Bienvenidos a México

I am in Mexico City today to conduct three interviews for our clinical research specialist opening in the local office here. I also get to visit with a colleague who is no longer in my group but is one of my favorite people in my company. I am grateful for this opportunity to connect with her, and she agreed to help with the interviews.

It will be a busy Tuesday but I wanted to check in and say: if you have never been to a big city that is constantly alive and awake, come to Mexico City. You think New York City has options? Pshaw! It has nothing on this city. I’m serious! I am in Colonia Napoles which is a nice part of the city, near where my office is located, and the neighborhood of Frida Kahlo, apparently.

novit chocolates
Look at this adorable little bag of chocolates from the hotel. I know, I get excited about small things. But it’s the little things that make me happy, you know?

I started reflecting on the fact that having a U.S. passport is a privilege I should not take for granted. Then I started thinking of all the potential leadership development projects I could undertake with various Mexicanas and other Latinas I know. I got really excited thinking about this possibility and a little chill down my spine.

Oh, I have to pay attention to those signs. And I do. It is good right now that I have a job that affords me the luxury of traveling down here. I do not take that for granted. I’m starting to re-frame what I am doing and think about other ways I can execute my personal life goals in a way that is meaningful to me.

Cheers & have a great week. If you love Mexico as much as I do, check out my previous post on this topic which has better pics. Adios, amigos/as!

Woman as Creator

There is a funny lyric in an Ani diFranco song that I like in her latest album from the song (alrighty):

next time i watch a man give birth
i’ll try to picture the creator as a dude with a beard
’cause right now i gotta say it’s seemin’ kind of weird

Ani Difranco Binary
Album cover from Binary

When we make a meal for our families, it is work. But it is also creation. It is making something out of other raw materials. It is a sacred and ordinary act. And yet, it is de-valued, and trivialized as “women’s work” so often.

What if we saw each act of caring for another human being as an act of creation? What if we considered our interactions with other people as a way to “create” an experience? How might this change our view of being a Creator?

What if we play with the notion that to create is human? To clean one’s space and arrange one’s home is to create an experience for oneself and one’s living companions.

I am not a fan of cleaning. I dislike it, actually. Right now I pay for the privilege of cleaning help once a month. Usually what happens before each cleaning is that I scramble about our rented townhome and spend time de-cluttering and putting things away, sorting and organizing.

I always saw home-caring as an unsavory burden, something that recalls times when my Mom asked me to clean my room. Usually I would go upstairs, begin the process, and then find a book that had been buried in a pile, and start reading.

Hours later, Mom would check on my progress. I had often finished the book and totally forgotten about cleaning my room. Dear Mother: thank you for your patience in raising me. I have been truly blessed.

When I consider that cooking and cleaning are acts of love for ourselves, and for the people who live with us, it creates less resistance for me. I used to joke that I refuse to conform to a “Latina stereotype” and therefore I calmly refuse to clean up after others. I have been in long-term relationships (one was an 8-year marriage) with men who loved to cook for a reason: I had no intention of carrying that load.

J Lo cleaning
Photo credit: http://www.dailymail.co.uk

These days I am attempting to clean and organize my space because I would like to set up a true “office” at home. Right now my dear husband has ceded the dining room to my home office. But someday I would like to use it as a dining room again.

This means that I will spend time clearing out the spare room and fully cleaning and de-cluttering it. The job is intimidating to me, I admit. I have an interest in minimalism, and I completely cleaned out the closet in my spare room in the Spring of 2017.

Then Summer in Minnesota arrived, and with it, the desire to spend far more time outside, as is appropriate and necessary for a cold-weather people. No regrets on this, none whatsoever. But I am far from achieving a more minimalist ideal.

Now that winter has arrived, with it a bit of snow, and a desire for warm drinks and inside time, I will recommit to the KonMari effort I started back in the Spring. I am letting go again, and clearing space in my home and in my consciousness for the next “big thing.”

Returning to the original theme of this post: think of all the ways in your life that women are creators. For me, I realize I am the creator of my own life, and of my own experience. If I do not like where it is going, I have the power to change it. I can choose different actions, and create different results.

Mother creator
Photo credit link

Women have always been Creators, giving birth not only to babies but to new ideas, to different ways of working in the world. Given that so many have been responsible for the care of our families, with or without mates to share the load, we are by nature creative and innovative.

When we fully own that creativity, and celebrate it, we begin to create great change in the world. We refuse to be caged in a reality that undervalues women. We begin to understand that our value comes from our own sense of worthiness, and that nobody’s opinion of us is more valid than our own belief in our efficacy.

Women of the world, we are Creators. Do not deny it. The world needs what we are willing to share. Let us have the courage not to worry about the “messiness” that occurs in the process of creation. Let us instead embrace the satisfaction we can take in truly owning our creative natures.

