2017 has been a tumultuous year for many of us. As it ends, take a moment to breathe deeply. Savor and celebrate your accomplishments and joys.
2017 has been a tumultuous year for many of us. As it ends, take a moment to breathe deeply. Savor and celebrate your accomplishments and joys.
One trigger for my thoughts was a blog post by Randy Conley from October 19, 2014, entitled Do You Have the Constitution to Lead? He recommends that we each have a leadership philosophy and that we codify our philosophy in a personal mission statement.
I scoffed at this post when I first read it. I’ve never been big on personal mission statements. Nor corporate mission statements. In my opinion, the value of these documents is not in the words on the paper but in the thought and discussion behind them. And too often, the thought gets left behind after the words are written.
In another post, Conley agrees with my first reaction:
I used to think this [crafting a mission statement] was a bunch of warm, fuzzy, namby-pamby leadership nonsense. Until I wrote one. It helped me take the jumbled mess of thoughts, values, and ideals that I knew in my gut were my personal mission, and express them succinctly and coherently.
But even though I’ve belittled the notion of personal mission statements, like Conley, I crafted one a number of years ago. Mine was (and is):
“To do right, to do good, and in so doing, to do well.”
But what does this have to do with leadership?
If I truly believe my mission statement, then I must do right and do good BEFORE I worry about doing well. That means that as I lead—whether in paid employment, in volunteer organizations, in family, or in any other endeavor—I must first seek to do the right thing and also seek to do good for those around me and for the greater community. Only then should I worry about the impact of my actions on myself.
Sounds a lot like servant leadership.
Conley’s post goes on to recommend that you identify your core talents and values and define them in terms that others can understand. And that you communicate your values to your followers.
Most importantly, of course, is that you live your mission statement, whether you consider it a personal mission statement, a leadership constitution, or simply a philosophy of life. The words we use are far less important than our actions.
For more good posts on leadership, see
As we enter a new year, a year that will bring many challenges and tribulations, I resolve to do right and to do good in all aspects of my life.
What is your leadership resolution for 2015?
Chicken Soup for the Soul has a new book coming out this month—Chicken Soup for the Soul: Multitasking Mom’s Survival Guide.
Many of us who spent decades both working full-time and raising children can relate to this topic, though the book features stories from moms in many walks of life, not just those who worked full-time.
My story in this book, Not So Guilty After All, tells how my children complained about my working when they were younger. Yet now that they are grown, they are at least as focused on their careers as I was when they were younger.
I count their independence and work-ethic as among my successes in life. However, I also hope they find their own balance between work and family pursuits, just as I found mine (after a long struggle).
I am now retired from full-time employment and spend my time writing and consulting and volunteering. My multitasking has now just moved to other forms. I still complain about not having enough time to do everything I need to do.
So let us all remember, however we spend our time, not to feel so guilty. Most of us are doing the best we can. Let’s cut ourselves—and each other—some slack.
Take a look at the new Chicken Soup book. You’re sure to find a story that speaks to you.
Before mid-2013, Kansas banned concealed weapons in courthouses, state offices, and other public buildings. The library I patronize had a sign at the entrance announcing that weapons were prohibited inside.
But the Kansas state legislature, in its infinite wisdom, passed a law in mid-2013 requiring that concealed weapons be allowed in public buildings. The library received an exemption for six months, but that exemption expired on January 1, 2014.
Now, my library had to allow patrons to bring in concealed weapons, unless the library could develop “adequate security measures,” meaning metal detectors and security personnel at the entrances. Since the costs to secure a building can run from $300,000 to $800,000, most public facilities in Kansas such as libraries will be allowing concealed weapons.
In essence, Kansas law now requires that unless a public entity can insure that no one is packing heat, it cannot prohibit law-abiding citizens from carrying a concealed weapon.
Most readers of this blog know that I am generally conservative on most issues. But it just seems wrong to allow concealed weapons in a library.
Libraries are places of learning, of discovery. Children should be free to roam and explore in libraries They should be able to escape from their daily lives in the worlds they find in books. They shouldn’t have to worry about who is hiding what in their pocket.
And neither should I.
Weapons have no place next to books, in my mind.
I understand the Second Amendment arguments about “a citizen’s right to bear arms” not being abridged. However, it seems an antiquated provision in today’s urban society.
I also understand that there are—and should be—limits on what statutory and regulatory limits can be placed on constitutional rights, particularly those enumerated in the Bill of Rights. Citizens who don’t like the Second Amendment, or who think it should have limits, should seek to change it rather than thwart it.
Of course, the political realities are such that changing the Second Amendment is unlikely.
So unless the political winds change, I’ll be sure to keep quiet in the library.
