What are your super powers?

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Yep..being a special Mum is one of my super powers!

I’ve been reflecting this week on my strengths,  because I know that if I don’t feed my strengths on a regular basis, it is very easy to start getting flat and frustrated.

In my ten steps to work life awesomeness… step #4 is Knowing Your Strengths….and it is easier said than done.

I’m pretty good at identifying my weaknesses, most of us are.    But knowing your strengths takes a bit more reflection.   I always find it a bit of fun to do personality tests, or there is the VIA Strengths test which I also love.   These tools can help you to put into perspective which things make you feel great, put you in your ultimate flow.   But you don’t really have to do any special tests,  if you sit down and write a list of all the things that you enjoy, or think about what your favourite project/role at work has been so far,  what were the elements that you have enjoyed?  that will give you a good guiding sense of things that are your strengths.    Or, you could ask your friends and family  (I’ve done this recently and was surprised how uncomfortable it was to ask, I was so embarrassed but boy was it interesting getting perspectives from people who really know me).  There may be things that you don’t consider yourself to be “good at”  (possibly because you are super hard on yourself),  but they can still be your strengths if you enjoy doing them or wish you could do more of it.

Knowing my own strengths was a massive turning point for me.   I spent a lot of time at work focusing on trying to “fix” the things I wasn’t very good at,  like talking too much in meetings, instead of thinking about how I could do more of the things I was good at.

I know that one of my strengths is being very much a people person.  I love having fun, laughter and friends.  Yes, I love talking!   Which also means I love being part of a team at work,  I especially like leading a team (that is two of my strengths merged into one…leadership and team work…BONUS!).

Which means working remotely is actually quite hard for me.   The flexibility of my job role is awesome,  and I love that it means the focus is all on the work that I do, not the fact that I am sitting at a desk 9-5pm.   But sitting home alone drains my energy like a car battery when you leave the light on.

So, being conscious of this, and knowing that being a “people person” is one of my strengths but it isn’t naturally in my day to day role…I have to make a conscious effort each day to ensure I get my teaming fix…to plug in, and charge up!   I volunteer for projects that require me to connect with others, even if it is just on the phone.   I made my weekly teleconference with my team into a video conference on Google Hangouts, so I can see their gorgeous faces.    I joined the running club in the office, so I would be “forced” into the office once a week to take a run with some colleagues.   I organised to pop over to my parents house for an afternoon cuppa between meetings.    And all those things help to keep the fire in my belly,  despite my role perhaps not being the perfect role for a “people” person like me.

Which is why it is so important to know what your strengths are.  And to realise that just because you love to cook, or you love to nurture people…doesn’t mean you should throw in the towel on whatever job you are doing now, and run away to be a Chef or work in a nursing home.   But to be able to think about how you can bring your strengths to the table today, how you can squeeze more of them into your everyday. And you’ll be surprised how many opportunities you will find.

Do you know what your super powers are and do you practice them every day?

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Chocolate versus a Tomato…who wins?

Transporting you back to about this time last year….

It is cold and dark outside.  But we are sitting on the couch snuggled up under a woolly blanket.  The fireplace is gently crackling in the corner and i have a lovely warm cup of tea in my hand.  Bliss.

The only fly in my ointment,  is the cramping currently going on in my stomach.  You see…maybe, just maybe… I have consumed an entire family block of chocolate.   The first mouthful was AMAZING,  it was the perfect cure for a long day.  I was thinking about that moment for most of my afternoon.  As I packed off the kids to bed, I was already imagining the sweet taste in my mouth.  It just feels like the reward that I deserved.

But after that blissful mouthful,  how could I possible stop?  I ate another…and another.  It was still tasting wonderful.   Next thing I know, three quarters of the block is gone.  Now I am feeling a little ill.  Yet, the pull of the taste in my mouth is still drawing me in.  And another thought has started in my mind  “I really need to stop doing this,  it is making me feel ill…tomorrow I will not do this.  But now I have this chocolate left over, I better eat it now”.   In order to reduce the guilt, I find myself eating faster (do I think I can trick my brain?!?).  I’m not noticing the wonderful taste anymore, infact, I am not really enjoying it exactly…but there is still some kind of pleasure in just throwing caution to the wind.   And then it is gone.

