Ten minutes: July 10, 2013

So, one of these days I’ll write more about my transition back to nine-to-five and putting on pants to go to an office every day, but the very short version is that it’s going far better than I could have imagined.  There are ups and downs, there are challenges, there will be hard days.  And in all of it, there’s lots to learn and teach, and change to adapt to.  And the biggest measure, in my world, is that when Sunday afternoon rolls around, I spend my time immersed in the present of whatever that Sunday afternoon holds:  I don’t dread going to work on Monday morning.  I’ve been keeping a pulse on what it is that’s helping me feel so happy and engaged:  compatible leadership; colleagues who respect my work and what I bring to the team; work that I’m uniquely qualified and suited to doing; but there’s more to it than all that.

And today, I realized what one of those “more to it” things is.

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Portent, Inc. sits on the 17th floor of the Smith Tower. On clear days, I gaze out the window at Mount Rainier.

Every Wednesday afternoon the entire company gets together in a training room for a training session called #PortentU. The responsibility for teaching rotates, and volunteers present on a topic — any topic — each week.  The topic today was systems theory, an interest and area of study and learning of mine… in fact, I’m pretty sure that if you put systems theory and Buddhism in a blender and hit puree, you’d come up with the thing that is, to me, the way religion is for some other people.

At one point, Marianne, the speaker, drew attention to an area that we, as a company and team, don’t have as a strong suit.  Confidently.  Just matter-of-factly.  No softening language.  No couching the self-criticism.  No disclaimers or walking on eggshells in order to avoid hurting anyone’s feelings.  I anticipated a response of defensiveness — that’s the response that I’d expect in many of the other work settings I’ve been a part of, if someone dared to actually speak up so boldly about one of our own “opportunities for improvement.”  But that’s not what happened.  The audience listened, thoughtfully, as Marianne concluded her presentation.  And then, afterward, during Q&A, our founder and CEO raised his hand, disclaimed that he didn’t want to put Marianne on the spot, and then asked what one thing we need to change.  Marianne gave her one-word answer, followed by a thoughtful explanation, clearly and without hesitation or fear.

Now, this might sound crazy to folks who’ve spend their careers in functional work environments — but, still new here, I marveled that it was perfectly natural for a member of the team to, in front of the entire company, say, “Hey, this is something we’re not awesome at.” And I marveled even harder at a leader not only asking that kind of question, but also, honestly wanting to know the answer.  And I realized, that’s one of those “more to it” things, for me:  the safety, and space, to speak up for what I think and believe.

Oh, and by the way, we’re hiring.

What was your last “more to it” moment?  I’d love to hear your story: post a comment, below.