Reinventing Lola: The Invention of a Writer
A guest post by Heidi Lee Munson
I never knew I was a writer until I hired Lola to fill the empty desk outside my office. The most genuine of souls with the kindest smile, some might describe her as Euro-trash based on the length of her hemlines in proportion to the pillars she called legs.
A bit too made-up but superbly saucy, Lola was the administrative assistant that my whole team adored. She had a Marilyn Monroe-like social life in which Senators and Executives vied for her attention, and a heart the size of a country. She loved life and the people in it. We, the office, loved her stories.
But Lola, you see, was an imaginary friend. I’d always been a rather unconventional Manager so this motivational method was par for my course. I led a team of talented salespeople; successful salespeople must be highly creative. I created Lola’s persona as a way to build team unity while also sparking innovative thought.
Our sweet, invisible assistant filled the space outside my office with creative energy. My employees would bring in framed photos of Lola’s male conquests, post-it notes reminding Lola to order in lunch; postcards suggesting romantic interludes in faraway places.
Monday mornings, we typically heard Nicole or Emily share their latest adventure with Lola. When I’d ask why my lovely assistant wasn’t triaging my phone calls, I’d get an earful about how her latest international lover took Lola to Paris … er, whoops … “Heidi, Lola called in with stomach flu. She’ll be in tomorrow.”
These stories helped bond my team and sealed friendships. One Monday morning, I shared my own Lola tale – a romantic first date with an Army Major she’d met through an online dating site. Lola had confided to me that she’d grown tired of meeting men in the usual places. I described her cozy evening in a quiet restaurant where Lola and her Major talked late into the evening about everything and nothing and forgot to order dinner!
My team, women and men alike, sat on the edge of their seats as I recounted Lola’s story. They wanted dirty details, frustrated to hear that she had played her date with traditional, tame values.
And then Nicole asked, “So, Heidi, you really like this Major, huh?”
They knew me too well. Nicole had always pushed me to do more. She suggested that I start writing my stories. “Heidi, your dating life is better than fiction. Write it down and share!”
So I did. One Monday morning, I encouraged the team to spill more of Lola’s adventures. They wanted my adventures instead, but I held firm. I had written a story that I would read – but not until Friday afternoon after they’d hit their weekly numbers. They balked and threatened to hold Lola hostage if I didn’t share, but I stood my ground.
Come Friday afternoon, I measured their weekly performance. Every single one had surpassed expectations. I called a Team Meeting – aka Story Time, watching my group gather in a circle like preschoolers snuggling their blankets.
After clearing my throat, I recounted my latest not very dramatic adventure, and they held onto every word. I heard genuine laughter, and I saw them connect closer to me. I realized that, with words, I could make people smile, and I could help them to feel. Go Lola!
I continued to write my stories and to share them at the end of the week. These tales morphed into a journal, and that journal molded me into a writer.
Today, I work out of my home. I rarely see my old friends, and I miss office Coffee Talk and Story Time. Today, I write to stay connected. I have my blog, and a growing world of readers to introduce Lola to. Still my more adventurous half, her hopes mean the world to me.
Photo Credit: moonchaser