Tag Archives: women’s transition issues

Leaving and Leading

By this time – many years into solid research on transitioning – one might imagine that I’ve learned all there is to know about the topic.  I was reminded after my recent trip to San Francisco of how untrue this line of thinking really is.  I am happy to report that I returned from California dry-eyed and excited. For those who missed Remarkable Choices, I spent three-weeks in San Francisco this summer on a writing vacation. My goal was to work unimpeded on my second book. I am happy to report that by the time I checked in for my return flight, I had an entire manuscript drafted, from introduction to final chapter.

That said, the new manuscript isn’t the entire story. The trip yielded something even more special, a broader perspective on my work. This expansion starts in a place with which we are all familiar, a decision to leave.

Early Morning View

We leave all sorts of things. We leave in big and small ways. We leave family gatherings and political rallies and baseball games. We leave marriages and employers and friendships. We leave one opportunity for another more promising one. We leave anger and guilt and self-doubt for hope.

When do we leave ourselves?

Another Cafe, Pine St, San Francisco, CA

What a question, right?

San Francisco brought this question to light for me.

An Approach

Those who know me personally know that I am a process wonk. Therefore it shouldn’t surprise anyone that process was on my mind as I readied myself for the trip. Ok, it wasn’t until I was on the airplane heading west that I created a plan. But it was an important step.

Would I follow the same writing process I used with my first book? Or try something new? In the intervening years since my first book was published, a friend gave me a great book that talked about a radically different approach to story development than the one I had used earlier.  I toyed with adopting it but I was hesitant. The last thing I wanted to do was waste my time fooling around with something that would be unproductive. But what about taking a creative risk? What might be possible under that scenario?

I settled on the unproven new approach. The process had three basic steps: to create a one page description of the book’s theme; to develop a detailed chapter outline; and then, and only then, to write chapters.

In spite of my hesitation, the new process proved to be surprisingly useful.

Chinatown, San Francisco, CA

 

A Broader View of My Work

After nearly seven years writing, advocating and teaching about transition, it was very humbling to sit down and attempt to articulate a one page theme. I spent days on this. I edited and re-edited. I walked the hills of San Francisco when I got stuck. I started to get concerned that it was taking too much time. How would I make progress if I spent all my time on the earliest step?  Here is what emerged from my inelegant labors:

My work is about choice or the difficulty many of us have – including me – in making significant choices or major life decisions.  I was – after all – introduced to transition thanks to a personal calamity that left me struggling with a choice of what to do next.

By focusing on choice, I realized that transition is not an end in-and-of itself.  Transition is a process that enables growth. Our own growth. Nothing requires us to transition. It is a choice we make. We choose to grow.

We encounter many many invitations for growth over the course of our lives. Oddly, we ignore most of them. In fact, we live in a growth-phobic society. Our social norms teach us to look the other way, tamp down or create distractions when faced with an opportunity to grow. These norms leave us busy – sometimes exhausted – but no further from a growth perspective.

Once we recognize the opportunity for growth and the capacity for growth that transition offers, we learn that the secret sauce lies in ‘how we respond’ to all of this. Our progress forward relies heavily on our ability to rewire our response to a transition’s trigger or the barriers and emotions that accompany them.

Triggers or the circumstances that lead us to choose growth vary widely. Divorce, death, job loss, marriage, the birth of another child, gender re-assignment surgery or a recognition that something isn’t quite right. Transition doesn’t concern itself with differences among triggers. The common denominator in all of this is a shift, a shift in what holds value and meaning to us. The shift occurs when we re-examine our assumptions about who we are and how we make meaning in the world.

On a practical level growth is simple: we need to turn up the volume on those things that hold value and meaning to us. These things can be anything on the planet as long as they engage us at the core. By giving voice to these things that matter to us, we allow ourselves to see the path forward in an entirely new way. With this as a ballast, all of a sudden options that were hidden from us come into full view.

What About Leaving and Leading?

When most of us think about transition, we think it involves leaving something. Leaving a professional identity or a marriage or a dysfunctional familial relationship. San Francisco taught me that this departure thinking is incorrect.

