What stands out to you/has surprised you about your leadership development through the Fellowship to date?
Despite the last four COVIDy months, this year has been an amazing time of growth for me. In fact, it was during these last four months of the Pandemic that I actually saw the most positive growth and development. The following items are a few that really stood out and surprised me since my Fellowship began in August of 2019.
I think that this Fellowship came just in time for COVID. I mentioned in the last Reflection that my reactiveness has decreased, and I am much more reflective. I am also calmer, which allows me to better think things through. This helped me tremendously in dealing with some major issues.
I have had the ability to step up and perform in a crisis and adapt to big changes for as long as I can remember. It’s kind of my superpower. What I noticed this time around with COVID, though, was that I did not have the usual accompanying fear and feelings of being overwhelmed. I am not saying that I was not…am not... concerned for our future, but I am very hopeful and have a good feeling that things will somehow be okay. I am not sure that I would have had this attitude a year ago. I think this calmness allowed me to pull myself out of the “COVID Coma” and act, both at home and at work. I believe that I would have reacted drastically differently without the benefits that this Fellowship has given me internally and externally.
I am now more self-aware and intentional with my thoughts, which led me to look at what was happening to our situation more objectively rather than dwell on the bad of the Pandemic. It helped me take action where we needed to with my family and my work partners. I somehow just knew that I needed to keep my routine the same as much as possible despite the fact I was working from home and people could only see me with a “Zoom/Teams” lens. So I continued my routine by working out most mornings, getting ready for work like I always did from the dress pants to the hairspray, making my same healthy lunch, etc. Although some days, I did not feel like going through the motions and really wanted to half-a%^$ it, I forced myself to get up and get going. I knew somehow that if I didn’t, I might go down that rabbit hole of despair.
I am not saying that I do not get overwhelmed, scared, sad, worried, freaked out, etc. I do, but it is for a much shorter term than before, and I am much more reasonable. I can talk myself down easier than before the Fellowship. When things go awry, I can usually pause, think back, and remember that this or something similar has happened like this before, and I still got it done, things worked out, or whatever applies to the situation at hand. This calms me down and helps me come up with a plan going forward.
small moves=BIG GAINS
Another surprise to me since this Fellowship is that it seems like even some of the smallest things I do have a bigger impact than before. It's like my ROI has gone up. It certainly doesn't happen with everything, but it absolutely happens more than it used to. For example, I happen to casually, spontaneously mention something I was working on to a colleague at an unrelated meeting. A month later, she just happened to get asked about that topic. She remembered our conversation and went to bat for me. The resulting consequence was that my project went better than I ever could have expected with very little effort. I have seen this happen again and again this year. I have been planting seeds without realizing it on some days and intentionally doing it on other days; both resulting in new ideas, new connections, new projects, and especially new invites to places and events that I have never before experienced.
I am also trying to learn new leadership tools in small, consistent increments, so I can absorb them better and integrate them into my everyday life. I am doing this by working with my coach, reading, going to local events, attending webinars, taking online classes, etc. These small things are creating big changes in the way I listen, respond, act internally and externally, the way I perceive conversations, etc. I was not expecting to be able to see the change in myself in such a short amount of time and from making such small moves. You see, I have not been to any big conferences or attended any large scale events at this point in my Fellowship. I had been building up to that with activities with my coach, local events, etc. Of course, now that is on hold with COVID, but the point is that you can make changes without physically leaving your town and going to some big event. Now, I am not saying that attending those big events or meetings, retreats, conferences, etc. would not result in change. I am just saying there are other ways to do it successfully.
SAYING “Yes” WITHOUT HESITATION
Elton John sang, “Live for each second without hesitation....” This has been playing in my head these months of the Fellowship along with the voices of my coach and mentors. My ability to say “yes” to very scary things (scary to me anyway) without a real hesitation or without thinking it to death has increased 1000%. Saying “yes” is bringing opportunities that I didn't even know I signed up for or know that I wanted. Three times in the past 6 months, I said “yes” and the opportunities were much more impactful than I could have imagined. These opportunities ended up requiring a bit more work than originally thought, but the benefits will be felt for years to come.
One of these occasions actually started last December when I said “yes” to speak on a national panel in Washington, DC with no real description of what the panel was about or who was on it. I honestly did not realize at the time what I said “yes” to, except that it was regarding assistive technology. Normally I would not have said “yes” without at least asking a lot of questions, but I just really trusted the person asking. Well, this opportunity just happened to be for me and three others to speak on a Briefing Panel in the U.S. House and the Senate to educate on the benefits of assistive technology. That “yes” ended up being a big deal, and surprisingly I was okay with it. It was the weirdest sense of calm and excitement, and it ended up being a wonderful opportunity.
On an interesting note, the date of this speech was March 4, 2020, which was exactly one year to the day that we found out we were Fellows. First of all, I can't believe that a year has gone by and secondly, wow, what a coincidence! I can’t imagine how I would have handled all of this without my Bush experiences thus far. Would I have even said “yes”?
What surprises me most is that the more I say “yes” and do these things that used to scare me, like speaking in front of tougher crowds, the more it is becoming easy to figure out my next step. I can see the glare of my deficits easier. For example, now I know that I need a storytelling class from the U of M. I heard about this class early on and thought to myself, “Why would I take that? How would that benefit me?” Now I cannot wait to take it. I only wish I would have had it before I spoke at the capital.
LET IT GO!
The song from the movie Frozen says, “Let it go, Let it Go! Turn away and slam the door!” Although I did not “slam the door” (more of a gentle push), I “turned away” from some of my former work duties. What surprised me was how easy it was to do. After 20 years at the same job, it can be hard to give up some duties, but I did it, and I feel like a weight has been lifted. I now have time for tasks where I can be of greater benefit to the company. Concepts that I learned from my coach such as, “You are not your job, your job is not you!” and, “Work on becoming dispensable” have really helped me get to this place.
THE IMPORTANCE OF SELF-CARE
One of the activities I do for self-care is calligraphy. I was not where I wanted to be with it. Thus, each time I sat down to work on it, I just got frustrated and then wanted to be done. I had also never really taken a formal class on it, and the hit and miss YouTube videos were only inching me along. I also had to clean up everything and put it all away when I was done because I was working at the dining room table. Now thanks to this Fellowship, I have an art studio of my own where I can leave projects out and every piece of my equipment has a place. In addition, as of this writing, I have completed 1 ½ classes of Copperplate Calligraphy. WHAT A DIFFERENCE!! I am now so excited to go practice each day, and I am seeing a noticeable improvement. NOW I am actually relaxed when I am creating, which is where I was trying to get to. Otherwise, what's the point, right? With the level of frustration that I was feeling, I was in need of self-care from my attempts at self-care. Now it is becoming a wonderful, peaceful practice that helps me relax.
In more ways than one, what I have learned from this Fellowship has continued to surprise me the entire 11 months. I am so grateful!