A Few of my Favorite Things …An Ode to Minneapolis/St Paul = Verse 1 Non Profits

I thought about titling this post “The Best of….” but realized that I am a sample size of one and as such it would be ridiculous for me to claim that any of these are “the best” from a purely statistical stand point. Then I realized, when in doubt, lean on The Sound of Music and … this blog post was born.

Over the last month, my routine has changed dramatically and its opened up whole new worlds of appreciation to me. I’d love to share my favorites with you! (by category and with links so that you can check them out as well!)

CAUSES/PROJECTS

Market Based Strategy – I am helping Lutheran Social Service – LSS (Maureen Warren and Laura Blue) think through a market entry strategy to Rochester/Olmstead County.  LSS has always done a great job of service based strategies (adoption, immigrants, etc) but hasn’t had the opportunity to look at their business from a holistic market perspective.  Rochester/Olmstead is growing and LSS needs a presence in order to help support that growth.  Its fun to take their traditional methodologies and tip them on their side to create a new view and possibility for LSS.

Local to National ReachThe Jeremiah Program has an audacious goal to take their amazing 2 generation out of poverty model national. This means 300x growth in the next few years. In order to grow responsibility, it meant they needed to expand their operations and double down on operational leadership.  I am working with Jess Lehman, their new COO, to envision what their new routines, processes, measures and metrics will be. We meeting weekly and its fun to riff off her ideas for the women and children they support.

Piloting Community LeadershipThe United Way is piloting a new skills based leadership model with 5 nonprofits, 5 corporations, 5 mentors and 25 emerging leaders.  I am so excited to be a mentor for one of the cohorts.  The cohort teams (5 leaders) will work with a nonprofit for 3 months on a strategic project. The cohorts will get leadership and cultural training while the nonprofits get exposure to emerging leaders.  Win/Win… Speaking of….

Local Nonprofit – My United Way mentor project supports PRISM. I LOVE this because PRISM is 1/2 mile from my house and an amazing local nonprofit that helps people through their food shelf, thrift shop, and other needs.  It feels good to be a part of a pilot program that is helping my neighborhood.

Trauma Informed Care – Its been fascinating to be a part of the board at Greater Minneapolis Crisis Nursery and learn about their innovative research and approach to trauma informed care.  They are working with Harvard and have 2 grants to bring “The Nursery Way” to other nonprofits in town (Jeremiah!! …yes, it is a small world and Casa de Esperanza) Their mission is to end child abuse and the way they are approaching it is world class.

Adoption Connections – As the Vice President of the board at Bellis, I am so proud of our latest effort.  We recently piloted an adoption connection group that brought together 30+ people that are touched by adoption to share their stories and support each other. We had birth mothers, adopted parents, birth grandparents and adopted people.  It was a rich conversation and we scored a 8.5 out of 10 on impact. We plan on hosting these every other month so be on the look out. We’d love to see our numbers grow and are trying to understand how to weave the foster care experience into our audience base.

Wrap Around Support for Young AdultsConnections 2 Independence blows my mind. They are small, but mighty, group of adults led by Jessica Rogers and Michelle May that help usher foster care youth into adulthood.  They bring ALL their talents, ideas and support to the table to give 360 exposure and support to these kids. They help them with financial, mental, physical, career and education. They also embrace yoga, meditation and all types of self care.

Therapeutic Foster Care – I had never even heard of this term before last summer when we were connected with Anu. They are a growing foster care nonprofit that is revolutionizing how to think about foster care placement and support for kids, social workers and foster families. They believe that everyone needs to work together and be healthy if we are going to best support these kids in their goals of permanence. They started in Wisconsin but are starting to expand in Minnesota, keep an eye on them along with their sister organization ….

Child Welfare Reform Alia is a BRAND NEW nonprofit that has grown out of the learnings/vision of Anu. While Anu delivers services, Alia is poised to change child welfare nation wide. They have an upcoming symposium, being lead by IDEO that will reimagine child welfare. Its called 10 for 10 and I have my fingers crossed that my application will be accepted as a participant!

Social Justice Reform Marnita’s Table is taking a totally different approach to social reform through connectedness. They bring people together in Intentional Social Interaction (ISI) that includes community, food, dialog and listening. The model is based on data and science but feels like a warm hug. I’m on the waiting list to be trained in ISI. If you ever get a chance to go to one of there events, the food is wonderful and the people even better!

