This week a few people asked for my advice and expertise regarding some projects. In one case, I told the individual that what they needed for their project was an in-person or screen-sharing consultation because it would involve visual, hands-on work. The individual got back to me with a quick response that they had a really busy schedule and that they’d be available by phone.
In this case, I wasn’t establishing boundaries for my own work-life balance or learning how to say ‘no’ to people asking for too much of my time. Instead, I offered more of my time and effort in the name of doing the project correctly: I was asserting that for this specific stage, the meeting had to be both auditory and visual with live editing (it is a visual project and in this case no one has impaired hearing or vision). This means we had to be in person or use online software to communicate effectively.
I have decided to call this principle “asserting my expertise” because in this case, someone with little understanding of the appropriate process for a specific type of project was trying to set the terms of the process. I needed to step in and assert my expertise. And, I did. I replied to the individual that I could not be involved in the project if the meeting were not on the terms necessary to complete the project successfully.
I read an article today by Erika Andersen on Forbes.com entitled, “Passionate Leaders Aren’t Loud – They’re Deep.” Andersen discusses great leadership as not loud speechmaking, but something deeper, in six qualities. Passionate leaders are:
- Honest and genuine
- Clear and powerful, yet respectful
- Open to others’ points of view
- Walking their talk
- Committed despite adversity and setbacks
The the most important principle Andersen brings up is purpose. “What a leader is passionate,” she says, “people feel a deep sense of being led in a worthy direction by someone who is committed to something more important than his or her own individual glory.”
This month I failed at balance. I said yes to too many meetings, but all of them seemed essential. I receive an average of 100 emails a day, many that require responses. I have projects that require constant care and attention. I take on just as much volunteer work, social engagements, and so on. My life is filled with so much “duty” that I lack quiet, meditative peace and even time to take care of mortal essentials such as eating meals and sleeping enough. So today I recommitted myself.
I sat in a meeting that went 15 minutes over its allotted time. To put it frankly, the person in charge was inconsiderate of the time of the individuals in the meeting and was inconsiderate of those who had scheduled the room next. I was appalled at such disrespectful behavior. However, a friend of mine, who sat several rows back, told me she just left at the hour it was supposed to end. She didn’t walk out in rage, but she had another commitment and slipped out the back. Sometimes I wonder what to do in these situations. Out of what I think is respect, I stay the extra 15 minutes. After all, it’s a prisoner’s dilemma. If we all were to decide to leave early from the long meeting, we’d all be walking out the door at the same time. An individual who wants to leave on time from a meeting that goes long depends on those who stick it out and stay so he or she can slip out the back somewhat unnoticed. I am curious to see what my mentor will say. He is much wiser than me about the concept of respect.
The theme I notice in this, though, is that I am allowing others to dictate how I spend my time. A hundred people, through a mix of email, phone calls, and walk-ins, are controlling my schedule. The meeting that went long controlled more of my schedule than I thought it would. There is value in being flexible, but when do I need to be firm – and how do I do it? How can I change my behaviors to say no and not feel guilty for doing so?
These fun images represent the balance of mentoring and being mentored – it takes effort on both are parts – and a big push of guidance from one to launch the other! These slides are created by my mentor from stick figures I drew a while ago. It shows the process of defining a vision for myself. As I modify and add to what this vision is, I am launched upward by the guidance of my mentor. Click on any of these images to view the full-size slides.
After my meeting about the topic of ‘respect’ I focused on my homework, which was to fill in the blank “I want to be someone who ___.” This naturally started with “I want to be someone who is respectful.” After this, I wrote:
- “I want to be someone who enables people to achieve success.”
- “I want to be someone who enables strategic thinking in teams and in individuals.”
- “I want to be someone who achieves success with balance.”
This is when I thought about the idea of blogging my experiences with being mentored. I was already writing down my thoughts and working out this vision for myself, but if I were to share it, others might gain from it. In my next meeting with my mentor, I brought up the idea. In these past few entries I am now writing out what I have learned over the past month or so, plan to write moving forward.