I'm having that growth-spurt awkwardness at work

Awkward!  I’m like a teenager (metaphorically, yes, but also in my choice of words lately) who’s all gawky and self-conscious as she goes through a transition from child to not-quite-but-within-sight-of grown up.

Leading many people is much like learning to snowboard – you have to manage your desire (not fall/ support people) and natural inclinations (aaaaah, reach for ground/ defend defend defend) against the head-space learning part (toes up, toes up/ teach through).

So, learning.

I’ve been all caught up this thing with these people that are the symbolic and literal crux of all-that-is-infuriating-about-our-business, so frustrated I drank wine and cried last night.

But then, a new day!  New perspective! And the briefest stirrings of remembering this thing I read about going around when you can’t go through:

The Video Game Technique.

You’re playing a video game and you run into a wall. Smack. Ow.

Well, your avatar ran into a wall. You’re still on the couch. But still.

A massive wall. Right in front of you. Blocking your progress.

What do you do? You look for options.

It’s a video-game world, so you know there’s a way past it.

You try to go over it, under it, around it, through it.

If there is absolutely no way over the wall, you go left or right. Or you go back and try something else.

If over the wall doesn’t work, you don’t just keep trying to go over it seventy two more times. You look for a different way to get past it. You try new things.

How this is different from real life.

In real life, we are constantly running into walls.

Here’s what most of us do when we run into a wall. Smack. Ow.

Then we run into it again. Smack. Ow. Hey, look. The wall is still there.

We might try to get around it. But then we run into it again. Smack. Ow.

We step back. And then forward. Smack. Ow.

Then we cry, rage, complain. We tell our friends and our therapists and anyone who will listen about how much we hate this stupid piece of crap wall and how it won’t just go away.

And it doesn’t even occur to us that there might be another way past.

Ask most people if they’ve tried going left or right yet, and they don’t know. They don’t keep track of how they’ve approached the wall – they’re just stuck in a rut. Smack. Ow.

And I don’t know about you, but when I’m all caught up in the frustration of the thing, I a) whine, b) rally the troops and c) ask everyone for advice – all good things, except for the circling back to the frustration.  So as I end long day #2, again in the bathtub but minus wine and tears, I’m going to play through… and just trust and follow, as I’m asking my teams to do.

Like this.

What’s missing?

A plan.  Some hope.  A path from here to there. Belief that we’ll end up in a good place because we all try really hard.  A way to pull in the smart people and elevate their voices above the churn.  Clarity on my role and my team’s role and how we succeed – really succeed and thrive and celebrate our awesomeness – in 2011.  Evidence of success now.  Evidence of my benefit now.

What am I here to do?

Be the Expedition Leader.  Unless it’s time to be the Tour Guide.  Regardless, I’m here to sell the vision, over and over, as many times as it takes, until smart and dedicated people are organized so their voices rise above and the right thing wins.

I’m here to give hope, point and repeat*, organize and gather and give a reason to have the conversation.  With everyone.  And rules and guidelines and accountability and team-ish coordination, among peers with the protection and support of leadership-type people.

I’m here to repeat myself and say the same goofy things in the same funny ways so we can stop being all caught up in the corporate-speak and find “ways” to “do stuff” with the “right people” making “right decisions” and getting “the word on the street” so we can “measure our awesomeness” in the ways that Matter to Us.  “Smart people with big brains” that I can point to and say “Yes!  I say what they said!”

I’m here to not help but be me.  Except for the part where I’m all verklempt about whether I should be here.

I get to talk to people about being really awesome for a living, and I get paid quite well, thankyouverymuch.  In my pj’s, if I want.  How awesome is this?

What is true?

That I’m a temp in sea of lifers, so my usefulness can (and should!) expire once everyone is working in a healthy way.  That this is my best place.

That I’m the underhanded (not really, but I do work the room in under-the-radar ways) organizer of the people (power!) even when the people are senior level managers.

That when I bring good, I get good back; when I bring petty/ exclusionary/ I’ll-show-you, I get that, too.

That I’m deserving of this role and I have super powers too.  And that I must stop downplaying them lest I forget to believe, must stop comparing lest I get pulled into, well, this (looks around), that everyone isn’t so far off from where I am, though we use different words.

That when you ask, you get answers.  When you assume, you get assumptions (and the endless spiraling of hypothetical-ness).

That the best lesson I learned when I first came to a team of people Not Like Me was to listen, ask, listen, ask, confirm, ask again, then go repeat and repeat and repeat until it’s done.  Ask means quite literally, “If you were me, what would you do?  What should I do?  What would I say?” And that is real value, not bs manager-ish never-goes-any-real-work trumpeted crap.  Value is no longer about brilliance or never-thought-of ta-da’s, but about surfacing and illuminating and repeating and helping by teaching, not doing.

What do I know about transitions?

They go like this: I don’t get it. I don’t get it. I don’t get it.  I don’t get it. I suck. I suck. I suck. I suck. I don’t get it. I suck. OH.  I get it. <time to move on>

Faith in my ability to learn. Sucker-ness that drives the “I will help fix this!” thing.  Self-flagellation as I spend time in not-knowing, then minimizing the awesomeness of suddenly knowing.  Wishing wishing wishing I could save everyone from the pain of growing while forcing myself through the same thing because it’s good for me.

They follow the same trend: Confusion + suck, frustration + ARGH + tears, (repeat repeat repeat), OH!  Got it!

So it’s okay to be in the pre-knowing phases, but also allowed to not believe in the suckage.  Watch and measure myself without flogging.  That yoga/ mindfulness/ meditation thing about experiencing/ being without judging.

What do I know?

About what? Life? Me? Work?

I talk about wanting to do big things, make a difference, see the point of it all, but with a few group meetings and a clear list of things to tackle, I am.  Not solving world hunger, sure, but improvement on a more human scale – showing people there can be another way.

And while it’s a First World Problem kind of thing, I am in health care, so at least there’s that, right?

What am I here to do?

Go from not-knowing to knowing. Over and over.  And start to shepherd people through, too. Except not shepherd (“boundaries and not this way and stop right there!”), guide (“This way!  Follow me!”). Except not guide (“Stay behind me, I’ll show the way through”), but something else involving getting to the top of the hill overlooking the brilliant awesomeness and pointing.

“You can get here, c’mon!  You’re doing great, keep going! Hold on to each other! Keep talking! You’re almost there!  No, not that way, this way!”

And then the top.

“Now go.”

And then everyone runs and screams and squeals and tumbles.

Oh, my gawd.  I’m a grown-up cheerleader. With a hiking metaphor, having never gone hiking.  And perhaps that’s why the thing I said is probably a guide, except for the part where I can’t jump in and push people through myself, or super speed them past the muck and pain, or even have footsteps in which they can follow.

Long post.  Hubby’s waiting.  Awesome, awesome peace, though, after two days of much tumult.

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2 thoughts on “I'm having that growth-spurt awkwardness at work

  1. hey woman, I personally love people who cheerlead, as I seem to do a lot of it myself. There’s something about being able to point a direction and keep the big picture in check.

  2. i have been rather MIA online lately with a lot going on but then i get a chance to read your blog and it always resonates for me. great entry. p.s. my girlfriend finally got pregnant and we both are raring to knit some adorableness. enjoy!

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