I’ve heard quite a bit about forgiveness recently which made me start to think about how much I forgive and how much I don’t. Forgiveness is not one of those clear-cut, black and white emotions. For example, I can be quick to forgive my close friends for actions or words but not be able to do the same for someone I just met. Instead of laughing off a sarcastic comment from a friend, a stranger’s words might spur hurt feelings. Why is it I can quickly forgive my friends but it is harder for strangers? Does it matter the severity of the hurt – words or actions? Let’s explore this topic a little.
In my opinion, I can forgive my friends quicker because of longevity. Quite simply I’ve known them longer. We have history and a relationship that builds a bond of trust. It is that bond of trust that keeps words from stinging or actions from hurting more than they should. It also means I can extend the hand of forgiveness quickly, sometimes without even thinking. With an established relationship, there is trust. Once again, trust leads to the strength of all interactions. However, I submit that the severity of the hurt also plays a part in the ability to forgive. Let’s say that a long-time friend forgets my birthday. Honestly, I wouldn’t even think twice about that. But if that long-time friend spreads a vicious rumor about me, that may take longer to forgive, maybe because the bonds of trust have been stretched or broken.
Then I question – what is forgiveness? Merriam Webster says that forgiveness is a noun meaning “the act of forgiving someone or something”. That doesn’t help because what does it mean to forgive? Back to the dictionary I go. To forgive is a verb meaning “to stop feeling anger toward (someone who has done something wrong); to stop blaming (someone)”. Okay – now we are getting somewhere. When we look at the definition of ‘forgive’, it is entirely personal. It means that I must stop feeling anger outwards, not that someone else must act. It is internal for me to forgive and for me to calm my own emotions. No one can do that for me and I cannot do that for someone else. A much bigger and much deeper question is how do we forgive? That is a great question but one that I am totally unqualified to answer. I will share that I struggle with forgiveness. I can easily move past wrongs from certain people and not others. Notice my choice of words – move past and not forget.
I don’t remember every single time I’ve needed forgiveness or forgiven others but there are those deep hurts that I’ve chosen to let go. I probably will not be able to ever forget them but I can do my best to let go of the anger. I also admit that deep hurts may be forgiven, not forgotten, and therefore shape my relationship with that person in the future. I may continue to have a friendship with someone but for deep hurts, I’ll do my best to never allow that situation to happen again – good or bad, right or wrong. There are a lot of questions about forgiveness so this may come up again. I’d like to share how motivation and intent play into forgiveness, or some ways it has been hard for me to forgive. Those thoughts are for another time.
My last blog post is one that I would characterize as “vanilla” – fairly mundane and clinical. I started this blog with those types of thoughts to share, focusing on leadership and communication. I still want to share those things but I may alter it to a much more personal point of view. The point I want to make now is that I can have it all! I wrote about two months ago about my trepidation of starting a new job/career with a new company (Edge of a Cliff). I still want to soar and not crash but so far I think I’m doing a good job. I was promoted this week!
I will give all the credit to my husband. Without his support, I could not devote my attention to my work during the day. Also, this is a big change for me and for him in our roles in our lives. For the last few years I was the one with our kids for any and everything – sick days, summer break, early outs from school. I enjoyed every minute of it because I recognized it probably wouldn’t last. One of our agreements before starting my new full-time position was that if it wasn’t me with our kids, it would be him. We feel very strongly that we need to be as much of a presence in our kids lives as possible. Now that is his role.
It is a new adventure for my husband as well in this chapter of our lives. He was a career professional and now is more devoted to our children and our home. I want to support him in any way possible but I also have comfort that he and our kids are okay. I appreciate all that he is doing for our family but I feel that he is supporting me as well. There is no pressure from him to succeed, just a desire to help me in whatever way I need.
That is my point in this blog post – support. We can do things all by ourselves and sometimes we have no choice in that matter. However, I believe we all benefit when we have support from others in our lives. That support may not always be in an obvious form or exactly what we think we want, but there is another hidden message. When we support each other, we show our love and concern. I feel supported and therefore I feel like I can perform at my best. I hope all those that I support feel the same.
