Monday, December 27, 2010

Spirit of the holiday

It's togetherness season. May you have friends, peers and family who celebrate with you. May your neighbours and even the stranger you pass have a smile to share.

With great joy and peace,


Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Proving to be (in)competent

Why is it that some folks approach others in the spirit of "you can do the task until/unless you prove yourself incompetent" ...and yet others take the approach of "you're incompetent until you prove otherwise"?

The first approach gives everyone a fair shake at pushing their boundaries. However, it can also give rise to promoting someone to their level of incompetence - which is not fun for those who follow.

The second approach is a catch-22 situation that rarely resolves well unless heroic measures are demonstrated. I don't know about you but I get tired of doing the 'heroic' thing for each new job.

Someone today remarked that men are given chance #1 and women seen in the context of #2. Is this a gender issue? Or is this yet another example of those - male or female -  who are fearful and manage while being afraid things will go wrong while others are willing to take more risks with people and tasks?

Monday, December 20, 2010

Spirit of togetherness

It's the holiday month - whatever your belief, tradition or habit. It's a month filled with messages urging 'togetherness' and 'celebration'.

While I do say a bit of "bah, humbug" when the carols begin on November 1... I especially love the last two weeks of December. Co-workers gently decline meetings and negotiate deadlines that may interfere with time away, time better spent on priorities closer to home.

A mentor once remarked that if everyone was as kind to each other as they are during the second half of December, a lot more projects would be that much more successful.

Thank you for another year debating and pondering how best to build community. May the Spirit of Togetherness show you nothing but great moment past, present and future!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Check in with yourself

If you're like me, you sit through many meetings a week, on top of the coffees and the daily interactions that fill a normal day. Add the events you attend for pleasure or business, the obligations of family and friends and the moments you snatch for 'me' time and some weeks are overwhelming!

We're constantly being shown tools - books, technology or process - that are supposed to help us prioritize and organize. Some of them are very effective... some...not.

Lately I've noticed that folks are hoping there's a solution-in-a-box; something that will both organize, simplify as well as prioritize.  We get focused on completing the task or putting a checkmark in the box. Who can blame us? We're busy and for good reason!

But I try to remember that the only person who can prioritize is me. And I should prioritize against my vision, my goals and my prime needs. No tool can create my vision (or my corporate culture); a tool can support, enhance or build on my vision but first it starts with me.

So the next time you snatch a moment - ask yourself what's important to you and if you're selecting the tasks and calendar items to support it? Ask your mentorees to do the same. Ask your mentor to challenge your choices. Even if the final answer is 'yes' - we all need a check in with ourselves in the middle of the mayhem.

Monday, December 13, 2010

I've been using the Carl Jung quote lately:
"The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances; if there is any reaction, both are transformed."

Often when networking or mentoring, we are attempting to create transformation in someone else. However, it's far more powerful to be open to transformation in ourselves.

If it's better to lead by example, to teach with action, to listen and adapt with new information - then surely it's most compelling to allow ourselves the chance to do all of this when connecting with another person?

Lately, I have found that I am changing and learning each time I let someone offer me an idea or opinion. I may not agree with them but the interaction opens new horizons and deepens my relationship with that person regardless. I am becoming transformed by allowing others to create reaction within me. Incrementally or in big leaps, my community is my collective mind!

Thursday, December 9, 2010


Today I'm giving a 'motivational' chat around the concept of teamwork.

Define "team"... go on; I dare you. :-)  It is a fluid concept. We often put boundaries to either limit someone's power over our efforts or to expand the reach of our own. But really, like the concept of community, the circles extend and overlap and change with need. 

My son and I are a team. Does that include his grandparents? Including the parents of my ex? My best friend? My brothers? His teachers? Neighbours? Crossing guard? How about the guy who gives me a free latte in sympathy every time he sees me because he also has a teenager?

I think, like everything else that requires a common vision in order to understand what success may look like, one needs to define 'team' when asking for team work and collaboration. Then, one should also define the behaviours of that 'team'.

And, like all things, we'll really get stuff done through influence and relationships... so keep building community for yourself as it's still the best team to have when you want to be effective.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010


Seems that, during the holiday month of December, everyone is making a list.  Card list, gift list, year-end@work list, food list... I even was shown a Holiday concert list!

Of course, the most dreaded list of all - the New Year's resolution list - is also due this month.

I say ... Tear up your lists! (not really - just fold them neatly and put them away for a minute...)

We get caught up in our lists to the point where we forget why we're doing all the things listed. We forget that lists are about more than order or a prompt for an overly busy mind. Lists are the steps towards a purpose, a goal.

What three things (no more than three and no cheating with large vague items) would you like see at the end of December?
  • I'd like my kid to feel rested. 
  • I'd like my work pile to be a few unfiled papers and no more.
  • I'd like to have had at least 3 days with nothing to do and no appointments to keep.
So anything on my list that doesn't help me achieve the above is getting crossed off now.

Process is only useful if it supports the vision. Re-evaluate, refine and maybe re-list? There's still time before December 31 :-)

Monday, December 6, 2010

What is 'leadership"

Have you ever said a word over and over until it becomes a jumble of meaningless sound?

I think that's where I am with the word "leadership". 

Maybe, in this world of sound bytes and acronyms, we use the word to simply represent the shorthand of our goals?

My goal is to model the values to which I entrust my growth and my awareness - across all situations and aspects of my life. Some days that makes me more of an outsider than a leader :-)

Friday, December 3, 2010

The “N” & “O” lists

Exploring the different kinds of mentors there are... We either do these things for others or we seek them for ourselves.

Continuing with "N":

Nourishment-or: Feeds your passion
Nutriment-or: Supplements your growth and development

Continuing with "O":

Obtainment-or: Plans with you towards a goal
Oddment-or: Examines the loose ends
Ointment-or: Soothing and safe place to bring your hurts
Ornament-or: Puts polish on the brand
Ordainment-or: Helps you find your calling
Outplacement-or: For when you really need to transition elsewhere

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Holiday season is upon us

If your calendar is like mine, you've got coffees/lunches/dinners/celebrations already piling up. I haven't been able to squeeze in a jog in two weeks!...but I did get the gifts sorted last night.

Holiday season is a whirl of year-end activity at home and at work. Today, December 1, this is what I do:
  1. Make a list of everyone I'd like to thank/re-thank for their support this year.
  2. Decide if an email, card, e-card, phone call or gift is best. (Default is a card)
  3. Block 30 min ea. day to create the "thanks". More than that I get tired and curt in my writing.
  4. Get it all distributed by mid-Dec. latest.
I know I'll miss some folks. I know everyone else is busy sending out similar cards etc. 

But why waste an opportunity to say thank you? For those of you who find it awkward, December helps create the expectation!
It's step #1 that's the most important for me. We forget how large a community supports us without taking a minute to reflect. You'll discover your list may grow - as you remember one individual, 2-3 others will pop up along side of them. Growing your network is not as important as maintaining it, otherwise it's nothing but a ripple that will slowly diminish the farther out it spreads.
Thank you to all of you who read Similar Circles. If December had time, I'd buy you all a drink!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Change isn't a fix

I had the opportunity to mentor a 19 yr. old woman this weekend. We were stuck in the car together for a long, late night ride... after a long night which included a pub, fries and old friends/family - an emotional cocktail!

So she talked rather openly about her confusion around finding a place in society that reflected her values. Being 19, she wasn't entirely clear what those values were; she was clear on what they were not.

So I asked her: what got her out of bed in the morning? What created moments of joy? Of discovery? Of frustration? Because all of these were things to capture for repetition, learning and planning.

"Nothing," she replied. "I think I need to move out of this city."

"Ha," I laughed. "Your questions will simply follow you. Why not pick a place because it offers you better opportunity to pursue your moments of joy/learning instead of hoping a change of scenery creates self-awareness?"

The same is true of changing a job or a company. The change itself isn't the fix - the goal against which the change is applied will.

Does this make sense to you? (I realise there will be exceptions)

If you only know what makes you unhappy, how do you know where to seek contentment? Identify your moments of inspiration and form a plan around them!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

The real dialogue

When I look at the stats on this blog, I'm struck by the top postings that attract readers - all are about women/children and their right to protection.

I am not an expert on the subject. I know what I've survived as a teen and as an adult. I took careful note of exactly how I wished to protect my own kid as he grew. I plan to gladly go back to not-for-profit and run an organization that makes a difference in this arena if the opportunity arises.

The gap between how many folks quietly read and research on this topic and how many conversations actually exist in daily conversations is wide. It's wide like talking about mental illness without shame or rape without recrimination. At the water cooler, we can discuss cancer, hunger in other countries or even divorce... but we still don't easily discuss how more than half our population is often treated as lesser. By a few, I know, but we give them more power by not throwing light into the dark places where abuse and neglect occurs.

Building community requires talking across all hierachies, genders, industries, geographies and subjects. We don't have to agree. We should respect.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


A lovely friend sent me to this article on persuasion.

I read these things with a bit of trepidation. Even though I value networking and negotiation, I hate when it's positioned by folks who stress the self-interest side. Yes, we do nothing without some self-interest but it's not about being a snake-oil salesman. Persuasion should be about shared interests and not winning. (even in a divorce and I know that one!)

