As I've mentioned previously, I work with the public sector on various projects. As part of these projects, we speak to some very high level directors of the company. Some of them have reputations, mixed good and bad. Regardless, it's our job to work with these directors to help them with their services.
Despite the preceded reputations, we always go in with our white flag high. We are the peacekeepers, and at the end of the day, shit needs to get done (and it needs to get done well). It's quite scary entering a room with them for the first time, knowing that your first impression is your only impression. But oftentimes you find that if you lift your ‘little wig’ off, they may take their ‘big wig’ off too. The white flag enables us to be able to establish a good rapport with these directors, and once you build a rapport, you realise that, actually, these directors aren't actually the terrifying/fear-inducing people their reputations make them out to be. They're just people, after all. Most of the time, along with their reputation comes a very interesting background, surprisingly, one that's both relatable and achievable.
The first shock to the system is that, yes, they were once the age I am now, and in the same position career-wise and hierarchy-wise. I'm not saying that hierarchy is always considered necessarily important for power, but it makes the line of decision making easier, and these guys make some big-arse decisions. It’s hard to believe that with all their knowledge — not to mention the professional pedestal they're sat on — they were once starting out in their twenties as novices too. They were once the ones making mistakes while learning. They were once failing at something, but they've risen from the ashes of their failures. They weren’t born middle-aged with a stylish power suit — they worked for it.
The second shock was that they weren’t complete dickheads like you expect or hear about from the reputations. If they came across quite harsh or defensive at first, then by the end of the meeting we would have a mutual understanding of who each other is, how we can support each other to do the project and so on, perhaps even with a joke or even a smile. I know right, they show actual emotions!
As I said before, it turns out through all of this time, they are actual human beings. They represent an attainable career path for all of us amateurs, albeit things may be a tad different for our generation. I’m not saying that all people of this status are kind and respectful; some are just arseholes either through personality or by ‘rank’. Those kinds of top bosses stick to an old way of working, one that will slowly but surely be left behind as the company moves forward. The new way of working is collaboratively, with agility and transparency. And it's this transparency that can propel you forward into knowing what you want to become.
This is different from a mentor, because a mentor will meet with you regularly and actually deliver teachings to you. These directors are more like passing career soulmates. You may not work with them all the time, or even ever see them again after the project has finished. What they do leave you with, however, is a tangible pathway inscribed into your aspirations; they may have revealed job roles to you that you didn’t even know existed, or shown you how their job works so that you can find something similar. Remember, just because they're big-wigs now, they haven't always been. Plus, it doesn’t mean they necessarily have the ego to match it. And whilst on the subject of ego, it's not just their's to look out for; don't let yours stop you from speaking out and getting to know them either.
They once had little wigs like you too.