How do you show up?

How do you show up every day?

I was in Mexico this week to interview candidates for an open position on my team. The first candidate showed up a few minutes early, presented well, and I liked him. My colleague was assisting me on the interviews. We conducted the first half of the hour in Spanish and then, as my colleague had to excuse herself for another meeting, we spoke mostly in English. The candidate kept up and was very engaged in the discussion. I liked him right away and could visualize him being successful in the role.

Delusional kitty

The second candidate did not show up. Fifteen minutes after the interview was scheduled to begin, I asked HR if they had confirmed she would attend. When they tried to call her to find out if there was an emergency or she was running late, she did not answer. I found myself annoyed, but since I had some extra time to work, I finished up a few pending items on my laptop.

The third candidate was not due until 3:30 p.m. and since lunches tend to be on the later side here, I walked outside to lunch with 2 colleagues and were away from the office from about 1:15-2:30. I had a chance to visit with my local CRS and the clinical quality person for a while and finished more work.

At 3:25 HR dropped by to tell me the candidate had called to say she was in a meeting that ran over, but she could be at the interview 30 minutes late if I was still open to receive her. I told her yes. I appreciated the courtesy of the call. True, she probably should have scheduled more time between meetings or scheduled a later interview. But I am human, and I sometimes over-schedule my calendar. I appreciated at least her call and the option to reschedule or to meet her same day.

The interview itself started at 4 p.m. I was pretty tired at that point, and since I had not slept so well the night before (early morning insomnia) I was a lot less focused and engaged overall. My colleague who was helping had skipped lunch and was pretty tired, so we did not present or ask questions in an organized way. I liked this candidate. She was conversational and friendly, but I really was much less focused and present at that hour of the day. So I was less attentive to her answers.

Muerte con colores

The next morning, reflecting on the day yesterday, I was disappointed in how I showed up for that second candidate. True, she was late. And I shifted my schedule for her and my colleague had to stay later than she had planned as well. But I wish I had been able to give her the energy I had for the first candidate of the day. In my own mind, when I compare the two he stood out. But I was fresh then, and I was engaged in carefully understanding his answers to questions (especially since the first half was in Spanish so I had to listen closely).

I started considering what it means to truly “show up” for the work we do every day. How do we show up at our best for what we do? I know for me, I am better when I have had adequate rest, some quiet time in the morning for reflection, meditation and perhaps writing in my journal. Sometimes I have had time for a quick 20-30 minute run. Other times sleep beckons more than my need for exercise.

By the the end of the day, typically after about 3 or 4 p.m. my attention wanes. On a typical day, I make my list of tasks I will tackle in the morning when I am fresh and full of energy. I know this about myself, that I have always been a morning person.  From the time I was a baby my Mom told me that I was all smiles in the morning, happy to greet the day. This has carried over into my adulthood. My husband knows after about 8 or 9 p.m. I am “toast” in terms of brain power.

I am trying to make a decision on whether to extend an offer to one of the candidates that actually showed up for the interview yesterday. My own bias is toward the first one, but I am mistrustful of that bias. For one, I showed up fully for his interview in a way that I simply did not have the energy to do for the late-in-the-day appointment. Another: I am not sure he would be a great fit, he was just the best of the short-listed candidates HR had brought forward.

Rey at Target display

Clinical research is demanding and the medical device field requires a substantial amount of training before a CRS can be fully functioning in their role. It takes 12-18 months of focused training due to the contacts and networks you must develop to be effective. So every hiring decision is a serious one, and should not be taken casually.

I was first hired here as a contract employee. I worked for two years without benefits or paid vacation time. But there was value to figuring out whether I was a “fit” for this employer and for my department. It took me at least 3 months to figure that out as I was learning my role. I wish employers could more often have at least a 2-4 month period before making a longer term offer.

Once your employer sees you “showing up” day after day and getting the work done, actively learning and making contacts within the organization, it is easier to evaluate  long term fit. Interviews are typically 1-2 hours when you can put your best foot forward. While they are an important first step, they are an incomplete view at best. I will make a decision after thinking through the needs of the office, and my other employee already in Mexico.

You might consider asking yourself now and then:

How do you show up (at your best) in your interactions with people? Are there ways you can be more fully present in what you do? What difference would that make?

connection

 

 

Animal magnetism

Last week while in Miami for work, I was sitting in the courtyard of the hotel, visiting with the facilitator (“G”) we had worked with during our team meeting. We were reflecting on the week, and on our sense of how things had resolved themselves, or in some cases, not resolved. I was feeling a little disappointed with my part in the meeting, a little critical of not being able to bring us to closure in the way I had hoped. We had intended to remove things from the team’s responsibilities and focus in on critical tasks that differentiate our team from others at the company.

Instead I found myself shaking my head at tasks being added to my team’s responsibilities. I had openly reflected out loud this concern during the conclusion of our meeting. As the operational manager for that group, I have responsibility for making sure we deliver on our commitments. But I felt we had set the group up with more, not less. This had been the problem in the first place, and I had hoped we could solve it.

