Saturday, January 17, 2015

My, what a big shadow you have

I was recently thinking back on my first job out of college and who inspired me. In 1999, at 22 years old, I started at a technology company and there was a lady on my team named Robin. She had been doing the job for a while, been promoted, was well-spoken, smart, effective, and held her own at the table. In my mind, she had it together. That was what I wanted to be like! I reached out to her for advice and had lots of questions for her. She always treated me with respect, kindness, and encouragement.

We did not work together very long, but I vividly remember her influence on my path. Out of curiosity, I looked her up on LinkedIn and imagine my surprise to realize she was only 27 at the time. 27?! To me now, a 27 year old is still early in their career but at the time I held her in such a lofty spot in my mind. Can you imagine what I must seem like, at 37, to a person right out of college or early in their career?  

I think we go through the day, not very aware of the shadow we cast. While I am just B, who calls my mom on the way in to work most days, who doubts and questions myself, and who feels exactly like I did at 22 around some people… I have also been doing this a while, I’m pretty good at it, I am confident, I have been described as intimidating. Can you imagine the shadow “just B” might cast?

I’ve seen what impact a positive statement can have on someone and how they take it to heart and repeat it to others – I do this when I get a compliment from my boss or someone I respect. I’ve also seen how an abrupt, negative comment can bring someone down, even reducing them to tears – and unfortunately I’ve been on both sides of this situation. I feel a great sense of responsibility to treat this shadow - or level of influence - with more respect going forward. I want to be conscious of how my words, actions, body language, and conversations can have a positive or negative impact.

Specifically, I want to do a few things:

-         As I carry on throughout the day I will smile, I will engage in pleasantries more often, I will take more time to ask a question or answer one, I will radiate calmness and happiness.

-         When I have the chance to say or do something positive, I will do it. I will compliment my coworkers to their bosses, I will give praise more willingly, I will appreciate and thank people more often.

-         When I have to say or do something negative, I will do it with more care. I will do it with kindness, constructively, with a great deal of thought, and very aware of the situation and people around.

There are going to be situations when confrontation must happen. But I will judge more carefully when I have to go into “Pepper”-mode (Pepper is my alter-ego and is kind of a diva). It must be standing up for something that is right that I believe in or standing up to something that is wrong. I want this to happen with the right level of emotion and with people that can handle it.

I’ve already started acting on all of this and I love seeing how the more you give, the more you get. Positivity grows, conversations are richer, relationships are stronger, and I’m having more fun! I reached back out to Robin a few months ago to tell her what an influence she had on me and what a great example she was. We had a great email conversation catching up on the last 14 or so years and hope to get together for lunch soon to really catch up. Those are going to be some big shadows!

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