Transition and growth are about leading with who we are….ourselves…in all the circumstances of our lives. Not just at work. Not only on the playground or in the kitchen or with a sibling or a dear friend. Leading with you. Your beliefs. Everywhere. Even if this involves a struggle to recalibrate who we are thanks to a previously unrecognized departure from ourselves.

This type of leading may involve leaving but it doesn’t have too.

I remember one very funny exchange I had with the CEO of a women’s fashion house that asked me to talk at their annual meeting. “Will they all leave?’ asked the CEO in a concerned tone when he learned that the my topic would be transition. I replied, “If I do my job correctly, they will bring more of who they are to the job. The exact opposite of leaving.”

If we decouple leading with leaving, transition and growth become universally available.  Through this lens, transition cannot get waylaid by the mortgage or a un-supportive boss or an overbearing family.

We get to decide how we show up every day. You don’t need to leave to lead in this way.

The converse isn’t as kind. You can leave – repeatedly – and never make a dent in transition nor growth. You will miss all of the benefits of transition and growth if you leave something but do not use your departure as an opportunity to bring up the volume on those things that hold value or meaning to you.

Leaving is often hard. Imagine if it yields nothing related to our own growth….

Leading Forward

Transition has allowed me to grow in ways I never imagined. I now operate with a connectedness to who I am that I never knew was missing and yet I can honestly say that it completes me like nothing else ever has. It is an awakening that makes me feel as if I am breathing from every pore on my body. Energetic. Joyful. Free.

May you see opportunities to add who you are to every moment that you are alive. May you respond to the invitation for growth with an open heart and begin a remarkable journey whose destination while unknown is irreplaceable. May you realize that you can have all these things by simply leading with who you are. Today.

 

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Want to talk ‘live’ about transition and growth? There are two ways you can join me for informal chats. For those in and around Boston, join me at a free drop-in series In Transition at the Winchester Public Library on the second Thursday of every month from 7-8:30 pm. Free coffee and refreshments are served. Our kick off for this season is Thursday, September 11th! Hope to see you there.

For those unable to join in person, watch for my inaugural podcast, Destination Unknown, starting this fall. Will you join me to talk about your transition? I am scheduling guests now for twelve-minute appearances. Email me if you are interested. I’d love to add your voice to our conversation. linda@womenandtransition.com.

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Copyright © 2018 Linda Rossetti & NovoFemina.com.  All rights reserved. No content on this site may be reused in any fashion without written permission from NovoFemina.com.

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Big and Small Victories

“Be who you are in big and small ways,” said Colleen DelVecchio, Director of Alumni Engagement at Smith College.  She spoke at the close of a two-day Leadership Conference, a conference that had invited me to speak about my book!  She challenged all of us there to bring our voices to every stage on which we find ourselves – from paying for coffee at a local independent coffee bar; to landing a sought after contract; to shepherding a child through the college admissions process.  To her the size of the stage was irrelevant.  What mattered was bringing ourselves to every situation. No deferring or diminishing or denying our voices.  She implored us to bring them forward…in countless ways.

 

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She wasn’t aware of it but Colleen DelVecchio was talking about an important element of transition: exercising our voices.   She – like so many of the people I encounter – overlooked transition.  Or, was it that she lacked insight into this important topic?

As I listened to her I immediately felt the distance that I’ve traveled in transition.  A journey that is underscored today by an incredible milestone, Novofemina’s fifth anniversary!

To those of you who have walked this journey with me, thank you from the bottom of my heart.  For those who are newer to our conversation, I thank you for choosing this topic.  To both camps, I am thrilled that you’re here with me.

When I began Novofemina I thought transition was a process that would allow me to reconcile conflicts between my professional and personal lives.  I approached it like a project management challenge.  I expected tasks and phases and gates and a final – albeit uncertain – deliverable.   A new job?  A new way of working?  I wasn’t certain what transition held for me but I knew that something had to give.

Today thanks to the voices of hundreds of women with whom I’ve spoken about transition my work is focused on a cause that engages my entire soul, a cause that I believe has positive implications for women.  The cause?  Transition.  Or more specifically, I am on a crusade to increase the capacity for transition in women – everywhere.