What do you think about concealed weapons in libraries?
In this holiday season, many of us are away from work and with family. We may be assessing our lives, both at work and at home. As you reflect on the blessings and gaps in your life, click here for a list of all the work/life posts on this blog.
In particular, you might want to review
Happy holidays to each of you, and best wishes for the year ahead.
I recently attended a discussion group in which high-performing women nearing or at the end of their careers talked about how they wanted to continue with the rest of their lives. This group included CEOs of regional companies, executives from national and international companies, owners of multiple franchises, and professionals in the legal and educational fields – all had earned good incomes and had been successful in their chosen careers. Many had changed professions or careers or companies at least once before.
Yet we all struggled anew at this point in our lives:
I don’t think these questions are unique to professional women nearing retirement years. Men who are retiring face similar issues. Women (and men) who quit paying jobs to stay home with children must address these questions as well, as does anyone who switches careers mid-stream.
But what is unique to professional women is that the baby boomer women who are now retiring are the first generation of women who “made it” in large numbers. Across the nation, women may not have reached parity with men in numbers or income levels, but many, many women have had successful careers for the last thirty or forty years and are now leaving the workforce. These women – as much as their male colleagues – have defined themselves by their workplace roles. They have thought to themselves “I am what I do,” and family and friends and colleagues have seen them as what they do also.
As our group wrestled with questions such as how to decide what we want next in life, how to discuss our choices with spouse and family, how to tell friends and co-workers of our decisions, and even what to call ourselves in the next phase of life (“retiree” does not suit most of us), we came to the following conclusions:
None of the women in my group questioned the wisdom of leaving the work world at this point in her life. We only questioned how to make the rest of our lives meaningful.
More power to us. We have much left to give.
What other resources would you use to assist in re-purposing your life?
As an extreme introvert, I approached Susan Cain’s book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, prepared to accept her premise that “the single most important aspect of personality . . . is where we fall on the introvert-extrovert spectrum.” After all, I have watched myself throughout my life choose schools and jobs and social occasions based in part on whether I thought I could participate from the corner, rather than from center stage. And I’ve definitely timed my restroom breaks for when I needed to recharge my social batteries.
Ms. Cain presents an interesting overview of the science that leads to differences between introverts and extroverts, as well as a multi-faceted case for why introverts are undervalued in American society. She describes how many introverts learn to “fake” extroversion to fit in better at school and work, and also explains how to deal with introverted children and co-workers.
So why did I come away feeling less than persuaded by the book?
Here are a few reasons:
1. Flexing One’s Style Isn’t “Faking”
Perhaps because I have never viewed the times when I have had to “fake” extroversion as “faking” it. I just did what I had to do to be persuasive in the moment. Yes, I would prefer to write out my positions to get people to do what I want, rather than converse or argue. But writing isn’t always the best approach. Some situations require personal interaction, whether in a large group or in extemporaneous Q&A sessions.
So I have learned to make presentations effectively, and I have learned to handle extemporaneous speaking. It’s not faking it; it’s getting the job done. When I am well-prepared, I can even enjoy these group interactions.
And I’ve developed enough flexibility in my presentation abilities that I can reorganize my material on the fly when need be. A few years ago, as I got up to present to a group of executives, I was told that my time had been cut from an hour to 15 minutes. I was able to focus them on the salient points and still got the job done.
Being effective is never “faking” it.
2. Extroverts Have to Adapt Also
Introverts aren’t the only ones who have to adapt. My extroverted friends have told me how they similarly need to flex their style to get their jobs done. They have to learn when to be quiet, and when to focus.
In fact, one of my most memorable moments as a manager was in talking to one of my extreme extrovert direct reports, who told me how much energy it took her to sit through a meeting when she had to listen and couldn’t speak out. This was the first time I understood what the Myers-Briggs consultants always said – that the difference between introverts and extroverts is whether they get their energy from being with other people or from being alone.
The key to management, I discovered, was letting each person run as far as they could within a few parameters. I gave my staff their objectives, and let them determine how to meet them. Both the introverts and the extroverts were more creative in attacking their goals than I could ever have been.
We all adapt, and we all benefit from learning to expand our styles.
3. We Are More than Introverts or Extroverts
Although I used to think that my introverted nature was the most salient aspect of my personality, in recent years I have come to believe that personality is far more complex than a single trait.
For example, I am also an extreme “J” on the “perceiving/judging” scale on the Myers-Briggs personality type. My “judging” trait makes me speak up in circumstances when my introversion might want me to be quiet. I am often the first person to respond to questions in group settings, because my “judging” trait makes me want to get to closure as quickly as possible. My introvert loses out when I want to get to a decision, or even just to move on.