I’ve always been a proponent of focusing on business processes instead of individual talents. We all have areas that we excel and we can provide specialty service in our particular field, however for long term success we need to understand the process instead of the people, especially for business processes that are considered routine. For example, if you were to go to a bank to cash a check, you expect the bank to accomplish that task, not tell you that you have to wait for John in order to make it happen. If John was out for the day, you would really be stuck!
While the need for people with skills is not in question, it is the skill that is required, not the person. My perspective may seem harsh but really it is the best for the organization and for the team. One person may do that skill better than another which is also not in question. My point is that for a team or a project to be successful, everything and everyone involved needs to look at the work not the people. One way to look at it is if a team is working to improve how the bank cashes the check, their efforts will be on the actions and tasks involved. This does not mean that people are out of the picture – far from it.
Unless a process is completely automated, people will have an impact (and even then they may be involved for quality). People are always going to be involved but focusing on one person may not be the best solution. My point is that if a process is person-dependent, then the process may be bottlenecked or at the mercy of that person’s schedule. What if John is out sick? Cross-training helps alleviate the need for a particular person and puts the emphasis back on the process. What are you cross-training – the skills and the process. As a leader, I will always support my people but I will teach and train the processes.
I can only imagine what it feels like to go hang gliding. Standing there at the end of a massive drop off of some kind; with the world open ahead and below you. While you have every intention of soaring into the sky and having the ride of your life, there is a very real possibility you may plummet and crash. Tonight is the eve of my new job. I’ve started new jobs before and this one is actually easier than the ones before it, but it is still filled with anxiety and emotion. The possibility and potential with any new opportunity is awesome and inspiring but there is a very real possibility of screwing things up. I think I worried a lot more about screwing things up when I joined other organizations, but I think I’ve got that part under control right now. So the horizon is ahead of me with every intention of having the ride of my life! But I want to go over some of the things that got me to this point – specifically what I learned from my other jobs.
I think what makes this opportunity a little more secure and exciting is that I really took the time to figure out what I like to do and what environment I thrive in. The easy part is what I like to do, lots of stuff. I have a strong computer background with almost a decade of experience, I love to do business process improvement, and I really like to get stuff done. Kind of vague but it gets me pointed in the right direction – I am not in finance, HR or engineering. I also had to narrow down the computer stuff a little since I am not a good programmer. Don’t get me wrong, I had to write code for my undergraduate degree but at this point 12 year olds program better than I do.
The much bigger (and more important) aspect for me to figure out was what kind of environment I thrive in. What I mean by this is what kind of organizational culture, workplace structure and team interaction makes me happy. I did not give this aspect of my professional life any consideration before but I can tell you that it is number one on my list of what I look for in an employer today. Work is work. For the most part, it is all similar with challenges, expectations, up and downs. I found out that the true distinction is the culture of the company. Do people come to work just to get a paycheck and work just enough not to get fired or is there true cohesion and focus with the team? Are the people who love their jobs only at the top of the heap or does the person on the bottom of the ladder also enjoy coming to work each day? This is actually important stuff!
When you are in a work environment that is not a good fit culturally, it makes going to work painful. Since we spend a majority of our waking day at our jobs, being happy or at least satisfied pretty darned important. I took these lessons learned from my own personal experience and made that my deciding factor going forward. I can say that my new company has an awesome culture and I don’t even work there yet! It energizes me just to think that I get to be a part of it! That is my overall point, because my new opportunity is so awesome I am anxious tonight but I am not afraid. I am on the edge of a new adventure but I believe that I am going to soar because I am so ready to jump off and not worry about the potential downfalls.
