If you love something…

I’ve been considering my ideas, creativity, knowledge, intellectual property, and future lately.  A long term goal I have is to start a therapeutic and community-building private practice that focuses on mixed-race identity.  During this year, as the agency I work for faced a lot of financial challenges, I registered an LLC and have been reading business and marketing books, and trying to see what the steps are to get to my goal.  I’ve been very protective of this idea to the point where I’ve only talked to a few close friends about it.  My agency does work that could overlap with my future business, but there is no non-competition clause in the agency, and their intellectual property policies are specific to what I create for them as an agency.  Like I said, I’ve been feeling very protective over my dreams, ideas, and plans. 

I got supervision for this last week and was encouraged not to be so territorial because this could be a time in my life where I experiment, implement, share ideas, gain experience and feedback, make connections, do some trial and error.  I’m not the only person who has or is thinking deeply about mixed-race.  You can find them all over the internet.  I feel like I’m softening a little bit in opening to this idea of not being so territorial and protective about the work I want to do.  I have great opportunities in the near future to start implementing it within my agency, having conversations, getting feedback, eventually putting together groups.  There’s an opportunity to apply for a fellowship which may be right up my alley, allowing me to create things that I could practice at my agency, while retaining my intellectual property with my own funding sources. 

It’s entirely in idea form right now.  And there’s more thinking to be done – I think I will eventually find a balance of individual and agency work.  But I’m feeling closer to the action of releasing my grip, and going out into the world and testing things out.  I can begin to associate my name with mixed-race before I start a company on it.  It’s just a very strange, courageous, scary, risky step for me to take.  For most of my life, my mixed identity had been a sore spot, private, my feelings surrounding it remained secret and shame-based.  Bringing my ideas and thoughts public in an attempt to build community is a big step.  But I’ve done the internal work for a long time.  I don’t want to be self-protective to the point that I don’t step up and voice my desire to build community.  Yet another area of leadership to move forward.  The ideas are not mine alone, the feelings are mine, the fear is mine, the momentum to step up is mine.  Do I have it in me to let the fear and self-protection go in the hopes that community, success, innovation, and creativity will come back to me? 

… Set it free.

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Leader Pt 2

The thing about leadership though is that when you show up fully in a room, without apology, without people pleasing, acknowledging that there are things, people, situations, and styles that don’t work for you… there’s in conflict.  Which is difficult for a recovering pleaser.  When you sit back and assess and judge and watch, you can stay pretty safe.  When you’re putting yourself, you opinions, your directions, your truth out there… get ready for some occasional challenges and pushbacks.  When I come into a room fully in my truth, not everyone likes that or agrees with it.  That’s new for me.  I’m used to being the person that everyone likes even if they’re not sure why they like me.  And I’m used to at least pretending to like and accept everyone.  When you show up genuine, that security falls away.  This is a new and exhilarating challenge.  Here, at the beginning, I’m stuck and obsessing on some of the social interactions that come with putting myself out there and taking these risks.  This is the beginning, I’m not steady on my feet.  I’m pretty sure that with more practice and new habits, it won’t feel this unsteady.  But for now, it’s like the floor fell out.  I’m going to get my bearings.  But I’m marking this time and the newness of it.  Altogether, it’s fucking great to show up and be true to myself. 

A leader – who, me?

I’ve never considered myself a leader, but over the past year or so, I see this leadership developing in me.  It’s a very pleasant surprise!  I think the most surprising is that I’m comfortable in it and feel good about it. 

I think what stopped me in earlier years was a self-consciousness, people pleasing, and inferiority feelings.  I always felt like somewhat of a fuck up.  Which I can see clearly now came from living with a micro-managing, very particular mother.  But hey, you get what you get, she gave me a lot of good things, too. 

Anyhow.  In past jobs I have always been tapped to train.  I’m an achiever so I generally try to position myself to learn and become expert and efficient at what I do.  But to me, that was not leadership, that was just being good at my jobs.  I think the difference now is that I really care about my work, my clients, the work of my agency, and the work of building programs that are responsive to the needs our clients. 

I work at a community mental health clinic, culturally specific to African Americans.  We have been talking for as long as I’ve been there about being innovative, being a “thought leader” in the field.  All talk, no action.  The agency has gone through financial hell in the past year and I’ve been going on forced partial furlough weekly and a pay cut for nearly all of 2013.  Which will kill your motivation to stay engaged, let me tell you.  However, things are kind of looking up.  We recently merged with another organization, will soon be moving to a new location, and will be running more like a business than a non-profit.  Management is looking at our billable hours and by necessity we’re being encouraged to think about how we will increase those billable hours or face being cut to a more part time schedule.  It’s part gross and traumatic, part exhilarating.  I’ve accepted it – I’m at my best under pressure. 

I’ve been organizing meetings, calling clients, developing ideas for curriculum for our groups, and honing my skills to be more efficient.  My communication has overall become more assertive over the past year, and I’m gaining a reputation at work for asking the questions on everyone’s mind in a courageous, assertive, yet gentle enough way not to be offensive.  I hold our leadership team accountable.  I advocate for myself and other employees. 

Yesterday we had an informal curriculum meeting and another staff member deferred to me as leader of the meeting.  And I just went for it, and it felt good.  I’m great at this!  I keep us on track, make sure all the points are hit, think about next steps.  It’s a contrast to where I may have laughed it off or stayed silent in the past.  I like this new side of me and want to develop it more. 

And it’s not just at work, but also in being a leader, an active participant in my life.  Another change in excelling at work is that I’m also not letting work overtake me.  I’m doing well there, and I also have a life.  Feels good!