Thursday, September 29, 2011

Freedom Thinkers?

Some days it's all about helping folks with change and their fears around it. Other days, it's like-minds who are embracing change - because change happens everyday; it's the scale of change that fluctuates.

I had a lovely lunch with Drew Dudley of Nuance Leadership who runs headlong into change with an open heart. We got into a great discussion on change and transformation, waving our forks and almost stabbing the waitress.

"We can't talk about change like it's happening outside our every day lives!" we cried. And then I broke into a fit of giggles. "Freedom thinkers. We need to form a group of freedom thinkers! Free from fear of change and free to ask the dumb questions that help us all embrace changes."

Except a few days later, the concept of freedom thinkers - while it still makes me smile - seems a thought worth pursuing.

I just need some help defining it....

Monday, September 26, 2011

Why we mentor

I'm writing an undergrad course outline about a subject I think I know 'cold'...something I can do in my sleep...something for which I have years of experience. Yet, the blank page is hard to fill.

At what point do we cross the line between:

  • consciously learning/trying to become proficient; and 
  • having habits and processes that allow us to to perform what used to be complex (for us) tasks by rote?
Aside from the old saying "You don't know what you don't know"... sometimes it's equally true that you forgot what you knew and how you knew it!

I ran into this the other day when I tried to explain how to pull together a video script. I can sit down and write one but delegating the effort was hard! Not because I did not want to hand it off to someone (more creative than me these days) but because I couldn't remember how to breakdown the approach that I simply did by rote.

This is why we mentor, teach and coach. Not just to share or learn new things - but to remember what we know and re-examine it.

Sunday, September 18, 2011


I just found a wiki that I can't decide if it's funny or not: geekfeminism

It's true; it's not true; it's slyly amusing; it's angry and fascinating.

For those women with a career in tech, the debate continues... While the stats continue to show that we're in the minority and paid less, the anecdotal evidence points to a better experience and gender weighting less than smarts. I know I don't feel at a disadvantage as a woman in IT but others do. I do know that seeing women in leadership positions is still difficult but I also advocate the right person for the job vs. filling a quota.

Anecdotally and statistically, it's all still a struggle in many other professions.

So what role can humour play? How can a wiki like that hurt/help the conversation?

The world will never be fair and equitable - the debate over whether everyone should be given exactly the same things regardless of circumstance or awarded based on impartial criteria that not everyone meets will rage on for many decades more. The library will not lower its bookcases because I'm short and peanuts will still be a commodity regardless of allergies.

That doesn't mean the conversations about how to evolve the criteria shouldn't continue. It was not long ago that simply having the wrong gender (colour/religion/etc.) cut us from certain jobs. Criteria has evolved. Humour can be a gentle way to further the conversation.

Humour can also distance folks. I've made many a gaff as a result of finding something funny but hadn't really thought through. That also prompted a deeper conversation.

So I carefully circulated the wiki to my 'choir' and am sharing it with this blog now. I only ever mean to further conversation, not beat any issue about the head with a shovel. Find it amusing or angry, continue the conversation wherever we find ourselves, using the tools as they arrive - including the humourous ones.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Thinking hard...

I just listened to Cory Doctorow (you may know one of his outlets: boingboing) speak at the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) on the twists, turns and evils of digital copyright and the forgotten creator. If the subject interests you, it was podcast live and will most likely be circulating as I write. 

I left the event, as I sometimes do, having spoken to no one. My sole purpose was to hear the speaker and maybe evolve an opinion of my own.

So why make it the topic of a networking/mentoring blog post? Because of something one audience member said. In introducing her question, she pointed out that everyone in the audience was "part of the choir", implying that we were of one mind even before listening to the presentation. 

Now it is useful, enjoyable or even uplifting to be in a room of like-minds. But it got me thinking... as often as we attend/participate in things for which we already have an affinity - how many times do we also seek out the unknown or even the oppposing view? Is it a reflection of insecurity or blinkered approaches that would cause someone to only go to safe/known opinions/events etc.? I know the current North American movie industry is born of this phenomenon but can we as "thinkers"/mentors/ leaders buck the trend?

