Elizabeth Lembke

Chief Talent Navigator, Transforming Talent

I grew up in the real OC...

…Oregon City, Oregon, above Willamette Falls, at the end of the Oregon Trail, in the original State Capitol, with the only vertical street in the US, and where the classic 80’s movie Homer and Eddie was filmed. At that time, the town was so in need of a bar that locals had tried to order drinks in a prop stage for the movie, thinking that a good thing had happened but alas, no. I spent my youth building forts in the forest with our neighborhood gaggle, astounding at the deep grooves in the forest floor that were remnants of the pioneers traversing and the deep cuts in the large stumps that had once been the Old Growth Douglas Firs. I remember sitting on a boulder with my two friends for the last time after it had been announced that the forest would be razed for a subdivision, all of us appreciating the magic that had been our youth. I was 10.

My family was a bit odd for suburban OC, both parents were from California, had met at Stanford: my mom was an outdoor school running, Opera singing math and science teacher, and my dad a fly fisherman and rafter, who worked for the Educational Service District. Which meant he had these huge computers to correct our standardized scholastic achievement tests that we had to take every year. My sister and I would cause him headaches and joys by writing things like “hey dad” with our Nr.2 pencils that would get the machines to stop. Growing up it was modeled that one has two jobs – one to assure income, and one to have play money and to live out one’s other passions. With two full-time working parents, once my sister was old enough so that we did not need after-school care, we hung out a lot, experimented in the kitchen, fed our not so-successful-experiments to our dog, and successfully avoided practicing the violin

Elementary school was weird for me. I had (have?) a learning disability – dyslexia and dyscalculia but I didn’t really know it. I thought I read fine – I just read faster than the words could come out of my mouth, but for math I would just see a black blank space because I couldn’t “see” the numbers. Coming from such a smart family, I was then deemed the sporty one and not a lot of expectations were placed upon me. If I did it, I did it. I needed to meet my own expectations. I had a close friend until the 5th grade, 6th grade I was ostracized and mobbed. My sister got me through it and ever since then, I have been rather resilient because I knew what emotional rock bottom looked like. Albeit going through the experiences honed me to champion for the person not seen – and to look for potential beyond grades or titles.

When I was 6, I was deemed an “aimless wanderer” by an 8 year old kid. To be honest, it was an apt description. I have basically gone the way the wind of curiosity has taken me. Only I have now upgraded the word to coddiwomple, which I define to mean, passionately pursuing the as-yet-unknown. These early perspectives on staying curious, connecting at a heart and fun level, not giving up, and seeing competence beyond what is generally rewarded, have served me well in my current situation as the Chief Talent Navigator for my own consulting business Transforming Talent. My role spans beyond boundaries – I am active in all things Talent-at-work related. My professional Why is to make people’s lives better at work, by tapping into the inherent human potential and verve for growth, impact, and relationships. People win – Organizations win – End Customer wins. It is exactly what I should be doing.

So if I were to impart lessons to my 13 year old self they would be:

Travel with an open heart and you will encounter amazing people

What started at 13, when my mom, sister and I used the Opera money to go to Europe has not stopped. I will forever be grateful for my former role as Director for Global Talent, where I led the talent charge for 7000 employees across 11 countries, where this was brought to light every day and through the multiple ups-and-downs. Some of my deepest friendships are spread across the globe.

Buck-Up Buckeroo

Cry your heart out, be sad, doubt yourself within an inch of your being, be mad, rail – and then figure out what you can do to make it better. Things will suck, people will be jerks, feedback will be petty, but what can you do to change it? Okay, then do that.

Never Give Up

if you really want it, you will persevere. You will fail in learning German, and almost be thrown out of the country for your lack of aptitude, you will fail statistics twice and almost get thrown out of the Psych program – but you will pass that third time. And you know what? You will be able to argue for better methodology because you understand it and don’t just accept things at “shiny-penny” value, you will be able to work in Germany and rock the local dialect of three regions. You will speak “like a dictionary” in Italy and in Brazil but you will do it. And it will be fine, and you can put it behind you.

Just Try It

You may be scared and there may be 20 bazillion people more qualified than you, but just get out of that crabshell. Take that SCUBA course, run gear for your Dad, graduate in the top 10% of your class in a foreign language at the top school for Psychology, rework the 7 Habits and change the global engagement and collaboration, write a newsletter on Transforming Talent, Master of Ceremonies TF out of every conference you run so that people can connect and learn, go onscreen for panels, talk about your own models for co-creation, talent ecosystems, and what it means to work remotely, be connected. TBH: Why not you?

Keep the Bonds Strong

You will tend to throw yourself in feet first and put your work priorities at the forefront. Take the time and make it a priority to check in with your family and friends. Stop putting that call off because you are not sure how to apologize for being “out-of-order”. Just pick up the phone.

Be Vulnerable:

You know you hate it. You know that you would do anything, everything, and more for the folks you love – albeit you really shy back, when it comes to reaching out to them in return. They want you to let them in. So when Hung asks a second time, just friggin’ do it.

Love Hard - Live Well - Laugh Often - Stay Curious

You are blessed by the most incredible family and friends, who will watch over you and love you, but sadly, some will have to leave this planet earlier than you wish they would. Live and love strong because you can.

Bring the Fun and Levity

It is the best way to team and your magic sauce. The power of innovation, connection, psychological bravery happen when folks are in the flow and building on one another’s ideas. Foster that real connection between people, tap into the potential, and you will be consistently surprised by the magic generated.

Final thing...

..you wished on your 10th birthday for a tall blond-haired, brown eyed boy who would support, love you, and be your best friend. You got him in spades. So don’t worry about being a dating pariah in Oregon. It will all work out.

Thank you Elizabeth Lembke for writing A Letter To My 13 Year Old Self. Connect with Liz at Transforming Talent

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