So, there I was, in my blissful moment….feeling sick and annoyed at myself.

I had been in this place so many times, you’d think I would know better.  Unlike Tequila, which I can never drink again after a particularly bad night which resulted in a lot of vomit (we won’t go there),  I just keep coming back for more.  Nothing seems to put me off.   Sure, I had been on the rollercoaster of “eating well”,  then “eating bad” in waves throughout my life..my weight going up and down like the sea.

Fast forward back to today,  and you might understand why I included Step Number 3 in my Top 10 Steps to WorkLife Awesomeness – NOURISH YOURSELF

Things did change a little after this moment.  A friend from work was studying to become a integrative nutritionist, or something of the like, and I was one of her early guinea pigs.   I was trying to give up Diet Coke (unsuccessfully), so decided to give that challenge to her (I was a totally addicted, 7 cans a day kinda girl..for years…I know…terrible). Anyway, she told me something revolutionary… don’t try and “give up” Diet Coke.  Instead,  tell yourself you can have it whenever you really really feel like it.  Remembering you are “allowed” to have anything else you want instead of Diet Coke, even chocolate, if you want to.  But if you do decide to have the Diet Coke.  Drink it slowly.  Enjoy every single mouthful.

And guess what… I realised I don’t actually really LIKE Diet Coke.  Sure, i got pleasure from drinking it.  But the pleasure was coming from more of a place of “reward” and “habit” than from the actual taste.   And so I stopped drinking it.

I applied the same theory to other food in my life and realised that focusing on how food was nourishing me, how food was making me feel and what I actually really enjoyed, I was pleasantly surprised about how I could make far better choices.

Now…don’t get me wrong here.  I didn’t go on some hippy trip and never eat badly again.  Infact, I eat junk food in truck loads with the best of them.  But you’ll also find me drinking green smoothies, because they don’t taste too bad and they make my tummy and my mind feel awesome.  I can see how changing my mindset about food, and thinking more about how I can nourish myself,  helps me to function at my best.  My food philosophy is about finding the balance.

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So…yes, I did go to the movies last week and eat a whole Tomato (yes, just bit into it like an apple, as my friends tried to take photos of me because they couldn’t believe i was in the movies eating a tomato!?)…because I really really felt like that tomato.  It was refreshing and delicious and I loved every mouthful.    It was then swiftly followed by a bag of chocolate I had carefully selected at the lolly shop (and had been looking forward to all day)…and I also enjoyed every single mouthful.

How are you nourishing yourself today?

claire2

 

P.S..if you are not already signed up, I’d love to have you as part of my officially subscribed tribe.  Just click the follow button…and my blog posts will land magically in your inbox.

Time for positive action…

thegraphicsfairy.com
thegraphicsfairy.com

I was listening to my husband moaning about something…yet again…at the weekend and I was thinking,  when are you going to actually DO something about this, instead of just whinging about it.  And then….BAM…it hit me…

POT calling the KETTLE black

I have become one of those people.  Those people that complain that their life is busy or hectic or crazy…or just the fact that their life may not be what they wanted it to be right now…but then not change anything.  Keep doing the same thing, like a little hamster stuck in a wheel going around and around and around. I read back over my posts from the last few weeks…months…and the majority of them are me talking about falling apart, about messing up my boundaries, about things being too intense. And that is not getting me anywhere.

The point of this blog was for me to HELP people find more balance.  For me to share some positivity, some ideas for change, inspiration about how to do things differently.

So…peeps…it is time for positive action.  I am on the hunt, seeking guidance from all my favourite balanced guru’s…Michelle McQuaid, Megan Dalla-Camina, Mia Freedman, Emma Gray, Annabel Crabb, Brigid Schulte…the list goes on.

I’m going to inhale their advice like a life saving oxygen mask,  and suck up everything I can.   I’ll meld together all the greatest insights, so I can become a super woman that you will all admire and aspire to be like.  (OK…so I got a little excited there…quite frankly, I’m thinking I’ll be happy if I just stop having meltdowns in the toilet…… lets not set the expectations too high)

Step 1– I’m going to select my TOP TEN tips from the experts…and I’m going to focus on them month by month until I have them all neatly ticked off, like a “to do” list of awesomeness.

