I am sure you will have heard the story of the South Indian Monkey Trap, where the hunter places some food in a coconut staked to the ground, with a hole in that is small enough for the monkey to put its hand in but not large enough to let a clenched fist out. The monkey is suddenly trapped, unable to let go of its prize. Not trapped by anything physical, but by an idea, unable to see that a principle that served it well — if you’ve got your hand on some food, hold on tight — has become deadly.

Hence, if you want to be free, you’ve got to let go. So I am … albeit temporarily!

After 14 years as MD of The Colour Works, I’ve decided to take a 5-month “sabbatical” and for the following reasons:

1.REFRESH

This is by far the longest I’ve stayed in one job. No doubt my highly extraverted preference has played a part in shaping my anything-but-linear working life thus far (residential social worker, language teacher, import/export, FE college international department head, community fundraiser, plastic injection moulding sales, leader, speaker, facilitator, coach) and it continues to do so.  I know that I need external stimuli to feel energised and fulfilled and a change of scene/routine is the only thing that can give me that.

2. REFLECT

Again, my extraversion does not lend itself to reflective practices. I tend to get very involved in whatever it is I am doing and prefer to do rather than to be.  I was listening again recently to Susan Cain and “The Power of Introverts”, and she says, quite rightly, there is “absolutely zero correlation between the best talkers and having the best ideas!”  I am a good talker but my best ideas come when I am quiet.  A clear diary with no structured work day and no specific objectives will be an opportunity to think deeply and seriously about my “why”, to be able to shape the remainder of my working life in a way that provides the maximum opportunity for fulfilment.

3. CREATE SPACE FOR OTHERS

When discussing this move with friends and colleagues, the reaction has been almost universally positive. Some have even suggested every MD should always have a maximum term of 10 years in post, not only to bring some fresh ideas and vision into the organisation but also, critically, to create space for others to develop and grow.  I not only have total faith in my Colour Works colleagues to run the show in my absence, I also quietly believe they’ll do a better job of it without me there!

In summary, I’m admittedly slightly daunted by the idea of the next 5 months but at the same time extremely excited.  What might I find?  What might my new role be?  How might this alter my life from here on?
How might you benefit from letting go?!

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