Confrontation is a Gift Even If It Feels Like a Punch To The Gut

I want to share a story with you that I have not shared with many before.  It is hard to openly admit when I have royally messed up, but it is something that I also am grateful for. And if getting past my pride can give us all pause to cause, then I of course will divulge.

Last spring, my boss at the time swung by my desk and impromptu asked if I had a few minutes to chat. Now, I was  (and still am) close with her. I knew instinctively this conversation was not going to be pleasant.

When we get settled at a table outside, she cut to the chase and told me that she has been hearing that my team has been complaining and frustrated that I was micromanaging them. Which for anyone who has ever managed can attest that being called a micromanager is quite possibly one of the worst insults professionally you ever will experience.

She did not give me a lot of details or who said what. She told me because she wanted me to talk to my team and to handle it on my own. I have had other situations at work having to confront people so this concept was not new to me. It was still extremely anxiety ridden and intimidating.

This conversation with my boss took place on a Tuesday and I had decided I would address this directly with my team on Thursday at a scheduled meeting. Now, my team at the time was 4 people (3 of whom were expressing they did not like me micromanaging). I literally lost sleep over this for multiple nights. I went through so many stages trying to process this issue and I had so many questions.

I started with feeling indignant. I was NOT a micromanager and screw my team for saying I am. If I do micromanage, it is because THEY deserve it.

That line of thinking did not last long. At all. I had to really change my mindset and accept that there could be validity in what they were feeling.

One of the most important things I realized though is that it really did not matter if they were right or if I was right. It was about this unsaid tension between us that if I did not respectfully and diplomatically address with them, it was not just going to away nor was I magically going to have a solid, trusting team. Because the thing is, once someone labels you as anything whether, it is a micromanager or lazy or fake or an all out bitch, everything you do in their eyes will prove why you are. And I did not like feeling that my team was going to repeatedly snicker behind my back and analyze everything I say or do. As a manager and more importantly as a leader, it really matters to me to be respected. You do not have to like me necessarily or agree with my choices or directives, but at least understand to a point that my character is not in question.

I felt extremely vulnerable and I also felt like I failed as a leader, which lead to so much self-doubt that it had me question if I had any right to be a manager. It was very humbling to say the least and was quite crippling.

I scripted what I wanted to say to my team ahead of time. I wanted to be honest and upfront and make them feel like I was open to hearing their feelings and issues without them being judged or concerned that I would somehow retaliate against them. I wish I kept the script because I would have 100% enclosed it in this post. So I am going to do my best to recall the important points and discussion:

  • I let them know that I am not the type to dismiss feedback and that I take it so seriously. And I would never use it against them. If they are feeling like I am micromanaging, I want to talk about it openly.
  • I told them honestly that having to hear from my boss that my team felt I was micromanaging was very difficult to hear. It actually was harder coming from her instead of my team. It made me feel like I intimidated them so much so that they could not come to me. Yes, feedback is hard and yes, I may have been taken off guard. And yes, I may have needed time to process it when they addressed it, but I would look at it through their eyes as much as I would through my own.
  • I also let them know that I cannot fix something if I am not aware of it. I also did throw in what I feel is respect of coming to me directly instead of talking behind my back.

I joked with them to cut the tension a bit that I was essentially initiating my own intervention (which got a chuckle out of them). I asked them to share with me examples of times they felt I was micromanaging. And you know what? The things they recounted were not as hard to hear as I expected. More importantly, they were completely resolvable. One that stands out is that they wanted me to chime in less on calls with clients. They wanted to earn respect from them and not have anyone perceive them as incompetent because their manager was always talking for them. Ok, guys, done.

Our discussion was so positive. We tackled an awkward topic with dignity and directness. Not one person took it as an opportunity to shit all over me. They talked to me openly and with maturity. I never felt like they were attacking me despite that I knew they were really frustrated and demoralized. And that is how discussions should go.

Also, two of them in 1:1 meetings I had praised me for holding that meeting. They told me it took courage, and they were thankful that I did. Part of it too is people often forget managers are human too. Seeing me so vulnerable gave them a different level of reverence.

