Originally published via LinkedIn Aug 11, 2016
There is a quote from Augusten Burroughs’ Magical Thinking that I find eerily self-descriptive: “I myself am made entirely of flaws, stitched together with good intentions.” It’s like a really nice way of saying, “I totally mean well, but sometimes lose my sh-t.”
I have some stellar qualities, no doubt, like my sense of humor, a strong work ethic and the genuine desire to help others. These qualities have served me greatly throughout my life and my career. Thanks, Mom and Dad!
But my flaws…ugh…are there, too and are sometimes overwhelming. One in particular.
I cry about everything.
Now, I don’t actually cry about everything just…Publix commercials, weddings, VPK graduations, funerals (who doesn’t?), births, kindergarten plays, Subway tuna sandwiches (there’s a story there), girlfriend reunion dinners, returning soldier videos, my kids’ birthdays, my parents’ birthdays, old pictures from when I was thin and tan, those damn SPCA starving animal commercials—you’re killing me, Sarah Mclachlan!, when my husband unloads the dishwasher and folds laundry, sad movies, happy movies, movies based on true stories, movies that say they are based on true stories even if they really aren’t, when my children play peacefully, when my children fight, when I run out of coffee creamer…you know, regular stuff.
For the longest time, I felt like being an emotional person was by far my biggest weakness, my deepest flaw, and something I tried to hide (unsuccessfully for the most part because: cry face, gah!). Being an emotional person can be incredibly difficult and potentially damaging. No one wants to cry in the office bathroom or worse yet, in front of everyone.
Being an emotional person can also mean other feelings are heightened. Joy, Fear, Disgust, Anger…..wait, never mind, those are characters from Inside Out (which we have seen no less than 3 million times!). Anyway, the feelings I’m talking about here are: Passion and Confidence. The same fire that inspires my quivering lip when my 5-year-old climbs into my lap unprovoked also fuels my drive to succeed.
Recently, as I was interviewing for my current role, the hiring manager let me know he had asked around to get the scoop on me (how nice of him to give me the heads up!). One person, who he refused to name even after I asked him 27 times, described me as “intense”. My first reaction was to cringe and resist the urge to gag. “Intense” is one of those descriptions that can carry a negative connotation. I could just picture some jack wagon telling him, “Dude, that chick is intense!” And not in the awesome, badass way, but in that shiver down your spine, look over your shoulder, Frau Blucher way. (P.S. If you don’t know who Frau Blucher is, I question our friendship.)
Thankfully, my new manager translated “intense” into “passionate” which I attribute, in part, to helping me get the job. Let’s just hope he doesn’t regret it after he learns I cried on my kid’s LAST day of VPK. Who does that?!
Many people are emotionally heightened. We are just wired this way and I have found that instead of trying to fight it, I have more success by embracing it. That being said, I don’t encourage crying during quarterly planning sessions or sending scathing emails to trolls who really need to find a hobby—not that I have done either of these things—these are just examples, people. Purely made-up examples.
Instead I’m all about focusing on the positive of my emotional side.
Play to win. At Veeam, one of our core values is Compete to Win. At Tech Data, it was A Passion for Winning. At your company it might be Kick Ass and Take Names. Whatever it is, know that not everyone understands how to do this. It takes emotion to want to succeed, to want to win. Just watch the Olympics. Not a lot of blasé people chilling around, casually cruising over the finish line. Thanks to my ‘intensity’, if there is a competition my team or I could win or a goal to accomplish, I’m on it like white on rice. Veeam recently launched their inaugural women’s leadership initiative. Only 30 women were chosen from all the female employees of Veeam across the globe. Guess who snagged a spot? A select few group of women who play to win—including me.
Genuinely care. I have been told by more than one person that I am the best person to tell good news to. Why? I will literally jump for joy, shout from the rooftops and yes-of course-shed a tear over your awesome news. People enjoy being celebrated and I enjoy seeing others succeed. On the flip side, it’s important to be there for people when things aren’t all roses and sunshine. I have a colleague’s chemo schedule on my calendar to remind me to reach out when she is at her most vulnerable. I also appreciate people who care enough to correct or guide someone junior when the need presents itself and I try to do this myself. This is, IMHO, the hallmark of a good leader, a mentor, and a friend.
Manage up. This is a form of protecting your sanity by speaking up. This requires confidence and the ability to rationalize your standpoint without sounding like you’re not a team player. A good manager will actually teach you how to manage up appropriately. Managing your workload (and your team’s if you are a manager) involves pushing back, questioning, filtering, and sometimes saying “no” (or at the very least, “not now”). Many people worry that this approach makes them appear less valuable but I find the contrary. Managing up demonstrates your awareness of what is important on your playing field, what matters to your stake holders, and what needs to be done to hit your goals. That’s called strategy and that’s how the game is won.
Say what you think. Rarely will you not know a passionate person’s stance on something. Certainly those obnoxious “Let me tell you something!” [insert dramatic neck gyration] people are annoying AF, but I find it best for all parties to avoid that ambiguous complacency that doesn’t help anyone when I’m asked a question. I assume when someone asks for my thoughts, they actually want my thoughts. Clearly, it’s important to temper your response to suite the audience, but wavering or agreeing to something you know is a bad idea, is not a good idea.