Heading back in

sleeping cat with tongue out
Calvin all tuckered out and laying on his Dad’s foot.

After a lovely two weeks of vacation, on Monday I am “heading back in” to work mode. My husband took a picture of our cat Calvin, who was lolling about on his foot on Sunday, enjoying the sensation of connection. I thought it illustrated my sentiment fairly well.

Going back to work sometimes makes me feel like that, but I guess that’s one way to know I am not aligned with the work I do now.  The School of Life has an excellent video about that “Sunday Night Feeling” which I encourage you to check out if you sometimes suffer from the Sunday blues.

I am so grateful for the time off. It gave me some perspective on the situation and on what my intentions are for the coming weeks. I completed some coaching homework, including a timeline and plan for my 1-year goals. I had a good conversation with my husband about what we are prepared to do in order to go from two regular incomes to one for a few months during the transition. My intention is to leave my current job behind in August, and to try to work on my own as a consultant.

I plan to offer my skills in facilitation, strategic planning, human-centered design and change management to companies and departments where I can add value. While my last few years have been primarily focused on clinical research project management in the medical device field, my skills are transferable.

I really enjoy organizing and leading multi-disciplinary problem-solving sessions for leaders or individual contributors that allow people to think big and dream differently about their work. I have a lot of experience in change management efforts, having co-led several of these efforts in the past few years. Most were successful and some less so, but I learned some valuable lessons about what factors are critically-necessary, especially in international and multi-cultural organizations.

Effective organizational change can be achieved when the following exist: 1) shared understanding of why and what changes are necessary; 2) buy-in and ownership of the change(s) at all levels; 3) effective communication and pacing of changes; 4) ongoing conversation and engagement of those affected by and asked to embrace the change; 5) evaluation and re-evaluation if the changes are effective and achieving the desired outcome.

Changes so often fail because they try to address a problem without understanding the root causes. I believe the most successful change efforts often arise from the “on the ground” and customer-focused employees, the people who do the work and see the gaps in the system. Leaders can facilitate these changes by being open to hearing the problems and issues, soliciting and supporting ideas from their front line employees, and adding the appropriate resources to address the challenges. It is important not to make assumptions or jump to conclusions without fully understanding the dynamics of the situation.

I am fortunate to be connected to other consultants doing this kind of work and anticipate I will begin by apprenticing and learning from them, partnering where I can add value. Many years ago I consulted in the nonprofit field, helping leaders with strategic planning and grant development efforts. I particularly enjoy adding an outside perspective to an organization or department that is struggling. It is fascinating to learn and understand the “ecosystem” of an organization and problem, and then begin to apply design processes and engage the right people to solve that problem. Indeed that is the most rewarding work I have done throughout my career.

In about 6 weeks, I will say goodbye to the corporate role, and begin a new phase of my work life. I am ready. Wish me luck!

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

Decisions and deadlines

Today is my final day of work before I begin a 2-week vacation. I am grateful for a stretch of time off, when I will not have a laptop and will have some open space to allow my heart and soul to rest and contemplate.

When I return, I will finalize some decisions about the transition I intend to make this summer, and the timeline which I intend to communicate to my current boss. I have been putting off making some decisions on the transition timeline. Or rather: I made the decision, and then “took it back” last month, in a flurry of panic about worrying that I was making the wrong decision.

Yesterday I met with a consultant colleague of mine who encouraged me to make this decision and move forward. This is something my coach has been coaxing me to do as well. I recognize that I am still hanging onto the “reliable salary” excuse in my current role, even though I know that in August/September time-frame I intend to be somewhere else.

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But as I move forward I realize that closing certain doors causes others to open. By delaying my decision I actually end up spinning around without a good sense of direction. There are good reasons for tying up loose ends, and I have certainly made progress on my work transition plan in terms of delegating responsibilities and involving team members in my current projects.

But now, I believe I need to make a deadline for communicating my plan to my boss directly. It has been hard for me to have these conversations with him, but I have shared with others my intentions and timelines. Part of me does not want to be “talked into” staying in my current role when I know I am no longer being as effective as I could be.

My soul has already made the decision. My body and my mind need to follow up with action and communication, because that will allow full integrity for me in the process.

So I am giving myself a deadline of July 3rd (before the holiday) in order to communicate my intention to my boss and to map out my plan of transition in more detail.  This will allow me to stop carrying the burden of knowing what I know, but not taking action.

Just writing out that decision has helped my body relax, and gives me some determination to move forward.  Ahhh… this will help me be able to enjoy my upcoming vacation as well.

Cheers & happy weekend, amigos!

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

On the eve of big things

I have started writing at different times of the day, to reflect the “rhythm” of my week as it ebbs and flows. I am trying to purge out the stuff that just needs to leave my head, and also make sense of changes in my consciousness I know that consistency is important, and that daily creative spark helps me to get energy for the rest of my day.

I am procrastinating on my coaching homework and deciding to put it off a bit more, so I am writing my blog instead.

Uh, why *am* I avoiding my coaching homework? I will use this space to examine the reasons. One of the assignments is to rewrite my career dream in a 1-year and a 5-year formats. But what is getting in the way of this is that I interviewed for a job at my current company last week that really excites me.

