Shakespeare and Company: Culture ABCs (N - Z)

I hope you enjoyed the first half of Culture ABCs. Let's get back to it!

Night-tripping Fairy (elves that switched well-behaved children for ill-mannered ones, who were often called "changelings", from King Henry IV): Deadlines get away from us. We're sometimes required to defer to our supervisors' whims when we'd rather stay the course. It happens. That said, there's a difference between being caught in the throes of a project and a workplace culture that doesn't prioritize timely operations. Adjusting projects so they fall within the parameters of what a supervisor is looking for is not the same as an environment that doesn't respect or listen to its members. The short of it is...changes in the fundamental ways teams and companies function don't happen because of any otherworldly creatures that perform a nighttime switcheroo -

...they are always a direct result of the priorities we set, behaviors we reward, and dynamic we tolerate.

Of General Assault (common to all men, from Hamlet): I am a Black woman and a Millennial. Surely, you've stumbled across articles about how to manage people of my generation, ways my long-vacant gendered seat at the table can be warmed, and how workplaces can become good stewards of the cultural understanding I bring to said table.

When Millennials are written about (usually by non-Gen Yers), I often get whiffs of disdain and condescension. Women? The articles tend to focus on pay equity, parental leave and confidence. Race? Often male-centered with a bent toward industries outside my purview. While we need to make diversity (on a number of fronts) a high priority (and take real steps toward its realization), it's very important that we keep in mind that treating people as humans deserving of empathy, appreciation, and encouragement will always have us land very close to our goal. These facets of my identity will compel certain spaces to adapt - but they are also (and have always been) inextricably bound up in my humanity.

When you interview (and hire) me, you won't be getting fragments of an employee - you'll be introducing a full human being with all my insights into your culture...and inviting me to contribute. Trust me, reader - this is a good place to start.

Pennyworths (small quantities [of sleep], from Romeo and Juliet): I get it. You love what you do - and if you're like me in the least, you crunch numbers while you brush your teeth, you're designing new blog templates as you gaze into the side of your cereal box, you plug your calendar full of networking events and Periscope your latest insight over lunch...but don't forget to care for yourself. 

I made my bones in an industry that had me up at 6am with coworkers in China, Skyping with Western Europe and South America with my morning coffee, checking in with Chicagoans, Denverites and Californians until lunch, and keeping QQ in business by touching base with China again before bed. 

I understanding the need to work hard - but let's begin to work in ways that not only pay the bills but keep us alive. Life's not always in the doing, but the being. Be well.

Quick-mettle (mentally sharp, from Julius Caesar): I'm an ideas person. I love to strategize and I also have the good fortune of being doggedly determined as I execute. I believe that powerful teams are comprised of people that are curious, hungry, and...supported.

Yes, supported. When I'm on the job hunt, I take note of salary, office digs and other perks. As an innovator and chronicler of information, I also recognize my need to work in spaces where new ideas are welcome. Whether we're talking about your personal best on the basketball court or logistics at work, there is always room for improvement.

Hold onto your innovators by facilitating a culture where they can thrive. Let them do what they do best - pour into the culture with sharp points of view and valuable feedback. 

Reverb no hollowness (make no noise, as a hollow vessel does when it is struck, from King Lear): In my last gig, I oversaw eight academic programs across the country while based in Massachusetts. That huge swath of country spanned 1200 miles and they all needed the same quality of service while being in drastically different conditions when I got them. There were differences between my program in rural Indiana and my fledgling startup in Wichita; the no-holds-barred recruitment effort I launched on St. Louis was never needed in Denver. When I lent a hand with teammates' programs, I found that out what a difference a mere 45 minutes could make in the culture of a place.

(I'm looking at you, Washington D.C.)

While it was quite the thrill, it was not always wonderful. Now, failure is part of everything that we do, life is riddled with it - but it's possible to accept its inevitability without making it a a mindset. Even when things are not working the way you'd hope, never be found not working. You might fail, but you are not a failure. We are not hollow vessels. Put that resourcefulness to good use.

Sweet friends (the two lips, Merchant of Venice): I make a point to let people know that I value their time, respect their hustle and support their venture.  If I could spend my day tweeting about companies / hustles I admire, writing "thank you" emails, and endorsing people on LinkedIn, I would. I truly believe that people respond to genuine warmth and appreciation. 

While our cultural understandings (and behaviors) around work have undergone a shift, many of us still work in places where our effort goes unnoticed, our attention to detail dismissed, and our insight untapped.

Imagine what amazing work we could do if we cultivated spaces that interpret effort and attention as extensions of character, determination an indicator of temerity and investment, and insight like a renewable resource. 

