Deeper Than You Think

Photo by Luca Bravo on Unsplash

Your reservoir runs deeper than you think.

Speaking Up

There was a period of time where my teammates didn’t feel safe to speak up. One of the hang-ups that I heard from someone looking at a problem which needed action was that the solution was something a leader should be doing.

My teammate wasn’t wrong.

In a conversation with my boss, I mentioned that while we were discussing taking initiative and the team feeling safe to speak up. Shortly afterward, she forwarded me a Marcus Blankenship newsletter about, “What if I’m not the boss?” The recommendation was (crude paraphrase here) that because you have eyes to see and a mind to think you also have a voice to speak. That boss has done a lot to foster an environment which encourages people to speak up, speak out, take initiative, and take ownership.

That said, our leadership structure shifted and I no longer report to her.


Shortly after the announcement was made that we’d be reporting to someone else, I sat down at her desk and said, “I know I’m not going to be reporting to you anymore, but I want to work on personal development, and I need to have some conversations that are a lot easier if I’m not also getting to know someone. Could I still meet with you a couple of times?”

She said yes, and we had a one-on-one. As the meeting was drawing to a close, she started asking me something, and then paused for a moment like she felt the question was awkward, and then asked if I wanted to be her mentee.

It hadn’t seemed like an odd question at all to me. We’ve had a lot of growth and development conversations, and she’s shared a lot of useful resources with me. She also knew, from a much earlier conversation, that I was looking for more mentorship (at that point, I hadn’t asked her, I was just mentioning it in passing.)

I accepted. To me, it was a no brainer because I can learn a lot from her and when it comes to having difficult conversations, she’s already earned my trust.

Your Reservoir

These two conversations, among other things, made it clear that a lot of people underestimate what they have to offer. We all have shortcomings, weaknesses, and gaps in our knowledge. But most people have more to offer than they admit to themselves.

Speak up. Speak out. Help those around you.

You have what it takes.

Not Everyone’s Ally

Photo by Neil Thomas on Unsplash

In our interconnected world where people feel free to say things from the safety of their keyboard which they wouldn’t say in person over a cup of coffee, we’ve all seen our share of bad allies. They’re the people who want to support you, but they don’t know how and end up hurting you instead.

News Flash
We are all bad allies
I’m not kidding – take a moment for that to sink in.
Now let me explain what I mean –

I’m not saying you’re a bad person. I’m saying that you’re not always the right person. And, more importantly, I’m telling you that it’s important to know when you’re not the right person and then let that knowledge impact your actions.

Example 1: That Friend on Facebook

This takes many forms, but it’s the person on social media wants to help champion a cause – probably your cause – but then they dillute your message and get angry when someone calls them out.

I know a person, we’ll call him Raphael – well meaning, kind, helpful, big hearted – who did just that. A mutual friend made a post about the impact of the societal assumption that the worth of a woman is tied up in bearing children. He then took it a step further to broaden the scope.

Unfortunately, broadening the scope also weakens the message. Usually that sort of broad message is best addressed elsewhere instead of inserting it to derail the conversation at hand.

Still not sure where I’m going with this? Think of that well-meaning aunt who makes an All Lives Matter comment while you’re in the middle of discussing a distinctly Black Lives Matter topic. Now you see where I’m headed.

The people in this conversation, knowing the kind of person Raphael is, kindly steered the conversation back into place and asked him politely to be more mindful. Raphael, unfortunately, didn’t take the hint. He dug his heels in, and – clearly ignorant of what he was doing – started supporting his position in a way which was insulting to the other people in the conversation. In the end, one of the other people in the thread came out and told him bluntly that he was being a bad ally.

My point here is that we all have baggage. We all have bias. We all have blindspots.

We all carry within us the possibility of being a Raphael.

Lesson 1

  • Be open to correction.
  • Learn.
  • Grow.

Example 2: Me

Helping others succeed is something which is important to me, but even in that area, there are situations where I am not fit to be an ally.

