Gratitude fuels generosity

Last night I went to bed exhausted. I slept for nine hours and woke up still tired. I was thrilled because it was the good exhausted. I was exhausted because I had an absolute blast facilitating an MBTI session about “Managing Workplace Personalities” for the Women’s Networking Association on my campus. I absolutely love the MBTI and believe that it is a wonderful tool that can help people understand themselves and their teams better. When facilitated well, it can be an empowering experience that gives people courage to have tough conversations with themselves and others. Why wouldn’t I want to share that with others? Especially other women on my own campus? I presented twice, for 90 minutes each time. It was exhilarating. And for me as an introvert, completely draining.

In the five hours between sessions I went back to my office and caught up on “work.” I also happened to watch this Simon Sinek presentation on the importance of understanding people. I am unabashedly developing a hard-core crush on Sinek. It’s no secret that I think student affairs has an authenticity problem. I tweeted these gems from Sinek’s speech:

Authenticity. You have to say and DO the things you believe because they are symbols of who you ARE.

Organizations should actually DO the things they say they BELIEVE. If they do, then they will attract like-mined people.

As I sat there watching, I was starting to get up on my “yeah, student affairs stinks! And we need to do it better!” high horse. (I do think that we can do it better, but I am culpable in that change.) Then, towards the end of his presentation, Sinek said:

Generosity is not an equation. Generosity is doing something for someone without expecting anything in return. Ever.

I am part of the “we” that needs to do and be better. I am the “we.” I went back to the afternoon session with Sinek’s words in my heart and I poured myself into that presentation. It was more fun and more engaging than the morning session. It was fun. It was tiring fun.

It was fun because I did something generous. I donated hours of my time and my knowledge of the MBTI and I shared it with others. It was fun because I appreciated the women who took time from their days to learn and engage and share with others. All day today I’ve asked myself when and why I stopped being generous. When was the last time I did something just because? When was the last time I volunteered or donated my time/talents just because? The truth is, before yesterday, the last time I volunteered was too long ago.

Why?

This winter I was exhausted, but not the good exhausted. I was exhausted because I was bored. So, so bored. And I was bored because I made it all about me. My thoughts were selfish and self-destructive: “I am underpaid and unappreciated. I could be doing something so much better with people who appreciate me.” Blah, blah, blah. When I take a step back and really examine my life, very little of this is true. I am underpaid for my degree and experience, but I am not underpaid for my current role. I have a 6 mile commute that takes 12 minutes. I have awesome co-workers whom I like and trust. I have a flexible schedule 3/5 days of the week that allows me to pick-up/drop-off my sons at school. So, really?!!?! Pretty darn great.

I stopped being generous because I forgot to be grateful. I spent waaaayyyy too much time thinking about myself and all the things I thought I wasn’t getting. I was focused on perceived deficits and past hurts instead of gifts that are right in front of my face.

When I do something for someone without any expectation in return, I feel good about myself. When I feel good about myself, my eyes are more open to all that is good in my life. When I feel good about my life, I feel and act grateful. Gratitude fuels generosity. Generosity perpetuates gratitude. And on and on and on.

I am going to work harder at being grateful so I can be more generous. I hope you’ll join me. It’s going to be fun!

Self-advocacy

I have been a certified administrator of the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) since 2004. In my professional positions at three different institutions, I have presented multiple “Type” workshops to students, faculty, and staff. I have made the mistake of doing these sessions out of the goodness of my heart and my desire to be a helpful, collaborative professional.

This summer, my colleague asked if I would facilitate the MBTI for incoming doctoral students. As part of her ask, she asked me what my fee was. I said something like, “oh no, that’s okay. You don’t have to pay me.” To which she said, “No, this is an expertise that you have and you should be paid for it.” I was totally blown away. Gosh darn it! She’s right! I do have this expertise, a lot of practical experience, and a terminal degree which lends credibility to my role as expert. We plowed ahead with the proposal to pay me for my time. Both departments running the Orientation agreed to split the fee and my supervisor gave the go-ahead. Yeah! I was going to get paid for my expertise. For the first time.

I prepped. I prepped at home. I revised slides. I practiced. Then, I did it. And it was great. I love the MBTI. I love helping people find their best fit type and then help them use what they learned to be better communicators, team players, and students.

And then, they didn’t pay me. As the request made it up the channels of paperwork, word came back down to me that they were not going to compensate me. Me doing all that prep work and those two sessions (one of which was on my day off) were part of the “Monica” package that I brought to the table.

I was crushed. I am sure I pouted. As a new professional and even just a few years ago, I think I would have pouted for a long time and then thrown up my hands and moved along. I would have accepted that this is just how it goes. This time though, something was different. There were voices telling me to keep pushing, to stand up for myself, to ask. The literature (and my own experience and my observations of others) are constantly revealing that women don’t ask, they don’t negotiate, they wait to be recognized.

For one of the first times I can remember in my professional life, I said, “No. No, this is not okay.” I advocated for myself, my time, my experience, and my expertise. I had provided something and I should be compensated for that. I put together a proposal requesting that I be paid for my time. And, it worked. I advocated for myself and it worked!

This experience marks a turning point of sorts for me. I learned some very important professional and personal lessons:

  1. I have to ask. I have to ask for what I need and deserve and be firm in getting it.
  2. I learned that self advocacy is a skill that takes confidence and practice.
  3. I am grateful for my colleague who suggested that I be paid in the first place.
  4. I am grateful for my supervisor who was willing to take a creative but fair proposal back to the powers that be and advocate for me.
  5. It helps to have allies.
  6. There are women out there who will support and cheer for other women. I am grateful for those women. I hope to continue to be one of those women for others.
  7. As a Mid-Career professional one of my professional responsibilities is to help younger professionals, especially women, learn how to advocate for themselves.
  8. Get compensation agreements in writing.
  9. Get a deposit up-front.
  10. No more free MBTI sessions.

Are you advocating for yourself and being compensated (however you define it) for the unique gifts and skills you bring to the table? Psst…You are worth every penny!