The Best of Times, The Worst of Times

2014

... was a frustrating year for me because our story was stuck in an uncomfortable place. Actually, we were literally stuck in an uncomfortable space as our new office was yet to be completed and our temporary space was terrible. Soul-killing, team-killing, productivity-killing, terrible. We were producing excellent work and things were going well on the business side of things but our culture and our team development felt like it was on pause.

The bright spot was that we had decided to rebrand the company as part of the office move and that took a great deal of introspection, teamwork and creativity. Even though I was feeling stuck, it was incredibly energizing to be part of a team that was firing on all cylinders.

2015

... started with a flurry of creative activity as a single rebrand turned into a double rebrand and our new office neared completion. By mid-year Ellipsis Digital (our digital agency), Engine SevenFour (our enterprise application development firm) and the London Roundhouse had all arrived. I lack the words to express my pride in our team for pulling it all off. A spectacular chapter in our story had been written and we were set to start another.

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And that's when I crashed. While the rest of the team raced along, my story became mired in self-doubt, a lack of purpose and feeling that I was becoming an anchor rather than an engine.

Getting out of that rut wasn't easy. After a couple of months of staring at the blank page that was my career, I sat down with a friend and they suggested that I get back to doing something that I hadn't done much of in a long time. Reading. Lots and lots of reading

What have I been reading so far? It was Creativity, Inc. by Ed Catmull that really got me out of the woods. This paragraph really hit home:

Now, the goal that had been a driving force in my life had been reached, and there was an enormous sense of relief and exhilaration— at least at first...  Everything was going our way, and yet I felt adrift. In fulfilling a goal, I had lost some essential framework. Is this really what I want to do? I began asking myself. The doubts surprised and confused me, and I kept them to myself. I had served as Pixar’s president for most of the company’s existence. I loved the place and everything that it stood for. Still, I couldn’t deny that achieving the goal that had defined my professional life had left me without one. Is this all there is? I wondered. Is it time for a new challenge?

Energized by the realization I was far from alone in this I started reading voraciously; Tribes by Seth Godin got me pumped and Made to Stick, Switch and Decisive by the Heath brothers are just jammed full of insight and practical advice. A flame that I thought had gone out for good was reignited and I was feeling a sense of purpose again.

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I've worn a lot of hats on this team, but it's the culture that has been the piece that's taken a hold of me harder than any other. What exactly that entailed has always been a bit nebulous, but through these books it's starting to crystallize and I'm feeling optimistic beyond words.

This blog post is the first in a series that I'm going to write on what we’re learning about leadership, and how these lessons play out with our team and in our company. You can get a sneak peek at these posts before they hit the blog by signing up for our newsletter.

What’s next on the reading list? Nudge, The Genius of Opposites, Resilience, Discover Your True North, Joy, Inc., The Radical Leap, Influencer, Everyone Leads and Good to Great.

Looking forward to sharing the next chapter with you...

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Shawn Adamsson is Chief Culture Officer and one of the founders of Ellipsis Digital and Engine SevenFour. He spends most of his time working with, learning from, and hanging around with a lot of smart, thoughtful, passionate people.