You Were Always My Favorite

Posted: January 20, 2018 in Blog
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I make lots of references to the folks I work with on both my personal and my work Facebook pages, often talking about them in terms of being “the dream team” and how proud I am of them and of our work together. I make jokes about how we’re never the team where the boss is trying to catch someone doing something wrong, because I know as sure as I’m standing here that when I see them, I will catch them all doing something right. Being the team leader, I appreciate some moments to consider how I can better do my job, to make them as proud of being involved in our work as I am.

As I pondered approaching holidays last month, I was feeling particularly pleased to be associated with our team. I’m sure some holiday sentimentality figured in there, but I wanted them to know they aren’t JUST the Youth Outlook senior staff. They are unique individuals who bring their own talents and interests to our table, building a powerful team with diverse skills. So…in good Brene Brown and John Maxwell fashion, I decided to let my appreciation of them as people, not employees, show and I shared my thoughts, putting Vulnerable Boss right out there on the line.

I don’t know if you’ll ever meet all of the team. Some of my blog readers live on other continents. But maybe after you read, you’ll know them just a little bit better the next time I talk about them.

A Christmas Note to Youth Outlook Dream Team

Do you know the story about “You were always my favorite?”

The way it was told to me, a mom leaves her children a note to read after she dies. Each note starts with the line, “You were always my favorite because…” and she goes on to tell them why each was her favorite. At the end, the note specifies that they should not tell their siblings what they just read, thereby ensuring that each child went through life believing that they were their mom’s favorite.

On the way back from Orlando, I started thinking about our dream team and how important the role is that each of you plays in elevating Youth Outlook (youth-outlook.org) to being this exceptional organization. I think I was reading something about how, in some organizations, ridicule is used to control people and keep them in line. And I thought, wow, how horrible…how do people live with that? And I was feeling most fortunate to have our dream team. I was going to send you all a Christmas card but then the story about “You’re always my favorite because…” occurred to me. As I reflected on it, here’s what it turned into.

Yes, of course you’re my favorite.

Andrea, you’re my favorite because you embody self-care. What you have done in your commitment to derby right down to the leg you broke in what…97 places???… and the demands that I know your Big Girl job has tossed your way, our new vision for youth leadership, and your more recent adventures in getting into kick-boxing inspire me every time we talk and make me want to take care of myself too.

​Carolyn, you’re my favorite because you embody welcoming change and challenges in both your professional and your personal world. You are shaking up structures and systems across the state, and I predict that soon it will be across the country. Your welcoming change and challenge is rivaled only by your ability to make those around you feel incredibly cared about. I admire your courage and your willingness to think and then rethink and then think some more, and then act on those convictions with kindness.

Kim, you’re my favorite because you embody diplomacy and objectivity, approaching all situations with a calmness and a thoughtfulness that is uplifting. I’ve seen you reframe questions and concerns in staff meetings and trainings to introduce new possibilities without judgment, and when at all possible, with a mix of humor that often leaves me in a heap on the floor. Sometimes, even when you don’t mean to. Sometimes, because you don’t mean to.  That I can say to you, “Oh my—we’re having a Brene Brown conversation!” and you know exactly what I mean and both us dissolve into laughter, that’s an awesome connection.

Carrie, you’re my favorite because you embody fearlessness. You walked into a brand new job with a brand new agency in a strange city, then carried the main role for an event you’d never attended, and then led our charge into our new model without hesitation.  Your adventures in running, your role play persona at volunteer training and your “mom stories” about your boys further prove it—there is nothing you won’t challenge yourself with, no job too tough.  Your ability to dream goes hand in hand with your ability to risk wisely and you are a leader in every sense of the word.

Peter, you’re my favorite because you embody creativity. You bring color and energy to your work and apparently even when we’re talking about life handing us lemons, they’re fabulous lemons and we should all keep that in mind. I look forward to your posts about which project happened at group, or over the weekend, or at the summer art shows because your work just brightens our Youth Outlook world in so many ways.

Karol, you’re my favorite because you embody survival. You served in our military at a time it could not have been easy to be yourself. You started a drop in center in the middle of a cornfield where it also could not—and at times is STILL not—easy. You put yourself way out there in places and times where it might be more convenient and (perhaps?) less hurtful to do something else—but you don’t let yourself be ruled by that. You share yourself not just through Youth Outlook but other LGBT arenas too, and you never speak of yourself as a role model for survivors but you are and I want you to know I think of you that way.

Nancy Carlson, you’re my favorite because you embody lifelong commitment to social justice and the spirit of giving. When I think of the thousands of people whose lives you have changed by your work through Rape Crisis and now through Youth Outlook…many of those people who will never meet you in person but whose lives are changed because of you…I marvel at being able to work with such a powerful activist.

Heather, you’re my favorite because you embody the spirit of adventure. From stripping paint to tie dying tee shirts to recruiting new volunteers, you approach everything as if it is the most magical thing ever, and we’re all going to have a good time doing it. I know that a year ago you couldn’t have imagined what 2017 would bring, and I hope it has impacted your life as wonderfully as you’ve impacted mine and Youth Outlook’s.

Denise, you’re my favorite because you embody persistence. It is never easy to get a new suburban program up off the ground. You’ve already determined that whatever it takes, you’re going to give and that shows through every time we talk. You’re always looking for the next opportunity to share us, the next place to get word about Youth Outlook out, the kid who just needs a friendly shoulder. Your heart is huge and I’m glad it’s on the dream team.

Marcus, you’re my favorite because you embody living authentically. From your stories about being a minister’s kid to your flip-flops in February to walking into the Sikh temple last year and saying out loud, “I needed to see you, can I hug you?”, you show us every day how to be the best versions of ourselves by being real, open, and loving and I so appreciate you.

I am surrounded by heroes every day because you’re here doing this job with me. As I said, I thought about sending you Christmas cards, but it’s my 20th Christmas at Youth Outlook so I thought something a little different was in order.

Just so you know, you’ve always been my favorite.

With warmest regard and gratitude,

Nando

PS  Don’t tell the others.

PPS  I wish you amazing holidays. As I signed off a recent blog post:  whatever your holiday, whatever your traditions, whatever your holiday traditions, may you celebrate in peace and kindness and may the people whom you love light up your path for our coming new year.

creative-desk-pens-school

 

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