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To all the badass women leaders

My previous boss gave me this book as an early Christmas gift in 2019 and I devoured it. It’s filled with so many valuable nuggets in a light, digestable style of writing. I knew at one time I was a BADASS, but something happened months into COVID causing me to doubt myself. A large part of it had to do with burn out from chronic stress and life demands. BUT in the last 11 months or so, I’ve been finding myself again and I’m back to believing I’m a BADASS. Sometimes the obstacles of life can make you doubt yourself and your path. However, I’m here to tell you to keep going. Struggles, obstacles, challenges, disappointments, disasters, and defeats come with the human experience. Don’t be so hard on yourself. It will turn around.

If you’re not in a struggle now, you’re coming out of one or are headed that way in the future. But don’t fret! Struggles strengthen your muscles (i.e., character, spiritual, resilience, emotional, mental, financial, intellectual, integrity, professional, parenting, friendship, etc.), depending on what lessons you’re meant to learn. I can’t say I enjoy my life’s struggles yet, but I’ve learned so many lessons from them and from the strong women in my life.

In this post, I will share some of the BADASS women leaders who’ve impacted my life the most. I’m fortunate to work in an environment with a diverse group of exceptional women leaders. Several of them are African American. The strongest traits I see in them are articulating thoughts precisely, saying the hard things, encouraging others, providing constructive feedback, taking the time to learn, adjusting, and bravely making hard decisions on a daily basis. I’ve had examples of strong, badass women leaders my whole life.

My mom, Solange, immigrated to the United States from Haiti and she was a package of strength and vulnerability. I was perplexed by this combination for a long time. She raised 4 children on a meager salary as a single mother for years (before she married my stepfather when I was 16). I don’t know how she did it when I learned her salary amount. I made more money than her in my first full time job.

Solange was strict and had high standards. She instilled her work ethic into each of her children. My work ethic is why I’m in a leadership position. My work ethic is why I push myself so hard as an overachiever. Overachieving comes with some drawbacks as you’ve seen me blog about previously. I’m in a constant battle of doing and being okay with not doing. Therapy is helping me to unpack this.

The other BADASS woman leader I grew up with in my own home is my older sister, Gina. Growing up, she was the one everybody (or at least I did) called “bossy”. Naturally, most people have a problem with the “bossy” ones because they don’t want to be told what to do. However, she was practical and had an organized sense about her.

As it turns out, people who are bossy make great leaders and she’s been in leadership roles at various jobs starting at an early age. I’ve always admired Gina’s ability to speak with confidence and articulate what she meant. Gina is direct and honest. I’m grateful she’s one of my resources for feedback in managing certain matters at work.

Then, there was my older cousin who is so smart. I’m purposely not typing her name. There’s a lot of pressure in Haitian culture to do as your parents plan for you. From my perspective, as the middle child, my cousin learned to be a great neutralizer and negotiator in the family. Gina has these traits considering she is also the middle child. Middle children are known to be great negotiators.

My observation is my cousin maintains relationships with everyone, even if those individuals who don’t get along with each other. She’s the common denominator. They all get along with her. I’ve also watched her achieve her goals and meet high standards she set for herself and standards her parents set for her.

The traits I admire in women leaders don’t come easily – articulating thoughts precisely, saying the hard things despite the audience, constantly learning and adjusting, negotiating, managing personalities successfully, offering constructive feedback, bravely making and standing by hard decisions, and managing work and family life simultaneously. Women of color particularly have it hard when you factor living in a world where there is racism, in addition to sexism, ageism, and all the other isms. Being able to lead through the sociological muddiness impresses me even more.

The title of the book is fun, but I will add I personally tend to be humble despite the wisdom I’ve gained from my experiences. So basically, in real life, I don’t go around telling people I’m a BADASS. I got the humility trait from Solange and I can’t help myself. I do think it’s healthy to reflect on things you like about yourself and your accomplishments. This gives you CONFIDENCE and the courage to keep striving.

As a start to another week, I hope you remember you are a BADASS because you made it to see another day. Keep working on whatever it is your working towards. And why not let the other BADASSES in your life know how much they mean to you.

