Archive for the ‘positivity’ Tag

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.

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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.

Little Things

Fast list-y post to keep the streak going. Here are a few little good things that have made me smile this week:

  1. It’s a short work week. It’s already Wednesday, y’all!
  2. My SIL’s peonies are in bloom. Cut and standing tall in a glass cylinder in my living room, their fragrance makes my house feel like a Spring garden.
  3. Light, cozy mystery stories with silly premises, but great prose, make a few stolen moments of quiet feel like a vacation.
  4. Friends, old and new, who share their joys and sorrows and join in yours – they are priceless treasures.
  5. Shade trees full of emerald green leaves standing tall over lawns of lush grass and beds of colorful blooms.

I hope your week is full of little delights that make it easier to shrug off the daily annoyances.

Epic Day!

Not only is this the first Saturday of Summer (unofficially, I guess) and it was suitably hot and sunny, but today was the culmination of a 6+ month long labor of love that ended in an incredibly awesome experience. 

This year marks my brother and sister-in-law’s 40th wedding anniversary. They are two of the most amazing people I know. Generous, kind and hard-working are words that only describe some of their best qualities. They’re not perfect, but they work hard at being good people and loving of their family and friends. 

Because they’re so dear to us all, our family (our older brother and his wife, my nephew and his wife and daughter, my niece and her son, and me)  surprised them with the gift of a motorhome. It’s been a dream of theirs for decades. We thought this a fitting gift for commemorating their forty years together and honoring their loving kindness to all of us. And it’s just in time for their summer road trip to see the grandkids.

The surprise was epic! At first they thought the RV with a bow on it parked next to our house was part of the massive graduation party going on next door. But when my brother asked if it was mine, and I said “Nope, it’s yours”, the stunned surprise on their faces was priceless! It was so fun to watch them explore it, exclaiming over all the fun little features and neat gadgets it contains. Though it is not brand new and will likely take effort to learn to operate it well, they love it!

I’m bursting with happiness that we were able to do something so delightful for people who have worked so hard and loved us all so well. 
Be happy, my friends! 

Quick + from a big ol’ –

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I tasked myself with finding at least one good thing whenever I found myself grumbling or focusing on the negatives in any day. Holding myself accountable to that with this quick post. 

Today was a very Monday-ish Monday with many things, big and small, filling up the negative column. One large, hairy, noisy and unpleasant negative was kicked off from a coworker’s I’ll-considered broadcast email that put my team squarely in the crosshairs of a potentially devastating executive team backlash. She has apologized and assured me that that was not in any way her intention. I believe she’s sincere, but her intent is not the actual outcome.  My team and I have to deal with the consequences and I spent way too much time today undoing those consequences. That sucks big time. 

But, there is at least one positive outcome: I exercised an amazing number of diplomacy muscles and have mostly reversed the damage. Also, I had a fairly direct chat with my coworker and shared the consequences with her. She now knows to come to me first before broadcasting something about my team that can be easily misunderstood. So, there’s a positive in the ashes of the negativity bomb. 

Positivity for the win…

Flat out 

I had hoped to write something substantive and post earlier in the week. It just didn’t happen. I’ve been working flat out and just haven’t been able to pull it together. But I’m not going to let my posting goal fall to a busy schedule. 

Here’s a list of good things from this week. Although they are not terribly original, they made me happy and kept my positivity going:

