My personal retrospective of 2019
Retrospectives are probably my most favorite reoccurring meetings at work. They allow us to celebrate successes, learn from failures and help us to shape our next journeys. This year, I have decided to have a personal retrospective (mostly work-related) for the whole year. I write it mostly for myself, but since it’s my first year as a freelancer after more than 5 years in a corporate, sharing my experience and thoughts might be relevant for many of you considering a similar move.
The article is also relevant for people who consider buying my services as it’s more personal than other articles of mine. Seeing me as a person might help you decide whether you want to work with me and whether you might enjoy working with me.
Successes, what I did right, what I am grateful for and/or what I enjoyed:
- Going from corporate to freelance was a right choice. But saying this with caution. I might think now that it was a good choice but think differently in the future. Also not saying I will not return to some corporate later and surely not saying going freelance is a good choice for you. Some needs I had unfulfilled in the corporate in the last year(s?) are now much more fulfilled. Including some of my most important needs like learning, growth and becoming a better person; better relationships at work and working with people closer to my values; meaning and purpose.
- Defining my product/service. When leaving corporate, I had some vision of what I want to do and how I want to help the world. I had no exact plan or anything close to that. If I had to choose only one thing which helped me to start implementing my vision and earn some money, it would be the definition of my service. In my case, I have one core service for new customers: an organizational audit. And if the organizational leader(s) and I both like our cooperation, the cooperation can continue with a project or change management based on the audit.
- Got to know the market and the people. I have talked with lots of relevant people, learned from many of them, visited networking events, workshops, seminars, conferences, … Not only did I get a reasonable understanding of my market and how to play in it, but I also built relationships with some people who I admire and want to cooperate further.
- Advanced to a new level of servant leadership. In the corporate, I cared a lot about the customers, the product, the shareholders and the people in my team. As of care towards the middle management and leaders above and around me, I had it probably wrong. I wanted them to do great work and if not doing it, then I wanted them to try hard and I wanted them to have that as a bigger priority than individual needs like comfort, being right, status and other ego needs. My strong result-oriented focus was a big cause for such an unlucky approach. Another cause was that I didn’t feel they “own” the company any more than I do. Now, when I am an external consultant, I work mostly with people who actually own the companies which I want to help. Moreover, I also feel that all the employees in the companies “own” the company more than I do. As a result, I have more kindness, understanding, and patience. I now see that part of my job is to help leaders in various aspects, not just in the aspect of improving their work results. It’s not only more pleasant and builds better relationships, but it’s also a more productive way of doing things with better results. This is something I did not expect at all a year ago and it might be the most important thing I have learned during this year.
- Good relationships and contacts supported by shared values. I like growth, improving, learning, becoming a better person. And people I feel the best around should have these needs very high among their priorities. In the corporate, I had a few people where we shared these values (I still meet with most of those), but most of the people there had their needs to grow and improve pretty low – at least according to my standards. Honestly, I do not enjoy long-term cooperation with such people. When attending workshops, meetups, conferences, I typically meet people who have their growth-related needs strong. And even though I was attending these growth-related meetings already in the corporate, I can now build also work-related cooperation with these people – if nothing else (but often there is something else), I can connect them with others and it’s a great feeling when I connect some of my contacts among themselves and it leads to a cooperation among them. And most importantly, people who pay for my services are focused a lot on high standards, improvement, and growth (otherwise they would not pay for my service), so there’s a high probability we will enjoy our cooperation and build a fulfilling relationship. And so far, I really like being around and cooperating with all the people who use or used my services.
- All goals achieved sufficiently (not perfectly). I did not write them the year ago, but I believe I remember what I saw as the priorities: start a consulting business that: a) provides meaningful results, has significant impact and brings me closer to what I believe is my vision and purpose; b) builds meaningful relationships; c) I enjoy doing; d) is financially close to what I had in the corporate; e) I am good at while I still see it as a challenge with lots of things to learn and do better…
- Wedding. I am glad I took Kristyna as my wife and I am thankful for the lovely wedding with our closest families and friends. I feel committed to the responsibilities I officially took on myself, committed to caring about our relationship and looking forward to our future.
Failures, things that didn’t bring me joy, that I didn’t do well and/or that could be improved:
- Little relaxation. No vacation throughout the whole year, working during weekends, … Except for October, it was not that bad, I still had time for my wife, for going regularly to the gym and I also had some free time. But I need a time/energy management system with slots of true relaxation and forbidden work. And I definitely want to have some longer vacation in the next year.
- Little focus on systematization and individual excellence. As of my three pillars, I focused mostly on organizational excellence. However, if I could change how I did things this year, I wouldn’t change it. Having one priority might be better than having three priorities as three priorities might mean zero priorities. And I believe I have made great progress in organizational excellence this year. Improved the way how I do audits, better understanding of project and change management, better understanding of organizations and people, … I wish I did better in systematization and individual excellence, but I am also very thankful for what I did. In the upcoming year, I plan to focus more on systematization around my B2B services of audits and project/change management and also on individual excellence because of its high synergy with leadership and organizational excellence.
- Audits might not be sufficient. When I started, I hoped I could spend around 30 hours in the organization, another 10 hours putting my observations, thoughts, and systematization together and writing the report, then around 3 hours discussing the report with the organizational leader(s) and that it will be sufficient for the organization to move really significantly to achieve excellence. I still believe this can be done for most organizations and I will continue to try to learn how to do it, but… I currently don’t know how to do it (and I combine audits with follow-up project/change management), don’t know any consultant who can do it or who claims he/she can do it and I would be very careful if some consultant claims he/she can do it with such restrictions.
- Divided effort and focus. There were months including the last 3 months, where I needed to divide my resources among 2 customer companies and my own business. And to optimize learning, stabilize revenue and prepare for scaling and maximizing impact, I want to go for 3 customers and my own business. Even with some reasonable systematization of my time and energy, this includes some context switching and multi-tasking and makes it harder for me to focus really deeply. The benefits are slightly weaker than I anticipated and while the disadvantages are acceptable, they are stronger than I anticipated. If I should name only one systematic, hard-to-solve disadvantage with the most negative consequences of my current business around organizational audits and change management, it would be this one – divided effort and focus. I was not able to fully appreciate it when I was a full-time employee and 98+ percent of my work-related efforts were undividedly given to one business entity.
- Marketing and sales. I give little resources to both and rationally should give more. However, emotionally I like to spend energy rather on providing service or learning and improving my service, and I don’t need marketing or sales in the short-term of the upcoming few months. It’s a good thing to see how you behave based on emotions rather than reason when many people give you feedback you appear kind of robotic and emotionless to them.
Becoming a better person, cultivating virtues:
- My approach to personal growth and becoming a better person is mainly via cultivating virtues. I also use the current mainstream methods for a better life (e.g. setting and achieving goals, learning knowledge or training skills), but I see them as secondary after cultivating virtues.
- Virtues I feel like making big progress in 2019 and being thankful for: selflessness, humility, loving-kindness, thankfulness and also “seeing things from different perspectives” which I believe is more a virtue than ability or skill.
- Virtues I feel like I should improve in 2020: responsibility (towards myself), humor, industry (in Benjamin Franklin’s definition), equanimity.
This is not a complete retrospective of 2019 for me, but it is what I want to share publicly. Hope there is something interesting and useful in my thoughts and observations also for you.