Frozen: a Look at the Reluctant Leader (and How She Grows!)

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So since I started a discussion on Leadership for Introverts, I wanted to do another entry on the complexities of leadership for those who aren’t naturally drawn to the idea of being in charge of others, but end up in said positions. Now, some of you might have just read that last sentence and said to yourselves, “Well, if you don’t like being in a leadership position, why pursue it?” The answer isn’t so simple; some of us take on management positions because the career fields we ended up in required us to do so. Some of us thought we would like management and found out that it wasn’t exactly what we imagined it would be. Some of us were put there because of extenuating circumstances (someone got sick, someone wasn’t performing up to par and suddenly, tag-you’re-it, etc). Whatever the reason, not everyone in a leadership position just slides right in without feeling a little bit uncomfortable at times.

Which brings me to today’s topic: Now, I don’t care if Frozen is totally overplayed and everyone is super sick of All. The. Frozen. EVERYWHERE. Everyone is going to just have to deal because KP is a Frozen fan (haters, give it up and bow down to the mighty Idina Menzel, or, if you’re John Travolta at the 2014 Oscars, Adele Dazim!)

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Okay, okay, but in all seriousness, there is something to be said about an anti-hero that makes she or he all the more identifiable with; we see that they are fallible and hence have more realistic human traits. It is a shame that the character of Elsa did not receive more screen-time and was not further developed for the audience, because she is quite complex. Not only does her character have to learn about being who you are when the world is telling you to hide it (Pray the Gay Away, anyone?), but also what happens when you are forced into a leadership position and not ready to take on the challenges and responsibilities. Elsa runs away from her duties as leader of Arendelle partly because she is afraid of what people will think of her when they know what she really is, and partly because she has extremely introverted tendencies and is scared of what it will take. Leadership isn’t easy for everyone; not everyone is courageous at the outset. Sometimes it takes trial-by-fire to learn how to be a leader, as Elsa learns when her younger sister ends up having to bear much of the brunt of the chaos that engulfs the kingdom. She is basically shocked into stepping up to the plate. In the end, Elsa is able to accept who she is and sees that she can bring unique abilities to the table as Queen.

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The lesson we can learn is that we should embrace who we are as leaders; we all have something to offer and we can draw strength from what makes us unique. Having introverted tendencies doesn’t have to be a leadership handicap; but we must know how to effectively employ the tools we have.

-KP

And just because I couldn’t resist:

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Balancing Aesthetic Goals and Well-Being

Happy Sunday!  I hope this weekend has been able to provide some rest for those reading; I know mine has for today, at least.  Being that today is an off day, I wanted to start on my series of body image entries.

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Growing up, I was always on the heavier side.  I, like many others, began experiencing insecurities about my body very early on, probably even younger than 10 years old.  I don’t have children of my own, but after growing up and observing not only how I felt, but how others felt at a young age as well, I think it is important to start dialogues with kids about body image early on.  Topics such as body acceptance, how the media affects us, healthy eating habits, how to manage anxiety and insecurities, etc, are good to discuss with children.  I think at the very least, it helps kids know that they aren’t alone in how they are feeling.

When I was 13, I lost about 20 pounds.  I remember my teachers asking me if I was ok, and I constantly ensured them that, yes, I was ok.  I was just getting rid of some excess weight caused by eating too many sweets.  I felt that I was much heavier than the other girls my age, and after losing the weight, I felt much more “normal.”  The problem was, I was too young to understand the concept of “healthy lifestyle,” and therefore, viewed intense caloric restriction for a period of time as perfectly normal.  The perfect recipe for an eating disorder, right?  I don’t think it’s a problem for children to diet if they are overweight, but it must be supervised by parents very closely because kids don’t understand the numerous implications of drastically changing their lifestyle; to change habits just to see “numbers on a scale” decrease can be disastrous.