Step 2- I’m gonna update my Vision Board (yes, I do have one.  yes, most of the pieces of paper have fallen off and yes, those are my daughters drawings stuck over half of it)

Step 3 – Commit to action… hell yeah I’m gonna share it with you…each little step.  That’ll be my way of making sure my actions stick.  Commitment to the masses.

I’m excited.  Change is a coming. But that kettle is making me think about tea, so perhaps I’ll just go get a cup of tea…maybe have a little nap…then maybe we’ll start tomorrow, when I’m well rested. Anyone else in? claire2

I don’t know how she does it?

I actually hate that saying “I don’t know how she does it?”.  It has become so cliche, it makes me want to roll my eyes and punch the smug person, who is apparently doing it all with ease,  in the head.

But here I am…constantly thinking it…how do other people do this? when I feel like my brain is going to implode with the amount of information it is trying to store and order…and my to-do list is constantly getting longer not shorter…and the juggling isn’t just three balls,  but a few balls, a burning pole, a sword and a poisonous spider  (which reminds me…i need to call the pest control…anyway, back to the story).

I met up with a friend a little while back for lunch, and we were laughing about how lame our conversation was considering we spent most of our time talking about cleaning and organising.  We have a shared love of organisation but, unlike me, she actually implements it!  Infact,  I am slightly (OK, totally) in awe of her.   She has one of those amazing pantries that look like they were just spritzed by the Tupperware consultant,  her house is always immaculate.  she posts on facebook every 2nd day about some incredible craft she has organised with the kids, she works shift work in a stressful job and she is about to take an amazing trip overseas.  And I don’t even want to punch her in the head… because she is actually really really lovely.

I seriously don’t know how she does it.

Don’t you have that feeling all the time,  wondering how other people do it?  Have they got some magic ingredient I am missing?  As I sit here,  amongst the chaos that is my study (I decided the other day to clean out the cupboard, thus the contents are strewn across the floor but I didn’t get a chance to finish it and well…now…I just get exhausted looking at it). If someone “dropped by” unexpectedly, I think I would have to talk to them out on the veranda because they wouldn’t be able to get through the door past my laundry piles…so I am totally and utterly fascinated about other peoples lives.  I want to know what they have prioritised,  how they have prioritised.  Is their house really always immaculate or do they run around like a maniac before we come over (just like I do?).   Is my perception of their amazingness the actual reality?

Here's my half done clean up...not exactly where I wanted to be??
Here’s my half done clean up…not exactly where I wanted to be??

Almost every woman I know is juggling things across their life in some capacity.  Yet, no two have the same scenario.  Some work full time, or part time, or not at all,  or shift work.  Some have lots of children, some have one child, some have none.  But whoever they are,  I am still interested in what goes on behind the scenes, the choices they have made,  what has been hard and challenging…what are their tips and ideas.

And so… it was as I was pondering this,  it was when I decide to create the Confessions of a Corporate Mum facebook community page.   I love the idea of a community of amazing women (which we totally all are), coming together to share tips, offering advice, asking questions and maybe, on those days when it is all getting a bit much…have the opportunity to vent  your frustrations amongst a group of readers who totally understand…because absolutely EVERYONE has those days (come on, don’t leave me hanging…I’m not the only one am I??).

And if nothing else,  it’s just another place for me to share the little tit bits of my journey…so you can sit at home smugly and think.. “gosh…I have it so much more together than her”…

What better reason could you have to join me on the new Confessions of a Corporate Mum facebook Community page? and all you have to do is “like” it…plus if you are not already doing so, please also join my growing tribe of followers right here…simply click on the follow me button on my blog…and get my little blog deposited in your lovely inbox every week…it would be my pleasure to entertain you….

claire2

 

Rain Rain Go Away…

My bad photography doesn't reflect how amazing this rainbow was when it shone over our campsite
My bad photography doesn’t reflect how amazing this rainbow was when it shone over our campsite

A little story from our recent holiday…

After four days of sunshine and blue skies, the inevitable happened and it started to rain….to bucket down.  As my husband started checking all the corners of our camper trailer with a worried frown, I sat down and checked the forecast.

