Ramblings of a Creative Mind

Thoughts on Work and the World from an Executive Mom

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Behind the Mask

SuperheroesDo you dress up at your office for Halloween?  While most companies have special events on that day – sweet treats, pot luck days or contests – not that many people seem to dress in costume for a day at the office.  Now, I’m a geek and always get into the spirit.  I think it’s fun to walk around the hallways in some kooky get up, and even more fun to conduct meetings and watch other folks try to keep a straight face and take you seriously.  Dressing up and pretending to be someone else for a day is a blast.  It’s about the thrill of it.

When I became a parent, Halloween was new again.  Then, it was about choosing the cutest costume for the boys: Tigger, a giraffe, a blue googly-eyed monster… basically, choose anything that made your heart melt.  It was about spoiling them a little… about joy.  This year was different though.

This was the first year that both boys chose their own costumes.  Mom didn’t make an executive decision.  So, I went hunting for superhero stuff, expecting this to be another year of cuteness.  It was something more though.

When the boys put on their costumes, Captain America and Spiderman began tearing around the house in heroics.  They didn’t just act like superheroes though.  They BECAME them.  Now, my youngest son is full of bravado and wants to try everything on the way to any party or activity.  But as soon as we arrive, he instantly gets shy, doesn’t want to go in or is scared to try.  But when he was Spiderman, he was bolder.  Braver.  He tried new food, led the charge when we went out trick-or-treating, and led the parade at school.   My son was brave all night long, instead of just in those fleeting moments before life happens.

And as I watched him, it occurred to be that Halloween is not about pretending to be someone else for a day.  Instead, perhaps it is about giving yourself permission to bring out a part of yourself that you keep hidden, are a little unsure of or are afraid that you’ll be judged for.

Is the costume your Captain America shield, deflecting that fear and uncertainty?

What is it about yourself that you are afraid to embrace 364 days of the year, but will gladly celebrate on that 365th day?

Who do you think will really judge you?

This year, I dressed as a powerful historic figure – a woman who took great risks, enjoyed great adventures and changed the world as we know it.  I wore that costume proudly.  So, why do I doubt myself other days?  Should I be afraid of going out on a limb, being empowered or leading forward through uncharted territory?  Facing considerable odds?  Making tough decisions?  No.

Should I only be bold when wearing a disguise?  No.

Should you?  No.


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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.