Truncheon (a general's baton, from Hamlet): I've had my fair share of pioneers and lackluster leaders. When it came time for me to manage a team, I knew that I needed to play my position masterfully. 

As a manager, it was my responsibility to make sure all the "i"s were dotted and "t"s crossed - but not necessarily by doing it myself. I needed to create and maintain teams of dedicated, loyal, capable people - and this meant three things:

...letting it be known that my team had skills and insights that were welcome and would be put to good use; maintaining a working dynamic that they were proud to be part of; and that by doing both of those things, creating a banner they were happy to rally around and wielding a truncheon they trusted me to use wisely.

Undergoing stomach (enduring spirit, from The Tempest): When in the moment, my career path felt very disjointed. I hopped from city to city, freelancing with organizations, meeting with founders, pitching ideas and the like.

Some of my most glorious career moments were a result of my needing to hustle. I once launched a recruitment onslaught in St. Louis. I networked at my boarding gate at Boston Logan. I buddied up with the folks at my terminal in O'Hare and convinced the airline employees to let me give an announcement for the people boarding the plane to St. Louis Lambert. When I got my my hotel, I tipped the cleaning staff so they'd place my marketing materials (hand sanitizers) in each bathroom so people from all over the country would hear about my company and *just have*  to google our name.

Eventually, I'd make connections that changed the course of my career - because temerity, tenacity, and daring are trump cards. 

Vaunt-currier (announcer or herald, from King Lear): Reader, if I had to distill the beauty of Innovators into a single quality, it'd be our ability to see beyond current conditions. Vision, sight-beyond-sight, as I lovingly refer to it, has put me in positions to shift the course of my career, enrich the quality of others', and help create more savvy work environments. 

Remember my eight programs across the country?  Well, I named my territory Rayshaunaland. I began to think of my swath of country as  if it were a kingdom being primed for expansion (yes, I had Ticket to Ride and Settlers of Catan in mind - read my article of games). I created a mapping system for every active / approved host family, pending applicant, and inquiry. When I had a better understanding of where my communities were, I was able to adjust strategic efforts and grow them. During one of my trips to St. Louis, I was in a position to pitch a partnership with an area school because I already knew what I was able to do for their community.

I was intimately familiar with my landscape...and in a position for expansion.

Wondrous sensible (very deeply felt, from The Merchant of Venice): It's not accident that I've worked for five universities, nine multinational education companies, and planted my volunteerism firmly in social justice soil. My belief system and work ethic are extensions of my character - and whether we're talking about the value of diversity or the need for multiculturalism, my intention to contribute to something meaningful applies. 

I'll admit, sometimes the day-to-day nature of our positions will require that our worldview take a back seat, but I've found that people who are set on fire to create a better society make for great engineers, people that see the poetry in everyday life make for wonderful instructors, and on the whole, people that wake up in the morning with a heart for what they do are living the dream.

Xanthippe (mentioned in Taming of the Shrew): While Xanthippe wasn't a character in this Shakespearean play, she's still important to highlight. 

Hustle requires that we're always growing and adapting. In Reverb no hollowness, I said that failure is inevitable - that doesn't mean it's preferable. The Xanthippe of my industry nagged me about how I'd sell the idea of international education in a homogeneous rural community. Xanthippe nagged at me over the dinner table while I devised ways to recruit stellar team members...only to manage them from a thousand miles away. Xanthippe planted seeds of doubt every step of the way - which only made me more determined to deliver.

Xanthippe will nag - she will gripe, groan, and be irksome. It's up to you to see that she's rarely right.

Your mind hold (if you don't change your mind, from Julius Caesar): I mentioned my ardent love for this play in part one. Shakespeare was in fine form when he crafted the banter about cobblers and menders of souls, when he conjured the tempest onto the page and set the stage for a doomed Caesar.

Caesar, despite the plot, despite the powerful seat that eventually led to his demise, was undone by his refusal (not inability) to change his mind.

The working world is not filled with soothsayers and Calpurnias, but they are among us. The question has always been (and remains to this day): will you lend them your ear?

Zenith (highest point, from The Tempest): Reader, it's been a pleasure having you with me. You stayed the course as I put my literature education to use, and for that, I am grateful.

 I wish prosperity for you in whatever positive form that may take. I wish you confidence with a measure of humility, daring with a dollop of wisdom, and influence with a healthy dose of responsibility.

I also wish that you never reach a zenith. I wish that you find roles and company cultures that contribute to a sense of fulfillment and accomplishment. I hope that you never become comfortable with being stagnant and that you never get to a point where you think there's nowhere else to go. Thanks for reading. :)

**Many thanks to Colin Welch and David & Ben Crystal for their sites.