I spent a lot of the summer thinking about teamwork.
In another part of my life, aside from Rabble Up, I’m the Managing Director for a campaign called Make It Work, which I co-founded along with some very inspiring leaders who I am honored to be counted among. We focus on economic security for women, men, and families, including equal pay, paid sick days, minimum wage, paid family leave, and childcare. It’s been such a joyride since we launched in mid-June. And, teamwork has been a big theme on our minds since then. We have spent the last few months starting to build a small team of awesome staff. This means doing an assessment of what we need, where the gaps are, and seeking out the right leaders to fill those gaps. A functioning team is the foundation of being able to make change in the world over the long-haul.
Additionally, one of Make It Work’s main values is the importance of community in the juggle between work, family, and all of life’s responsibilities. Parents find more affordable daycare alternatives through babysitting co-ops and exchanges, people rally together in support of paid family leave when they have a new child or a loved one gets sick, and restaurant workers go on strike until paid sick days become a reality. Clearly, we are stronger together than we are alone.
So with those examples of teamwork on my mind, I now turn to the importance of “teamwork” in the pursuit of one’s own self-care.
Let me explain.
As just one person, it’s hard to get everything done, and still maintain some semblance of sanity and groundedness. At this point in my life and career, I’m very clear that I need a team of people to help me out. You can call it community, chosen family, anything you wish. I choose the word “team” because it implies that we all have our roles to play.
I’m very lucky to have quite a team. My partner, our dog, my mentor and coach, family, friends, health care professionals, alternative health professionals, and many others, all play a role in my being able to do my work in the world, grow, change, and love as a functioning human (even my favorite spin class teacher is a major part of my team!). I’m also honored to play my role on their teams, too. Just like a sports team, we are greater than the sum of our individual parts.
And, I’m sure we can all point to an example (or 5) where teamwork has collapsed doing social change work. I know a few of the organizations and coalitions I’ve been involved with have been shining examples of poor management and non-existent teamwork. What a bummer.
So, how do YOU build a functioning self-care team? Some thoughts below.
I have a constant and deep desire to push myself outside of my comfort zone on a fairly regular basis. It is, in fact, one of my core values. Someone in a training retreat recently described me as an “emotional edge walker.” This was one of the best compliments I’ve ever received. Mostly because, it wasn’t always true.
Fear and anxiety are not strangers to me. Risk-taking is not something that falls naturally within my wheelhouse. I will never truly understand adrenaline junkies. I force my risk-taking as a means to an end. That end, is my own self-growth and transformation.
So, I bring up this question: Are you a risk-taker?
Risks can take many different forms. For example, a risk might be a very literal sky diving adventure (which, btw, I will never ever do). Or, a risk could be starting your own business, raising your hand during that meeting, or even just smiling in response to some rude behavior. Big or small is all relative.
The common thread here, is the FEELING. That jumpy energy inside your gut. The nausea, the stomach twisting, the shaking hands. The blood coursing through your veins questioning why you would ever put yourself through this.
As the quote goes, “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.”
If that is true, then I propose that the real value of risk-taking, is the pure and simple ability to bring yourself through to the other side of that intense and usually uncomfortable feeling.
A friend, coach, and fellow soul sister on the journey of life recently told me that anxiety and excitement are actually the exact same energy, just channeled in different directions. I believe her. Anxiety is what happens when you try and keep the moving energy at bay. Excitement is what happens when you just let yourself lean into it.
So, once again: Are you a risk-taker?
Are you able to get yourself through to the other side, to the breakthrough, of walking on your edge, whatever that edge may be?
You might not know what will be on the other side. But the fact is, you were damn well able to do it in the first place. And that, my friend, is brilliant transformation.
Social justice seekers are some of the most fierce edge-walkers I have ever come across. Our combination of passion, drive, and, let’s face it, a deep belief that we are right, creates the perfect landscape for risk-taking of all sorts. I need not point to recent examples of activists risking the ultimate price, their lives and the livelihood of their families, in service of change. (And to those folks, we bow down.) Even if our risks are objectively much less radical, the energy is still valid.
Each of us has the ability, every single human, to put aside anxiety and fear and take those leaps of faith.
Every year, every month, every day, every hour… How will you breakthrough?
I love you deeply, and so I have something to say: It doesn’t need to be this way.
Thank you for all your hard work and sacrifice. Because of you, we have won countless fights, made enumerable advances, and are further along on this fervent path to justice.
It’s Valentine’s Day, and though I’m not normally one to celebrate, I want to extend a gift to you (and no, it’s not a fuzzy teddy bear holding a heart. It’s even better).
My gift to you, this February 14th, is the permission to put yourself first.
Now the truth is, I once thought that I had to be exactly like you, working what felt like ALL THE TIME and disconnecting from myself just to get through the day. But as it turns out, I feel most aligned when I’m operating in a state of balance. I feel whole when my self-care is a priority. I love the world by loving myself first.
