Recently, Tim left his old work home for a new work home. This new adventure has proven to be a great fit, all the details lining up for him professionally and personally. All four of us are pinching ourselves daily at how well the transition has gone. I’m not going to lie though, both Tim and I are still a little anxious, waiting for some unforeseen ball to drop. Pessimism is alive and well in the Pell Household, but we are furiously trying to push it out the door so we can enjoy this new ride.
Going into this transition, we both knew we would mourn the loss of his old work team. They have all become family to us. Initially, they made the first move and graciously ushered all four of us into their lives even though they didn’t have to give us any light of day. I have a feeling that, in general, this doesn’t happen quite often in the corporate world. They are still our family, and our love for them hasn’t changed, but we will miss our easy access to all of them.
These team members hail from all over the world. Costa Rica, India, South Africa, Scotland, Ireland, Luxembourg, China, Japan and of course, the U.S. All of them taught us invaluable lessons and we experienced irreplaceable adventures with them. They gave us a world view and world experience; we will be forever indebted to them for sharing that with us. Along with us, they watched our boys grow up. They let them jump and bounce behind them down the cobblestone roads of Luxembourg, Germany and Amsterdam. We celebrated birthdays, anniversaries, and professional milestones together. And even though Tim won’t technically be part of the team anymore, all four of us will be cheering them all on from the sidelines.
The awe-inspiring force of nature who leads this whole ragamuffin band of personalities is Claudia. She is humble and kind and would never brag about herself or self promote. I wanted to let the whole world know how phenomenal she is, and what better way to do that than post it on the interwebs for the whole world to see. So, Claudia, here’s to you.
I’m going to attempt to put into words the gratitude, awe and love I feel for you, so here goes. It is inevitable, all the words that follow will fall short. My feelings toward you and what you have done for Tim and our family are too giant to be contained on a page. But I will try because you deserve to know at least a fraction of how much you have impacted our entire family.
From day one you were always more than the “boss.” You saw Tim, truly saw him, for all his strengths, weaknesses, creativity and potential. You saw him as more than just an employee or a direct report or even a fellow team member. You saw more and you brought to light bits and pieces even he couldn’t see. He could let his sarcastic humor flow freely around and you let him use it to strengthen your team as a whole. You weren’t afraid to look to him for his people reading skills. Just like you, he knows how to uncover others’ hidden strengths and develop the potential he sees. He always looked to you for your calm, confident, steady light. You weren’t intimidated by him, most people are by the way, and that’s where they get it wrong. You didn’t mind him being bold and blunt because you are refreshingly the same. You are confident in yourself and leadership capabilities so you don’t mind if someone excels, you are fueled by it, as a leader should be. You poured your logical encouragement into him and he flourished under your precise direction. You didn’t back down when his stubborn streak showed up either; you kept pushing through, reminding him of a better way.
Tim always described your leadership style as “minds on, hands off” and that’s what he needed to be motivated and to create and to lead others. In my opinion, that kind of people management is the best kind. You made space for new ideas, creative solutions and the innovative systems. You didn’t care how it got done, just as long as it got done. You always checked in to see how you could help in case he was stuck, always offering a kind affirmation or gentle suggestion. You supported him so he could support others. The trickle down effect worked brilliantly. Through your example you taught him how to be an effective leader. You encouraged his innovations without any hint of micromanagement. You weren’t afraid to push him or gently remind him of areas where he needed to devote more energy. You weren’t afraid to give feedback to him, or even receive some from him. Your confidence in yourself, and in him, poured out and colored all your work. All of his projects have your name watermarked on them. All along the way, iron sharpened iron, just as both of you needed.
While you led him, you simultaneously built trust. He could always rely on you professionally, knowing you would always be fiercely protective of him and his work. The mother grizzly has nothing on you.