Transition occurs when there is a shift in what holds value or meaning to each of us.  It is a process that we choose when faced with the need to change.  It requires us to re-examine our assumptions about who we are – our identity, our capacity, our values.  The choice part is important.  A person can undergo hundreds of changes in their life and never transition.  The choice is ours.

I’ve concluded that transition is widely misunderstood in our society.  Few know it as a normal part of adult growth and development.   This mismatch leads many to misinterpret transition’s earliest stages as failure.

Women’s response to this – very often – is to draw inward.   This response can fuel feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt, a treacherous cycle that can cause women to stall, disengage or retreat from living the lives they imagine.

I remember vividly the earliest days of my transition.  It started one day when I crossed an imaginary line – that day the bottom fell out on the meaning of my professional world.   That world was complex and all-consuming. Harvard Business School MBA.  Million mile member of American Airlines’ Frequent Flyer program.  Executive in the c suite of a Fortune 500.  All of a sudden one day I said to myself, “this couldn’t be all there is?” as I looked across the room at my peers – the ceo and the presidents of the company’s geographic regions.

It happened in an instant.

I remember saying to myself, “There must be more for me.”  This glint of possibility kept me going but it didn’t shield me from the instant onslaught of negative feelings.  Failure. Guilt.  Shame.  Isolation.  Fear.

Fast forward to Smith College just before Collen DelVecchio spoke.   I had just finished leading a seminar about transition with 60 women.  Thanks to my book, Women & Transition: Reinventing Work and Life, I get invited to this type of event more and more these days.

That morning a woman who sat near the back of the room caught my eye.  Why?  She had tears in her eyes for a good portion of my talk.  At the end of the workshop she smiled at me and then made her way to the front of the room where I was talking with a handful of other participants.  She interrupted us with a simple emphatic statement, “This was excellent.”

Another woman who had attended that day and also bought my book later wrote me an email.  She shared that she’d been in a difficult transition for more than a decade.   She said,   “This week I have felt better about where I’m at and what I have to work through then I have in a long time. I thank you for opening this door for me.”

These moments – while small – are incredibly meaningful to me.  They fuel me and offer me support as I explore how my transition will continue.  Even though a book and formal research weren’t on my radar screen as my transition began I know that they are not its end.  There is more….

At 5 I am ebullient and peaceful and open.    I’ve traveled an enormous distance.   The fear and uncertainty have been replaced by understanding and by optimism even in the face of more unknowing.  While difficultly is likely ahead of me as I take on more and more of my transition I am ever grateful of the path and its countless gifts.

I hope that soon Colleen DelVecchio and many others become aware of transition.  It is a journey that many of us will find ourselves on during our adult lives.   It is a journey whose course and pace you get to decide.  It is enlivening and energizing and freeing.

The only true risk in it all is that you begin.   An act that can happen in countless ways – both big and small.

Many many thanks…..

 

If you have another moment, please read my prior Anniversary Posts:

First Year:  Learnings & Laughs: One Year In

Second Year:  400 and 2

Third Year:  Three and Counting

Fourth Year:  Four and Foresight

 

Copyright © 2016 NovoFemina.com.  All rights reserved. No content on this site may be reused in any fashion without written permission from NovoFemina.com.

 

 

 

 

Wonder and Grace

“Are you ready for your big day?” asked my husband this morning.  It was 7 am. Chaos was percolating in every corner of our house.  One child was rejecting some admittedly overdone toast as a ploy to escape a final review of test material.  Someone else was searching frantically for a misplaced item.  “Time to go?”  “Where’s my lunch?”  “Who is picking me up after school?”  My big day?   Continue reading

Invisible Standards

“We need your voice,” I said in closing a workshop with about a dozen women on a Saturday in early September.  I was making a connection between an exercise we’d done on developing our own voices and the needs of our national economy.  I view the development & expression of women’s voices as fundamental to our country’s long-term economic well-being.   For me it’s an easy and obvious linkage – although I won’t bore you with the details here.  What surprised me in that Saturday moment was the reaction I got.  The attendees were honestly touched.  My comment seemed to elevate our work.  It connected every one of us to something greater.  Our voice work was instantly relevant.  Meaningful. Continue reading

A moment….

