Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Learning to Serve Through Language

English is my first language. I am however bilingual with Arabic as my second. And although I took Spanish in High School and tend to use it here and there living in Arizona, I cannot say I'm fluent in it.

Growing up, my parents spoke to my brothers and I in Arabic at home and we'd respond in English. My grandmother (God rest her soul) didn't speak English. So she would say a few words and we'd use hand gestures and visual cues to maintain a conversation.

I am confident to say I'm fluent now in Arabic - Speaking, Reading and even Writing. I'm slower at grasping than I was before but am starting to strengthen my language all over again. All thanks to my husband, where English is his second language.

What is even more amazing is that our dialects are different being that we grew up in two different nations. Since everyone knows his dialect is more delicate, I'm trying to learn it and speak it more.

When learning any new language, it's not just the words you're grasping. You're picking up the meaning and the cultural habits behind it. And it got me thinking in the last few weeks - what makes his dialect more "delicate" as I put it?

It demonstrates servant leadership at its core.

By simply swapping one word, you can go from being demanding to serving. Over the years through different leadership classes, I was mentored on how to approach my peers, subordinates and managers. I would come off as "bossy" and "pushy," to keep this post G-rated.

I started framing statements into questions as a way to bring people on board with me. I tried to reference someone's idea to show how I was listening and asked how we could use it or build upon it. At times when I had to give orders, the statements came with confidence and grace and an explanation as to why it had to be done.

I am still trying to master all of that and continue to look for ways to improve my communication. And now I found it. If I could take the concept behind my new dialect and translate it, I'll be one step closer to being more approachable.

Traditionally I would ask -

"What do you want help with?"

In this statement the you can be offensive and that alone can make the question less delicate. Rather I ask -

"What do you want me to help with?"

By adding me, you're removing the focus on the person and creating a team environment.

I also mentioned that English is a second language to my husband and this has been a lesson in itself. When communicating with him, there are phrases and words I would traditionally use that do not make sense when translating to Arabic.

So I've become selective when choosing how I say something to ensure it doesn't come off wrong. As we expand our global presence, this is a crucial skill we need to master.

Language is not only the words.

It's how we order the words.

It's how we select the words.

It's how we present the words - our tone and timing.

Language is key to how we interact and communicate with those around us. Be mindful for how you order select and most importantly present your words.

If you're a Star Wars fan, you would recognize that the Master of all Jedi's, Yoda, speaks in a different form than we do.

"Patience you must have young Padawan" and in this example he's emphasizing what you must encompass - Patience in this case.

As you set off into the galaxy communicating, remember what you're intent is and don't be afraid to start with that.

It is way better than inadvertently offending someone when you set out to compliment them.

Enough said.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Throwing Out My Ego

Thinking of having a baby in the near future? I was given advice. The warnings. The benefits. But what most people don't talk about (maybe because they think they're out of line) is how quickly your ego gets thrown out the window.

Baby G was born on February 28, 2017 at 3:22pm. My pregnancy was on the difficult side with all day sickness from week six to 39 and contractions starting from week 28.

"But once you hold her in your arms and look into her eyes, it'll be worth it." <crickets chirping> Yes I love my daughter and wouldn't trade her for anything but I'm still recovering from the last 11 months.

I do, however, recall other comments like "you will learn to be a better leader in the workplace when you become a parent" and I'm starting to see why, hoping it holds true.

Create the Plan

I like to say I bring results and am quite productive at work and at home. It's amazing however how productive you are when you have a 40 week clock ticking.

At work I identified all the things I was leading. Working with my manager, we identified what was important and what could wait based on business needs. But what helped me get through it all was to avoid distraction.

Being at the company for almost seven years now, people know they can rely on me. So saying "no" was important now more than ever. And I learned that it was okay to say no and describe that it was based on the priorities. If there was a debate on the priority, it was resolved by putting all the cards on table and looking for the highest number.

It helps to know what needs to be done now and what needs to wait. And what's more crucial is your recovery plan. Who will do what in your absence or what will be done when something goes wrong?

I would rather take that ounce of prevention rather than the pound of reaction. Know what's ahead even when you don't know and have a plan of attack ready.

Take Control

I may have spoken about control in the past but it doesn't hurt to hit the replay button. I couldn't help waking up at five every day with the worst nauseating feeling during my pregnancy. Every time I think something would work to prevent the runs to the restroom, it no longer helped by the following week.

So I told myself to adapt. From five to eight in the morning, then noon and sometimes three to six in the evening, I may be sick. I couldn't control the sickness from happening no matter how many times I changed my diet or tried medicine my doctor prescribed. But I could control how I reacted to it.

Too often, we invest in the things we can't control. We nag about what the universe has or hasn't given us. In order to achieve results, we need to keep moving forward and we do so by analyzing what's within our control in order to succeed.

Be Humble

This one has always been the hardest for me. But when I do look into my daughter's eyes, nothing else seems to matter in that moment. She is looking to be for love, care, food and comfort. I put her needs before mine regardless of the situation. And when I can't anymore, I am willing to hand her to her father so I can rest and recharge. That was not easy in the beginning.

I am the kind of person who does everything at once and doesn't usually ask for help. When you have a fragile human being in your arms, it can be dangerous to try and do it all.

And this got me thinking- how many times did I work more than 60hrs/week? How were my decision making skills? How was my attitude towards my team? My family.

Pride can get you in trouble. Just recently, I let my guard down. I broke down and asked for help. I stopped worrying about how I would be viewed and didn't care if anyone was keeping score, which no one wasn't.

I started to listen more to what my daughter was saying (through her facial and mouth expressions and different cries); what my husband wasn't saying through his gestures of feeding the baby or rubbing my back randomly; and what my body was telling me through the aches and pains.

It's still difficult and with her growing cycles, there will be different phases of difficult but I at least lowered the expectations and know when and how to ask for help.

My daughter is just over a month now and she's slowly recovering from her low birth weight and thankfully that was the only consequence of a risk we learned about in the second trimester.

She will start to walk and talk before I am able to publish this post. So I hope to carry this message with me through her teething phase, her kindergarten hurdles, her college acceptance essays and her final touches of her dissertation (oh right, I said low expectations before huh?)

But I also hope to think of this time when I take on that next big project or interview for a manager position.

Our pride can cloud our judgment and distract us from focusing on what's important. Multitasking can be productive but I've learned the time spent feeding my daughter for 20-40 minutes a sitting, cannot be replaced. It's crucial to her health, wellbeing and aura.

If you can see the result ahead of you, then that is half the battle of achieving it. So don't be afraid to breath and be vulnerable why marking your path. If you're persistent enough, you'll succeed, even if you have to change diapers six times between start to finish. Every moment counts in achieving the end result, which includes bonding with your baby or even your team.