I’ve written a lot over the last year and a half about change and our approach to it as leaders. It is time to apply some of those lessons shared to my own life. I have accepted a position with a company in Texas and will be moving there just after the New Year. I do not know how much I will be able to keep up this blog once I start my new position. This is a big change for me personally and professionally but I am hopeful about the future. To be perfectly honest, I am still very overwhelmed about so much change but it is getting easier as we make more decisions. Having such big unknowns made the change hard – the biggest being where are we going to live. As these big questions have answers, I become less overwhelmed and more excited. More decisions finalized equates to more clarity which helps calm my anxiety. See.. it does work.
I want to thank everyone who has read and followed this blog. I appreciate the fact that you took a few moments out of your day to read what came out of my heart and my head. I hope some of it made sense and maybe some of it helped, that was always the point. I wish you all the very best!
My time in the military taught me a lot about myself. Some of it was not that pretty. To be honest I am surprised and ashamed at how I reacted in some of my early situations. I was not on the battlefield but I was faced with trials and tasks that were hard, hard in ways I did not expect, and I was afraid. My fear led me to be weak or run away from the difficulties ahead but in the military you don’t run far. Because of my fear, and my reaction to my fear, my leaders were very tough on me – and they had every right to be. I didn’t realize until later on how much I needed them to be tough to make me stronger.
There are personality traits that can be beneficial to good leaders like charisma and charm but that will never be enough. True character is what defines great leaders – those that are trustworthy, calm, fair and understanding. There is a long-standing debate about whether leadership can be taught or is inherent. I believe these character traits must have an internal foundation, where someone has the propensity to have these qualities that can then be built and enhanced along the way.
While I may have had fear and ran from my hardships early on in my military career, my leaders saw those character traits in me because they already existed in me. Before I joined the Navy, I was already dependable, trustworthy, and fair. Through my leaders’ lessons in my life, I can say that I “grew up.” They believed in me and through them I learned how to be the person I am today. My leaders helped me understand that leadership is not about the authority that comes along with being in charge; it is about accepting the responsibility of the team and the outcome.
God Bless our military – the true leaders of the world.
My blog has been silent for a few weeks now. The reason is partially due to life but mainly because I have not felt inspired to write. Not that there aren’t thousands of thoughts yet to share about leadership, teamwork and personal interactions, but nothing felt right to write (pun intended). Amazingly enough, my lack of inspiration now became my topic! Call it writer’s block or being uninspired, when ideas are not flowing, I feel it is almost impossible to force good content. For me, when I write, it is like I am speaking the words in my head while I am typing. I type as fast as my thoughts are flowing which makes writing fun and the words easy to find. When my head is empty, my fingers are not able to move. Personally, I think it is obvious even in the way I write between topics I am inspired to write about and others that I am trying to just get down on paper.
The difference between inspiration and discouragement comes down to motivation. When I am inspired about a topic or a life event, I am motivated to work. My mind and my body are energized towards greatness as ideas and effort flow forth in a way that feels exciting and fun instead of like a drudge. When I am not encouraged or enthusiastic about my topics or about my life events, the weight of my ambivalence slows down my entire psyche. I don’t WANT to think or to move! So let’s think about this when it comes to leadership because this is a huge deal.
Just like it is obvious to me in the results of my work when I want to write and when I am going through the motions, the outcome for groups is no different. The harder task for leaders is to find the motivating factor for the team to drive them to greatness. Unfortunately, we are all made different so this sounds a lot easier than it is. Although, there is one core truth that I choose to believe, that people do strive for greatness. Call it optimism, but when we are at work or charged with a task in life, I choose to think that individually we want to good a job. It is a sign of our capabilities and our talents to demonstrate what we can accomplish. In turn, when we have a chance to use our skills, we are energized. I think for leaders, identifying those particular talents and skills of each team member to contribute to the goal overall is the key to keeping people motivated and therefore inspired.
