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Fill Up the Candy Dish!

Susan's picture
Over 10 years ago, I got my first promotion into management. At the time there was not a lot written about women in management, but I read what I could find. One particular article stands out in my mind. It was a list of the top 10 things a female manager should never do - a proverbial list of career limiting moves for high-aspiring women.

I can't remember all 10 items on the list, but one stood out in my mind more than all the others. Thou shall not have a candy dish in your office . A candy dish is apparently too stereotypically female and motherly. No woman who wants to be taken seriously as a leader should have a candy dish in her office. For any one who knows me, this poses a significant problem since I am fairly sugar-obsessed. Candy is practically my middle name.

I decided at the time to throw caution to the wind and ignored this piece of advice. I started off with a small candy dish assuming that if the advice was in fact correct that a small candy dish would do less harm than a big one.

My candy dish introduced me to people that I might not have otherwise met. There was the colorful character in the IT department named Corvis who liked black licorice, and then there was the British programmer who liked chick-o-sticks almost as much as I did. He and I might be the only two people on the planet who even know what a chick-o-stick is. I also came to learn that more people like dark chocolate than I would have ever imagined. I am allergic to chocolate so keeping lots of it in my candy dish ensured that I would not eat the entire bowl on a stressful day.

Over the years, as I got more comfortable, I got a much larger candy dish. People would come in for a piece of candy and sit down for a minute to chat. The candy dish helped me stay connected with people. Even on days when I did not get up from my desk, people stopped by to see me (as they grab a few pieces of candy). Spending time with people is a very important part of leadership, and having a candy dish in my office helped me stay better connected with people.

Eventually I came to appreciate that being a good leader is not about following a list of "Do's and Don'ts." It's about being real. It's about letting people know who you are as an individual. It's about sharing the aspects of your life that bring a smile to your face. For me, it was about having a candy dish in my office. What does being real at work mean to you?

After spending the majority of my career working in the same physical location as my co-workers and meeting after meeting in stale gray conference rooms, I welcomed a new opportunity to work globally on an integration which meant very few of those I worked with would be physically near me. This translated into hours and hours of conference calls and small team meetings, predominantly from the confines of my small, window-less office. Once I got used to this change, I quickly knew I needed to transform my office into a place not only for me to enjoy, but those around me. I began adding pieces and parts of me, my life and everything that brought me joy. Whether it was the abundance of personal photographs, a favorite quote, an inspirational decoration I found at a cute shop, a special piece of art painted by my mother or a big basket of MINTS...all of it gives me the chance to be "real" in who I am and hopefuly share that joy with everyone else around me.

Submitted by tiffany.mattick... on Thu, 06/18/2009 - 20:39.