I also stressed to them that I do not have it all figured out just because I am a manager. I am constantly striving to grow and evolve. And feedback as hard as it is to give, is actually a gift. So many times we view feedback as a bad thing. Because we seem to have fallen into a culture of thinking confrontation is a negative. And in actuality, when you can figure out how to confront someone in a positive, RESPECTFUL way (I am deliberately using that word multiple times to make the point that it is ESSENTIAL!), you are helping them. Ignoring issues is counterproductive.

We often assume people want to critique us or tell us less than pleasant things because they come from a place of hate or a place of jealousy or we think they are projecting. That is bull shit. Whether it is your boss, or your employee or your friend or you sister or your father, that takes the time to respectfully tell you something, remember two things. One, they are coming from a place of love. They are not trying to deliberately hurt you because they get off on seeing you upset. Two, confronting someone is just as emotionally taxing on them as it is on the person receiving the message. So if they are doing it, it is because they have a justified reason (because remember, they could ignore it and save everyone a lot of heart ache).

We have to stop thinking confrontations are bad. You know, a lot of people equate a friendship or relationship of being solid with never having any fights or disagreements. And in my opinion, that is not necessarily true. People hold back and play it safe and I challenge that if they actually do address things head on, each person can grow and that relationship if anything can get stronger.

I share this story because I whole heartedly believe we need more healthy confrontations. Truth be told, much of this has been sparked lately with seeing too many public feuds on social media and it infuriates me quite bluntly.  I am tired of seeing people air their dirty laundry publically.

Everyone has a platform the second they login into Facebook and post something. Everyone has the ability to persuade their following to love them, to respect them, maybe even to fear them or dislike them. Everyone has the ability to pick and choose what they share with their following to get or stay in their good graces. Everyone has the ability to tell very one-sided stories to get that validation or vindication. They receive an outpouring of comments like “Haters gonna hate!” (which seriously, can we leave that expression in 2015?) or “You are so brave to share this!”

Bravery and strength is confronting the person who you feel wronged by directly and privately. Going on social media and telling half a story that is slander against someone else is cowardly. Talking to everyone else but the person in question is not brave. It is avoidance.

I could have chosen to ignore what my boss told me about my team. It sure as hell would have been a less painful process. I could have chosen to just talk shit about them to anyone at any chance I got to make myself look and feel blameless. I could have also selected who I told that I would know would assure me I was right and that I was dealing with immature and negative people. Because obviously if someone tells me something that hurts, the issue is them and not me. But guess what guys. We all have accountability in every situation we are in.

But I never even entertained that option. Professionally and personally, the people in my life who have the most impact are the ones who call it like it is, good or bad. The harrowing and the traumatic situations are the ones that I grow the most from. I am constantly evolving as I really believe we all should be. And we cannot do that if we are not open to having very honest conversations.

 

 

 

 

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Tainted Workout Experiences Diminish What Could Be Life Changing

For many people, it takes every bit of courage they have to show up to a gym or a yoga studio or a CrossFit class or whatever workout they have finally decided to try. For many, it is a triumph to get through the door. And for some, their first impression has them running like a bat out of hell right back out.

Customer service is a skill, a skill that not everyone has. To me, it is common sense. When it comes to fitness, it is all the more important to have that skill, ESPECIALLY for those people who it did take every bit of nerve they had to walk through that door. So. You show respect, you listen to what the other person says and you encourage. You do not belittle. You do not body shame. And you do not judge. At all. When it comes to health and fitness, someone’s first interaction is what can inspire them to want to take more steps when they have a positive experience versus what can traumatize them when it goes terribly wrong.

Let me tell you about my first CrossFit experience 6 years ago. Spoiler alert. It was awful, demoralizing and infuriating.

I was about 5 months out from a broken foot, prior to which I was doing high impact workouts like running and kickboxing. I tried to find a workout I could do while I was in a cast, but the thing about a cast is that you cannot get it wet. Working out results in sweating which can result in mold. Gross. So it was not an option. I was at one of my lowest points with a hella lot of life’s stresses yet I was not able to use my go-to therapy, fitness, to deal with it.