Creating CommunitySweet Potato Comfort Pies are using a similar approach to drive dialog across divides (violence, equity gaps, social issues) through sweet potato pies. You come together the day before to make pies, the next day those pies are served in a community discussion to address a significant issue in the community. Each table is then given pies to take out to someone that needs one (could be a friend, neighbor, coworker, organization).  Its all about putting out there what you want for your community and making it happen. The pies are the icing on the cake. Are they good!!

(I’ll be updating my journey with the above organizations in the Causes section of this website, check back for monthly updates!)

But wait … there’s more! My 1st draft of this was twice as long so …. be on the look out for verse 2!  In fact, you can now subscribe to my website and it’ll automatically push to you when I post.  Check it out on my home page = About Me, at the bottom.

Tell me which are your favorite causes/nonprofits!!

 

 

Day in the Life

Lately I’ve been responding to well meaning inquiries about how the career change journey is going.  What they are really asking is … what are you doing? (read between the lines…what do you do all day?!)  These are friends, family and former coworkers that truly interested in understanding and supporting my journey.  They are also people that know me well and know that …

~  I have a lot of energy

~ I need to be productive

~ I push myself out of my comfort zone

~ I love having big goals and enjoy the planning process to achieve them

Basically, they cannot imagine me home alone all day. Neither can I! After a long conversation with my mom on what a typical day looks like, I thought, why not share?  So, here it is, a day in the life …

6:00-6:30am – get 3 of the kids up, fed, remind them what they need for school (i.e.: nag), try to get of my husbands way while he’s making lunches, check my calendar for the next day, send out email confirmations along with my networking bio and specific agenda topics/questions

6:30-7:30am – walk dog, do my affirmations, think about my day, week, approach, problems I’m trying to solve

7:30-9:00am – get the final kid up, fed, nag him (i.e.: remind him of his day), get him to the bus, shower, send follow up emails, meeting requests, write blogs/update website, research jobs and potential organizations

9:00-10:00am – meet with 1 of the 3 projects I’m working on – ask questions, be a thought partner, offer tools/solutions, coach on how to use tools/solutions, develop next steps

10:00-10:30am – drive (I’m seeing parts of the Twin Cities I’ve never seen before!)

10:30-11:30am – networking meeting to learn more about the persons experience, organization, connections. I’m currently focused on learning more about a the best path of entrance into a few key organizations that I am targeting along with understanding who are the decision makers and influencers.  Ask how I can help them.

11:30-12:00pm – drive (LOVE The Current 89.3)

12:00-1:15pm – 2nd networking meeting of the day (see above)

1:15-1:45pm – drive (are you sensing a pattern…)

1:45-2:00pm – quick check email and phone as needed

2:00-2:30pm – 3rd networking meeting of the day (trying to have 10-15 networking meetings per month)

2:30-3:00pm – drive home and squeeze in some office time, check emails, messages, do some project work, etc

3:00-3:15pm – feed 2 girls prior to 4 hours of gymnastics

3:15-3:45pm – check job postings, update networking bio, update networking grid

3:45-6:00pm – drive to 2 girls to gymnastics, and 3 boys to taekwondo, from basketball, from nordic ski and occasionally drums and guitar

6:00-7:00pm – send thank you emails to the people I met with today and the people that referred/introduced me to them

7:00-7:45pm – rest, talk to my husband about our schedule for the next day, help with dinner/laundry/etc

7:45-8:15pm – drive from gymnastics

8:15-9:00pm – dinner, dishes, family time (THANK GOD I have a husband who is a fantastic cook)

9:00-9:30pm – try to stay awake

9:30pm – give up, go to bed (to be honest, I need to start at 9:30 if I have any hope of getting the kids settled down and in bed by 10:30)

Variations on the above:

~ Networking groups – I’m trying to attend one job transition and/or senior leader networking group per week

~ Training – I’m committing to 1 training class per month, so far I’ve taken … a networking class, a social justice class, the IDI assessment and am signed up for 2 leadership classes

~ Coaching – I meet with my coach on a monthly basis. She does a great job of helping me plan my goals for the next month and brainstorm fresh approaches to networking

~ Kids – I’ve decided that its impossible to job hunt when the kids aren’t in school, so I’m not fighting it. When the kids are off, I’m off (but I’d say its no less work having 4 kids home from school given their activities)

~ Mentoring – I’m giving back by mentoring others on the job search journey, I meet with 1-2 people a week and help them think about what’s next, who I can connect them with and provide references

~ Board work – I’m on 2 boards (Crisis Nursery and Bellis) along with the Finance Committee at Childrens Home Society. With the committees I’m on (development and event planning) this adds another 2 meetings a month, which are learning experiences in an of themselves plus a great behind the scenes look at nonprofit governance

This new schedule is fun, exhausting, challenging and exciting. I get the opportunity to meet (and learn) from some seriously impressive and accomplished leaders, I am sharing my talents in my project work, I’m learning a ton about the depth and breadth of the nonprofit community in the Twin Cities and I feel like I’m a step closer to my goals everyday.

