The Yin to My Social Yang

No matter how much I resist, I am always better off when I step out of my comfort zone.



Let's take a few conferences I recently attended. The sessions were valuable but, by far, the greatest benefits came outside of the sessions. The greatest benefits always come through interactions with others.

They come:

  • at dinner in Chinatown when you realize you haven't been playing as big as you could.
  • at the Big Bar when you are introduced by one Canadian HR powerhouse to another and know you've just met the real deal.
  • in the lobby of the hotel looking for the evolution and meet two other women looking for the same.
  • in conversation with an amazing couple over wine and risotto.
  • over pannenkuchen in Rochester, Minnesota.
  • in meeting an email connection in real life right before a conference session.

It's all about making a difference yet the times of greatest benefit also present the greatest challenges for me. Introversion is the yin to my social media yang.

After the initial rush of seeing friends and the new conference high wear off, it is painfully clear to me that I really am a small group kind of girl. Walking into a large social event, even when I know many of the people there, freaks me out. When the momentum stops and I am given pause, I am looking for the door as fast as I can.

It's crazy. And I've let it define my path, my choices and what I see as my options. The more I try to change, the more firmly planted I become. I tend to surround myself with card-carrying extroverts because I am drawn to them and really, how else would I ever get out of the house? Try as they might (or maybe they don't see it to try),  they don't understand. Even those closest to me don't always understand.

Sometimes, neither do I.

Leadership Lessons from the Classroom

Leadership. Sometimes it's so quiet that if you didn't know what you were looking for, you'd miss it.

My daughter started middle school and has had so many opportunities in just the first 4 weeks. One of those was election for student council. So, with 9 students in her homeroom interested in the coveted leadership spot, each set out to create a poster . . .

. . . and prepare a speech to solicit votes from their peers.

"Hi, I'm Tarah and I'm running for Student Council. I am reliable and responsible and would like to represent you. I am also able to to do something kind of unusual. I can do this <insert freaky finger trick here.> I'm sorry, I just had to make sure you were awake. Like I said, I would like to represent you on the student council. I appreciate your vote and respect your decision. I also brought in some treats for your enjoyment." <parent note: this line was overridden by the teacher and the Fudge Stripes were not mentioned or shared until after the vote!>

When my husband and I saw Tarah later that day - she was psyched. She LOVED giving the speech and friends told her she was funny, she did not talk too fast and she seemed so comfortable. Giggling and unable to contain her excitement, she wanted to do it again - even though she did not get elected. 

"We're so proud of you for going for it" we said, "look at the wonderful experience you had." Playing with the kid we said, "At least you know you got one vote - your own."

"No," she said. "I had 2 votes and I did not vote for myself."

What?! Turns out she took her 2 votes and used 1 vote for friend A because she was nervous and did a great job on her speech and the other vote for friend B because she thought she'd be a great representative.

Wow, I thought, as I settled back and took a close look at the young girl sitting beside me. Mistaking my pride for doubt, she asked if that was the right thing to do.



The story doesn't end there.

A few days later she came home sad. It seems a friend told her she lost the election because she didn't vote for herself. <darn kids> I could see the struggle between for self and for others multiplied by middle school drama.

We talked about not knowing how the votes were distributed, remembering how psyched she was after the presentation and how good it felt to support her 2 friends. We talked about winning vs. being a good person and about how we were so very proud of her.


Leaders bring out the best in others and, when it's all said and done, that's who people follow. 

I know leadership is not about pomp and circumstance yet I have to wonder, is there still a place for quiet leadership in the loud world we live in today?