Needless to say when the cast came off 6 weeks later, I was ecstatic. I thought I could get back to my workouts, but go figure, that did not happen. I wanted to kickbox and run again like I did before I broke my foot, but I could not. I had so much muscle atrophy (my leg was half the size of the other) that anything involving my feet (i.e. everything) caused soreness, swelling and pain and just overall muscle fatigue. I was really frustrated because I probably gained 10 pounds (I lost almost all my muscle tone. Everywhere. Muscle tone that I worked my ass off to gain. So to say frustrated is an understatement).

I was at a loss as to how to get back into shape. A friend of mine, Nikki, who had been doing CrossFit a few years and had just started coaching, suggested CrossFit as it is totally scalable. She was really enthusiastic about it which got me excited about it too.

I found a CrossFit box to try out (a friend of a friend coached there), and so I set up a 1:1 consultation with the owner /coach. I was eager to go but also intimidated. CrossFit just sounded scary and I did not know what to expect. Well, what I did get was definitely not what I expected. Upon meeting him, I immediately got bad vibes from him.  It was very clear to me that he was one of the most arrogant, condescending, unqualified people the universe ever could have brought to me as an introduction to CrossFit.

He had me do a baseline workout that had rowing, air squats and push-ups. He was telling me repeatedly to go faster which I was not comfortable with as hello, I was recovering from an injury. My foot was sore. My knees were not properly aligned.  My stance was wide. I felt ridiculous. When I got done with the workout, he had the AUDACITY to tell me that my form was shit. Which mind you, not once did he give me any cues or guidance as to “how” I should be performing the movements. It was all “Move faster!” Super helpful, Guy.

And it got worse after that. He made repeated insulting comments about my height. For example, he asked if I wore heels all day to work and quickly said “well yeah of course you do. You are short.”

He asked me how I broke my foot, and as I was responding, I only got this far, “I was running—“

“Oh yeah no wonder you broke your foot running. 70% of runners have bad technique.”

“No, d-bag, I was not running recreationally. I was running in chunky flip flops through an airport to c catch a flight and rolled my foot.”

He made an assumption that I was a totally incompetent athlete and naturally my injury was due to my lack of skill. Prick.

At any rate, I could not get out of there fast enough. I walked out of there seething with anger and contempt. I was ready to write off CrossFit completely because this guy did a shit poor job of representing. And without any other benchmark, I was just done.

I talked to Nikki, and she was as appalled as I was. She reassured me that he was not representative of CrossFit and to not give up on it because of him.

Obviously, we all know my CrossFit journey did not end there. I am grateful I had the guidance from Nikki as I did indeed find another box with a polar opposite experience. The coaches understood my injury and my limitations. They were encouraging and positive. They were the true spirit in which CrossFit is intended to be. Coach D-Bag obviously should not be coaching or owning a box, and I was relieved to know everyone is NOT like him.

I feel fortunate though that I did not give up. I had enough confidence (and quite frankly, fury) to not allow one jack ass to make me think less of myself or my abilities. But the thing is, not everyone who has had a similar experience bounces back. For many, it truly is so traumatic, they give up completely. When you have an emotional and demoralizing experience, logic can shut down. While there are a million yoga studios and Pilate’s studios and CrossFit boxes, for someone who had trepidation to even show up, he/she is not likely to want to go to another. Our brains start to associate everything similar with one horrible experience, and the rest become guilty by association.

And so I share this story not for sympathy for me (as despite my bitter undertones, this was just a blip in my journey) but to bring awareness that this type of experience is NOT acceptable. And should you or someone you know find yourself in that situation, know that it is NOT necessarily a reflection on the sport/exercise as a whole. One person should not carry so much power to taint what could be a really important, life- changing step.

 

Strong, Beautiful Women: Handle It.

 

We are entering a year that is predicted to be THE YEAR of women’s power rising. I strongly believe that. Yet, for as true as that may be, we are still fighting antiquated ideals and perceptions. One of them that has really been triggering something in me is how often the line between being complimentary and downright inappropriate still happens. I know this happens to men just as often as it does to women but for the sake of this blog, I’m referring primarily to men being inappropriate with women. It is also specific to social media. There are so many turns this subject can take, but for now, this is where my outrage, confusion and disgust are originating from.

