This week’s Saturday Share goes to the blog at Elizabeth Dickinson’s website, Pursue Your Path.
Full disclosure. I have already read Elizabeth’s recently released book, The Concise Coaching Handbook: How to Coach Yourself and Others to Get Business Results. I posted my review on Amazon if you are interested in the topic, well worth the read. I also plan to do some coaching with her over the next few months as I launch my consulting venture. I have really been impressed with her career and accomplishments over the years that I have known her.
Elizabeth writes about many topics of interest to me, such as developing leadership on your team, and the fact that you are your own expert on your life. I really like her premise and her approach. If self-coaching or coaching others is of interest to you as well, I encourage you to check out her work.
For the last couple of days I had the privilege to observe a “culture transformation” facilitation 2-day session with a colleague who is a professional consultant. It was an intense but productive couple of days. In my usual fashion, I am still processing internally the lessons I observed about the group and about myself.
This was unlike other sessions I have personally conducted, but many of the issues were similar. My goal was to learn as much as possible, be of help when I could to the facilitator, and consider how I may apply these lessons to my future work.
I realized during the process that I would have to lean into my discomfort, meeting 15 leaders of R&D and business cross-functional partners gathered for this meeting. Only 1 of the leaders was a woman, along with the admin and the HR director, and the rest were men. (With the facilitator and myself, there were 5 women total, less than a third of the room).
The first day I was a bit overwhelmed by it, actually. I pick up on the emotional states of others quite easily, and it felt like my empathy channels were flooded with input. By the end of the day, though I was invited to the happy hour and dinner that followed, I was desperately in need of a break from the action to quiet my mind. Fortunately I had this, about 40 minutes between others leaving the room, and joining them for the informal portion of that day’s events.
It reminded me of how I typically feel after attending one of my own team meetings where I am fully engaged and “on” the whole day. But since Latin America teams rarely re-convene before 7 or 8pm to have dinner, the break in between is typically longer. Usually that has meant I sacrifice sleep, since we return to the hotel around 11 and it takes me an hour or two to calm my jangled nervous system after all the people interaction.
As a morning person, I seldom sleep past 5am, so a 3-day meeting leaves me exhausted and depleted, even if it was a productive event. So I plan for this, and I ensure that before and after these meetings, I have plenty of solitude, writing time, meditation. I go on walks, do yoga, sit with my cat on my lap when possible, and allow for the impressions to seep and filter into consciousness.
Leaning into discomfort is possible because I know myself. I realize it does not indicate anything has gone wrong. These preferences may be hard-wired or habitual, and I am aware of when I must step into it. The observations of interactions between people fascinate me, and this particular group had a few real characters. The “lab” of human interaction is at play, and while it can be challenging, my curiosity typically redeems the discomfort involved.
I typically enjoy interactions 1:1 with people and in small groups, where I feel I am able to focus my sensory “data collection” if you will. I am curious about how my comfort level may evolve over time and with practice. Right now I am allowing for the learning, as challenging as it is, and being patient with my discomfort. It is all part of the growth process, and for that I am grateful.
I received some excellent feedback from a few people who received my draft consulting values “manifesto” so this is actually a revised version of the draft. Thank you to all who commented on the Core Values write-up I posted on Friday. I am refining that as I go to hone in on those particular areas of practice where I can add the most value.
Consulting Values mini-manifesto
Diversity drives innovation. Period. We have been shown this again and again in the research. There are countless examples of this in business, design, education, customer service, engineering, etc. See the book The Medici Effect if you want to learn more about this principle. Diversity can broadly include gender, age, culture, discipline, expertise, interests, skills, strengths, orientation, and many other dimensions. Your team is enhanced by how inclusive you can be about bringing full engagement of your diverse players.
Women are leaders. This is true in families, communities, business, nonprofits, government and all sectors. One problem is that we have widely associated leadership with a lot of “masculine” qualities. We do not always see the value of collaboration, influencing, building genuine connections and flexibility in thinking. I believe that women already have most of these skills already, and they are skills that can be coached and developed. We have undervalued the skills of half our workforce in encouraging women “act like men” in their leadership styles. Instead we must develop confidence and assurance in our own voices and our own ways of getting work done. Leadership is going to look different than the models we have seen. And that is a GOOD thing! We need that now, more than ever.