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Before I head back to work…

Hello world. In my almost 5 weeks of recovery from surgery at the end of January, I’ve been healing wonderfully. I’m proud of myself for taking time for the rest my body desperately needed. Rest does not come easy for many people and that needs to change. And technically, I’m still healing, but I’ve made some great progress. I can honestly say this surgery (hysterectomy) was one of the best things I’ve done for my body! Remember, I was suffering from heavy bleeding, fatigue, and anemia. The only complication from the surgery is the stuttering (mentioned in 4 Week Post Surgery Update), but it’s occurring less often. I’ve been monitoring it.

So far, the only menopausal symptoms I’ve noticed are some occasional mild night sweats. At 48 years old, I view menopause as another passage of life. The most significant passages in my life (from my experience not my mom’s 😊) were my teenage years, becoming an adult, working towards my education and career, getting married, and having children. I see menopause in a positive light. (Look at me sounding like I’ve got this all figured out! Ha!) In some regards, it is scary to charter into this unknown territory, especially at a relatively young age, but I hope to THRIVE during this phase.

Once I got through the initial 2 weeks post-surgery (the most critical time), I took advantage of the down time and did some much needed self-reflection. I mentioned in my post How it started vs how it’s going: 2 weeks post surgery that I developed a plan for how I will manage menopause. My plan includes living a healthy lifestyle through eating mostly plant-based foods (not dieting), exercising, meditating, practicing deep breathing, getting ample sleep, and reducing stress. I could have started with reducing stress because I believe it’s had the most negative affect on my mind and body. I’ve struggled with stress for years and I’m determined to manage it much better.

A true sign of progress is last week my gynecologist approved me to return to work on March 2. And because I’ve enjoyed the less stressed, more centered person I’ve been for the past 5 weeks, I want to maintain this state of homeostasis (as my therapist calls it). My job and work environment are the greatest sources of stress in my life and I am determined to not let it erode my progress. Therefore, I wrote a SELF-CARE work plan to manage my work days moving forward. I also worked with my therapist on a plan for how I transition back to work. For example, I spent only 30 minutes Sunday, 30 minutes on Monday, and 1 hour on Tuesday catching up on the nearly 1,000 new emails in my in-box. In the past, I probably would have spent 2-3 hours per day, over several days reviewing emails until I had read them all. My therapist practically scoffed when I suggested 2 hours. The objective is not to get sucked back in and wear myself out. Not to mention, it’s not realistic.

I also created a template in a Word document for my direct reports to provide their updates and asked them to complete it by Monday, so I can know what transpired and what I need to prioritize. This was a much better approach. I will be catching up for a couple of weeks, but at least I won’t go into my first day completely blind. This process may not work for everyone. Some people working in certain establishments may not need to do this sort of preparation, but considering the fast paced environment I work in, I feel more in control when I return to work armed with information.

I used to despise the saying, “work smarter not harder” because in my current work environment, the expectation is that you work hard. In fact, working smart and hard go hand in hand. After all, I work for state government and resources have always been scarce in my area. However, I’m changing my perspective on this. Working smart means using all the resouces at my disposal and setting boundaries.

The main light lesson from this post is to be PROACTIVE. You do have control of your health. You can change (add, omit, modify) things that are within your control. Seek the help you need. Create processes that work for you. Do the things to ensure the best quality of life outcome for you. That’s it.

I’m ready for work today. Thankfully, my commute is a walk into my home office. I’ll keep you posted on my progress.

Happy Hump day!

Beignet keeping my office chair warm for me.

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The voice inside your head

This is a true story from a few years ago, but still resonates today. I stood in the hallway of an unfamiliar building, not sure which direction my meeting was. No one was around. “Darn it! I don’t want to be late. Managers get to meetings early.” As I shuffled through my notebook to find the printed Microsoft Outlook invitation with the room number, I saw a sentence instructing attendees to plan to provide a one minute introduction about themselves. “Great (insert sarcasm)! How did I miss that? I didn’t prepare anything. I’m going to have to wing it AGAIN. It’ll be ok. One minute isn’t long. I’ll think of something on the elevator ride up.”

