Quiet leadership

It’s probably not a big surprise that I am a hockey fan. Sorry, an “ice hockey” fan (apparently it’s good forum to specify the obvious).

I support my home town team, but the truth is I just like a good game. And even when my team gets eliminated, I still follow what’s going on because I really hate being behind at the water cooler in the morning.

That being said, I don’t particularly like the Chicago Blackhawks, and if I never heard the name Jonathan Toews again it would not bug me (yes, I know he’s a “good Canadian kid”, but like Crosby…enough already…how many hockey saviours can we friggin have?!)

But I read this article this morning and think it’s definitely worth sharing.

Oh sure it’s about hockey, but it’s also about so much more. It’s about leadership and more specifically the hidden leadership that exists in a team.

Sports to business analogies are generally cliché but sometimes they make sense. This is one of them.

I’ve often wondered who leads the leaders – who motivates them, who calls them out when they are losing focus..you know, the things leaders do for us. And my suspicion was that it wasn’t Tony Robbins.

There is public and acknowledged leadership – the kind that wears a letter on a jersey and then there’s the quiet and unrecognized leadership – the kind that prods you in the back when you are slowing down or looks you straight in the eye and tells you what no one else wants to.

Maybe it was friendship that was the driving force that had Seabrook stepping up to Toews. Yes, maybe it was a factor, but clearly there’s a strength in bring able to stand up to your team leader and tell him to put his big boy pants on.

I like this article because it reinforces the need for leadership at all levels and the fact that everyone needs to be accountable to someone. In this case, it’s to his team. Because ultimately they have a job to do and it is to lead by example.

The many faces of stress

There have been times in my life when things have started to feel out of control. Of course I mean this relatively speaking since I’ve never had to endure any serious hardship – my issues are the proverbial “first world problems”.

But there are days when I wake up and start to think about what I need to tackle and my stomach just clenches. I’m an internalizer when it comes to stress so unless you really know me, you will not be able to tell that I’m screaming inside my head.

This is what stress can look like:

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Pretty scary, huh?

What my calm demeanor and smile don’t reveal are all the hives that appeared overnight and my inability to digest thing properly. Frequent blinking also hid my twitching eye and I’m “fortunate” enough to get some weird variation of migraines, in which I’m not in pain, but my entire left cheek feels like its been slapped so hard it’s gone numb.

True story: I was once reprimanded for NOT looking stressed enough (apparently my calm demeanor implied I did not think the issue was serious). Yes, because I was not losing my shit in a more visible or “conventional” way, I obviously didn’t care about what’s going on.

….

This morning I stood beside my son as we waited for his luggage to be searched before heading off on a school camping trip and I quietly asked him if he was okay. He looked at me and shrugged his shoulders – the universal sign for “Mom, please.” I reassured him it will all be cool once they get going and he will feel better.

Because it was obvious to me that he was nervous and, as a kid that likes to know what going to happen next, a bit stressed. It was obvious because of how he held himself and how he was covertly watching what others were doing. However, to everyone else – he was fine and maybe even bored.

Seeing this made my stomach clench harder and I smiled at him.

….

Have you ever taken the time to notice what your employees/colleagues are like when things are going well and not-so-well. Notice a difference?
Sometimes, it’s very minimal.

Don’t assume that because someone is calm and collected that they aren’t stressed out.

And don’t mistake (over) reaction for passion.

Looking for signs

This was how my morning rolled out today:

“Woke up, fell out of bed
Dragged a comb across my head
Found my way downstairs and drank a cup
And looking up, I noticed I was late
Found my coat and grabbed my hat…”*

And then I drove away, realized I had forgotten my bus pass, returned home to get it, drove off again, went to get my lip balm and realized that it was in my other purse. Along with my pass for work. Turned around AGAIN, and collected said items and then finally headed into work.

As I drove in and hit every. single. red. light, I started to ask myself. Were these signs? Was the universe trying to tell me something or prevent me from being somewhere that I shouldn’t be? Like, oh I don’t know, at work?

I mean come on. I’m generally a very organized and together person in the morning, so for me to forget things not once, but twice….and then get stuck behind every slow driver…and hit all the red lights…and miss the bus by seconds….

Doesn’t that seem just a little too “coincidental” to you?!

We have this need to find a pattern and a bigger picture in these types of scenarios. Seemingly individual everyday occurrences which we normally wouldn’t even blink at, when combined, suddenly become a conspiracy, a message, a sign.