I’d say I’m doing pretty good. I’ve got a big goal, am working my plan, get to surround myself with people and am adding real value.  I’m proud of myself (just dont stop by on a Friday night, I’m in bed by 9:00pm :))

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Join our team! Job Seekers Wanted!!

Do I have your attention? I should!  As a job seeker, I am constantly scanning the market for a role that will match my experience, skill set, passion and leadership style.  Not only do I want to add value in the role, but I want to feel accepted into the organization, find new ways to learn and grow and be empowered to bring my best self to work each day.

What I am realizing is … job seeking IS a job.  It has requirements, expectations, achievements, learnings and collaborations.  While it may not be a job that pays money (in the short run), it can deliver value and be extremely rewarding (& fun!).

The challenging part is … its a new job, one I haven’t done in 20+ years (at least externally to Target) and requires me to be performing, at my best, day 1. The learning curve is extremely steep, requiring daily vulnerability and retrospect; which can be emotionally exhausting.

So, I did a bit of internet research and decided to write a job description for all of us job seekers as validation. Validation that we what are doing every day IS real work, IS value added and IS part of our natural/planned career path.*


Job Description

Seeking a highly motivated individual that can perform the job responsibilities for an indefinite period marked by infrequent and unpredictable feedback cycles. Candidates must possess excellent communication and organizational skills and be wiling to work variable hours at multiple locations; both onsite and offsite.  The ability to be responsive, resilient and positive in the face of set backs and redirection is critical. Recognition will come in the form of new roles/responsibilities within a new organization (aka, the opportunity to learn a new job).

Responsibilities

  • Cultivate 10-15 networking meetings per week, every week. This can include; cold calling, warm calls to friends/family/former coworkers and attending events.
  • Dedicate ~ 6 hours per week, every week to online research of potential contacts, organizations, leaders, industry developments and shifting policies.
  • Attend training to further skills including; leadership training, continuing education in target sector, personal development, reading and technical training.
  • Identify and initiate 2-4 skill based volunteering/consulting opportunities to build skill set in sector, cultivate credibility and produce results.
  • Attend industry forums and, if appropriate, serve on boards/advisory councils which support target sector.
  • Offer references, referrals, connections, support and coaching to both hiring managers and fellow job seekers; sharing your experience, learnings and intellectual capital.

Note: the above should be completed in ~30 hours/week, any effort beyond this has diminishing returns

Skills Needed

  • Business etiquette
  • Attention to detail
  • Listening
  • Written and verbal communication
  • Organization
  • Self direction
  • Sales and marketing
  • Persistance
  • Time management
  • Leadership
  • Social media and new technology acumen
  • Data synthesis & analysis
  • Market research
  • Customer service
  • Negotiation
  • Brand management
  • Marketing strategy
  • Relationship management
  • Prospecting
  • Performance monitoring
  • Multitasking
  • Project management
  • Other duties assigned (for me this includes…carpooling for kids sports, homework, lunches and doctors appointments)

Previous Experience

Good news! All experience levels will be considered; recent graduates, individual contributors, leaders, advanced degrees, consultants, volunteers, sector shifters, returning to the workforce, etc.  A variety of life experiences is preffered.

Wages and Compensation

None. However, be prepared to buy coffees, breakfast, lunches and drinks at happy hour. Also prepare to invest in training, website support, resume coaching and career counseling.  Your gas budget will also increase.

Benefits

No… health insurance, pension, tuition reimbursement, paid holidays, stock options or independent working conditions

Priceless …experience meeting new people, assisting with connections, learning new sectors, understanding yourself better


I fully suspect that once I get good at this job (and I will) fate will land me in my next role. Given that, my pledge is to continue to help other job seekers and keep my search skills fresh/current, especially once I land a new role.

Does this sound right? What am I missing?  What doesn’t ring true? Feedback welcome!!

