Would curiosity really kill the cat?

www.freephotosbank.com
http://www.freephotosbank.com

When I think about it,  I’ve spent a lot of my life driven by fear.   I have a well practiced fear of failure,  fear of making the wrong choices,  fear of other people not liking me and my personal favourite fear of looking stupid.    Despite my older sister calling me stupid on a fairly regular basis,  I’ve done a pretty good job of avoiding anything that could potentially put me on the stupid person pedestal.

Of course, there have been times I have let my guard down or been forced into a corner.  I have a distinct memory of being forced into a 2 on 2 game of basketball with my then boyfriend (now husband..and thank goodness, no more basketball is involved).   I can’t catch or throw a ball, so I knew my chances of nailing this game were pretty much zero and none…so I did what my fear told me to do,  I didn’t even try.  Because if you don’t try,  you can’t look stupid… right?   Far worse to look like I am putting effort in and demonstrate that I really couldn’t do it.  Everyone would just laugh.  Instead, I made it obvious I wasn’t putting any effort in and they just got annoyed at me.  And somehow that was easier.   But it has been forever etched in my mind as a moment of complete awkwardness, and a feeling I have continued to spend my life avoiding.

This week I was listening to a podcast interview with Elizabeth Gilbert (she wrote Eat, Pray, Love by the way),  talking about her new book Big Magic.  Yet again, I don’t really remember the actual contents of the conversation (details are not my thing)… but her sentiment is this…  we can either let fear or curiosity guide the choices that we make in life.   Fear limits us and fear is a great “shape shifter”,  appearing as self loathing or embarrassment or anger or a myriad of other things.    And whilst fear has some benefits (it helps to keep us protected)…generally speaking it is way too over protective… much like a helicopter parent.

But living a life full of curiosity,  is open and freeing.   It makes life interesting.  And I have realised,  really by accident,  that just recently I have become immensely curious and it has been extremely enjoyable.  I am loving reading, listening and exploring all these things about personal development and career and life.    And writing this blog has given me a perspective on my own life which is more curious than fearful.  Sometimes, it is like watching myself from an observer point of view rather than a participant.  And through that lens,  things don’t seem as crazy or sad,  they just seem interesting.   And I’m loving this new feeling it is all giving me.

If I think back at my basketball scenario.  And approached the game with a sense of curiosity rather than fear.   What would I have done differently?  I think I would have given it ago,  I would have got in there and been curious.  Perhaps asked the others for some advice or tips.  Thrown the ball,  observed where it went (straight over the roof perhaps?!) and then just learned from that for next time.  I probably would have laughed at myself.  Had fun.

So…when you approach a decision in your life today.  Ask yourself, am I making my choice out of fear, or out of curiosity… because curiosity very rarely actually kills the cat,  infact…maybe their instinctive curiosity is really why they have “nine lives”?!

claire2

Advertisements

Nothing to prove, nothing to hide

perfectI’m feeling sooo much better than I was last week when I was…well…a little broken (mental note:  the challenging days are typically just that..a “day”..you just have to hang in there until the ride starts going down again).

Infact,  I’m feeling so much better, that I was starting to regret writing that blog post.   It is not that I’m embarrassed that I had a meltdown (OK…I kinda am), but more I was embarrassed that everyone was suddenly offering me help.  Even though I wrote about needing to let people help me…I still felt incredibly uncomfortable.

I guess that needing help, and accepting that help,  made me feel very vulnerable.

I talk a lot about being “authentic” when I’m coaching employees on finding their social voice.  In this social age, people want to know more about you, some insights into who you truly are… what makes you tick.

But being authentic also sometimes means allowing yourself to be vulnerable and that can be hard.  Really hard.

Recently someone showed me this great Ted Talk on the Power of Being Vulnerable by Brene Brown which I totally recommend ( clearly I am late to this party because there have already been over 19m views of this particular talk but if you haven’t seen it, go watch it now).

