Monday, November 10, 2014

fake it til you make it

I've been the Program Director for a non-profit child & family center for almost 5 months now. I've mastered the art of going to bed at 9pm and waking up at 5am, every day like the responsible 30 year old I pretend to be. I know how to smile when something's not going right because someone's got to remain calm. I screen my calls, smile and nod my way through a lot of conversations I don't understand a word of, and buy pizza for my staff on Fridays because it makes them happy. Every once in a while I close the door to my office, take a deep breath, and reopen it. At 23, I'm living the life of "fake it til you make it." Here are a few things that have helped me in this transition to this weird phase of life where people in college can no longer relate to you but those older than you don't take you seriously yet.

SHOW UP. Mentally and physically be present. There is nothing more annoying that working with someone who is not focused on the task at hand. Especially if you are a boss- your employees want to know that you are aware of what is going on, from the moms who argued at the meeting to the kid who's having a hard time at group. Your staff also needs to know that you are mentally there for them in their own successes and failures. If you feel like you're on the bottom rung trying to "climb that ladder," showing up to anything extra looks good. It just does. And mentally being present means you're going to soak in a lot of info that your coworkers may miss. One reason I got to be where I am (besides just the Lord's grace) is because I showed up mentally when others didn't. Sometimes people take notice.

BE ON TIME. Period, point blank. I often make fun of my friends whose normal "on time" is actually early, but it makes a difference. Being on time means having your shtuff together early. It makes you look good and relaxes everyone else. Being late is one of the most selfish things you can do- it makes you say that your time is more important than whoever you are meeting.

LISTEN. In trainings, meetings, and other normal conversations, I realized a long, long time ago that I had little to give and much to gain. So, even if I disagree with someone, my goal is to listen first and fully, and then I present my case or information. There are lots of people who are better than me at what I do- be it urban ministry or child care, and listening to them is key to me getting to where they are. Also, listening to my staff, to what is or is not being said, is important. I know how they are doing by what they do or don't say to me or to one another. I also hear them out when they have concerns or suggestions- the way I do something is not always the right way, and being teachable about things that can be improved helps me build relationships and trust with them.

LEAD BY EXAMPLE. If I expect a teacher to sweep after lunch, I've got to be willing to grab the broom every once in a while. If I want them to verbally encourage one another, it starts with me. But being is leader is not necessarily a position you step up to, but a mindset. One of my floaters is a leader, because she leads by example. She is not even finished with her college degree yet, but she is already going above and beyond her job description because a) she cares about her kids and b) she loves the Lord. This is what people look for. This is what they should take seriously.

Whether I'm wiping up spilled milk, making a newsletter or meeting with donors, what I do and the way I do it is important, because of WHO I do it for. I am a part of His story. And what I do should be a reflection of Him and His goodness and grace. So, if you have to fake it 'til you make it, know that you're not alone- I'm still struggling along right beside you. But also know that what you do matters- do it well.

"The significance of one's life is determined by the story in which they believe they are a part of."                                                                                                                                                Wendell Berry