Category Archives: leadership

The elevator speech

On Thursday I met a colleague for coffee who I have not seen in a while. We have traveled together in Colombia and Chile, and she has been a trusted confidante. She was eager to hear about my next gig. I have been refining my “elevator speech” for my network in the company that are curious enough to ask about what I plan to do.

Many colleagues are surprised I am leaving my current company, as I was labeled “high potential” and typically the company pours a lot of resources into developing their “high po’s” as we call them. But that is actually one reason I am leaving. They want to invest in their top 10-15%. That is supposed to trickle down to everyone else. In an ideal work, I suppose it works. I want to invest in 100%. Or at least in 90% – maybe the bottom 10% do not belong there, that’s up for debate.

elevator wallpaper

OMG, isn’t this the best elevator image ever!?! I love it. Photo credit link

So I decided to write up a core values statement so I can explain to friends and colleagues in which area I will consult. I realized in talking with a VP who controls a lot of resources, when I mentioned what I was doing, he had about 4-5 contacts at the company that may be a source of business for me. Ding! A light bulb went on. I am networking the he** out of my contacts in the last 2 weeks while I am still here, and getting feedback on my ideas.

But since you, my faithful readers, have also given me tremendous support and helpful feedback, I thought I’d share the draft here. Below is a short values statement (~50 words) boiled down to the 3 main principles that will form the basis of my practice.

What resonates for you? In what areas would you like more information or clarification? 

Give me the good, the bad and the ugly. I want you to ask questions and throw mud! Really!!

Core Values:

Diversity Drives Innovation.

-Women are natural leaders. We as women must define leadership more broadly. Leadership is coach-able, and we all have the capacity to be better at it.

-Everyone (on a team) is a teacher and a learner. It is best when we have opportunities to serve in both of these roles.

I am working on mini-manifesto of sorts (less than a page, probably 400-600 words) to expand upon these values in a more concrete way.  I will post that one on Monday. These will go onto my consulting website when I launch it in September/October, along with a concise mission statement, which is another piece.

Thank you in advance for any questions, feedback or eggs you can throw at it. Truly. 

Happy weekend,

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

 

 

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Entitlement vs Service

I am reflecting on the lessons I have learned during my time decade plus of working in the medical device industry for a very large company.

One of the observations is the way I respond to leaders who approach their work with entitlement versus those who aim to serve. The former set were wrapped up in a sense of “we are the winners” and they set up their organizations to demonstrate that. The latter approached from a more humble place of openness and willingness to learn.

Carol Dweck makes a powerful case for leaders and organizations who embrace a “growth mindset” versus a fixed mindset in her book Mindset: the new psychology of success. In summary, the person who believes they can grow and develop over time and with practice will far surpass the person who believes they are born with a fixed intelligence or talent. Children who are told they are smart, rather than the ones praised for their ability to work hard and persist, are actually at a disadvantage in the long-term.

I can relate to this principle and how it created a bit of an identity crisis when I first went to college. I had put in some hard work, but my belief was that I was “naturally smart” and this was how I identified myself. But going to a place like Swarthmore, where I was nowhere near the “smartest” and had not yet developed the academic work ethic I would need to succeed, I struggled, especially in my first year.

I called my parents one weekend to tell them that the college may have made a mistake in admitting me. I was not sure I could handle the work. But my mother reassured me – she knew I could do it if I worked hard. College was about challenging ourselves at a higher level. Thank goodness my professors agreed, and when I admitted to other students and to the professor that I was struggling, I realized I was not alone. I would have support in learning and growing if I was open to it.

The parallels in leadership intrigue me as I consider the effectiveness of those who believe they are the “smartest” in the room versus those who are open to learning from front-line employees. I respond best to those leaders who are open to feedback, who ask to hear my ideas. I want to contribute to their cause, because they see it as “our cause.” I want to figure out creative ways to help because I feel their belief in me. I want to learn and understand new things, because I know I will gain greater skills along the way.

When I consider my own responsiveness to feedback, I aim to improve my ability to take in criticism that can improve my performance in the long run. Though it can be hard to hear, when delivered and received in a spirit of mutual respect and investment in growth, it is a gift.

