last article Why I quit my safe, well paid job at P&G, people around the globe from Vancouver to Cairo reached out to me for advice and ideas on how to find their passion.

This got me thinking about the symptoms of my passion for developing people. Looking back at my life, I made a list of all the instances when my passion had surfaced. I tried to organize them by theme or chronologically – only to realize that passion is all-encompassing and ever-present. The origin of passion is inside of you, so you need to recognize it rather than trying to find it externally. To recognize your passion you need to become self-aware so you can spot the symptoms when they manifest themselves.

Here are some of the symptoms for my passion – do you recognize any of these in yourself?

 

I noticed problems and gaps (that others didn’t) and desperately wanted to fix them

In my second year at Procter & Gamble, marketers were increasingly expected – but not equipped to – engage with big retailers like Walmart. When I proposed running a commercial training for marketers, the response was unanimous:

“This is exactly what we need – why didn’t we think of it earlier?”

I convinced two senior managers to deliver the training (essentially sitting at their desk until they said “yes”) and designed it with them to ensure it was fun and interactive. Whilst it took me months to prepare, commercial training was not my responsibility – I just couldn’t resist the urge to do it. 

 

QUESTION 1:

What problems or gaps do you see in the world? Which of them do you have the energy to fight for?

 

My obsession drove others mad

What is the difference between passion and interest? Interest is ticking the box. Passion is colouring in the whole page – it spills out onto everyone around you. Your passion can annoy other people when they just want a box to tick or they’re on a different page altogether.

I was working with the financial stewardship team on the annual training plan. This was a small part of their job so they wanted to finish it quickly. Since training and coaching were my passion, I wanted it be to perfect – colourful slides, follow up 1on1 coaching with participants, rehearsing the presentation as if it were our Grammy acceptance speech. The team protested:

“You are crazy about this project and you’re driving us crazy too…”

Whilst I adapted my style to keep them engaged, I insisted on the quality of execution (and on making it fun!) and eventually we celebrated the results – meeting the target for the first time in 3 years.

 

QUESTION 2:

When do people tell you that you’re too bossy and taking something too seriously?

 

I did it even as child

When we were at school, I often had to help my younger brother with his homework. However, there was a clash. He just wanted the answer, whilst I insisted on teaching him how to get there himself – wasn’t this the meaning of “learning”? The frustration would quickly escalate to an argument. As the older one who held the answer, I would inevitably win and my parents would comment, somehow mockingly, that I am destined to be a teacher (at the time, we had no idea there was a thing called ‘coaching’). Although my methods have since evolved (I have realized that the student, not the teacher, is the key to learning), my belief and passion for getting people to find the answers themselves were clearly manifested quite early on.

 

QUESTION 3:

What were the things you obsessed over when you were a child?

 

It was fun and effortless

I would find myself sitting in the back of a corporate presentation, taking notes not just on the content but also on what made it effective. I would spend a weekend watching videos about how the brain works. I would design and give cultural training for new expats in Dubai. Some would label this nerdy and burdensome, but I loved it. It gave me a lens through which I could make sense of the world and that was liberating.

 

QUESTION 4:

What do you love doing which is difficult or burdensome for others?

 

It is easy to reflect on my passion now that have recognized it. However, the journey took several years and was filled with confusion, frustration and inaction. How can I be sure coaching and training people is what I really want to do? Why can’t I do more of my passion in my day job? Why am I failing to move forward? Asking myself questions like these at the beginning of my journey would have led me to my passion faster.

 

Do you know what your passion is? If you are one of the many people trying to recognize or confirm their passion, coaching can help you. Take the first step by booking your free consultation now.

Photo credit: Thomas Shahan

Why I quit my safe, well-paid job at P&G

Why I quit my safe, well-paid job at P&G

Desi Jagger's Blog

Why I quit my safe, well-paid job at P&G

Why would you ever consider leaving your secure, well-paid job in one of the best companies in the world? How could you detach yourself from a strong corporate culture and a network of intelligent, motivated people, many of who have also become your friends?

There comes a tipping point when the burning need for life-long fulfilment overcomes the promise of short-term promotions and pay rises. At precisely this point, I left my Procter & Gamble marketing job to pursue my passion for learning and development. Here is why:

I wanted my passion to be my full-time job, not just part of it

Brand management can be great fun and I did enjoy it. I learnt to work in cross-functional teams and to understand what makes people tick. Over time, however, I found my favourite days at work were when I had delivered formal training or just taught a colleague something new. I used to come home and my partner Mark would say:

“You have delivered training today. I can tell because your face is glowing.”

