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.