Weight management is such a complicated topic.  Because we are modern-day humans living mostly sedentary lifestyles, our genetic tendencies to hold fat do us much worse than our ancestors who were constantly on the move and never sure of where their next supply of calories and nutrients was going to come from.  Therefore, many of us must be cognizant of how much we are eating and what we are eating.  However, we must also be able to balance this with our own mental well-being.  Last May, I began a 12 week program to lose body-fat and build muscle to change my body composition.  It was designed for those potentially interested in entering bodybuilding competitions (at the time, I was interested in entering the bikini category).  I lost about 7 pounds of body-fat, but because of the intense restriction, I began to associate certain foods as “good” and certain foods as “bad,” and it started wreaking havoc on my mental state.  I would feel immense pangs of guilt if I ate something not explicitly outlined on my food plan.  I had to cut the program short, and I gained back the weight quickly.  I told a few friends and some family members that I was struggling, and they came to my aid.  Not everyone who suffers from disordered eating needs to be thrown in rehab or told to sit down and not get up from the table until they eat a plateful of super-sized enchiladas and down three margaritas, but they may very well need the support of friends and to talk with someone with a background in nutrition.

tumblr_lj1rg0ha2n1qgeygdWe’re going to get you back to being healthy!

I won’t say that my program was entirely a failure; actually, it taught me the importance of adding strength training and high intensity interval training to improve cardiovascular endurance and muscle density.  It also allowed me to begin my own research on food and how different macronutrients affect us (protein, fats, carbohydrates).  Genetics have the biggest say in how these are going to be processed by our bodies, but arming ourselves with knowledge about how can help us maintain healthy body compositions and choose exercise programs that will benefit us the most.  We don’t have to look like professional athletes to be healthy (it’s hard when Pinterest bombards us with pictures of bikini/figure competitors doing professional photoshoots and the captions read something like, “This is what health looks like.”), but if we want to bring our fitness to higher level, we must be aware of the overall implications.  I sometimes still consider doing a competition, but I now know that I would go into it with a totally different mindset.  While I was doing my program, I was going through some major life changes (moving, recovering from a painful breakup, and a few other things), and that did not help.  I think if you are going to compete you MUST be at a stable place in your life.  It’s also good to talk it over with friends and family so they understand what you are doing and don’t jump to the wrong conclusions (you lose a lot of body fat for a competition, and to most people, it looks unnatural).

Right now, I’d like to lose a little of the body fat that I gained back, but I’m doing it at a pace much more comfortable for me.  I have also accepted that just because I gained a few pounds, I’m still at a perfectly healthy body composition, and it hasn’t made me any less of a person.  We are ultimately in charge of how we look, but we must be aware of just how interconnected our actual physical bodies and mental state are.

Healthy mind=Healthy body.

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Current body composition.  Verdict=healthy.  Also, please forgive the fact that I am on travel for work at the moment.

-KP

Leadership Challenges for Introverts

The other night I was going to the gym with a friend of mine and she said, “A piece of constructive criticism: talk to your people like they are people.”  I felt somewhat slighted and confused; I always make it a point to be respectful and considerate of others, whether superior, peer, or subordinate.  Worried I had been discourteous or rude, I voiced these concerns and her response was, “No, you’ve never been rude, but it has been noticed that you can be aloof.  Your subordinates are concerned that you think they’re not performing up to your standard and you think they’re continuously f**king up.”

Needless to say, this came as a pretty big shock to me, and it brings me to the topic for today’s entry: Leadership Challenges for Introverts.