This applies to individual contributors also, not just managers. Those who are willing to learn from their mistakes are more willing to take risks rather than try to keep a perfect image as someone who never fails. If the environment is conducive to it, the growth-minded person will be unafraid to challenge the status quo. They will have courage to communicate what may be “blind spots” to leadership.

The research also shows how the growth mindset can be taught and coached, and is not something we are simply bestowed or lacking. This is fundamentally the philosophy I have embraced. I have seen so much evidence of this in my own work with colleagues over the years. To me there is nothing more rewarding than watching someone succeed at a “stretch” goal and knowing that maybe just a year or two before, they may have doubted their ability to achieve it.

Where do you want to grow? How strong is your belief that you will get there with practice and determination? What if difficulty just means “not yet”? 

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

 

Curtain call

Today I will tell my team about my career decision news. My director scheduled a mandatory conference call so I could tell them in my own words what I intend to do, and that I will leave the company in early August.

It is interesting that my subconscious was working on this task as I slept last night. I had a “naked dream” last night. I was the only one without clothing, but somehow I did not feel at all self-conscious. I am choosing to interpret this to mean that, though I am making a somewhat vulnerable choice and I am totally exposing my goals, dreams and plans before they are fully baked, I am ready.

In reflecting this morning in my journal about the message I hope to deliver, I started realizing that it boils down to this: I want to reinforce the idea that they are a “small and mighty” team. But I also want to model courageous change. Instead of leaving them feeling abandoned, I want them to realize how strong they are and how resilient. While I worried plenty about who would “protect them” if I left, I now know everything will be fine.

Sometimes our fears of being who we are get in the way of taking our next steps for development. Speaking personally, I know how vulnerable it is to admit a dream to someone else, knowing they may not understand. They may tell us: you’re crazy! They may induce doubt that are dreams are worth pursuing, or fear that we may fail.

But being who we are, and exposing that truth about what we desire is fundamental to our longing as human beings. I think Glennon Melton Doyle said this in a conversation to Liz Gilbert during a podcast. Her desire was to be known for herself, for the truth of who she is.

My dream this morning helped me realize that I am the one who needs to accept myself as I am. Whether others do or not is really irrelevant. But at the same time, it is being my best, brave, true self that may help them do the same.

May you feel free to be who you are and live your dreams and desires.

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

 

Commitment honored

I am really proud to say I delivered on a commitment to myself that I had made back on June 8th, just before my vacation. My deadline to communicate was July 3rd, and I made it happen a day earlier.

I took a deep breath, scheduled the conversation yesterday with my boss in the morning and completed the conversation in the afternoon. I explained my plan to leave the company as of August 3rd and my intention to do independent consulting work after a break to pursue some family time and personal projects. He told me that he will always support any decision that I know is right for me, even if he does not like it (which of course, he did not, and he admitted that).

commitment.JPG

I had written the points of the conversation ahead of time, and was able to convey 3/4 of what I had drafted. For me it was not critical to say all of it, but I wanted to have my explanations “in the bag” so I would not be dissuaded. He could tell by my tone of voice and the fact that I titled the meeting “decision” that I had already made up my mind. He did not try to change it.

He did want to talk with me later this week so we could map out a communications plan, to be sure that team members understand this was my decision, not related to company decisions or the budget we were allocated. I understand his concern: last year, there were a couple of non-voluntary transitions (which resulted in other positions within the company for the two people affected). People get nervous if they perceive that their jobs are at risk.

For now I am breathing a sigh of relief. I am grateful for his response, and for all the opportunities I have been given here. But I also realize that this is a strong signal of my commitment to the next venture, and now I have declared (to the universe effectively) that I will make this work. No matter what.

Do you honor commitments you make to yourself? What do you do when you are scared by the commitment required to move yourself forward toward a goal?

 

 

 

Facilitation

Today’s post will be brief, as I am off to facilitate a panel at my work conference this week, featuring geography perspectives on the new process for External Research Projects at our company.

Since I represent Latin America, and I have facilitated before, I am substituting for the individual that was originally scheduled to complete this task. I probably should be more nervous than I am about it. I only reviewed the slides yesterday for the panelists, and I have not devoted much time to prepare.

But I am strangely calm, and I think it is because facilitation is my JAM. It is about being in the moment, staying aware of what the audience and panel need, and helping to make the session more interactive. I have that skill, and this group is familiar to me. So I shall extract confidence from that, and not worry too much about the outcome.