What I liked (in the middle of the subject's sly humour)was this tidbit:

"Q...Persuasion, you say, has five elements: Simplicity, perceived self-interest, incongruity, confidence and empathy (S.P.I.C.E). Briefly explain each.

A: The brain prefers simplicity over complexity. It equates it with the truth. So keep your message simple. In writing the book I hung out with some top con artists. I asked them: “What was the most important factor in getting someone to do something for you?” The key, they said, was to frame it in the other person’s self-interest, not yours. A good example was one New Year’s Eve I was at a friend’s house. Her 7-year-old son wanted to stay up late. The mother told him no, when you don’t get enough sleep you’re too irritable. He said, “You want me up at the crack of dawn when you want to sleep in?” It worked."

Letting the fact this advice came from con artists aside, the same advice can be found in the lovely little book from the Harvard Negotiation Project Getting to Yes.

Persuasion is not about winning an argument. It's about influencing the outcome, preferably in a way that benefits more than just the persuader. Thus good arbitrators and negotiators can help opposite sides come together. It's a great skill to explore as part of the daily habits of building relationships.

Relationships imply that both sides have interests being served and that power is balanced (with the scales possibly tipping daily but overall giving equal weight).

I'm ok that I share a leadership trait with con artists because everyone has something admirable about them!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

We need more stories from women!

I don't think women share their stories enough. I know that life is individual, regardless of gender, but still - we need to have more discussions around stories about women.

Why? Because today I read an article (thank you Terry) that listed the top 50 women in business. When it came right down to it, they were judged worthy by how much money they had made for themselves or their company.

Money. Not how many people they'd developed; how their thinking had affected planning; not philanthropy; not global inclusiveness.

I do realise it's about the bottom line...but why is money the top or only criteria?

So how can we change criteria? One wayis by sharing stories that showcase different means of measuring success. You have one. Share it with your mentor or mentoree this week! Spread the wealth! :-)

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Emotion is critical and creative

I wrote a letter once and never sent it. Instead, I embedded the words in another project.

We do this sort of thing all the time. We place bits of our anger, our excitement, our passion and our frustration into everything we do - even if it's not the direct cause. We leave our thoughts and emotions across all we do and that's simply human.

A debate I've been reading around critical vs. creative thinking is missing the fact that emotion colours both approaches. Regardless of the side of the brain you favour, pretending that the final output isn't coloured by emotion is naive.

When folks talk about following your passion, or putting passion into your work, it isn't always about pursuing the dream. (I'm never going to write famous mystery novels; I just like thinking about doing that!) Sometimes it is simply about finding that piece that makes you spring out of bed in the morning - learning something new; working in an environment that stimulates you; showcasing a skill; etc. - and letting that be the hook that allows you to put more of yourself into your day.

Creativity comes from passion, belief and curiosity. Critical thinking can spring from the same well. Mentoring is about both sides of that coin including how we feel about the ideas and outcomes.

Expressing yourself and your emotions makes both the project, day and outcome that much sweeter for everyone.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Communication 101

We communicate every day - as mentors, parents, friends, colleagues... everything is a conversation and exchange of information.

But so much information comes at us everyday like weeds tossed over a fence. It's like saying "Here you go... now it's your problem because I've passed it on."

If we took a few moments to think through what we're really sharing, it could make a big difference.

1 - What is it the other person needs to know? What's the one thing they should realise?

2 - How should they feel about the information? What's in it for them? (and yes, it's ok to tell them how you hope they'll feel)

3 - What do you wish them to DO with the information? Our days are filled with "nice to know" things but really good information has a relevance and a use.

If you can't answer #2&3... do you really need to share the information?

Know, feel, do... folks will thank you and listen.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Sitting in the backseat

True leadership, like parenting, sometimes means sitting in the backseat ...far from the controls and trusting the driver.

If 'leading' means 'being in charge' for you, that will be tough. If 'leading' means managing through the skills of others while offering guidance and vision, you possibly nodded your head at my opening statement.

Regardless of which side of the fence you're on, it's a skill to practice at least weekly. My mentor just challenged me to let something chug along without me pulling it - can you identify something where you'll take a backseat view before Friday?

Thursday, November 4, 2010

What does the word "leadership" mean to you?

I had a great conversation yesterday with Drew Dudley who pointed out that we use the word "leadership" without a clear definition.

Companies define what leadership means to them. The media points up 'leaders'. But if someone were to ask you what you mean if you call yourself a leader - or if you were seeking to offer leadership - what would you say?

It's really about the values that define us.

For some, this definition is going to be about being in charge. For others, this is going to mean status or title.

For me, it's about community and the values I believe are necessary for good ideas to be encouraged and spread. Over the coming months, I'm going to define leadership in more concrete terms for myself so I could answer the qustion above. But first, I'm asking - what does it mean to you?

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

You bring value - define it!

At the end of a meeting or conference, one is usually asked "What did you get out of this? What was of value?" A great question - allowing the organisers to tweak and improve to meet expectation and need.

And yet rarely are the participants asked "What did you bring of value to this session?"

Think about it. We usually show up, passively listen, hope to be engaged, and leave with - or without - our 'aha!' for our time. And yet we all bring ideas and perspectives that would take the source material and enrich it beyond the sum of its parts.

Yes, I know that not all sessions allow room for interaction. I say don't attend those unless your manager is making you! LOL

Most sessions - even if they were not aware of the need in the planning stage - will welcome participation and debate. We're not in grade 3 learning our letters; we're adults exchanging information.

However, like everything else, one must be able to articulate the value to act on it.

At your next mentoring session - see if you can identify an upcoming session and plan, in advance, what you'll bring to the table. Then bring it.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Mentoring change - Part IV

Waiting is always the hardest part.

Whether you desire change (big or small) or you dread it - waiting for it to actually click into place is like a long sleepless night.

There are no shortcuts. You can be better/faster/more experienced; you can seek good tools (mentors, community, education, experience, etc.). But you can't direct the pace of things beyond your control - which is most of change and life :-)

I think this is one of the toughest challenges mentors/friends/peers/partners face: you can't make time go faster or slower. You can only listen and support those going through the event.

I have a friend who just lost a job, another just diagnosed with cancer, another who landed a national TV spot and another who is pregnant. I can't move the outcomes or timings - I can only remind them to use the time that does exist to be as prepared as possible. I wish I could wave a magic wand but change takes the shape and speed it requires.

So in uncertain times, knowing there are no quick pathways, the patience of the community you've built is the best way to pass the time while waiting.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Mentoring change - Part III

There is an upside to large-transformative-earth-shaking-life-changing change. It creates new thoughts, ideas and patterns.

Having the world turn upside down gives you two basic choices - you can hide under the covers or you can use the moment to try new things. It's a moment when you have the ability to lead or leave :-)

By leader, I don't necessarily mean someone-in-charge-of-the-whole thing. "Leader" is someone who, at any point and any level, helps others manage the upheaval.

This could be anyone of us if we view leadership as: identifying blocks; offering bridges; encouraging collaboration; seeing links; creating a vision; and delegating the solution details.

My mentors challenge me to be an "agent of change". I accept that challenge and pass it down the line. Consider: When the world turns upside down, it's an opportunity to influence the outcome for when it goes right side up.

Friday, October 22, 2010

No fear!

Often, in the business world, we hear executives talk about the need to connect with younger, fresher ideas.

Because of course, everyone around them only has stale ones. :-)

It made me wonder why younger folks are seen as having stronger ideas when so many folks around me - of all ages - have terrific plans and thoughts.

I think perhaps it is because that youth:
* present their ideas without a filter (no bitter experience that has them qualify their good idea)
* aren't as driven by fear (that it won't work and they'll never get a promotion)

I, for one, refuse to be shaped by fear or bitterness. I'll learn my lesson, pick a new skyscraper and leap off with the certainty that this time I will land well. I will raise my voice. I will lend my voice to yours. I will try new things and revisit some familiar plans.

And I will continue to encourage every young person I know to keep doing what they do instinctively - have no fear!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Finding a mentor

Why is it that most of us wait when it comes to getting a mentor (or two)? Is it because of the faery tale that someone will pick us out of a crowd / find us at the soda fountain / see us across a room and say "You! You shall receive all my secrets because you look worthy!"?

The only time I've been picked out of a crowd was for a baseball team in gr. 7 when I could hit like a guy.

It us who needs to pick the mentors out. It's us who needs to say "You! You know things I want to learn!" Believe me, as a mentor also, it's a very flattering moment. Very few will laugh and most will sit still for at least one cup of tea.

1 - research a little - what skills or philosophy are you hoping to explore?
2 - think a little - who in your network embodies what you're seeking? Who in your network knows someone who embodies that? Who - work with me... - in the city/town you live embodies that? Yup, you can approach a stranger if you have your request ready!
3 - prep a little - what exactly are you requesting? what frequency? what's in it for them?

Ah, #3 is what hangs most of us up... stayed tuned; next week we'll explore framing the request! Meanwhile, start asking anyway! Pick out a mentor or two and see how you stand out by being brave.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Mentoring change - Part II

Every now and then, the world shifts and we have to scramble to catch up.

I'm talking about the big changes - the ones that catch you unaware and there's no plan, no control, no re-do button. The type of change that throws the 'known' into disarray and you have to rethink big portions of life to fit it all in. Welcome or unwelcome, change of this scale simply sweeps through. There's no plan or long runway; you just find yourself in the thick of it.

And yet you manage.

You use experience and crisis management. You call on a spirit of adventure and innovation. You rely on the community/network you have built and the folks also affected by the change.

This are true transformation moments. The moments for which the daily changes have prepared you. There are no right or wrong answers - only the ability to assimilate and adapt.

As a mentor, you can cheer, listen and share. As a mentoree, you can ask, question and share.

It's not about control; it's about taking a deep breath and participating.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

10 Obstacles to Mentoring

We all try to do the right thing... but sometimes when we're rushed, shortcuts and habits can get in the way. Here's my list of things to remember when mentoring:

1 - Telling: Am I simply giving the answer instead of encouraging exploration?
2 - Showing: Am I doing it for my mentoree instead of watching them try it their way first?
3 - Deciding: Am I proposing the solution instead of allowing a decision to come from debate and deliberation?
4 - Belittling Berating Mocking: Am I, in an attempt to be humourous, denigrading someone else's efforts?
5 - Me Me Me: Am I listening or pontificating?
6 - Unavailable Inaccessible: Am I too busy? pre-occupied? uninterested?
7 - One method: Do I believe there is only one answer? Do I start most sentences with "No..." or "Well, but..."?
8 - Sole source: Am I sharing my network and resources for further explorations? Am I trying to be the 'oracle'?
9 - No celebration: Do I remember to celebrate the steps & progress along the way?
10 - Fear: Am I afraid to make a mistake myself? Or admit I don't have the answer/experience to help directly?

What would you add to this list?

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Coaching vs. mentoring

Both a manager and mentor will create dialogue, encourage you and correct you. However, while both your manager at work and your mentor "coach" you - there are some differences in the approach.

Your manager will clarify your existing job & accountabilities for you.
Your mentor will explore broad career options.
Your manager will create objectives for your current assignments.
Your mentor will encourage self-reflection and learning goals.
Your manager will teach with a desire to have good performance on their team and for their projects.
Your mentor will ask questions and share personal anecdotes around perceived barriers, challenges & fears with only your development in mind.
Your manager will support personal & career development - usually inside your organisation.
Your mentor will support personal & career development for anywhere you choose.
Your manager will hold you accountable for following direction and achieving your objectives.
Your mentor will cheer you on, while pointing out when you are not being accountable to yourself.
Your manager will assign actions.
Your mentor will suggest actions.
Your manager will listen and escalate issues as they impact the team or project.
Your mentor will listen and keep information as confidential.
Your relationship with your manager is fundamentally one of obligation, driven by your manager.
Your relationship with your mentor is fundamentally one of choice, driven by you.

Friday, October 8, 2010

The “M” list

Knowing that many of you are enjoying a holiday weekend, I thought a lighthearted Fri/Mon post would be welcome before I continue talking about change...

Exploring the different kinds of mentors there are... We either do these things for others or we seek them for ourselves.

Continuing with "M":

Malcontentment-or: Listens and then stops you from whinging and whining when you should be taking action instead
Management-or: Knows the difference between leading and managing
Measurement-or: Shows you how to prove your ROI
Medicament-or: Usually has a good stash of gin
Merriment-or: Usually knows the person with the gin stash
Misalignment-or: Points out when things are off track
Moment-or: Takes time to find the ‘aha!’ in your story
Movement-or: Helps you frame your vision

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Mentoring change - Part I

I'm bored with all the old talk around "change" (how's that for irony?). I know that fear and uncertainty are the two most referenced emotions when discussing change.

But let's debunk the change myth just a little.

Change happens every day, everywhere, all the time. You don't eat the same food at every meal; you don't wear the same socks every day; you aren't the same age as a minute ago; and you don't only see the same folks year in/year out even if the only new face is the young cashier at the grocery store.

All this change is acceptable. We make choices - small and large - all the time and things change. Sometimes we can deal with change because it fits a routine or our image of status quo. Sometimes we welcome the small changes as 'fresh' instead of frightening. Change can be choice (a career move) or fact (seasons change).

The point is that change is a constant. All the hype that change must be managed is like saying life will go according to plan. ha! You don't need a plan to handle change; you need an open mind and heart.

Besides - if we were to all walk about each day being afraid or uncertain, nothing much would ever get done or tried.

So change isn't bad, isn't rare, isn't always frightening. Change is just part of our day, our business and our careers.

Monday, October 4, 2010

I had the good fortune to attend TedXToronto last week. The theme was "A Call to Action" which encompassed everything from everyday leadership to new concepts in social funding.

I'm still mulling over what I heard and what it all might mean for me. It certainly will affect the issues against which I seek or offer mentoring in the coming months.

Below are a few quotes on which I'm meditating:

If we make leadership something beyond us then we can avoid it.
Drew Dudley

There is not an "us" and others who live outside that bubble. The bubble is permeable. Dr. Catherine Zahn CAMH

To create change you need partnership and sustainability.
Neil Hetherington

I'm enraged by our inability to collaborate.
Tonya Surman

Only when you truly listen are you then able to build community.
trey anthony

Fear is my friend. Without it I make mistakes.
George Kourounis

We all know one thing about the future - it ain't going to go according to plan.
Neil Parisha

It was inspirational absolutely. More than that, it made me realise that the world isn't waiting for me to get my act together - I'm the only one waiting. So why wait??

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Know your skills

You don't want to hire me because of what I've done before. My chronological history is only relevant in that I've been a constantly desirable team member, leader, employee and/or volunteer. (and parent but my kid is kind of stuck with me)

You want to hire me for my skills.

And if I can't articulate to you which ones I want to be paid for... or which ones I think I'll learn by working with you... then all you have is my chronological history on a two-page resume.

Explore your skills.

Articulate your skills.

Perhaps, most importantly, seek to be mentored against your skills instead of the next job to fit into your chronological history. Mentor for development and interest - and position will follow.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Everyone makes mistakes

I'm no expert. In anything. (maybe in shoe collecting... maybe) I work it through and use the idea until it doesn't work any more. Then I try and figure it out again. When I mentor, I make sure that folks understand these are just the solutions that are working for me today.

No one is is perfect. Even gurus and professionals make mistakes.

So why wait to try something until everything is perfect or until you think you can do it exactly the first time? If no life depends on the outcome, you surely have some wiggle room?

It's ok to make a mistake. It's not ok to do nothing out of fear of making a mistake.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

MIssion statements

Mission statements often sound like advertising slogans; hopefully convincing to a potential buyer, little relevance to your day.

I read a fabulous blog post on 17 Word Street, posted May 30. The author Bill Seyle points out that a mission statement should really say "This is who we are when we're at our best."

I ignore mission statements all the time. However, his post made me think - who am I when I'm at my best? And asked my mentorees the same.

That's what our resumes, elevator pitches and introductions should reflect - not the current fad, not the widget for sale - but the best we personally have to offer. We need to ask that question of ourselves before someone asks it of us.

Monday, September 20, 2010

It's all about change

Mentoring and networking are part of one's personal and career transformation.
But life is all transformation, isn't it? From the fact we don't stay little, to the fact we gain experience through new ideas and projects.

So really, every day/hour/thought has the potential to shift our status quo a little.

Then we're transforming, changing, morphing without even trying. By making conscious choices and decisions, we can try and steer the course to what we desire.

So how can we not mentor and be mentored? Why would we avoid building communities around ourselves and those we love?

Change will happen anyway - choose to embrace it and understand it.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Your values are your career plan

I don't actually care what industry my job is in.


I don't have a target job or company in mind. (another gasp here)

I do care that I am encouraged to bring my core values and skills to the table. I care that I have scope to lead and scope to learn. I will bring my values, skills and curiosity to whomever believes they are worth a salary.

Do I have a few dream jobs? Absolutely: Executive Director of a not-for-profit; professor; social media strategist; writer; speaker... to name a few. These days I'm trying to understand change - not the theories, but the practical applications to deal with changes and still maintain a sense of choice. I don't know what that job title is but I'm making it part of my career too.

Following your passion isn't necessarily about a particular job - though it can be. Following passion is simply about following your heart. Some days my heart is very boring or weary; most days it offers a reason to keep exploring the world around me.

Care deeply about what you do - not on a daily business but as something that reflects who you want to be inside, do what reflects your values. You shouldn't be judged on your values - only on not committing to them or thwarting someone else's.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Dream big

Today, it's not about plans or process. No career decisions. No sensible arguments. Leave your common sense and your tried & true theories behind.

Ask "what if..."
Ask "why..."

Say "this is what I'd do if no one was looking...!"

What are your dreams? What gives you wings? What inspires you?

Monday, September 13, 2010

Making career plans

Making career plans sounds sensible, is up there on the list with "do laundry and sort basement", and usually ends up being no more specific than a chat over tea with friends. (or beer...)

I am the first to say that putting together a career plan is simply a line in the sand. However, it's a great line to draw even if you know it will move, morph and meander.

Since September is the 'real' new year - back to school, change of season, prep for winter, etc. - why not ask yourself:
1 - Given what I know today, where would I like to be in 3-5 years?
2 - Given what I'm doing today, what do I need to change or add to get to #1?
3 - Who should I talk with in my community for their perspective?

Then set one goal a month that is a step towards #1. A simple step - nothing as monumental as sorting the entire basement - but perhaps unearthing the winter boots and the snow tires as a first step.

As you turn over ideas and sort through the tasks that make up the steps towards your goal, you'll learn a few things and perhaps change your mind along the way. You'll also keep your development fresh and your commitment to your own ideas moving.

Making career plans isn't always about getting there; sometimes it's about the journey.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

The recent Star article "Why I Wish I Were a Guy" raised all kinds of discussion in my circles.

The article is filled with some stats (worth knowing) that shows even in North America, there are gender gaps. While Mallick doesn't show the upside of how far women have come, she certainly doesn't bash the other side. She simply, with some tongue-in-cheek humour, points out that it's still easier to be a guy in the working world. I believe that's true. Having even a guy's name has often provided me with an advantage. Stupid eh?, but true.

But the title and last lines of the articles seemed to be all anyone read - a shame really because Mallick raised some excellent points.

I'll add one - as much as others may view our gender as holding us 'down'... we hold ourselves down as well:
* We self-select out of opportunities, perceiving (rightly or wrongly) that we're not qualified/don't have the time/wouldn't be considered.
* We don't talk about our accomplishments freely.
* We can take things too personally in the workplace.
* We can try too hard to be one of the guys instead of showcasing our own unique strengths.

I've been in enough situations where I believed that being a guy would have made all the difference. Yet, I don't want to be a guy. But I do understand the sentiment.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Why vs. How

A friend recently complained, "They keep telling me how to do my job. It's not my first day; I know how to do the work. I need to know what they need done and why. I can figure out how to do it myself."

A good point, yes? The next time you ask someone for help or attempt to offer some leadership, try giving the "what" and "why" and refrain from offering "how"... unless you're asked :-)

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Influences from afar

We all know the parlour game of asking "Who, alive or dead, would you want at a dinner party and why?"

It's the why? that fascinates me. (it's always the why) From style icons to great thinkers, world changers to local legends, we absorb the stories and aspire to some of their messages. They are not quite mentors but they do influence us.

So which three women, alive or dead, but who you've never met do you feel have had an impact on your life?

Me? For today, I'll pick:
Elizabeth I - for courage, love of the arts, surviving her childhood, finding her way in an unfriendly world and defying convention.

Katherine Hepburn - for wearing trousers, speaking her mind and defying convention.

Carol Burnett - for understanding the pain of humour, teaching us to laugh and defying convention.


Monday, August 30, 2010

A simple view of voice in facilitation

A little something different today... I was asked how, in this age of internet (webinars, teleconferences, podcasts, etc.), to use one's voice more effectively in presentation.

Today at work I'm giving a 15 minute 'quick view' on voice for Learning & Development facilitators. Below is the text of my presentation. I know - it should be a podcast :-) ...

Voice & Facilitation

Man cannot learn by voice alone... but if you're on a teleconference, it'll have to do!

A few statistics:
"One study at UCLA indicated that up to 93% of communication effectiveness is determined by nonverbal cues. Another study indicated that the impact of a performance was determined 7% by the words used, 38% by voice quality, and 55% by nonverbal communication."

So voice alone isn't ideal. But some days, that's all we've got.

I'm not going to discuss the gaps in using voice alone (the visual cues, the non-verbal message assistance etc.) or how the material needs to be sharp and well-organized (or you can have a voice like hot dark chocolate on caramel rocks and it won't help).

If you really couldn't communicate with voice, radio - from news to talk shows - would never have become popular. Today we've got podcasts and webinars in the aural repertoire.

Why does radio work?
1 - Folks on radio know how to work their voice.
2 - Radio does not mean one-way communication. From call-in to interview, the means of sharing information is as varied as the topics you can cover.

Let's focus first on voice and how you can improve it. Remember, 38% of your impact is voice quality!
* Pitch
* Tone
* Pace
* Clarity/articulation

While I could spend a lesson on each of these items, we've only got 15 minutes today so let's pick some quick hits.

Have you heard a recent recording of how you sound? Like many folks, you probably thought "Oh goodness, what shoddy recording equipment". LOL Nope, that's really you.

Record yourself talking with a friend for approx. 20 minutes (long enough to almost forget you're recording). Try to listen as though it's the voice of a stranger. Is it high? Wavery? Low? Varied?

At very least, you can work on some pitch basics. The most common for women is trending the ends of sentences 'up' even if you're not asking a question.

Tone is the emotional range of your voice. Tone plays an integral role in helping folks understand how they could feel about the information you're sharing. As a facilitator, you should be very deliberate with your tone. On the phone, keep it open and inviting like a conversation between friends instead of lapsing into 'lecture' voice like a professor.

You know how one can 'hear' the smile of the person talking? We know to actually smile if we wish to convey this kind of warmth. Another trick is to actually do the gestures you would make if you were talking face to face. Point, pace, use your hands, nod your head... all this will not only come through in your voice but help you vary your tone and pace.

Simply put, it's speed - or lack thereof. I will probably mostly talk too quickly when I'm excited or passionate about my topic. And yes, it is possible to go too slowly.

But there's one much maligned and overlooked part of speed and that's the pause. You know that asking a question and saying nothing until someone can't stand the silence and answers is a very effective technique. (I've never seen a pause go past a count of 7) You can also deliberately insert pauses to cue a listener that a major point is coming up. (pause) Pauses used deliberately and thoughtfully can help a listener identify new information.

Tie pitch, tone and pace together and just sharpen clarity. That's not simply making sure your lesson is well-organized! That's enunciating clearly and using all facets of your voice to frame segments of your presentation.

As in every new habit to form, pick one thing to change this week. Don't try to change everything overnight.

Remember - you do not have to be "pitch perfect". Your voice has its own quality which reflects your personality and makes you unique and interesting as a presenter. Just make sure you're using your voice deliberately and to its best advantage.

A few easy references:
Clarity and articulation
Patsy Rodenburg - The Right to Speak = best vocal book for any kind of voice work

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

A shared cape and tiara

I answered the question "What would you do with a tiara and a cape?" as posted by the Red Tent Sisters.

What a marvellous question - for two reasons...

1 - Because every woman has the right to decide what 'power' means to her. As does every child. As does every man.

2 - Because the question doesn't imply one must share but simply offers an idea. How often do we get an idea for rumination offered with no strings? (sometimes, but not often enough)

3 - Because the very posting of the question has started a dialogue online between busy folks who have left total strangers a few words of encouragement.

Building community doesn't have to be on the grand gesture scale. You build community simply by offering an idea and letting it grow as it will.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Wine, women and song

What's your definition of a great event? Whether an intimate dinner or a large function, you've possibly thought of the 3 key ingredients above. (some events I prefer gin but that's another post...)

Wine because it suits most occasions, is a key to unlocking conversation (in moderation of course), and because it gives your hands something to do. The last is often the most overlooked since folks tend to feel less awkward if their hands are occupied.

Women because we suit most occasions, are key to unlocking conversations (moderators) and keep the room flowing. We're excellent at hosting as well as participating and making folks comfortable.

Natalie MacLean's marvellous reviews and posts always intrigue me. They're personal, informative, often humourous and inclusive. In June, she blogged about how women are more likely to try "new things. They're also far more likely to think of wine-food pairings and other social factors."

Song because music can create a sense of intimacy, filling gaps in conversation and making folks feel less awkward.

Ok - so I'm being a little silly and irreverent. But there's something lovely about taking a stereotype (wine, wimmin 'n song) and showing how fabulous we really are.

Friday, August 20, 2010

The “L” list

Exploring the different kinds of mentors there are... We either do these things for others or we seek them for ourselves.

Continuing with "L":
Lament-or: When the world just seems too much, they hold your hand
Ligament-or: Points out the connections
Liniment-or: Preps you for the next round of negotiations

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Social Media Mgrs vs. IT mgrs

We’re all on the same team. We’re all trying to enable interaction, engagement and knowledge transfer.

But why, in the arena of social media, are folks wearing either an IT sticker or a Social Media Guru sticker (read: PR, Marketing, Communications, etc.). Why can’t we be both?

Here’s what we have in common:

1 - We’re solving a problem, not picking a tool.

We are trying to move the focus from the tool-of-day /recent hot trend to creating a behavioral response in our audience. The technology of today will be old by the time it’s implemented; we all should be focusing on the end result we’re hoping to achieve and moving in/out various tech tools to get there.

We’re trying to build infrastructures and governance that will allow us to be current without being trendy; cost effective without being staid or outdated.

2 – We’re trying to see the trends and pick the long-term winners.

Being swayed by what’s ‘hot’ or in the media, isn’t a solution. See #1. By attempting to find the methods and tools by which the majority can interact (simply, effectively), we stand a greater chance of folks continuing to use the method/tool beyond it’s initial ‘cool’ factor. That’s engagement.

3 – We’re trying to make it about the user/audience.

No project, product or tool will be effective if it just lies there. If there is no demand or gap, then we ask why choose this/do this?

We’re also not trying to showcase how cool and knowledgeable we are. We’re hoping to allow our audience to interact and showcase how capable they are.

4 – We test.

We keep each stage defined and we validate each stage at completion.

5 – We believe that knowledge transfer is the greatest result, enabling everything else.

We may not always agree on what knowledge should be transferred (lol) but that’s another story.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Why do you get out of bed?

I'm curious - why do you get out of bed every morning? Ok, maybe some mornings you spring up a little faster than others... but still, when you open your eyes, what excites you about your day?

We look at life in clumps of days (sometimes known as a week) and take views that span a month or even years. Certainly there are events and people that stand out in those views. Moments that shine brightly and became a highlight.

Yet, every day, you get out of bed... why?

Part of this question is to ask yourself if you're living each day rather than looking back or forward only. Part is to remember the small things that make each sun rotation different.

If you aren't springing up each morn, you can ask "what would help me wake up with a smile?" And then I'd have to ask what you're doing to achieve it...

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Tired of all the fuss around new?

I just had a long conversation with a few folks about how distracted we can get with the concept of 'new' before we've actually fully exploited the existing/old.

So while technology, social media and marketing is often about the new... sometimes rather than debate the best text messaging platforms, remember there is still a phone. The warmth (or lack thereof) in a human voice can never be matched by an emoticon.

Cell phones may not always be smart phones but sometimes that's all your kid needs. The iPad still needs you to have a home computer. The eReader does't mean the paperback is dead. New and old can co-exist. And sometimes new is simply new and not better.

Remember too that the last person to cross your path is not necessarily smarter/better/cuter than the person you see every day.

New isn't always better. Old isn't always irrelevant.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Have confidence - keep your own style

There are lots of articles out there telling you how to be better at just about everything. Books that promise you the easy 10 steps to success in any endeavour. Gurus and experts who will share their secrets...

(Ok - I know - this is a blog filled with advice on how to be 'better'... I'm not exempt; I just hope I'm a little different! LOL)

Recently, I've been reading articles on how to be taken more seriously. Collectively, the advice has been to speak up/listen more; speak evenly/have passion; take up space/be contained; work towards consensus/take no prisoners... You get the idea.

The only thing I believe you can do wrong when trying to have your ideas heard is (drum roll) to lack confidence.

If it's your style to be soft-spoken and kind - then by all means, do so. If you use humour and wear bright colours - go ahead! etc. etc. etc. Yes, sometimes you have to shift about to get your audience to come along with you - but never at the expense of who you are and how, ultimately, you express yourself. If you're a leopard, mute a few spots but don't change them all!

People buy you as much as they buy the idea you're offering. It's ultimately not about following the right 'rules' of how to present yourself. It's about being confident, capable and consistently you.

Which reminds me, I think the next streak in my hair should be purple...

Thursday, August 5, 2010

The Toad and the Shoe

In my creative writing, I often get asked "Where do you get your ideas?" Well, honestly, I just use real life; there are no stories more outrageous. This blog is a true story.

I have a dear friend in a terrible work situation. Her boss e'd her a naked picture of himself.
In Canada.
In this century.

In case you're wondering, the photo is an awful picture of a toad-like man, posed artfully behind a ship's wheel. It has been passed around with great hilarity. Unfortunately, it reflects a situation that is not as uncommon in Canada as one might think.

When I asked if she could go to HR, I found out they already had a copy! Seems jobs in this industry/province are scarce and folks are too scared to make a "big deal" about this. I have advised my friend to start looking for a new job ASAP. She has been actively searching. She also had strong words with her boss who promised to be better behaved.

Till she wore The Shoes and with A Pedicure.

She was sitting on a call in her office this week with her shoes kicked off. He wandered into her office, proceeded to stroke her foot and... as she leap from her chair in horror... he picked up a discarded shoe, stuck in his nose and breathed deeply.

I understand the entire company could hear her tear a strip off him. Having heard her tear strips before, I'm surprised I couldn't hear it all the way to my office too.

She's now embarrassed to go into work. He continues as a big cheese at the company. She feels shamed. Goodness knows what he feels but I bet he's sleeping soundly regardless.

Trying to see the lighter side of the situation, we chatted about such options as wearing gum boots to work or fuzzy slippers. We decided the poor shoes were ok to keep as we both love them (good shoes being hard to find) and we'd forgive them this one transgression.

But really I sit here enraged. While we understand the legal and ethical obligations of this situation and are working to solve it... It Should Not Happen. To Anyone. Anywhere.

The details of my friend's story are a reflection of all the stories I've heard this year. I know men are reading this posting and cringing - I know many men would never Dream of such evil and abuse of power. This is not about bad men/good women.

This is about Everyone being vigilant and speaking up when they see bad behaviour that subjugates others and compromises their ability in the community.

We need to keep dialogue going; we need to make sure folks understand the workplace is still not an equal place for all members; we need to support those who find themselves in compromised situations.

It's not happening to folks you don't know. It's not a fairy tale. Don't let the toad control the story.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

It's relative so make your own choices

Why is 'artist' a less respected way to earn a living than 'engineer'? Why is 'emotion' a female weakness and 'logic' a male strength?

Who is to say which way is right and which is just today's norm (and therefore possibly not tomorrow's...)?

There is a difference between a lack of confidence and personal style / personal choice.
By lead by choice and make no excuses.

Thursday, July 29, 2010


We talk in shorthand. There's nothing wrong with that - you just need to remember that half the conversation tends to stay in your head. You hear what you meant but others only get the words that actually come out.

Groups tend to develop their own shorthand - acronyms and buzzwords for which folks have a tacit understanding. As individuals, we also tend to have phrases or descriptors for ourselves that we assume friends and family understand.

But really... everyone has their own interpretations. And even if the meanings are close, it's still worth taking the time to express what you really mean.

So when you're describing yourself - in a bio, a resume, an elevator speech or just at a meeting - don't default to the generic terms and buzzwords - be specific. Don't hope folks get what you mean, help them get it.

Be original in a world of buzzwords.

BTW - I don't want be known as original. Everyone is original. I want to be known as sincere, intelligent, talented, effective and interesting! LOL

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

No means No

Again I am moved to tears by an article in a local paper.

For those who have been raped and/or killed... for those who have feared being raped and/or killed... for those who don't feel empowered to say no - even here in Canada... for those who are simply trying to understand why it is still important to talk about women's rights... This article in the Eye Weekly contains graphic language and strong sentiments: Can I have a woord with you? (When No Means Yes)

We have to keep speaking up and out in all languages and formats to all audiences. Silence is hurting us and ignorance is killing us.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

The “J & K” list

Exploring the different kinds of mentors there are... We either do these things for others or we seek them for ourselves.

Continuing with "J":

Judgment-or: We’re all good at this to differing degrees.
Jument-or: Teaches us to delegate

Continuing with “K” (with thanks to Karin):
"Kidment": a pocket hankerchief fastened to the pocket and partially hung out to entrap thieves. Also a fictious story to deceive the unwary, a begging letter, a long rigamarole of any kind = Kidment-or: someone who helps you look for the weak spots in your plan.
How about knurlment, which does not technically appear in dictionary but is a technical term for something to do with the design of twist off caps. = Knurlment-or: a good drinking buddy.
"Knackerment" after one has recovered from being knackered, one discusses the issues that arose whilst in a state of knackerment. Still it is not listed in a dictionary yet as a variation of knackered. = Knackerment-or: they know how to do a really good debrief

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Create desire, not hype

Folks seem constantly focused on creating a "new" product (however 'product' is defined). With each launch/opening/kickoff, everyone holds their breath to see if goes viral/gains an audience.

Seems to me we have the equation backwards. Why not define the behaviours you'd like to change and create the product to acheive that? Behaviours are not a by-product of the act of creation but its essence. Audiences react not just to 'newness' but the relevance of any product/project/change.

Want someone to pull out their wallet/give time/offer something of themselves? Create desire. Not hype - but actual benefit for participation. Offer motivation to support the behaviour you desire of your audience.

Monday, July 19, 2010


We've all been told to 'focus' at some point along the way. No one ever really defines what that means beyond "pay attention to what I need you to see". Focus seems to be a fleeting thing, a temporary sharpening, an unsustainable reaction for the average person. For most, focus = concentration and that's not the same thing.

In terms of career, most of us don't have a focus beyond (perhaps) subject matter expertise. We have an area of interest or an industry for which we were/are trained.

In the past decade, numerous books and gurus have talked about focus in terms of finding one's passion or a calling. Unfortunately, the cares of life can make some necessary demands and pull our focus from even a 'calling'. As a theatre artist working in IT management, my focus is pulled from writing even as I use my directing and production skills. My passion to teach and build community becomes a backseat driver to the requirements of building a unified team across a large company.

I'm not sure how to answer or define the question of focus. I believe that we need subject matter experts and generalists. I believe we need to understand our own drivers and dreams and never abandon them - but that paying rent and buying food may create detours.

I am left playing with the following:
Focus = Passion
Focus = Goal
Focus = Self-awareness
Focus = Happens when you need to take a step forward

Focus is not what others demand of you on their behalf but what you offer of yourself from your desire.

Friday, July 16, 2010

A friday sigh for women

Even in the middle of travels, the plight of the solitary woman - often a single parent, often working, often simply trying to do her best - crosses my path.

I believe one must first help oneself. The world owes us little and we cannot surrender our choices, our power or the need to correct our mistakes to others.

But sometimes you just can't do it yourself; there is no shame in asking for help.
And I struggle with the question: is it that we, as women, find it too hard or shameful to ask or that we find it too hard to offer while balancing our own loads?

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Summer Travels - part II

Each city is a chance to see a different point of view. Each adventure is a chance to see a different angle. Each community has its quirks and its qualities.

While traveling around St. John's this week, I've been welcomed into folks' homes, met other tourists, accustomed my ear to new patterns and rhythms and had a few (fleeting) moments of gratitude for my own daily routines at home.

I've stood on the eastern-most point of Canada and listened to the foghorn bellow to the Atlantic. I've danced in the street downtown at 3am.

Perhaps, most importantly - as I spin back and forth between the solitary moments and the community interaction - I've rediscovered that nothing is as important as simply listening to folks. My opinion means nothing if it doesn't fit into the patterns folks weave about themselves. First, listen to yourself. Secondly, listen - just as carefully - to others.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Snapshots and breadcrumbs

All we can ever share with each other are snapshots - points in time, bits of information - because plugging into someone and knowing their history takes time.

We can tell longer stories to bridge some of the gaps - but mostly we offer tidbits to each other. Over time, those bits add up to a bigger story.

You can't rush this. You can't dump who-you-are/what-the-project-is-about in one sitting. You can, however, offer cliffhanger endings and teasers so that folks will seek you out to continue the conversation.

Use your online bios, presentations, elevator speeches, grocery line up meetings... Leave a trail of bread crumbs about yourself as you gather the breadcrumbs of others.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Summer Travels - part I

Ah, the adventures of the traveling blogger... I'm off to Newfoundland today, with an iPad, a netbook, a Blackberry and raincoat. I may or may not have connectivity in Gros Morne. (lol) I will certainly try skreech after I post a blog from St. John's. I will definitely make some new connections and add to our circles.

If you have a favourite restaurant/pub/place that I should try to see, please e me or leave a comment! Meanwhile, I'm off to see if my ability to talk to strangers has improved and my love of good seafood knows any bounds.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Talk to folks who disagree - part II

I can't change your mind if I don't know what you're thinking.

Often we keep our ideas to ourselves so as to avoid this very scenario - having to debate and possibly have to backtrack or change an opinion.

When did respectful, spirited debate become a bad thing?

Mentors - engage your mentorees in debate. Don't just offer advice, ask your mentorees to challenge you. Challenge them. If we can't offer the arguments for our positions, do we really have an opinion?

Monday, July 5, 2010

Connections are also physical

Connections are not merely emotional or intellectual common points of reference. They are physical too.

Look how our behaviours change with our physical settings and props. Talk to a friend/peer on a couch vs. at a table and see how interaction changes. Talk for 15 minutes with your hands in your pocket. Put 10 people together holding drinks, swap the drinks for ice cream, swap the ice cream for Blackberries. Wear shoes that pinch or a sweater that itches. A noisy cafe vs. a noisy hallway. A phone call in front of a computer screen vs. a call with a mug of coffee and a sunny window.

We spend a lot of time preparing our thoughts and speeches. We seek folks we like and talk through experiences and opinions.

Use the space around you. Even if you never take physical contact beyond the handshake or air-kiss hello, your body and the environment will be part of a successful connection.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Proud to be


What would your list look like?

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Talk to folks who disagree

We can't strengthen our ideas if we only talk to people who agree with us.

Simplistic? Possibly. But when was the last time you - as a mentor or mentoree - sought out a dissenting opinion?

Monday, June 28, 2010

After the summit(s)

I'm sure you're all 'up to here' with news and opinions on the G8/G20 Summits this week. Add in a tornado plus an earthquake and it's been a bad week.

What was most disappointing was how the opportunity for groups to come together to debate change resulted in destruction and chaos. Regardless of which side of the fence a community stood, no one heard anyone.

Giving someone a voice doesn't mean shouting over anyone else. Building community doesn't mean destroying someone else's. Courage of one's convictions doesn't mean such narrowness that one can't listen to dissenting opinions and find some value.

As we move to Canada Day celebrations, let's remember our strength as a larger community is in our diversity.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

So then what happened?...

If you live/work in downtown TO, chances are you've been at an 'alternate' location this week. You may even have been on your couch. Your teen may even have been bringing you bowls of food while you spent endless hours on the phone/remote connection to work. You may even had discovered at 10pm that you had never made it out of your pjs or showered.

It has been interesting discovering everyone assumed that:
- being out of the office meant you had 'extra' time to develop material/have meetings on non-essential projects
- if they didn't speak to you/someone while everyone was out of the office, folks assumed others might think they weren't working
- phone meetings were easier since everyone was in the same non-room and finding alternate ways to listen/be listened to
- laptops aren't as good as iPad for needing to wander around the house during a phone meeting and take your information with you while you wondered why the dishwasher was making that awful sound

Even without an office, this week I met new folks without ever leaving my couch (or getting my own food bowl). I wasn't wishing for a web cam but I sure could have used a wireless headset. I had people laugh and committees think. I put in lots of overtime and I managed a call with my mother.

I'm not looking forward to going back to the 'old' office model; I think it's time business mixed it up a little!

Monday, June 21, 2010

It's G20 Summit time in TO...

Grab your muskoka chairs, sit by your wading pool/fake lake, hope the network providers can handle the work-at-home load and stay out of downtown.

And consider... This is the coolest trial run to see if thousands of regular office workers actually need to be in an office.

Can we all work from wherever we may be and keep society running? Is the construct of the formal office becoming a history lesson for pre-geographically agnostic tools? Can we move towards a week of goals and end-results instead of hours (visibly) logged?

Will this week prove inconvenient or liberating?

Friday, June 18, 2010

The “I” list

Exploring the different kinds of mentors there are... We either do these things for others or we seek them for ourselves.

Continuing with "I":

1. Immurement-or: Breaks down walls with you
2. Impairment-or: Breaks down barriers with you
3. Impalement-or: Lets you get away with nothing
4. Implement-or: Turns ideas into actions
5. Improvement-or: Moves everything up a notch
6. Increment-or: Demonstrates how to pace yourself
7. Inducement-or: Tempts you to try new things
8. Inveiglement-or: Demonstrates the shadowy side of negotiation
9. Investment-or: Shares themselves with you
10. Involvement-or: Shows you how to share yourself with others

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

No such thing as social media...

A headline on the CEC blog last week read: There is No Such Thing as Social Media.

Well, THAT got me thinking. There's no such thing as money either but we all collectively believe the bits of paper and coin are of value.

The post made some good points, most notably: "...“social media” isn’t a separate thing…it’s one thread interwoven into the much larger tapestry of the massive behavioral change that’s been occurring in the way people absorb messages and ideas, process thoughts and make decisions."

And money isn't a precious metal in your pocket but a thread that drives our societal patterns in many spoken/unspoken ways.

So they are both concepts we've collectively agreed to use. Which makes it less about the actual tools and all about the mindset.

Monday, June 14, 2010

A definition of mentoring

I'm always reading definitions of mentoring. Many are prescriptive in a way that makes me feel like mentoring should be left to professors or wizard-masters. However, a few folks create simple terms that show the relationship and leave the door open to endless possibilities.

Rodger Harding said:

An engaged mentor will…
• Provide the Mentee with opportunities, not specific outcomes
• Assist in the exploration of options, not necessarily solutions (a mentor does not teach)
• Explore and understand different perspectives strengths/weaknesses
• Respect and preserve unique Mentee thinking, competencies and impact
• Accept value and priority differences (the ability to transcend personal or projected goals) as well as changing realities as the relationship progresses
• Work with uncertainty – Mentors will not care more about outcomes than their Mentees
• Understand that mentorship oftentimes only bears fruit in years to come – when the Mentee is ready and able to fully absorb the Mentor contribution

It's work for both parties. It takes time. It's about the big picture, not the coaching for the immediate job held. It doesn't even have to be about a job but a mindset - an exploration of a craft - a transition or an emergence. It's a relationship and it's about choices.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Happy 2nd birthday Similar Circles blog!

OMG! Two years! And there's so much still to say... (pls. don't groan; I can hear you)

While the new counter (this week) is probably just hitting 100... there are actually over 600 links to this blog and over 1000 readers (according to my kid...and I don't pay him to check).

For those following my tweets... the blog is my runway for taking flight.... lol

Thank you. For reading. For arguing. For agreeing. For emailing. For commenting. For making my world so much bigger.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Do gadgets help you network or mentor? part II

Mentoring needs all the tools we can find. People, gadgets, books, websites, ideas, opinions, mistakes, challenges.... there is room for it all. But especially the gadgets.

1 - If you're learning and keeping your mind active, you're probably a better mentor for it.
2 - It's something your mentoree can possibly teach you.
3 - You can't really discuss building community if you haven't at least tried to use the tools.
3 - You can mentor with fewer borders and boundaries.
4 - You can share more information - things that exist outside what you directly remember or have learned.
5 - You can explore more information with your mentoree.

Bakers don't only use one cookbook. Carpenters don't own only one hammer. Writers have more than one notebook and pencil.

Gadgets aren't just for IT geeks - they are for everyone. They are as ubiquitous as the telephone, as helpful as the big saddlebag/purse we need to carry it all and as stimulating as the conversations they enable.

I'm not suggesting you text while talking or blow the grocery budget on the iPad. Good mentoring goes beyond the one/one conversation to a mutual exploration of the world around us. What better entry point than the gadgets that are changing our perceptions of what that world could be?

Monday, June 7, 2010

Do gadgets help you network or mentor? part I

Is it Monday already?

A very generous person gave me an iPad. (I didn't ask why... I was too overwhelmed). So here it is, three days later, and I don't know where the weekend went as I worked out how to install/not install an iPad on my Mac mini G4. (Turns out the G4 doesn't support an iPad.)

In trying to figure this out I spent:
* 2 hours with my kid while we passed the box back and forth, petting it like it was a new kitten in the house
* 3-4 hours of phone calls with friends talking about iPads and how they are enjoying/using theirs
* 3 more hours of calls with family who were wondering how my early days experience felt
* 27 FB and email messages from folks offering thoughts on the G4 system
* not to mention several folks who simply stopped me on the street or the subway as I took the box home to ask me about it.

That's a lot of human interaction for something I haven't got up and running yet!

We're fascinated by the gadgets - even in the box they seem to be a terrific way to start a conversation...

But why am I adding yet another device to my overloaded messenger bag?

Not to be hip or cool... believe me I when you say "so hip it hurts" I'm hitting the age where I hear "my hip, it hurts"... But while I believe that a face-to-face encounter will always bear the best results, not everyone in my circles lives close enough to touch - and certainly there are not enough hours and cups of tea in the day even if you all did.

It's not that the gadgets are replacing the conversation; they are an adjunct to networking. If you need shoes for jogging, for work, for snow, for hiking etc. then you need more than your smile and a handshake for different ways of networking. (for those who cook, it's like having only one pot, one spice and one wooden spoon with which to make every dish...possible but not practical)

You don't have to use these tools every day or have every kind, you need to select what suits your goals/lifestyle. But you can't ignore the need to make room in your cupboards for tools if you are truly trying to build out your community.

The applications (Twitter, FB, LinkedIn, SL, etc.), the devices (iPads; BBs; netbooks, etc.) and the usage (texting, following, tweeting, blogging, emailing, etc.) are a means to eliminating boundaries whether they are geographical, hierarchical or imaginary.

So experiment a little this week. Borrow a tool. Try an application. Put a new gadget in your networking skills.

FYI - You'll notice a new 'counter' on the blog. The blog has been up for 2 years and, yes, I just came around to a counter. So if the number seems weirdly low, it's because I had no way to capture the 1000s of you who actually come and visit my sandbox.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Mentoring & networking are the heart of building community

I can't say it often enough. Connecting with folks and building a circles of support - then sharing and overlapping them - is how we get things done, and done with some amount of joy.

It's when we're alone and isolated that there is no movement in our careers and our lives. Consider:
- sending out resumes to strangers vs. calling friends and delving into their circles
- moving to a new neighbourhood and relying only on the phone book to learn about your new environment
- becoming ill and having only the intranet for help

And that's only how it helps you when, everyday, we help each other. A coffee. An idea. A moment to watch a kid while someone slips away to grab a phone call.

Circles do more than get each other ahead. They are comfort. Protection. A chorus that can be heard above the noise of daily crises.

On a global scale - I don't believe a single child could be abused if we had enough community around them. It's in isolation that we all see suffering.

A dark, philosophical moment for a Friday? perhaps. But on a topic that is about building a little joy and breathing room for ourselves. Much much cheer this weekend to you all!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Why do what you do?

Today someone asked me a perfectly reasonable question - What are you passionate about?

At first I thought... Isn't it obvious? I write this blog. I mentor. I hold events. I speak at various sessions. Heck, TIAW put Similar Circle on their roster of women making a difference in 2009!

Then I realised... Sure, I do all these things... but why?

Because I want to help folks find their voice and speak up wherever and however they feel the need. Mostly, that's empowering women - of all ages - since we know the potential power of that choir hasn't yet been heard. But young men as well as women need an ear and a hand. Some fellows are brave enough to admit that everyone can learn a little more no matter the age or level of success.

And if we can spark conversations, if we can ask questions, if we can muse aloud... then we create a door for change and awareness of choice.

The more folks in who bring their circles together, the more voice we have.

What's your passion? Why do what you do?

Monday, May 31, 2010

Write your bio!

The dreaded request: Do you have a bio?

Here's a link to a terrific article that offers a great perspective on bios - and the comments continue the good sense.

You should have a bio even if you never plan to speak at an event or be introduced online.
A six-word bio that is the 'elevator pitch' on who you are - can be said aloud, put on LinkedIn/Twitter or as the header on your resume.
A 2-sentence bio that you can use at work meetings.
A second 2-sentence bio for other types of meetings.
A one paragraph bio that your community can use as introductory material (for coffees, projects and... yes, speaking engagements)

All that will take you a day to write to your own satisfaction. You should make sure your community reviews and offers perspective. And then share your bio! It's so much easier to offer introductions if I know what you want me to say!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Music opens doors

Blame the early warmth and sunshine... Point to the Glee withdrawal... See all the iPods and MP3 players in the ears of folks around us... But I've got music on the brain.

I attended another excellent eLated presentation in May. Doug Dyson of Serious Worlds examined Second Life as an e-learning environment. Then, of course, we retired to the bar for networking and further discussion which became an inspiring discovery of how Second Life has become an amazing live forum for virtual bands.

From a social media perspective, this is a natural and exciting progression of shrinking borders and opening doors.

But this goes beyond the benefits to techies. It also shrinks the barriers between all kinds of communities. Conversation flows around a common point of reference for almost everyone - music. Agree or disagree with the medium and how well it suits jazz/classical/musicians/technologists/audience members (etc.), it's a fabulous point of connection that crosses multiple boundaries - hierarchies, industries, countries, tastes and traditions.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Common points of reference

Common points of reference to share early in a relationship can be job/family/humour and are based on the situation in which folks find themselves meeting. e.g. I'm not going to tell you about my theatre history if we've just met at an IT meeting. (not without a g&t anyway)

There's nothing wrong with figuring out why you do/don't like someone through what you first discover you have in common. That's human nature. We want to work/play with people we like.

Where it can fall apart is when you don't explore further.

Some folks just want to know how you're like them. They don't want to look beyond their comfortable parameters. Forming a community/team/circle with people who think the same way about most of the same things is a common practice.

Others form a bond based on the common points of reference and then deepen the relationship by exploring the uncommon. These communities/teams/circles may have folks with a common philosophy but very different approaches/answers/ideas.

Without challenges, alternate viewpoints and the age-old question: why?, we would not see change.

Yes, make sure you like/respect each other before uncovering the differences. But don't stop at the similarities. I don't admire folks because they are like me; I admire those who inspire me to do things better/differently.

By all means, enjoy your mentor/mentoree but isn't the point to push each other into new territory?

Which prompted me to tweet on Saturday: Do you prefer to follow a person or a cause?

Friday, May 21, 2010

Networking - a very personal view

Why is it that the very skills that make us so adept at navigating the social and professional worlds fall apart the minute a whiff of potential sexual tension enters the arena?

The very skills that have us put a table of folks at ease seem trite or insufficient when meeting a new 'prospect'.

Recently, after much prodding by my kid and my family, I agreed to get back into the dating world.

I was mortified to uncover that... I avoid connecting! I'm like a feral chipmunk at the end of your deck... willing to eat the food you leave out but not if it means getting close enough to be petted. (grin)

I'm puzzling through if there really is a difference in connecting, regardless of intent. There shouldn't be. Mentoring and networking are just like dating.

While I try and see everyone I meet as a potential friend, I suppose folks might see that as a consolation prize vs. a place to start? :-)

It goes back to removing the transaction from the connection. If you can surpress the urge to shout "Take Me!" when creating a connection of any sort - professional, personal or 'really' personal - then you can forge a bond (or not) before moving forward.

Some folks may argue that biology hinders us when applying networking principles to the dating arena. However, if my dates can conquer their urge to bonk dinner over the head and cook it over open flame on a first meet/greet, then I can overcome my urge to hide behind a rock or run away. I can have a conversation and see what happens without trying to steer the course of the universe.

I am allowed, however, to remember that I really am the Reluctant Networker!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Yes, there's a problem

I will get off this topic for a bit, I promise... but just one more thing...

I've been shocked by how many folks recently have tried so hard to convince me (and each other) that there is No Problem for women trying to achieve success in their given field(s). That no barriers exist. That the world has become female-friendly.

Granted, some women have been fortunate in their circumstances and sponsors - which is excellent as it helps pave a broader road for those coming next.

But even if one woman's personal world is rosier, she can't deny that someone else's is ... not. Even if we say it's 'better' in Canada (and I'm not always sure it is - harassment, pay inequity, ageism, etc. still exist), it's not better around the world. Keeping the discussion high in political, community and personal venues and acknowledging women as a global community is a simple thing we can all do. We don't have to agree on the solutions... but surely we don't have to bicker about the existence of the problem?

I'm not saying I'm personally "downtrodden" (though I've had my share of ills along the way) or that men are evil. Far from it. I'm saying that we are being Victorian in not discussing what is happening below our noses for fear we might either offend someone, be labeled radical or *gasp* have to change some habits.

If we can't have the discussion openly and with compassion, then change is even further away.

(For Judy Gombita with deep gratitude for caring so openly and making me think so hard)

Monday, May 17, 2010

No finish line

Imagine there is no finish line. Imagine that each project only starts another one. Each choice creates more choices. Each direction more pathways. Rather than life getting narrower, it expands infinitely like the universe. (my science may be old but you get the idea...)

So the next time you want to understand the 'end state' of where you are heading, consider that most of your adult life will be spent in mid-change. It's not that we must pick the perfect finish line but that we must make the most of the travel time between choices.

Anne Hines (whose column in the Metro News I discovered just as she stopped writing it) wrote " is a constant building up and falling away...Our task is to become as comfortable with the falling away as we are with the times of building. So, when I find myself at a crossroad in life, or feeling that everything I've built is "falling away," I sit back, open myself to the universe and repeat the mantra "Ohmygodnooooooooo!" at the top of my lungs. So far, this hasn't helped much. But then, life is a work in progress..."

Friday, May 14, 2010


I talk a lot about creating and deepening connections - personal and professional. Perhaps it's time to remember one key connection that is often overlooked - with yourself.

We spend a lot of time doing things for others - being friends, co-workers, parents, grown ups... We do the things we should - pay bills, stay current (news, work). Maybe we even do development plans and think about our career.

If you could sit down with yourself and do only what you loved for a day, what would that be? Ice cream and a bad movie? A patio? Alone with a book? Wandering the city? When was the last time you took yourself out for a coffee? Just you - to enjoy the company you often share with others? Unplugged. Acoustic. Unembellished.

By the time you read this, I will be somewhere in the woods in Northern Ontario where my BB receives no signal. I will most likely be found on a cliff, talking to trees and ankle deep on a muddy trail. I may find I know all my own stories - but it's always worth checking in with yourself before creating new ones.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Hamlet, by various definitions, a small village, a Shakespearean tragedy designed to baffle your teenage son, or an omelet with ham if you're being funny.

Change is loose in your pocket, something to upset the status quo or what one does with clothing.

Leading is drawing you onward, rallying the troops or the stuff that holds stained glass together.

Everyone is right or wrong, depending on your point of view. Mentoring and networking are only what you make of them and nothing more. Building community can be as simple as saying hi to your neighbours or a lifetime of making people around you feel welcome.

You choose your definitions. You choose your actions. You choose the people who support or challenge your choices.

We are very lucky to have all this choice. The world is one 'hamlet'.

Monday, May 10, 2010

WiL the men speak up?

For the last two weeks, Women in Leadership (WiL) - any industry, not-for-profit and for profit - has been a hot topic in my world.

It's an emotional topic; it's right up there with race, colour and creed. Based on one's personal experience, women's issues are - or are not - a continued concern in this century. The dividing lines seem to have little to do with age, education or location.

WiL issues range from women not being attracted to certain careers or industries, to firm glass ceilings, to discrimination (having to work harder for the same/less pay etc.), to exclusion from decision making.

Questions have been fascinating:
* Do we have enough female role models?
* Does one only encounter barriers when one becomes a parent?
* Are younger women not seeing barriers because no one sees them as a threat?
* Why do so many men perceive a WiL issue (even if they can't agree on the root causes)?
* Why is it easier to accept there's an issue if a man stands up first to validate it?

It's the last one that fascinates me.

Men - I'm asking you to speak out and tell the women you know if you see that we still have a way to go on WiL issues. By all means validate the concerns! :-) Acknowledge the irony of the fact that, as a man, you're standing up to verify that women need to stand up... but nothing can change in isolation and we need the entire community to join the conversation.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Women and the economy

There's a growing body of evidence that if you empower women for change – economic change – the first thing they do is educate their children.

There's so many good things about that, I don't know where to begin.

I'm excited by how quickly the world is embracing and understanding the need to have us at the table - no matter how big or small that table is.

Recently, it was announced that before the June G20 Summit, women from the world's 20 leading economies will hold a "G(irls)20 summit" highlighting women's contributions to global economic prosperity.

And young women, not just us 'seasoned' folks, are asked to the table.

Every daughter we educate makes the world that much better. Every child to whom offer opportunity, brings us all opportunity. My International Woman's Day wish is that much more real.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Men and Women: Networking

I've been participating in a spirited discussion on LinkedIn which is titled: "Are women reluctant to network with men?" (If you want to wade in, you must be a member of the Canadian Women in Communication group.)

Below is my posted comment regarding not getting hung up on gender as the core issue but defining how we network at all!

...that part of the larger discussion is also debating the validity of constantly looking 'up' for inspiration and sponsorship (where do the really sr. folk look? lol) We need to look outward and across as well. So it's not just men on's about looking at how we define 'top'.

Women are terrific at building tables of peers and creating shared success. We're natural collaborators. So collaboration across gender, race, disability etc. should be a given in the quest for ideas/knowledge/inspiration.

Sometime we'll need a space where we get together and ask - what are the challenges unique to women (etc.)? Sometimes we need to acknowledge the world is diverse and we need everyone's input. Acknowledging which one is being offered at a particular event is how folks decide if participation is for them. There's no one answer - but you do only run one event at a time.

But first - let's get the issue of 'power' not just at the speakers' table...but also on the floor. Looking outward, across, up and - yes - 'down' because that's a true community.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Networking Event May 19 Toronto

Life is collaborative. We come together in changing roles and learn from each other all the time. By this definition, networking happens constantly - not as a single event – but as a process.

If you are planning to be in Toronto May 19, please consider joining me and other like-minded folks as we continue our exploration of building community with peers, mentors and terrific people. We have a few places still remaining.

Wednesday May 19, 2010
4:30 – 6:30pm

Leave me a comment, send me an email... I'll send you the details.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

It's a discussion

Opinions. Advice. Lessons learned. Cautions and questions. Seems for every idea someone has, someone else puts a fence around it.

I'm not any different. Some days I stop myself from saying anything by silently asking "Do I need anyone to know that I think that?". (which is counter-intuitive to blogging, I know! lol)

Ideas thrive on butting up against other ideas. As long as you're not trying to stop an idea, but build on it - poke at it - turn it over, etc. then creativity will thrive with conversation and input. There is never just one answer (except maybe in math?).

That's really the criteria for offering those opinions and questions. Are you trying to start conversation or stop it?

Monday, April 26, 2010

Taking/Giving credit

A common complaint these days seems to be folks not feeling like they've been giving (enough) credit for contributing to a project.

This isn't as much about the need for formal group recognition, as individuals seeking acknowledgment of their unique contributions to the whole.

Recently, I experimented with taking ownership when things went awry and keeping quiet when others submitted work that contained a notable chunk of my work. ('notable' meaning I did more than offer an opinion or have a brief review) I had a few 'aha' moments from this - some uncomfortable. The biggest 'aha being that it had me realise the type of credit I value most vs. having blanket acknowledgment.

So... is it right that the person who submits the final product, tacitly claims the credit for pulling it together? Should submissions come with a program listing the contributors and their roles?

Only if all the contributors are willing to share in the blame... How many folks stick up their hands when something needs to go back to the drawing board?

Perhaps we need to coach ourselves in understanding exactly why we're seeking credit for each contribution?

It's a double-edged sword and I've certainly cut myself as often as anyone else.

Monday, April 19, 2010

It's who you know...

A controversial statement...

Often we hear of a job given through 'knowing' the right person. Or information shared. Or an invitation to an event filled with power brokers. It's true - most of us would rather work with and share good fortune with folks we know and like. It's not chance that has affords us these opportunities; most of the time, it's steady networking effort and good relationship skills.

But does that mean you should only look 'upward' at those who are already powerful/influential when building your network?


First - most folks grow into their influence and position. Those who were part of their communities along the way are more trusted than those who came along with the success. Your inner circles and friendships are not a result of success - success is a result of your circles and friendships. I'd rather talk with someone who has believed in me all along than someone who is hoping to get close and pump me for the secret of my success.

Secondly - everyone you meet has the potential to add value/information/other people to your community as you do for theirs. I'm not saying befriend everyone. I am counselling that you don't eliminate folks for potential inclusion in your community based on their current level of success (however you define it). That would be like me eliminating each guy I meet as 'unmarriagable'... which doesn't leave me with any males to have as a friend, colleague or even repairman!

Besides, you meet folks at a point in time for them and for you. As your goals/needs change, so do theirs. As your success or explorations move on, so do theirs.

It's who you know... because there are so many definitions of 'who' you'll need along the journey.