Archive for June, 2018|Monthly archive page

2nd Quarter Report Card

As you may recall, I have been working on a weekly posting goal all year, plus a commitment to positivity and some other personal growth goals. At the end of March, I posted my Q1 report card. As I said then, these goals and the effort to achieve them are for me, and this report card is an accountability device that helps keep me motivated. But because the objective is entirely personal, I try to be fair, yet generous, with myself when rating my performance. Last quarter I got all A’s and made the honor roll. I also set some stretch goals to keep me from resting on my laurels.

So let’s see how I did in Q2. I’ll be grading on three main topics (Weekly Posting, Creativity/Nurturing My Spirit, and Work-Life Balance) plus the stretch goals (More Substantive Blog Posts, Practice New Sand Casting Skill, and More IRL Socializing) on an A through F scale.

Q2 2018 Report Card:

Weekly Posting: A

Substantive Posts: D

I’ve kept the posting streak alive and I’m proud of that. But this quarter I had a lot of fluffy, list-y, place-holder posts. And there was the unintentional teasing of a weighty, substantive post about gender issues that mostly fizzled. While I did do a fairly substantive post on the general subject, it wasn’t the post I wanted to write. I know I can do better. So A on the main goal, but a nearly fail on the stretch goal.

Creativity/Nurturing My Spirit: A

Practice Sand Casting: F

This main goal, being a compound topic, is inherently squishy when it comes to ratings. My objective was as to encourage a bit of self-focus, self-care. That’s a struggle for me in a lot of ways, but it’s an important antidote to the stress I deal with in my job. So, the way I see it, anything that makes my heart lighter counts for this goal. And although I have not practiced sand casting even once this quarter, I did a lot to make my heart happy. The big one was getting to give an epic gift to my brother and sister in law. That was a month ago and we’re all still floating in the clouds with delight over it. Several other small gestures of kindness, both given and received, add to this tally. So I’m giving my self an A for Spirit Nurturing, but a big ol’ F for actual practice on sand casting.

Work/Life Balance: B

IRL Socializing: F

Being social is just hard. For me, anyway. I find crowds exhausting and small talk insipid. My small pool of friends are all very kind to accommodate these personality flaws and don’t demand a lot from me socially. But I really have to get better at this. I’m doing fairly well with keeping up with our monthly supper club outings and joining in when unscheduled gatherings happen. I’ve been to my family’s studio a few times to hang out, and even went out with a couple of friends this past weekend. But I’m not finding new friends and I’m not initiating the outings, usually. And my most frequent interactions with people other than family or work colleagues is still via text. So, a solid B on the main goal, but an F for the stretch goal of seeking out IRL social contact.

So, overall, I’d say I’m passing, but not honor roll this quarter. I’m going to keep the same goals and stretch goals for next quarter and see if I can’t get back on the Dean’s List. 😁

I hope your summer is full of fun and satisfying personal accomplishment. Be well, my friends.

Owie

Ok, I’ll own that I’m a wuss and have a low threshold for pain. But, just as it’s completely possible for the paranoid to actually be the target of people out to get them, even wusses can feel when something really hurts. And this does.

The anesthetic hasn’t even worn off from the first of three oral surgeries in Butch’s Summer of Dental Fun, but I already feel the throbbing. In the immortal words of Han Solo: I have a bad feeling…about how much this is gonna hurt when the numb wears off!

So I’m gonna indulge in a little self care: jammies, soup, Tylenol, an early night and a 3-day weekend.

Be well, my friends.

Sartorial Positives

Today begins the penultimate work week of the second quarter, and the overbearing, unreasonable and unrealistic demands from the sales organization have already (at half past 7am) made this a long, exhausting week. So, I’m looking for fun, light, happy things to take my mind out of the negative space it’s threatening to slip into.

One thing that always makes me happy is looking sharp. I don’t always have the highest self image. But being clean, well groomed, and dressed in clothes that validate my identity always picks me up.

Last week I got new bow ties for the first time in ages. It’s so fun to get packages in the mail and even better when they feel like a surprise because they arrive more quickly than expected.

These are gonna be fun to wear! I’m wearing the fun socks today. Excited to sport the blue diamond tie tomorrow!

Bonus: They’re from the Jesse Tyler Ferguson Tie The Knot program at the Tie Bar. Affordable and a fun, easy way to contribute to the fight for equality.

I hope you all have a great week and find comfort and positivity in your wardrobes.

Inglorious Leadership

I’ve written in the past about the hard part of being the boss, the dark side of being ‘in charge’. Making hard decisions for your team, even sacrificing some personal dignity for the greater good of the organization can feel pretty bad and take a toll on your spirit. But there’s another dimension of the dark side of leadership that has been mercifully rare in my career: helping to make hard choices for someone else’s team.

My role often includes unenviable tasks, such as delivering bad news to executives, and bringing a tempering influence to ill-considered proposals. But I do not normally have to be involved in the emotionally-charged decisions other leaders have to make with regard to their employees. I’m thankful that most of those get dealt with by HR, not by me or my Legal team.

But given my tenure of 18+ years, the odds were against my lucky streak lasting and today the streak broke. And because the universe does nothing in my life by half-measures, it broke twice in the same day. First, I got stuck in the middle of a disagreement between two leaders of separate functional organizations over appropriate crisis management communication and had to play peacemaker in order to break the stalemate. Then, one of our senior executives asked me to participate in the process of disciplining a colleague, another senior leader in a different department who is my peer and someone with whom I frequently collaborate.