 

 

Fun with WordPress formats

This week I am experimenting with different WordPress formats. It is surprisingly easy to build a website on WordPress because the templates for layouts are super easy to use. You can import custom graphics and manipulate the widgets for pages very easily.

Even though this is not intended to be an ad for their service, you seriously want to check out what they have to offer if you have ever considered starting a blog or launching a web site.

I may change it up now and then to see how the different elements enhance the overall readability of my site. I appreciate it if you message me and let me know what you think as I figure out the “tech” side of this creative endeavor.

Cheers!

I write for me, not for you

If you get some value out of what I write, then it is a bonus.

But I write this blog for me, not for you. That probably sounds selfish, doesn’t it? Yes, I agree. I used to think blogging was the most selfish, narcissistic thing to do. Probably roots back to a decade ago when I lived with someone who blogged three days a week and had difficulty keeping a day job.

He was pretty selfish and narcissistic, come to think of it. Hmm. I now forgive him for the ways in which he took advantage of my kindness, and I appreciate what I learned in the process.

Some people like to talk, and like to hear themselves talk. It gives them comfort when words spout out of their mouths, and they get to “be” out in the world in this way.

Some of us prefer to write, and it gives us comfort when words spill out onto the page or a screen. But it is not so much about “being” in the world, as it is a way to figure out what we really think, what we really want.

What is the difference, then? As an introvert, I prefer the latter. I used to work for a boss that told me she figured out what she wanted to do by bouncing ideas off someone out loud. It was a way of brainstorming and getting to a solution.

Once I truly understood her process, and that it was enormously helpful to her, I could stop running off and trying to implement all of the ideas that flowed out of her like a fountain.

For me, an introvert, I like to let words flow out on paper, or leak out from my fingertips onto my screen. Then I can go back and edit, select, revise and “mine for meaning.” I accept the concept of shitty rough drafts – thank you my dear Anne Lamott.

Not all words are precious, and the majority of them are not. (Thank you, Liz Gilbert.) But words can be a process for us, a way to dig down into the marrow of a situation, really an exploration and an excavation. The provide clues to what we desire and our buried hopes and dreams can re-emerge this way.

Decision fatigue

Other creative media can do this too. Sometimes I engage in whatI call “color work” with my pastels and sheets of newsprint paper. It involves choosing colors I want to work with, using broad strokes on the page, and then smearing the colors with my hands and fingers in a way that is pleasing to the sensations in my fingers.

Writing (in black and white) seldom provides this pleasing sensation. Though it comes much more easily to me than “color work,” my right brain yearns to play with my left brain sometimes. When I indulge it, my soul seems to reward me with deeper insight now and then. When I hear an internal dialogue about how I am not an artist, or that people would laugh at me if they could see this, I quiet that critic and realize it is not about them, it is about me.

It is about bringing my whole self to more of my daily life, my logical parts and my creative parts. It is about bringing the inner fountain to outer manifestations. When we generate and create a lot of ideas, a lot of them will be crap. No worries, mate. That is the nature of ideation and innovation. A few of them might be decent, and maybe a tiny number of them will be brilliant.

But the practice of generating and letting those ideas loose? That is where the magic lies. It is the flow and the discipline of doing this every day, or every Saturday, or twice a day or whatever your preferred rhythm.

This is what brings me joy these days, creating color work that nobody will ever see, and generating words and ideas that please me, or sometimes challenge and annoy me. What a gift, the privilege of doing this. I am eternally grateful that this universe has seen fit to grant me this opportunity, as I know not everyone has as much freedom to do the same.

May you write and read for you, dear reader. If it touches others in some way, invites them to do the same, may we celebrate this incredible privilege together.

 

 

When work is play

Today I am working on a Saturday to prepare for a workshop that I will be co-facilitating on Monday with a favorite colleague. It will be a 2-hour session on “Innovation Jams, Design Thinking and the Medici Effect” with 16 students, mostly engineers and program managers at our company. The workshop filled up fast and apparently there are actually a few more people on the waiting list who had planned to take it as well.

I am so excited about this opportunity and the fact that I get to offer this type of workshop. The idea came about when we were brainstorming how to spread the word about how to use design thinking for every day problems, and how diversity drives innovation. It is a message that resonates with me, and I have so many stories and examples of how opening up to the “intersections” in our lives, whether cultural, or between fields or between genders, actually changes how we think.

In order to open up our creativity and to begin to invent novel solutions to problems, we must be willing to go beyond conventional thinking. Since our brains tend to resist that process, and are much more comfortable doing things as we have always done them, there are some tools and strategies we can use. One is to pay attention to what is happening around us and to notice things. Another is to talk with people who are different from us, who may have other perspectives. Yet another is to assemble teams from diverse backgrounds in order to solve problems. My favorite way is to PLAY! Do art, work with colors, play-act, do improve, and just have some fun. It is good for your brain.

