Not long ago, on a muggy Tennessee summer night, over a cocktail or three with Rachel –
I may have to rename this blog “About Conversations I Have With Rachel” if this pattern continues, but since we’re only at two in a row, let’s not get ahead of ourselves just yet.
back to the cocktails.
– she gave me bits of feedback about topics this and that as they’d been covered over the evening, not all of which I necessarily agree with even now, but there’s one bit I haven’t been able to escape. Due to the slap-your-mama amounts of liquor in said cocktails, I can’t quite recite her words, but they were along the lines of, “You have a whole collection of younger women looking to you right now. You lead a team of women. You lead a staff of mostly women. They talk to me about you. They want to follow you. They want to BE you. You HAVE to pay closer attention to that. THAT is your calling right now. Stop thinking about what you don’t have, valid as your desires may be, and focus on what’s right in front of you.”
It felt like I’d been punched right in the lungs, but in the most thrilling way. I love my girls, my little birds as I think of them, and I’ve had some great one on ones with them, but the whole scenario snapped into view when Rach pointed it out. It’s strange, being on this side. I’ve spent my whole life looking up to wonderful women and seeking their input – bible study leaders, teachers, colleagues, bosses, mentors, older and/or cooler friends. And while my life has recently been full of lovely young women at my place of work for over a year now, and I’ve enjoyed working with them, laughing with them, and getting to know them, it took her words to pummel me into the realization that, with the right choices and investments on my part, I am that woman to THEM!
You guys, do the grown ups know about this?? When did this happen?!
It sounds like such a simple thing. How did it not click before? Of course they look up to me. I’m the biggest girl boss in their daily worlds, that’s simply a matter of hierarchy. But what Rachel really drove home was that they are WATCHING me. Every time I compliment or criticize, every time I’m patient or can’t be bothered, every time I delegate or just do it myself. If I’m distracted when they’re talking to me, they see it. If I snap at one of my peers, they catalog it. If I take an extra moment to visit with our guests, they take note.
I was reminded of something my wise friend Sam says about horse training – “You may not be in the mood or have the time to teach, but like it or not, they’re always learning anyway.”
What a remarkable responsibility/opportunity I have. I can be a molder of young women (I’m feeling a little like Coach Taylor at the moment. Clear eyes, full hearts). I can lay out for them everything these 34 years have taught me the hard way. Not with speeches or power point presentations, but with my LIFE. I can show them that being vulnerable is better than hiding, by sharing how I still have to make decisions when I feel weak or incapable, and that I ask for help when I need it. I can show them that as a woman, their greatest tool is their emotional intuition, but that any emotions are always subject to showing respect – always. I can show them how nothing is more important that making sure someone else knows they are valued, be it a client or a guest or a coworker. I can show them that it is okay to be strong, accomplished woman, to sometimes be tougher or smarter than anyone else in the room, but never to be arrogant or showy.
And how about the things I’m not so good at? Sure, sometimes a good leader is the first one in and the last one to go home, but she has to demonstrate boundaries for personal time and health. And maybe a great saleswoman can shovel in fistfuls of business, but what if she leaves clients who’ve chosen to trust her feeling neglected in the wake? And perhaps I can build a dream team, but what good is that if I don’t have the time to grow them and develop them?
Don’t mind that hammering sound, it’s just my nerves threatening to buckle under the pressure. Luckily I have this red wine to keep my heart palpitations at bay.
I said earlier that I think of these girls as my little birds. I don’t mean that in any demeaning or shrinking way – it’s just how they feel to me. They’re so energetic and nimble. They chirp in and out of my office with their sweet smiles and their big hearts. So fragile and yet they are going to FLY. I see them starting to explore the world, figuring out where they want to go and who they want to be. I want to protect them and push them at the same time. And they’re so diverse! I have charming songbirds and gentle doves and believe me, more than one or two eagles.
So Rach, challenge accepted. It is time for me to pay more attention to the what my little birds see and make it count.