Caroline's Notes:Nov 2020-Self Care Is a Leadership Skill; And Women Leaders in Action
It’s been a long time. How are you?
I apologize for the long break. While I have been well since I last wrote, I truly felt like I only had just enough space for taking care of my family and supporting my clients for these past seven months. Thank you to those of you who wrote to check in on me. I’m happy to finally get this message out to you.
If you don’t remember why you are on this list, here’s a reminder! I’m an executive and leadership coach and a mom, based in NY. This is my monthly note to my friends, clients and colleagues to share what I’m working on, learning and thinking about. If you are no longer interested or feel you received this as a mistake (I’m sorry!), please let me know or unsubscribe below.
In these past months I've been working and learning a lot, and even managed to get away for few days to Maine with my family. Through it all, I’ve been taking a ton of notes. Here are a few nuggets I’ve been waiting to share with you!
Much needed COVID vacation in Maine
Resiliency & Endurance
Through my work leading group coaching sessions for members of Chief—a private network of senior women leaders that aims to bring gender parity to the C-Suite—I was able to learn and facilitate Chief’s excellent exercise on Resiliency vs. Endurance.
Resiliency: an ability to recover from or adjust easily to adversity or change.
Resiliency is bouncing back after crisis. Did you have to pivot in a big way, and quickly, during this uncertain time of the coronavirus pandemic, racial unrest, and economic and political uncertainty this year? I bet most of you are nodding your heads. That’s resiliency and that’s been talked about a lot during the pandemic in the media. I know I have always valued resiliency, and I think a lot about how to cultivate that quality in my kids (who I personally made so dependent on me!) and how to support my clients when they are going through something really difficult.
Endurance: the ability to withstand hardship or adversity.
I don’t think I have thought as much about endurance until going through this exercise with my groups. Endurance is defined by Merriam Webster Dictionary as the ability to withstand hardship or adversity, especially the ability to sustain a prolonged stressful effort or activity. As COVID-19 follows us into 2021, endurance is what we need now to keep going when the going has been tough, and tough keeps going. And going. And going. If you are feeling completely drained after everything we’ve been through, you need to build up and feed your endurance.
Knowing now that this is not a quick sprint but a marathon, here are some questions to ask yourselves, your teams and loved ones:
How are you taking care of and supporting yourself?
Who can help you? What systems do you need in place? What tools and supplies do you need to keep going?
What do you need to let go? What aspects of your work or life can you stop or slow down for now so you can focus on the marathon you are currently running?
How can you help your team and your organization build endurance to keep going?
To keep going, I have had to pair down to true essential activities, dropping even this very newsletter for several months. I’ve hired an assistant to support my work, and a math tutor to help my kids without making everyone (including me) cry. Our mini vacation to Maine was the little breath of fresh air I needed to keep going.
My kid fake testing his endurance on a rock inches away from ground
Self-care is a leadership skill.
I had a similar thought around self care, as I worked to assist my Paradox of Leadership colleague Carrie Weaver, who expertly led a series of workshops on self-care to a group of nonprofit professionals who have had a very tough year. I realized during this workshop that even though I always encouraged my clients and friends to prioritize self care, I myself had thought of it as something extra, a luxury to pursue when your house is already in order and you want to level up in your personal happiness and fulfillment.
As the crisis has become the new normal and we require lasting endurance, self care is becoming an essential leadership skill. It sets apart leaders who can sustain their pivot and success (both for themselves and for the organizations they lead), from the leaders who only work harder and longer until they break, or break their team. Leaders who take care of themselves can stay clear headed through a prolonged tough period.
Something I learned from Carrie is that in order to recharge properly, you need to do things that are low energy and feels good to you, not just things that are exciting, high energy, or flow state activities that make you feel good. Just like our most powerful devices need downtime to recharge, we need sufficient low energy state to recover and replenish. This made me realize why it is that even though I’m a raging extrovert and get energized from socializing, those fun activities still use up my energy and may not qualify as true “recharge” activities for me. In order to feel balanced and to function at a high level, I really need a significant chunk of quiet time with my notebook to journal, doodle and plan. For some of you, it may be a daily walk, and for some of you, it may be meditating, baking or reading to your kid.
What are some recharge activities you need to protect to take care of yourself for prolonged high performance?
Women Leaders in Action
Knowing how difficult this year has been, especially for women at work (read this New York Time article titled “Pandemic Will 'Take Our Women 10 Years Back' in the Workplace”), I’m even more grateful to celebrate some women in my life who have managed to thrive and step up as leaders since my last Note. It’s inspiring to see that even COVID can’t keep a truly exceptional woman down, as our VP-elect Kamala Harris has also shown us.
In this podcast, Rai King and Dr. Blanca Ruiz explore what it means to be a W.O.C. at Work by elevating the voices of female-identifying leaders of color.
Melanie Hart was promoted this summer to be the Chief Diversity Officer and Sr. VP for Equity, Inclusion, and Social Justice at The New School. Melanie is someone whose life and work have long inspired me, and I was so happy to see that she’s finally out there sharing her stories by agreeing to be featured in several podcasts this year, including this episode of W.O.C. at Work: “Your Life is Your Currency.” It’s a must listen, especially for people of color.
This conversation was special to me because the first or second time we met seven years ago, she said her mission in life was to liberate Black people from systematic racism, and that she was trying to figure out how to do that with her life and work. She was so clear. I didn’t know anyone personally who talked like that to me back then. Hearing her talk about this to a wider audience, in this moment, made me so happy. I’m glad she’s starting to share her wisdom and bits of her life story with the world.
Veronica Chambers is such a prolific writer that I literally have a pile of things I want to read or re-read that she keeps putting out in the world. If you are looking for holiday gifts for age 10 and up, consider Veronica’s Shirley Chisholm Is a Verb(this book is for age pre-school and up); or Finish the Fight; or both! Here’s Veronica on The Daily Social Distancing Show with Trevor Noah (He needs a haircut just like us!) discussing Finish the Fight and breaking down the role women of color played in getting the 19th Amendment passed. I have three extra copies of each book to gift to you. They are beautifully illustrated too. Please write back and let me know if you would like one. First come first serve.
Veronica Chambers on The Daily Social Distancing Show with Trevor Noah
Amanda Kraus and I worked together in our first year at iMentor, both of us just fresh out of graduate school. After leaving iMentor, Amanda founded and ran Row New York, a rowing program for high school kids that provides top-notch academic support since 2002. I had the honor of serving on her founding board of directors on which I was the shortest person and only non-rower. Ha.
In August, Amanda accepted another big job as the CEO of US Rowing Association. Here’s the formal announcement. True to her style, Amanda found and supported her own successor, Rachel Cytron, who has been with Row New York since 2019. For their last fundraising gala together in October, done virtually of course in 2020 style, they made a hilarious video of the two of them rowing a boat together to get Rachel to the Gala on time. Amanda reminds her to put her shoes on before going in. These classy ladies have a thing or two to teach us, in this country that’s having a real tough time with leadership transition this year.
There is so much more I want to share, but I am going to stop here before something else big happens and I miss the chance to send this out!
I hope that all of you have something (but hopefully many) you are thankful for even in this unusually difficult year. And I hope to see you here again in December! Until then, please continue to share your own news and thoughts. Happy Thanksgiving!