by Tatiana Linardopoulou
“One can choose to go back toward safety or forward toward growth. Growth must be chosen again and again; fear must be overcome again and again.”
-Abraham H. Maslow
I started my new job at the same time as my boss began her Pathwise journey. We had known each other for a couple of years before she offered me this position and I had always been in awe of everything she had accomplished in her life. When I met her, she had several successful businesses, was an accomplished writer, and could multitask like no one I’d ever met before. She was a powerful businesswoman, who had grown up in a “man’s” business world – a world that had required the establishment of a rather hard outer shell. At work, she was forward-thinking and results-oriented. She had high standards for our whole team and, most of all, for herself. She was a great boss, to be sure, but our relationships with other teams were tenuous, at best. We had joined at a time when inter-team communication was strained, and our boss led meetings with a single-minded focus on our team’s needs and goals, like a general marching into battle. It was certainly one way to get things done – at the time I was convinced it was the only way.
Through the Pathwise program, I watched that hard shell slowly dissipate and be replaced by something much stronger – full ownership of every aspect of one’s self; true, calm, quiet confidence. Of course, this was a growing process and I challenge anyone to show me a growth process without some discomfort. Difficult situations from her past resurfaced and, with them, came feelings. Emotions that had likely not been explored or let out at the time of the original events were bubbling up, eager to finally be heard and processed. Knowing how much my boss treasured her strength and unemotional objectivity, I could see this was a painful process for her. She apologized to our team for being “emotional,” though her display of emotion was barely noticeable compared to our own occasional outbursts. Still, she clearly felt uncomfortable at being seen as “emotional” (presumably because of the gender stereotypes still associated with this term) but she did her best to embrace this newly discovered side of her, instead of shunning it.
As she worked through these aspects of herself, her relationships with other managers grew – even those relationships I had long written off as “unworkable” began to improve and it rubbed off on our teams. We, too, were more willing to listen, to empathize, to try to understand, and to remember that we are all human and generally just trying to do our best. Our productivity didn’t slow. In fact, it was almost the opposite – as our teams worked together better our work process became more fluid and our content deeper and more focused on connecting with the user.
To me, this “emotionality” was a relief – a reminder that she was human. Her openness about her process allowed me to be vulnerable and human as well. Her growth inspired my own and allowed me to communicate with her when I was struggling, something I was terrified to admit before. The open and honest communication helped us see the person behind the employee. This Pathwise journey is hers, but it affected each one of us as well, and the team as a whole, for the better, for the more human.