It’s your growth: Own it!

I handed him a copy of an old Nashville Business Journal article that outlined the difference between a mentor and a sponsor. “This is what I am talking about,” I said. Sitting across the table was my boss, the recipient of a heavily marked-up newspaper and my request for a mentor.

We were talking about the amount of change I had experienced over the two years leading to our conversation. I was pregnant with my second child, settling into life as a working mom with increased responsibility at work; all exciting stuff! Yet I recognized we were navigating uncharted territory. My position was new to the company, life at home was changing once again, and I was learning important leadership lessons while building our marketing team. I needed help.

Up until that point my professional development had been the result of schooling, exposure, reading, and a few thought provoking conversations with really smart people. I wanted more. I knew my boss was committed to my growth so all I had to do was ask for what I needed. Reading the NBJ article helped me realize I had a great sponsor in my boss and what I needed was a mentor; someone to help me navigate through the good, the bad and the ugly of so much change.

What happened next? Within the week I was connected with a mentor who played an important role in my process of adapting and managing change.

Why am I telling you this story? Over the years I have encountered many people waiting on the sidelines for someone else to develop them; waiting for someone to take ownership of their growth and their destiny.

My advice? Grab the bull by the horns and take ownership of your development. Sure, your boss can be a facilitator, a guide, a coach, a sponsor, a sounding board, and in some cases even a mentor. No matter how supportive he or she is, you need to be actively involved in your journey.

A mentor can show you the way, but she can’t walk the walk for you. The people who have played an important role in my growth have shown me the way by asking tough questions or sharing thought provoking ideas. Some of those conversations made me feel uncomfortable; that discomfort led to reflection, exploration, discovery and development.

You will get so much more out of the people and the environment around you if you are willing to ask for help. Take ownership of the journey that will lead to unlocking your potential. Take the pearls of wisdom others are willing to share with you and turn them into actionable plans to get to the next level.

Be selective of the voices you listen to, not everyone is equipped to provide the guidance you need. Be curious. Ask clarifying questions. Seek encouragement when needed. Take a break from time to time…then get up and keep on keeping on.

It’s your growth: own it!

My boss 🙂

Karol Hernandez

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This is how I can help you

Are you one of those charming people who never says ‘no’ to anyone? Are you one of those well-meaning, eager beavers always ready and willing to say ‘yes’ to help requests? I am. I am also one of the crazies who ends up strained and stressed trying to figure out how to deliver on my many commitments.

Karol Hernandez

A helpful soul


Why do I say ‘yes’?

Very few things on earth bug me as much as a person with “alligator arms”; you know, the ones whose hands go slightly up in the air and are quick to say “that’s not my job”. Seriously, that behavior is so against my core I consider it borderline offensive.

I love the feeling of being helpful and to be honest, I love the feeling of being needed. I also understand that in the economy of interpersonal relationships, help and favors are a currency. We make deposits and withdrawals. We make investments, some yield good results, and in the best cases some give way to great friendships.

I always say ‘yes’ because I like to be liked, and we can all agree that most reasonable people like a helpful person. And here is reason #1: I like to say ‘yes’ because more often than not, helping leads to learning.

-El acomedido come lo que está escondido-

I grew up hearing this Spanish saying all the time. The helpful person eats what’s hidden. Translation reads funny but it means that special treats are reserved for those who go out of their way to help…there are delicacies only a helpful soul can savor.

Oh, but we must learn to say no.

What good are treats and delicacies if we are too overwhelmed to enjoy them? A person who likes to be liked can struggle with uttering a certain tiny word: no. We feel like we are letting someone down, or worse, we are missing out on the opportunity to razzle-dazzle. 

In order to retain my sanity and for my ‘yes’ to hold its value, I’ve had to say ‘no’. This is important, we can say ‘yes’ all we want, but that little word can be devalued if we fail to deliver. If saying ‘no’ seems uncomfortable, imagine saying a ‘yes’ no one has faith in, ouch!

I have found a happy medium. Sometimes I can help, just not to the extent the requester is expecting. In these cases I don’t say ‘no’. Why would I? There is some currency at stake and honestly my inner helping hand wants to be raised high in the air like it just don’t care. 

