Thursday, August 14, 2014

This Little Light of Mine...

Those who know me would tell you that I am a confident leader and always have been.  They would say, "Nicole- she knows herself and her worth and would NEVER stand for someone dropping the proverbial bushel on her light."  They would be right, TODAY.  That was not always the case.

Today, I am an award-winning marketer who has changed the face of multiple companies, bringing them back from the edge of closing to being profit turning vehicles for change.  A couple of decades ago, I was a twenty-something entering the workforce.  Not unlike the many young women I work with today, I was a little unsure of certain things, but there was one thing I was totally confident about- my ability to market an idea.  You see, I understood from a very young age how others think and what motivates them to move.  It was my gift.  You have a gift too- if you haven't figured it out yet, there are exercises you can do to get some clarity on it and sometime soon, I will write about them. Ah, but I digress.  I knew then, as I know now, I can move people to rally behind my cause.

Early on, I was working for an amazing cause and really enjoying the opportunities.  My boss came to me one day and asked me to come up with a campaign that would engage a certain audience to participate in our fundraising and public relations efforts toward a major new program.  I became obsessed as most people do wen they are uber passionate about their work.  I brainstormed, I thought constantly about my idea until I perfected it.  My boss was an amazing business woman and mentor.  She allowed me to have free reign over the project, from start to finish.  It was a mega-success.  So successful that a co-worker submitted it to a national contest and it won!  Imagine eating the best dessert and not having to count those calories- yes-  I am a total foodie!  My project WON! I still get excited when I think about it.  I was going to walk onto the stage and thank all the little people and my parents for getting to this point in my life. I had my speech written when one day my boss came into my cubicle.

She greeted me slowly and kind of stood there. What followed shocked me.  She told me she would be accepting the award on behalf of the organization, you know- as Executive Director.  After I picked my jaw up from the floor, I of course agreed, even though my inside super-rock-star was screaming-"WTF"!  After a day or so of thinking about it, I went to her office to discuss my feelings about her decision.  I tactfully told her I had written and executed the entire project and that it was important to me to receive the award myself.  I then swallowed hard and asked her what her reservation was of me at least joining her on the stage to get the award.  Her words sting me to this day.  She said, "Do you EVEN own a suit?".  BOOM.  Now, my forty-something self would be telling me do not let this bother you, but back then it struck me hard. So hard I made major changes.

Over the course of several months, I literally became my boss.  All business..All the time.  I lost myself completely.  My little light that made people want to help me and follow me and make amazing projects and create significant social change, went out.  I was all about the numbers(they are important and I still value them now, but there is such a thing as too much).  I wore the starchy suits, even when I was speaking to a group of kindergarten kids.  It took me years to realize it.  That was not me.  The real me wanted to get on the floor and sit pretzel legged and tell stories of the kids we were helping, to make those kids want to help- to ignite their glow.   

I walked across the stage at that conference and received my award with my boss.  She thanked the many who made it successful and shortly there after my boyfriend, who is now my husband, shared that something in me changed .  Then little by little others started to ask me if I was alright.  I started to realize that they were asking because I wasn't being authentically me.  The years that followed moved me through many transformations and a few new gigs that let me start putting my jeans back on and recognizing that it is cool to be who you are.  I arose a stronger leader for my experience. A leader who watches my words for I know the affect they have.  I re-lit my own spark and now my little light shines so bright- I wear my sunglasses at night(hey that is a totally different song!).

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