Nothing but rain on the horizon, five more days of it.  Not only that but storms and wind.

As the children enjoyed themselves dancing around to music and playing games on the ipod (yipee permission to play all arvo). My husband and I sat down to make some plans.  I made a list of things to do in the rain (it wasn’t long), we talked about going home early, my husband complained he was bored already and we went to bed with heavy hearts, disappointed to have our lovely holiday spoilt and wondering how we would pack up our gear in the morning in the rain.

Then, in the morning, I woke up at 6am…and I couldn’t hear the rain?!  Stepping outside I am surrounded by blue sky and sunshine.  Throwing on my walking shoes, I wander down to the beach and watch the sun continue to rise with a lovely sense of peace.

A massive reminder of the importance of living in the moment.  Instead of spending our time the night before, worrying about what may or may not happen in the future.  We could have just accepted what is was in that moment.  It was raining and it wasn’t ideal, but we could have pulled out a board game to amuse ourselves and waited to see what happened.  Just like the children, who are better at living in the moment because they have less past experience to draw from and they have no sense of responsibility for the future.

And again, those pesky expectations that sit in the back of our minds.  As we look forward to our annual holidays and break from work, of course we have expectations of how amazing, relaxing and happy they are going to be.  But of course, things will always go wrong.  Kids fight, planes are late, people get sick…it rains.  Infact, we had even talked about my sister the night before, because she is in England and they expect it to rain all the time!  So they are not disappointed when it does, they just get on with what they are doing.

So, as I sat there with my cup of tea, I made a promise to try to live in the moment more for the rest of the holiday because then I’m much more likely to notice the little pockets of relaxation, the explosions of joy that are scattered throughout the day.   The five minutes of pure laughter and joy as the kids jump waves on the beach (yep, it happened, right before they started throwing sand at each other),  the relaxed moment after a cup of tea and a good book,  the taste of sneaky chocolate and most of all, the blue sky and amazing rainbows… that can only appear if there has been some rain…

claire2

 

 

P.S I should note we did actually go home early, a few days after I wrote this post.  But I went with a much stronger appreciation of the great moments that we had. Everything wasn’t perfect…it never is…but because I was focused on all the things that were going right (albiet small some days), it turned out to be exactly what I wanted it to be.

Need a sea change? Bah…humbug!

IMG_0162Welcome back everyone!    I’m pumped to be back in your inboxes and on your screens.  Woot woot, the New Year and so much new excitement ahead of us.

Was great to have a break, spend less time looking at the clock and more time doing some of the things I love (like cleaning out the cupboards…totally..more on that in a future post),  spending time with my family and friends.  And of course, a great time to do a little reflection on what is important.

So, I’m going to get on my soap box a little bit here.  Is anyone else sick of all the people going on about totally revolutionising their lives.   Quitting their dull corporate job to follow their lives passion and make millions while they are at it.  Sell their city house for a coastal retreat, so they can practice yoga and drink green smoothies all day.   Do we really need to completely up-end our lives to be happy?

Now, don’t get me wrong.  I am super envious of the people who I know in life who are truly passionate about something. Who recognised they were in the wrong job or with the wrong people and had the bravery and tenacity to jump into the unknown like a fearless warrior ready to unleash on life. You go girls.

But, for the majority of us,  we don’t actually need to make significant, crazy, leaps of faith in order to achieve what we want.  For many of us, we feel comfortable with the choices we made…although we might be a bit confused as to why we are not jumping out of bed each morning with boundless energy and enthusiasm for those choices.

So maybe what we need, is not a complete overhaul,  but just some tweaks around the edges.  Some filing of the sharp corners.

For me, there are a few things I try to be conscious of each day,  which help me to feel like I am following the right path and am in the right place for me.  And whilst I certainly don’t jump out of bed…it is more like a slow motion fall/clamber followed by a struggle to the teapot for a green tea hoping not to wake up the kids on my way through…I’m pretty happy with where I’m at right now.

