Visibility, Strength and Showing Up

Trish McFarlane over at the HR Ringleader has asked us to dig deep and share a personal story of an event in our lives that helped us chart a new path for the Carnival of HR “Game Changing Moments” edition. I didn't have mine finished in time for the carnival but here it is.

I just finished reading Jennifer Miller's story about her life lessons learned in Guadalajara and now I have European adventures on my mind. I am drawn to the bakeries, wine regions and castle-laden hills of Germany and the coasts, beaches and villas of Italy.

I search for a game changing moment in the idyllic Austrian mountains and instead settle on one in a combat equipment company in Pirmasens, Germany.

I was a maintanance officer working for a company commander who was, let's say, troubled. He boasted, bragged, puffed, and fluffed and it was often at my expense. Picking my battles, I effectively countered his false bravado with my finely tuned finesse.

Or so I thought.

Picture this, big battalion commander standing behind his desk. I walk in and am greeted by, "what the hell is going on down there?" Ok, I wanted to play along but I wasn't sure what he was referring. Not one to tolerate silence, he continued, "I received an harassment  complaint, filed on your behalf, from one of your mechanics."

Talk about a game changing moment in the making. 

Not saying a word, he scrunches his forehead and adds an ever so slight tip of the head. I respond with an ever so slight shake of my head. So slight, so quick, "our moment" of concern and confirmation that all was well was over in a blink of an eye when he said, "Get it under control. Now."

Heading to my car, I tried with all my might to feel incredulous, "I'm working for a jerk and I have to get it under control?", but incredulous just wasn't happening for me that day. I felt strength. In that moment, I realized one thing: I was visible and it was time for me to start showing up.

I am not talking about visibility in terms of my rank, my position, or even the basic leadership lesson that my actions were always being scrutinized and observed by others. I am talking about me putting to rest the idea that I didn't matter, that I was operating parallel to everyone else and that being present and doing my job was enough. I realized I could no longer fly under the radar and be satisfied and that my finely tuned finesse was a shoddy smoke screen at best.

Message delivered. Message received. Message remembered.

As a wife, mother, woman, leader, traveler, writer and (fill in the blank) the pull of the comfortable, the safe, and the known is always present and so strong for me yet, when situations are mine to take care of (and even when they are not) I do - just as I did over 20 years ago in a little maintenance shop in Pirmasens, Germany.