I got off the elevator to find 3 familiar faces and each appeared lost. No one knew how to get to the conference room. I felt relieved I wasn’t alone. After a few minutes of confusion, another familiar, smiling face appeared and guided us to our destination. At the entry to the room, I laid eyes on the many professionals: managers, directors, and officials. “Do I belong here? Absolutely.”

There were about 30 of us crammed in a small conference room. This was the first meeting of its kind. The introductions commenced, and to my dread, they were starting at my table plus we each had to stand up. As an introvert, I’m usually uncomfortable talking about myself. I decided, “I can do this” as I have many times. However, the stakes were higher this time because of who was in the room. I recalled my boss telling me in the past, “It’s time to shine.” I always resented her telling me that because I shine on my own accord, not by command or pressure. My boss was in the room, at my table. Even though I had my elevator speech ready, thankfully, the facilitator decided to go to the other tables, so I would almost be the last person to speak. I claimed my stake and told myself I would be relaxed and make an impression. As I listened to the years of experience, wit, and honesty, I began to feel inspired and privileged to be in the room.

With each person who spoke, I’d think of something else I wanted to say about myself and add it to my imaginary list. By the time it was my turn, I was poised and relaxed. For a moment, I questioned my attire, particularly my top, because when I stood up, eyes seemed to have laid on the tie at the base of my denim blouse. I was imagining curious looks. I knew I needed to call attention to my words not my attire so I amped it up. I blocked out the thought about my blouse because let’s face it, I couldn’t do anything about it at that point. It was cute. It just didn’t look as conservative as shirts other people were wearing. I said a couple of things that made people laugh, even my boss. I allowed myself to be vulnerable. I felt exhilarated after the meeting.

The meeting lasted four hours. I’m sharing because I want to emphasize how important positive “self-talk” is. Do you hear what you are telling yourself? I too have moments of insecurity and doubt, but I’m actively working on being more self-compassionate and putting less pressure on myself.

I believe most people wouldn’t tell their best friends the negative things they say to themselves so why do we do it? For some, it can be oddly comfortable wallowing in negative emotions and self-talk. They might not even notice the negative mumbles, which is why it takes self-awareness and intention to do the work of change. It also takes courage.

If the voice inside your head is mostly negative, then it’s time to change that.

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Do hard things

These three words have been ringing in my ears: “DO HARD THINGS”. I know it’s easy to do “familiar things” and “comfortable things” but what about “hard things”? Well, silly rabbit (nod to the Twix cereal commercial from back in the day), there’s a reason why doing hard things is hard, but there are also benefits.

What comes up often in my job is being asked to present to groups of various sizes and audiences on programs I oversee. This was a task I could delegate to someone on my team though public speaking is one of my responsibilities. Like many people, I do not enjoy public speaking because I’m mostly an introvert, preferring to be behind the scenes. However, I’m strong in representing my programs so when duty calls, I often perform.

There are people on my team who don’t like public speaking even more than me. I decided I would do the presentation with backup. As I was reviewing the presentation content with my backup, I literally said “it’s because I do hard things”. I don’t recall the exact thought that led me to say it, but she agreed, with relief. Otherwise, she would be the speaker for the presentation.

Some may think it’s not difficult for me to do public speaking because I do it well, but OH CONTRARE. I’ve learned long ago if I wanted success as I’ve defined it for myself, then I had to do things I didn’t necessarily want to do. This means I do activities to ensure I have a successful outcome such as preparing and practicing. Doing hard things doesn’t mean it gets easier over time either. Sometimes it does, but sometimes it’s hard EVERY SINGLE TIME.

Deciding to undergo a major surgery with the hope that I’ll have a better quality of life on the other side of it is a HARD THING. The anxiety, the pain, the discomfort, the lack of control, are what I’m working through now, I believe it will be worth it. (See more information about my surgery in the post Fight).

As you embark on this day or week, think about what hard things you will tackle. The hard things may be just what you need to boost your confidence so you can do more hard things.

