I recently announced a new CEO for my technology business and that I have moved into a board role.
For the business, this is an important milestone to no longer be founder-led and founder-run. A clear vote of confidence in our team and our clients. As a significant shareholder in the business, I am fully confident this is the right move.
For me, it marks a profound shift in my professional identity. Since founding the business 15 years ago, in my early 20s, I have been known to my external world as a CEO. This is no longer the case.
Like most professionals, I have been building my career with a high level of enthusiasm, excitement and energy, and naturally have identified closely with what I do.
For the vast majority of my adult life, when meeting someone new, regardless if it was at a business gathering, a party, or even on a date, the first or second question I would be asked was 'what do you do?'.
If my identity were visualised as a pie chart every few years, when I started the business 15 years ago, the pie would probably have only one big slice. My business was my identity, which is often the case for entrepreneurs starting out.
Over time, the pie has grown, and new slices have been added. My interests and passions have evolved and diversified. Other slices include being an uncle, a mindfulness teacher, a mental health advocate, and now an expat living in Portugal.
To let go of what I have known so well and identified with so closely and intimately, over so many years, required me to further develop other slices of my identity. I did not realise this along the way, however I can see it clearly now looking back.
My relationship is changing now towards something that I care about deeply. The connection and bond that has been developed over a 15 year relationship is more emotional than intellectual, which I feel is beautiful. And I am learning how to care for it without being directly involved or interacting with it on a daily, or hourly, basis.
Where I was in a position of authority, responsible for making decisions on its behalf, big or small, I am now in a position of influence. It is not better or worse, simply different.
I continue to have opinions and perspectives, often well grounded in highly relevant experience, and a large financial investment (or risk, depending on how I look at it). However, what I think is just that. It is what I think. It is not always going to be what it does.
While I do not have kids (at least not yet), I imagine parents go through a journey with many parallels. Initially, they are fully responsible for making decisions on behalf of the other, with full authority. And over time, their role evolves from one of authority to one of influence.
I can believe it is not easy, as it involves matters of the heart and the head. To not be in control of something you care deeply about, have identified so closely with and have invested and sacrificed so much for.
I imagine there are parallels with health as well. Over the past year in particular I have invested a lot of energy in better understanding my physical health. Lots of tests, spreadsheets, consultations and treatments.
Taking a step back, I am realising that despite my desire to feel in control, I am not in a position of authority and rather in a position of influence. The choices I make have an influence however I cannot force specific outcomes how I please.
Personal friendships & relationships are often described as involving three entities. Me. The other. And the relationship or connection that we share. While I am mostly in control of myself and have no control of the other, when it comes to the third entity, the relationship itself, we are both in a position of influence, not authority.
As you can see, I am curious to observe where in my life I have authority versus influence, and to what degree. I am learning that I have far more influence and for less authority. And that is not good or bad. It is reality. And my journey is to understand how to continue to live in tune and in harmony with reality.
I am grateful to all of the people who were part of my 15 year journey as CEO of my business, including our team, our clients, our investors, and our many supporters. You have all shaped and influenced me in countless ways. Thank you.
I am genuinely excited to see what I started continue to grow, and will continue to influence how it does that. 15 years from now, I will look back at this moment as when my relationship evolved from one of authority to one of influence, and be grateful that it happened with awareness and intention.