One of the biggest drivers of employee engagement is having someone who you consider a good friend (or sometimes best friend) at work.
Or at least that’s what I used to read about when I was an operational manager at Medtronic. I was a little skeptical. But I think I understand what all those employee engagement surveys are trying to say:
It is important to have colleagues that you trust at work, people who may, over time, become friends. I certainly felt like I had a lot of friends at Medtronic. It’s one reason why it was so hard for me to leave.
At the University, I am only 2.5 weeks in. I feel like I have a lot of “potential” friends, and people who share common interests. It takes time to form relationships. I am not expecting to adopt a bestie right away. It might take 6-12 months before I find out who my real friends are. People tend to be polite in Minnesota, and it’s not always easy to discern who is a true friend.
Also I sometimes encounter people who are excessively concerned with titles and prestige, so they are likely to wait it out a bit before being too warm and friendly. As a “newbie” in this organization, I don’t have networks yet. I am untested, though my boss told me that the people I had met so far gave her positive feedback about the impression they had from our first meetings. So I will count that as a win.
In any case, I think I am fairly good connecting people and ideas. But like anything, I am being patient with it, since I know that every work place culture is different. I am confident that all of this will shake out eventually.
Back to the mantra I used a couple of weeks ago: You have time. 🙂
Speech is silver; silence is golden, goes the saying. Though the second half is the more remembered according to the Literary Devices site.
Tonight my husband was thirsting for some silence, and I was sitting in the dining room on my laptop, oblivious to this fact. He had his phone in hand, and was sort of half-listening to me (or at least that was what I perceived).
When he does this while I am trying to actually connect with him, it drives me crazy. But because I was kind of wound up from a busy day, and thoughts of needing to “fit everything in” before I return to a full time work schedule, I was multi-tasking. I was talking off and on, not very aware of how much I was blathering on, while trying to get 3 other things done on my computer.
Even for those of us with variable attention, who juggle many tasks fairly well (more than the average person), there is a limit. Going beyond the limit does not typically end well.
In our case, it touched off a sensitive subject for me. He pointed out that I was talking a lot (it had been a hard day for him) and it was too much for him. I didn’t respond well at first. It triggered a “shame storm” of my own memories of being silenced in other settings: in my family, in various workplaces and at other times.
So I did my best to respond mindfully and I asked him to tell me more. I had gotten a little teary and “raw” at the story that I was making up: that he doesn’t care what I have to say. In reality, he only wanted what I’ve been giving myself every morning: quiet time upon arriving home, to wind down and transition into the evening. (In my case, it is quiet time in the morning to transition to into my activities).
I realized I had been glued to my computer for the afternoon, in full-on “work mode” even after he arrived home. I had not done my usual “shut down ritual” for the day, creating space between work brain and home brain, and taking my work stuff out of the dining room (adjacent to the living room).
His request was reasonable. I asked him: “when I do talk mindlessly or forget that you need some quiet wind-down time, what are ways you can remind me of this in a non-shaming way?”
We decided on something humorous. A former co-worker of mine used to stand at my cube on Friday afternoons and chat with me while I was trying to wrap up the week and leave. This used to drive me crazy, because I did not know how to politely ask her to leave me alone so I could finish and go home.
Hubby is going to call me by that name when I’m not sensing that he needs quiet. I shall refrain from naming the person. I am pretty sure they did not do this on purpose, and may just have been lonely.
The irony of all of this is that one of the values my coach, Elizabeth Dickinson, had helped me uncover was that of “personal space.” What that means to me: plenty of time for solitude, quiet and “deep work” time, along with time and space to listen to my podcasts and shift my energy as necessary to a just right stimulus. It is harder to achieve that in cubicle-land when we do not have an office with a door.
Soon I will return to a setting where I will have a cube again, and have been trying to consider how to access personal space. I am hoping that in an academic environment at a University, some closed-door time and deep work will be honored, even for staff who are not professors. Maybe in a conference room? But I am not sure. If any of my readers have advice and/or thoughts on this topic, I welcome your feedback. Clearly there will be a part 2 to this reflection, as I have just scratched the surface on this topic.
Is silence or solitude golden to you? How do you carve out those spaces in your workplace if you do not have an office?
-Old Arabic proverb (trusting the internet on this attribution, please correct me if you know a more specific source).
Have you ever heard this one?
Even for those of us who have faith, it does not give us license to be naïve about our future. Leaping without a net might be okay if your family is wealthy or inclined to bail you out. But I live in the real world, and come from humble beginnings.
