By Lorraine McCamley
Hmmm. December. A cold day to take the train. Crazy time before the holidays. I’m interested in the Power Friday content, but it’s not totally relevant to my business. Should I stay or should I go?
Thankfully, I decided to go to the December 14th Center City Power Friday. My mindset has changed. How I think about myself has changed. How I think about the world has changed. I knew that we were going to have international visitors at the meeting, which I thought would be cool. I didn’t really understand why the women would be there, but I thought it would be interesting to hear their perspectives on things. Here is how it played out.
I was one of the early arrivers and so was there to greet the international group. The 12 women, representing leaders from the Czech Republic, Estonia, Macedonia, Romania, Namibia, Malaysia, Barbados, Kazakhstan, the Ivory Coast, Russia, Australia and France were in the U.S. as part of the U.S. State Department’s International Visitor Leadership Program, a professional exchange program for emerging foreign leaders. The visit with NAWBO-Philly was facilitated by Lissa Morinsky from the Philadelphia-based organization Citizen Diplomacy International. The purpose of the program is to promote professional, educational and cultural exchanges between the U.S. and other countries.
I immediately pounced on the woman from France, a wonderful woman named Sandrine. You see, my son, a sophomore in high school, has applied to go to France his whole junior year in high school with an organization called Youth for Understanding. Sandrine was very open and welcoming to me as I expressed my concerns about my “little” boy leaving me for 10 months to live with a different family in an unfamiliar area of the world. Will he be safe? Will he be tolerated if he makes a mistake? Will his family make sure he gets enough to eat? We promised to talk more after the meeting.
Introductions were incredibly interesting: Many of the women were involved in organizations (public, private or non-profit) that promote business development in their areas. I made a note to follow up with a few women in particular (in addition to my new best friend, Sandrine) because our businesses had some similarities.
The speaker and topic of the meeting couldn’t have been more aligned with the interests of our visitors: JoAnn Flett from Eastern University spoke to us about Certified B Corporations, companies that are “accelerating a global culture shift to redefine success in business and build a more inclusive and sustainable economy.” The discussion was lively, and we learned about some of the challenges in other cultures, some of which are similar to ours, but some that would be hard to picture here in the U.S.
After the meeting adjourned, I approached Natalia from Russia. She owns an English-speaking school and mentioned coaching and leadership development, which is my professional domain. I talked to her about a global coaching platform I am member of, and that I would be pleased to set up a webinar for her to see if it would be something that could help her organization have a broader reach in Russia. She was enthusiastic about continuing the conversation when she got back to Russia and I agreed to follow up.
Then I approached Jameela, a career coach from Barbados. While we were talking, we became surrounded by a group of the other visitors and I began a very animated conversation with Marina from Macedonia. She is a leader with the Local Action Group (LAG) Agro Lider, trying to promote sustainable business and social development in three municipalities in Macedonia. She was very excited to talk after the holidays.
I also had a chance to reconnect with Sandrine from France, who, it turns out, is with a company that recycles cigarette butts. She invited me to keep in contact with her as my son’s itinerary became known.
Here is the life-changing part, a story that is continuing:
- My son, husband and I have skyped with Sandrine. She graciously told us about many of the different areas in France, a little about their politics, about safety and travel and where she felt that my son would experience “real” France, as opposed to the touristy areas. We can’t select where my son goes if he is accepted (besides the country), but she has invited us to keep in touch so she can provide insights into whatever we learn. She has also set up a “Facetime-pal” for my son, a high school girl from Bordeaux who would like to practice her English, while giving my son a chance to practice his French. Sandrine has welcomed all of us to her home when we ultimately visit France.
- I have exchanged many emails, and then recently had a video-conference with Marina from Macedonia (now North Macedonia). We talked about the challenges her country is facing, particularly with cultural tensions among the young people. Her group is trying to help develop soft skills in these young people, as well as self-esteem and communication skills in women, to promote employment and help bridge the cultural tensions. Marina and I are continuing our conversation, which may actually lead to work for me, as some of the funding for Marina’s group is specifically allotted to U.S. resources.
- Marina has been in contact with Natalia from Russia and wants her to be a part of our discussions. Natalia and I had connected briefly, but not in any depth, so I am thrilled that she and I may be able to collaborate as well.
So, what started as just an early morning train ride to the city before the holidays has turned into global friendships, collaboration and hopefully, a legacy of greater understanding and tolerance between nations. Not bad for a $12.00 round trip ticket.
Lorraine McCamley helps introverted leaders gain visibility and achieve their potential within organizations. Her strengths-based consulting firm, Team Development Concepts, LLC, focuses on what is right with people. She is a Gallup Certified Strengths Coach and holds a Master's degree from the University of Pennsylvania in Organizational Dynamics. In addition to coaching, consulting and speaking, Lorraine is currently writing a book with the working title of “Boldly Quiet: Understanding, Celebrating and Developing the Introverted Leader.”
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