January 24, 2012
The concept makes sense… the longer you do a job and are in a role, the more that is expected of you and unless you continue to take on new challenges and up your game, your value decreases. In order to expand skills and consistently perform at the top of your game, there are stretch periods needed to flex new muscles and question/explore ways of accomplishing important goals.
When this concept was articulated to me last month our my leadership training session, it also hit me right between the eyes that I have two choices. One – stay in role and actively explore new and challenging opportunities that go beyond the “expected”.. or two — take on a completely new role that pushes me into unfamiliar territory — even areas I don’t know — and work through the incompetence toward a significant period of growth. That incompetence — known as the “pit of incompetence” is a very uncomfortable place to be — but is essential to continued growth.
Wow. What does that look like? As the new year brings new opportunities to “reset” I have no choice but to embrace the creation of big goals. That may look like new work opportunities. It may look like articulating current role goals I’ve been afraid to share with others before. As Bahram Akradi – the Founder of LifeTime Fitness notes in one of his Life Wisdom articles, “success in most endeavors comes from clear, precise and thoughtful setting of goals, combined with a real commitment to making them happen – even if it takes a while.”
Bahram notes too that 1) setting clear goals and having accountability around them, as well as 2) both in personal and professional life establishing a habit of finding and stretching ones comfort zone and inviting others around us into the process are both essential to the “culture of growth, a culture of celebrating successes.”
I couldn’t have said it better than Akradi: “Expect Resistance, and greet it with excitement when it comes! That’s your opportunity for growth, right there.”
December 12, 2011
Fresh off of a leadership training week in Atlanta with peers from around the country, it would be quite easy to fall back into normal rhythms without truly internalizing all that I’ve just absorbed. By sharing some of my personal learnings here, I hope to avoid that. Therefore, my ‘download.” For starters, the concept of being intentional — at home and at work. I’ve had discussions around this with those I respect, but this really brought it home to me, in a few core ways….
1) When we first arrived on Tuesday, we drew names of a peer for the ritual of ”the giving of gifts.” In the time we had together, we were to work to get to know (or at least notice something about) the person whose name we drew. At the end of the week, we gave that person a gift and shared something that stood out to us about him or her. I received a fantastic little puzzle map of the world from my friend Kevin, based on a number of things I had mentioned in small group settings over dinner — namely that I’d been to Machu Picchu and that I loved to do things with my children. When he gave me the puzzle he specifically noted that it was “to plan your next adventure together.” No, this exchange is nothing earthshattering, but it taught me a lesson about listening intently and deliberately working to notice or learn a few key things about those with whom I work, live and interact.
In fact, this is hitting home now as we go through the ritual of preparing and sending our Christmas cards. The House of Klause has a pretty big (although everything is relative) list of families/individuals to whom we send yearly greetings. We send about 230 and it’s growing. What struck me yesterday as I read the list was the “new additions” — those people we’d met in the last year who have impacted us in some way. On the flip side, going through the list, there are a number of families with whom our interactions are limited to the exchange of cards. Yet, they don’t come off the list. There is some intangible connection there to which we cling. We are intentional about keeping and building this network. Footnote: some cynics might argue that Facebook has changed this whole dynamic, but I believe there is irreplaceable value in the reciprocity and ritual of sending holiday greetings.
2) The second core concept around being intentional explores the difference between amateurs and professionals. If you’ve ever read the Gladwell book Outliers, then you know that Professionals PRACTICE. They don’t just practice. They log thousands of hours in getting things right. They go right to that exercise, that music measure, that problem unresolved and work it work it work it until they get it. Instead of playing the whole song, they intentionally wallow in the tough spots until they get them down. Only then, do they afford themselves the luxury of playing the piece in its entirety. It’s a simple concept but by truly working on that which we need to stretch and stepping into areas of discomfort, growth follows. Well, I put this into immediate practice with Mia in her piano practice last night! We wallowed in the very measure that introduced playing both hands together. It. Was. Hard. But we — together — learned an incredible lesson about digging into the hard stuff and finding little successes…. and big rewards!
Next up…. “The Pit of Incompetence”…. AKA “The Pit of Success.”
November 29, 2011
Although I have this strange secret love of airports, I really do not enjoy spending time in the air or in the car. Yet, I travel quite a bit. And it is exhausting.
This next month is shaping up to be a doozy. With a work trip to Atlanta, and car trips currently planned for Pennsylvania for 1) my college girlfriends’ Christmas gathering, 2) my High School girlfriends Christmas gathering, 3) our Neff Christmas, 4) the Siegrist gathering and 5) the Good family gathering, that means numerous back and forths. Yes, we’re used to it, but is that really the best way to relax and soak in the Season with my kids and Rob?
