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Cafe with Barbara Fields

  • Parent Category: What's New
  • Published on Thursday, 21 July 2011 18:09
  • Written by Michelle Gonzalez
  • Hits: 1437

In our third cafe of 2011, Barbara Fields showed us how positions of power bring a heightened responsibility for the care of others.  Our cafe on September 20, 2011 explored Barbara's work as the executive director at the RI Local Initiatives Support Corporation for 20 years, then turning over a new chapter with her 6 month tenure as the New England Regional Administrator for HUD.

We explored key themes in how Barbara was adjusting to the new job, limited budgets, housing as a starting place (not the end), a workforce with 20 - 45 years of service as the norm, and bringing up the next generation.

Hers has been a transition of scale, geography, bureaucracy, and commute, but one in which she was bringing more humility and compassion to the workplace.  

Key lessons from Barbara's story:

  • "Simple things matter": this is where bringing compassion and the personal to the workplace is what matters in getting the work done well.
  • "Privilege as duty": it's a question of impact and making a difference
  • Pursue what is an interest as success rather than trying to "figure" out what is my singular specialty and therefore the only lever for success.
  • Creativity is everything, even though master of know-how and things seems to be overvalued.

Below are our the participants notes and the key practices we wanted to work on next in our leadership practice. Please feel free to add your comments!

How to capture your own personal passion and make a difference and the measure of success.

  • Luck is where opportunity meets preparation”- Denzel Washington. The key is to also be open to the opportunity.
  • In reference to pursuing one’s interest and whether it makes a difference, we found there is no measure, keep pushing but do it with awareness. It will continue.
  • Remember Barbara’s shared saying: life is not about completing the work, yet, nor is it to desist the work of your predecessors.

How do I learn from my mistakes and still be brave to speak my perspective?

  • Passionate and compassionate…to others’ perspective and situation
  • Moving on and moving forward - more than “letting go”, we had to get out of the way.
  • Not putting too much significance on a mistake…and not obsessing over the mistake
  • Is it a mistake or are people just not ready to hear it? Who is deciding it is a mistake? What is their criteria? Is it just something new that makes them uncomfortable?
  • We noticed that it is the audience who is not ready to hear the message; therefore the message has to be sensitive the stage of change and the message the audience will take in.
  • Learning from the past vs. hanging onto/rumination on/living in the past experience
  • It’s an event (the mistake) – not your personality or character. Worrying about a mistake already made doesn’t allow all of your energy to be in the present.  Be Passionate + compassionate.
  • Imperfection does not disqualify me from life.
  • Learning how to manage up.
  • Mistakes are actually a positive
  • Learn about reactions to mistakes 

Do we redefine what is a leader and how to recognize that?

  • Key is in making connections, relationship building along the entire hierarchy of an organization…not top down!!
  • Question the assumption of “feel like I have to do everything to do it right” – Question that generalized thought of “self-sufficient”
  • We are cooperative species, but if we don’t do it “all” we are judged failures--again the glamorization of the "rugged individual". Leadership is anyone who has a follower they are responsible for. Again, one-on-one engagement matters, in community building the big meeting doesn't work to get the unknown person
  • What do leaders look like…change the picture?...Women who have done it before (i.e. Grandma)
  • Celebrate: expand – “Natural” leadership
  • Challenge term of “imperfection” – what is perfect?
  • How to recognize Soul at Work helps us to celebrate the unknown leaders…
  • Making a difference among peers stepping up and doing what needs to be done is not gender dependent.
  • Change the picture of what leaders look like – i.e. Grandmother bringing community together.
  • Celebrate, expand making things work in “imperfect ways”
  • Leader=President, Congressman, CEO – no credit to other kinds of leaders that don't have a title of power, for example:  Mother's work
  • Giving ourselves permission to not feel like a failure if we don’t do "it all". Fail, fail again (structural process), Structured community, engagement (community organizing).
  • Cooperative work.
  • Key is in connection.

Wildcard: where attendees brought up their own open topics for conversation

  • It is about what I'll prioritize now: Self, Family, groups, it is all situational but is important in how one works and evaluates a job.
  • Acknowledge the personal and humanity not for your self interest—the work is the human dynamic and transfer it for a greater good
  • Vulnerability is a form of bravery and is strategic management.
  • Relating as a human to a human being- if only we can practice this as dutifully as getting things done.  Human element counts in our dynamic and evolving world, no need to be afraid of acknowledging this complexity!
  • Lack of middle management in our workforce? What can one do to encourage and foster a successor and give them support, opportunities to learn, and wisdom sharing that "yes, I, too get nervous when I speak to groups" it is a universal human response.  Go beyond "mentoring" showing an interest in continuing the work.  Not about a legacy, but about developing those who come next.
  • Beyond age, get out of the "20 somethings" mode as the next generation, it could easily be the person who just joined the organization or transferred from another department.  This is about acknowledging new perspectives and energy to continue the work.
  • Vulnerability is bravery, Intent is from heart and how people respond


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