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A little background info: In the early 1960s the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator assessment was first introduced as a means of finding out good “fits” for individuals entering the workforce.  It was based on four principal psychological functions proposed by Carl Jung in his 1921 book, Psychological Types.  Once the assessment is finished, the test-taker will be provided with a result of “extraversion” or “introversion.”  Now, just to be clear–I don’t take any concept/assessment/judgement put forth by another person as the gospel truth because they are basing their findings off THEIR OWN view of reality, but I think that everyone provides a piece of the pie to deeper understanding of the human condition.  The MBTI has 16 possible outcomes, and although 16 is far too few to showcase EVERYTHING in the human spectrum of behavior, it is a step in the right direction for showcasing the variety of differences among people.  We shouldn’t look at human behavior in a binary fashion; people are not 1s and 0s.  No one is just an introvert, and no one is just an extravert.  It’s different for everyone.  This post is for anyone who experiences more introverted tendencies in the workplace, especially anyone in a leadership position.

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I have continuously managed anywhere from 20-30 people in my career so far, and sometimes it can be difficult due to my tendency to turn inward.  When my friend mentioned that my new employees thought I might be displeased with their performance, I realized there were misunderstandings on both my part and theirs; they thought I was being aloof due to something negative they had done, and I was harboring an insecurity due to feeling uncomfortable in a completely new job.  If anything, I thought I was not of the same caliber of their former managers due to how new the job was for me.  My insecurities caused me to draw in and not engage with them as much as I should have been.  Now, these concerns were voiced in the beginning of my time managing this particular office, and as I have become more comfortable with the job and the employees, I have since come out of my shell.  Things have been getting better, but this experience really drove home a few concepts.

1. Not letting our insecurities rule our behavior.  Although certain aspects of this new job are very different from my last, certain parts are very similar.  Managers all perform certain basic administrative functions that translate in a fairly consistent manner from job to job.  We can’t let our insecurities in the new position derail our ability to pull from what we know and have been trained in.

2. Being proactive in engaging our employees.  Because of our tendency to turn inward, it gives the appearance of “being aloof.”  I have never wanted anyone to think that I have ever thought they were “beneath me,” or weren’t living up to some ridiculous standard (although if someone is f**king up repeatedly, like common sense should dictate, they should know they aren’t meeting the baseline standard).  We can get lost in our own thoughts and heads so easily, it can cause us to forget to talk to our employees about what’s going on in THEIR lives.  I think people who have introverted tendencies have a fairly large amount of data constantly moving around in their heads, so sometimes we just get stuck in there.  Make it a point to get out of the whirlpool of your own thoughts.  Other people really might think you don’t give a sh*t and therefore may start developing negative attitudes toward working for you.

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-image from Hyperbole and a Half

Just replace “house” with office.  Sorry, it’s not that I don’t want to talk to you, but I have to think about if wormholes are possible with quantum mechanics, what amazingly healthy quinoa recipe on Pinterest I’m going to try and convince myself I’m going to make tonight except then just end up making mac-and-cheese instead, solving every major world problem, and if I have an adequate pair of shoes from the transition from fall to winter.  

3. Being cognizant of the link between trust and motivation.  Building off #2, in being proactive with our employees, we can start to build trust over time, and this will ultimately pave the way for motivation in the workplace.  People want to work for people who give a sh*t about them.  Plain and simple.

4. Being approachable.  I have RBF (Resting Bitch Face) like none other.  Especially in the mornings.

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Therefore, I know I have to make the effort to smile, even if it ends up looking like this most of the time:

Uhh…hey guys…

Smiling and saying something as simple as “Good morning, how are you?” while basic, can open up the potential for a conversation, as opposed to simply nodding and quickly dodging into your office.

I’ll discuss this topic more as time goes on, but wanted to touch on it a little tonight.  We should always be focused on progress and flexibility in the workplace, but it needs to begin with us as leaders.

Any thoughts?

-KP

The Rose That Grew From Concrete

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For the past few years, I have written a New Year’s Reflections post because I think it is important to look back on how we have changed and grown in that time period (the 365 days itself is arbitrary, but it serves its purpose as a unit to measure ourselves).  This year, however, I was seriously considering not doing one because of how difficult the year had been, and how many failures I seemed to continuously come by.  However, after thinking it over, I realized, as a writer, it would be wrong to do so, because writing isn’t necessarily about sharing happy endings (if it was, Hemingway would’ve been out of a job).   It’s about trying to express some sort of truth we have come to know through personal experience, and about connecting with others.  Sadness, loss, change, and death are all parts of our human condition.  I had many ideas about how I wanted to do this entry, spanning from comedy to discussion about major world events.  I’ve decided, however, to just share some simple thoughts and reflections.

