As soon as I took a sip of my dirty paintbrush rinsing water, my first thought was, “Did anyone see that?” My second thought was, “That will fit in a column some day.” So, here we are.
I recently attended a Paint and Sip situation, a birthday party for a friend. This is not my thing, at all. While we had a very fun girls’ night out, I don’t have a deep desire to do it again. I did indeed pick up the wrong liquid and take a sip of my brush water that was awash with acrylic paint. Another woman rinsed a paintbrush in her wine. And this was early in the evening.
We had fun, and walked out of there with 100 percent decent work, as you see above. My snowman approximated everyone else’s snowmen. Now, I can’t paint to save my life. But Joe Warnement, the Apollo Career Center floral instructor who guided us, is really good at this Paint and Sip thing. He instructs, step by step, and he uses participants’ canvasses to explain. Along the way, he works a little magic, which is to say he fixes your painting. Because my lovely wife and I both attended, we actually have two of these snowmen paintings at home, which is as funny as you think it is. I put mine on the mantel, and our son said, “I like Mama’s better. Put hers there.” Mine went on a wall darn near directly across from the other, and together they make quite the conversation piece.
In a fit of over analyzing the Paint and Sip experience, I was feeling ill at ease about my painting. I knew I couldn’t produce something like this by myself, and it felt fraudulent to claim it as my work. I felt like an imposter. I’ve been researching Imposter Syndrome; leadership development expert Susan Ritchie blogs about it and has a small e-book you can download from her site, susanritchie.co.uk. She is based in England, but many leadership challenges are universal. Her focus is on women’s leadership development, but I think much of what she addresses can apply to men as well.
As Ritchie writes, Imposter Syndrome is characterized by a believe that you are a fake, and that one day you will be found out. Research shows that women are “particularly affected” by debilitating significant self-doubt that can affect their own career success. Anyone in a new role, particularly a leadership role, knows what this feels like.
Ritchie offers several practices to overcome Imposter Syndrome, one of which she calls career mapping. It involves showing yourself a realistic picture of how far you’ve come in your career, with actual milestones and challenges you’ve overcome. She also suggests to ask yourself this question: “In what ways am I not an imposter?” She advocates saying the answer out loud and writing it down. Repeat until you have a good list to stand up to your imposter self. Ritchie has much more to offer on the topic, and I would invite you to check it out.
My Imposter Syndrome feelings came early and often as I made a career change, from journalist to nonprofit director. For many years as a reporter and even as an editor, I joked that someday I would have to find a real job. First, reporting and writing fit like a glove to me, and it never felt like “work.” Second, anyone who’s spent time in a newsroom understands it’s a unique environment. To paraphrase a former boss of mine, it’s no insurance agency.
And, so here I found myself, leading an organization, working with a governing board, joining organizations and other boards I had previously reported on. I resisted joining Lima Rotary Club, and even after I was in, didn’t feel comfortable. As a reporter, I worked to be connected and knowledgeable about my community, but it was purposely from the outside. You don’t get much more “inside” in Lima than in Rotary.
What got me over my Imposter Syndrome? In my new career, I applied a core belief of my journalism career: that my work is important because educated people are the ones who make positive change. I still see the function of Allen Lima Leadership through that lens. In my other roles, I looked for places I could help, and started making myself useful. I feel more comfortable earning my keep.
The research is clear that there remains a gender gap in leadership roles; Ritchie says that’s because not enough women are in the pipeline to begin with. That is for many complex reasons. Don’t let one of them be your own self doubt.
Oh, the tough love of a consultant. Much like a trainer or doctor, or, if you’re me, my mother -- a consultant’s job can be to make plain what you most likely know deep down.
Future iQ CEO David Beurle laid it bare for Limaland Thursday when he said: “What we’re doing is getting us what we’ve got. And it’s not good enough.”
Beurle said this from a place of love - after more than two years of consulting on projects here, the folks at Future iQ are fond of the Lima region. It shows in their work. But, their work is nearly finished, and it’s time for ours. We are left with challenging but achievable economic development goals. When you ask whose responsibility this is, I suggest to look in the mirror.
It’s been a look-in-the-mirror kind of week for community leaders, as a packed house Thursday received that unvarnished but constructive way forward from Future iQ and Allen Economic Development Group for our economic development goals.
The Collaborative Growth Plan is the culmination of work that’s also produced quality information about our region’s supply chain and workforce, and holes in those things, among other reports. With Future iQ’s help, we’ve learned a lot about our strengths, who talks to each other and who doesn’t, and the significant gaps we need to bridge to achieve our economic and community goals.
The plan shared Thursday is a path to achieving three goals, decided on by Allen Economic Development Group after hours of interviews and focus group conversations facilitated by Future iQ:
The growth plan details seven challenges that must be overcome to achieve these three goals. At the top of the list, not surprisingly, is a quantity and quality gap in our workforce.
Buerle called it the “burning bridge” issue. If it’s not addressed, nothing else matters. So, where are we finding 22,000 people in less than a decade? Many of them are already here, it turns out, and it’s a job for each of us to help keep them.
Some of these folks will need attracting and recruiting. But others are here. High school graduates who realize a good job is in their own great hometown. College graduates who would return home, with the right job and an improved quality of life. Graduates of regional colleges who could stay, if the place they interned hired them. People who have become disengaged from the workforce. And people who could retire, but don’t, because employers crafted flexible schedules and renewed purpose by having them mentor those college grads.
Each of us must play a role. Maybe you’re a CEO and worried about losing experienced workers and attracting talented new folks. Give an older worker extra vacation and ask that they stick around another couple of years to mentor that 20-something full of potential. Maybe you’re a member of the Lima Young Professionals, and you’re creating partnerships with area colleges and universities, to connect with students before they graduate. Maybe you’re an ALL graduate and you need to serve on a board of a nonprofit that helps move people into the workforce.
For nearly 30 years, Allen Lima Leadership has contributed to workforce development. We’re starting to see a generational effect: Some of our recent Signature Course adult graduates also graduated from our high school youth program. That’s long-term work, keeping people engaged in their community. But, what we’re doing is getting us what we’ve got, and it’s not good enough. So, this year we strengthened our leadership development curriculum. We’re creating an alumni association. And we’ve recommitted to making positive change, by increasing the number of ALL grads who serve on boards (If you need a board member, or want to serve, call me!), and improving the quality of those board members with board leadership training.
I would challenge you to ask what more could you be doing. To put that 22,000 number in perspective, Future iQ’s modeling shows that if we did nothing, we’d have a workforce shortage of 11,000 people. Doing what we’re doing would grow the workforce by 1,500 by 2025. But we need 22,000. And every other economic region is facing exactly the same workforce issue. The bridge is burning. How are we getting across?