Like many of you, I as a proud American, have been feeling all of the feels, from elation, hope, incredulity… to sadness, confusion, embarrassment, and anger. I would be lying if I said I was not fearful, too. I know that it’s a privilege as a human being to be able to experience all of these disparate feelings, but it's a lot to deal with. This week we will have a new President, and our first woman Vice President, who will also be the first Vice President of color. I know I will have a bunch of different feelings then.
"Everything is fine." Our family New Year's greeting card.
In the meantime, I want to share just a few inspirations that have helped me as we enter the new year.
To be clear, this isn’t to avoid difficult conversations or to pretend the hard things aren’t happening. In fact, I’m having these conversations almost every day! A client once called me an optimistic realist and realistic optimist, and that’s how I want to show up this year. As I continue to engage with and learn from all the smart, thoughtful, passionate, worried, and understandably pessimistic people in my life, I’m going to try my best to stay clear-eyed, and remain hopeful and positive, despite seeing everything play out. I plan to continue to write my Notes to you to share what I’m working on, learning, and thinking about, and sprinkle in some useful tips and a bit of light too. I hope you enjoy them!
"The Show of Delights"
Let’s start off with a recent episode of the podcast This American Life, called "The Show of Delights."This American Life is the OG of podcasts hosted by the journalist Ira Glass and helped spawn off two of my favorite podcasts, Heavyweight and the first season of Serial. On this episode of This American Life, we are able to listen to a lovely collection of delightful moments to “counter-program” the hard, dark things that have been happening. One story highlighted features sweet, innocent squeals of a little boy describing his experience of getting on the school bus for the first time after waiting all of his life to do so. It just melted my heart and kept me grinning as I folded my laundry one difficult night of upsetting news.
"Life, at its best, is doing meaningful things with people you love."
I love this quote by Jim Collins who wrote "Good To Great." This is one of the few simple quotes I have handwritten on the inside cover of my notebook to help inspire and anchor me this year. I added the words “and respect” to allow for those I’m not yet ready to label as one of my loves. Ha.
One group of amazing women I leaned on through the pandemic. Organized by @vvchambers and art work by @gilliandot on Instagram.
I’m a very people-oriented person and when I left my leadership role at iMentor after nearly 13 years, I was worried most about losing the “family” (I think I was the Mom...) of colleagues I befriended and came to love. Well, it turns out that I didn’t need to worry. The flexibility of my coaching work has allowed for me to choose and engage with several communities of people I love and respect, including a few mom friends in my neighborhood, coaching colleagues from partner companies like Chief, Sayge, and The Paradox of Leadership, and my former colleagues. And I actually have more space to engage with my original friends! The one-on-one coaching work I do with my clients has become the best kind of meaningful work that I can do with the people I love and respect.
Find your people. And once you have them, invest in those relationships before you need them. During these challenging times, I've been able to lean on my people so much. I look forward to doing a lot of meaningful, interesting things with them this year!
I’m currently working with multiple coaching clients who want to improve their ability to give honest and constructive feedback to those they work with. To support them through the process, I re-read Radical Candor: Be a Kick-Ass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity” by Kimberly Clark and I have been using its key concepts as a framework to support them through their learning. While re-reading it I was reminded of how helpful these ideas have been for me too.
Radical Candor is the idea that the most effective way to give feedback is by caring personally and challenging directly. The feedback quadrant used in the book is a helpful tool for people to immediately see which quadrant of feedback style they fall in. One can use it like a “compass” to help them move towards where they want to go. Here’s six minutes of the video by the author that explains the concepts.
Radical candor framework
Caring personally doesn’t mean endless chitchat or crying all the time in the office with a colleague. It can be as simple as taking a moment to connect and say (with sincerity), “I really want to help you succeed in this role” or “I know this is important to you” before directly sharing what the feedback is. This sign of caring gives the listener a bit of psychological safety that's needed to relax and actually listen to what is being said.
If you show up as an Obnoxious Aggressor, someone who does not care but challenges directly, the person who receives the feedback has to be a fairly confident person to listen past the obnoxiousness to get to the useful feedback. It’s not the most effective way to communicate.
But if you think caring personally and challenging directly is too mean, which will lead to avoiding feedback or simply waiting too long, you are mostly being selfish and being harmful to the person you say you care about. You are caring more about sparing yourself the discomfort. Ruinous Empathy is actually worse than Obnoxious Aggression.
If I’m not being intentional, I can easily fall into the Ruinous Empathy category. I’m looking forward to being more proactive and working towards caring personally and challenging directly in all of my important relationships in the new year. I am reserving two copies of the book. Please let me know if you would like a copy! The accompanying podcast, which gives lots of real life examples in different work situations, is excellent too.
In what feedback quadrant do you tend to hang out? What can you do differently to care personally, and to challenge directly?
"I'm a big shot" sticker - a memento from COVID-19 vaccination appointment
On another positive note, my husband who is a medical doctor, completed his second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. We’ve been joking that he’s going to go on vacation without the family or join a dating app. Ha Ha. All jokes aside, he’s been upset with the slow vaccine roll-out and sluggish participation rate by many medical professionals. Thankfully, NYS has opened up the vaccine to those 65 years and older, as well as non-medical essential workers last week, and he has scheduled both my mother and his parents for the vaccine in the coming weeks. It took many hours of furious, persistent typing and navigating multiple, inefficient websites, and I’m so thankful for his stamina and drive to get this done.
While I completely understand many people’s hesitation with such a new vaccine, getting vaccinated is the best hope for my high-risk family members to live more freely. Getting my folks vaccinated one by one feels like a real, tangible progress for me, and makes me feel a bit lighter. To read more about vaccination, please visit the CDC’s website.
Lastly, I want to share my deepest respect for Stacey Abrams of Fair Fight and all the organizers who helped register more than 800,000 voters in Georgia, helping the state send its first Black senator to Congress, the state having its first Democrat senators in two decades, and in doing so helping Democrats win control of the Senate. Regardless of party line, Stacey Abrams' ability to stay connected to the long vision and inspiring and aligning a huge team of people around that same vision, is truly inspiring. This multiracial coalition of organizers, led by Black women, worked every day steadily over the last ten (plus!) years, to get the necessary results to make a big, hard change. It also makes me happy to see that Stacey Abrams is finally getting the recognition she deserves. See her TEDTalk from 2018 on how you respond to setbacks is what defines your character. It is the perfect little video to start off the new year! And if you want to learn more about the organizers in Georgia, I suggest this article.
Thank you for reading. Let me know what you are up to! And as my coach friend Paula McLeod signs off her emails, “Stay positive. And test negative!”