What skills do you have where you are confident in your abilities? Do you have a chance to use those skills every day? 

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

 

What’s your One Thing?

Yesterday I took an opportunity during my monthly operations meeting to present to my team a concept I had discovered that intrigues me, from The One Thing by Gary Keller.

In preparing for the presentation, I realized that I can indulge my love for teaching and training in my current job. It was totally fun to prepare, and I enjoyed challenging my team with a new idea. It was a bit of a risk, and I had not discussed it with my director first. But he has been open to my creative streak, and when I finished (in about 20 minutes) he actually came up with the perfect picture to capture the idea of what we do now, versus what we might prefer to do.

one man band

“One man band” – photo taken in March 2018 by my boss

What is perfect about the photo is that it showed empathy for the struggle of my teammates, and it illustrated the point I had made during the presentation.

The basic idea of the book is that we need to work on ONE thing at a time, sequentially rather than simultaneously to achieve extraordinary results. When we multi-task or spin in a list of to-do’s that has no main priority, we dilute the focus and the quality of our work. So the book has a number of suggestions for how we drill down from our “someday goal” to a 5-year, then one year, monthly, weekly and daily goal.

We are asked to use a focusing question: “What’s the one thing I can do such that by doing it, everything else will be easier or unnecessary?”

This can be applied to goals at work, in relationships, goals for your physical health, personal life, money and business. You use it both on a temporal level: “what’s the one thing this week, or today or in this moment…” Then you plan time blocks on a daily basis so you get your one thing done first, before you slide off into more shallow work, like answering emails, attending meetings and other tasks.

Nothing should distract you from your one thing until it is done. Those time blocks can be protected. This is similar to the concept of Deep Work, by Cal Newport.

After I concluded, I asked the team: How can we apply the concept of “The One Thing” to the work we do every day? A couple of them had some ideas, and one had a great example. One thought it would be very hard to do this in the world we live in now, which was when my boss pulled out that great photo. We often feel like “one man bands” in our group, serving so many business units.

I believe the concept has merit, and though we a.d.d.-oid folks struggle with doing just one thing at a time, and many need to have shorter “time blocks” than the average person, I know when I do it well, I generate amazing results. I like to think of my one thing right now as my morning writing practice. When I do it, I feel a nice surge of energy, and that makes the rest of my day more productive as well.

What’s your ONE THING? Or if you prefer a more focused question: What’s your One Thing today?

Happy Friday, amigos!

 

The packing list

Hi All,

I am leaving on a trip to Buenos Aires and Brasilia for the next week. It has been nearly 3 years since I have been to Argentina. It is one of the four main countries supported by my clinical research team, and we have quite a lot of studies and sites there. The journey is long and Delta only offers overnight flights, probably because it is easier to “manage” a plane full of people for 9 hours if they are mostly sleeping.

I am not so fond of traveling overnight. Typically I get about 3 hours of sleep on the 9 hour flight from ATL to EZE (if that) and I arrive tired and wired. But this trip is important. It is overdue. I have some atoning to do for neglecting the operational issues we have encountered over the past 2 years.

Sometimes doing more with less is impossible. We have to do LESS with less. We have to make decisions about which projects to cut, instead of pretending we can do it all, and then doing it very badly, instead of with high quality attention. Those decisions are difficult, but I believe they should involve an honest evaluation of our strengths and weaknesses, and a team-based approach to maximizing our contribution.

I may not agree with what the organization has decided to fund (or not fund). But I do have a responsibility to follow through, and make difficult decisions when the time comes. Limping along and pretending everything is okay does not win supporters or champions in the organization.

packing-list-e1521632105803.jpg

In preparation for this trip (and most trips) I use a packing list to be sure I have not forgotten anything.

This particular list is nice because it is pretty all-inclusive. I like to highlight all the items that I will need and then cross them off as they are put into the suitcase.

For a person who struggles with a.d.d., lists are essential. I think for most people, lists are helpful, especially for overseas trips.

