I’ve been back from an assignment in London for three months now. WOW. Time has flown.
In that time, I’ve had the amazing opportunity to reengage with clients, pick up my executive coaching and join some amazing conversations. I am about to lead a CEO Peer Advisory Group for the Austin Chamber of Commerce (this ain’t your mom and pop’s chamber… super progressive and really involved in responsible growth in Austin). I also was just asked to be a mentor for the amazing CPG accelerator, the Incubation Station. What an great group of people. I am so inspired by the entrepreneurs in the current track and humbled by their courage.
As I’ve been going through this time of growth, I knew I would start to experience what many of my clients do… some growing pains. So often my clients reveal their fears and together we undercover the blind spots that get in their way. These can create really unhealthy soundtracks in our minds. If they get on a continuous loop, watch out.
Last week, we had a health scare with one of our sons and while it was fleeting, it took me out of commission all week. (He’s 100% fine by the way. I blamed it on the Monster Moon that all the astrologists were fearing.)
Coming off a week of zero sleep and poor eating, I found my own inner soundtrack kicking in… My super shield of courage was really weakened. Gone were the “this is amazing!” “you can do it” and in slipped the “are you kidding me?” “who do you think you are?”
So I started writing it all down in the black notebook I’ve been using for brainstorming. I started writing down all my fears. All of them. I listed every single self doubt and ugly statement I’ve ever made about myself. It was a full on purge.
While I didn’t have full relief, I knew that getting these fears out and deciding whether I wanted them to be my truth would be an important exercise and give me some calm. I knew this was a safe way to explore my vulnerability as a leader.
Until it happened… the black notebook went MISSING. That’s right MISSING. In the midst of waking back up this week I inadvertently left the black notebook SOMEWHERE. Where was it?!?!
The real purging began. I felt sick. Sick to my stomach. It was one thing to be fully vulnerable with myself, it was another to know that pages of my vulnerability were laying around somewhere for someone, anyone, to read.
The next day, I had a full day of meetings and I couldn’t even begin to look for the notebook until 4 pm. I checked a couple of spots and I found it. I picked it up silently from the nice folks who collected it for me and my mind started racing.
The notebook was filled with a lot of benign musings on business development, branding, etc. That was fine. However, I had conveniently tabbed the “you suck” page of vulnerabilities with a blue sticky. It’s like I put a neon sign pointing to the page, screaming out … hey you! Read here! This is some juicy stuff! Linda Glass in the raw!
I didn’t ask if it was read. I just thanked them profusely and went on my way.
Did they read it? Raced through my head. I have no way of knowing unless I ask. And if they did, I began to wonder… what would it matter? Would they read the statements and one by one confirm them. Check! Check! Check!
I decided to use one of my lifelines and called my dear friend Stephanie. She said, “Linda they’re human and have those same fears and feelings. If they did read it, they probably appreciate knowing you are human too.” And to quote my favorite line from When Harry Met Sally… “You’re right. You’re right. I know you’re right.”
She is right.
It’s important for people that I work with and that I coach to know that I, too, am human. I have fears and vulnerabilities. And through that, I can truly sympathize and offer the right guidance and support.
I remember a meeting once at Starbucks when the president at the time said to our team, “I’m afraid I’ll be found out. Do I have what it takes to do this job? Do I really deserve this position?” It was empowering for all of us. He let us in… we connected around the fact that we all have fears. In the end, we all felt we could be open about our challenges and insecurities. We were tighter as a team.
So, while I’m not quite brave enough to publish the whole list… I will tell you that sometimes, even the experienced coach has fears… I fear I’m not enough. I fear I might fail. I fear I might be judged.
And today, I’m choosing to not let those fears take over my soundtrack. Today, my soundtrack might be sung to my fears by Gloria Gaynor…
Go on now, go, walk out the door, just turn around now
‘Cause you’re not welcome anymore
Weren’t you the one, who tried to hurt me with goodbye?
Did you think I’d crumble? Did you think I’d lay down and die?
Oh, no, not I, I will survive!
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I just spent two days in the Windy City coaching talent leaders on Strategic Talent Acquisition. We were on the 20th floor of the NBC Tower overlooking the lake… an office I could get used to in a second! It was a great diverse group from global pharma to high tech to national advertising. Despite the industry, one theme resonated across all… how do I lead strategically and shift the hiring team to do the same?
They all wanted to know… What are the hottest sourcing trends? To what level do I dig into workforce planning? What are the best interview questions?
To shift from the transactional to the strategic, we started at the very beginning with a targeted exercise defining exactly who the customers are and their true priority. With a heavy background in marketing, and a self-confessed process geek, I wholeheartedly believe that this is the best place to start.
I find that a lot of people jump right into the solution or the “how” without fully considering whom the customer really is; particularly when there is the distraction of the newest, shiniest recruiting app. As you know, whenever you work within an organization and are providing a service internally, the term “customer” can get thrown around in a pretty loosy, goosy way. The loudest and the squeakiest determine who is most important.
While at Starbucks, I had several critical and key stakeholders for all of our Talent programs and processes. While all these stakeholders or “customers” were all very important, they each had a different level of priority. Without clearly delineating priority, we would have ended up with solutions that were mediocre at best, only partially serving all of the customers.
To be clear about your top priority and really meet the customer’s needs, I encourage you to take the following steps:
1) List any and all potential customers by the following type:
- Those who receive your product or service directly or frequently are your Primary Customers. They represent the largest revenue.
- Those who receive your product or service indirectly or infrequently are your Secondary Customers.
- Those who don’t receive the product or service, but largely influence the way it should be designed are your Influencers. For example, for recruiting, and Influencer is the OFCCP (Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs).