What hard things are you thinking about tackling?

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Stay above the fray

This blog is an extension of me being trained in social work, working in an administrative leadership role, and wanting to share some wisdom with you. Social workers are change agents, fighters of social injustices, and are advocates. I’m my biggest advocate.

So as is true in life, it’s not all fun and games. This post isn’t about food or a recent adventure. I want to share some points that came up for me regarding leadership. I hope you pick up some light lessons as you read.

I’ve been told (and have heard) I’m viewed as calm, sharp, a person who can have hard conversations, I have good ideas, I’m a person of few words, and I’m the voice of reason. In one instance, the “calm” characteristic came up because I’ve had poignant discussions with some team members recently. My mentee asked me, “how can you be so calm?”

I’ve learned to harness my anxiety over the years. When I tell people, I struggle with anxiety, they don’t believe me. The first thing they point to is my calm demeanor. Yes, I’m an anxious person, and as I get older and learn more through working in public health, about trauma and its impacts on people, I can appreciate how my early life circumstances contributed to my anxiety.

I’ve been working on self-compassion and I think it’s lifelong process. You can’t always foresee triggers that spark the anxiety, or may not even be aware of specific triggers. Yet, these triggers can set the stage for some much needed work to get through issues that seemingly pop up randomly.

I’ve been reading the book Rewire Your Anxious Brain and have been learning about two parts of the brain, the amygdala and the cortex, and how they can trigger anxiety. I’ve learned that anxiety stemming from the amygdala can have triggers you have no control over. Anxiety stemming from the cortex are the result of faulty thinking patterns. There are various approaches to managing anxiety for each. When I complete the book, I may blog about what resonated with me. So far, it’s a very informative read.

One major way I’ve harnessed anxiety over the years is exercising 6 days a week. I exercise mostly for the brain boost of endorphins. I absolutely love my cardio, dancing, and free weights but core exercises…not so much. My blood pressure is a “dream” for many as I’ve been told by my doctors for years. In addition to calmness, the other fruits of my exercise are peace, contentment, confidence, happiness, and ARM MUSCLES.

In terms of calmness as it relates to my leadership style, one particular class in graduate school made a significant impression on me. In this class, our professor invited a different leader from a different agency to speak to the students on a regular schedule. One particular leader was the head of a major federal department. During his leadership term, a catastrophe occurred that resulted in the loss of life….many lives. It was mind blowing. It was an unrelenting mess for years. What he said got him through was an expression I had not heard or used before. He said the biggest lesson in that circumstance was to “stay above the fray”. It was a phrase he’d learned while being a pilot in the military.

“Staying above the fray” in my opinion means to stay above the chaos. Don’t let the chaos seep inside of you. Don’t contribute to the chaos. Otherwise, you may lose your objectivity and problem solving sensibilities. The leader should have the level head. The leader should have the calm demeanor. It doesn’t mean you don’t feel emotion or empathy, but you’re not taking it in. There is strength in being calm, especially for people you are leading. Calmness means not overeacting, which may contribute to someone else’s anxiety. Calmness allows for quick and nimble thinking.

My calmness doesn’t mean I’m going to blow up once I get through whatever it is either. You may have heard the expression “calm before the storm”…? That’s not me. My calmness doesn’t mean I’m not anxious on the inside. Again, I intentionally harness my anxiety, so I can operate in calmness.

The light lesson here is to protect yourself from taking on other people’s anxieties, problems, etc. You have your own stuff. For whatever situation is going on…”stay above the fray”. And invest (time, money, effort) in doing the mental, spiritual, emotional, and/or physical work needed that will allow you to function at optimal levels.

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Confidence boost

How do I get women to have the courage to be bold, confident, and work in their own power? It’s not by coincidence I’m asking because not only have I struggled in the past with this personally, and quite frankly, I still do in specific situations, but I oversee a team of mostly women. I see women struggling with confidence and speaking their knowledge with authority. Some goals I have for women are to be empowered to share their ideas with confidence, to stop second guessing, to step out of their comfort zone, and to speak with authority.

