Two days in a row this week of hard discussions with team members.
I don’t shy away from confrontations but sometimes they make me feel helpless. I can work on myself but I often feel hopeless when it comes to team members. I feel like just throwing in the towel now and walking away.
When people are challenged by the actions and words by others I am reminded that relationships are the key. If I invest in my relationships then I will hopefully have trust in resolution. I know that people are challenged by the behavior of others but my experiences over my lifetime have taught me that if I lean in with wonder and curiosity and assume good intent I will come out with a better understanding of the other and of myself.
And – it takes more than just listening. I need to actually champion these others, speak to their gifts, call out who they are as individuals and name their strengths in a way that says I see and value them as team members; I am not just engaging a token conversations.
If I walk away, it is as though I am saying you and all you stand for are not worth my time and energy to figure out. Would I want someone to feel that way about me? No way!
So I shut my computer for awhile, stretch, take a walk, read a poem, write, and then sit back down at the table again with an open mind, open heart, open spirit.
And I gather my strength to figure out how to call others to do the same without shame and blame. That’s the tougher part for me.
What is a skill you learned in one of your first jobs that you still use today?
As a camp counselor I learned that I could lead, that I had good ideas and could work with children. I found out that singing songs is the best way to get attention and invite connection.
Working at McDonalds, I learned I could be fired for no other reason than because I was the last one hired.
When I was a lifeguard at a local lake, I learned that people don’t always follow rules no matter if they are posted or are for safety reasons and that authority doesn’t mean the same thing to everyone. I also learned I can’t face the water anymore when I’m on vacation at a beach or lake or pool; everything looks like drowning to me.
Part of my college tuition was supplemented with a position in the alumni office typing labels. Not many people in my class knew how to type efficiently. As my various positions over the years have demanded a lot of typing, I’ve been very thankful I took that hateful class in high school – mostly because the other choice was Home-Economics!
I did sales in a yarn shop and learned customer service – as well as how to fix people’s knitting problems. I taught swimming to people ages 9 months to 90 years and learned that everyone can be a learner and overcome fears.
I worked in co-op preschools and learned how to support all kinds of families to be their child’s best teacher even though their values and their lifestyles were completely different than mine.
I stayed in a position for 25 years and learned that there was more to a profession than moving up a ladder and increasing my salary and that “staying” was different than being “stuck.”
I threw caution to the wind and quit teaching jobs twice in the middle of the year to take totally new positions even though it would have been better to wait for the natural change time of “summer vacation.” Jumping at the right time was a good move for me even though it left some chaos behind.
I have learned so many things from so many colleagues and work mates in my life so far that I can’t even name all the people. Their leadership and mentorship has given me all the skills I use today and help me to know I am continuing to learn new things every day.
I sometimes see colleagues in the office these days – mostly because I’m so tired of sitting at my dining room table. I check the “in house calendar” to make sure there won’t be too many of us sitting at our desks at one time and head into the office just for a change of scenery and the spontaneous conversation that might happen with someone there. I also choose to work at my daughter’s place one day a week – because zoom makes it possible – and so I can see her rather than just chat on the phone.
Many colleagues are still working from home and only coming in to the office after hours or on the weekends to use the copy machine or fax things. But there is a trickle.
I hardly remember what it used to be like before when everyday at work was busy with people thumping up and down the stairs in between visits to families and to do some quick copying and faxing of paperwork and lunches were eaten sitting on the floor with our phones tucked behind us. My days were spent away from home so my evenings were about catching up with my husband and son because I’d been away all day and wondered what they had been up to – right now I am very aware of all that is happening.
It isn’t just the being in-person that is going to change when we go back to the office, it’s going be a time shift – what we do with each hour of the day is going to be so different. I’ll have to get used to travel time, and maybe leaving my computer at the office again instead of toting it back and forth. I’ll have to pack a lunch, remember to buy gas, decide whether to go back to showering in the morning instead of the evening.
It’s sort of like the way we adjust to daylight savings time. We’ll have to adjust to Covid-less re-connecting time.
I’ve tried to do too much this weekend and now I’m trying to get homework done as well as write for this blog. Homework trumps blog writing I’m afraid. Although living on the west coast I technically have more time to do my homework than write on the blog. But I really don’t want to stay up past nine doing either.
In the year before we started talking about “before times,” our team used to hide little dolls around the office with messages. It was a way to create community, connect with people in spontaneous but intentional ways and bring a smile to someone’s day. The “babies” – and there were 3 different ones – would pop up in people’s drawers, in files, the kitchen cupboard, on windowsills.
Well it’s been a year. I’m not sure where all the babies are but this week, one of them was found in a pocket of a colleagues sweater. She keeps the sweater on the back of her chair and although she’s been in the office off and on since Covid, today was the day she put on that sweater and felt the lump in the pocket.
It was such a treat to send this photo out to team members.
I am part of a leadership group in our agency and I attend 3 meetings a week with various colleagues. I have a regular “house” meeting with the early interventionists on the team that I am a co-leader for. In the before-times, our weekly meetings were in the “living room” part of the home where our offices are, and we were usually sitting on the floor eating lunch on Tuesday afternoons. Now we meet over Zoom, and while many of us begin the meeting with bowls and plates in front of us, the connection part of our meeting has become about more than just checking out what people are having for lunch.
The prompt for getting people talking and opening up about where their head and hearts are each week is something my co-facilitator and I talk about and plan carefully for. I am really proud of the prompts we came up for this week because we our team has some new members that have recently been hired and we also had our Cultural Navigator joining us for only the second time. So the question was about how we’ve experienced transitions in our lives, moving to new places, joining new groups or communities, and what we’ve learned from these experiences. Taking it a bit deeper, the prompt also asked us to consider how these experiences help relate to the families and children we work with.
It was a rich sharing on Tuesday. We heard from colleagues who moved here from Germany, Ireland, Puerto Rico and China – all at different ages and stages of their lives. We heard from people who chose to make moves, were forced to make moves, embraced change or resisted it. We talked about how just shifting how we worked – from in-home visits to virtual was a big move. And then people spoke to what it made them think about as they developed relationships with families and learned more about the types of transitions or adjustments caregivers have been making or anticipate in the future.
Today I had another meeting. The prompt this time was more spontaneous – but also insightful: find something in your surroundings that says something about how you are feeling right now. The offerings today included a picture of a sunflower, a pencil sharpener, a rubber band, some puzzle pieces, a family photograph.
The unforgettable image of a lone blue marble rising above the horizon, was a message of hope to preserve the earth and its glory, oceans, land and sky.
I celebrate the gifts of one acre at a time, set aside to preserve streams and the land that is their watershed, people with vision have pursued acquisitions, one farm, one shoreline, one homestead at a time, for all time.
Ponds and farms, forests and ravines, from the bay to the foothills of the snow-capped mountain on the horizon, land to be held in trust for future generations, a legacy for all.
I am blessed by the dreams and the toil of those who came before me, who trusted that people like me could become guardians of the earth. I am grateful beyond words to to wander the orchards of forsaken homesteads, and gaze from the vistas of wide pastures or recovered forest land.