If a person has completely fallen apart, is totally lost, is consumed by the ways they’ve been victomized or controlled by addition or other people. Then I’m rarely, if ever, an effective ally.

I’m not motivated by empathy or sympathy, and I probably never will be. Why? Baggage.

I’m a passionate person, so my emotions are a prime hook for manipulators to take advantage of me. I’ve fallen prey to that more times than I can admit to even myself, so the tricks I’ve learned to protect myself have also created walls which don’t allow my emotions to be a trigger for giving anymore.

I’m not sure I’ll ever change. But I will at least be honest. I will genuinely listen, and will tell you that if you need help then I need a concrete request because an amorphous plea for help will not register.

That doesn’t work for everyone. Sometimes a person is so lost that they need someone to reach out and drive the help. Because I am not that person, I will fail to be the ally which some people need. Time and time again, I will fail.

I know this, and instead of trying to become someone I’m not, I’m working on 2 things:

  • Communication. Clearly expressing both my own shortcomings, and what I need to receive in order to give effectively
  • Learning. While I may never be good at being this kind of ally, I can learn to be less bad at it. For me this will be a long road, but it’s one worth walking.

Lesson 2
Admit your shortcomings. Trying to become something your not is a futile struggle, so don’t think I’m encouraging you to try. Be true to yourself, but become the best possible version of yourself.

The key is to not expend all of your energy trying to be an ally where you are unequipped to be one.

  • Expend that energy on your strengths. Where you can be a good ally, become a great one.
  • Where you are going to be a poor ally, learn enough to not hurt those you intend to help.

When you get it wrong – and you will get it wrong

Take responsibility and make it right.

Rare Candy

Photo by Sneha Chekuri on Unsplash

The candy dish, while not rare in the office, is often undervalued. Yes, it’s candy in a dish on your desk. It’s not terribly complicated, but for a very sustainable cost, is fills 3 important roles:

  • It adds color
  • It invites people to come to you
  • It provides a mini break

Many office environments are still rather dreary with widespread uniformity, muted colors, and an over abundance of gray and beige. If you work in an office space which hasn’t been updated in the last 5, 10, or 20 years then you’re likely dealing with even more spirit-dampening environmental factors. Making little changes to create a space tailored to you will improve your attitude and help combat the impact of the inevitable stress which the work day will bring. A candy dish will help you, and it will extend the day-brightening impact to the people around you.

Offering a selection of candies will make your dish appealing to a wider range of people, which will bring more people to you. While this may sound like it’ll add interruption to your day, the exchanges will often be short (unless you’ve got too many chatty co-workers), and it will give you a nearly zero-effort way to connect with the people around you. That will give you the opportunity to give them quick updates or ask quick questions without sending emails or spending the time to leave your desk.

The candy itself will give you a chance for a mini break, and it extends that offer to those around you. Taking a moment away from situations which may have you overwhelmed will give you an opportunity to reset and re-center. For your coworkers, it’s a chance to step away from their desk.


  • Get a visually engaging dish.
  • Include fruity candies and chocolates
  • Get a selection of sweet, salty, bitter, rich, spicy, and sour
  • Consider the dietary restrictions of your coworkers

Candy Suggestions
Variety is key.
There are many bags which include several different candies. Get 2 or 3 and mix them together. Successful candies include:

  • Hershey’s Miniatures
  • Hershey’s Nuggets
  • Dove Promises
  • Hi-Chew
  • Laffy Taffy
  • Lemonheads
  • Sour Patch Kids
  • Nerds

Some of the above are vegan-friendly (Lemonheads, Sour Patch Kids), but other good options are Skittles, Swedish Fish, Sweet Tarts, Twizzlers, and Airheads. If there are low-carb dieters with a sweet tooth in your office, you’ll have to work a bit harder to find candies they can eat that won’t wreck their diet – especially since not all sugar-free candies are safe (many of which may interfere with your Keto-friends’ ketosis). If you don’t want to do a lot of searching, an 85-90% dark chocolate tends to be a decent offering

The most important thing to remember is that it’s candy – have fun with it!

Life Inside the Cubicle