So, now, as I contemplate why I am feeling vulnerable, it does come from a place of shame and fear.  I am scared that people will judge me differently, I won’t seem as strong…as worthy.   But that is so not true.  It has made me realise that actually,  starting this blog in the first place was my first step in making myself vulnerable.  And it hasn’t made me weaker, infact, laying myself on the line has made me feel stronger.

Quite obviously, I am not perfect.  None of us are.   But so often we try to hide the pieces of ourselves we think that others might judge or may not like…to fit into the mould of the ideal people that we feel we “should” be like in order to be worthy.

“Nothing to prove, nothing to hide”

I can’t remember where I first read this but it has stuck in my head for years.  Something I tell my children when they are grappling with fitting in at school.

When you have nothing to prove:- there is no need to boast, no need to argue your point, no need to be “right”

When you have nothing to hide:- there is no need to tell stories, to be something you are not, you can be vulnerable.

This is what being authentic looks like.

You don’t have to share all your inner dark secrets to be authentic, but sometimes allowing yourself to be a little bit vulnerable, by expressing an opinion, sharing your “weaknesses” and your challenges…helps others to connect with you. It builds trust and confidence.

So I’m going to keep practicing being OK with that.   It may take some time, but I’m working on it.

claire2

 

Confessions of a Corporate Mum

P1020901

Ever wondered what other women are thinking?

I remember years ago, attending a conference where the CEO of Carnival Cruises in Australia spoke.   It was an honest and upfront discussion about her challenges as a woman in leadership and she confessed to many of the insecurities she felt on a regular basis.  She told a great story about her first weeks on the job,  when there was a crisis and she was called on in the night…and in her mind, she panicked  “I don’t know what to do, am I ready for the job etc.. etc”… that same voice that many of us have in our heads.

This really stuck in my mind and I often think about it.   I loved the honesty of her presentation and it only made me admire her more.   Women are terrible (at least most of the women I know are) at comparing themselves with others.   We look at what other people are doing and we wonder “why can’t I be like that,  they have it so together, they really have it all”.   Social media in a way can make this a lot worse,  we see posts of happy families, success and joy.  I can’t remember the last time I saw someone post a photo of themselves looking tired and haggered,  yelling at their children because they have been pushed to the brink,  a vein popping in their forehead as they worry about getting all the work completed in their paid role before they scramble home to start their home “job”.

The reality is a much more complex patchwork quilt than the image we portray on the outside would sometimes convey.

And so…as I was contemplating this all, I realised that this is what I want my blog to be about.  I want to share with you my journey as a working Mum in the Corporate world.   To give you insights into my own insecurities, my challenges as I juggle all my commitments, as I try to be all the things I so want to be…a good mother, a great wife, a successful corporate leader and of course, look after my own health, well being and sanity in the process.   Sometimes my life is fun, sometimes my life is chaos, sometimes I am radiating happiness and other times I want to curl up and cry in the corner.

By letting you behind my curtain,  I’m hoping I will help others to realise that underneath it all,  we are all battling the same demons,  the guilt, the struggles.  The elusive balance that we strive to achieve doesn’t happen in perfect sync,  some days are still just hard.    I also hope to share some of the things that I have learnt in my journey so far,  the tools, tips and techniques that have helped and inspired me.

And in return,  I hope that my stories inspire you, to give you some sunshine on a cloudy day.  To remind you that you are not alone, that you don’t have to be perfect to be successful.  To have the grit and determination to keep going.  I will be so happy if I can help just one person be more than they ever thought they were capable of.

So why don’t you follow me on the journey?…lets do this….

claire2

 

 

My personal cheerleader…

?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????I’ve talked before about some of the bad managers I have had during my career… like Teflon,  or the manager who threatened to throw her laptop at me (and I haven’t even written about “the aggressor” yet).  But mostly, I have had the pleasure of working under some pretty amazing, influential and inspiring managers.

