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Refreshing Insights

I am sitting with my family at dinner one night, and we are sharing about our day, when my soon-to-be-thirteen-year-old daughter asks me, “Dad, what do you do?”

OK, common kid question. She wants to know what her dad does for a living, so I clarify, “What do I do, or what does McClone do?”

And she impatiently replies, “I know what McClone does. We do insurance and other work around that. But what do you do?”

And I am momentarily victorious, thinking, OK, good, at least I’ve taught her something about the family business, when she continues, “I know that you are the president, but I don’t know what that means… like, what do you do?

I kind of sit back and think, that’s a very interesting question. The answer is complicated, and I have a strong temptation to grin and jokingly answer: “Really nothing.” But that’s probably not good parenting. Her question is serious, and it deserves a serious answer, so I set out to explain.  

I tell her, “Ultimately my job is to build a team, make sure the team has the tools and resources it needs to win, and then make sure that our ship is headed in the right direction. Basically, that’s it.”

And she teases, “Well, that doesn’t really seem like a lot.”

She’s my daughter, she likes to make digs at me and it’s funny when she says it. But her question got me thinking, well, what is it that I really do?

I have to laugh at myself because it’s thoughts like this that keep me always searching for “What am I missing?” I am forever on the lookout for something that is going to sneak up on the team that we are not prepared to handle. This seems to be true for a lot of the leaders I talk to regularly—the constant hand on the throttle, scanning the horizon, all while keeping everyone happily, safely, inside the boat.

It’s a lot of work and there isn’t a one-size-fits-all guide for how to do it, either. 

Finding the right guide

The reality is there are loads of leadership books out there. I often feel like I want to talk about leadership and share my experiences, but what original things do I have to say? I am not inventing a new way to lead, and I am, by no means, perfect at it. I am a guy striving to be better today than I was yesterday—and I am always looking for better tools to accomplish that.

Lately, though, it feels like I am battling through so much noise (advice, trends, talking heads) to find useful tools and resources. I think about how overwhelming it would have seemed to the less experienced version of me. What questions would I have asked if I was just starting in my career, versus the questions I ask now?  And what questions might I ask ten years from now through the lens of my own experiences?

When I think about the coaches I’ve had, the teachers, the managers, and the mentors in the community, I realize I have been very fortunate to learn from great leaders. I have had access (like a backstage pass) to witness leadership in action and ask my questions. For the longest time, I was the taker. I was the sponge soaking up their knowledge and insights.

In a lot of ways, I still am that person (always asking how to do something better), so the hardest leadership shift for me was to realize that people were now asking me the questions.

I have to admit, it was a little bit horrifying to hear myself quoted for the first time. The advice wasn’t bad, the language was fine, but … I just kind of say stuff. I might tell someone something in the moment that I think will help in that situation, and not really consider that the advice might be passed on to others.

The reality is that as leaders our words matter, how we act matters, and how we interact with people matters. And those interactions last far longer than I ever thought they did.

I am to a point in my career where I am still learning every day, but I also have a lot of experiences that others can learn from. So, I am embarking on a new adventure this year to share my leadership journey—carefully and thoughtfully—describing the important lessons I’ve learned, the questions I’ve asked (and continue to ask) and the insights I’ve had along the way.

A mentor once told me that “Good leaders answer questions, but great leaders ask questions.” So, I am going to explore the leadership questions that can keep us all up at night, and share the answers I find most helpful.  

It won’t be an official leadership guide, but I hope to inspire leaders of all levels of experience to share, and learn, and grow together. And with any luck, we can all say we are better today than we were yesterday.

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A collection of articles from the McClone team with the helpful knowledge and insights to ensure your organization is well protected.