When you saw Tim, you weren’t single minded. He wasn’t just a corporate peer, you also saw his other life roles. Your vision included the boys and I, and that meant the world to me. Yes, Tim worked for you, but you valued his time spent as a husband and dad. You didn’t see those roles as inhibiting his work life, you knew they enhanced it and you welcomed all of us into your life. When you saw Tim, you also saw our family. I know that says volumes about Tim, but it also speaks to your stellar character and investment into his personal life.
Even though I’m grateful for your confidence in Tim, there may have been one time your faith in him was a bit of an overstep. At least now we both know he can’t be trusted to drive a large vehicle in a foreign country. Or I guess we now know to get the maximum insurance policy on rental vans. On second thought, don’t ever let him drive in Europe again. I won’t either, I promise. Also, don’t entrust cowbells into his care, he will ship 145 of them to Germany in his carry-on.
Personally, I’m glad I found a kindred spirit who could logically and exactly categorize why we are kindreds through Myers-Briggs letters. Thank you for introducing me to Susan Cain and sharing in a mutual appreciation for Brene Brown. Thank you for showing me I’m not the only one who thrives in the stillness. It’s refreshing to find someone else who is loud in her own quiet. You showed me that I don’t have to yell to be a strong leader. Creativity and innovation don’t always need maximum volume. There is a time and place for the roar, and you don’t shy away from it when necessary, but a clear and quiet voice is heavier. Thank you for showing me how brave it is to be confidently quiet. That kind of voice is bold and pierces the soul. It also makes sure shit. gets. done. The corporate world, and the world as a whole, needs more voices like yours, never silent, just calmly, courageously leading.
While Tim and I appreciate your presence in our life personally, there is something even greater that I haven’t even touched on yet. Teaching our boys about feminism and raising them to value both men and women equally is very important to us. You are our tangible example that women can do anything men do. Because of you, the boys will grow up thinking it’s old hat to have a woman in leadership, in the corporate world, the tech world, in all the world. They will know that you don’t have to sacrifice your femininity to lead. Your femininity is a strength, just as your direct and bold communication and your passion for developing people as whole leaders. Because of you, when they hear the label, “boss”, they won’t automatically picture a man. Every single day when you walk into work, you are decreasing their unconscious gender bias. Whatever life path and career they choose, they won’t be intimidated, or God forbid, be demeaned, by a boss who happens to be a woman. They will remember that their dad thrived under your leadership. Because of you, they will have high standards for any boss, male or female. They may not fully realize all of this until they grow up, but Tim and I will keep teaching them and reminding them how we need both men and women in every sector of life, equally. Gender is just a surface detail, character and strength are what matter in a leader. You have set the bar high, for all four of us.
So lately, in the Pell Household, we have been mourning the loss of your constant contact in Tim’s daily work life. We know it’s not really a loss, just a transition to a new adventure, but it sure feels like an empty hole. I know Tim will continue to learn from you, but now is the time for him to leave your nest. You showed him the mechanics of how to fly but now comes the scary part of taking that first step off the ledge. Because of you and all the skills you’ve molded in him, I know he will soar in this next role. He always will in every step of his career because you showed him how.
It’s also exciting to know that you will continue to develop the leaders already under your care, as well as teach and mold new ones. Your talent for leading and caring for others needs to keep spreading. I’m afraid we may have been a bit selfish with you. If I could have my way, Tim would work for you for the rest of his career, but I know that can’t be. More people need to see your way; they need to be under your direction. They need you to push them to the next level.
Thank you for being fiercely loyal. Thank you for not taking any of Tim’s shit. Thank you for welcoming Luke, Jack and I. Thank you for showing us beautiful bits and pieces of Germany. Thank you for not rolling your eyes when our boys threw a horrific, jet lagged tantrum in the Luxembourg airport. Thank you for being a strong, brave and kind leader. Thank you, Claudia, from the deepest part of my heart.
P.S. Thank you for introducing us to “Kaffee and Kuchen.” Our afternoons will never be the same.