Friday, May 29, 2009


There were two pieces of that local news segment that bothered me ...

It called networking "the big schmooze".

What a word... sounds slimy on your tongue... has a root of "ooze"... implies a complete lack of sincerity.

No wonder folks shy away from the concept.

They did enforce doing your networking early and often, building a community well before you might have to call upon it. Can't disagree with that.

But it was all proposed within a context of self-interest. And, I'm hoping since you're on this blog, that you agree with me that networking from that standpoint is true schmoozing. Oozy, insincere and slimy.

Similar circles - a true personal community built from overlapping networks - serves all its members. We all contribute to and we all use the support. (See Oct post - Peer to Peer and Dec - Networking, how not to) We're not schmoozing; we're living our lives and including new folks along the way.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Hidden Markets

Last night, the local news had a piece about the "hidden job market." You know, the one that you can only get to if you know the right people, wear the right tie, have the right golf handicap, etc.

The truth is... it's not hidden. It goes back to folks prefering to work with those where they'll have a greater chance of building a solid relationship. (see Nov posting "Please Like Me").

And how do folks start to feel like that chance exists? Through recommendations from other people in their networks/communities. So if you are networking, chances are greater that you will be recommended. Simple.

Look at it this way... If you wanted to borrow a car for a day - would you get more results from cold calling strangers with your driving record or from calling those who already know you and would be willing to recommend you to a friend with a car?

So the market is only "hidden" if someone isn't participating in their communities. That takes time and effort.

Don't worry about not knowing the "right people"; there aren't only 12 'right' people out there to know. Get your reputation out there in advance - open more doors - target key players you genuinely admire - champion others, ask them to champion you. That's the real market. That's wide open to all comers.

Monday, May 25, 2009

4 Steps to Success

Start a conversation!

Actively promote/support/involve each other.

Celebrate successes.

Help with the clean up.

Friday, May 22, 2009

One size fits none

The world does not owe you a smooth path forward. While we’re all free to trample down paths that others have created - or to hack through the brush on our own - it’s your choice. No one owes you a map or a set of directions.

I hear the above sentiment often and I don’t dispute it. But recently, one of my mentorees moaned “whyyyy? why can’t it be easier?” (she had my total sympathy)

I think it’s simply that one size just can’t fit everyone. What worked for me won’t necessarily work for you. There are directions, tools and pathways aplenty out there. But if that was enough then we wouldn’t still be asking the questions - how do I get there? what do I need? what can I change? what do I want? etc.

Your style, your dreams, your circumstances …

Wednesday, May 20, 2009


For those of you reading this blog... everything you find here:
• Takes planning.
• Takes patience.
• Takes a community.

This stuff doesn’t happen overnight. It doesn’t happen without effort. And it doesn’t happen in isolation. One can’t make a community by oneself.

You could try but - like one-handed clapping - it’s only effective in limited circumstances.

Remember: You might not always get everything you want - and unfortunately sometimes you might not even achieve what you need - but your chances are greater if you ask for help, actively seek it and contribute to the needs of others.

You’re each other’s best resource.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Assertions on Mentoring #3

What does it take to be a mentor?

The ability to listen. A desire to share. A willingness to examine your own motives, methods, and mistakes.

To be as open and receptive as the mentoree. Which is hard because I don’t like admitting I don’t know anymore than the next person does.

And an understanding that mentoring contributes to the greater community.

Mentoring has brought me so much.
• Access to bright women willing to debate and discuss
• Involved examinations of areas of strength
• Stronger understanding of best practice

I like to think of it as: creative friendships and a dialogues I wouldn’t otherwise have.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Assertions on Mentoring #2

Let's ask: What is mentoring?

- It ensures people are able to find their areas of strength which builds great personal satisfaction and a charged group within that industry
- It can attract the brightest individuals to sectors and/or volunteer opportunities that cannot attract people with the lure of salary or stability
- It can stimulate new ideas
- It is considered best practice
- It opens doors to people and knowledge and opportunities

Simply put it is:
- Deliberately connecting and sharing
- Listening
- Encouraging
- Being honest and respectful
- Offering a safe place
- Informing
- Explaining
- Challenging
- Celebrating
- Being accountable for your choices

Mentoring is really all about you - your willingness to try something new - to think a new thought - to ask questions - to explore ‘what if’ and ‘what about’…

Mentoring is part of a long-term development plan and view of yourself.