* shout out to Hanna Morgan at Career Sherpa, her blog provided some of the content and inspiration for this blog

 

 

 

Introducing, my Board of Advisors

As I continue my journey into nonprofit leadership I wanted to start by giving a very public ‘Thank You’ to some key people. Each of these amazing people has played a big part in my decision to move into nonprofit and my learning journey to date. I couldn’t do what I am doing without their help, support, encouragement, honesty, cheerleading and commitment.

This is my personal board of advisors (also know as Team Tracy).  As with any group, the diversity of experience, outlook, skill sets and strengths is key. I think you’ll see I have a world class team supporting me.

Maureen Warren – Chief Family Services Officer at Lutheran Social Service (LSS), Benilde St Margaret (BSM) alumni and amazing sponsor for me over the last year. Maureen has helped me get on the Childrens Home Society Finance Committee, introduced me to Jodi Harpstead (CEO at LSS) and I’ll be working with her on a new business development project for LSS, we kicked off last week!  (See my causes page for updates on my project work)

Jill Hardy Heath – President and CEO of The Heart of America Foundation, former Targeteer, former nonprofit consultant and good family friend. Jill has given me great insight into the CEO recruitment process and helps me think about how to translate my Target experience into skills the nonprofit world will understand. (otherwise known as deprograming from Target)

Jane Hopkins Gould – Currently starting in a new role and has held every major nonprofit CFO role in the Twin Cities. We serve on the Crisis Nursery Board together and she is my newest recruit to Operation Tracy.

Steve Kowalke – CFO at Sherwood Forest (a nonprofit consulting company) and former Treasurer at Target, plus fellow adoptive parent of amazing kids from South Korea. Steve has given me so much to think about, connections to pursue (Maureen!) and encouragement to follow my passion.  (he was a role model for us when we were adopting our 3 kids)

Tom Murphy – COO of the Murphy Household and life partner. Tom supports me in ALL I do and if the 1st person I go to on a good day, bad day and all the in-between days. Plus he gives great advice and council on whats best for us, as a family. (he also supports all my crazy ideas, like moving to India with 60 days notice and commuting to Toronto for 4 months – he deserves a medal)

Dan Haugen – President Alder Graduate School and former Executive Director of Neighborhood Involvement Program. Dan is husband to my long time friend and co-worker Karrie and has been in this business a long time. Great resource for the context of where nonprofit is today. (he knows everyone and everything that made the nonprofit sector in the Twin Cities the amazing hub it is today)

Jim Fellows – My personal brand and digital guru. Jim has been instrumental in this journey in helping me formalize my vision/values, setting up my website, creating the messages I want in the world and being a editor extrodinaire on my blog posts. (he also played guitar in our wedding and is Jimmys godfather)

Karen Kodzik – Karen is my career coach and owner/founder of Cultivating Careers. She is an amazing source of knowledge and advice on sector shifting career moves and really “gets” the sector shift I’m making. She keeps me accountable, on track and puts up with my crazy. (seriously, if you are considering a move, call her)

I think you can see, there is no way I can fail with this team behind me and… I feel a strong commitment to making these folks proud.

Who’s on your board of advisors?

 

You are here ….

Thought I’d give an update on where I’m at, similar to the information board at the mall with the ‘you are here’ star; helping me understand where I am so that I can figure out where I’m going. Or as Steven Wright says, “I have an existential map. It has ‘You are here’ written all over it”.  That’s how I feel right now… It’s been a crazy (but fun) few weeks with networking, job search, projects, the holidays, vacation, etc.

Starting at the top …

Networking  – Its been amazing! I’m meeting 10-15 new, like minded people a week. They have great ideas, insights and connections to share and I feel like I have been able to help them as well. I’ve connected a good friend to new consulting opportunities, found a new speaker for another friends speaker series and acted as a referral and reference for coworkers in the job hunt process. Feels good to be busy and I LOVE making these connections! There are so many well intentioned smart people in this world.

Projects – My project work with LSS, Pollen and Jeremiah are moving along (see my monthly updates in the Causes section of this blog). In addition, I’ve been asked to be 1 of 5 mentors in a pilot for the Leaders United program within the United Way. Its a 6 month program that connects midlevel corporate managers with nonprofits that need skills based help.  The goal is that both parties get learning, growth and new insights.  The kick off is in late January and I can hardly wait!