Each of us needs to learn to use all aspects of our personalities to be effective. We are, in fact, more than the sum of our parts.
* * * * *
Is Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking worth reading? Definitely, particularly for introverts who want to understand why they are the way they are and how the world perceives them. And also for extroverts who want to know how to approach introverts. Parents and managers who are having difficulty with introverts can benefit from both the neurology and psychology presented in the book.
But recognize that Susan Cain’s book is only a one-dimensional look at the world. We benefit most when we recognize and develop all our dimensions.
I recently read an essay by an African-American woman I know (I’ll call her “Autumn”) about a time when she was the only minority in a room of white friends. The whites started talking about the use of the “N” word in their families growing up. They weren’t advocating the use of the word. In fact, they were talking about how appalling it had been and how their families had evolved in the intervening decades.
Autumn wrote about how embarrassed and uncomfortable she was during the conversation, and how reluctant she was to voice her discomfort. After the event, Autumn agonized for days over whether to say anything to her friends.
She finally told one of them. He said he hadn’t meant to hurt her. That response didn’t satisfy Autumn.
She told another friend. She felt much better when that friend acknowledged the pain Autumn had felt, and described a situation when she herself had felt singled out and humiliated.
As I read Autumn’s article, I felt uneasy myself. I couldn’t quite grasp the point of the essay. It was clear the conversation had had a deep emotional impact on Autumn, and she had needed someone to recognize her pain. But I couldn’t understand why the remarks by her friends had hurt so much.
Had she felt her friends were using the “N” word toward her? But they obviously had been disparaging toward people who used it. Why would friends expressing disapproval of the word feel like a threat to her? As a white, I couldn’t understand why she felt humiliated by the simple verbalization of the word.
Had she felt invisible as her white friends talked? Had their vocalization of the word, even in a disparaging way, somehow belittled an African-American’s gut-level hatred of its use in any context? The whites’ perspective on use of the “N” word would naturally be different than Autumn’s. An open inclusion of her would probably have enriched everyone’s understanding of the impact of the word.
I will never know why Autumn felt the way she did. I found that to be a failing in her essay. But clearly, it has haunted me, and caused me to reflect on what she wrote. So maybe it was a successful article, despite my initial reaction.
Regardless of its strength as a piece of writing, Autumn’s essay was a good reminder of the difficulties of talking about race – and, indeed, about any dimension of diversity – in our culture. We come to these issues with our whole life’s experience. Some of these experiences are individual, some are passed on to us through families and groups we belong to, such as church and school.
In every case, our capacity for understanding ourselves and each other is enhanced if we can ask, respectfully, “Why do you feel the way you do? Tell me; I’m listening.”
The Internet this past week has been full of discussion about an article by Anne-Marie Slaughter in the Atlantic, titled “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All?” Ms. Slaughter writes about the difficulties she experienced in holding a high-level policy position in the State Department, and why she ultimately returned to her role as a dean at Princeton University in large part because she needed to spend more time with her family.
She argues in the piece that women cannot “have it all” in today’s society, for a number of reasons. She says that we tell ourselves half-truths about “having it all,” such as believing we can “have it all” if we are committed enough, or if we marry the right person, or if we sequence our lives right.
But in fact, we cannot have it all.
And here I state my own beliefs, based on having lived most of my professional and family life:
No one has it all.
Everyone makes compromises.
I posted in March about women “opting out.” The truth is, we all opt out of some things and opt into other things.
I worked for more than 25 years in demanding positions in corporate America. You would recognize the name of my employer if I named the firm. I worked 60 hours/week, and managed to stay married and raise two children. I had many of the advantages that Ms. Slaughter had, but not all. I probably had other advantages she did not have.
And through it all, I made choices.
Along the way, my husband made his choices as well. Some of his choices enabled my career, and some made it more difficult. And my choices had positive and negative impacts on his career and other activities.
Could I have done more at work? Yes. I held several senior positions in my company, but I could have risen higher and had more authority. Some of why I didn’t rise further was probably due to my choices, and some was probably due to how others perceived me, correctly or incorrectly.
But I had a very good career, and I left on my own terms. And I raised two children who are now successful young adults. I look back on these accomplishments with satisfaction, no matter that I could have had more.
I didn’t have it all, but I had most of what I wanted. And I was responsible for my choices.
I hope that my children – son and daughter alike – have more choices than I had. I hope they worry less about the choices they make. But the odds are, their lives will have some of the same difficulties as well as new ones that develop in the 21st century.
Life doesn’t permit any of us to “have it all.” It’s not meant to be easy. Nor even fair.