Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Potential, Not Position (or, what makes me a leader)

Let's play a little word association. When I say the word "leader," what comes to mind?

Specific people? Like Angela Merkel, Nelson Mandela, or President Obama?
Or maybe your list is dominated by qualities? Like integrity, charisma, or decisiveness?

I've never thought of myself as a leader. My work history is marked by several lateral changes to explore new industries and develop new skill sets. As a result, I haven't climbed a traditional career ladder, and have never held a position with any significant power.

However, as a member of the 2016-2017 Women's Leadership Program offered by the Boston Chamber of Commerce, I've started to explore what makes me a leader. At a recent two-day course taught by faculty at the Simmons College School of Management, I've identified the following abilities that make me a leader, regardless of what professional position I hold:

  • Understand, through focused and empathetic listening, what motivates people (and what demotivates them)
  • Build and articulate a shared vision by focusing on what ties groups together
  • Enable others to take action by creating frameworks for getting work done 
  • Enthusiastically and authentically celebrate small victories and create a spirit of community 
  • Identify points of frustration in a process, and then build and execute a plan for mitigating them
This list is built from the five-part leadership framework developed by Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner:
  1. Model the way
  2. Inspire a shared vision
  3. Challenge the process
  4. Enable others to act
  5. Encourage the heart

What I appreciate about this model is that is defines power not as an outgrowth of one's position, but rather in relation to one's ability to help others realize their potential. This is in close alignment with my professional mission statement, which I developed in partnership with BMG. It reads,

"I get things done by engaging teams in collaboratively developing compelling goals and strategies, removing obstacles to their success, and achieving positive and measurable outcomes."

Understanding what makes me a leader is inspiring me to begin making some strategic decisions about my career path. As I uncover my own potential, I look forward to sharing it with you on here The Journey of Clownface.

Have you uncovered your own potential? What is it, and how did you uncover it? Share your thoughts in the comments section.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Favorite Foods

Hello! My name is Clownface and I'm a bulimic.

I think of my bulimia like many people think of alcoholism. While I've been in recovery for more than 20 years, my eating disorder will be with me for my entire life.

I actively and regularly binged from age 16 to age 21. It was only after I finished college and was living on my own that I figured out the magic of purging. I stopped purging at age 25, at the same time I stopped living by myself. I knew I couldn't keep my behaviors a secret, and because my shame about my behaviors was so great, I knew I couldn't bear being confronted about them. So I quit. Cold turkey.

Twenty-one years later, I can read my emotional triggers when I start to crave my favorite binge foods. These were:

  • Anything from McDonalds or Burger King: I used to drive home from my part-time job in college, motoring through every drive-thru window along the way, eating a complete meal. In the 20 minutes it took to get to my house, I'd easily have consumed at least 2,000 calories. One of the few memories of my dad involves him bringing home McDonald's for family dinner. I've since come to realize that the McDonald's binge is about daddy. 

  • Cookies: When I was a little girl, I thought people who ate store-bought cookies were rich. (We always had homemade cookies.) Nevertheless, my mom would occasionally have a secret stash of Oreos or other store-bought treats. As soon as I figured out where they were, I'd have my way with them. And at Christmas time, my mom always made more Christmas cookies than one family needed. She'd store them in weathered holiday tins in our front vestibule, which was so drafty that it functioned as sort of an icebox for us. I used to sneak into tiny "room," sit down, and eat. As an adult, I love to bake but I also know I need to get the food out of the house as quickly as it has cooled to remove any temptation to binge. I've since come to realize that the Oreos binge is about my longing for my mom and the feelings associated with material goods being out of reach.
  • Ben and Jerry's: In college, I could toddle down to the on-campus convenience store, purchase a pint of Chocolate Fudge Brownie ice cream, and eat it all within 10 minutes. All of it. Several times a week. Luckily, I'm now lactose intolerant. Unluckily, Ben & Jerry's dairy-free ice cream is as good as the real stuff. When I want ice cream now, I know this means something is up on the feelings front. 
  • Ground turkey mixed with mushroom soup and white rice: This was an easy and quick family dinner we called "glop." In my early twenties, I would make and eat an entire pan of it in one sitting - pound of ground turkey, two cans of soup, heaps of rice. I've since come to realize this binge is about longing for family. And I still make this recipe. But, when I crave it, I'll restrict myself to 1/4 pound of turkey from the butcher, a dairy-free soup, and I'll add green beans instead of rice, making a comforting mash-up of "glop" and green bean casserole. 
Bulimia will always be with me; I definitely still feel the urge to binge today. On the rare occasion, I give myself permission to this, I try to control the caloric intake by eating things like popcorn, salted, steamed vegetables (e.g., broccoli, carrots), or raw cucumbers. 

This week in the 52 Lists Project, BMG and I are blogging about our favorite foods and treats. What are your favorite foods and treats? Let me know in the comments section below. 

Sunday, November 6, 2016

A Few of My Favorite Things (about myself)

What would you say are your best qualities? This is the question posed by the 52 Lists Project this week.

Luckily, I've had nearly 20 years of therapy and introspection to figure this out. So here goes my list of the Top Ten Things I <3 about="" i="" me="">:

1. My honesty and "transparency"
What you see (and hear) with this girl is what you get. For better or worse, if there is something you want to know about me, I'll typically tell you. On the flip side, I don't always have patience for people who obviously lack self-awareness or who deny parts of themselves.

2. My intelligence
Is this a quality, or just luck of the draw? I think the latter. Regardless, I appreciate how smart I am, even if I occasionally temper myself in the interest of not wanting to be perceived as a smarty-pants.

3. My love for my family
This is particularly true for my nuclear family and my siblings' families. I feel lucky that, having grown up with only each other, we still (mostly) want to spend time together. 

4. My deep empathy
Particularly for those who I perceive or who I know have been oppressed for reasons beyond their control (e.g., gender, sex, nation of origin, skin color, sexual orientation).

5. My dislike for overt brand devotion
I grew up poor, which meant brand names were largely out of reach for me. And I experienced them as impregnable walls between me and the "rich kids." As a result, I eschew overt brand devotion as crass braggadocio.

6. My spirit of adventure
My brother-in-law asked me on Friday night if I was truly adventurous, or if I liked the idea of calling myself adventurous. Maybe a little of both, in that I'm selectively adventurous. I won't typically try something I believe will cause harm to me or others, and I'm not always adventurous (sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name). But, I'm typically willing to push my boundaries in the interest of having a good story or discovering something new about myself.

7. My quirks
I am grateful the many ways in which my personality and my style falls outside of the lines of my particular station in life. My love for gnomes,my lack of disgust for nose-picking (everyone does it), my constant willingness to brake for squirrels, my enthusiastic style of dance not unlike that of Elaine Bennes, my nearly daily hula hooping - I could seriously go on. I embrace these things because they make me unlike anyone else I know.

8. My laugh
I don't laugh a lot, but when I do, it is loud and unabashed.

9. Parts of my physical self
I have long struggled with loving my body. Those 20 years of therapy, yeah, they were A LOT about that. But, I'm happy to say there are some physical qualities I have that I like: my breasts, my hourglass shape, my smiley eyes, my skin tone.

10. My generosity
I give 5% of my pre-tax income away to charity, and I give with intention. I love to bake, and I tend to give (nearly) all of it away to my neighbors (see #9 above), I am often willing to compromise my own needs in the interest of helping someone in crisis. BMG sees my generosity as a flaw, as an unfettered doorway to misery and exploitation. But I don't. I am glad to bring a little peace, joy and/or justice into the lives of others, and value this quality in others.