The Road to Change
In 1968, I attended an all-girls "junior" college in Boston. I had no idea back then what I wanted to do with my life except to follow the path suggested by the adults in my world and to become a medical secretary, work in a hospital and find a doctor to marry who would take care of me. Since I had no burning desire or passion to do any one thing, I thought that sounded like a good plan. In addition, my main goal was to leave the town in CT where I grew up and get to a bigger, college town, so Boston was the place to go. Off I went to the lovely Back Bay area of Boston to begin my next chapter. What I didn't realize back then was that the opportunities that presented themselves to me during my two year experience would forever change my life.
As thrilling and exciting as this new journey was, what I found was that there were more social restrictions in place than I ever experienced at home. Growing up in a non-traditional home with a father who was in show business and a British mother who all my friends thought had a "funny accent," I was used to a free-wheeling environment with no specific curfew. In addition, I was the oldest of six children so I was the leader of the club and I become comfortable with being independent.
The school in Boston had a curfew along with other restrictions. The biggest shock was that there was "tea" time and we were expected to wear white gloves and skirts. No slacks were allowed in the school at all. I decided that this had to change and this is where the learning opportunities began that I still use to this day. My mission was to abolish the white gloves policy!
Change Requires a Plan
Change initiatives need a plan. I had created enough of a buzz in the school community to wake up the masses and create a team of dedicated followers to help devise a plan to abolish the gloves. The plan was for me to become class president and change the rules! Great! Now what! I spoke with my dad who had coached me on presentation skills (thankfully) while growing up and he encouraged me to proceed. I had to run a campaign, educate my peers on why I supported the change and get enough votes to win. Behind the scenes the leadership (administration, teachers, house mothers (yes, we had house mothers back then) didn't support these changes. I was viewed as a "revolutionary" since I was questioning the rules. Our team realized that there was a history of established rules that we had to break through and this wasn't going to be an easy journey.
Are change initiatives ever easy? If you've had any experience with making change happen you know the answer. Presenting our case in a clear, compelling, educated manner is what worked. I became class president, the white gloves were gone and slacks were added to the dress code. So, what did I learn by that experience that I still use today? I call it my "white gloves" moment. Whenever I have a conflict, make changes to a routine, engage in a heated discussion, I say it's time to take off the white gloves. When I think back to what I accomplished in 1968 I realize that what made everything happen was my ability to speak up and use my voice to make the change happen. Call it step up, wake up, go for it, reach out, do it, lean in -- whatever. I realized that it was up to me to make change happen.
Use Your V.O.I.C.E. -- Values, Opportunity, Interests, Commitment and Empowerment
I've since taken what I've learned from this experience and started my own business, married a terrific guy who is my partner in work and life (no, he's not a doctor), we've raised three boys, became CEO of our business, WorkLife Performance Consulting and launched WorkLife for Women, an organization dedicated to helping women give voice to work and life. Through these experiences I learned:
- The importance of recognizing and staying true to your Values. Values are the inner compass that guide your decisions.
- Not to overlook the Opportunities as they present themselves. They become learning moments.
- Know your Interests. If you don't know what you're passionate about and don't follow that passion, you can't be happy and fulfilled.
- Commitment makes it all happen. Along with commitment, however, is to know what you're willing to say yes to and what you will say no to.
- Empowerment is the icing on the cake. There is nothing better than accomplishing something that makes your feel empowered while fulfilling a personal mission.
The white gloves story is an example of the importance of using your voice. When my well-being is challenged, it's usually because I'm out of alignment with my voice framework. By honoring my values, paying attention to opportunities, following my passion and balancing my commitments, I'm empowered. This has become my personal mission -- to support others in achieving their own personal empowerment through utilizing the V.O.I.C.E. concepts.