  1. Sunshine! I wore my sunglasses on my drive to work every day this week and three of my drives home. It’s finally, truly Spring and I’m grateful. 
  2. I’m enjoying my work. I’ve done some really difficult, executive-level lawyering this last couple of weeks. And in the middle of it, both my boss and outside counsel have been very complimentary of my work and the logic of my theories and deductions. It’s extremely gratifying when those you respect and admire show equal respect and admiration for you and your work. 
  3. Very glad to be able to celebrate the good fortunes of a couple of friends. One has recently been able to visit her new girlfriend and visit old friends and home places for the first time in ages. Another has a new puppy. It’s really nice to have good news for once, and pleasant to share the happiness with my friends. 
  4. My sister-in-law received some lovely flowers from her kids for Mother’s Day and has shared them with the family. Irises are some of the most lovely blooms of Spring. 
  5. I have been reading for fun again, for the first time in ages. Just silly, fluff novels. Cozy mysteries, mostly. I particularly enjoy the weird and wonderful Aunt Dimity series by Nancy Atherton. They demand very little mentally, yet are delightfully quirky and engaging. 

There are five good things for this week. I hope your week has been just as full of beauty and blessings. 

Grateful 

I’ve written several times about my job. They’ve been mostly positive posts, because my work life is mostly positive. Like all people and all jobs, there are good and bad days, good and not so good people, good and less than good experiences. But, taken as a whole, it’s a positive work life. I know how blessed I am in this respect, because I’ve had really bad jobs, horrible bosses and coworkers, and experiences so negative that I was forced to quit. 

But that’s not this job. This job, at which I’ve spent the last 18 years, is satisfying, challenging, and important. I have a great boss who appreciates me and values my skill and contributions. My team is an engaged, high-performing, cheerful group of skilled professionals. The work we do matters to the success of a good company that provides good products and services. Our solutions provide valuable functionality to people all over the world. And the work my team does is a vital component to making it all work. How satisfying it is to know that the hard, frustrating, crazy-making work and the fun, intriguing, fascinating work has meaning and value in something so important to so many. 

This is a good job and I’m happy to be a part of such a great team. 

So today, I took my entire local team out for lunch to celebrate the milestone anniversaries that will occur this year among them. We cheered for our longest-term colleague who is celebrating her 30th year, and our newest member who has been with us two months today, and everyone in between. Collectively, we have over 150 years of legal experience, which is nothing to sneeze at. 

In the middle of it all it struck me how lucky we are to have built such a great team and how grateful I am for each of them. And I told them so. I thanked them for all their great work and for being such a great team. We laughed and ate and had a great time. Then I gave them all the afternoon off as a treat. It felt really great to be able to do that. 

Just wanted to share that gratitude with all of you. I hope you have abundant reasons to feel grateful today. Have a great weekend, my friends!

Spring!

It’s finally here! There have been three straight days of sunshine and warm breezes. My grass is all green and had it’s first cutting of the season. My pear trees are in bloom and the tulips have begun to open. I’m so happy!

Deep Philosophy in a Fist Fight Among Comic Book Heroes

So I read this article the other day. It’s a fluff piece by an otherwise fairly serious, business-oriented online publication. The premise is that two authors are opining on which of Captain America or Iron Man is right in their conflict over the Sokovia Accords in the Captain America: Civil War movie. Bottom line is that the Accords require the super-powered Avengers to register with the government and become government employees, or face arrest. Naturally, some of them (Cap’s team) object, where some (Iron Man’s group) capitulate. The movie is essentially a huge fight among the factions. (There’s also quite an extensive body of work in the comic books on this topic, but the article focuses only on the movie.) The contributing writers to this article are glib and humor-focused and it’s a quick, fun read. 

But after reading it, I spent a lot more time thinking about the subject and some of the proffered arguments than I expected to from such a topic. The writers assume a lot about their readers, expecting them to know a lot of the details that the article glosses over or leaves out altogether. And they reduce the topic, essentially, to a question of logic vs. emotion, heart vs. ego. 

I think it deserves a bit more than that, though. 

Travis Clark takes up the argument for Iron Man’s point of view. Basically, Iron Man/Tony Stark is pro Accords, saying regulation is inevitable and the Avengers’ activities need government oversight and sanction. Clark’s apologistic premise is that the Accords are essentially gun control: the Avengers’ powers are weapons that require government regulation, especially given that the Avengers are as much a menace to public safety as they are a help to the victims of the super villains they oppose. 

