Written by Roxanne Brown
Originally published 6/20/17.
When I first met you my life at work was in turmoil. At the office, people who were standing just feet apart wouldn’t acknowledge each other. It was as if they didn’t know how so they filtered each other out. Everyone decided to keep to their friends now that the company had decided to purchase a longtime competitor.
There were new people in the office and they were the enemy. They were our competition that for years we battled against for clients, industry awards and big business. We knew them by name and by sight and now they were in our office. They were supposed to be one of us now. How strange it all felt. The new people acted like they were in a foreign land, looking stunned, trying to adjust. It was beyond awkward. I retreated to my office to escape the pressure of those interactions. The rooms and hallways were packed with emotion pressing everything downward. Lots of slumped shoulders, lots of gazes to the floor, just a huge weight. A merger was announced one day and with that all of the joy was sucked right out of our team.
Then I met you. It was in a class I signed up for as part of my undergraduate work. Change Leadership, it was called. That’s where I discovered you. I had no idea what I was in for. Every week a little more was revealed about you. Each lecture, each reading. The implications of you were incredible. It meant people didn’t need to be the victims of inevitable changes that come to the workplace. It meant people could be guided through it, even choose how they wanted to experience it. THEY could be given control of their experience. YOU could do that for them. Incredible.
And, that wasn’t all of it. It was better for the company too! People could adjust faster, be less distracted, be more productive and grow resilient from the experience. Fascinating! When I finally grasped all that you had to offer I remember thinking I had discovered something precious. Something everyone should know about. "Why isn't everyone doing this?," I thought. That was you, CM.
Bit by bit what was happening at work became clearer. Now I could be compassionate and say what needed to be said. Put words to what was happening. I could try to help us make sense of the transition. You helped me try. I was hooked.
Twenty years later my commitment to you is undeniable. Yes, there was a time in the early days when I wondered if this was really a career. Many said I was crazy to pursue you. You won’t last, they said. They said you were too this or not enough that. But I studied you, I persisted, I experimented and invented. I insisted on doing the work and I insisted you were real. I was right.
Some have quipped that it’s too bad the word “management” is in your name. It’s true, it’s not a great word and does have some negative associations but so does “change." I’ve heard all of the criticisms and I feel immune to them now. I’ve earned my point of view. I know what it's like when you’re present and when you’re not. That’s all the resolve I need.
I could have pursued many other professions. Before you I certainly did. But once you came into my life I knew you were for me. I think like you. I feel empathy through you. I’ve served countless people through difficult situations with respect because of you. I’ve also helped people discover and create the culture they longed for because of you.
You have brought my life joy and meaning in ways I hadn’t expected. To see the sudden light in people when they realize all you have to offer and that they can do it too. It’s incredibly satisfying. Over and over I’ve witnessed it. It does not get old.
And, you're always evolving. It’s a delight to discover how you adapt to new ways of working. Learning is the essence of you.
Not a clear career path? Maybe so. But you have given me a career I feel deeply aligned to and that makes me brave every day, in service to others and for something much bigger than me. Clear or not, for that you are absolutely worth it.
With love and gratitude,
My Inspiration: Last week TJ Rinoski gave a presentation to a group at Gather about the launch of his new magazine Skinny Dipper that's a long-time collaboration/labor-of-love project, years in the making. It's a work of art. Each issue is created with the intention that it be kept, even displayed. During his presentation he talked about it being a love letter to the variety of media art they love. Hmmm..., I thought (made a note). The way he talks about it is inspiring. Clearly he and his friends care a lot about this thing. The big launch was yesterday. We ordered our copy today.