Job Search – Leading up to the holidays, I was fortunate enough to be considered for a very big role in an amazing organization.  It was my 1st experience with an executive search firm (LymanDoran, they are wonderful!) and the process moved really quickly. In 3 short weeks I had …. my screening interview, an in-depth interview with LymanDoran, 2 interviews with the search committee on the Board, 3 online assessments and a psych evaluation through The Bailey Group (another impressive organization).  I also researched the h-ll out of the functional space, leveraged my network of friends/peers to get ready/organized and prepped for the interviews, even creating a 30/60/90 day learning plan should I have gotten the role. It was so gratifying and fun to immerse myself in this new space and process. Naturally, I got excited about the organization’s culture, mission, board and clients they serve. The board is amazing; pragmatic, creative and really committed to getting the right leader to move the organization forward through all the change that is coming in that sector. However, I learned that while I was 1 of 2 finalists, I wasn’t their final choice. I was disappointed.  I could picture myself working there, making a difference and being part of really big change.  However, I also felt really proud that I had made it so far down the process and it was validating to know that I can compete for big roles in the nonprofit space.  My goals are do-able!  In the meantime, I hope I created positive credibility around my leadership style and skill set.  AND, I have 7 new connections that know what I am seeking and understand what I can offer. So, while this opportunity didn’t work out, it was a great learning and has prepped me for the “right” opportunity.  And, I’ll be their biggest cheerleader when they announce their new leader and the changes that are coming.  Its all good stuff!!

Vacation – I took off the full 2 weeks the kids were out of school. This included celebrating Christmas, my son’s 12th birthday and traveling to Costa Rica to see my sister and entire family for a once in a lifetime adventure.  My sister and her boys have lived in Costa Rica for 16 years.  While my family has visited sporadically and separately, we’ve never all traveled together on a holiday.  There were 17 of us including 9 kids (7 of which were boys). It was fun, hectic, stressful, relaxing and an amazing life experience to share as a family. It was also good to get away and get a bit of perspective,I want to make sure I’m headed in the right direction for the right reasons. But, feeling a bit of the adage … I need a vacation after my vacation.

Now, I’m back at it. I have a laundry list of ‘to do’s’ for the start of 2017; amazing people to connect with, projects that are getting real and exciting and new organizations to research that weren’t previously on my radar. Also excited that new roles will open up with the start of the new year and I’ll be able to put my newly flexed interview skills to work in the near future.

All is good.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Work in Progress

As I’ve been looking back over my last set of posts, I realized that I’ve been sharing a lot about personal lessons learned. It hit me that this makes me seem like I have it all together.  Not so!  Like most of us, there are lessons that I still need to learn and that I “go to school” on each day. I love the concept of growth mindset – the theory is that we all have the capacity to continue to grow and learn, no matter our age or situation. A big part of the theory is adding ‘yet’ to the end of each sentence.  I’m not good at ___ yet.  I don’t have the success I want at ____ yet.  Do you see how that changes the possibilities?

Conversely, I am not a big fan of New Years resolutions but … it is the time of year that we start thinking about – out with the old and in with the new.  So, rather than resolutions, I thought I’d share my journey, what lessons am I currently learning, what I haven’t done yet and what I continue to need to work on.

Listening – Really listening; to tone, body language, feelings … without distraction and without thinking of what I am going to say next.  This is the hardest at home, especially with Tom.  We are in such close proximity with each other, for so long, that its easy to get lulled into thinking I know what he’s going to say or (worse) what he’s thinking.  He continues to surprise me and I need to get better at really listening to him.

Being vs doing – We are human beings, not human doings.  I am a very very good doer, I want to get better at just being.  If I’m being honest with myself, I am jealous of the dog. Nikki is all about being. She enjoys a warm spot on the floor, in the sun. She LOVES fresh snow and goes absolutely bonkers to just run through the snow unleashed. Nothing is accomplished by this other than pure joy.

Being present – I think this is at the core of the above challenges but … with 4 kids, a husband and a dog, its easy to move from one thing to another without thinking, on auto pilot. I want to take more notice of my surroundings; people, nature, music, food…  Now that I’m the family chauffeur, I need to be more aware of the invaluable car time I get with the kids.  Perfect opportunity to connect with them on a micro level with whats happening in their lives.  And, with all my driving lately, I was able to see 2 sun dogs last week.  NEVER would have gotten that experience at work behind my desk.

Say “yes” – Especially as a parent, my 1st inclination is usually ‘no’.  Why not ‘yes’?!  Whats the harm in saying ‘yes’ more?  The kids are past the point of unconditional spoiling, we have laid a ground work of strong values and now … they need to make their own mistakes and have their own learnings. How can they do that if I’m always saying no?  Plus, I suspect it’ll be a lot more fun around here if I say yes more frequently.

