Sunday, November 23, 2008

Looking forward to 2009

It has been a long time since I have had the energy to post here – for three reasons.

First, I got a new job in February after a few months on “hiatus.” I went from working for 15 years for one company (moving forward through several positions) to working for 3 companies in 3 years (and lots of contract jobs along the way). I have gone back to work for a big corporation, mainly for all the benefits that come with a salaried position. More on that later, but in a nutshell I am now in a position that is challenging and I work with people that appreciate my skills and are fun to be around. I’m in a much better place now and feel like I am free to enjoy my work and I am set up to be successful – this is good. Of course, this requires just a little over 40 hours a week, but it is manageable.

Second, I began my term this year leading a women’s alumnae organization. Many of you do not have to read any further to know how difficult this role is (I saw you roll your eyes!). I’m thinking of forming a “Recovering Presidents Society;” let me know if you’d like to join RPS. I fought taking on the role last year and tried to get out of it when I got a glimpse of whom I’d be working with, but when I realized there was no second string, I just dug in and decided to not give up. Imagine leading a team of women with strong personalities, work-focused MBA graduates and most without children. Now imagine a mission-focused detail-oriented leader, used to succeeding in a mixed work environment (males and females), experienced at the mission at hand (which was basically fund raising and event planning), leading volunteers who are new to their roles and who may not react kindly to input from others. As the year went on, the hours consumed any spare time I had. We raised more funding than we had before, cut expenses and knocked down a looming deficit, and had many very successful events – mission accomplished. However, some conflicts ensued and while the year turned out great, the bitter taste is taking a long time to go away.

Women act differently when they are working exclusively with women. I’ve seen it before in women’s organizations like this one, and even in an all-female company that I once worked for. Women in this environment become more critical, more prone to attack personalities and not situations, and lose the concept of managerial norms that you have in corporations (no S.T.A.R. feedback here!). Having all the work done at night after hours in email doesn’t help, and stress happens. One particular board member is very much like Nellie Olsen from Little House on the Prairie – and after a few threatening attacks from her as if she was a teenage bully, I feel like I am in recovery with PTSD; I’m not kidding. And, sadly, I probably won’t lend my support to another women’s organization any time soon.

I had brunch recently with another leader of another large women’s alliance in town. We both had similar roles this year and I wanted to see if her year fared any better. She resigned after four months. She said she could not handle the women not willing to step out and make a decision themselves, but wanting to collaborate on every decision so that small details took much too long to accomplish due to management by committee. She had other comments too on what happens when a group is made up entirely of women, but in a nutshell her comment was “It is no wonder that women are not advancing in corporate America at the same rate as men. The problems we are bemoaning are our own faults in leadership.” That was a bombshell to me, but honestly I have read this over and over again in articles about working women. As for me, I will continue to mentor other women individually and will crusade for women to be better leaders in my immediate corporate or community surroundings, but that is about it. After spending 5 years in this women’s organization, someone else can carry the baton. Nellie is actually picking it up from here, and more power to her. I think she’ll have a different perspective on leadership this time next year.

Third - obviously, I’ve successfully immersed myself in work round the clock (thus little time to post to a blog) and gained little. I’ve missed out on enjoying many things this year and have let work habits eclipse my health and my happiness. This is something I will not do in 2009. I believe that having a balanced life at all times is a myth, but you must constantly devote time to growing in one of four areas: intellectually, emotionally, physically, and spiritually. I did grow spiritually this year – and thank God for that or I wouldn’t have made it through. I spent lots of time on intellectual as I always do, but in 2009 I am going to focus on improving the quality of my life emotionally and physically.

Plus, I’ve been dealing with not having kids, and I have some good news to report – some other time. Right now, I need to turn off my brain, enjoy making dinner with my husband and settle down to watch Desperate Housewives.