Somewhere along the way as we celebrate women for their triumphs, their journeys, their fitness, and their bodies, there are men who seem to believe that those photos and videos that are posted on social media are personal invitations to warrant sending sexual messages. And this disturbs me on many levels.

I realize that as a society and culture we do have an unhealthy fixation on our physical appearances and a whole lot of body image issues to support that. The thing is though, there is so much campaigning against this that shows itself in so many forms. Women of all  shapes and sizes are sharing their stories which takes damn courage and bravery to do.  Scroll through your social media feed and notice how everyone looks different. We are no longer just paging through magazines where everyone seems to be the same or fitting into a mold that fashion dictates. We have this amazing ability with social media to showcase strength, beauty and vulnerabilities.  We have the ability to see what every day people are doing and not just celebrities and models.

My point is that all this celebrating should be just that: celebrating. It should not be an incitement for anyone to perceive that women are looking for sexual advances. And for anyone who says it is a shared responsibility between the person who posts and the people who view, I agree we should use discretion and we should be cognizant of the messages we are sending. Yet, this does not mean that it is ok for men to be downright creepy.

I can speak to personal experience based on what I post, and I can assure you I am never promoting sex or provocation. I am promoting myself, fitness, CrossFit, my story, my challenges, even ketones. Nowhere in there is a hint or suggestion that I appreciate messages from men telling me that they love how I look in yoga pants or to send them a picture of me doing a handstand in a bikini (and then he will buy what I am selling. Not a ketone slut, thanks). This shit really happens and I have NEVER insinuated that is the attention I want. If someone were to tell me I was “asking for it” or I have to expect that, I would strongly encourage them to rethink that.  For the majority of my audience, they are respectful. They even get inspiration from my posts and photos. This is the point. Most can handle a bicep flex or an amateur bathroom selfie of abs without taking that to mean I am being provocative. Why do I need to change my behavior? Why can’t the men who think they have free reign to say whatever insulting things they want, change their behavior?  And again, my “behavior” is not scandalous. I post with respect for myself and others.

I also get many comments and messages from men who know how to pay a compliment without me wanting to throw my laptop at them. It is quite easy to be respectful. Men can tell a woman she is pretty or that her fitness is inspiring or she looks great. And leave it at that. As most do. (Thank you to the good ones out there!)

So to be crystal clear, it is one thing to be complimentary and tell a woman you think she has a pretty smile or she looks strong or has great eyes. It is another thing to send a woman a message telling her you think she is sexy as fuck or asking if it is ok to send inappropriate photos.

Women are getting messages and comments from men with graphic photos, crude comments and slimy solicitations. And for the record (for those who ever think a woman is “asking for it” with her choices in clothing), it is not always what a woman is wearing or not wearing that leads to inappropriate messages. Women can post pictures in sweatshirts and baggy pants with a messy bun and men will still tell them they like their curves or want to know what they look like underneath all those clothes.

I used to joke that a job hazard of mine was getting sexually harassed every day, but I realize now it is not actually funny. Because it happens a lot. And not just to me. Women should be able to do their thing without fearing the response they get. I personally do not ever want to hear a post of mine “was asking for it” or that I have to expect the responses that I receive. I absolutely DO NOT. The solution should not be that women, tasteful respectful women, should have to censor themselves. The solution should instead involve that the men who think it is acceptable to be downright  bad-mannered, insolent creeps should be schooled to know it is not ok.

4 Reasons Athletes Stay at a CrossFit Box When Perhaps They Should Consider Switching

Foreword: I want to stress something key because I do not by any means want to sound self-righteous or like I know how to run a CrossFit box. I am basing this post on my own experiences and conversations I have had with many other CrossFit athletes.

I have blogged about why people leave CrossFit boxes (link here) and so it only makes sense to follow it up with reasons why people often stay, even if they really do need to leave.

  1. Loyalty. This is legit a common reason. Often members feel like they would be abandoning their box or owners or coaches by leaving. They have been there perhaps from the beginning or they feel that the they owe it to the box to stay. Perhaps they have seen gains or perhaps they are friends with the owner.Guilt comes along with loyalty and I totally get that. It is like any relationship or friendship. We feel like the other person stuck by us through some tough shit and it would make us pretty crappy people if now that we are not “in need” we are abandoning them.