I had no opinion - as an artist or consumer - on the topic tonight. I felt I should have one and this was the start of my research. But it made me question how deeply I choose to look when investigating issues - and how deeply I press my mentorees to look. 

Would I choose to seek out the other side of the argument (e.g. digital locks = goodness) or, once a nascent opinion is formed, stop there till new information might cross my path? Do I challenge others to do so or encourage them to find like minds to buffer ourselves against challenge?

Of course, depending on the size of the issue and the personal impact, the journey to become informed is smaller or bigger. But is my process to learn/think and form new ideas/opinions based on the easiest access to information or a desire to truly examine issues? How far am I willing to go to become informed? Am I willing to risk having to change my mind if I get enough new information? Shouldn't I be so willing? Am I consciously choosing to keep challenging myself on important issues that way?

I'll have to think about that...

Monday, September 12, 2011


 A little goes a long way. has taken that concept and asked folks to add a little personal generosity in our days. Not with money but with a good deed. Not a new concept but I love the fact they're using social media and advocating a 'movement.'

It takes nothing to be kind - to hold a door; say thanks; share a pen; smile.

The folks I admire most have always made kindness part of their legacy. Some add generosity but, even on a bad day, one can always be kind.

So thanks for reading :-)

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Walls, dead ends and doors

Some weeks are not worth clean socks or commuting time. We run out of time, of patience, of ideas... We encounter "no" where we need "yes" and blank stares where we hoped for comprehension. A mistake, bad news, a poor night's rest, unwelcome surprises and even one icky day can skew the week.

We've all had them.

It's easy to see the walls and dead ends during a week like that; I fixate on them. So how to also see the doors?

One of my mentors said  that mistakes and set backs are part of the path so you can figure out where to go next.

So if we have a clear vision of what we're trying to achieve over a year/career/life... one week of ick is not going to be a very big wall or dead end. The vision is the door.

I've got my clean socks ready for tomorrow.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Networking - common questions around meeting new folks

Most of the questions I get are around meeting new folks:

"How soon before I can ask for a job/lead/idea/etc.?"

For sure not at the beginning of building a relationship. While there is give and take in all our interaction (friends, coworkers, family), relationships are not bank machines and you can't build a connection without first establishing a bridge.

If you think about why you answer other folks' requests for help, it's likely because they have been there for you along the way.

I prefer to start by approaching new relationship not for what they can bring to me but what I might bring to them.

"Why would anyone want to talk to me?"

As per above, for what you have to offer! However, the best thing I've seen folks do is offer their full attention and listen.

We don't know just by looking who is or isn't going to be an interesting addition to our circles. Everyone has something to offer but sometimes timing is poor and the connections slips or doesn't happen. This doesn't make you any less valuable/interesting than anyone else in the room.

You can ask your new acquaintances questions (preferably beyond the "so what do you do?" genre) or probe for opinions about the speaker/presentation (work or kid's soccer game), the setting (could be a grocery store line!), the book in their hand... And then be genuinely interested in the response. Most folks will happily talk away to you at that point.

If you are at a formal networking event, consider first why you want to speak to others.  Set a goal and probe the room.

"Do I just walk up to strangers and introduce myself?"

If they are at a networking event, then it's a given that you're expected to talk to strangers.

If you are moving through the various settings of a day, then yes again - however those interactions often start with a shared glance/smile or comment and then one or both of you can choose to carry the conversation forward.

If you prefer, a less direct approach in any situation, consider asking a friend to make introductions for you. (in dating, that's the 'wingman')

"Do I have to meet new people?"

Nope. You don't have to do anything. You don't have to even read the rest of this post! Networking isn't medicine; it's a philosophy.

"Where can I meet new people?"

Everywhere. Elevators, meetings, line ups, bus stops, you name it - folks are there for the meeting.
Keeping yourself open to encounters and enjoying the interaction are all it takes.

I've got lots of networking tips throughout this blog but the best tip I have is take a breath and smile at folks; it's really that simple.