I propose the following strategies (in no particular order) to help women gain more confidence in the work place and in life:

  • Do your homework- Educate yourself on the topic at hand. In my work environment, the core workforce are called subject matter experts (SMEs). SMEs learn everything there is to know about their particular program, including learning what other states are doing. I’ve found the more I learn about a topic, the more confident I become.
  • Practice – When I was in high school and college, I used to rehearse my presentations with other students, or solo by looking in the mirror and literally reciting my script out loud. In my line of work, these techniques haven’t gone away. I make lots of presentations and still need to rehearse, but not to the same degree as I did when I was a student. For group presentations with my team and/or others, we plan on who will say what. You might even record your voice and listen later to hear how you sound. You might want to rehearse asking for a promotion, for a job interview, and for delivering bad news.
  • Believe in yourself through positive self-talk – We all have the inner critic in our heads judging everything we do. Train your critic to be your cheerleader. It takes practice, but replace, “I can’t do this” with “I will”. I’ve trained my inner voice to be kind and it speaks to me as if I were a friend. That’s not to say the critic doesn’t come out every so often, but I work hard to make my cheerleader my main voice.
  • Make time to do things you enjoy – my love of exercise and Zumba fitness, on the surface doesn’t appear to impact my job, but the energy, calm, and joy I draw from these activities, spill into other areas of my life. In fact, becoming a Zumba fitness instructor, and the act of dancing in front of others has boosted my confidence in ways I couldn’t have imagined. That boldness has helped me in my current leadership role, which leads to the next strategy.
  • Set goals for yourself – As you accomplish your goals, you’ll develop more confidence. I had the goal of completing the training to be a Zumba fitness instructor for my 40th birthday. That was five years ago. I also had goals of earning advanced degrees, losing weight, spending more time with my family, etc. The more goals you accomplish, the more your confidence increases. Keep setting new goals.
  • Just do it – This Nike slogan has been one of my favorite mantras. Sometimes, you’ve just got to put yourself out there and “do the darn thing”. It won’t be perfect. It may not be as rehearsed as you would have liked, but put yourself out there. Take a chance. We only live once. I work in a fast-paced environment where we often sacrifice 100% quality for getting it done and out the door. If perfection is holding you back, let it go because nothing is perfect. I, myself, am a “recovering perfectionist”.
  • Channel all parts of you – I’m a parent, wife, daughter, sister, friend, aunt, cousin, niece, manager, mentor, exercise enthusiast, cook, reader, etc. As a parent, I’m used to raising my children, being nurturing/loving, setting boundaries, and teaching and directing them. Parenting is hard, but I’m confident that I’m raising my kids the best I can. I channel the parenting part of me in my role at work. I’m confident in my relationship with God and His purpose for my life, which I channel in my work. The confidence I’ve developed in the various parts of my life adds to my overall confidence bucket and greatly impacts how I demonstrate my confidence to the world.

My assumption in writing this post is that women are working in environments where they are expected to share ideas and contribute knowledge which will ultimately impact a company’s bottom line.

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Why it’s important to SPEAK UP

When I was in elementary school, I had many encounters with bullies. I was bullied because I was smart, I was quiet, I looked a certain way, and other reasons I will never understand. I remember the dreaded fear I felt on the school bus (one location of the bullying), praying to disappear in thin air. I think most people, more than who would probably admit, have been bullied at least once in their lives. I’ll save the research for another time though. Those experiences have made me a more compassionate, kind, and considerate person. I’ve invested time over the years in working through insecurities stemming from those experiences and I’m in a much better place…or am I?

I’m here to tell you friends there are real live bullies in the workplace. Some of you know this already and cope the best way you can. I’ve encountered bullies at several agencies I’ve worked for. One bully at a work place is too many yet I’ve seen several over the years. I do believe it speaks to a toxic or an emerging toxic work culture if these people are not stopped and allowed to perpetrate their bad behavior.