 

  1. Athletes don’t know what “better” is. 

    I see this often with first time CrossFitters. They love CrossFit and where they are but they also have no benchmark to compare it to. So they stay.For many, their first choice was stellar and they may be there until the end of time. Which is amazing. It just does not always happen like that for everyone.

    I bring this up because at some point for many athletes, they do get a taste of what else is out there. Often it is in the form of a drop in. Maybe athletes go home to visit and drop in at a local box. They start comparing that box to their own and notice the short comings (I like to refer to this as “box envy”). Maybe they experience more methodical, dynamic warm ups that they do not get at their home box. Maybe they notice the coaches are giving far more specific cues. Maybe it is the physical space and they are jealous of the high ceilings for rope climbs. You get the idea. It can be a million difference reasons that attribute to box envy.

 

  1. Fear of losing the community we have come to love. 

    I have experienced this and I have heard people say the same countless times.  “I am not happy anymore at this box, but I do not know want to lose the friendships and community I have built here.” And I think there are a few ways to look at this.Evaluate your goals. Are your goals being met even if perhaps the environment leaves something to be desired? Can you reach your goals if you stay even if it means having to compromise on something else to stay with your community

    People and circumstances in life are fluid. This is just a given. It is like when we stay at a job even if we hate it, but loves our boss. And then that boss leaves and we feel shafted. I look at it like yes the people we are around are extremely important, but the fear of losing them is not always a reason to stay. We get very comfortable with our workout buddies and coming into any class and feeling familiar. Anyone in your community though could leave at any time. It just happens. I personally feel that it is a balance and if you truly are not happy or not getting out of CrossFit what you want, I do not think the community should necessarily be the thing that keeps you.

    Also, remember, the community you built, that did not happen overnight. You had to build that. And you can build it again.

    Guys, I get it. I’m a few days into my latest box change and I have not yet found my community. I think the other athletes are still trying to figure out what my deal is or if I am just dropping in from somewhere far ,far away. And that is totally cool. Camaraderie happens organically.

 

  1. We feel like we are “cheating” if we go for a test drive. 

    There is guilt even before we make a decision to leave. Typically athletes want to have their next box lined up before making a switch. Naturally we start doing local drop-ins to kind of test drive other options. But heaven forbid the box we go to even has an inkling that we are thinking of switching. We fear being ostracized or not coached (because why should they bother investing in us if we are half way out the door?) And so often we just stay. We stay out of fear of being almost devalued. We do not even look because of this fear.In my humble opinion, if that does happen, that your box sort of turns on you, then take that as a sign you DEFINITELY should be switching boxes. I have had both experiences.  I have had an owner who wanted to know why I was leaving so he could make some changes and address them. And I have had owners who were basically like “ok cool got you cancelled.”  (aka don’t let the door hit you on the ass on your way out).

    This personally has never stopped me from looking around. I am on my 4th box (and I really believe this could be “the one”). If anything I had actually been fairly vocal about it this time around which thank goodness I was. The box I have switched to was not even on my radar as an option, and because I had posted in a Facebook group about looking for a box, one of the owners actually reached out to me. So sometimes, you just have to get over the fear because that could potentially prevent you from finding what you really need.

 

Deciding to do CrossFit in and of itself is not a trivial thing. Many of us CrossFit because we want to be the best versions of ourselves. We want to constantly push ourselves beyond what we think we are capable of. We CrossFit because we want to be healthy, fully functional people at all ages. We CrossFit because our health and fitness are freakin important.

Switching boxes is also not a trivial thing.  I cannot stress enough the importance of being at the right box for YOU. Switching boxes multiple times does not make you needy or high maintenance. It is you recognizing what your needs are at that point in time. What you needed last year may not be what you need today. There should be no shame in making a decision to leave a CrossFit for another because at the end of the day you only get one body, one brain, one life. You have every right to do what is best for you even if you feel that there may be some drama or baggage associated with it.  I say screw it because nobody can tell you what is right for you but you.