Like wearing black at work, or carrying around a red-coloured file folder, or having your door closed throughout the day, or scheduling a meeting on a Tuesday afternoon in a certain room.

I have been told both directly and indirectly, that the presence of any of the above has set off alarm bells with employees that something big is imminent. The combination of all of them means it’s practically guaranteed.

Le sigh.

I really hope that these same employees put as much time, effort, analysis and attention to detail into their actual work.

And I would hate to think that I’m THAT predictable.

For the record:
• I wear black 4 out of 5 days
• I like bright coloured file folders
• I close my door when I’m conducting phone screens
• Tuesdays are good days to find people in the office and meet with them

I think the real sign is why are you looking for “something big” in the small things?

Are you concerned about your work performance? Are you concerned about rumours that you are hearing? Are you feeling (dare I say it) disengaged? If so, then get informed – ask questions, talk to your manager, and work harder at your job.

Just stop torturing yourself by trying to crack the secret dress code, behavioural profile, and strategic scheduling techniques of your Manager and HR person.

Because sometimes a rough start to the day is just a rough start to the day. And any attempt to make it more than this is probably just a “sign” that you wanted to stay home today and were looking for an excuse to do so.

Hypothetically, of course.

*(song lyrics: “A Day in the Life” by the Beatles)

Why you should never write a post when hungry

Interesting fact: I have noticed that those posts that I just whip off and are completely irreverent (to me) are those that people seem to respond to more. It’s true. I will get an idea, start typing and then hit publish.

Sometimes I even remember to proofread before I hit publish. Sometimes.

I do have a few posts in draft mode, but they aren’t going anywhere fast – one is on youth and why people are acting like it’s a new concept. This post has stalled out and will have to wait. I think it’s because I’m to write outside of my voice.

Does that make sense?

What I mean is that for those posts that seem to just flow – it’s because that’s how I would say it if I were talking to you.

So yes, it’s my “real” voice. The unnecessary stops, the over use of certain words (cool, awesome, seriously), and the occasional curse words…they aren’t there to impress you, dear reader; that’s just how I speak.

Now, there are exceptions – like the use of the word “irreverent” in the first sentence. I would never say that out loud, but mainly because I can’t pronounce it properly. Same with “ethereal”.

Another interesting fact: I will not order pasta at a restaurant.

It’s true. I do not dine out very often – sometimes for lunch, but hardly ever for supper.

Why?

I like food & cooking and I’m frequently disappointed with what I get
I am completely put off by the size of the portions they serve
I have a very hard time justifying the cost of what I’m paying vs what I’m getting

And it’s because of that last point that I will not order pasta. (Well, aside from the fact that I’m no longer eating grains, but let’s go back awhile…) Think about it – how much does it cost you and how freaking easy it is to make pasta at home?! A little effort in getting the ingredients, taking the time and prepping, and cooking and you’ve got it. And it’s not a bucket size portion that’s destined to make me feel like I’m Violet Beauregarde.

Pasta aside, I find it hard to not feel like I’m being taken in by the prices.

But that’s easy for me to say, isn’t it?

What about a situation where I walk in and sit down at a table to order a dish I would not likely make at home, like say, herb marinated grilled lamb loin (for example). If I’ve chosen my venue well, the food ingredients should be fresh, local and of quality. The staff should know what they are doing and are going to make a quality meal – cooked and seasoned properly, served at the right temperature and at the right time. If I ask them, they are going to make recommendations. If I tell them about concerns I have regarding ingredients, they are going to help me steer clear. They are going to follow-up with me and do what they can to offer me more. And then they are going to bring me the bill.

Recruiting.

Any jackass can do it, right? I mean, how hard is it to post a job ad, look at a bunch of CVs, bring in a couple of candidates – ask them brilliant questions like “what are your strengths? … what are your weaknesses?…) and then offer them the job. Boom. Done. Next position please.

Sure, you can save time and money by doing it yourself. Of course you can – if you are hiring pasta.

But if you are thinking of going for the grilled lamb loin, may I suggest that you ask someone a little more familiar with the source of ingredients, the preparation needed, and the proper cooking techniques to make it worth your while.

Ahem.