The Professional Development Team
Communicating via technology is not only expected but required for most positions today. As our teams become more separated, not just via computers at our desks but even across the globe, we have to learn how to work and lead using technology. Integrating technology expands the work location options, where some jobs allow remote computer access as a means of off-site support, and some encourage a better work-life balance. Therefore, working from home is promoted 1-2 days per week, while others are 100% remote positions. I started looking at these full-time telecommuting jobs (100% remote), trying to detect any expectation adjustments between off- and on-site positions. The truth was there was no difference in the job descriptions except to be comfortable with remote work. However, for the people in charge, it means working and leading in a whole new way. Instead of standing in the room with someone and shaking his or her hand, interactions are completely non-physical. The question must be asked: How can we lead when we don’t actually meet? I believe we can still practice the core fundamentals of leadership face-to-face or otherwise.
First we have to go back and look at the requirement for a good remote team member before we can lead the team. I mentioned that remote work or telecommuting requires people who are comfortable with that type of environment. That means the person doing the job will be essentially on his or her own. She/he must be ready to learn new skills and processes (sometimes with little to no support) and keep motivated without someone literally standing over his or her shoulder. That second part is the harder part. For me working at home sometimes can be more of a distraction than a blessing. There are so many little to-dos that take my attention as well as the big focus-getters like family. Leaders need to look for qualities and characteristics that demonstrate strong personal motivation and self-starting for team members who will work remotely.
Leaders also have to be strong personal motivators, but with a remote team they have to figure out how to motivate others, too. The advancements in technology help in this area. Video communication tools like Microsoft Lync or Skype give the opportunity to put a face to the name. Also, voice communication gives people the chance to see/hear the conversation instead of completely relying on emails. As mentioned in many other blogs, emails have a way of being misconstrued or misunderstood. Bottom line, being a leader is just being a leader – the fundamentals do not change. Even though the team may not sit in the same room, it is possible to get people to communicate; it may just take a little more effort. Therein lies the key. Communication is critical no matter what the environment of the team. One last point: In my opinion, leaders’ expectations of performance and professionalism should not be sacrificed at the altar of technology.
The Professional Development Team
I find that criticism or judgment of others is directly related to our own sphere of understanding. This may be an obvious point, but let me share what I mean. I live in the “Bible belt” of America; there are churches on almost every single corner in town with many faith-based activities in the area. During one such event – a music concert – there was a woman down front who was really rocking out to the music. Now the music was very contemporary with guitars and drums and the whole bit, but she was really into it. At first I watched her with unease, almost disdain, because of her jumping and thrashing around. But as time went on, I stopped watching her with judgment, and it shifted to awe. Here was a woman who had no other focus in life at that moment but her connection with the music and God. She had zero concern for the world around her, including the people who may be witness to her exuberance.
When I realized the carefree moment this woman was experiencing, I was envious. I started to think, why am I not having that same sort of experience? I decided it is because of two reasons, and both of them involve judgment. 1) I still hold some concern for how others will see, therefore judge, me in that sort of environment and 2) I still hold some reservations, and therefore judgment, that such abandon is not true faith but just antics. Either way, I am sitting in judgment of others and of myself. Where does this prejudice come from, and who am I to judge? I think that the answer is that we are human. We base our decisions and our lives on our experiences and the world around us.
What we know and understand and are comfortable with becomes ‘right’, and anything else shifts to ‘wrong’. That which is uncomfortable or unknown is harder to face or deal with: so we shy away from it. It becomes easy to judge at that point, because from a simplistic view, what we know as ‘right’ makes us ‘righteous’. That is a very nice spot to live in. When we are righteous, we are justified in our judgment or condemnation of that which we find ‘wrong’, and anything that affects our righteous position makes us a victim – again, a very powerful vantage point. So what do we do?
I don’t have the answers to this dilemma. I think it is just important to recognize that it exists. As I am branching out and trying new things, I am now more conscious of my preconceived notions and my judgments. At the very least, I am trying to shelve my initial fears or reactions and just live. It is not an easy lesson and probably one that I will have to continually learn over and over again. However, just because something is different or is outside my comfort zone, it in no way means it is bad or wrong.
The Professional Development Team