Lizard in courtyard

While in this state of contemplation and self-doubt, “G” and I noticed a tiny little reptile, adorable in her fine detail, approaching us with quick little darts in the courtyard. I pulled out my phone to capture her, slowly and gradually, not wanting to scare her off. I was delighted with her perfect tiny features, and wanted to share this little creature with my husband when I returned home. He is what I call an “animal magnet.” Animals of all kinds: dogs, cats, birds, and other creatures, seem to gravitate toward him as though he possesses some special energy, something they crave. In our household, this could be because he feeds our furry felines every time I travel, so they know they are dependent on his attention. However, it happens with other creatures too, our neighbors’ pets, the cats and dogs of family and friends, and farm animals.

I have always appreciated this affinity he has for nearly every kind of creature he encounters. I consider it a great gift and a great comfort to me, that animals trust him. He is kind, and has a gentle heart, and I am convinced that they are able to sense it. Certainly it is one reason I believe we bonded so strongly when we first met.

Lizard hello

For a few moments the facilitator and I watched this tiny creature, as it darted again, then poised briefly on the edge of my foot. I was amazed! I sat there breathless, trying not to move or react, since I never have had such an adorable miniature lizard perched on me like this.

I remarked to G that this was unusual and that it reminded me of the principle that neuroscientists explain to us, about our “two brains.” We have primitive part of our brain, the amygdala, which responds instinctively to situations. It is fast, it is built for survival and it is one great reason we are alive today, as individuals, and humanity in general. When it comes to fear or danger, this “reptilian brain” rapidly signals to the thalamus that action is needed. In only 12 milliseconds, this trigger is activated, and we are able to do what is necessary in the situation.

The other part of our brain, fairly well-developed in humans, is the neo-cortex, also known as the frontal cortex. It has a remarkable ability to acknowledge fear and name it, but it responds slower than the amygdala, in about 25 milliseconds. That may not seem like much, but the emotional response triggered by the amygdala has already begun triggering the “fear response” which is the body’s physical response to the stimulus, emotional and visceral, ready for fight, flight or freeze. When we truly are in danger, we do not have time to consider your options for long. We must act, run or hide, and this perfectly adaptable. Our brain is very efficient gets the job done.

Humans (and mammals generally) evolved other areas as well that are critical to their survival, particularly in developing connection to others and a sense of belonging. We have mechanisms for building our social connections, for developing trust and living in community. Dogs have these as well. They are pack animals. Cats live in prides (in the wild), and other mammals and birds live in groups, often critical to their survival.

As humans we have the privilege of making conscious choices about who we invite to be part of our tribes. Sometimes we must accommodate, at work or in other groups, where we are asked to interact with those we do not necessarily enjoy. But it is still a choice, and we can do this grudgingly, joyfully or even neutrally, when our neo-cortex runs the show. When our amygdala is particularly active, however, these interactions are not as productive or fruitful. Without trust, there is little ability to quiet that inner lizard that is yelling (internally) “run away! run away!”

Lizard comfy

But when we have the resources, sometimes time or shared experience with other individuals or groups, we can more easily calm this fear response. As we move through the world, we develop some intuition about which people can be trusted, and which ones might require some “reserve” so we protect ourselves. This is necessary and allows for preservation of safety. But it can also be limiting when we are armored up all the time. As a woman, I completely relate to this tendency. I long to be open, to trust and to invite others to do the same. I also know that people can take advantage of this openness at times, and it is okay and reasonable to protect myself.

Openness is magnetic, in a very visceral way. Vulnerability, when shared judiciously, can open up possibilities in other people as well as ourselves. It is not weakness, to acknowledge places we have struggled, or ways in which we failed. It takes enormous courage to do this, and to invite others to know our humanity. Brené Brown reminds us: “Courage is contagious. Every time we choose courage, we make everyone around us a little better and the world a little braver.”

That little lizard on my foot found a warm spot, and she knew I was no danger to her. She perched for a few minutes, and eventually darted off again while I delighted in this tiny lesson. In that moment I realized that my little lizard is always with me, but she can calmly sit even in uncertain conditions, waiting for the next indication of when it is time to move forward. That is what has kept her alive, and will allow her to thrive.

 

Renewal and reconnection

I have returned for another team meeting to realize (once again) that in person connection tends to renew my spirit and my ability to continue moving forward in a role that I often find difficult. My team members are good people, kind people, and I like them on a personal level. Even though we go out to dinner WAY too late for my taste and I end up sleep-deprived due to the much later schedule while I am here, I am grateful to reconnect with my colleagues.

While I know I will have to make some difficult choices in the future, and I will need to move on to a role that is more sustainable, it really is nice to be part of a team that looks out for one another. Latino culture is very family-oriented and relationship-oriented. In my last 10 years of working in this department, I certainly have expanded my view of the cultural significance of relationships.

connection

Growing up in the Midwest I realize that sometimes we are more insular in the way we embrace our family but (somewhat) distrust outsiders. But while I am more “minnesotana” than “mexi” most of the time, my colleagues have embraced me as part of their tribe. They have welcomed me into this “work family” and I am so grateful to have had the privilege to be part of this team.

While it does not change my intention to move to a different role in 6-12 months, it does give me renewed purpose toward the meeting ahead. It reminds me that I want to make development a priority and make sure I am delivering on my commitments to my team.

Onward.