One of my favourite conferences that I love to speak at, the Spark Women’s Leadership Conference, couldn’t happen for the first time since its inception seven years ago. However, being the resourceful women that they are, they pivoted and put things into the virtual space. So although the entire lineup has been beautifully crafted, it’s been bumped to 2021 and other interesting things are happening in the meantime, including the launch of the Spark Virtual book club. So weirdly lucky that Flip Side of Failing was the first book that they chose to put on. And you can imagine the savvy sisters that show up to have a conversation about all the obstacles, challenges, roadblocks that exist in their work and their personal lives right now in the middle of COVID.
Well, one of the interesting phrases that really stuck with us that came out in our last session came from a Sparkler (what we call rockstar SPARK attendees) who used to have a very senior human resources position; responsible for thousands of employees, donning fancy suits and even nicer shoes, kicking butt and taking names (as they say…I am sure she never kicked anyone in her life). When her organization hit a huge slump, she had the painful job of laying off the workforce and then exiting herself from the organization too. It was devastating…initially.
She felt her sense of identity was lost.
She quickly learned how much her sense of self was wrapped up in not just the title, but also the going to work and getting dressed up and feeling like I have a role (I can so relate). Let’s face it, when you meet somebody for the first time, isn’t the first thing we ask is, “so what do you do?” How would she answer that question?
She wanted to take a step back and reassess her career, stay at home with her kids for a bit, and plan in the future to reenter the workforce. It was hard to shake the feeling that you were “important” if you had a job to go to, weren’t letting yourself down if you didn’t “make something” of her education, and were still legitimately a “professional” if you weren’t currently practicing it.
How many of us during this challenging time has felt like our identity is questioned? Am I a good business person? Am I making good ethical choices as a leader? Am I being a good employee if some of my time I need to spend homeschooling my kids?
For those laid off, do you have survivor guilt? “Why am I here and she is not?” If you are the one laid off or redeployed, do you question if you can still identify with your job or take on a new persona?
She’s come to terms with this. And it can be summed up in one juicy statement she shared in the middle of our book club:
When you go elastic, life is fantastic.
In that one statement, she shared:
- I like working at home
- I like raising my kids as my role right now
- I like ditching the suit for the sweats
- I like me
- I like my choices
Self-acceptance and self-compassion need not be in short supply, however, we control the access.
Imagine if you fully embraced the elasticity in your life. What is one aspect of your work or your personal life that if you were a little bit more flexible and adaptable, it would be a little bit more fantastical?
And remember, if you think that this just sounds like a fluffy thing, adaptability and flexibility are core functions of emotional intelligence. So really this is building your stress management skills as a professional and as a leader (and cool fact, I don’t normally train on emotional intelligence any more however so many clients are asking for a great connection to and management of emotions these days, it’s becoming a theme; sharing that in case you’re thinking “Is it just us?” who are working hard on emotional regulation and management right now).
And trust me, as I write this in my elastic yoga pants and my dress shirt (never a pre-COVID look yet now the norm), the more elastic I allow my mind to be, the more creative and curious I become. It’s what a former coach, Marion Howell of the Iris Group used to suggest: Tight, Loose, Tight – get a tight focus, get loose in how you explore it, get tight in how you execute it.
What are some of the strategies that help you to be more flexible even in uncertain times? I’d love to hear about your elasticity factor.
Here is a recap of the links listed above:
- Elastic Is Fantastic – Flexibility Breeds Creativity – YouTube Video
- Spark Women’s Leadership Conference
- Flip Side of Failing
- Can the Glass be Both Half Full and Half Empty?
- Flipping Failure into Resilience
- Marion Howell of The Iris Group
PS. SPARK has gone virtual this year! My dear speaker friends Stephanie Staples, Pamela Barnum, and Paul Krismer are taking the virtual stage and you will NOT want to miss these superstars!