I take inventory of my ability to commit and simply tell the requester a magic and mighty phrase: HERE IS HOW I CAN HELP YOU.

It is a thing of beauty. Most reasonable people respond well to this offer because there is clarity, it tells them their request is not an inconvenience and I am very interested in being accommodating. Win-win.

Knowing how I can help others and being able to articulate it clearly has enabled me to be helpful in meaningful ways. I still over extend myself on ocassion but definitely a lot less than I used to. Time is a luxury, one we must enjoy and share intentionally, deliberately.

I am off to enjoy the two most beautiful creatures on the face of my earth…my kids.

PK

Women who pump

Karol FeldmanI am still getting used to the word kids. Kids. I am now the mother of two amazing kids, 2 kids under the age of 2. Not for long though; Ava will be 2 in exactly 7 days. Elliott just turned 3 months which means many milestones have been achieved. One of those milestones is my return to work.

I am now a working mother of a toddler and a nursing baby. Days at the office are busy, meetings fill up the calendar and to-do lists grow with merciless speed, yet I have to find time to pump. Pumping is a hassle; hoses, breast shields, bottles, the incredible pressure of producing enough…oh the pressure. But I make time.

I make time to pump because breastfeeding is important to me; it gives me something to look forward to after a long day at work. I love feeling Elliott’s warm hands on my skin while he feeds, we reconnect, we nurture each other.

There is an incredible amount of guilt associated with ‘choosing work over your baby’. As a second time mom I have learned to not let guilt get the best of me. I love what I do and think that working makes me a better mom. All moms are different, there is no right or wrong way to handle life after a baby, there is an ideal fit for each woman and her family. In my case, the ideal fit involves a daycare for our toddler, a babysitter for our little man, and a job that allows me to be the mom I want to be.

I found that pumping is a great way to nurture my baby while I work, a great way to love him and stay connected. Sure, the process is a hassle, staying on top of my pumping schedule is not easy, trying to break away from long meetings for a pumping break can be awkward…I tell my male coworkers that I need to meditate, they must think I am really spiritual.

Pumping while I work makes me feel like super woman, more like super mom. People say women can’t have it all; let’s face it, no one can have it all.  I have a pretty sweet deal and feel really grateful for the gift of loving my baby through the act of pumping while we are separated.

I salute all the women who work and pump, it is not an easy task, it’s not sexy nor convenient; but to us it means the world. Proud of to be one of those women who pump.

PK


Related: Early motherhood lesson


 

Chatting with a Geologist

Chicago's Shoreline with clear blue skies

Chicago‘s Shoreline with clear blue skies

When was the last time you got to have an hour long conversation with a geologist? For me, it was this morning as I was flying from Miami to Chicago. As customary, I took a window seat wherever available, in this case, the back of the plane. The guy next to me was complaining under his breath about the discomforts of flying and how the experience is disguised as a service when in reality it resembles cattle herding more than anything else. His perspective caught my attention as I had just finished tweeting about how pleased I was with American Airlines’ evident service improvements…at least the attempt. The guy went on to tell me he would much rather drive and be in control of his experience while enjoying the landscape. Appreciation for landscape is something I can relate to, so I took the conversation down that path since he seemed clearly distressed about take off.

After take off, Jim asked what I do for a living. I gave him a short description of my job and then went on to explain why I am so passionate about marketing; his response: “oh, you are one of those who try to push products down our throats with cute taglines”. Though that’s not exactly what I do (no cute taglines in my industry), I smiled and explained that I am in the business of bridging gaps. “I take the knowledge and expertise of people and businesses and present them in ways that customers can understand and can relate to…I create an environment where conversations can take place. Conversations create opportunities for both businesses and customers”. Jim asked for a few examples and by the end of our five minutes on marketing he concluded: “well, you are passionate about this stuff, I think I understand it a little better, I wouldn’t know how to explain what I do in words others can understand”…he was right.