How will I do this?  One tiny baby step at a time. In past years I have challenged myself by taking drum lessons for a year in Cananda (fulfilling a long lost desire to be a drummer in 7th grade), taking up a bit jogging on my morning walks (not my favorite endeavor but proud that I worked through it), committing to riding my bike more (rode in November this year!) and having a book constantly in progress of being read (just finished the new Lee Child Reacher book but my favorite this year was All the Light We Cannot See).  (What a minute?! These all sound an awful lot like doing not being, yikes!! I have a lot of work to do…)

This year, this post is my 1st baby step. You keeping me accountable is my 2nd.  Other baby steps I’m considering and ideas I need to noodle on …

  • Giving myself permission for a nap, or to watch ridiculously stupid TV shows
  • Turning off my phone in the car so that I’m really with my kids
  • Putting down my phone and listening to Tom at the end of each day
  • Looking for reasons to say ‘yes’ to the kids – ice cream runs, one more TV show, quick stops at Starbucks

And, in typical universal serendipity, my friend Michael Sunnarborg posted this as a great reminder today…. https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/kringle-coaches-warlock-change-imminent-michael-thomas-sunnarborg?trk=hp-feed-article-title-publish

What are you working on? What’s your “yet” statement?  Whats your work in progress as we move through the holiday season and into the new year?

 

 

 

 

Leadership Lessons from India

As I have been preparing to tell my story in networking meetings and potential interviews, I know that a common question will be “tell me about your leadership style”. This is a hard question to answer succinctly. It requires self reflection and honesty. Not to mention, how do any of us boil down what we’ve done and what we’ve learned into a quick, compelling elevator speech? Here’s my attempt. Let me know what you think….

In 2006, my husband and I set off on a life altering experience in India. With 60 days notice, we packed up our 3 kids (ages 4, 2 and 1) and headed to Bangalore for what we thought would be a year long adventure. We ended up living in Bangalore 2 and a 1/2 years and we had many adventures and many many more learnings.

We moved so that I could take a role supporting Target in setting up a captive offshore office. We knew we could find IT talent and we weren’t interested in call centers so the question was, what other type of work could we leverage in India? That was my assignment….understand the talent and skill sets while finding business processes that could be executed 1/2 way around the world. Target India is now 10 years old and wildly successful, but thats a different blog:)

To say that India changed us would be a gross understatement and misleading. I don’t think either Tom or I were ‘changed’ but we did grow, as human beings, more in that 2 1/2 years than we did in the prior 10 years combined.

I believe that true growth is only possible when you are uncomfortable. Well, we were totally and complete uncomfortable each and every second we lived in India. Everything was different; sights, sounds, smells, tastes, language, weather, traffic, customs … and it came at you at an onslaught pace. We were forced out of our comfort zone and we loved every minute of it! Its why I’m such a big believer that everyone should get comfortable with being uncomfortable.

The biggest learning, for me, came as a leader. I quickly realized that everything I did/didn’t do, said/didn’t say, was observed, analyzed and most likely talked about at dinner tables. This was a huge responsibility. My goal was to successfully represent women leaders (there were few at the time), Target (a completely unknown entity), Americans (we don’t always have a great reputation) and adoptive parents (culturally non-mainstream).

I quickly developed an affinity for Ganesha, the elephant god. Ganesha is the remover of obstacles, the patron of arts and sciences (left and right brain) and devo of intellect and wisdom. Aren’t those great leadership traits?!

Ganesha is also full of symbolism. A typical representation of Ganesha will have 20+ symbolic means embedded in the figure. The ones that most resonate with me, for leadership …

Large ears – listen more

Small mouth – speak less

One tusk – single pointedness and focus

Trunk – strong enough to move a tree but flexible enough to pick up a needle

Rat – you’ll always see a rat with Ganesha, it represents our ego/senses and how, if left uncontrolled, they’ll eat away at all our good work

I keep a Ganesha on my desk at work as a daily reminder. Tom and I also keep him in a few, well placed, rooms in the house (including the bathroom) as reminders of our time and India and who we want to be as leaders.

What is your leadership style? Who is your symbolic leadership figure? How do you tell your story?

