Know Thyself and the Rest will Take Care of Itself by bamafun

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									survival guide for women editors

The American Press Institute | www.americanpressinstitute.org

Know Thyself and the Rest Will Fall into Place
By Deanna Sands, Managing Editor, Omaha (NE) World-Herald
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ne thing I’ll say for you, Sands. You know how to play hurt.”

That was the closest thing to a compliment that I received in the 10 years I worked with the man. It’s also the truth. We all have to “play hurt” sometime. No amount of professional training or personal background can spare us. It’s just a matter of when. The people we live and work with aren’t totally reasonable, logical, compassionate and communicative. Nor do they always embrace the inherent wisdom of our well-researched and intuitive positions. And, sometimes, life just happens. So what do you do? Concentrate on being a whole person. Become the person you would follow into battle, the person you would share victories with, the person who would share your tears, the person who calls you to be better than you dreamed you could be. How? There are ways, short of sainthood. That old Greek was right: Know thyself. Some people are artists. Some people are builders. Some people can only tear things down. Some people defy description. Me? I’m a farmer. I like planting, growing and harvesting. I try to be a good steward. And I usually know how much fertilizer to apply. (That comes in handy during meetings.) Knowing that about myself gives me a touchstone, something that’s necessary in the daily swirl that is a newsroom. Supervisors and managers deal with human beings who need resources, support and direction to achieve common goals. Just like a field needs to be tilled, planted and harvested.

If you know who you are, you can define what matters to you. You can set priorities, which lets you focus on the important rather than be distracted by the urgent or the trendy. Management texts call that strategic thinking vs. tactical thinking. If you know what matters to you, you should be able to explain it to others. This is a powerful skill. When you can distill your thoughts and expectations into a common language, you can explain goals, set a path and get support. Others will help you achieve. That’s part of leadership. Just think about all those meetings. Do you wallow in aimlessness as participants seek clarity of purpose? Or do you have a path? You’ve got to have an idea of where you’re going, and who needs to come along, before you can get anywhere. Find the path and stake out the high ground. The Gambler was right: You’ve got to know when to hold ‘em. How much do you compromise? On questions of integrity, you don’t. On questions of vision and strategy, perhaps. Someone else will always know something that you don’t, so listen and adjust to the new information. It’s been a long time since something sprouted fully formed from the brow of Zeus. On tactics, usually. People have ideas and know their slice of the world far better than you do. Encourage them to explore and expand on what you started. If the foundation is solid, they will build to last. Don’t trample on their egos. The Gambler also said: Know when to fold ‘em. Not every battle is equally worth fighting. Discretion works for managing editors as well as for generals. That’s strategic retreat. You won’t win every battle anyway. That’s life. So you have two real choices — mourn every battle you lose and cling to every real or perceived slight, or just let it go.

While martyrdom makes a temporary splash, it doesn’t end well for you or the people around you. How tired do you want to be after carrying around all that baggage? A colleague long ago observed that I was the only person in the newsroom who didn’t hate (his word) a particular manager. He wanted to know why. I told him that being constantly angry at or about this person was too much work. And too distracting. And I would be the only one suffering. So let it go. Forgive it, even if you can’t forget it. Not that that’s easy. Recovering from deep personal or professional hurts can cost you months or years of emotional energy. Quite often you have to rediscover and redefine yourself to heal. Quite often you become stronger and find new fulfillment in new challenges. But none of that can happen unless you let go of hurt, or anger, or a misbegotten quest for justice. Is it worth all this? What I’ve learned, and what I suggest, requires a heavy dose of mental toughness and emotional energy. The pressure to think and act like your male colleagues is unrelenting. “You aren’t being a team player’’ has become the ultimate office putdown if you voice a differing opinion. So do you go along, setting aside all that hard-won experience and knowledge? If you know yourself, you know the answer.

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