Tuesday, 12 February 2013

What's changed in two years?

Lately I've been noticing my reactions to situations and thinking about how differently I would have reacted two years ago.  As I contemplate that, I am grateful that the situations that cause me to think about this are happening now (when I am better equipped) and not two years ago.

For example, last week I was doing some work for a client in the building that I used to work in.  There are training and meeting rooms on one of the floors in the building so I go there fairly frequently.  Not long after I finished my full time employment, I had to visit this building for some work.  As I approached the building and contemplated going in, I had what I now know to be a panic attack - fast, shallow breathing, elevated heart rate, clammy sweat, hot flush of rash creeping up my neck and a feeling of general terror.  Four years have passed since then and I can now look back and read all the signals about what was going on at that workplace which I couldn't see at the time. Reflection point number one.

Last week as I walked into the building, one of the people with whom I used to work came out of the building.  She said hello and asked me what I was doing there. I responded with the facts, "I'm working with a client."

"Oh which client? What are you doing?"

"I'm working as an actress doing corporate roleplay for senior leadership development in one of the banks."

"You're kidding!?"  (Where is an interrobang when you need one?)

And there they hung, those words.

Most artists will know the common urging from people who aren't artists about it being time to get a real job.  It might be phrased as "your acting/art/music etc is wonderful, but can't you just have it as a hobby so you can go off and get a real job?"  The concern about the real job is usually strongly tethered to the need to earn money.

Two years ago I would have felt the panic rise in expectation of the impending judgement.  This time I didn't.  This is my work and I make a good living.

I said: "Actually I'm not kidding.  This is my work and I make a very good living out of it."

She reacted, quickly seeking to retract.  It was as if she suddenly realised what that statement actually could mean.

We both ended the conversation.  As I walked to the lift I contemplated my reaction.  I'm pleased that I was able to stand up, proudly, for my work and not allow it, and me, to be dismissed, but reading back on this, I wonder how I will come across.  There is more context to the relationship with this particular person that I'm not prepared to lay out here and I don't know whether it's relevant.

This is but one example.  I'm finding in the project I'm managing where I'm back in an office for a couple of days a week, that I'm being confronted with everything I don't like about that environment.  There is some good stuff too, but apart from the work itself, I'm being regularly confronted with the things that are challenging.

With another round of leadership development conversations coming up with another client (I'll be facilitating), it's timely that I am refreshing my experience in a hands-on leadership role.

I recently found myself needing to have an honest conversation with a member of the project team.  As I prepared for it, I could hear myself coaching myself from the sidelines.  A couple of years ago, my reaction and ability to handle that person would have been quite different.  I would have dealt with the situation, but I think it would have taken longer and the landing have been less comfortable.  For everyone.

The value of reflection is something that artists understand and practise  - it is essential to artistry and artistic process, regardless of the art form.  Lately, I'm hearing about reflection in the corporate setting and in medical training.  It makes me happy to see the wisdom of artists permeating other disciplines.  Lately, reflection has given me the opportunity to learn a lot about myself and my growth and how I'm going in my business (which is still less than two years' old.).  I was very pleased to notice that I'm better suited to consulting than being attached to one office and one organisation.  Thank goodness I made the right decision!

What have you reflected on lately? What are you noticing?

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