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10 Hard Fought Tips for Today's Leaders

Updated: Jul 11, 2020

Introverts are Leaders Too! Critical Turning Point - Wrong Turn

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Shell Proud for 30 Years!

In the early 2000s, I was leading an amazing team at Shell. One of those teams a manager dreams of but rarely, if ever, might have the fortune to be part of in a career. Each team member was skilled at their specialty - marketing, trading, operations, analytics. But even more importantly, we were a team. Everyone communicated and supported each other selflessly. That is rare indeed!

Me sporting a durag at one of our themed team parties.

Perhaps this culture developed from the team's auspicious beginnings. The business was struggling in its infancy to make lofty financial targets. However, soon the team bonded, learned from mistakes, and gained confidence. We became more than a work group but family. We spent time together after work. We celebrated successes with dinners and themed parties as a team and with spouses and kids. We eclipsed our targets and began to shake up the industry. We had become a premiere destination for staff across our trading organization. Yet we recognized at one team holiday party that all good things eventually do come to an end.

That "end" occurred in 2004. One of our most talented and beloved team members was charged by a third party company of unscrupulous business dealings - specifically not trading with that particular company. After a thorough investigation by our Compliance Department, our trader was cleared of all allegations. However, during the investigation they found that he had accepted some free baseball tickets from a vendor and another "minor" email infraction. These activities were certainly neither heinous nor uncommon across Shell or the industry. However, in the aftermath of Enron and other energy giant scandals, it appeared an example was to be made by Shell's Compliance group.

So in rather short order, our teammate was fired and the team was dismantled. One team member was transferred to our Singapore office, another to Rotterdam, and I myself was salvaged with a move to London. Everyone found a landing spot, but the team...the family, was destroyed forever. And during the process it appeared our newest team member saw this as an opportunity to undermine the team which he had struggled to integrate into. Honestly, I can't even remember what this guy may have done. Yet myself and team members became suspicious of his allegiance and his true aspirations. He became our Voldemort.

As I settled my family into London, I reflected on my deep anger directed at the new teammate who appeared to aid the investigation. I was also frustrated with Shell who made such a life-altering choice in the blink of any eye. It was personal.

The team's demise rested squarely on my shoulders.

It would take fifteen years before I would realize that the blame for the demise of my team lay squarely on my shoulders. It was my responsibility to ensure each team member understood the rules and abided by them. It was Shell's "license to operate" and my team's as well. How could I fault a teammate who may have supported a corporate investigation rather than jeopardize his own standing? My sense of right and wrong had been compromised by the team camaraderie and my own self-preservation.

I put on nearly 40lbs during my 3 years in London!

After that time I struggled through many leadership roles. I was still working with some very talented people, but the rapport that had oozed from that team in the early 2000s was never replicated. I tried it in London but we never quite struck the right chord. Because the team culture was not as tight knit, my own nervousness in corporate pressure-packed and social situations resurrected my own addictive behaviors. I tried to squelch my trepidation through drinking and overeating, both of which only exacerbated my problems. My attempts to build bridges through company-sponsored drinking actually boomeranged, distancing me from some and possibly contributing to my early repatriation.

Upon our return to the States, I spent a lot of time trying to figure myself out.

And upon return to the States, I discovered I was actually fearful of crossing any line between work and personal. Hosting team parties and especially drinking after hours with teammates seemed to push both lines. So, I maintained a very professional and stoic approach in order to avoid violating any compliance rules and to avoid repeating my dangerous alcoholic binges which had found me aimlessly wandering the East End of London and blacking out alone in Singapore.