You might have heard the best way to deal with a bully is to stand up to them head on. Although this can be very difficult emotionally and mentally, I agree to a point. It also takes courage.. We all knew in school if you told the teacher or other adult in the school you may suffer worse consequences, plus that never stopped the bully anyway. I finally dug up the encourage a time or two to stand up to a few bullies in my preteens. I’ve had to do it in my adulthood too.

The stakes are high in the workplace in that there are risks detrimental to staff morale, staff retention, and whatever the agency’s bottom line is. I think any agency should take bullying seriously because the behaviors are toxic. But what if they don’t know it’s happening in their organization? Then, it’s your job to SPEAK UP and tell them.

Last week was rough and tested my emotional boundaries at work. On top of it, I had a strange interaction with a colleague that made me realize she is a bully. After several email exchanges, she sent a very inappropriate email and there was no mistaking the meaning. I decided not to respond because I will not feed into toxicity. Not only that, I forwarded the email to my direct boss who forwarded it to her boss.

Thankfully, I had a therapy session that afternoon and was able to talk it through with my therapist who validated me. That experience was triggering and I needed to separate myself from the emotion which was difficult at the time. She encouraged me to have peace knowing someone else will handle it.

The next day I was able to speak to my boss and my boss’s boss about it. I felt so much better afterward, especially learning this person has displayed a pattern. My boss’s boss plans to address with this person directly. I emphasized the behavior was manipulative and toxic and because of my choice of words, that got their attention. My boss’s boss stated she had never heard me talk like this so she was definitely taking what I said seriously. She took it a step further and apologized to me which I wasn’t expecting. I’ve reported toxic behaviors to leadership at several agencies and maybe one other person apologized. I was very appreciative, relieved, and felt supported.

This person is not going away anytime soon so I’ll be dealing with her again. What she won’t get from me is a response to her email. She will learn I have boundaries and I will not tolerate the toxicity. I truly care about the people I work with, those I supervise, and most importantly myself too much to not SPEAK UP when I know this isn’t right. I hope if in a similar situation this post encourages you to be brave, stand up for yourself, speak up, and seek support.

There will be a Part II on what happens if nothing changes after you SPEAK UP. In the mean time, I hope you have a productive, exciting, love-filled week with pops of fun and joy.

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Do hard things

On this last Monday of January 2021, the first day of my work week, these three words have been ringing in my ears for weeks: “DO HARD THINGS”. I know it’s easy to do “familiar things” and “comfortable things” but what about “hard things”? Well, silly rabbit (nod to the Twix cereal commercial from back in the day), there’s a reason why doing hard things is hard, but there are also benefits.

A couple of months ago, I received notice I was asked to present on one of the programs I oversee at a stakeholder meeting in the last week of January…this week. Nothing unusual here. This was a task I could delegate because despite the fact that public speaking on occasion is part of my job, I do not enjoy it. I’m mostly an introvert who likes to be behind the scenes. However, I’m strong in representing my programs so when duty calls, I often perform.

There are people on my team who don’t like public speaking more than me. I decided I would do the presentation with backup. As I was reviewing the presentation content with my backup, in our discussion, I literally said ” it’s because I do hard things”. I don’t remember the exact thought that led me to say that, but she agreed, with relief. Otherwise, she would be the speaker for the presentation.

Some may look at me and think it’s not difficult for me to do public speaking because I do it well, but OH CONTRARE. I’ve learned long ago if I wanted success (as I saw it because success is subjective), then I couldn’t stay stagnate, where I was, without trying. Doing hard things doesn’t mean it gets easier over time either. Sometimes it does, but sometimes it’s hard every single time.

Every time I’ve done the exercise DVD in the cover photo, it was hard. In all realness, I haven’t done that DVD in a few months, but when I was doing it a couple times a week, I did it because I wanted the benefits of a stronger body. About a month ago, in my blog post “Shaking Things Up in 2020”, I wrote about my experiment with changing my exercise routine because I felt my routine was stagnate. For a while, I’ve gravitated towards “familiar” and “comfortable” exercises, but I was getting bored and no longer seeing results like I had previously.

As you embark on this new week whether it be the start of your work week, school week, or whatever, think about what hard things you will tackle. The hard things may lead you to what you’re looking for or need.