I believe that while a mentor is someone who is committed to guiding and advising you … most importantly a mentor is a safe place where you can discuss the tougher questions - anything from heart-held career goals to work/life balance to office politics to self-doubt.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Assertions on Mentoring #1

Studies (and rumour) have shown that mentoring and networking is tied to competency & success. However, no one ever talks about the fact that mentoring isn't easy.

Mentoring poses a few problems:

1 - it’s hard to mentor. It’s hard to put a process (thought, procedure or administrative) to how you got somewhere or achieved something. It’s much harder if you’ve ever tried to repeat a specific success. And even harder when you understand how much personal style plays a factor.

2 - it’s hard to be mentored. It’s easy to get advice but much harder to take it.

3 - most importantly - mentoring isn’t a guarantee of success. It’s not a magic pill or a silver bullet

Such a downer… but true. However, it is also true that you will be more successful if you add mentoring.

Thursday, May 7, 2009


I had a fabulous evening in Washington DC a little while ago. They are the DC chapter of a terrific group called Women Advancing Microfinance.

We met to talk about the importance of mentoring and how to start approaching a mentoring relationship. (We did have drinks so the topic of shoes also came up)

There were as many approaches to the mentoring relationship as there were women at the table. It was exciting.

I came away feeling really confident about:
• What are women great at doing? Building communities - personal communities that incorporate the private and the professional, the intimate and the public.

• How? By gathering family, friends and neighbours co-workers around the table and hosting a conversation. Call it the kitchen table, the conference table or the patio - we’re great at getting folks talking and sharing.

• We’re natural facilitators - giving as much as we receive. Making folks comfortable. Encouraging conversation and debate.

• The same tools that make us good as facilitators should make us natural mentors. We’re not we’re always mentoring when we gather a table.

• Let’s call this ability to gather a table: peer to peer mentoring (P2P).

• P2P simply put – it’s about creating the various tables & circles of folks with whom you share information, successes, failures and the questions.

• It’s folks of your level (social, professional – choose the designation) with whom you can debate the questions.

• It’s about what we can do for each other on a regular basis: listening, feedback, ideas, anything. It’s not just about exchanging our own skills - but helping connect others. Who knows a leadership book that’s engaging to read? Who attends a great speaker series? Where’s a great place to buy an affordable and attractive suit? (See me)

• That’s building personal community. That’s everyday mentoring. You probably do it already.

Mentoring is about expanding your community and adding to or developing someone else’s. They expanded mine in DC.


You'll possibly empathize with this... I haven't had any time this week to do what I was supposed to do or support my community (thus only 2 postings!).

So what have I been up to? Lots of planning....
* participated in a brief but intense discussion on 'accountability'.
* talked in numerous meetings about how to get communities 'engaged'.
* sent out the invitations for my next Toronto networking event.
* met with a new mentoree.
* had a great leadership brainstorm with a good friend.
* paid attention to my kid and his summer plans.
* worked. slept. ate.

And yet I'm obsessed that I didn't do enough. I feel guilty. I have another list of what I did not do this week.

I know we all have those days. So how to get through them?

Ask yourself: Did I do what was most important this week vs. what was expected?

It is easy to get bogged down in expectations. Sometimes the most productive thing you can do is stop the output. (see Aug posting - Learning to be Idle). Sometimes it's just sticking to priorities and ignoring fires. Sometimes it's just ... well, a break.

Given the cool new ideas I collected this week, it was worth a little guilt!

Monday, May 4, 2009

Leadership - top down or up?

Given that the tradition ladder-like, hierarchical approach to running companies is now running its course, then the next iteration is to view leadership as concentric circles. The individual (me) is always at the centre. I am influenced by those things positioned closest to me.

As per web 2.0 models, you can't "make" me put you in the circle closest to me. You can show me value and progress to my inner circles.

As per web 2.0 models, I will try and extend my leadership/influence to outer rings as far as I can.

All folks' circles overlap.

A great leader, senior in an organization, can influence me if I believe in them or value their influence - they need to embody the company credos for me to believe in the company credos. The value is in the individual rather in than in any company credos.

Thus peer2peer networking and mentoring is all about leadership. (see Oct. 08 Peer to Peer and Feb. 09 Why a Circle?)

Oh how many bottles of wine could we finish while debating this question!