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Late January last year I ended a painful relationship, and in a sense most of my major growth this year stemmed from that ending.  I learned that I was not the exception to the rule, and that I was not going to be exempt in life from the lessons that we are forced to learn when relationships don’t work out.  I was pulled into a very bad place due to the vacuum that sprung from its collapse, and I had some very dark days.  Thankfully, my family and my friends came to my aid, and honestly, most of that was just them being there to listen.  The friends who let us cry as much as we need to, who watch us pity ourselves, the ones who see us continually make mistakes and fall, but do not walk away from us: those are the friends who will never waiver in their devotion to us. We do not see the strength of the bonds of friendship and love in the everyday mundane; rather, we see them in the dark times, when we are at our weakest and most pathetic.

I learned that nothing in this life lasts forever, not even the excruciating pain of infidelity and shattered ideals, although for a long time I never thought it would end, and I blamed myself for everything that had transpired.  I lost weight, I exercised furiously, trying to “make myself better.”  I had to be prettier, I had to be thinner, I had to be better.  A voice inside repeated to me: I wasn’t good enough.  I deserved to be treated the way I did because I wasn’t good enough.  I was too demanding, I came with stipulations.  It was all. my. fault.

Those are some of the thoughts that plagued me for months on end.  Jealousy, anger, fear, and sadness made homes for themselves in the broken places of my heart.  It was the complete loss of self in despair.  I went to a very, very dark place.  I wish I could say that I had a magic “ah-ha,” moment (well, in a sense, my run-in with Crazy Internet Mike DID help a few lightbulbs go off, oh Hey Mike!), but really, it was just the passage of time that allowed me to get to the point where I am now.  I also wish that I could now say, on this first day of the New Year, everything in my life is all better, magically fixed by some cosmic super glue.  I can say, however, that I am not in the place that I was five months ago, and that only through this hurt did I experience the true depths of love from others and the true meaning of compassion.

I can also say that I am finally at a place where I recognize the truth that relationships are hard, and oftentimes people will hurt us along the path.  People are complex, and like I discussed in a previous post, In Dreams Begin Responsibilities, not everyone views reality in the same manner, and just as they are under no obligation to treat us with dignity and respect, we are under no obligation to keep them in our lives.  I think many of us become hung up on the idea that those who hurt us deserve to experience the “karma” of their actions.  We need to let go of this flawed idea.  In his book Hogfather, author Terry Pratchett writes:

…take the universe and grind it down to the finest powder and sieve it through the finest sieve and then show me one atom of justice, one molecule of mercy.  And yet you act, like there was some sort of rightness in the universe by which it may be judged.

We have no business “waiting on karma” for the other person.  What occurs in our lives, versus what happens in our former significant others’ lives are two completely separate and unrelated things.  We must cut ties so as not to constantly compare our journey with theirs.  You aren’t weak for cutting ties; you are strong in that you recognize the path to self-recovery.  

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I want to say, THANK YOU, to Natalie Lue over at Baggage Reclaim; without her words of wisdom I would have not come to peace with myself.  We must always remain true to ourselves and to our morals and boundaries.  If people challenge those, it’s time to say, “So long!”  Remember, how people treat you is a reflection of who THEY are; not who YOU are.

I chose the Rose that Grew from Concrete by Tupac (one of his poems) as the theme for the entry because the idea of something beautiful coming from an impossible place is how I want to enter 2015.  The idea that life can still flourish in difficult situations is one that I want to hold dear for the next 365 days.

I hope 2015 brings peace to us all.  Weirdmaste, my friends

-KP