I made a leap last August, away from a corporate manager position and into a sabbatical, some forays into self-employment: coaching, science writing, and freelance consulting. I designed and delivered some workshops: Embody the Leader Within You and the Neuroscience of Resilience. I began yoga teacher training, and I am loving that experience. I started with about 6-8 months of living expenses put away, and I earned a little money here and there.
I realized back in February/March that this was not going to be a sustainable living for me, and that our reserve funds were rapidly dwindling. So I took a bridge loan of sorts and then headed back into looking for full-time gigs. Good thing my credit is excellent, and I foresaw the shortfall a few months before it became mission-critical. Also good thing that I spent 10 months before I left the previous job in serious preparation for this time away, putting away extra money and hiring coaches to position myself for a break. I do not take that privilege for granted.
Though I will someday try a self-employment venture again, I was honored last week to accept a position at the University of Minnesota as a Program Manager in the Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute. I will begin on June 10th (my birthday!) and it feels like an amazing gift. As it turns out, the recruiter had contacted me originally on March 8th regarding this position. So it was about a 3-month period of messages back and forth, phone interviews, in person interviews, interacting with the hiring committee, and eventually the hiring manager (3 in person experiences).
I kept pursuing this one because I see it as a unique blend of an opportunity to build something new in an academic setting but at the same time apply my expertise in clinical research. At the same time, I had a hard time pursuing corporate positions, because I just do not see myself in that sort of role for now, so I did not bother.
Because I was having a positive experience with the interview process, I made a leap of faith and did not do much searching in the full-time realm for other jobs. I front-loaded my YTT studies, knowing that a full-time job may mean less time for focused study of yoga. And I am bringing my coaching practice to a mindful close while I allow lots of energy and time to learn the new job without too much distraction.
I am grateful that I took the leap, learned so much in the interim, and found myself a role that, though it pays less than my previous role in the corporate world, allows for a sustainable and regular income for my husband and me. It is on my “growth edge” and will stretch me in new ways. I am excited and a little nervous, as anyone might be in a new role. But I will embrace it. The faith I have developed in my own resilience serves me. And wherever the road bends next, I know I can meet the challenges ahead.
How many of you on my readership list are current or former members of a Toastmasters club?
I am curious, because if you are, you will know what an “ice breaker speech” is intended to do. It is a way of introducing yourself to the club in a 5-7 minute speech, and helping them to get to know you better.
Whenever I have to speak on a topic for which I have expertise, I feel comfortable. It is harder to give a speech about myself, because it feels more vulnerable and personal. However, after practicing using the voice recorder on my phone in the morning before the speech, I delivered in a way that felt authentic.
My main purpose was to explain the reasons I joined Toastmasters and give them some insight about my motivations, values and goals. I used the term “white Mexican” to describe how I see the world. I was pleased that I got great feedback on the speech and the evaluator thought I used humor, eye contact and gestures very effectively in the speech.
All in all, I am happy to be done with that one. I was not able to write out the speech or even put together an outline. I like to speak a bit more extemporaneously but somehow I found the words I needed by staying present and focused. I am grateful that it is a very kind an encouraging group, so I am looking forward to growing alongside the as we practice our public speaking, evaluation and leadership skills.
Thanks to all of you who encouraged me as I struggled with procrastination. I felt a huge surge of energy after this project was completed. I know the next one will go much better! The ice is broken!
What gets in the way of telling people that you love them?
Not just partners, spouses and friends, but people all around you.
Last year, I kept having an urge to send Valentine cards to my coworkers and employees. But I knew that most people would find that corny.
Why would an operational manager at a large corporation send cards to her employees? Don’t people grow out of that in the 4th grade?
That’s what held me back. I was afraid to be perceived as corny, even though I truly grew to love those that worked with me (in an “agape” sense, not a romantic one).
It’s probably very uncool to love your employees.
That is me, totally uncool.
The more I think about it, the more I am proud of that fact. I believe in a model of “servant leadership” in which the person who leads is actually in service to the people they lead.
And yet, I think it is the most effective way to lead people. To love them, to witness them grow, to help them attain their career goals… that was what made me effective in my previous role.
The clients I serve now? I love them too. Not in a creepy way. But in a way that shows how much I value them as capable individuals, striving toward growth and excellence. We often have similar insecurities. We are all in this together.
Never again will I let the fear of being “corny” get in the way of my ability to show love for people I value.A resolution for today and for the future. Life is too short to hold back.