Want to find your inner mojo? Here’s my top tips…

1) Understanding your strengths…and looking for opportunities to use this no matter what your job is.  I love doing questionnaires, so highly recommend the VIA Strengths survey.  It’s free and gives you some real insights about the kind of things that light the fire in your belly.

2) Look after your wellbeing.  The most important thing is consistency.  I love my life so much more on the days that I get up first thing in the morning and exercise.  Job done.  It’s amazing what a cascading effect it has on the rest of my day…I am far more like to eat well, be patient, be resilient.   This one thing which essentially is so simple…and doesn’t involve an organic juice revolution (although I have been known to enjoy the occasional green smoothie…don’t judge me)…is a key part of my everyday happiness.

3) Have fun.  What makes you laugh?  I hate it when people are too serious.  I find that people at work are generally pretty serious.  It is like you are not allowed to have fun and work at the same time.  But in my world, these things go hand in hand.  My favourite days are those which involve a little bit of silliness and laughter.  They can make a dull project shine like the sun.

4) Reflect on your direction.  Take time to reflect on where you are at and where you want to be.  Whether you are disciplined enough to meditate every day,  or once a week you grab a cup of tea and a list.  Or maybe once a month you pull together a vision board.  Whatever is your thing, it doesn’t matter, as long as you take time to reflect on what you want the future you to look like and to think about the little fairy steps you take every day to get there.  Again, this is NOT necessarily about huge life changing goals, but simply taking time out of the busyness of every day life to reflect on where you are at.

And I’ll leave you with a great quote from my Lorna Jane (yep…love her)…lets get this 2015 party started!

“You don’t have to live an extraordinary life, you just have to live your ordinary life in an extraordinary way”

claire2

 

P.S I reserve the right to change my mind at any point, and may in the future be raving about the joys of giving up your corporate career, living in a caravan and home schooling your children…I’m sure it would be amazing…

Keeping up appearances…

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

It’s been so long since I’ve had to worry about my appearance when it comes to work, because most of the time I’m hidden at home…behind a telephone line and a screen.   And when I do connect in, I can brush my hair and keep my tracksuit pants on.   So I forgot how much that we make judgements based on appearances and how those judgements have the power to affect us.

Apparently people make judgements in less than a second of meeting someone. I was reading an article about the judgments people make based on the online photo you have posted, a simple change in expression can completely change someones impression of you.

So I’m on a trip for work and I realised I’m more worried about what to wear than the work needing to be done. Should I wear my heels or my flats? Do my glasses make me look funkier or just nerdy? What does this dress say about me? I was exhausted before I even entered the office.

And then she arrived, immaculately dressed, designer outfit, so well groomed every hair in place. Suddenly, my well thought out dress felt childish. I noticed the run in my stockings and desperately tried to hide my legs under the table. And seriously, were my boobs popping out of this dress when I left this morning, how the hell did I not notice???  I moved my Burberry bag (extravagant gift from my husbands last trip), hoping it might help detract from everything else.

I was seriously intimidated, and with it, my confidence went running out the room and screaming out the building. I started doubted myself and my ability. I scrambled through the day wondering what impression I had left? I went back to the hotel, worn out and over it.

After wasting time cursing myself in the mirror and wishing things had been different…I started to re-assess. To think about my passion, what do I bring to the table?   My worth is not measured by judging myself against other people, my path is different. I get joy from bringing positivity and passion into the office. To help others achieve their goals and to use my experience and understanding to help build communications strategies.

How I look doesn’t change those things. And what I bring to that table is just as valuable as the others.

So I returned the following day, and I walked into the room and smiled.  She smiled in return.

I’ve got this.

Are you happy with where you are today?

Pointer SistersI’m so excited…and I just can’t hide it…I’m about to lose control and I think I like it...you are required to sing this section of my blog, aka Pointer Sisters from the 80’s.

Why am I excited?  Because interesting things are happening with my work at the moment, the project I am working on is reaching an important milestone, I’ve been given the opportunity to travel and I’m engaging with other people who have the same interests and goals.   It’s really nice to feel this way.

So how did this happen, how did I get here?  A few years ago I wasn’t feeling this way at all with my work, infact, I was feeling flat and uninspired.   At the time, I also couldn’t see what the future might hold.  I wasn’t sure where I wanted to go to next but I knew I needed to move.  But where?