In my opinion, this view oversimplifies the Avengers’ abilities to “weapons” while at the same time overemphasizing non-powered individuals’ safety interests, sacrificing the Avengers’ individual agency to a romanticized vision of public safety. 

Imagine: what would happen if the super-powered heroes didn’t exist or weren’t there when a super villain attacked? All the public safety concerns (deaths, injuries, destruction) feared from super-powered fights would come to pass, only more devastating because of the added tyranny and evil that goes unopposed. 

In other words, it is unfair and illogical to equate the hero with the villain, and specious to claim that damage done in the course of fighting evil is solely the fault of the heroes. Had the evil-doer not attacked, acting out of evil intent, none of that damage would have been wrought. Blaming those who bear a burden to oppose evil for the damage evil causes is repugnant and wrong. 

That’s not to say recklessly endangering lives and property in order to “save” them isn’t equally wrong. But what is reckless or not in the situations the Avengers face can’t be measured on the same scale a parent uses to adjudge the recklessness of a new teenaged driver’s first fender-bender. Blindly submitting the use (or not) of their super human powers to the will of a government body on which they have no effective representation, and which is peopled entirely by non-powered bureaucrats, would be reckless. Engaging in a fight of evil only when a partisan interest is threatened would be reckless disregard of duty. But fighting evil when it threatens in equal measure and with equal prejudice (violence) is not, of itself, reckless. 

Carrie Wittmer, the other author in this article, advances Captain America’s argument. Cap’s take is that human governments have proven to be too vulnerable and unreliable and those who bear the burden of wielding these powers must also bear the burden of deciding how and when to wield them. He thinks the Avengers can’t afford to ignore threats the way partisan governments do. Wittmer agrees, arguing that as people (super-human, alien, Demi-god, what have you) the Avengers are individuals with will and agency. They can’t be fairly compared to guns, access to which needs to be controlled. 

And she argues that Cap’s distrust in government is well placed. Both the situation in Cap’s own origin story movie and in the events in Age of Ultron that lead to the Sokovia Accords being proffered are proof enough of that. Had Cap not acted of his own accord and saved both Buckey and the soldiers being held prisoner, Hydra and the Red Skull would have had free run and destroyed all the world cities identified on the bomb ships carrying the Tesseract Weapons. Had the Avengers not acted to blow up the Sokovia city before it could fall back to Earth, the resultant blast would have wiped out exponentially more of the world than that doomed city (which they evacuated before destroying it). 

My view is aligned with Captain America and Wittmer: personal agency, the right to choose, individual liberty and the right to be free from servitude, and the right to be free from discrimination on the basis of innate characteristics, these are much more meaningful, substantive and supportable reasons than the comparatively weak public safety argument made by the Iron Man camp. For me, the argument is that slavery in the guise of employment regulation is no means to the ostensible end of public safety. Rather, it’s creating property out of the in-born, accidentally produced, or purchased (Iron Man) abilities of individual persons. People aren’t property. And imprisonment as the only alternative is no choice at all. 

So what’s the solution? I don’t know, given certain outcomes shown in the Avengers: Infinity War movie that opened last weekend. (It’s awesome, by the way, go see it!) But here’s one, admittedly flimsy and un-detailed, idea:  why can’t Dr. Strange (the Watcher and wielded of the arcane arts) be a broker between the UN and the Avengers? He’s smart and has the power to control time, so he could test the possible outcomes of proposed deals. He could help them find an arrangement that balances public safety with the supers’ freedom and agency, so that they don’t have to choose between becoming property or prisoners, and the world gets a say in how it is defended or protected by those who have these powers. Each camp is represented and no one is enslaved. That’s a win-win. 

And that’s some pretty deep philosophy in all that comic book nonsense. 

That was fun. I hope you have a great week and find something fun and challenging to keep your mind working. 

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