I caught it out of the corner of my eye.  It was a flash.  I might have missed it had I looked the other way.  I was multi-tasking –  like so many of us do.  I’d just finished work and was in the process of dropping my twelve-year-old daughter off at a baseball game.  This summer she was a bat kid for the Orleans Firebirds, the season’s leading team in the storied Cape Cod Baseball League.  In this league college athletes are invited to play for one of ten teams while Major League Baseball (MLB) scouts hover on the periphery with offer letters in hand.   In the moment, my daughter got out of the car and skipped her way to the dugout.  Happy.  Energetic.  Anticipating acceptance and success in every facet of the hours that stretched ahead of her. Continue reading

A Transition Solstice Celebration…

Who wouldn’t give their right arm for more hours in the day?   When faced with the prospect of newly available time, most of us instantly think about what we could do.   The possibilities are endless.  Think about it.  An important ‘to do’ for work.  A laundry list of actions in support of children, spouses, or dependent elders.  A few minutes for long deferred personal care or even a personal interest.   Maybe even a few moments dedicated to a long overdue job search.  What would you do with ‘found time?’  Would wishing make it to your list?

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Time was on my mind this week as we enjoyed the Summer Solstice. Celebrated on June 21st, the day marks the true start of summer for me.  It is our ‘longest’ day of the year in the Northeast, offering six more hours of daylight than its astronomical opposite on December 21st.   It makes me think about time and how I choose to spend it.  A concept, I might add, that I rarely thought of pre-transition.

Solstice derives from two Latin words; sol, or sun, and stare, to stand or stop.   Early astronomical observers believed that on the solstice the sun stopped its progression in the sky.  Its literal translation is the day when the sun stands still.

The solstice’s definition caught my attention this week because I’ve been noodling a presentation I gave earlier this month.    On June 9th I hosted a luncheon ‘dry run’ of the key messages from my upcoming book, Women & Transition: Reinventing Work and Life (Macmillan Nov 2015).   The outset of the conversation was standard fare: transition’s definition, its anatomy, and an overview of a process that I created to help women navigate transition.

What really caught my audience’s eye was a list at the end of my remarks about what surprised me most in my research.   For those unfamiliar with my research, I spoke with two hundred women in various forums about transition over an eighteen month period.

Before I share the surprise, let me give you some background.  It’s a bit of an  oversimplification so please bear with me.

Thanks to my research and my own circuitous path, I found that transition requires us to navigate an iterative two-stage process.  The first stage is ‘envision,’ during which we develop a hypothesis of what ‘might be’ possible for us.  It goes by many names.  A dream.  A wish.  A personal strategy.  You can choose the vocabulary most comfortable for you.  This stage asks us to think beyond our assumptions about what we could or should do – staring down boundaries set by ourselves and by other’s expectations of us.

The second stage is ‘validate,’ a stage during which we test and retest and learn about our ‘envision’ hypothesis.  This stage is experimental and flexible – progressing in increments designed to fit our own circumstances.  At the end of all this you get a refined wish and real life experiences to give you the confidence to move in that direction.   I referred to the transition process’s cycle at the June 9th lunch as the dream/do loop.

The surprise I shared on June 9th?  I’ve witnessed again and again that women shortchange the work in the dream stage, preferring instead to do.  The work of thinking – wishing – is difficult, non-linear and uncertain.   Let’s face it most of us would rather clean the refrigerator on a sunny day than undertake such a task.

Wishing seems fanciful.  This is only partly true.   Here’s what I’ve learned:  Dreaming requires us to trust our instincts – and most importantly to dignify what we hear.   There is a competency we build up in the process – we learn to quell the negative internal voices that instantly pop up to extinguish whatever those instincts may be telling us.

In the summer weeks ahead be aware of the shortening days as we begin the long cycle towards the Winter Solstice.  If you find yourself with a moment or two, dream.  I’ve found it’s the most useful do you can do.