I believe Managers are the single biggest influence in your workplace.  Doesn’t matter where you work or what you do,  the person you work for has the power to truly engage you in what you do,  or make you walk away from an awesome project.   And it is not easy.  When I was a Manager,  I suddenly realised how hard the job is (I spent so many years thinking “I’m going to be such a good boss, just give me the reigns and I’ll run this joint”), then you realise just how different every employee is, the bureaucracy that Managers often have to deal with and how many ridiculous curve balls Managers are thrown on a daily basis.  And in the social age… the manager role is becoming even more complex, as businesses become more open and collaborative.

So what has bubbled to the top in my experience?

My personal favourite leaders are calm and collected (to counter my sometimes passionate rollercoaster riding),  they listen way more than they speak (they need to, with me on their team!),  they empower and trust me (let me loose with an objective and the freedom to achieve it) and most of all,  they make me feel like I’m amazeballs.

That last point is often the most important for me.  That regular reassurance that I’m on the right track.  The constructive suggestions to support my momentum.  The faith that I can do it,  even when I don’t believe that I can.  The willingness to overlook some of my weaknesses because they can see my strengths.    Like your own personal cheerleader.

And it can’t all be about work.  A great Manager knows when to ask how things are going outside of work,  is tuned into your tone on a bad day and gives you the support and space when you need it.   This has happened to me recently and I can’t tell you how much that meant to me, and the commitment I gave back to work in return was ten fold.

Just like everything in life,  it doesn’t always happen this way.  And, as I’ve said before,  working under some bad Managers gave me skills I may never have learnt if I hadn’t been forced into it sometimes.   So I try to see it as a win:win situation,  bad manager = great, what can I learn from this experience, what new skills can I develop from turning this challenge into an opportunity?..and when a great Manager comes along,  I take every opportunity to learn from them, grow and hopefully progress.

If you’re a Manager,  are you helping your team to thrive the hard way or the easy way today?

A little bit of sunshine in my office

It continues to amaze me how much work environment really does impact your mood, motivation and essentially your engagement at work.   This week I was extremely fortunate to get a beautiful massive bunch of flowers given to me.  They were sitting out on the kitchen table when I suddenly realised I should totally move them to my office (especially since the bunch was so big I could keep some in the lounge and some in my office).    It spurned me on for a little office clean up,  tidied up my files, wiped down the counter and boy does it feel good.   Just walking in this room lifts my spirits.

I have to say that it wasn’t always this way.  I spent several years working in a tiny room under our house, it was cold,  dark, messy  and dingy.  I used to wear a beanie, scarf and fingerless gloves to work.   Not surprisingly i wasn’t feeling my most engaged during this time.

So when I had the opportunity to create my own office space,  I relished in the light bright space I was able to create.  I’m still waiting for the perfect chair to sit in the corner  (for when I am pondering very important strategies), and more shelving etc etc.  But when I walk into this room I feel a great sense of joy and empowerment.  My space.

2014-07-02 18.14.34

And you don’t have to have your own office space to create the same feeling.  Years ago I worked in an office environment that my team had affectionately called “the prison”.  Now, I’m not sure exactly how much affection was in that term really…because it was pretty horrid.   Someone had complained about the light from outside (that would be the sun!) on their computer screens.  The wise office management team thought an appropriate solution was to cover the entire window in brown paper.  Yep…it’s true…the WHOLE floor to ceiling window.   Unfortunately, they also insisted the paper had to stay until a more permanent shading system was implemented….which incidentally was literally YEARS later.    Although it was pretty horrid, I was still surprised when this came up as a top issue in one of our employee engagement surveys. But really, why was I surprised that my employees were uninspired, when I’d given them an uninspiring work space to work with?!   So after a bit of creative thinking and a couple of late night stints (complete with pizza and a lot of laughter) we covered that brown paper with branded posters,  hung fish from the ceiling (yes fish…it’s a long story…) and painted our cubicle poles.  So whilst it was may still have been a tad dark,  the enthusiasm and colour of our teams still radiated through.

