Ramblings of a Creative Mind

Thoughts on Work and the World from an Executive Mom

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Number 5

What do you believe in?

What do you believe in?

When I was a young manager, early in my career, I remember having a conversation with a fellow employee who was upset about a change in procedure from the top.  She came to me in confidence and, after I listened to what she had to say, I tried to help.  I remember telling her that she needed to separate her emotions from the equation, that business was business and – this part I remember quite vividly – that a Company is a Company.  It’s not a person.  It has no emotional intent or motivation, and that if she realized that then she would be able to see the logic behind Upper Management’s decision, etc.  I thought it was good advice.

And maybe it was ten years ago.  Back then, the book du jour was The 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene.  It was a different time… Just after the dot-com hullabaloo.  Social media was in its infancy.  The world was riding high; business and home values on the rise.  What a ride it was then.  Fast, hard driving, me, me, me.

I see things very differently today.  Great things are happening at work; we are on the precipice of a fantastic new chapter in our future.  And yet this afternoon, I found myself wrestling with some significant business choices.  So, I went to my mentor for advice and guidance.  (If you don’t have a business mentor, get one tomorrow.  Run!  It will be one of the most significant investments you will ever make in yourself and in your future.) And as I walked through it with my mentor, out of nowhere, I felt a huge swell of emotion – one that was hard to contain.   I finished the conversation, sucking it up and telling myself that “no one cries in baseball.”  I am still unsettled.  And as I work through it (which will take some time), I thought of that advice from so long ago… And thought about what I would say to that teammate today.

Yes, business is business.  But business is a combination of the head and the heart.  I am farther along in my career, and today I am one of the people making those decisions that are lasting… which have meaning to lives beyond my own.  I have a responsibility to those lives… to those people. I’m invested in them.  I know them, know their dreams, know their fears and I share their sorrows.   They are teammates, employees, friends and more often than I would admit, they are family.  We don’t just work together; we have real relationships.  It’s a heck of a lot harder carrying the weight of all of those hearts.  But I am a better manager today because I carry that load.  Business is about emotions, and to be successful today, you have to connect emotionally to those you serve.

Tonight, as I worked though all of these conflicted emotions, I looked up at the core values posted on my wall.  We all have them at our offices (and hopefully memorized), but do you have them at home? My son and I defined our Family Core Values when he was 3. And looking at them today, they’re pretty good. It’s a mantra at home with buy in from the boys. Tonight, I think they are pretty good for work too. They’re emotionally based. So is work.

Business is just a collection of people after all.
And people are pretty special.



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The Pebble in the Pond

2013 Groundbreaking Kids Only

So yesterday, I was at a groundbreaking event for a charity that my company supports.  It’s a fantastic program bringing seniors in need of care together with young children who lift their morale and, in turn, teach the children empathy and kindness.   This is one of my favorite parts of my job.  There were tons of people there: sponsors, dignitaries, parents, seniors and much to my surprise, an old acquaintance of mine.Ann came bouncing up to me with a wide smile on her face and gave me a huge hug.  I was happy to see her again.  She worked for my company six or seven years ago, although only for a few months.  I remember her as bright and talented; we’d missed her when she left.  It turns out that Ann works in community relations for the charity we’d supported; what a small world this is.

After the pictures were taken and the shovels did their work, Ann made her way back over to me to tell me a “funny story” that she just had to share.  Two days before our meeting, Ann was presenting in front of a group of local business leaders hoping to generate financial support for another arm of the charity, helping at-risk teens.  During the event, Ann mentioned that she used to work for my company.  One of the gentlemen there asked Ann if she knew me.  Of course she did, said Ann.  She told him that I had been her trainer way back when – that I’d taught her how to speak in public.Now, this was news to me.  Way back when, I was an Account Executive and Ann was a new hire.  As I recall it, Ann and I didn’t have much interaction at all, although we did spend two days together out marketing – training some branches and meeting some people.  It was part of a normal routine to me, yet to Ann it was a lot more.

Ann continued her story.  She is extremely happy today, living out a dream of helping make the world a better place.  She told me that she never imagined she would be able to serve her community as she does today… never thought that she could be the face of an amazing charity, and that she learned how to do it from me.  Ann thanked me for making a difference in her life, one that makes a major difference in the lives of thousands who so desperately need help.

Yesterday was a humbling morning.  I am no public speaking guru.  I love my job here in the auto industry, but have often wondered if I should be doing something more – something that changes lives.  I found out yesterday that I had, but I just didn’t know it.My boss often likes to speak about the “pebble in the pond” when it comes to business.  That tiny little pebble creates ripples that become wider and greater the further they travel, and it’s our job as leaders to see those ripples.  We drop many pebbles in our everyday lives.  Two short, almost forgettable days in my life a long time ago changed Ann’s life in ways I never could have imagined.  And Ann saves lives every day as she fights for homebound seniors, disadvantaged youth and working parents.  I never knew how wide the ripples I unintentionally had made would become.

What you’re doing today may seem routine, part of your job or almost forgettable.  And you may be changing one life – or many – as you do it.  I’m going to remember that the next time I say hello to a new hire.  I hope you do too.