Guest Blogger – Sir Bogart

Hi all,

Thank you all for giving me such a warm welcome – you are all way nicer than my brothers  (well, they’re nice some of the time, but they seem a little moody to me)!!!  Anyway, I’ve been here four full days now and I have learned an awful lot about life in the kingdom.

I know where my food is

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I’ve been accident-free for two days – which seems to be a major cause of celebration for my mom, she keeps kissing me and telling me what a good boy I am every time I take care of business outside.  It seems a little excessive, but I humor her.

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My brother takes offense if I get too close to areas I find interesting to sniff…

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But he will now allow me to hang with him if I respect his space and keep my nose to myself.  The guy doesn’t know how to have any fun.

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Size seems to matter – Sir Archie takes my toys, but if I try to take one of his – whoa…I am plotting my revenge.

Mom doesn’t like having her toes bitten – what’s up with that?

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And the King thinks I’m perfect.  In truth I think he’s got enormous potential and I’m sucking up to him for all it’s worth.  I would say I’m making a ton of progress, wouldn’t you?

Sometimes I Get The Message

There was a comment waiting for me this morning that was posted on my “About Me” page.  It was from a manager with whom I used to work at the firm.  She moved on to greater professional opportunities years ago, and we keep in tacit touch on LinkedIn.  And though I remember her in detail, from her reluctant smile, that once shared lit up her entire face to her ardent wish to ‘do the right thing’ for her department – I never really expected to receive such a gift.

“Mimi, I saw this recently and thought of you.  So many times as a leader I reflect on your teachings and I am so very thankful to have them in my toolbox.  Thanks for the Lollipop and for the ones I’ve received because of you.”

And she forwarded along this Ted video.  And I cried (no surprise there).

www.ted.com/talks/drew_dudley_everyday_leadership.html

And the bottom line to all of this?  Be transparent, bring joy, offer people the best you have and if you can’t give them your best, certainly don’t bring them your worst.  Sometimes the farther one travels up the professional food chain, the more likely it is to see people getting by with the most off-hand and dismissive of efforts – after all, there is so much one has to do (yes, this is sarcastic).  I am humbled and honored that Vivia took the time to send me this.  I am appreciative of the reminder that this is really what it’s all about – period.  And my lollipop of choice?  Tootsie pops, hands down.

A View From The Lobby

Whenever I have a meeting – of any kind – I’m early.  It’s my definition of being on time.  I was facilitating a meeting yesterday morning, and with the rain pummeling the house, I decided to give myself more than enough time to get downtown.  What does one do then with an hour to kill?  Head into the open, skylit atrium with a cup of coffee, review your notes and then watch the world go by.  Another olio from yours truly…

Rather than look like I’m just sitting there ogling people, I make notes, raising my eyes subtly to take in the action (Actually, I like to think I look surreptitious – I have a hunch I’m not so graceful).

–  A guy walks by wearing a grey cap, striped sweater, wire-rimmed glasses…he looks like he could be a student at GW, but for the absence of a backpack.  He’s so intently texting that he slams right into the corner of one of the metal (heavy, wrought iron) chairs.  Unfortunately, said corner  is of a particular delicate height and I wince for him.  He lets out a “oooph” – a restrained exclamation if ever I heard one, and gingerly walked into the coffee shop.  Those of us sitting nearby all look up with sympathy and even a little amusement (that’s what you get when you don’t watch when you walk and text).  Ok, the women look more amused then the men.

–  The skylights which are supposed to welcome all the natural light look like they are bearing the traces of a really good cry.  It’s that kind of day.

–  Beige lady – I swear this is a beige lady.  Beige hair, outfit, shoes, necklace, purse…urban camouflage.  Her posture is perfect, her strides are long and her heels strike the floor with emphasis.  She covers a lot of ground with maximum efficiency.  A person on a mission, confident, hyped, ready.  She comes out of the coffee shop holding two Red Bulls.  I feel for the people with whom she’s working today.

–  Choices, choices..a man in biking shorts and a heavy sweat (or rain-soaked) checks out his options at the coffee shop.  Grabs a yogurt.  Puts it back.  A box of Special K.  Shakes his head and places it back on the shelf.  Granola bar?  Uh uh.  This is a small Au Bon Pain, there are limited choices.  He looks conflicted.  Ah!! He grabs a an apple turnover. I like this guy.

