How could everyone around me be against me? That's what I felt as I lay on my basement floor in a puddle of sweat and tears. It was 2015 and my world was crumbling down around me.
2015 started as the best year of my life with the birth of my second child in February. Maternity leave was harder this time around though. I had two children and my 3-year-old didn't understand the concept of a newborn and his need for attention. So when she wanted attention she'd just get really loud or potentially break something. It made me yell at her. I'm not proud of this and it was exactly what I swore I would never do. I was ready to get back to work.
Prior to baby number 2's arrival, I had to hire a few new employees before I left for maternity leave. One new hire started the week I left. But what was the harm? He was a referral and the team loved him in the interview. Also, a guy who had never managed a team was taking over for me while I was out. My boss actually said, "what could go wrong, it's only 3 months." Famous last words. While on leave I kept receiving cryptic texts from work colleagues saying things like "when are you coming back?" and "you're not going to be happy when you return."
It was April and I was chomping at the bit to get back to work so I came in some half days unpaid. (I have since found out this was illegal but I did it for my sanity, step aside labor law police). I noticed several members of my team showed up around 9:30 and left close to 3:30. This seemed odd to me with the number of disgruntled clients and internal email traffic flying. I worked for a company where 350 emails a day was normal. When things go wrong email tended to fluctuate closer to 500 emails a day. My team was causing 500 email days. Because of the email uptick, I began receiving pressure from my boss and my boss's boss. The pressure was on! It was time for me to clean the house, lay down new rules, and up the work output of my team.
I decided to send an email laying out new rules with consequences. I also worked individually with the biggest offenders to encourage them in a passive-aggressive way to work harder. When that didn't work I put 2 members of the team on performance improvement plans. These efforts went over like a lead balloon. My team turned into a mutiny. Overheard by a bystander, one member of my team told another member "I'm going to blow Emily out to HR. You should build a case against her too" to which the other remarked, "I've already started."
My whole world was in disarray. The two places, home, and work, that always brought me comfort for their stability and predictability were throwing me for a loop. And instead of being the person I prided myself on, I became a witch, yelling at my children out of anger and frustration and micromanaging my employees with spineless leadership techniques. My only solace was my workout time but on this particular day, I couldn't even do that. I simply curled up in a sweaty ball on my basement floor and cried. I gave in to all the crumby failure feelings and bawled. I think I needed that because something changed in me that day. I stopped feeling sorry for myself and decided to find a solution.
As a child when I needed to find an answer to a question I looked it up in our family encyclopedia collection (the 90s version of Google). Because my issue wasn't as straightforward as "what is an earthworm" I decided to search my local library for leadership books instead. I was looking for free information and a lot of it, what better place than the library database. Logging into the library website I put a mix of audio and hardback books on hold. I vividly recall walking into the library a few days later and having an entire hold shelf dedicated to me. For the first time in 9 months, I saw a host of possibilities. I would love to tell you that the answer was in the very first book I read but that would be a flat-out lie. Instead, I received a nugget of information that I carried with me to the next book. Each audio and hardback brought me closer to what I was searching for and after 25 books that answer was ownership.
Armed with my new insight it was time to rebuild my team, embrace my chaotic family life and become the leader in both that everyone needed. 2016 became my BEST year ever. I grew a team of rockstars. I started a side business where I helped other people find their purpose (without 25 books worth of reading) and I realized my purpose. This revelation helped me realize my purpose was bigger than the 4 walls of that office where I worked. In 2017 I left corporate America to open my life coaching practice. My days are now centered around stoking the fire in others. So how do I look back on 2015? With gratitude for teaching me and pushing me toward my real purpose.