In a few weeks time my real office (not my beautiful chillin home office space) are moving to a new location and launching a new office design,  where no one gets an allocated desk and the space is split into different work related sections..like a “collaboration” space and quiet space.  I expect this may be a challenge for some people.   I wonder what spirit this new space will evoke in those teams? I love this little experiment and might have to sneak into the office a few times in the next month and see how it feels.

In the meantime, I’m blissfully happy in my little work sanctuary, where I can smell the roses…literally….

 

 

 

 

The day my boss wanted to throw a laptop at me…

http://www.freephotosbank.com/1066.html
http://www.freephotosbank.com/1066.html

Early in my career,   I was moved into a team with a boss who was a talented and credible marketer.  I couldn’t wait to work in her team and I knew that I would learn a lot.  The first few weeks seemed to be going fine,  she was paying attention to what I was contributing in meetings and watching my work intently.   Soon, she pulled me aside for “a chat”.  She started to reel off the things that she thought I needed to work on,  she mentioned everything I had done “wrong” and she finished by telling me that I talk so much she found it “really annoying” and just sits in meetings feeling like she wants to throw her lap top at my head.

DEVASTATED! 

I was gutted,  I couldn’t believe it….well actually no, I believed every single word she told me.   She was right,  I was useless.   I know I have issues with talking too much sometimes, especially when I am passionate and excited and engaged.   She made it personal,  and her words cut me like a knife.   I went home dejected and upset.  I didn’t want to go back into work.  How could I keep going?

But after 24hrs,  I came back determined to improve.   I decided to take the personal out of what she was saying, and tackle the issue head on.   I went back to her and asked her for MORE feedback.  Was I crazy!?!  No, I just thought having it all on the table would help me to understand her position.   It was hard to take,  I had to bite my cheeks to stop from getting upset.  I made notes.   I took those notes and stripped away all the personal comments.  If she doesn’t like me as a person, it doesn’t matter,  but I want to be good at my job so I am going to take this as an opportunity to learn and grow.    I asked other Managers if they had ideas on how i could improve some of the things she mentioned.   I spoke to my colleagues and apologised if they felt “talked over” like she told me they did.  I reminded them I would not be offended if they cut me off or made other suggestions in meetings…I would prefer this than they suffer in silence.  Incredibly,  they all looked at me like I was bonkers and told me they enjoyed working with me on teams because I was so engaged…even if I was a bit over exuberant some times.  I didn’t believe them but I forged through.   My Manager continued to point out my flaws,  she rang me after meetings (it was apparently important to provide feedback in real time) and in our annual business reviews,  she reeled off everything that I hadn’t done to perfection.

Amazingly,  I was soon promoted. 

I couldn’t believe it.  Not only was I getting a new job but I was moving away from this Manager…YIPPPEEEE!!!  I survived this period in my career by staying resilient, by not trying not to take things personally and looking at where I could grow and learn from the experience.   But it wasn’t easy and it was also the start of many many wasted years of my career, where I focused all my attention on what I was doing wrong.  She had taught me to look for my weaknesses and try to fix them.  That anything less than perfect meant that I hadn’t succeeded and I needed to change.    Don’t get me wrong, I had great fun and lots of growth, learning and opportunity at work, but underpinning it all was a constant voice that kept reminding me of what I should be…not what I was.  Never truly believing that I was good at what I was doing,  even when I was promoted and praised.  I was just waiting for the house of cards to fall down around me, and my new Managers to realise how many flaws I was trying to patch.

The turnaround

Many years later, I had the absolute pleasure to be invited to a Positive Leadership workshop run by Michelle McQuaid.   One of the things we did in the workshop was complete a VIA Strengths survey.   Michelle talked about the importance of focusing on your strengths instead of trying to fix your weaknesses.   To have a mindset of growth and to build on your strengths and the things that energise and engage you, letting your true self shine.   This was a revolutionary moment for me.   I took my top 5 strengths and put them up at my desk to remind me each day to search for those things in my work.  My number 1 character Strength is Teamwork,  so instead of seeing my need to work with others as a weaknesses because I’m hopeless at working on my own,  I realised it was a strength to be able to work effectively with teams, to be energised by others, to show kindness to their needs…this is why I love being a Manager.   Now I could seek out those opportunities which let my strengths shine.