I received very positive feedback from the participants who were impressed by the time and energy I dedicated on developing others since it was only part of my job.

I was hungry – actually starving – to learn more

Working on the same brand in two very distinct regions – the UK and Arabian Peninsula – helped me understand the purely cultural differences in a business. I learned invaluable lessons on interpreting implicit messages and navigating ambiguity. As my business grew double digits for two consecutive years, it was time for a new challenge, which the company could not provide here and now.

No longer enjoying my day job, I began to focus on training and development in my spare time. I was both following my passion and learning new things. My evenings and weekends were filling up with reading, networking and designing training programs. Eventually this “double life” became tiresome and unhealthy as it ate into my time with family and friends. Training and development had grown enough to be my full-time job, not just my hobby.

I needed to be fully honest with myself again

Some people can come into the office, deliver a project and leave without the slightest emotion or attachment. I am not one of these people. I envision an incredible future and get excited about it. I energize my time around it. I tell the whole world about it because I believe it’s going to make a genuine difference.

But what happened when I stopped believe in the vision? I was less excited about it, I tried to rally my team but my energy was stifled, I was ashamed of telling the world about it because let’s be honest, it wasn’t really going to make a big difference. Although I learnt to persevere, continuing to work hard and grow the business – I was no longer having fun and wasn’t proud of my achievements. I felt untrue to myself as my mind wandered back to training and development, constantly looking for opportunities to teach and help others in the office and outside. I was asking my team to work on brand plans that I was no longer so passionate about and that just didn’t feel right.

When I finally resigned, a huge rock fell off my shoulders. I envisioned an incredible future in training and development and got excited about it. I am now telling the whole world about my passion because I believe it’s going to make a genuine difference to people’s lives.

Be honest – are you passionate about you job? Are you learning something new every day? If you are one of the many people re-evaluating their life and work, then coaching can help you. Take the first step now by booking your free consultation.

Photo credit: FreeImages.com/CristinaNichitus

3 Things I learnt at P&G

3 Things I learnt at P&G

Desi Jagger's Blog

3 Things I learnt at P&G

Today is my last day at Procter & Gamble – I am leaving to follow my passion for learning and development. My seven years here have been an incredible experience and I would like to capture some of the most important lessons I have learnt.

Principle-based thinking

As a new graduate, I was excited to work at the world’s biggest fast moving consumer goods company. I couldn’t wait to design and execute plans which would be seen by millions of consumers. I was proud of the first media plan I had put together, and presented it to the marketing director for alignment.

“Take a step back, what are the principles you are following? Once we agree on the principles, deciding what to do will be very obvious.”

I had to do this to get his approval so I worked through creating my principles. Developing the principles behind my media plan enabled me to be more concise, more focused and helped me target the consumers in just the way i needed. It helped me find savings to reinvest and allowed me to drive greater reach. Everyday i now work within specific principles and objectives allowing me to make sound, consistent decisions even in my personal life.

Show appreciation for people’s work

I had spent 3 months preparing for a big meeting where all brand teams would align senior management on the annual plans. The meeting was running late and something had to be cut from the agenda – that happened to be my brand because it was small and growing and required no urgent intervention. I was disappointed – had all my work been in vain?

A week later I got a personal email from the managing director, apologizing and inviting me to Geneva to present my plans one-on-one. He gave me a whole hour of his time and he was genuinely interested in my ideas. He made me feel the work I did was meaningful and appreciated. Back in London, I worked even harder until one day my brand was still growing but no longer small.

Sell people your passion and they’ll buy your idea

I had moved to a new business with a struggling brand and a demotivated team. We were about to launch a premium product during the recession and no one believed it would succeed. In my mind, we could either go BIG or go home, there was no mid-way option.

My first meeting with my new team was a brainstorming session where I wanted to inspire them to think BIG. I shared a vision and told them the story of our success, as if it had already happened. The reaction was not ecstatic, but they began to see the opportunity.

“I can’t be sure if this idea will work, but I am 100% convinced by your passion.”

The plan we came up with was a resounding success – the launch sales exceeded our wildest expectations, our brand had record PR coverage and was mentioned in an industry report as one of the movers and shakers of the year. My team’s reaction?

“I am proud to have worked on this project” and “When can we do this again?”

This is just a glimpse of what I have learnt in my career so far. Come back soon for more anecdotes and best practices from the world of learning & development.

What is the most important thing you learnt in your last job?

Photo credit: frankieleon