–  Cross-body bags with cross-body briefcases is not a great look.  People look like pack animals heading up Everest.  And the puce thermal lunch bag?  Um, I vote ‘no’.

–  Why does no one smile?  I must be missing the memo.  This feels like a very unhappy place, with questionable elan (but this is DC after all, we don’t pride ourselves on elan or fashion sense – or any sense at all for that matter).  I am on a crusade to get people to smile.  I consciously smile at everyone – the garage attendant, the vanilla-outfitted girl who passes my table with vacant eyes, the maintenance person who traverses the perimeter of the atrium scrupulously checking for…something.

I’m not talking maniacal smiles here – just a small smile that someone could choose to ignore or return without fear of a Jack-Nicholson-in-‘The Shining’ reaction.  So far I’m 5 for 6…wait, 6 for 7 – not bad.  Each moves along in his/her own moment, which is totally cool.  I’m not looking to create memories here.  I just want to break this wall of impassivity – see if there’s any light behind those shuttered eyes, as if there is too much risk in letting someone see any emotion at all.

And I want to know all their stories – where do you work?  Do you like what you do?  What’s on your mind this morning?  House?  Condo?  Tent?  Pets?  Kids?  Partners?  What could change this moment from one that has merely passed to one that is fantastic?  Are your shoulders bowed from the weight of your backpack or the weight of your woes?

Why fuchsia lipstick?

They need music here – something to lift these sagging commuter spirits,  to imbue the morning with the hint of the possible, the funny, the sublime or even the stuff that really matters.  Time for me to head to the elevator with the guy who looks like Stubby Kaye when he was in “Guys & Dolls”.

Overthinking

“Child, child, do you not see?  For each of us comes a time when we must be more than we are” — Lloyd Alexander

Well the last few weeks have brought with them a frenetic level of activity reminiscent of earlier chapters in my life.  Facilitating training sessions at two law firms; attending a national convention where I will be moderating a panel  on effective communication between leaders in practice offices and their counterparts at ‘headquarters’; discussions on employee engagement at another company and then back to another professional services firm to chair forums on a number of issues all rolling up under the header of ‘organizational dynamics’.  Ok, stop yawning – I find this stuff pretty fascinating, and the people I meet as a result, even more interesting and engaging.  It’s the people – I’m just so damn drawn to the people.

So somewhere around the end of May or June, things may slow down a bit once more. Some things haven’t changed – the more I have to do, the less I sleep and the more I perseverate.  For those of you who have not been ‘gifted’  with this talent, I’ll describe it quickly.  It starts with a benign thought, like “I hope I can pull all this together in time”, and from there it blossoms into a profusion of peripatetic petals (it is spring and Cherry Blossom time here in DC after all) that fall all over my mind, covering the synapses, neurons and pathways with layer upon layer of resistant ground cover.  Thought loses all rhyme or reason, and I spend an inordinate amount of time getting in my own way.  Do I know that I really should get out the leaf blower?  Of course I do – I’m just too busy looking at the magnificent mess I have created.

Now this talent of mine exists in direct counterpoint with another ability that I really do have about many, many issues.  When my sons were younger, they maintained their rooms as temples to the God Of Who Cares.  Somehow the word ‘messy’ really doesn’t do their efforts justice – neither does ‘unhygienic’.  Once a week, I would expect them to make some effort to return their rooms into something livable, for I really didn’t want them contracting some weird bacteria that is only found in the Amazon and the soles of filthy socks.  Their disregard drove Andy crazy – he’s  the kind of guy who feels that everything has a place and there’s a place for everything – and if not, toss it out.  So as he would get increasingly exorcised, I would become calmer.  And my mantra through those years was “If this is going to bother you in five years honey, then I will invest in this issue with all the emotional energy I can summon.  But if this isn’t going to matter five years hence, then I’m letting it go”.

Hypocrite – thy name is Mimi.

You see I really believe that little mantra – I do.  I just don’t apply it with as much conviction when it comes to my own efforts.  So in short – I become my own pain in the butt.  Somebody needs something from me – ok, let’s jump into hyper-drive, over-think it and deliver with everything I’ve got.  And then collapse and chastise myself for all that excess worry and emotional self-flagellation.  Oh, and then start the whole process again…because after all, this is different.  It’s about someone else’s needs.  I have to be better this time, right?

Last night though – somewhere between Carson Daly and the 2:30AM news on ABC – a memory came to the fore and I think as a result, I am going to try to teach my foolish self what I already know.