Copyright © 2015 NovoFemina.com.  All rights reserved. No content on this site may be reused in any fashion without written permission from NovoFemina.com.

 

A simple step: reframe

Last week my ten-year old son and I watched the replay of the first game of the NBA finals between the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Golden State Warriors.    We were rooting for the Golden State Warriors, his stand-in team given that his beloved Celtics will sit this one out.  Thanks to his interest, I stumbled onto a terrific example of one of my favorite transition tools  – reframing.

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Distance versus Denial

Last week I was struck by a quick comment made by Joyce, a mid-forties marketing czar and parent.  She’d lost her job just prior to year-end 2014.   A mutual friend asked if I would have coffee with her.  “I’m ready,” she said as we settled into our seats at roast, our local Starbucks alternative.  She wanted to initiate a job search.  There was something else I heard – her tone and demeanor didn’t quite match.  “I put all that stuff behind me,” she said.  As if saying, ‘isn’t that what I’m supposed to do?’   Continue reading

Painful redirects

It is easier this late in my transition.  Reframing that is.  Earlier this week I had an interview for a professional opportunity.  It wasn’t my finest hour.   At the end of the day I am disappointed in myself.   Transition is full of learnings – successes and failures.  I thought today I might share a little about how I’ve learned to reconcile the less than stellar events along the way….

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At this moment I am frustrated with myself for not doing better.  The rich data and conclusions that I had to share barely came out.   In the moments since I have comforted myself with a continuous stream of negative self-talk.  Ever been there?  How could I have blown it?  In a spectacular fashion I might add…..

In my book I talk about techniques to help us reframe a situation.   Re-framing  contributes in two ways;  it acknowledges that there will be hits and misses during transition, and it embraces perspective – an incredible gift.  In transition we need to learn from the misses but not get stalled by them.

In my book I introduce a technique called externalizing.  It helps you bring objectivity to an experience.  It asks women to change adjectives to nouns.  By adopting this approach I would say, “you are not the problem. The problem is the problem.”   For example a friend of mine is very angry about her transition’s length.  The anger is a mix of many emotions – including shame and a real fear that she’ll never be able to get the job she desires.   She is very connected to how it might look – this extended job search.

For her this technique would ask her to change an adjective – like being angry – to a noun.  Instead of saying, “I am so angry,” the woman would talk about “How long the anger had been influencing her.”  The technique challenges my friend to redirect her energy away from negative self-talk and towards more positive activities.  It puts separation between her and her emotions.

Nelson Mandela in his Long Walk to Freedom said, “do not judge me by my success.  Judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again.”

I find that my stumble earlier in the week was a gift.  It helped me recalibrate – at a critical time.  It brought me back to reality.  I had been a bit untethered.

Why?

A week or so ago my publisher asked me for a list of people who could possibly write a forward for my book.  Not all books get forwards.  The mere question sent me into the stratosphere.  It was a sign –  a good sign – she and her publishing house really believe in my project.

The gap between these two experiences was sobering.  The gift is that it has helped me hunker down on finishing the book.  It reminded me of the importance of bringing honesty to the experience of transition.  An honesty that from my viewpoint know one has cared to do before.   Yes there are painful days – even those days when the pain is self-inflicted.

Your transition will be characterized by wins and losses.  I hope that you have the presence of mind to bring objectivity and grace to your worst moments.   Within each is a gift – waiting for an appropriate frame.

Copyright © 2015 NovoFemina.com.  All rights reserved. No content on this site may be reused in any fashion without written permission from NovoFemina.com.

 

A Simple Direction

Three of us had lunch.  We got together because one of our crew was embroiled in a complex issue at work.  We listened to facts.  We agreed.  We disagreed.  We offered opinions.  Two minutes before parting the two of us not in the spotlight that day gave quick updates.  I told the story about my editor’s pre-Holiday remark, “I am finally hearing YOUR voice.”  She said it to me after patiently reviewing draft upon draft of my book.   Out of the blue a note arrived a few days after our lunch…. Continue reading