I’m caught trying to be the good daughter, the good niece (who makes it to every reunion), the good employee, and, oh yeah, the good wife and mother who’s not completely crazed and crabby because of all the packing and unpacking she’s doing.
With aging aunties and uncles, there is a level of importance to these functions that is often unspoken. Yet I also know it takes a toll on the time that my little clan has together, just us.
Frankly, I don’t yet know what will come off the plate…..or will I again try to do it all?!
November 26, 2011
I remember the Ann Taylor store at Union Station. And I remember the gorgeous black and white suit with nautical buttons and a flirty skirt. My first big girl suit purchase in a big city. It was the Spring of 1992. I was a college student spending a semester in Washington, D.C. And I needed a suit, because I was going to meet Barbara Bush.
It’s 20 years later and that Ann Taylor store is still there, at the same spot. Now, when I’m in Union Station rushing for the Acela, I cannot peer up at the second floor shop without remembering that purchase. Of course, Ann Taylor is far more ubiquitous these days….way beyond Washington, D.C.
Monica Hesse’s Washington Post Style section focus on Ann Taylor as the stalwalt of fashion — the “old faithful” of working women shopping in DC. — really nailed the reality of reliable, affordable, fashionable (but not too fashionable) working woman dressing.
Wouldn’t we all like to have a personal stylist? To appear in the pages of Capitol File? That’s likely not the reality for working moms across the region and Hesse recognizes that.
Instead, we do our best. We strive to fall somewhere in between Carrie Bradshaw and Clair Huxtable. We stretch our dollars with a little bit of fancy, a little bit of practical, a little bit of haute, and a lot of reliable. We mix in a little Nordstrom (online for me!), White House Black Market, Neiman (if we’re lucky) and yes, Ann.
October 4, 2011
The little wake ups start around 4 AM….This morning’s went like this…
– schedule electrician
— call Mitchie with kids and sing Happy Birthday
— set up Wisconsin Public Radio interview
— finish monthly scorecard
— find babysitter for the 15th
— research Peru weather
— ask Nonni to alter Mia’s costume
Yes, the List. My list, swirling around in my head. I’m sure mine are not unlike many working moms’ lists. But that is why “I Don’t know How She Does It” was such a true-to-life movie. It captured the subtleties of the daily trade offs, the crazy schedules, the no-time-for-a-hair-appointment feeling (and look!), the joy (pure joy!) of time with my children, the fear of the teacher’s scowl when we’re late for drop off, the mommy guilt, the momsters who gloat that they have no mommy guilt, and that strange sense that amidst all this, I wouldn’t change my situation.
Sarah Jessica Parker — in her portrayal of Kate Reddy — captured a woman excelling at her job, adoring her kids, supporting at equally talented husband, and just plain trying to figure it all out without thinking she has to entirely give up any portion of the equation.
The movie does not sugar coat how important it is for her to be at the TOP of her game at work. Period. Full stop. No requests for special breaks because she’s a mom. She had to earn every inch of respect and reward.
And it doesn’t let her off at home either. She has an honest husband who watches her with amazement and pride, yet who knows when to holler “Uncle” as things spiral out of control. And let’s be honest. Sometimes they do.
Life is messy. Job stress ebbs and flows. Kids will need Rob and me more — not less - as they grow up. By no means can anyone tie things up in a perfect bow. But on Sunday night, the eve of my 13th wedding Anniversary, sitting in that dark theatre with my husband, watching what seemed like our own life unfold on that screen, we agreed that we wouldn’t want it any other way.
September 27, 2011
It was October 2002 when I first became a working mom. Full time job. Four month old baby at home. Someone — other than my husband and me – who was helping with the care of our first child.
Fortunately, ever since that day, I have had the benefit of employers who champion flexibility in the workplace and the ability to work from home several days a week if I choose. Now, that doesn’t mean I didn’t utilize day care, babysitters, and currently, after-care at my children’s school. I have and I do. And I’m actually a pretty big believer in the benefits of GOOD, group daycare, especially when the child care support system reinforces our Christian faith.
I know however, that as fortunate as I have been to take advantage of these benefits and have the money to pay for them, and am able to leave work to ensure I’m there for important milestones with my children…. there are many many women (and men!) in the working world who are ball and chained to desks, living the 9 to 5 grind with employers who neither take advantage of today’s technology to provide flexibility or (in my mind) worse, don’t trust their employees with the freedom to manage between work and home in creative ways.
