Monday, October 31, 2011

What challenges have you faced in your career?

That's the question I'm being asked tomorrow during a panel discussion on Women in Leadership.

It's a question often posed to a panel and that can be answered in many ways. I'm thinking about being completely honest in my response. This is hard because, while I've faced certain things, I'm not sure I always dealt with them well. One can only cope as best one can at that point in time; some of my "points in time" were not always very successful.

I've faced being an anglophone, albeit bilingual, in a francophone society during a stressful time. At 16, I handled a bomb threat... by calling my father for advice since at the time I figured the police might not be very sympathetic given the political climate/time/place.

My name is seen often as a man's name so folks expect a man to show up. (some amusing stories behind that statement...)

I've been a single parent for most of my adult life which is hard at the best of times (regardless of gender)... Ever try and make an 8am meeting when a 4 year old doesn't want to go to daycare on time? That job suggested very strongly that if I was going to show up at 8:02, then I should "examine my priorities." I did; I don't work there anymore.

I have had two major depressions - another topic not comfortably discussed in the workplace. My son was being bullied just as I had an opportunity to take a promotion that required some travel. I went through a divorce while working full time. I've had managers who tried to "grab" me and some who just liked to yell. And these are just the challenges I am willing to put to paper!

None of the above is extraordinary. Folks have been through as much if not more. Luckily, it's not a contest. We are the stars of our own show and when life is not going well, regardless of the reason, it simply feels miserable.

I've learned two very valuable lessons though:

  1. I can get through almost anything. 
    • Life will change again. The future will hold more good, bad and indifferent moments. I promise myself to do the best I can at the time and not wish I was more than I am.
  2. I don't have to do it alone.
    •  I have a community. Communities work best when they are interactive which includes letting them help.
I have years ahead of me still in my career and the challenge I'm most looking forward to? ... capturing the stories so I can laugh about them after.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Why do it?

I ask this all the time; I hesitate on the brink of something wondering what the point/outcome might be. I'd be so much happier with a crystal ball some days!

It's a great question to ask - as long as it doesn't become the reason itself to not act. "What's the point?" is a sensible question when asked sincerely. Ask it with a sigh and you'll soon discover how much easier it is to stay on the fence/couch/sidelines.

Sometimes, we do it because we need to prove we can. Because the answer is "why not?". Because we don't always need to know a perfect outcome. Because we must. Because we are compelled. Because the only thing holding us back is fear and that's never the best reason.

Unless it poses a moral, ethical or physical danger, why not challenge your assumptions and those of your mentoring circles... Ask why do it? And maybe do it without a perfect answer.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011


Change happens every day. It's the scale and scope of the change that can make us uneasy - or the unexpectedness of it. But change itself is something we all actually do really well.  From choosing fresh clothes to new homes to jobs to careers, big or small, day-to-day or long-range, we seek out and often embrace change.

We, as individuals, are constantly transforming and evolving. As is our world, technology, relationships... So it makes sense that our work transforms too.

Yet, transformation is often seen as 'optional' in the workplace: a choice. Whether a project, re-org or new assignment, scale and scope - the impacts of change - are often overlooked in favour of reciting the 'benefits'.  (And change poorly planned is something about which to be uncomfortable)

Good transformation - personal or professional - isn't about convincing others that the right choices were made. It's about having a strong vision and first committing to it yourself. You are the best ambassador of the changes you wish to see.

Since we know that change isn't optional and that some change is going to happen whether we choose it or not, the trick is to make sense of the of the impacts - good, bad and neutral - and understand how this affects the goals (of the career, the home, the project, etc.)

The real key to transforming isn't living through the change; it's about having a a clear idea of where we are headed which helps us make better choices to guide us through whatever is thrown our way.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

If I learned one thing today... is to always allow myself to be surprised.

Much of a parent/worker's life is keeping things in order, keeping track of minutes and tasks and trying to get through a list that is often too long for the day/week/year!

Head down, one foot in front of the other, we can plow through a day. Anything that takes us off course is bad as it will detract from what-must-be-done.

To be surprised means I have lifted my head and taken in my surroundings. Sometimes nothing is different. Sometimes there are people or ideas that stop me in my tracks. Maybe for a second or maybe for the day - but if I allow the surprise to happen, I can only be richer in my thinking and relationships.

Thank you to the lovely ladies who surprised me today with their generosity and insights.