It is hard to write my 1-year dream in a way that is independent of my excitement for that role. I guess that’s okay. A year seems ultra-long when I consider my current role. But it seems like it could go by in a flash if I am doing something with full engagement and attention. But can I bring full engagement to it? Would I give up my blog for it? No, for sure not.

It is a fairly high profile role (Senior Program Manager) with visibility to the top executives and the CEO, but I think I could make some impact there. We could actually re-invent the way clinical data are used in health care. Whew! That could be amazing, right?

Of course, I still have a lot of unanswered questions, so I emailed them to the hiring manager as a follow up. I’m not sure if they will make me an offer, but I suspect I am their top candidate, given what HR has shared with me about their search.

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Another BIG part of me was fantasizing about quitting this corporate thing in August and figure out how to make it on my own, doing consulting and writing, and perhaps coaching. I wanted to take a break from this “treadmill” to get some time and space to really pursue my writing goals in earnest.

The money thing crops up. By August, I am aiming to have 6 months of living expenses saved up for any kind of foolish job-quitting my soul beckons me to do. My hubby would prefer we use that money toward a down payment on a house, or maybe some land on the north shore of Lake Superior. That appeals to me too.

If I stay, I will have to work a lot harder this summer and fall. New jobs takes investment, focus and attention. I am not afraid to work hard. In talking with a good friend of mine yesterday about the job, she observed that she has not seen me so excited or energized about an opportunity in a while.

My massage therapist said the same thing, and she had a quote for me that popped into her head when I told her about my response to the interview: “Great things are done when man and mountain meet.”  William Blake.

My friend asked me “what would hold you back from taking the job” and my response was: having to wear grown-up clothes and go to the office every day. What this means is that my introvert self would have less alone-time during the standard work day. I have gotten spoiled working from home (when I am not traveling) a couple of days a week.

But other than that? Maybe the fear that my current role has provided a comfort level (3 years in this manager role, 11 years in the department), and I know I will be living in the “discomfort zone” for a while. But that may be the growth edge that I seek.

When things are too calm in my life, I tend to make trouble. But maybe this is the kind of trouble that I need to invite in, because “wildly improbable goals” have a strangely motivating effect on me. 

Focus vs exploring options

I am preparing for a session with my coach this morning and slept in an hour more than usual. Sometimes when my body needs it, I just allow it to rest. After last week’s travel, and disrupted sleep schedule, it has been lovely to have 4 nights in a row of 8-10 hours of sleep.

But of course, my writing time is a little cut short for the morning, so I sit, brainstorming what I most care to say. I went back and read a bunch of previous posts, scanning the “data” for trends, themes. Then I considered my worries about the upcoming coaching session. I turned in my homework only 5 minutes before the deadline this time, not a half day in advance like last time.

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I wondered about all the resistance, and the fact that committing dreams or goals to paper makes me feel some pressure about it. I asked my husband last night about what he wanted to be when he grew up (at age 5-6) and he wanted to be a farmer like his grandfather. But then his family moved, and the farming industry changed. I reflected on my own memories of being asked that question.

I typically had a long list of all the things I wanted to do someday. But I remember being disappointed with someone who laughed at me kindly and told me I could not do ALL of those things. I would have to pick one, maybe two. What?!? I was sad that I would have to choose and I wanted to keep all doors open.

Back in the day, in our parents era, that was the norm: to choose one main career goal and to stick to that choice for 30+ years. Pension plans were built on that principle. To move around too much was flaky, seen as irresponsible and perhaps self-indulgent.

I had an active imagination and knew that everyone in my family were teachers, and that I also considered that a possibility, but did not want to limit myself. Fortunately the world has changed, and people seldom have just one career. The possibilities now seem limitless, but that does not mean we can have all our choices all at once.

Now that I am getting older, I recognize the value of making a career choice for one particular period of time (say, a decade) and fully embracing that choice, allowing ourselves to go deep into that field of endeavor, really to learn it well. Any area where we practice extensively and develop a body of knowledge is a place we can make a contribution.

But then there comes a time when some of us (and maybe this is my a.d.d. talking, or just my curiosity about other fields and the roads not taken) long for a transition to something new. I had hoped to get into the “Entrepreneurs in Residence” program at my company but found out yesterday that I will not advance to the interview round. I was a bit disappointed, but strangely felt relieved as well.

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Working for a very large corporation for nearly 11 years, this era is coming to a close for me. I long for more freedom and less bureaucracy than this setting can deliver. I long for more innovation and less forms to fill out in order to get work accomplished. But that specific direction has yet to solidify for me.

Perhaps it has been a long time since I worked toward a particular dream or goal. I did dream of becoming a manager, and I achieved that dream. I dreamed of travel and work where I would get to do that much more often, and I achieved that dream as well. So in a sense, I have accomplished some of the goals that I had for myself, definitely not along the path I had expected.

I believe in staying open to opportunities, and saying yes to experiences where I might grow and learn. But now that I have achieved a certain level of success, I return to the question of where I want to focus. I long to figure out what contributions I most want to make, where I can provide the most value in the world.

This is a road we all travel, I realize. Perhaps making those choices and sticking to those decisions has been more challenging for me, or maybe I am operating on an old belief system that needs upgrading. In any case, I would love to hear from others that have made big career changes in their lives. What were your fears? How did you discover what you truly wanted? Were there ever times when you doubted your new direction?