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.