2) Of all of your customers, check the ones that could leverage extreme consequences if their needs are not meant. These in concert with your Primary Customers get top consideration.
3) Once you have finished the steps, do them all over with your team to gain alignment. Does everyone agree? Use the final, prioritized customer list to really drive your design and decision-making.
It was a fascinating exercise to see how even like-minded talent leaders had some healthy discussion and disagreement around who the customer is when it comes to Talent Acquisition and Management. When I asked how this exercise would work in their own organizations, they said they couldn’t wait to find out.
Let me know how it goes for you!
Have you ever found yourself in a situation where these thoughts run through your head…
I can’t, no I can, I can’t, come on… yes you can. I think I can. I think I can. I think I can.
For those of you who know me, you may think I’m a risk taker. I’ve done several things in my life that would indicate as such… signed up for study abroad when I knew it was riding on me raising $5,000 I didn’t have as a student… walked into the president’s office, basically saying I was “smart” and that I was the right person to move to London… moved my family with my husband to Austin when I had the “perfect” set-up in Seattle and Starbucks… starting my own business. I spend my life and career encouraging others to take risks EVERYDAY. Risk taking is my name, until I met my match… Space Mountain.
From left to right…
MIDDLE ROW: Coach #1: The calm, zen coach who talked about enjoying the stars inside as you zipped along. ME: Yes, that’s me. The risk-taker. Yes, my eyes are fully shut. Yes, I am gripping the bar. Yes, I am… smiling.
FRONT ROW: Coach #2: Yes, that says “Adrenaline” on his shirt. He planned that face and promised “epic fun.” Coach #3: Reminding me… Come on, the kids want you to be part of this fun.
This was THE MOUNTAIN of TERROR in my mind. I know, for many of you, this is such a tame little ride. How silly. But for me, so many things would surely go wrong that this was a risk I wasn’t willing to take. I have never been a physical risk taker and the list of con’s made perfect sense…
- Malfunction. For Pete’s sake, this ride is ancient after all.
- It’s dark in there. When I am flung from the malfunctioning seat restraint, it will take HOURS to find my body.
- Oh, and not to mention, my poor, poor, little children.. I need to protect them. It’s not just about me.
- It was my first time to Disney and wouldn’t this be the first time it all broke down?!?
Reluctantly, I got into the line with the kids (who by the way, had NO concern in the world). As each minute passed, we inched closer and my heart started beating a little faster. I was a leader of this team about to embark on a dangerous mission, I had to remain calm and keep smiling. My other leader, my husband, was curious about lunch… how could he be so calm? Did he not know what was ahead?!?! We might die in there!!!
Well, as you can see from this post… die I did not. I did go into the Mountain. I did ride the ride. And this is how I was able to survive…
- I was surrounded by those who didn’t have the irrational fear I did. They had experience and the knowledge. They knew it was not only safe, but could actually be fun.
- I stepped out of my fear and envisioned what it would be like at the end of the ride. I would get to celebrate with my team, my family, about a first that we all got to share together.
- My kids will see a role model, conquering her fear and that will be a powerful lesson and encourage them to do the same.
- I listened to my coaches and thought about what they said, “MOM… there is a four year old getting on this ride. Get a grip.”
As a leader we step onto our own roller coasters everyday. Whether it be a new position, a complex project, that colleague we can’t seem to get along with… It may be scary and you might be fearful of the outcome, but challenge yourself to take the step. Surround yourself with the right support… other leaders, experience, knowledge, coaches… and just do it!
As I approached that ride, I thought most about how amazing it would feel for me to conquer a fear that I’ve always had. And it was. So much, that I actually rode twice.
Let me know how your ride went…
I had an amazing opportunity to go to California this week to work with a group of entrepreneurs. Only, this time, the coaching was for me, the entrepreneur.
It’s the ole case of “the cobbler has no shoes.” Well, I’m taking the time and working on my business. It’s exciting, exhilarating, overwhelming and did I say, exciting?! It is amazing to be building my business while I work as an executive coach with others on how to manage their leadership through growth. It’s provided me some incredible insight and learning.
On the plane ride out there, I was gazing out the window as we were heading toward our descent. I’ve always loved observing the clouds. It’s otherworldly. Peaceful. But, there it was. In the midst of all these pretty, airy, white clouds, there was a streak of a very dark cloud. The darkest cloud I’ve ever seen (my picture doesn’t do it justice). It was the only one.
What makes a cloud so incredibly dark, almost black? Yes, we know that it means that it might produce rain, but why is it dark? It has everything to do with how deep and densely packed the water particles are. In general, the color of a cloud depends chiefly on the cloud’s relationship to the sunlight.
Wow… that’s deep. The color of a cloud depends chiefly on the cloud’s relationship to the sunlight. Does that apply to humans as well?
As I walked into the room the next day, I found myself in a room of white clouds. “Hi! How are you?!” “How have you been?” “How is business?” and there it was, plopped down in the middle of the room. Heavy, weighted, energy draining and about to release some precipitation from the eyes. It was the dark cloud.
This woman was a mess and I wondered, what would happen if she released this negative energy. Would she become a white cloud? What could get her there?
As humans, when we see the dark cloud, our human nature provokes us to reject, walk away, maybe even judge, “What’s her deal?”
What I observed over the two days is what I would challenge all of us white cloud leaders to do. Resist the urge to walk away. Step up as a leader, reach out, listen, empathize. Build a relationship to sunlight. Allow the space for the release.
Next time you see the dark cloud, what choice will you make? Tell me what you do when you encounter a dark cloud in the comments section below, and be sure to link me to your webpage/blog/facebook/twitter/etc!