Neither occurrence was particularly traumatic. Both were handled respectfully and with tact. Still, the tension and angst produced by unexpectedly having to participate in adversarial process within my own organization was intense. In a way, it speaks pretty highly of my colleagues and our company that this was the first occasion when circumstances required this type of intervention by me. Even discounting the first ten years of my career with this company in which I was an individual contributor staff attorney, it is remarkable that in the last eight years in my various leadership roles I have never been called on to address similar tensions.

Yet, despite that positive spin on this rarity, I can’t help acknowledging that the experience was unpleasant and unsettling.

Mediating disagreement is familiar. It’s part and parcel of negotiation and deal-making. But the nuance that makes this different in my mind is that the stand-off occurred between people who are supposed to be on the same side, people with whom I’ve stood shoulder-to-shoulder battling back the forces set against our company’s interests. Witnessing these same professionals square off with one another struck a clanging, discordant note in my otherwise harmonious working environment. Finding myself in the middle between them, having to work hard to persuade them back to cooperating for the good of the company, forcing me to be a decision-maker where I normally only advise, was wrong on every level. It tested parts of my leadership skill set in ways I never expected.

Then I was called upon to not merely provide constructive feedback about a fellow leader, but to essentially provide testimony that would be used in a decision making process that could potentially end in my colleague’s dismissal. That was a singularly uncomfortable conversation. I found that it tested my ability to balance candor with tact and honesty with empathy. Ultimately, it pitted my commitment to corporate interests against my instinct of loyalty to a friend.

And that’s the dark side of being a leader, of being in a position to counsel and influence. Maintaining your personal integrity – not taking an “easy” way out to avoid discomfort and conflict, not compromising truth for the sake of placidity even if it means someone you like suffers the consequences of their actions – that’s the gritty, indecorous, inglorious aspect of leadership.

I’ve faced it plenty of times with respect to my own employees and my own department. It wasn’t fun, but I understood it to be a necessary part of leading my organization. And in those instances I could bear the discomfort because it was, at its core, constructive and finite. It felt ten times worse today because the issues weren’t with my people and my lack of control over the tension made it hard to feel confident that it was constructive or finite. Instead, it felt like being an accidental witness to a private argument or a tender moment between strangers – wrong and icky.

Thankfully, the warring colleagues called a truce and returned to being collaborators, working the problem instead of pointing fingers. Also on the plus side, the executive evaluating my colleague for discipline committed to giving them an opportunity to improve before termination. It’ll be a lot of work in a short time frame, but it’s a genuine chance to save their job.

So the peacemaking and critiquing has a valuable purpose. My uncomfortable lesson in painful workplace growth was worth it.

Let’s hear it for the list!

I’m determined to keep my posting streak alive. I’m also battling a bout of writers block and fatigue. So, I’ll rely on a list to keep it going. Here are some good little things I’ll share this week:

  1. Ocean’s 8 opened this week. Awesome heist flick and it’s all women power all the time. Fun and exactly what I wanted in a summer pic. Cate Blanchett is everything.
  2. 3 cheers for air conditioning! Got ours fixed this week after over two weeks without it. Can’t overstate how pleased I am to have it back.
  3. I’m obsessed with Battle Bots. It’s such geeky, aggressive, tech gore-filled fun. It’s a bucket list wish to see it in person one day. I’m thankful for my DVR, so I can binge-watch a bunch of battles at the weekend.
  4. The motor home is still a huge hit. All their friends have oohed and ahhhed over it. I’m enjoying every story about their plans and preparation for the upcoming road trip to the grandkids. This has turned out to be the funnest gift I’ve ever given because it’s been as much fun to watch my brother and sister-in-law discover the joys of it as they have had in finding them.
  5. I’m preparing for some oral surgery this summer. I’ve been really nervous about it. But the surgeon I’ve got is a great person. She took the time listen to my concerns, as well as to explain the treatment plan to help calm those fears. I’m glad I found someone who makes me feel confident about something as scary as this.

Short list of some positive little things in my life this week. I hope you’re finding lots of good things in your summer.

On Exhaustion

From the random thoughts pile: If energy is neither created nor lost, but simply transformed from one state to another, what does it take to transform enough energy from the nebulous ‘other states’ to fuel a person through a full work week such that the entirety of the weekend isn’t lost to ‘battery recharging’?

Friends, I’m tired. Seems like I get enough sleep – about 6.5 to 7 hours each night. I certainly get enough to eat and it’s mostly good, nourishing, and prepared by the hands of others. I even get leisure time to read or watch tv from time to time. But at the end of every 55-60 (average) hour work week, all I seem to be able to do is sleep in and be lazy.

Of course, the knee-jerk response I get when musing on this aloud among friends or family, is: you’re getting old, just accept it.

I reject that premise. Age doesn’t scare me and I’m not ashamed of my age. I don’t feel old or world-weary. I feel tired, not old or past usefulness. Tired, as in if I sit still for too long I fall asleep, kind of tired. As in, I seem to yawn my head off constantly, kind of tired.

But I don’t have a physically demanding job to explain the exhaustion. I use my brain, not my back, as my grandmother used to exhort me to do. I just don’t understand how thinking and reasoning and arguing positions and negotiating outcomes, all in the comfort of a climate-controlled, well appointed office can induce such deep and lasting exhaustion.

Feels bad to be this tired and not be able to explain it. Especially when others close to me do work physically and for similarly long hours. I know, intellectually, that comparison of such disparate jobs is invalid. But I can’t help thinking that exhaustion from physical work is earned, whereas intellectual labor should be invigorating rather than draining.

I still love my job, though. It’s gratifying to achieve goals and help a good company grow. It’s a blessing for which I’m thankful. I just wish I understood why it makes me so tired.

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