Teams are made of individuals with far more talent than we typically use or optimize in their current work roles. While that is a challenge, we can build in better ways to tap that talent, help design workplaces and teams that fully utilize our strengths while maximizing the overall productivity of the team. There is an art to doing this, and there are mindsets which allow us to fully utilize talents. When we think someone is too “junior” to have an impact, we miss the freshness in perspective that person can bring to the work. When we think that we or someone else is too “senior” to have something to learn, we sell ourselves short. This principle is based on the “growth mindset” pioneered by Carol Dweck. It is also based on years and years of research I have done in my own workplaces, witnessing growth of so many people, when given the right conditions and encouragement. I aim to help you maximize the wealth you already have, which already exists within your team.
This is intended to describe the values I bring to my consulting work. Of course I am adding more detail to the consulting “program” and practices I intend to offer. I have time to work that out before I actually will start marketing my time and effort in these areas. But it helps me to write and focus in the places where I feel most passionate and committed. I think the above areas describe that well for now.
Cheers & have a great week! As always, I am happy to receive your comments and feedback.
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.
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!!
–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.
When you start your work day or your work week, do you ever ask yourself: What makes the most sense? It may be a good way to clarify your objective in any given moment or hour of the day.
Do you ever consider what time of the day you work best?
(I am going to answer for myself in the parentheses below the questions: yes, morning. My best work happens before noon.)
Do you plan your time so that (if you are a morning person like me) you accomplish your most important work at that “best time”?
(Yes. Most of the time that works well. In my corporate job, it did not work as well, because I had to be sure to be available to my team at certain times, and morning was the time the most probably intersections.)
Do you spend multiple hours checking and responding to email?
(I used to do this. It took up WAY too much time and required me to refocus far too many times in the day to get to my “deep work” tasks as much as I wanted.)
Are you able to put aside distractions such as social media, email and other items while you are trying to complete your most important work?
(It is truly tempting to have the social media “open” during the work day but I realized this was a recipe for disaster. So now I define times I will do that, usually during a break between harder tasks, before/after lunch break or at the end of the day when my brain is shot anyway.)
These are some questions I am using for my own self-coaching as I begin to work for myself, and launch a successful consulting practice. If they can be helpful to you as well, awesome! If you have some other coaching questions you like to ask yourself for helping to focus on working effective, I would love it if you share them with me.
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).
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?
Today I am going to upgrade my personal phone from a non-smart device (yes, it had an old-fashioned slide-out keyboard) to an iPhone 8. Yes, I know: it’s time to get out of the stone ages. Isn’t it cute & quaint though? 🙂
Since I have had an iPhone for work, I have not felt the need to upgrade my personal technology. It was adequate – I could text and call, but I did not really need it, and since I am pretty frugal about my utility bills, I did not want to pay for an unnecessary data plan. But now that I’m 5 weeks out from leaving my corporate job, it is time to upgrade and get all of my important data and contacts migrated over.
It’s such a pain though, isn’t it? That is the reason I have not yet done it. Every time I upgrade to a new platform, I seem to lose 10-20% of the useful stuff. I really want to preserve my meditation app, Insight Timer, but I am trying to figure out if I can move it from the work phone to the personal. I guess I probably need to connect my iTunes app to my personal email rather than my work.
Seems like this process could take a lot of steps. Oy.
Well, I have real work to do this morning, and I will spend the afternoon on figuring out my tech upgrade. It makes sense that I give myself the proper time to adjust to the new system, figure out how it works, and make sure I’ve got what I need well in advance of my exit timeline.
I’m gonna keep this post short because I want to devote time to wrapping work things up before the weekend. If you have any advice on upgrading platforms, or migrating things (like my Audible App or the Podcasts App) so you do not lose things that you use all the time, please let me know!
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!