Category Archives: Leadership

Never Say Never

There is an old saying “Man plans and God laughs”. If there was ever a year my life that emphasized this, it would be the last 12 months! Much of the lessons below are reflective of other blog posts, but after looking back at the year I felt compelled to share them in this context.

To recap where I was in January of 2016:

  • I was still retired from “Corporate America”
  • Finishing my coaching certification through New Ventures West
  • Adjusting to being single after a 31-year long marriage
  • Dating a great man whom I had met the summer prior

Life was good!   I envisioned starting to grow my coaching practice, continue to get to know my boyfriend, expand my hobbies, and occasionally sleep late.

Now  I am:

  •  Re-employed by “corporate America” –
    • By the same company that incentivized me to retire in 2010!
  • A certified Integral Coach – with rewarding and meaningful practice
  • Married and thriving in a lifelong partnership
  • Continually wondering what the hell happened to all those great plans!

Much of my life I was a control freak, planning out each day, week, quarter – I spent the vast majority of my career doing the same type of work!   I see now this desire to be in control was actually masking a fear: If I did not control it, ‘it’ might control me. If ‘it’ controlled me then I would be exposing myself to hurt, to negative outcomes, to the “unknown”. By my definition the unknown would generate negative consequences.

Not surprisingly, I was very good at controlling things. I also realized that even if I was in control, bad things still happened.   My dad died young.   I didn’t get the promotions I thought I should.   My marriage didn’t last a life time. The company I was employed by merged, and I was no longer in the job I wanted.  When my plans failed me and delivered a bad outcome my response would be: “I’ll never do that again”.   The list of ‘nevers’ started to become very long.

Somewhere in the process of growing older,  of accepting who I am and accepting the world as something other than “me”, I started to recognize that this controlling wasn’t working so well.   Trying to control everything was not leading me to greater happiness. In fact, the very things I cherished most in life were the ones that entered unexpectedly, they were surprises.

As you may have remembered in an earlier blog… “Don’t fight Gravity”

As I started to let go, to let gravity be a force in my life that I can embrace and move with, I started to experience simply being human.   I learned that you can walk into a situation without needing to control the outcome and allow things to unfold. I opened up to possibilities that the world might have something to offer to me that I had not yet experienced, a new lesson, a new moment, a new feeling.

When you fight to control what is around you, you are limited to what you ‘know’.   If you already “know” everything how can you still have new experiences? How can you control everything and still grow?

I have come to accept that no matter what the world hands to me, I will be fine.   I am strong enough, capable enough, wise enough, and supported enough to be able to survive.   Not just survive, but thrive.

So, I am re-entering corporate America, and choosing to do so with a spaciousness of thought and feeling. I will take my warrior and my artist to the office each day. I will stay mindful that the I will be my most authentic when I stay present and engaged. I will choose to leave the laptop lid down and ears, eyes, mind and heart open. I will accept each day as it presents itself. I will not assume I know where this path will lead me, and instead chose to allow it to unfold in its own time. I will enjoy the journey.

I will still be results oriented. I also accept that how I define “a result” is forever changed and forever fluid.

I chose to believe the world is endless in its opportunity and possibility. There is a spaciousness that can exist if you let it in. Yes, bad things will happen. Good things will happen. Weather will sometimes be sunny, sometime be grey.

Our horizons are bounded by the degree to which we allow “Never” into our lives, when we set artificial boundaries, and lose sight of our values.

When was the last time you allowed yourself to let go of “Never”?

Never make a decision you wouldn’t want aired in public….

I first started managing and supervising people when I was 17 years old…. working at Fred Meyer, a local grocery store.   For the next 37 years, every role I had put me in charge of managing people.  With those people came the responsibility of setting direction for the team.  For ever direction I set, I had to make decisions.

I was lucky enough, early in my career, to work for a man who taught me many lessons – lessons in management, leadership, strategy,  and how to not take myself to seriously.   His name was Frank Alvarez, and I was privileged to work for him, over the life of my career, longer than any other manager.    My blog today is focused on the first big lesson I learned from Frank…. Never make a decision that you would not want shared in a public forum….  even if you could guarantee it would never be made public.

So why does this matter?  What difference does it make what you decide (for yourself or your team) if you know it can be kept secret?  Why not cut corners, opt for the easy out or stack the cards in your favor if you know that you can get away with it?   Why take the harder route when the easier route is right there in front of you?

It comes down to something that became a foundation of my career, and something I hoped to always live up to:   Ethical Leadership.

At the end of each day, there is only one face in the mirror that looks back at you.   It is your face you have to see, your knowledge that you have to reconcile.  You may be able to hide information from others, you may be able to keep certain decisions from the light of day, and you will always find them coming home to roost when you see that face in the mirror.

Over the course of those 37 years I made many decisions.  Some impacted the livelihood of others.  Some prioritized certain efforts while canceling others.    I hired people, choosing one out of many.  I fired people and “redeployed” them…. OK, what I did was lay them off.     I had to make decisions who to reward, who to punish.  I had to decide what path we took:  Did we do it the easy way, or did we do it the right way?    Did I want my work to “Look good”  or “Be good”.   I had to decide whether to be open with my boss and tell her my team was failing and I needed help.  I even had to decide if I should tell my boss I thought he was full of crap.

Each time I felt I was faced with the ‘impossible’ decision, when I was lured to do what what ‘politically correct’,  what would look best on my resume, or would be the easiest thing to do I would hear Frank’s words in my head.  I would ask myself:  “If I make this decision, chose this path, can I stand up in front of a group of my co-workers, my friends or my family, and explain why I made this decision.”      My body would always tell me before my heart and mind could process it.   If my back tensed up, my jaw clenched and my arms folded, I knew I had my defenses up and that meant rather than being able to explain my decision I was feeling compelled to defend it.    If I felt relaxed, felt my chest open up and my breathing ease as I envisioned standing in front of those people I knew I had made the choice I could live with.

So as leaders, as managers, as spouses, as friends…. when faced with those impossible decisions, I invite you to take a moment to consider your options, to search inside you for what you are compelled to do, what is fair and ethical,  what you are able to explain.   Listen with all of who you are… your intellect, your emotion, your body and your spirit.    This is not about making the “right” decision, its about making the decision that you feel compelled to make.  In life there are few, if any, “perfect decisions”.  At the end of the day, there will always be one face in the mirror looking back at you,  one person who is accountable for the decisions you make,  one person who will always know the decision you made and why you made it.

Be willing to look that one person in the eye, knowing that for that one person – You – every decision is made in the public forum.