“If you are not fully on the bus, you are not on the bus”

That’s what he said. Not to me, to others. Beáta is not fully on the bus (I was working part-time), so she needs to go.

This was one of the underlying reasons I was laid off from a multinational company I had worked before. It did not hit me at all as I had already been building my Plan B. So, I partly accepted this statement, but I never fully bought into it.

Why did this come up just now?  Writing a book brings up lots of memories and leadership lessons from my past.

(Human) Strategy and Renewal

First of all, this company issues studies regularly on next generations. They said in one of the studies back at that time that by 2016, 80% of their global workforce would be millennials (generation Y). Wait a minute! A red flag jumped up onto my radar in 2013. When I did the math, I realized I was not going to have a place with that company given the fact that I am generation X and I was working in a supporting function, not as a fee earner (the latter is an important factor for them). That was the very reason I started working on my Plan B, but I wanted to remain with the firm as long as possible. Why? Because I always admired the highly sophisticated cutting-edge systems, processes, interventions they had (and still have them) and all the knowledge and learning I could have accessed to regionally and globally. But they made a strategy. And I did not fit into that strategy. So, telling me I am not fully on the bus was rather hypocritic, because it wasn’t about my not being on the bus at all it was about their future strategic plans. Why did they make such a strategic decision? I can only guess. One of the answers could be to remain agile, cutting-edge, innovative and of course competitive, they needed people who were more adaptable, out of box thinking, and agile. Those who have a big baggage (knowledge, experience, history, memory) find it hard to let these go in order to incorporate the new, which sometimes hardly fits into the old thinking structure. So instead of helping those 45+ highly valuable employees to learn how to renew themselves, they made them leave.

Leadership Questions:

  • How can you develop a human strategy that is future-focused but still built on the past and present? (not HR strategy, strategy with human focus)
  • How can you help your experienced employees to renew themselves, to become more learning agile and adaptable? 

Atypical working options

The second reason I disagree with the statement is about how much leadership still evaluates employees through the lenses of working long hours with sweat drops, how hard they work instead of how much value they deliver, what impact they have and what energy they can bring into the organisation. In my case this leader saw only my being part-time, therefore, considered me not fully on the bus. However, today working reality is more diverse, plus I bet the future generations will want more atypical working options than their older counterparts.

Leadership Questions:

  • How can you measure people’s contribution other than the time spent or the old traditional KPIs?
  • How can you see what impact employees can make not only on the results but on others, or the whole organisation?
  • What kind of atypical working options can you offer to your employees (not only due to the pandemic)?

Strengths and Passion

The third and last reason is about my part time work, which I loved. Back at that time somehow, I happened to work in areas I felt deeply passionate about. I was eager to further develop myself to deliver the highest quality outcome in those arenas. And I did it in my free time. Plus, I worked longer hours than I was supposed to as I loved what I was doing. What I realized now that in that short period of time I had the best time at that company as I worked only along my strengths and passion. The return on my invested part time was triple or even higher. So, telling me at that time that I was not fully on the bus when I felt so engaged and inspired was the worst leadership feedback (even indirectly done) I have ever received. He had no clue about me and my work back at that time.

Leadership Questions:

  • How can you reorganize the work of your team to let them work more along their strengths instead of their development areas?
  • How much do you know about your people, what their strengths are and what make their eyes shining and where their passion lies? (That’s where they deliver the most. That’s where they’re ready to make the extra miles.)

Finally, don’t misunderstand me. I am very grateful to that leader that he made me leave as my Plan B life turned out to be so energizing, inspiring and fulfilling. Not to mention that in this continuously evolving journey, I have already started working on my plans C and D.

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