Archive for the ‘work’ Tag

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.

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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.

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!

Never destroyed 

Had a tough day today. Work was hard. Lots of demands, little advancement in areas I’d hoped to be resolved soon, and disappointing outcome on a big presentation I’ve been busting my buns over for a long time. Add some personal disappointments and you have a recipe for a rough day. 

But I’m keeping my commitment to positivity, despite it all, with these three good things:

  1. It’s sunny, with song birds and crabapple blossom buds in the trees. There’s even a little warmth from the sunshine!
  2. I got a haircut after work. The place I get it cut washes after the cut (so it’s not itchy after) and gives a massage with the wash. They use a really good tea tree shampoo and pomade that smells really nice. I always feel better after a good haircut. 
  3. This quote helped me put the day in perspective: “Disappointment to the noble soul is is what cold water is to burning metal; it strengthens, tempers, intensifies, but never destroys it.” ~ Eliza Tabor 

Have a great evening, friends. I hope you are not disappointed, but if you are, I wish you well in your tempering and hope you find balm for the sting. 

Some things 

I’m working on a substantive post (possibly with contributions from another blogger, too!), but it’s not ready yet. Yet I don’t want to break my posting streak, so here’s a quick list of some things that should tide us all over until I can get the other one written. 

  1. I’m very glad to have the first quarter behind me. After weeks of 12+ hour days and everything being an emergency (sales guys seem to think any moment that their deal isn’t my sole purpose in life is a moment of deep crisis), I was very glad to close the books on Q1 on Friday. It was supposed to be on Thursday, but of course there always has to be at least one that drags on and on. I’m hoping to have a quiet week to catch up on everything that got pushed aside in the last few weeks, but I don’t count it as likely. 
  2. Went to see Ready Player One over the weekend. I had really enjoyed the book and was hopeful that the movie wouldn’t ruin it. Glad to say that I enjoyed the movie just as much. While the movie changes a lot from the book, my personal opinion is that the story’s core is in tact and the action was fun. Definitely recommend!
  3. I started a bullet journal. It’s a new endeavor for me and I’m not entirely sure I’m doing it “right”. However, I have it set up and a week’s worth of jottings down. Time will tell if I can keep it and the blog going at the same time and whether the radically different writing style will contribute or detract from my skill and productivity as a writer. (Clearly, it hasn’t done anything so far to deter from rambling run-on sentences. 😉)
  4. Although it’s much colder today than I’d hoped, there are definite signs of spring all over the place and I couldn’t be happier. I’m so ready for new growth and a little warmth. My SIL’s tulips are beginning to emerge, my grass is beginning to green, and the songbirds are back in my trees. I love this time of year. Actually, I love the turn of all seasons. Change keeps us on our toes and reminds us that life is always moving ahead. Springtime in particular brings this message, with the renewal of leaves and grass, rebirth of flowers and wild things. I find it hard not to be hopeful in the spring. 

Happy Spring to all of you. I hope you find good things in your every day to make you feel positive and hopeful. 

Monday-ish Monday Positives

This is a very Monday-ish Monday. It’s a dark, gloomy, rainy, cold day. Started with a 6am conference call full of sales guys asking for exceptions to process because they left doing their job too late for Q1 close – ugh. One of our internal risk guys raised a false alarm on a contract because he was working from old information, and now my team gets to spend half a day fielding panicked calls and filling out forms to say there was never anything wrong – joy.  And I’m still spending way too much of my time managing outside counsel requests for information on litigation matters that should never have occurred if our customer (in one) or partner (in the other) had acted reasonably and with the integrity you’d expect from even a random teenager – fun times. 

Needless to say, I’m a little on the grumbly side today. 

But, I’m determined not to let the Mondays ruin my positivity streak. Here are a couple good things, even if they are weaker than I’d care to acknowledge right now:

  1. I’ve been thinking a lot about my writing. Even though I’ve hit my weekly posting target all of this year, so far, it’s still not the regular, ingrained habit I’d like it to be. So I’m going to try bullet journaling. After reading quite a bit about the technique, I think it’ll kickstart a habit of writing that is distinct from my writing here. My theory is that if I have a habit of recording my thoughts in a couple of different media, the mental ‘muscle memory’ should fuel the habit of creative writing that I want to develop. We’ll see. If nothing else, I’ll have a fun time doodling in a new notebook. 😅
  2. I’m struggling with my taxes this year and don’t know why. I’ve been doing them online for eons without issue. I haven’t changed anything about my life or finances that would affect how I file. So I’m at a loss. However, instead of panicking, I used my reasoning brain and did what adults do and made an appointment with a tax preparer. I feel very grown-up with this decision (which is good, considering my age) and proud of myself for not stressing out over it. 
  3. I have successfully made it through half of Monday without strangling any sales reps. I count that as a win! 😉

I hope you have a great Monday and week, and find a few good things to balance all the annoyances you encounter along the way. 

