I’ve thought about how to write this post for far too long. At this time last year, I had just given my notice to Adam and told him that I would be leaving Adam Hergenrother Companies as of December 31, 2017. It was a decision that was not made lightly. It also didn’t last very long. By February 2018, I was back. In October of this year, I celebrated my eight year anniversary working with Adam. So much can happen in just one year.
Earlier this week, I posted briefly about that experience, which inevitably sparked a lot of messages and questions.
It was exactly the push I needed to write about it. I hesitated in the past, not because I didn’t want to share my story, but rather because I didn’t have any great answers. It’s taken quite a bit of reflection to be able to really articulate my thought process during that time. Here’s the long and short of it. I love my career. I love being a Chief of Staff. I love the company I work for. I love our team. I love our culture. I love the opportunities that are available to me. And I love being able to work alongside Adam every day. I was also burned out and had been operating like that for so long, I didn’t know any other way to “escape” from it other than to cut ties completely.
This is no one’s fault but my own. I am a work horse (perhaps more aptly, a stubborn mule). Head down. Blinders on. I was going to get done whatever needed to get done, no matter what. I did not ask for help. I did not wave a white flag. I just kept pushing forward.
I am a recovering workaholic. We actually talk about that concept at the office quite a bit. I would generally prefer to work with “workaholics” rather than those who are on the quest for work-life balance. Personally, I think work-life balance is bullshit. I don’t play in the middle well. So, at the other extreme is workaholism, right?
Well, let’s look at the actual definition of workaholic. A workaholic is defined as someone who compulsively works hard and long hours. I’m all for working hard. And as an Executive Assistant, and then Chief of Staff, long hours are a given. No problem. It’s the compulsively part that became an issue for me. I was living in fear that if I slowed down or took my eye off of work for just a minute, I would lose what I had worked so hard to attain. Success. Sigh. I was holding on for dear life to something that wasn’t sustainable and my relationships, health, and happiness began to suffer.
At the end of 2017, we hired an amazing Executive Assistant to help both me and Adam with the work load and we quickly got to work redistributing responsibilities. I was drowning. Amy was my lifeboat. I finally felt like I could breathe. I am fiercely loyal and would never have left Adam, the company, or his family without the support they needed. Within a month or so of Amy joining our team, I think I felt comfortable leaving because I knew Adam and the company would be taken care of.
Hindsight is 20/20. I didn’t actually need to leave the company. What I really needed was a sabbatical or extended vacation. Within about three weeks of leaving Adam Hergenrother Companies, I was questioning my decision and ready to be back in on the action. I missed the growth. I missed being pushed. I missed solving problems every day. I missed working alongside Adam to build a business. Could I have pushed through and continued to pursue my coaching and consulting opportunities? Absolutely. Would I have been successful? I wouldn’t have had it any other way. Would I have been as fulfilled as I am working as Chief of Staff? Nope. When I created this role for myself five years ago, I knew then, and I know now, that it is the position that I am meant to be in. My greatest fulfillment comes from aligning myself with a dynamic and driven leader and helping him or her succeed.
I’m am grateful that Adam answered my text that fateful January day and scheduled a meeting with me two days later. The reality is, I never really stopped working with Adam. Sure, I was no longer next to the corner office as Chief of Staff, but I was working on several writing projects with Adam and was still coaching though Adam Hergenrother Training. That wasn’t good enough for me. I wanted back in the inner circle. After several hours of discussion about rejoining the team (and in what capacity), Adam and I decided that I would resume my position as Chief of Staff. It’s exactly where I wanted to be. Same position. Same company. Totally different me.
I had a complete mindset shift and it truly changed my life.
The biggest shift was my conscious decision to put myself (which included my personal relationships) before work and let go of the outcome or consequences of doing so. I had to break a seven year long habit of saying yes to work fist. But I was determined. As I mentioned before, I was holding on so tightly to my career and identity as Adam’s Chief of Staff, it left little, to no, room for anything else. I had become one-dimensional, uninspired (and uninspiring), and ultimately, unfulfilled. I had to let go and allow other aspects of me to shine through. In doing so, I had the best year of my life. How’s that for an endorsement for self-care and work-life integration? Not only was I holding myself back from living a full life and realizing my potential, I was holding the company back (which was exactly the opposite of what I wanted to do)! By not taking care of myself, by not having a clear mind, by operating at maximum [self-imposed] stress, and by not leveraging, I was not being the best leader I could be.
So, what activities or behaviors changed? Well, it’s sounds so simple, that I can’t help but laugh. When you’re in it, you’re in it, and can’t see the forest for the trees, am I right? Essentially, I said “yes” to life again. I said yes to date nights and let a project at work wait until the next day. I said yes to visiting our in-laws instead of working on a Saturday. I said yes to wine on the back deck and left my phone in the house. I said yes to long weekends and more travel instead of sitting at home reading yet another business book. I said yes to morning workouts instead of trying to get to the office first. Those were all things that got me to a certain point in my career, and I will never regret them. And it was time for a new chapter for my life and career.
As force multipliers (Executive Assistants and Chiefs of Staff), our work is so closely aligned with our leader’s role and responsibilities, it can be easy to forget who you are without them. While coaching and training force multipliers now, I hope to help them learn from my mistakes and put systems and strategies in place to both build a thriving career and not lose themselves along the way. I wholeheartedly believe in the grind, but there have to be rest and recovery periods. I forgot that very crucial step until year seven. Lesson learned.
My chapter as Adam’s Chief of Staff is not over. We have so much more to accomplish together. As “just Hallie” I have a lot more to do too.