I “do hard things”…things outside my comfort zone (such as public speaking) because I want to increase my strength mentally, physically, and spiritually. My return on investment is much greater than if I decide to stay mediocre or stagnate.

If you want to excel in any area, “do hard things”. Your hard things may not be hard for someone else but that’s not the point. They have to be hard things for you and no one can tell you what that is but you.

What hard things will you be tackling this week or year for that matter?

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Am I the only one exhausted?

It’s been 17 weeks since I’ve been teleworking and I’m exhausted. Don’t get me wrong, I actually love working from home. However, it comes with some unexpected adjustments.

The dry erase board outside of my office 3/18/2020

Little did I know when I wrote this on my board on March 18, 2020 that on July 16, 2020, I’d still be teleworking. At the time, my agency indicated telework was voluntary. Because I’m in the high risk category due to my breast cancer history and current treatment, I decided I would telework most of the week and work from the office once or twice a week. As COVID-19 updates were rapidly changing, by Friday March 20, 2020, telework was no longer an option. It was mandatory.

Beignet and Cannoli – my office mates. LPC

You may be wondering why I took the picture of my dry erase board before I left to venture on this teleworking escapade. Well, I actually took the picture in mid-May, after a 2 month absence. My laptop crashed so I had to meet with IT at one of the state buildings. It was a great opportunity to stop at my office and pick up a few things. Who knew I’d be so excited to wear my work badge again.

My baby orchid on my desk was still alive! LPC

So what are the adjustments I’ve made for teleworking? For starters, the fact that my world has been turned upside down (slight exaggeration) with the increased utilization of every virtual platform known to man (slight exaggeration) has erupted my senses (no lie).

At my agency (state government), we are authorized to use about 3 virtual platforms. Some of the platforms out there lack the security needed to protect our information, particularly pertaining to the vulnerable populations we serve.

Though I think it’s very cool that state government is finally embracing the tools of the 21st century (insert sarcasm), it’s a lot of work for my senses. My team connects with me in multiple ways throughout the day, every day: instant message, email, virtual, and text. Add in the fact that I work longer hours and am required to participate in more meetings, you’ve got an exhausted Lucrece on your hands!

Beignet expressing my exact sentiments. LPC

I attribute the decrease in writing on my blog to this exhaustion. There is so much going on in the world right now with the COVID-19 pandemic and racial unrest that it’s no wonder I’m exhausted. This is a time for self-compassion.

Here are some benefits of teleworking:

  • Traffic stress evaporated
  • Time to exercise daily
  • Close proximity to my family
  • Mid-day snuggles from my cats
  • Safety of home
  • Easy accessibility to my team and bosses
  • No fuss about clothing  or shoes
  • Wear shorts and comfy bottoms almost daily
  • No unsolicited office snacks like donuts, cookies, and cakes

It was surreal going to the office in May because it was empty…as if time stood still. All the files, file cabinets, boxes, and shelves of just “stuff” that we thought we needed in the office, but ended up not needing when told to vacate. That alone can be a blog post in itself…a post about “stuff” we don’t need, but think we do. On that note, stay tuned for a future blog post about all the organizing I’ve been doing to keep track of all my “stuff”.

To my surprise, the plants in my office were still alive so I took them home. A little while back, maybe about a year and a half ago, I made a picture board outside my office of favorite moments with my team. I went to the local craft store to get some supplies and had pictures I took with them developed. While at my office in May, I stopped to look at their faces on the board. I remembered the lunch outings, birthday parties, and other activities. Although I see them everyday virtually, I do miss seeing them in person.

I occassionally create a space in the daily “huddles” with my team to discuss how people are feeling in the midst of current events. The flooding of news and information can take a toll on each of us. I think acknowledging it is a step towards reducing anxiety. People need an outlet to discuss these things. In this time of “social distancing”, it can feel isolating for many people. It’s important to have meaningful connections whenever we can.

Cannoli. LPC

Thankfully, I’m on STAYcation this week, making time to unplug from work and get some rejuvenation. Since my mom passed away on July 8, 2017, I’ve  taken time off from work around the anniversary of her passing. This year I decided to take a whole week off and I’ve inserted some additional time off in the next few months. This is called self-care.