Jim is a geologist based out of Kansas who is working independently on a project that he failed to explain in simple words, I nodded to keep the conversation going and interjected a few times with “oh, that’s pretty cool”. I explained my knowledge of geology is rather limited but I am very curious about the subject therefore I watch lots of documentaries. His eyes lit up when he realized I wanted to know more and went on to talk about sink holes, continental shells, tectonic plates, caves, rock formations, ocean currents and even asteroids. He pointed things through the window and gave me theories about their existence. We talked about the shape of the earth two hundred million years from now, the effects that the speed of rotation and ocean currents may have on current land masses, and of course global warming. There is nothing more engaging and captivating than passion, I concluded as Jim went on about the usefulness of a gravimeter.

I also learned that Jim was a stay home dad for fifteen years and raised five children (four girls and one boy) while his wife grew through the corporate ladder. He was proud to tell me he can prepare five different breakfasts under thirty minutes and makes pancakes like no one else. He then spotted an empty window seat and I suggested he went for it as we had clear skies and he would be able to see a lot of cool stuff, a different perspective of the landscape. Jim followed my advice.

Jim took the window to enjoy the landscape, and I stayed at my window to rest my head and think about passion and engagement…I love what I do: my job is to bridge gaps.

PK

I encourage you to be selfish!

I encourage you to be selfish.

Does the selfish person divide or multiply? An efficient selfish person is one who multiplies I would say. Selfishness taken to the extreme is lethal not only to one’s soul but to one’s interactions with the world. However, I think that the root of selflessness is found in selfishness.
How can you effectively care for someone if you don’t care for yourself first? How can you inspire someone if you don’t care to take yourself to an inspirational level? How can you instill principles in others if you don’t take the time to grow and learn them yourself? You need to be selfish in order to get to a place where your selflessness can have a positive impact on others.
Sit down and spend time refining yourself before going out to the world to multiply in others. Mediocrity needs not to be replicated. Poor character and destructive leadership needs not to be duplicated. We must strive to reproduce the best of us in others. Plant a good seed and let it blossom into something beautiful and worthy of this planet. There are many who call themselves transformational leaders using techniques to divide and conquer, seeking their own interest. They remind me of the story of the man who killed the goose that laid the golden eggs driven by instant gratification. Short sighted leaders is what they are. A transformational leader does not bestow such title upon himself, it is granted by the fruit of his labor. The more quality you give to those who follow you the more they grow, and as they grow so will you.
I am here thinking about how I want to impact my world, and realize that I still have much to grow before I can
go out there and pretend to multiply myself in others. I want to get to that point where I pour my heart and soul out to see someone else reach his/her potential.
Just a thought from a transformational leader in the making.

The Mighty Ego

Such a small word with such great consequences. 

