My Leadership Growing Time: Calgon Take Me Away!

by  Jonena Relth  |  Leadership Development

As an avid proponent of Chief Learning Officer Magazine and events, I make a point of perusing most everything that comes across my desk from them.  Their recent magazine had an interesting article by Glenn Llopis from the Center for Hispanic Leadership. The article, 10 Things Successful Leaders Do Instinctively, caught my attention with #10: When leaders reach a senior level, it becomes more about others than about themselves. They truly enjoy leading, not managing people.

Who Promoted You, Anyhow?

I’m guessing we’ve all had leaders who prefer managing than leading, which begs the question why they were chosen to be leaders not managers.  I’m guessing that like most people, they did a good job so someone “upstairs” just kept promoting them out of the comfort zone. With all the knowledge out there about what makes good leaders vs. good managers, we have to assume that HR didn’t seriously take into account the person’s leadership competencies — let alone give them the training/mentoring/coaching they needed to become leaders in their organizations.  This may seem harsh, but I’d be willing to bet my Starbucks card on it!

To be successful leaders, we need to buy into the differences in being a manager and a leader. And just not buy into the differences, but live them. We need to be comfortable sitting in our office allowing ourselves regular “off the grid time.”  We need to be reading, learning, thinking and strategizing how we will guide our organizations to the next level.  In today’s marketplace, we need to do this when interruptions could be coming at us a record speed.  The wise leader knows the value of taking time to lead and that takes quiet, reflective time.

Managers Manage – Leaders Lead

I had a boss once who shut his door between 10:00 am and 10:30 am EVERY day. That was his appointed time for himself.  He knew that if he didn’t enter this daily time on his calendar and put phone on “Don’t Disturb,” he would be pulled in a dozen directions, putting out fires like a manager would do instead of preparing himself to be a more effective leader.  After all, he had capable managers whose job it was to handle the day-to-day operations – that was why he hired them!  His job as the leader was to be a catalyst for growth – for his people and his company.  He could only do this when he gave himself dedicated time to grow himself.

Calgon Take Me Away!

Learning from that example, I practiced it with my kids.  Mom’s thinking and planning time was for me alone.  I needed quiet time.  Being a busy professional and mother, I worshiped my alone time: “Calgon Take Me Away!”  Here’s the commercial for those who’d like to walk down memory lane.

You might not remember the commercial, but hopefully you can relate to the importance of allowing ourselves quality time to grow ourselves so we can be better leaders.  I’d be interested to hear what you are doing to become a better leader.


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What People Are Saying

Peggy Salvatore  |  30 Sep 2013  |  Reply

I agree, Jonena! We can’t overstate the value of having enough distance from the everyday pressures and contemplation time to be able to focus on the big picture and not be mired in the details that belong, rightfully, in the management bucket. Also, I think I hear a little bit of the Peter Principle creeping here, where some very effective managers and performers are *assumed* to be good leaders, and that’s not always the case. They may “rise to their level of incompetence”, as the Peter Principle postulates. Not all great performers are great leaders, at least not without a little coaching, right? Leaders take time to pull back from the daily demands and remember where the company and they are ultimately going, and do something to move one step closer to that goal…everyday. Nice post! Thank you for this.

Jonena Relth  |  02 Oct 2013  |  Reply

Peggy, Thanks for your insights. You are exactly right about the Peter Principle – – it permeates corporate America today as it probably always has. So let’s stay vigilant to keep learning more each day to improve our leadership skills. And for those that are better managers than leaders, let’s encourage them to do their best in their appointed positions. Companies succeed when they have the right people in the positions that best suit their knowledge, skills and abilities.

Mary C Schaefer  |  01 Oct 2013  |  Reply

Jonena, funny how that phrase, “Calgon, take me away” instantly relaxes me :)

Establishing downtime is such an important practice for leaders. Thank you for calling it out. I work with managers (on their way to leadership) all the time on giving themselves permission for such an activity, or really anything that “takes care of themselves.”

Thank you for the VERY important reminder.

Jonena Relth  |  02 Oct 2013  |  Reply

Mary, Thanks for your encouragement. Yep, just writing about the Calgon commercial makes me want to sit back, relax and read a good book. Can I say, “Take me away in a bubble bath” here?

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