And a funny thing happened

You know what,  I stopped talking quite so much (Ok…so I didn’t exactly become quiet).  The more confident I grew by reminding myself of my strengths,  I stopped trying to over explain myself.  And without the little voice in my head saying “stop stop talking, just stop, you’re talking too much”,  I found more clarity in my words.    I also realised that writing (like this blog!) and mentoring others gave me a channel for my thoughts, helping to get them out of my head and reduce my need to speak all the time in meetings.

I did meet up with that old Manager at a conference once (she had long since moved away from my company),  and when I told her what I was doing, she said she wasn’t surprised.  She always saw the potential in me, and that is why she was so hard on me, she thought pointing out the things I could improve would help me.  And she believed she did help me.   Noble intention,  shocking execution.  If only she knew the damage she did.

I’m just glad she never actually did throw her laptop at my head,  although in hindsight, it would have been kinda funny if she tried…

(want to read more about my experiences with bosses, check out the story of Teflon!)

 

 

Lessons for my younger self…

Knowing I’m turning 40 this year has forced me to do quite a bit of self reflection…have I achieved what I hoped to by this stage?  am I on the right track?  do I wish I had done things differently?  Whilst there is a part of me that really wishes I had become a professional dancer and I really really have to let go of that dream now (no, I was not going to let lack of talent, drive or capability in this area rain on my dream)…overall, I’m really happy with the choices I’ve made that have led me to the place I am today…

So then I was thinking about little old innocent me, coming out of Uni with shiny big dreams about what the workforce would be like….boy did I have a LOT to learn.  So if I had the opportunity to mentor younger me,  what would older, wiser, smarter Claire say?

40 picture 11.   Focus on getting your strengths to shine

Claire, you are an amazing and talented person just waiting to soak up information like a sponge.  Don’t try to make yourself something that you are not…trust me, you could waste YEARS trying to fix all your “weaknesses”.  Do this VIA Strengths survey,  find work which lets your top strengths shine, and be confident that your contribution is  more than worthy.

2. See every challenge as an opportunity

You will be confronted with ALL sorts of challenges in your work life,  they come in every form and don’t stop coming.   Every challenge is an opportunity to learn, to grow, to evolve…if you didn’t have these challenges, you wouldn’t learn so much…so learn not to be afraid of obstacles in your path (constantly).   You really rock PRAGMATIC OPTIMISM…always come back to it.

3.  Don’t work so many hours

working longer does NOT, I repeat, does NOT = more productivity. Don’t wait until you have children to figure this one out.   Making the time for things that fuel your fire and get you excited are so important.  Don’t work so hard on the things that other people want.  Work on the things that you want, and take regular breaks…you’re brain and body will thank you for it.

4.  Don’t be afraid to say “I don’t know”

You don’t have to be the smartest person in the room,  it doesn’t make you dumb or stupid.

5.  Don’t be intimidated and compare yourself to others

Kinda feeds off the last point,   just because someone barges into a room like the own the world and know everything, doesn’t mean they do.   Even if they talk down and demean you,  remember that everyone has their strengths and moment to shine.    Help each other,  if one person is shining, stand in their light until you light up too.   If they are not shining, stand further away.

6.  Make time for work relationships,  laugh and HAVE FUN

Work isn’t always fun, infact, it is easy to take it WAY too seriously.  But it is possible to have fun and be highly productive,  infact, your favourite and most inspiring roles have been exactly that.   Don’t try to stop laughing in the office, even if everyone looks at you funny.

7. RELAX

Oh my goodness,  you need to watch this one.   You have a tendency to stress to the max if you are not careful,  so learn to take it way more slow.    All of the above tips will help you to stay calm and in control.  Walk slowly,  think before you speak (OK, you might never be able to get control on that one) and don’t overthink things.

Remember,  where ever you are, it’s exactly where you need to be right now…I guarantee it..you got this!