It comes in all colors, shapes and sizes. It disregards race, ethnicity, gender, social status, language barriers, professions, age, marital status, religion, education, it disregards it all. The mighty ego sits at your footstool and gnaws on your heels, slowly and delicately, it gnaws until it cripples you. The mighty ego is an invisible evil capable of running down kingdoms, eating away rulers, destroying marriages, and blinding leaders of all sizes and walks of life.
Once upon a time ego was nothing but another invisible creature like many others walking alongside humankind. It served a purpose, it helped individuals keep a basic sense of self, identity, and pride for who they were and what they could do for one another. Each individual’s ego had to remain a certain size, small, so that it would not bump into other people’s egos at the market, the park, the workplace or the bar. No one was certain, but it was said that if two egos bumped into each other their human owners would be overtaken by rage and remain in an irate state for an indefinite period of time. No one wanted to see this, so they made sure to fill up the space in between egos with love and harmony. Love of course carried with it respect and all these other goodies that allowed humans to live closely while keeping their egos at bay.
Earth saw the birth of a man on a summer day of a year long ago forgotten. This was no ordinary man, he had a special gift granted by the gods, unparalleled beauty. The gods wanted to grant humans a living monument in honor of the perfect harmony they had achieved on earth, therefore perfect Narcissus was sent to live among them. As any human Narcissus was granted an ego of his own, a simple ego that walked next to his feet like everybody else’s.  Humans perceived his beauty as a gift and treated him as such. Narcissus loved humans too and admired their beauty which was as diverse as the colors in the rainbow.
Strangely enough sometimes when Narcissus was paid a compliment his ego would nibble on his toes, and it felt good…his ego learned this trick and in a weird way felt silently empowered.
Narcissus’ ego grew a little more than normal which was an unprecedented event. In a effort to guard it and avoid a collision, his pride grew a little too. Narcissus started feeling ill, he could not sleep, his soul could find no rest. Suddenly he thought compliments were not meant to be gifts but rather taxes owed to him for walking among imperfect humans while being a perfect creation of the gods. His thoughts were erratic, his mood was unstable, his body would shiver with cold then tremble with fever, it was like an infection was eating his bones…his ego was no longer nibbling his toes, it was gnawing his heels.
In a moment of lucidity he decided to submerge his body in a crystal river hoping the infection would leave his body. He took his cape and ran through town but his ego had grown very large and so did his pride to protect it. He disdained those who payed him compliments, thoughts of grandeur were running through his head, he felt like a giant waltzing over meaningless ants and talked as such.
He reached the forest and ran as fast as he could but his heels were growing weak and his steps became gawky. Just before reaching the river his legs gave in and he violently fell to the ground. The world stood still.  His eyes caught a glimpse of his reflection in the water and he discovered a sick love, love for his own image, love for his reflection, love for his ego. Ego too discovered something in that reflection, it discovered a great power which could only be unlocked by growing above the standard size humans had allowed for egos. The more Narcissus stared at his reflection the more his ego grew and his pride with it. Narcissus was unable to take his eyes from his own image and died on that river bank and his pride with him. His ego ran rampant through the streets of the city boastfully announcing to all other egos that if they grew just a little more humankind would be subjugated to their rule.
As egos uncontrollably grew so did pride trying to avoid a catastrophe but things were so out of hand even the gods turned their back on earth. Humans grew angry at each other, new types of feelings took over the earth. Anxiety kept people awake at night devising ways to protect their ego. People now cared about their own needs and no one else’s therefore selfishness started roaming the earth with a pretense known as survival of the fittest. There was no antidote for the plague that ego had brought to the world. The only solution was to kill each human’s ego. But egos were very persuasive, they talked their way out of death sentences and promised great rewards to those who let them live.
In light of this disgrace and the evident coming of the end of the world as humans knew it a group of individuals made a pact. They met on a desolated beach at sunset and sacrificed their egos out of love for one another. They knew that society would deem them fools and insane and perhaps take their lives. Instead of going back to that agonizing city they built a raft and disappeared in the horizon.
Thousands of years later the earth is still dominated by some of the principles that destroyed that society created by the gods. In sophisticated ways our egos still run this earth. If you doubt the nature of this story let me ask you, what happens when someone touches your ego other than to pay it compliments? Doesn’t your pride get inflated and comes out to the rescue? Aren’t you taken over by a feeling less than pleasant? Don’t you feel the eager need to defend your ego and guard it with thousands of reasons? If that is the case then my story is true.
The good news is that those individuals who disappeared on a raft created a world beyond the sun. That world is run by principles perpendicular to ours. Every few years a citizen of that world comes to our world in hopes of finding people willing to establish a society like theirs on this earth. See, their desire is to come back home and live as we used to live in the pre-ego times.
A few individuals have decided to go against the odds and take up the challenge. They sacrifice their egos and become leaders seeking a greater purpose than their own. You will recognize these individuals because of the way they talk, act and move around the earth.
If you are fortunate enough to stumble upon one you will notice they don’t go on and on about themselves, their grandeur and magnificence. These individuals are unique as they do not fear promoting those underneath them, as a matter of fact it has been said they take pleasure in helping others grow. These individuals are crazy enough to lead by example and put other’s interests before their own. Talk to them about their ego and they will laugh, they claim they need their heels healthy as a leader needs to be in constant movement. The best of them are humble and recognize that leadership is not about themselves but about those who follow them. These leaders bring the best out of those around them, these are the people who come from beyond the sun.
Sadly, much like Narcissus many of us sit by a river bank protecting our ego when there is so much to be done on this earth.
I have had the blessing of seeing many of those leaders up close. Do not be mistaken, they are not made in a specific mold. Some of them are teachers, others are coaches, executives, preachers, mothers, fathers, mechanics, inventors, musicians, writers, cooks, janitors, secretaries, soldier…They too come in all shapes and sizes without regard of their race, ethnicity, gender, social status, language, trade, marital status, etc.
They move our world.
PK