(India friends, keep me honest on the Ganesha symbolism!! Feel free to tell me if I’ve missed the mark or am just plain wrong…)

Gratitude, Option B and Giving Back

For me, November is a time to be grateful. Not only is it Thanksgiving, but its also National Adoption Month.  This year, I’ve been thinking a lot about adversity, giving back and the gratitude that grows from those experiences.

What I have learned is that the most meaningful times of gratitude come, not when things are going well, but when things fall apart.  The loss of a job, a health crisis, the break up of a relationship …. these all are painful times of loss. But, when I come through the other side, I realize how grateful I am for the experience, people, learning, growth and solidarity that comes from times of struggle. And, it spurs me to reach out, give back and support others in their struggles.

Life hasn’t always gone as planned for Tom or I.  Option A hasn’t always panned out.  Adoption is a great example. While it is a beautiful (and I’d argue the ultimate) expression of love, for our family it was born of extreme loss.  Loss for our childrens birth parents – the chance to raise and parent these amazing human beings. Loss for us as adoptive parents – the chance to experience pregnancy and parent biologically. Loss for our kids – they’ve loss their culture and history, regardless of how we try to replicate it for them.  This doesn’t mean adoption wasn’t worth the effort. It IS!  In fact, I can’t imagine my life without these specific kids in our family and as my children. As a good friend said, we have exactly the kids we were meant to have. However, Tom and I need to remember that our family is built on extremely hard choices and ones we need to honor every day.

For us, honoring those choices means we need to ‘kick the sh*t out of option B’ (as Sheryl Sandberg would say).

‘Kicking the sh*t out of option B’ means raising my kids with intention while supporting meaningful causes so that others can find ways to kick the sh*t out of their option B’s.  Examples:

Bellis (mybellis.org) – This organization supports and educates around modern adoption; the language, process and well being of all involved.  As the Board VP, I’m committed to helping us reach more people with our message of choice, hope, support and eliminating shame for all involved. We do this through school panel discussions, birthmother retreats and social worker education. Soon we’ll be launching adoption network meetings where anyone impacted by adoption (hint: thats all of us) can share their stories and support each other.

Children’s Home Society (CHLSS.org) – They are a premier adoption agency that holds the highest standards in ethics and process integrity for all involved. They are also the agency we used with our kids. I want other people to have the support, advocacy, education and guidance that we experienced in our adoption journey.  In order to do this, they need to be solid financially and I’m so honored to serve on the Finance Committee to help ensure others are able to use their services.

Gift of Adoption (giftofadoption.org) – My husband is an active board member, organizing their annual fundraising event, Golf for the Gift.  GOA is a grant making nonprofit that helps families with unexpected adoption expenses. Expenses that might have prevented them from bringing home their children.  Its amazing to hear the stories of perseverance and hope.  These parents are SO committed to helping children have a forever family and brighter future.

Greater Minneapolis Crisis Nursery (crisisnursery.org) – I am humbled by the parents that choose to use Crisis Nursery. We all know that parenting is hard. Its hard when you have support, resources, stability and a strong personal life experience. Imagine how hard it is to parent when any one of those is missing?  Then, imagine how hard it is to admit that you need help and seek it out?  I am part of the board (development committee) and I serve with gratitude; finding new ways to fund and expand our program so that more families and take advantage of our services.

For Tom and I gratitude, option B and giving back are all part of a higher process. When we have experienced adversity, we sought to make the best of it (option B). As we came through the adversity, we honored the beauty in the struggle (gratitude for blessings in disguise). This gratitude moved us to give back and share our talents, experiences and support for others as they move through adversity. And so the cycle begins again…

So, this season, what are you grateful for, how are you kicking the sh*t out of option B and how will you give back?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Life lessons at the Berlin Wall

This month marks the 27th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.  What a wonderful metaphor for my life lessons and the beginning of my life’s mission; bearing witness to and nurturing people through times of profound change.

The story themes/life lessons are captured in ()’s

That girl in the photo is me, I was studying math in Budapest during the fall of ’89. It was a rigorous course to finish out our math majors and it required me to be all in on my studies. But, that didn’t keep us from traveling and exploring eastern Europe whenever we got a slight break in the curriculum.  We booked train tickets to see East Berlin, figuring it was a once in a life time opportunity, little did we know…. (plan but be ready for anything)

As we called home on the free/underground pay phones* (get scrappy) to update our parents of our plans, we learned that rumors of the wall falling were all over the western newspapers. Our parents were scared, we were excited – a chance to be part of history! (don’t shy away from opportunities)

