Lessons Learned in 2016

December 31, 2016

It’s that time of year when we reflect about all the things, both good and bad, that have happened this past year and then create resolutions for the new year. I spent the last few weeks incubating the various ideas on how to frame my last blog entry of the year. I decided to reflect on the lessons I learned, but there were so many, my original draft was simply way too long.  And so, I narrowed it down to the most significant lessons, or reflect on the ones that had the biggest impact on me this year.

Understandably, each one could be a blog entry in themselves but for obvious reasons on some of the lessons, as well as the purpose of narrowing down to the top 5, I summarize each lesson learned.  Lessons learned is not necessarily an end state. It could be, I suppose. However, many times it is a new starting point for another lesson. Learning, especially lessons learned, is an iterative process.

Lesson Learned #1

My dissertation defense was my worst-ever presentation!  My mentor nor close colleagues did not admit to this when I asked, but I knew it. I felt it. It was over 1.5 hours long because I tried to fit everything into the presentation.  More importantly, my extreme nervousness the few days before resulted in abandoning most of my previous training and methods of preparing and practicing for a big presentation.  What I learned that I needed to resort to my previous training just preparing for conference presentations or for teaching/lecturing my classes. Further, as I watch and listen to TED talks or podcasts, I need to use the data (the data I am most connected to)  to tell a compelling story. Every time I listen to Story Corps, I think of how of all the data I can use just in my everyday experiences to tell stories. I want to learn to be a better storyteller in both writing and presentation, and there’s no better start than to publish my dissertation, as well as take advantage of current work opportunities.

Lesson Learned #2

I invested in a teammate against what I thought was my better judgment. I was skeptical about this person for a specific role and responsibility simply because I did not think they had the right attitude or the mindset for the job (despite their technical knowledge and expertise). However, our leader, who is a visionary, had reason to invest and appoint him for a specific role. Because I believed in the cause and I wanted it to succeed, I invested my own time and energy in him as well.

During this time, I witnessed a complete 360-degree transformation in someone who had a very negative attitude and admittedly hated coming to work everyday, THRIVE. He became passionate about this work; he was excited and even singing in the halls!  What I learned is to TRUST visionary leaders, even when I feel they might be misguided by the person they are choosing for the job.  In fact, the leader may be a true “talent magnet” and see someone capable of growing into that role with continued passion and excitement. I admit to my own apprehension of investing in this person, but as I spent more time with him, I was quite pleasantly surprised.

Lesson Learned #3

Having an open and honest conversation, even if difficult, with a teammate is always best, right?  I had hoped this would open some communication barriers to help fix a broken process, and  to lead into thinking critically about our team role in the overall departmental and command mission.  I consider this and all the subsequent efforts to fix the brokenness of this team and other teams as my biggest lesson of the year.  What I learned is that no matter whether it was my delivery of this initial conversation or how it was received and the continued efforts, communication barriers were never overcome. In fact, I feel that many of my efforts may have instead, stifled or made it worse for my teammate.  Unfortunately, my intent for this team never came to fruition thus far, and it continues to be a work in progress. I have learned that I simply need to let some things go and allow others to take over. Despite my need to be a “fixer”, especially if I may have “broken” or made things worse, I simply may not be the right person to “fix” this situation. I just need to move on to something else, creating other opportunities where I can contribute and make a difference. 

Lesson Learned #4

Being fully engaged in my work is exhausting: it’s painful, fun, frustrating, and exhilarating, some times all in the same day.  Although finding a church to attend regularly has had its benefits and multiple levels, it does not have the same kind of stress and physical effects as getting back on track with my fitness regimen.  Although I continue to coach, I have neglected investing in my own exercise and diet program, using my dissertation and long work hours as excuses.  Despite changes in my priorities lately, I want to make my mental health and physical fitness a priority again.  I enjoy doing Crossfit workouts because I enjoy the competition and when I do it regularly, my gym and/or workout partners keep me accountable.  This year, I will sign up for races and competitions again, ensure I have a partner and/or commit to holding them and me accountable.

Lesson Learned #5

Seizing and creating opportunities while at work to being the BEST I can be, is alienating. I have learned that no matter how invested you are in others, in the work, in the mission, and in yourself, it can be very alienating when people on the team see your investments and opportunities through the lenses of favoritism, jealousy  and what’s-in-it-for-me attitude.  I learned from Liz Wiseman’s talk, that my energy and enthusiasm, and full engagement can be more diminishing to others rather than have a multiplier effect. I have noticed this more lately, even to those who are good teammates!  And navigating my way around not being an accidental diminisher has proven to be more challenging than expected.  I am very in tune with teammates and the climate in a room (maybe even hyper-sensitive), and what I continue to learn, is that I need to be more deliberate in surrounding myself with people/a team who help build each other, so that WE can make a significant difference together.

2016 has been a great year of lessons learned on how I can be of more service to others.  Watch out 2017… I have more yet to give… here I come!

What lessons have you learned in 2016?



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