I started searching for ideas and a couple of things stick in my mind from that time.

The first thing I remember learning at the time,  is to try to visualise yourself in the future,  make a vision board with things you like or that inspire you.   Even if you can’t clearly articulate the end goal (I had no idea what I actually wanted), you can still articulate the pieces that interest you (it doesn’t matter if they don’t come together in a picture that makes sense…yet).    Write down what you like doing, what you don’t.  What gets you excited.  Think BIG.   If you do this…these things are much more likely to happen to you.   What, by Witchcraft??  I thought.   But I made a vision board anyway (I was feeling desperate) and guess what,  it did work.   It has adapted and changed as much as I have now,  adding new ideas, thoughts, pictures, quotes to it as I go along.   I think that it works because it opens your eyes to what your interested in,  so suddenly you can see the opportunities when they pop up that match your ideas.  Then you take small steps towards them…and bang, suddenly you’re doing it

So…the second thing is that you have to be willing to take one step first,  even if you don’t know exactly where you are going. Someone described it in a blog (sorry I can’t attribute because I can’t remember where),  to think of it like holding a candle in the dark,  you can only see as far as the light is shining…but if you step forward, the light moves a little bit further forward too….so you can take another step.   My first step was to speak to my Manager at the time and tell her that I didn’t think the role I was in was right for me.  I didn’t know what I did want but I wanted her support in exploring ideas, potentially building new skills and thinking about future directions.  I was happy to keep doing my role but I needed to start takings steps. I was a bit nervous that this might put my head on the chopping block for other changes, or that she might then start treating me differently and give me bad ratings.  I guess those things could have happened,  but it was a risk I needed to take in order to move forward.   However, she didn’t do those things. She was disappointed because she wanted me to stay but she suggested some people in the business I could talk to and we discussed potential courses I might be able to do over the next few years.    That discussion led to others, which ultimately scored me a new job in a new area within a few months.   SCORE.  Since then I’ve kept moving forward, one step at a time, to finally find myself where I am today…excited and engaged.

Are you happy with where you are today?   Have you mapped out your own vision board?  And what tiny step forward can you take today…and every day…to get you closer to your goals?

Yep…tonight’s the night we are going to make it happen (I don’t think that is quite what the Pointer Sisters meant but lets roll with it)

The power of positivity…

Over the weekend I was feeling a bit flat (OK…a lot flat),  I wanted to get out of the house, but I didn’t know where I wanted to go.  I wanted to be on my own, but I wanted company.   I wanted to eat a tonne of chocolate but I knew I should be eating lots of healthy food (guess which one won out there).    I decided to bake.  I love baking.   It is my go to thing to lift the spirits.  The process was fun but in the aftermath of eating half a pecan pie and half a dozen white chocolate and cranberry cookies…I’m starting to think this was a bad idea.

Finally, I ended up at my computer,  wrote a grumpy journal entry then wandered onto my facebook page.   Found a few links,  clicked around…and then landed on this blog “Adventuring Home”.   I have never seen this blog before, might never go there again…but right then, at that moment…the words were exactly what I needed.  She talked about living big, laughing hard, embracing life.   It wasn’t so much that her exact words but the positivity that was jumping off the pages which jolted me out of my little rut.  It reminded me to stop looking at the glass half empty, and be excited and inspired and curious.   It reminded me of another favourite quote of mine…

“Your happiness increases the happiness of everyone around you”

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

It is amazing how other people’s positivity rubs off on you.   Being around other people who are working full of optimism and hope, makes you feel more excited and interested.   And what I love about social media, both in work and outside work, is that it makes it easier to find this people, to stumble on an inspiring quote or someones else’s journey from across the globe.

So today, at work,  I’ve been seeking out these people.  Who is really inspired at the moment, who is driving things they feel passionate about…I want to stand in their sunshine, hope some of it rubs off on me.

Then I’m going to take that sunshine and make some of my own.  Help the people around me to be inspired and engaged and interested…because despite having a few flat days every now and again,  I want to always come back to positivity and pragmatic optimism as my driving force at work and at home.

Left over cookies anyone?

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!)