As the train got closer to East Berlin, it filled with all classes, shapes and sizes of people, there were even a few chickens, and the noise level rose exponentially. We all wanted to see for ourselves the demise of Check Point Charlie and the Iron Curtain. (being part of something larger than you is meaningful)

While we planned ahead enough book train tickets to East Berlin, we hadn’t booked any rooms.  Needless to say, our 1st night was spent in McDonalds in West Berlin, each of taking a 30 min “turn” eating happy meal as slowly as we could while the others slept, heads on tables. This did have a benefit, we were the 1st people in line at the hostel when it opened the next day! (collaboration is key)

I have very few memories of the weekend but the emotions are still clear; the excitement, camaraderie, feeling of hopefulness and shared awe were overwhelming. (connections happen at the emotional level, not the fact based level)  I was hooked, I knew I wanted to find ways to replicate these feelings.

As I look back, I see how these themes have threaded through my life experiences.

Some examples …

Plan but be ready for anything – Tom and I fought infertility for 2 years. After our IVF attempt failed, we submitted our adoption paperwork and Jimmy came home 9 months later.  We prepared to get pregnant but all that really mattered, in the long run, was that we were ready to be parents.

Get scrappy – Our wedding was at a summer camp, everyone brought sleeping bags and we held the guests hostage for 2 days of camp fires, camp songs, swimming and Johnny Appleseed.  We didn’t have a event planner so, on the morning of the wedding, everyone had to pick a “chore” out of the hat for the day (set up chairs, set the tables, serve the wine, etc) Tom and I pulled “pick up the porto potty”, its my favorite memory of my wedding day and the fact that everyone was literally a part of our wedding day brought everyone closer together.

Don’t shy away from opportunities – Tom and I moved to Bangalore with 60 days notice, 3 kids under 4 and without having ever been there as the 1st family Target ever expiated. It was the best experience in our marriage and for our family, shaping who we are today with a global perspective.

Being part of something larger than you is meaningful – In May of 2004 I had the honor of attending negotiations training at Harvard. I happened to be there when Boston passed a law and granted the 1st same sex marriage licenses in the country.  The people in my class were so excited, it was all we could talk about in class. We rushed city hall at midnight and were so moved by how many people showed up to support the couples exercising their right to marry.

Collaboration is key – In starting up Target Canada, we were on tight deadlines with impossible expectations. The ONLY way to make it work was to trust the people around us.  The very best peer leadership experiences of my career where on Friday mornings when each of the functional directors came together to solve problems for the whole. It was amazing to watch the progress we made on a daily basis when we saw our problems, not individually, but as a collective commitment to solve together.

Connections happen at the emotional level, not the fact based level – During the last 2 years of my tenure at Target, we dealt with a lot of change, including layoffs. I was continually humbled by how everyone pulled together to support their peers that were impacted.  We held resume writing sessions, people wrote LinkedIN recommendations, scoured job postings … it became our mission to help each other.  In fact, one of my friends commented “I know that this is hard and devastating, but its also sort of fun. I’m making connections with people who really care about my wellbeing and success and are willing to help me land on my feet”.

As they say in Spinal Tap   ‘There’s a thin line between clever and stupid.’  I’d like to think that I’ve landed on the clever side of the line more often than not due, in part, to learning my life lessons and finding my life mission.

I truly believe I am hear to bear witness and nurture people through times of profound change.

What are your life lessons and how have they shaped your life mission?

Tracy

*there were “free” pay phones, you had to know where they were located, follow a series of beeps and enter a code and …you’d get a free international call – in hindsight I’m sure it was an underground communication network but as poor college students it was a cheap way to stay in touch with our parents

 

 

 

 

Old Dogs – New Tricks

Wow, when I left the corporate sector and started my journey of moving into nonprofit, little did I realize that it would include launching my own website!

Those of you that know me know that I’m a luddite. I can speak and understand technical terms but, beyond being a simple user, I am hopeless.

Luckily we are all blessed with amazing people in our lives and my friend Jim Fellows is a great example.

He’s been coaching me and helping me launch this site and I’ve learned SO much from him. I. AM. SO. GRATEFUL!

He’s also pushed me into Instagram and Pinterest. I have yet to take the leap into Facebook (other than stalking Tom’s Facebook) or Twitter (am not concise or pithy enough), so check me out there as well.

So, who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks?

I just launched this site, Instagram and Pinterest and 30 days ago these weren’t even considerations for my next steps.

Welcome to the digital world Tracy…. One more admin task checked off my list 🙂 (see previous post)