I notice really stunning looking women with gray hair. I especially notice the ones with geometric cheek bones and salt and pepper short, sleek styles. I’m jealous. I’d like to wear my hair that way too. It says to me, “I love the way I look and to hell with all of the stereotypes that say I should look any different.”
I went gray about three years ago. I don’t have that wonderful strong wire-like hair it takes to pull off the red lipstick, sleek short hair look. Mine is baby fine and white in the front with a brown underlayer in the back. In order to keep peace at home, my hair is longer than I’d choose to wear it, but not long by any measurement. It covers my ears and mostly covers them in curls (completely chemically induced, as my hair is straight as a ruler). I get many compliments. A striking woman at one of my workshops said she only needed my example to have the courage to go from electric purple red to gray.
My best friend who is somewhat younger than I warned me that I would be perceived differently in professional environments and that I might not like how I was treated. Since I do at least a third of my professional work with her company, that hasn’t been a problem. The remaining 2/3 of my work is online so I can choose to be seen or not (by my computer camera).
I don’t want to be younger. I don’t even want to look younger. I do want to be considered beautiful until the day I die. For me, gray hair is part of my age-appropriate beauty, and part of the beauty I admire in others like Helen Mirren at right.
I have been meeting with a SCORE client of my husband’s. This unusually capable and handsome man (doesn’t hurt to look, right?) is building a database to track organizational change processes. Since I’ve spent most of my adulthood leading, participating in, and crafting solutions for organizational change, my husband thought I could be more helpful to Steve than he could be.
It turns out I can be helpful. I can tell Steve what hasn’t or doesn’t work when planning, introducing, implementing, and tracking organizational change. I can tell him because I’ve done all of these things–just not as well as I think they should be done. Making change is hard for any person. Multiply that by 10 to 10,000 and you have some idea how hard it is for organizations. But the more important challenge for both individuals and organizations is making sure change is happening and then making it stick. Virtually no corporation does this well. The military does it much better.
I can’t tell Steve how to build a database. God no. I can tell Steve what needs to be built into a database that purports to help organizational change agents build and track a change process. Years of experience and some wisdom about change, my own personal change and changes I’ve led in organizations, help me to be helpful to others with more enthusiasm than experience.
Yesterday I did my third in a series of five teleclasses about Appreciative Coaching. A friend and colleague put me onto vyew.com as a way to do webinars. Using this site with its free conference line has worked just fine until I had international participants. Static from the international connection in our second session made it impossible to hear each other. I went in search of a better option.
I assumed, as I have on each step of my learning journey about technology, that there was a neat solution–simple, elegant, obvious–but one I didn’t yet know about. I spent a week looking at free and fee-based conferencing sites on the internet. I talked to salespeople and customer service representatives. After a week of searching, a wonderful down-to-earth woman at the site I’m now using told me that there is no perfect solution to conferencing with international participants. Yesterday we used both the vyew.com site and a fee-based conferencing site (connection via internet and telephone conference line). The sound quality was much better and the connecting information was more complicated. In fact, I used the wrong number to connect initially!
Ultimately, the sound quality was much better. I suspect that some of this was true because my Peruvian colleagues were on mute for the entire hour. So, one more challenge of working into one’s older age. I assume that younger people know the solution to everything I have yet to discover. In a way it is a relief to know that that isn’t always true. In another way, I feel more mystified as to what I should know (about technology, mostly) and what isn’t yet known.
I sat listening to a creativity lecture yesterday and a light bulb lit up. I’ve been blogging–hesitantly, intermittently, kind of haphazardly–for a year or more. I grab a theme, then it kind of drifts off. I’m initially enthusiastic, and then not. As yesterday’s lecturer talked about finding what is real and true for each of us and then capitalizing on it, I knew almost immediately what is real and true for me now. But I have not wanted to write about it honestly.
I am 66. I work. I want to keep working until I either die or someone tells me it’s not a good idea for me to work any more. I still work mostly for pay and I might do more volunteer work someday, but not yet. Here’s what I do for work:
Teach in an online graduate program (both masters and doctoral level courses)
Coach managers, artists, and anyone in transition or transformation
Conduct webinars about my book Appreciative Coaching
Serve on the board of a religious community
Serve on the board of a local chapter of the International Coach Federation
Consult as part of a team to public agencies in San Francisco about leadership and conflict
I get paid to do all of these. Getting paid is part of what I want to write about, but not the deeply honest part. I want to write about my own challenges in continuing to work. Some of them are:
I get tired much more easily, and my brain is like glue when I’m tired.
My husband is 9 years older than I am. He has diabetes, a heart condition, and poor memory. Though this is mostly not a problem, sometimes it is.
I am taking medication for high blood pressure (hydochlorothyozide) and residual hot flashes (gabapentin/neurontin). Sometimes the medication makes me stupid (gabapentin).
I have arthritis in my feet which is mostly a nonstarter until I travel when my feet both look like basketballs and feel like I’m walking on nails inside my shoes.
I have carpal tunnel in my right hand, again mostly a nonstarter, except when I wake up in the morning and two fingers are numb, or I can’t hold a fountain pen because it is too heavy.
I want to be clear that I don’t want to write about my aches and pains. BO-RING. I do want to write about the joys and challenges of wanting to and continuing to work into my old age. There I wrote it. I will continue to write about this for as long as it is interesting to any audience. What do you think, audience?
I was losing my job as a training manager. The department for which I worked would be eliminated. I had to find another job inside the company or leave to find a job elsewhere. I found a job in another division that seemed to offer the opportunity to use my best talents. I got an interview with the head of the division. The first time I ever met Tim I knew that if I worked for him, my job and my relationship to a boss would be different. At the end of the interview, Tim asked, “Who needs to know that we’re talking about this job for you?”
He knew that our division was disappearing. Yet, he wanted anyone who would be affected by my leaving that division, or anyone else within the company who had offered me a job, to know that Tim and I were talking about my joining his division. Tim modeled political openness in a way I’d never seen before.
I took the job. I shared responsibility for a national salesforce with a product expert. My responsibility was to hire, train, motivate, and develop each of these sales people to sell the product. As part of my job, Tim asked me to make presentations to annual meetings of all of the division executives. After the first one, Tim came to my office. He complimented me on my presentation. Then he asked, “Could you help me be a better speaker?”
No boss I’d ever worked for had suggested that I did something they needed to do better. No boss had ever asked me for help in his or her development. Tim had no ego when it came to learning. He was an equal opportunity learner. If he couldn’t do something–strategy was his gift, not management–he either learned to do it, or hired someone to do it. He had hired and honored a very good manager to manage the day to day business of our division. Adam and Tim were of one mind. Adam ran the division. Tim developed and promoted the division.
Finally, when I l accepted another offer outside the company, only 14 months later, for what I hoped would be my dream job, Tim came to me and asked about the particulars of the job. When I answered his questions, he said, “You have to take this job. It is the job you should have had when your division collapsed.” No hard feelings. In fact, Tim and Adam gave me a going away party and lovely gift.
Tim was and is an appreciative leader. He always looked for the very best in everyone, including his competitors. He consistently sought ways to be a better and better leader. It has been no surprise to me that Tim has thrived within the company I left. He is the leader against whom I measure every other leader I meet.