Years ago, after one back surgery or another, I lost the use of my arms.  Truly.  I could raise one arm high enough to bring a utensil to my lips, the other only far enough to scratch an inch near my waist.  The surgeon wasn’t alarmed (of course, they weren’t his arms) – neurological effrontery can make for some pretty lousy retribution.  I was petrified.  All of a sudden elements of daily self-care were elusive to me.  Andy would wash and dry my hair (with enormous affection and limited expertise – we will not conjure any thoughts of how I looked during this time), I drank coffee through a straw, modifications were made.  The doctor was sure my range of motion would return – he had no doubt, so I believed him.  My anxiety became more reflective of the ‘when’ not the ‘if’, and immediately became more manageable.  In five years, this would not be an issue for me – I knew that.  My thoughts became less frantic, I began to clear away the disorderly mess that had become my thought process.  And yes, the doctor knew what he was talking about.

Which brings me back to this moment.  In five years it will matter to me that I gave my best to others – period.  I won’t get there by letting my worry trump my determination.  Let me re-phrase – I may get there, but I will be have depleted essential elements of the thoughts I need to be happy.  Today, I’m going to follow the advice of Steve Martin – “I’ve got to keep breathing.  It’ll be the worst business mistake if I don’t”.

I hope this makes you smile – and if by chance you identify with any of this – I hope it helps you breathe.

 


 

 

The Family You Have, The Family You Choose

“Call it a clan, call it a network, call it a tribe, call it a family:  whatever you call it, whoever you are, you need one.” — Jane Howard

There are all sorts of families – the ones that we are magically born into or become a part of; the families that we build one person, pet, ritual at a time; the families of friends that may morph and change with the understanding that these connections are in many ways as binding as any others.  Within the context of this forum in which we meet and discover virtual understandings and ‘aha’ moments, we are defining a new family.  I think of many people in this community who I feel I know and love as members of my family too.  People who are always there to support me when I write through my neurotic moments, laugh along with my silliness, commiserate when life becomes complicated or evocative of times that are painful to recount.  Friends who I fret about and delight in, inspire me with their incredible talents, and celebrate with head-shaking wonder at the magic that they create regularly.

So it is within this uniquely bound family that I find myself accepting the Family Of Bloggers Award.  I love the implication of this honor, for it suggests that we are in many ways a family of choice.  We are together because we choose to be, minus some of the drama and trauma that come from nuclear units that are perhaps more complicated, defined by far different memories of shared history.

David Kanigan (DavidKanigan.com)  who writes the blog titled Lead.Learn.Live and Laurie Barkman who authors PassionatePerformance.wordpress.com both nominated me for this award this week.  David has a following that is remarkable in both its size, intelligence and loyalty.  When I started following his blog, I hoped to come close to the quality, provocative writing and thoughtful commentary that his writing reflects all the time.  I still don’t know how he does it, finding references, writers, images, videos that invite and engross the reader.  He is incredibly self-effacing, and he is shaking his head as he reads this not able to admit that all of this is true.  But I would bet an awful lot of money (if I had it, which I don’t, so I feel good about placing the bet) that there are many, many, many who agree with my summary.  I have followed him from the first day I came to WordPress and I will follow him should the time come when I no longer post..

My line of work and Laurie’s closely parallel each other.  The primary and striking difference is that she manages to imbue the topic of performance management and leadership with practical wisdom and a passion that is palpable.  As some of you may know from earlier posts, I have a love-hate relationship with this topic – perhaps because I’ve been training and speaking about these topics for so long.  But I return to Laurie time after time because her advice is wise and practical, her commitment sincere and passionate and the results always on point and well-considered.  As much as I believe that there is nothing new under the sun because of a general reluctance to deal with the discomfort of change, Laurie gently encourages me to reconsider and remember what I loved about training and development.

So, I thank them both and embrace the metaphor that I am part of their family, as they are part of mine.  I’d do the Sally Fields thing, but David would tease me – even though in my head I’m thinking “you like me, you really like me!”  As inspirational blogs go, I have many to nominate and feel certain that I would inadvertently miss some.  Which is why I am going to nominate all the people who are kind enough to read my posts each day, comment each day and travel on the karma truck through all sorts of topography.  Thank you for being part of my virtual family.  Thank you for embracing me from the moment I started seven months ago and for encouraging me to keep the gas tank full and ready to roll.