My favourite whine

ac·count·abil·i·ty

: the quality or state of being accountable; especially : an obligation or willingness to accept responsibility or to account for one’s actions

Those who know me have heard me go on and on about how big a deal accountability is to me. I believe that everyone has a role to play in life, whether it’s at work, within the community or as a member of a family and when you don’t play your part…when you leave it to others to cover for you or pick up the slack…well, I don’t have much use for you.

For the record, I’m not talking about the occasional slip or crappy moment. I’m talking about consistently not following through, making excuses, and acting as if you had no choice or that the world is out to block you.

And yet, for a brief period in time, I was this person. I’m not proud of it and I seriously cringe and get a twist in my stomach when I replay this episode over in my head.

In my pre-HR days, I was a good worker and I got to thinking that I was a better worker than I probably was just because I had been doing the job for a number of years. Besides, no one had told me otherwise. My boss at the time was all the way in Atlanta – so micro-managing was not a problem for me.

I did my work and I slowly shifted my schedule to accommodate my personal life – nothing crazy or erratic, but outside of what I should have been doing (as per company policy on hours of work…remember this WAS pre-HR days).

Then I got a new manager.

And he wasn’t in Atlanta – he was about 20 metres down the hall.

And after the dust settled, he met the team, and had an opportunity to get a sense of how things had been working, he called me into his office to inform me that apparently he didn’t think I was doing as good a job as I thought I was and, oh, the hours…they need to change to be consistent with the rest of the team.

I was shocked, hurt, and stunned. WTF just happened.

Then I was pissed off. And every one of my co-workers got to hear about it. Anytime I was with someone one-on-one, I would bitch and complain. How dare he say I’m one of the low performers? How dare he suggest that I’m acting like I deserve privileges that others didn’t have? Why did he have it out to get me? I totally worked harder than so-and-so and I did all those extra things too. I was on the social committee, I was on the H&S committee, I suggested ideas, I got along with everyone…

And it didn’t stop at home. I would simmer and over-analyze that conversation over and over again. I would brood. I would get upset.

And then I got tired of listening to myself and shut-up long enough to notice that when I cornered my co-workers to hear me out, they would listen, but never offered support or agreed with me. It hit me that maybe they agreed with my manager. Maybe they had complained about me.

I was mortified.

So, I gave myself a shake and reality check and went to talk to my manager. I owned up to my less than stellar performance – I had become complacent. And I then I explained my reasons for my varied schedule (my husband worked shift-work and we did not use daycare).

It took a awhile for me to prove to both my manager and myself that I was not only good at my job, but that I could be relied on to be accountable for what I did, whether it was going well or not.

What I learned was that just because I thought I was doing a good enough job, well that doesn’t mean everyone else will. And if I felt that I was being treated unfairly, well playing the “poor me” card was not going to win support from my colleagues or get me anywhere.

That situation left me with a scar that will never leave me and for that I’m grateful.

That scar reminds me that yes I have choices when it comes to my life (I could leave after all), but that I need to consider that maybe it’s not my job or my manager or my colleague that need to change…maybe it’s me.

Why I’m not blogging

You may have noticed that I haven’t blogged recently. At least I hope you noticed.

Nothing is wrong – I’m just trying to adjust to our Spring schedule. You see, in addition to the extra daylight hours, I have extra things to do during those extra daylight hours.

This is what is keeping me busy:

Being Ms. Bossy Pants aka Team Manager for my son’s soccer team…this is not an easy gig…I am considering herding cats in the off-season to keep me on my toes.

Working. I know, this shouldn’t be a big surprise, but some of my best inspiration comes at work and well, I’ve just been so involved that I believe I’ve become fixated on the trees. If they made a movie about my life, as it is right now, it would be “Desperately Seeking Forest”, complete with awesome 80s clothing choices…like this…

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Drafting. I have been drafting and trashing and drafting and trashing blog posts for about a week. You know what? I love spellcheck. I love copy/paste. I love delete. But I really miss the satisfying sound and feel of crumpling a piece of paper up and throwing on the floor. It’s the physical embodiment of my frustration.

Repeatedly hitting the Backspace key just doesn’t have the same impact.

imagesCA1UM1TD

Yeah. So that’s what’s up.
And right about now it all becomes apparent why I haven’t quit my day job to blog for money.

So stay tuned – I promise the get those posts out, as long as other people (like a certain author of the blog Change-Effect) would stop hacking into my computer, stealing my ideas, and writing posts that reduce mine to “yeah…what he said”. (That’s my story and I’m sticking to it)