Art store spree
Blick art materials – today’s spree for materials at our workshop

All of these are fairly simple and low cost, but yet they yield enormous benefits. I work in a very large medical device and health care solutions company that has big ambitions. My worry is that we are TOO BIG and the bureaucracy to get just simple things done is killing us. I think that stifles innovation, when we are weighed down by big systems that keep slowing things down. But I also want to help people find creative ways around this problem, because the mission of the company aligns with my personal goals.  There are a lot of brilliant scientists and engineers working there. I would love to help them find a way to tap into their best thinking to design products and services for patients around the world.

I often say when I am working on these types of “special projects” which are technically outside my job scope as a clinical research manager, that this work feels like play. I got to go to the art supply store and pick up an assortment of fun crafty items, so we can have the class members actually build physical prototypes to represent the solutions they create. Using tactile materials can help stimulate creativity, especially for those of us so used to working with ideas, words, and paper all day. I had a blast picking out various items that I thought our class could use. It truly felt like play, as it does when I work on design for these type of events.

How fortunate I am to be able to do this kind of work. Yes, I still have a pile of other things to do for my “real” job that I will have to catch up on as a result of spending more time on this. But what a privilege it is to get to do work that feels like play for some of my days. Namaste, friends. Hope you have plenty of time to play this weekend!

Leaders as Multipliers

A week ago I applied for a position as a “Leadership Development Facilitator” at my company. Because hiring can be slow at my very large company, I am not expecting to hear anything back in the next 2-4 weeks. The position had been posted since May, but there have been various hiring freezes where I work, so I am fairly certain they are holding the line on hiring until the end of the quarter (October).

Throughout my life, I have had many experiences in leadership, and I feel I could contribute to the development of other leaders at my company. Given my unique perspective, as an operations manager in an international clinical research organization, my approach may be different than others in this role. I sure hope I get the chance to interview for the position. Given that it required someone who had second language skills (in Spanish, Chinese, Japanese, German or French) and the requirements, I think it may be hard for them to locate the right talent for the role.

I have an urge to market myself for this job though. There would be a lot of presentation and group facilitation work required, using both “off the shelf” and custom designed content. I would be working with managers, directors and possibly VP level leaders to help them develop skills to be better leaders. I would be coaching, using active facilitation techniques, possibly managing virtual classrooms. I would need to maintain energy, engagement and effectiveness in learning content delivery for programs that span 3 to 5 days in duration. Some parts of the job description scare the pants off me (like that last one)! 

I am an introvert and I require a lot of personal time, solitude and time away from people to bring my “best game” to those interactions I have at work. In the past few years, I really have stretched myself in that way, stepping outside my comfort zone, and advocating for my team, and for ideas that matter to me. Actually I tested as an extrovert on the MBTI for the first time in my life last year (though very much in the middle between I and E). All of my previous personality tests have shown introversion (though I am kind of in the middle), so what was my reaction? The test is WRONG! I know I am an introvert, and my personality has not changed.

The role I am in now, and the need to interact with others in different business units, countries, geographic units, and functions requires me to do a lot of work with others. So even though I strongly identify as an introvert, I tell people that “I play an extrovert at work.” I am in meetings for ~40-60% of my days, depending on the particular week. While that is not ideal, I know I can do it.  And the biggest part of my desire to do LD facilitation is what I can learn from the leaders who will come through the programs. I view all work as a “learning lab” in which we can practice skills and constantly learn from other smart people around us. 

multipliers

As I manager, I strive to be a Multiplier, because I know that is the best way to help my team members develop, and to get them to bring forth their best thinking. What if I could help other leaders within my company learn how to better leverage their people-power to achieve their goals and continue to cultivate a learning environment? I get totally jazzed when I think about that. Last week, at our Science and Technology conference, I was reminded of how many brilliant scientists and engineers work for this company. Even though part of me fantasizes about self-employment and a life outside the corporate world, another part of me really wants to make a difference within this organization. Plus, my hubby wants to buy a house in a couple of years. So you know, financial security seems like a wise choice as a newly married chica.

The best leaders keep moving forward, despite challenges, despite some internal doubts they may have. They try to find the best people for any job that needs to be done, and make sure they support people rather than getting in the way. The best leaders are able to communicate a vision for the future and also keep people grounded in the reality of today. The best leaders do not disparage others, or try to blame other people for their own failings. The best leaders take full responsibility for their mistakes, take good care of their employees, and make sure that people do not suffer for being courageous. I strive to be one of these leaders in the company where I am, and I do my best to live up to that idea. I know I do not always succeed, but I am committed to getting better at it, and to lift others up around that can be great leaders as well.

What is your vision of a great leader? I would love it if you let me know in the comments. Thanks in advance for what you are willing to share.