It’s not your fault. In fact, I don’t blame you at all. We SERIOUSLY need to have some conversations in this movement about organizational culture, fundraising requirements, and leadership training.
But in the meantime, do what YOU need to do:
1) It’s ok to say ‘no’ to things. Like, it’s really ok. The Earth won’t stop turning, and there will always be someone else who is right for the gig. Boundaries are wonderfully healthy things.
2) Putting your oxygen mask on first means you love other people more, not less. We are all more happy when you show up as the best form of yourself. Do what you need to do to be able to act from that place.
3) Working insanely long hours ALL THE TIME is not aligned with your social change values. Yes, sometimes it is very necessary. But those moments should be the exception, not the rule, and it’s high-time we put more distributive leadership practices into operation.
4) And, lastly, remember that the younger folks in the room are learning from you. Want the next cycle of awesome social change leaders to be more grounded than you are? Yup, then practice what you preach.
Believe me, this is all coming from a deep place of love for you, and for all of us fighting this good fight together. I honor your commitment and passion, so let’s all work hand in hand to reshape our non-profit cultures. I’m ready to co-design, are you?
With love and abundance,
I talk a lot about what separates good leaders from great leaders. We know it when we see it. Good leaders get the job done, but great leaders inspire us to be the best version of ourselves. Their innovation, grounded spirit, and self-assuredness are contagious.
So, what is it that makes these people so magnetic? So alluring? So unique?
I think there are many answers to that question, and I don’t profess to know them all. But, what I do know, is that these great leaders are, at their core, artists. Their art is their very presence, and their ability to share themselves and their message with the world.
This is relevant for anyone who wants to spread their message effectively.
I was at a training a few months ago with a man who has been called many things– a master facilitator, a coach, a mentor, and even a guru. He deals in systems, processes, and structures, as much as with hearts, music, and energy. All in all, he is an inspiring leader to be in the presence of. I wish I could absorb even half of his wisdom.
These qualities that he exhibits have come from a lifetime of practice in different methodologies, which is to say, he has honed his craft. People don’t usually rise to greatness on accident.
Working as an artist is about the process of creating, not just the finished piece. It takes commitment, discipline, time, patience, and deep passion for what you do, whether or not anyone else happens to be paying attention. I come from a long line of artists who painted because their souls had to, not because fame or attention were even remote possibilities.
Similarly, finding your footing as an activist and social justice leader takes time, patience, and a commitment to the journey. Often, our fights are long and enduring, striving for changes in policy, culture, and the hearts and minds of the public.
The message to work for change may come from your soul, but the work actually happens day in and day out, whether or not it feels as if progress is being made.
Looking at your work as a masterpiece constantly in the process of being created, and reconnecting to that inner fire, might help to alleviate some of the burnout associated with the long haul.
So, with your artist hat on (beret or otherwise…), I pose some questions:
When you do social change work professionally, it tends to get personal, fast. We all come to this work with stories from our past and communities, the reasons we feel called to fight for justice.
Many of those experiences are felt very deeply, quickly creating bonds between us and the people we work with every day. I have so many beautiful and enduring friendships that have been born out of being co-workers first.
It’s also true, that this closeness can breed a difficult dynamic where boundaries are crossed, and staffers are left feeling exposed and raw without much space or separation between work-life and personal life.
So, let’s talk about boundaries.
Boundaries are difficult to set, and even harder to maintain. They require inner knowing, commitment, and a bit of tough love towards others. But, when structured well, boundaries can actually make us feel more secure, lighter, and free us up from other peoples’ stuff.
I used to have a boss that disguised her nosey nature as “getting to know you” leadership. It took me months of feeling uncomfortable, and slightly ashamed, after our conversations to realize that her supposed leadership style was, in fact, just straight up gossipy. As an introvert, I’m prone to this feeling of overexposure. But, for anyone, crossed boundaries are a sign that we need to raise our defense shields.
I find that boundaries get especially murky when issues of power and privilege are at play. If you’re already marginalized at work, it’s a much bigger challenge to stand up for your own needs.
In need of some boundary setting with your co-workers? Try out these tips.
As we head into winter, traditionally a period of stable rest, I find my life looking a little different than usual.
There are a few things right now that are a bit unsettled—balls that have been tossed in the air but have yet to land. There are multiple moving pieces, each affecting the next, most of which are out of my control.
This state of being is not, exactly, my comfort zone.
We humans love to try to map and chart the future.
But, it’s been the moments when I’ve allowed myself to free-fall and confronted my fears, when transformation has truly taken hold.
So, it is in these times of change that I’m once again presented with an opportunity to sit in the unknown, and find the expansiveness and freedom that comes along with it.
It’s a learning curve for me, but I will share what I’ve gathered so far, and am continuously trying to put into practice: