Friday, February 26, 2010

The "E" list

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

Continuing with "E":

1. Excitement-or: Shows how to lead a parade

2. Embellishment-or: Good stylist

3. Employment-or: A coach for the job search process

4. Enactment-or: Unlocks body language and hidden signals

5. Endorsement-or: Models the best in promotion of others

6. Enforcement-or: Knows the rules and regulations

7. Engagement-or: A true people-person

8. Enrollment-or: Always seems to get folks to agree to do things

9. Embarrassment-or: Knows how to turn a mistake into an opportunity

10. Embodiment-or: A role model

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Evoked Potential

The other week I had the misfortune to spend most of a day in the hospital for some tests (I’m fine). I brought a big book, a thermos of tea and prepared to trudge wearily from one department to another. Up and down corridors, in and out of the elevator, passing strange machines and distracted people.

I turned a corner and found myself in front of a door that was marked “Evoked Potential.”

In medicine, an evoked potential is the electrical response of the brain to a sensory stimulus. In school, potential is generally what many of us are told we’re not realizing fully. In dreaming about life, potential brims and flows - creating new ideas and pathways.

There was something very weird and wonderful standing before a closed door marked Evoked Potential. Was it a storage of such? The unused portions? The successes or misses? Would even opening the door cause magical transformation?

While I now know it's a valid medical term (who knew?), it gave me hours of thought around our journeys and all the people near and far who participate with us.

I really want to go back and try that door handle.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Monday Mentoring

I know it's good practice to get one's priorities set for the week. It's even better to tackle the big pieces first, in bite-sized chunks, to not let things pile up and keep a sense of accomplishment going. It's really terrific to plan beyond a week at a time, seeing the larger picture of life and not letting the daily traffic drag one down.

But it is February... and grey... and damp...

My Monday priority for the week is to stop looking and planning ahead for 7 days and just be aware of where I am now.

I am counseling all my mentorees to take a breath, a moment of gratitude or even a nap. We'll figure out/take stock/evaluate next week. This week, I suggest we just be present.

I'll listen to folks while they talk and not think 2 steps ahead. I'll eat whatever is already stockpiled in my freezer. I'll enjoy what I've got and where I am before I move on to wondering if I should change anything.

Movement and action isn't always what's needed. Reflection can be overdone. Awareness is an underrated sense of being.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Olympic proportions

I too am caught up in Olympic fever. Women’s moguls, pairs figure skating, snowboarding… I’m avidly participating from my couch. I’m reading tweets and blogs; I’m comparing notes and hopes with friends.

It’s the best of community spirit and I’m loving every minute of it. I was one of the workers on the ’88 Olympic Flame Relay and those months shaped much of my understanding of what community can accomplish.

I also watched this Olympic's opening ceremonies. My personal critique aside, a small piece of the ceremonies spoke to me personally and all that Similar Circles has come to represent.

Shane Koyczan took to the stage with a poem that had the lines:

“…because we are choices
we are millions upon millions of voices shouting…”

If there was an Olympic event in networking – if mentoring got prime time air on TV – if building strong communities had crowds cheering insanely… then those words would be our anthem.

It’s choice. It’s strength together. It’s a shared experience.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Anti-Valentine’s Day Plans

So now that the celebration has come and gone – and I hope you enjoyed it! – it’s time to get cracking on change around what you don’t like about your job, your career path or your community.

Don’t be afraid to tell yourself and your close supporters what you want. It’s easier to talk about what we don’t want. You can’t change a problem unless you have a vision of a solution.

Talk the vision through. Is it in reaction to your current situation or really something you desire?

What one thing can you do this week to get one task closer to your dream? (A skill list? A coffee? A book? 10 minutes to just think?)

If you could change one thing about your current week that would make all the other irritations less…well…irritating, what would that be? Why can’t you make that change? (Is it something you could break into smaller changes?)

Be dissatisfied. But don’t be content to sit within that state.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Valentine's Day Plans

The ultimate networking reminder is upon us… Valentine’s Day.

For those who are ‘attached’ – one is supposed to celebrate.
For those who are ‘unattached’ – one is supposed to look about for ways to meet new contacts and change the situation before next year.

Attached/unattached can mean anything from dating to having a job one adores to just building a personal community. Celebrate your career, love your friends, toast to new beginnings and ongoing stories this February 14th!

As you plan your Valentine’s Day, here’s a few suggestions:

1. Invite someone else to participate.
2. Indulge in unhealthy food – wine, chocolate, fried appetizers.
3. Limit yourself to one complaint and one compliment per 15 minutes. Too many are harder to digest than the fried foods.
4. Put it in writing – the plan, the thanks, the wishes.
5. Plan for a follow up session before the year is out.

May the day bring you joy.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The large event - some prep

Continuing the on the topic of working a larger or formal event (specified as specifically networking or not)...

We walk into rooms every day and don't worry half as much as we do when someone says "networking event". Do you worry like this about weddings, concerts, parties, etc.?

Actually, I do :-) But again, I have a reason/goal (step one) for being there and I've thought through my idea of a good outcome for attending.

That's step two: before you even walk in the door, what's the best possible outcome of you showing up and what might you need to do to make that happen?

Now that doesn't guarantee you the outcome but you'll be at least a few steps closer.

Step three: remember this is one event in all the events and daily networking you'll do. You don't have to solve all your networking issues in one plastic glass of wine. You can add to the collective effort of your practice. Cut yourself some slack and put the event in perspective.

Step four: remind yourself that you don't have to be exceptional; you should be real (sincere/ approachable/ etc.).

Step five: plan your introduction. Please don't stick to the name/rank/serial number approach. Add to it. Change it. And think about it in advance. Even I forget my name in stressful situations.

You can go alone, go a with a friend or peer, go for a defined amount or go planning to be the last one standing.... just go.

With this pep talk ready, you step into the room...

Monday, February 8, 2010

To my fellow artists – a call to mentoring and networking

I believe it’s important to understand the larger context in which we operate today (whether as business, arts org,anization educational institution, artist or audience).

As you know well, across North America, folks are
• struggling to reconcile diminished arts funding and broken governance models,;
• questioning how business sees the role of arts,;
• wondering how arts and business can forge new relationships across funding, skills, education and experimentation/research possibilities.
These questions are my passion – and a driver behind my blog and personal network/community.

Business and post-secondary educational institutions alike are struggling to address ever-changing needs - that encompasses the evolving ask of students, communities, partners, consumers and audiences.

As recently illustrated by the global economic crisis, the world at every level - down to the macrocosm - is in a paradigm shift. The truth of this new paradigm is that change is the new constant – change at levels we’ve not experienced before.
• Careers exist that weren’t on anyone’s radar 10 years ago.
• Access to information is changing.
• Economic dependencies are emerging.
• Environmental considerations are changing our sensibilities.
All these and more are going to keep changing and moving – and our solutions have to be as flexible.

Therefore, it is no longer about what an individual can contribute or what one institution can gather within its own walls – but about how we can build better networks and bridges to tap into and share information to grow and succeed together.

For small example, the debate around social media – from the understanding the technology itself to how it’s affecting our disciplines – is not one we could solve in isolation. What does an e-reader mean to publishing? How does writing for print differ from writing for screen? How can theatre productions incorporate the medium? What does this mean to PR and communication? To how we share knowledge or educate people?

Everyone is asking. But we need to provide forums and open the door to the experiments/thinking of artists and the debate of our audiences and partners. We don’t have to solve it – we have to offer a means of participating in the debate.

To paraphrase Michel Tremblay – our best chance to be universal is to be local.

Another example - that terrific study by Canada Council in 2007 – Next Generation Dialogues where artists and funders were interviewed regarding their thoughts around what it takes to have a successful career.

Findings included the need to build community: better networks that included not just artists within the same discipline, but other disciplines, funders, business partners and audiences. They talked about the need for ongoing skill development and a broader definition of what is a long-term artistic career. They requested mentors and training in the business of art as well as the art of business. One participant said “You really need to feel like you are in a strong network to feel professional, because it’s hard to feel like you are an artist in general society. “

While pointing out the challenges, this is also creating amazing opportunities.

It’s increasingly evident that this culture of change has brought a societal awareness of the importance of creativity and the creative mind.

It is now recognized that creativity is key component of problem solving and big thinking. Non-linear thinking is now recognized as part of success in the business and commercial worlds. We’ve long recognized it within the discipline of art itself. Artists and those trained in an artistic discipline are uniquely positioned to fill this identified gap.

That’s another bridge to help folks access – how to transfer arts skills into other disciplines and broader careers.

Consider that artists are less than 1% of Ontario’s workforce – and even smaller portion of the overall Canadian workforce – considered marginal contributors to the GDP.

Consider that we can raise visibility of both by leading the discussion and showcasing how to build better networks and bridges. We can teach folks how to thrive within a world of change. We can create advocates to speak on behalf of arts.

The thing about a vision is it is like the outline for a fabulous painting – I may suggest all the lines and even grind some of the colours – but it will only work if we all pick up a paint brush and finish it together with all the changes and decisions of the group dynamic that shape the final product. I’m offering a vision but need the alignment and input of all the people who will be affected by it.

You have to join the discussion. You have to find like-minds and then use the collective voice to reach others and allow others to reach and influence you.

Mentoring and networking are an essential component of artistic success in this century. Start reaching out.

Friday, February 5, 2010

The "D" list

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

Continuing (what's fast becoming a regular Friday event) with "D":

1. Development-or: Develops others (too obvious?)

2. Discouragement-or: Teaches how to handle feedback

3. Detriment-or: Gives misleading advice, often with a smile

4. Disagreement-or: Great at negotiating

5. Disarmament-or: Lots of charm

6. Discernment-or: Helps select when you’re faced with multiple choices

7. Dismemberment-or: Isn’t afraid to point out the mistakes but isn’t always kind about it

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Set a goal

No matter how much I point out that networking happens every day, I get a lot of questions about how to handle the big (if infrequent) events, including “Why go?”.

If mentoring is a relationship that starts with a coffee date, then networking events are group dates. A group date needs an activity – golf, food, shopping, class, event, etc. around which folks can gather. Sometimes the reason to gather is a bit forced; those are the overt networking sessions. Sometimes, when the gathering isn’t strictly announced as a networking function, we have to remind ourselves that large gatherings are prime time to do some meeting and greeting.

Events or rooms full of people/strangers or large crowds make me uncomfortable. If that hasn’t changed after all these years, it probably never will. But there are a few things I do to make it easier for myself.

First, I remind myself what networking is not.

Then, I set a goal for going.

If you don’t know why you’re going, don’t go. If the speaker or topic isn’t compelling, if you don’t want to talk to folks, if you’re not sure what the point of leaving your chair may be… then sit that one out.

A goal can be what’s important to you. For example:
• someone in particular with whom you’ve been hoping to connect
• supporting a friend
• hearing a good speaker
• practicing your introduction

Your goal should fit with your overall plan for yourself around how you’d like to build a community.

Start with ‘why’ go. We can talk about what to do when you get there in another post.

Monday, February 1, 2010

It is ok to not network occasionally

I'm committing the ultimate 'boo boo'... I'm sitting at a party with a computer, blogging about networking while avoiding the crowd actually in front of me.

My hosts, who know me well, are finding this latest attempt at reluctant networking very amusing. Their guests are looking at me strangely.

Some days it's simply too much effort to talk to strangers. That's true for even the most sociable of us. Networking is not a 24/7 occupation; it's a choice, a good habit and a long-term view on life. When it comes to events (parties, industry gatherings, formal affairs), I have always suggested that one set a goal for the event instead of simply showing up.

My goal today was to support my friends rather than meet everyone in their (rather spacious) house. Yes, I may have missed a few good stories/folks but I know my limits and network within 'em.