I’m not sure where she’s going with this but I’m glad to know that the First Lady is helping to shine a light on the issue (as noted in this Politico story) by championing flexible work.. recognizing that in this Century, we need solutions that can accommodate the rigors of family life and thriving careers, both. I hope she gives her staff the flexibility that she touts. Because hers is a powerful voice….and with the “I Don’t Know How She Does It” movie in theatres, the timing is good!
January 9, 2010
Both before and since I’ve had children, few things have driven me as crazy as the debate over “motherhood VS. work.” Seems that our polarized nation of Democrat/Republican, stay at home/work outside the home, feminist/NOTfeminist language forces us too often in one camp or the other. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve felt alone on one side of the discussion around women’s roles.
Post college, I could not get enough Naomi Wolf and Katie Roiphe, not because I agreed with everything they preached in their new wave of feminism, but because they were talking a language that was relevant to my generation. They had a refreshing honesty about female independence. Yet it seemed completely devoid of any faith perspective.
Then I met Lilian Calles Barger. Not only did she bridge the world of intellectual feminism and faith together for me, but she refused to be trapped into all the big church-based questions that so many in my world got stuck on — “Can women lead in the church?”, “What is their proper ”role’?, etc. She rightly pointed out that so many in the faith community are navel gasing and talking amongst themselves — yet have nothing to offer to the broader academic community when it comes to feminism and its tenants. She dared to ask, “Why would (or should) we recommend wholesale rejection of feminist ideals without engaging thoughtful feminist academics on the basis of ideas?”
It’s Lilian who’s worked tirelessly to create a third way of feminism and faith discussion that avoids preaching, platitudes, and easy answers. Classic Lilian….in one of her blog entries from the summer:
“ Why can’t we get beyond this dicotomy between motherhood and work? Women, like men, have been created for two God given purposes, relationships and creative work. They are NOT mutually exclusive.”
Since she founded the Damaris Project in 1997, she has launched salons across the country to create forums for open, honest discussion about culture and feminism. Lilian has also gone on to write books on our view of the body and the role or experience of Christian feminism. I love her unending quest for Truth.
December 2, 2009
There have been some amazing women in my life under whom I’ve had the privilege to learn… starting of course with my Grandma Naomi Good (the essence of faithfulness and humility) to the model my mom is to me today — demonstrating the priority of taking care of family, while simultaneously pursuing excellence in career. Even my sister-in-law’s creative spirit sparks my own energy day after day as I read her blog and talk to her when I drop the kids off at school.
There are many others, but one of my mentors who comes to mind is State Rep. Katie True. In short, she rocks. From her I have learned the following:
– what fantastic customer service looks like (in part, thanks to her right hand, Barbara Kauffman)
– how to tell someone no with humor and kindness
– when to be blunt
– how to articulate what the gal next door is feeling
– how to keep your promises (Katie term limited herself and always stuck to that commitment)
– how to choose a few issues and really own them — she’s done this consistently on womens issues, childrens’ issues and in the fight against drugs
– the importance of sticking to conservative principles but in a way that still allows you to be a bridge builder and catalyst for change
The Lancaster New Era just had a great editorial on her impact. All the usual suspect Lancaster County white boys are lining up to take her spot, but they won’t be able to fill her shoes… Two of my favorite quotes from the Editorial:
“Over the years, True’s tireless advocacy for children and families sometimes put her at odds with House leadership. She is a conservative, but one who has put principle above blind obedience to party.”
“Because of True’s work, children are safer in their schools and women are safer in their homes. All Pennsylvanians owe this remarkable legislator a note of thanks for making Pennsylvania a better place to live.”
May 23, 2009
Our Microsoft internal site, MSW, this week had a great story on Lisa Gurry, a long time Microsoft employee who was recently named one of the top 30 Working mothers, along with Michelle Obama, by Working Mother magazine. It highlighted for me the balance, real life struggles and success of some smart women, but it reminded me of the benefit of working for Microsoft where flexibility is a reality and a huge benefit.
It’s a nice tribute that showcases the complexities that Lisa now juggles. The internal site notes:
One of the questions Gurry was asked on stage (at the Working Mothers event) was whether she considered technological advances in the workplace a good thing or a bad thing when it comes to work-life balance. She answered, enthusiastically, that without laptops, mobile phones, and other mobile devices and connectivity, “many of us wouldn’t have the flexibility we have today.” “One of the reasons I value [Microsoft] is that we are able to do some special activities with Taylor while having a little bit of a flexible work arrangement. And Microsoft insurance has been an absolute gift,” Gurry said. “We would not be able to give her the care that she was getting otherwise. I’ve always been a very grateful Microsoft employee, but I’ve never been more grateful than in my current situation.”