Stay tuned for more blog posts. That’s my self-care too.

How are things in your neck of the world? What are you doing to cope?

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2020 Communication-Can you hear me MEOW?

Let’s get clear about something in 2020. Effective communication is essential in sustaining fulfilling relationships. Yet, in communicating, it’s so easy to get wires crossed, misinterpret, make assumptions, jump to conclusions, ignore the facts, etc. I urge everyone to work on improving your communication in 2020. If you think you communicate superbly, you might want to consider further refining your skills.

What am I talking about? I’m glad you asked because as you know, communication takes several forms such verbal, nonverbal, and written. The communication styles I learned about in college as a social sciences student was assertive, passive, aggressive, and passive aggressive. (HINT: You want to be assertive.) There are many platforms of which to communicate (Ex., in person, phone, instant message, text, emails, audio, video calls, etc.) and the act of communicating can entail multiple simultaneous activities (Ex., listening, watching, speaking, processing, interpreting, etc.)

At my place of work, communication is a constant challenge because I work for a large bureaucratic agency. The volume of work is VAST. I’m flooded with emails on a daily basis. And here’s a NEWS FLASH!!! Emails are not the most effective mode of communication. Yet interestingly, many people think it is the best way to communicate. My opinion is that in person is the best way and all other modes can work to support in person communication, but not without extra effort.

Over the last few months, I’ve noticed communication problems with a member of my team. In these types of situations, as the leader, I assess where I can tighten up my communication style to ensure I’m communicating effectively. Be direct. Check. Give sufficient information – no more, no less. Check. Paraphrase what was said to ensure I understand. Check. Repeat. Check. Summarize. Check. However, despite my best efforts, communication continued to decline. We ended up having a meeting with a director to help mediate the situation. At the end of the day, it was a matter of communication styles and some other factors.

I love how my cats Beignet and Cannoli (pictured) communicate with the four humans in their house (us) and with each other. Beignet is the alpha cat of the two. He’s aggressive with his expression of love. He is constantly affirming his love for me by following me EVERY WHERE, giving me tail hugs, brushing up against my leg when I’m on the toilet, meowing for me to open the door after I purposely locked him out, winking at me when we lock eyes, laying on my chest in the early morning, sleeping on my shoes, and believe it or not, there are many more ways Beignet displays his love for me.

Cannoli does all the same things as Beignet, but to a much more tame degree. He barely meows. Yet, he will communicate he loves me by laying at the foot of the bed instead of on my chest, except for when I’m on the couch…he’ll lay on my lap. He’ll gently rub against me when passing by, but not always. He’ll give me a wink too if he feels like it. I don’t get quite as many physical expressions of love from Cannoli as Beignet, but that’s fine because they’re different cats, communicating the same thing. They love me. Message received.

When my kids were younger and we first got our cats as kittens, I taught them to “listen” to what the cats were trying to tell us by their actions. I especially had to remind my daughter, the younger of my two kids. Don’t keep trying to hold Cannoli when he’s squirming in your arms. Let him go. He’ll come back to you when he’s ready. Beignet is wagging his tail rapidly and his ears are pointed up, which probably means he’s agitated and may lash out at you. Don’t get in his face. Cannoli is rubbing up against you again, which probably means he wants you to pick him up. There are plenty of nonverbal cues our cats give to let us know what they want, but you have to be observant and discerning.

I wish communicating with other humans were as simple as communicating with pets. Despite all the tools at our disposal, communication can go haywire if you don’t pay attention. Each person is different, has different learning and communication styles, and motivations. People can use all the tools thinking communication will be better, but not necessarily. It takes effort and intentionality. Beignet demonstrates his love using all of his tools and because I’ve received his message, I reciprocate. You have to be intentional about communicating. I’ll do a later post on communicating with your loved ones.

So I encourage you to evaluate how you may need to improve your communication style in 2020. There is always room for improvement.

What’s your communication style? What areas do you need to improve upon?