It’s All Good 

This weekly posting goal is more of a challenge than it really should be, some days. I get so caught up in the bustle of every day life that writing about it doesn’t seem to even make the to-do list. Crazy how fast life seems to move. One day you’re busting your hump to get to vacation and before you know it, vacation is over and you’re back to the grind. Days slip by so fast when you have your head down jobbin’.  Almost so fast that you don’t realize how much energy you’re spending on the parts of your life that shouldn’t matter that much and how little time you’re spending actually living. 

But, it’s all good. It’s all about personal growth and moving forward. I’m still working on it, especially that posting goal. So, to that end, here’s a list of a few good, even great, things in my life lately. 

  1. I had an epically awesome time with a good friend last week. Getting away is always a refresher, but getting away to do nothing but enjoy the company of friends, relax and breathe is the best thing ever. Bookstores and libraries and board games and amazing meals and great company – what better way to spend theee days off?
  2. While I was visiting my friend, I was blessed to experience a community where Butch visibility was everywhere and welcomed. That is extremely rare in my life. You don’t know how much impact visibility has until you realize how absent it is in your daily life. Said another way, it is astounding how meaningful it can be to have your identity and presentation validated by seeing yourself represented in the every day public. Walking down the street or into a public space and seeing yourself in others, not compromised or edited, but exactly as you are on the faces and in the forms/bodies of total strangers, is profoundly moving. 
  3. Prosciutto mozzarella pesto sandwiches are my new obsession. They are proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy. 😉
  4. I got my performance evaluation today and my boss rated me higher than I rated myself overall and in 4 out of 5 core competencies. He said I set the standard for my role and for a senior leader for our company. He said my leadership has a material impact on my company’s success. So, basically… I’m AWESOME! 
  5. It’s almost Spring and there has been sunshine for at least part of every day this week. Sunshine lifts my spirits and turns my eyes to the sky to appreciate the heavens. This was the sunrise this morning as I arrived at my office:

I hope you are having a great week and take a moment to appreciate the number of great and good things in your life. Keep smiling, my friends!

Boss Positives

Continuing my focus on good things, positive things in my life, I thought I’d share a quick list of positive things related to my boss and job. 

  1. First, a bit of an ego boost. The other day my boss unintentionally (I think) paid me a really flattering compliment. He had come into my office to vent a little, as he was stressed and frustrated. After listening and finding a way to make him laugh, I offered to help with anything he could entrust to me. He looked at me a little oddly, but didn’t have anything for me. Then, a few hours later, he asked me to take on a project that was time sensitive and that he didn’t have time for right then. Then he said that I am the only other person in the company he’d trust with this, besides himself. Coming from an A-type, high-control personality, I take it as a very high compliment to have earned that level of trust. 
  2. On a related note, I count it as a significant accomplishment that my boss feels comfortable with me and trusts my discretion to such a degree that he will use me as a sounding board and vent to me the frustration that he feels constrained to discuss with others. It tells me that not only has my personal standard of integrity and discretion translated into a trust that he relies on, but that trust makes me as much an adviser as subordinate. Feels good to be relied on. 
  3. Lastly, I am happy to note that my boss values me as a contributor. I’ve been blessed with recognition and advancement, as I’ve written about before. That’s super motivating and gratifying. Validation of hard work and accomplishment is such an important part of fostering employee engagement. But my boss has gone a step further than validation, into advocacy. On a couple of separate occasions in the last few months, I’ve come to find out about instances of my boss advocating on my behalf. From taking up my arguments for funding an additional attorney on my team, to arguing to the board of directors for changes to equity programs that will benefit me and more of my employees, he’s been working hard to support me. I’ve always felt and acknowledged his support for me as a manager. It’s nice to also see the evidence of his support of me as an an individual employee. 

I hope you are having a great week and feeling appreciated and supported in all your endeavors. 

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