But what is not on the list and what I intend to also “pack” with me as I mindfully begin this 7 day trip:

  1. Patience
  2. Openness to other cultural norms and experiences
  3. My Spanish skills for Argentina, and Portuñol skills for Brasil (when I try to speak Portuguese, somehow the works morph in my mouth to more of a combination of languages.)
  4. Patience
  5. Confidence in my intuition about travel
  6. Focus on what is important; letting go of what is unimportant
  7. Sense of adventure
  8. Acknowledgement that I cope pretty well with sleep-deprivation, even if I don’t like it much.
  9. Gratitude to be able to see some colleagues I have not seen since last year.
  10. Patience
  11. Gratitude for the delicious food I may eat – Argentina is like Europe when it comes to food. They love it, they do it well, and it is delicious.
  12. Well-established daily meditation practice
  13. Patience
  14. Strength and endurance – The trip home will be especially long, with 2 stops from Brasilia to home and another overnight flight on the way back.
  15. Did I mention patience?

My husband reminds me that I get to be in a warm climate, while we are still in the cold in MN, and that a lot of people would really love to have the opportunity to travel as much as I do. I do enjoy it (most of the time) and I am looking forward to the trip, with just a hint of trepidation about all I need to complete during the journey. Mostly it is about connecting, and having honest and open conversations.

I still plan to post every day, and hopefully will grab some good photos on the journey. There is definitely always food for thought when we travel, so we will see what comes up. Hasta luego, amigos!

Surrender

This morning I woke up very early (3 a.m.) , a byproduct of the time change perhaps, or maybe that 2 phase sleep that humans used to undergo in ancient times. Some historic investigations of human patterns in sleep indicate that we did not expect one long sleep prior to the invention of electronic lighting and an industrial economy. Typically there was a “first sleep” at night for about 4 hours and a period of wakefulness for a couple of hours followed by a “second sleep” or morning sleep of another 4 hours.

When I learned about this pattern, and as I have really worked on getting better quality sleep in recent years, it relieved some anxiety about the morning wakefulness I sometimes experience. I am a morning person, and these beautiful, quiet, spacious times are actually welcome for me, when I get to bed early enough. Today I will attend a meeting on behalf of my boss, who opted not to travel here from Miami on Health Economics and Value Based Healthcare from 9-5.

Since my director volunteered me to attend this all-day meeting on his behalf, I was not able to turn down the opportunity. I am trying to get myself psyched up for it, since I will likely see a few of my less favorite colleagues there, one in particular that always seems to challenge my patience.

So instead of trying to get back to sleep this morning, I surrendered to the wakefulness, knowing I love my morning solitude, my writing time, meditation and personal journal time. I am unwilling to sacrifice these when called upon for professional responsibilities, so sleep is sacrificed for a day. I can cope in the short-term, and I will be gentle with myself.

As I consider what my day will involve, I open myself to the possibility of learning something new. I am very interested in value based healthcare conceptually. Though sometimes the economists cause me to grit my teeth in the way reduce human health to cost effectiveness models, I strive to be open to an understanding of how we best can serve patients while creating sustainable health care.

The concept of surrender came to me again in a recent insight I have had regarding an issue I want to solve with my family. I have been obsessing and tossing and turning it about in my mind, looking for a solution. It has kept me up at nights, and clearly it agitates me. But when I was lying in savasana on Sunday night yin yoga class, I had this strong sense of an inner voice asking me to surrender that problem. Surrender it? To whom? To what? Permanently?

Some inner knowing may be nudging me toward backing off from the problem, and allowing it to unfold. I am not sure, but some of us with a tendency toward worry or anxiety can allow our minds to run rampant with playing out scenarios. I realize I have a tendency to do this, probably a learned tendency from parental figures.

We have to acknowledge sometimes that we are not in control of everything. No matter how much thought and energy we put into some outcome we may want, at some point we need to allow things to unfold. Some people put their trust in God. I am not sure how I feel about that. I do believe there is some higher power, some creative and loving force in the world. I have felt this presence at times, and it is nothing less than miraculous.

Right now, and considering other obligations I will handle today, I will surrender the worrying on that particular issue. I will pay attention to my distractions, and notice when my mind wanders. And I will stay mindful of being in the present moment with the intention of learning today. Now that I have gotten my writing done early and prioritized the daily routines I most treasure, I can move on.

Have a happy Wednesday, peeps. Remember, it’s pi day – 3.14! Treat yo’self! 😉