It’s almost happening! In a few days I’m flying off to India😊
Taking a break from work for one whole month might seem obvious for many people, but not for me. Ever since I founded M18 (which is 23 years ago) I haven’t been offline for a single day. Not even when I was 9 months pregnant and waiting in the delivery room at the hospital for the arrival of my lovely son. Even then I knew that I’d have to back to work a week later. Nor when I was on vacation in the United States with different time zones. I always made sure to stay in touch with my colleagues and know exactly what was going on. Even on vacation, I was still – until only a couple of years ago – having client meetings to discuss new projects, making proposals, sacrificing part of my ‘me time’ to write contracts, correct job descriptions & candidate reports,….
And there were huge consequences to this: my business stagnated during a number of years, my mind never got the rest it deserved and I was losing my energy. By the time I reached 2016/17, I was somewhere close between a bore- and burn-out. But of course, as a company owner and leader one cannot permit to give into these feelings.
M18’s mission is strongly intertwined with my personal mission in life: ‘to contribute to the growth and happiness of others’ . But how can you do that when you are no longer happy and growing yourself? I love Whitney Houston’s song ‘The Greatest Love of All’, but forgot to listen to its lessons: I had been neglecting my inner self. BIG mistake when you are a leader that wants to help others grow.
So what has happened since then? A lot!
With the help of my great coach (Paul Zonneveld) and my partner at M18 and in life (Gary Jeger) I took a step back to look at what I and M18 were doing. They held up a mirror in which I saw myself as supporting team manager rather than a true leader. My organization model was upside down. That’s when I began to realize what delegating is all about. I had to force myself to make room for others, which is not an easy task for a control freak! I began to open up and share my worries, numbers and successes with the team. And we started having quarterly strategy sessions. I still remember the first one of those sessions in the park, when we were just having a picnic, surrounded by ducks. In the meantime Gary and I met with an external consultant (Sven Saerens) who showed us the ‘road to growth’. We listened, shared these finding with the team and adapted our positioning and focus.
Building a strategy together and setting clear goals as a team was surprisingly fun and started to pay-off. Despite Covid-19, we continued on this path. To my surprise, as a team we dared to dream so much bigger than I had ever done myself. And not only that, my colleagues began to challenge me in ways that I had never been challenged before, which was very confronting at times. But I always tried to remember that this was helping to bring me back to my growth path. It taught me to create more space for the team so that they were able to learn and grow – at an incredibly rapid speed – too.
Then about a year and a half ago, during one of these strategy meetings, I surprised myself by announcing that I wanted to become positively redundant! I wanted to work towards a goal where the team would be able to function without me being there all the time. But first, I had to test this. How? By going away for one whole month! The goal was to leave in April 2023, without being reachable (unless for extreme emergencies). My colleagues and partner loved this idea. We set out a plan whereby I would gradually delegate more of my tasks and responsibilities. And it seems to have worked. Today 90% of my focus is on the things I really enjoy doing: strategy and developing the future of M18. And whenever I notice myself sliding back into operations, I force myself to take a step back so that my colleagues can better take on their responsibilities. The results is that our entire team at M18 – my colleagues, partner and I – keeps on growing. And a very nice side effect is that M18 is growing as well, in line with the goals that we set ourselves.
So let’s get back to basics: I am becoming positively redundant and am very confident that M18 will continue to thrive whilst I’m off traveling for a month. And last but not least, when I told my daughter Magali about my plans she immediately volunteered to join me. Her birth was the trigger to start M18, so spending one month together in India 24 years later is an invaluable bonus!
Do you recognize your own journey in my story? I’d love to hear from you when I’m back as of May 1st!