Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Plain speaking

Some days I find the need to speak carefully to be exhausting.  By that I don't mean being considerate of the feelings of others; that's not a chore. I do mean the normal hesitation everyone feels when expressing an opinion or saying what we're really thinking.

When I pay a compliment, I mean it. When I ask a question, usually I am really asking vs. being rhetorical or sarcastic. When someone asks my opinion, I try to answer honestly.

My mentors over the years have offered some good advice:

  • It helps to be aware that, sometimes, folks don't enter a conversation to be challenged - especially if they are not the initiator. So it's necessary to be respectful of this and bring them more gently into the debate.
  • No one likes to hear a flat "that's wrong" - which is a conclusion to be shared after a reasonable discussion is had which is backed by facts.
  • Speak plainly, openly and simply - but not bluntly or inconsiderately; be clear, don't dance around the topic and offer examples that make sense to the particular audience. 
  • It's ok to disagree or have a different opinion if you offer it respectfully.
It's the last bullet that's hardest. It seems lately that folks don't welcome debate as frequently any more.

It's a great exercise to ask before offering our two cents "Do I really need folks to know that I know/think this?" - but it's not worth keeping quiet just because it might be contentious.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Following your passion

I heard a lovely talk by George Kourounis at the Leader's Lounge inaugural event hosted by Drew Dudley of Nuance Leadership. I have heard both speakers before - especially around the concepts of using fear appropriately and what makes good, everyday leadership.

This time, the conversation also touched on passion and doing what you're good at. However, it wasn't about spending hours defining a goal /a passion and pursuing it. The two men talked about how they simply, in every job they'd had, understood what skills interested them at the time (I call it "what gets you out of bed in the morning"), pursued opportunities to use/expand those interests and how the cumulative effect lead them both to careers that were about all the skills from throughout their careers.

These aren't fellows close to retirement age. It may have taken a decade or two to get to where they are today but they were very clear that neither of them had foreseen the direction their careers would take. They simply followed their true interests - which lead them through many types of roles, all of which were very satisfying at the time.

Which is a great conversation with our mentors and mentorees:

  • Enjoy where you are today. And, if you don't, find something you can enjoy to do instead
  • Know yourself - and let that knowledge evolve
  • Plan ahead but understand the outcome is just a snapshot of what you know/who you are today 
  • Be open to change if it's around skills that interest you even if the direction is unexpected

It's that last one for which I needed reminding. I don't need to control the ride; I need to enjoy it if it comes as a result of things that get me out of bed!

Monday, November 14, 2011

What holds you back from asking for what you want?

The default answer is "fear"... but it is often more complicated than that.

Sometimes, it is "time". With all the hours spent at work, simply getting through the task list, and then the remaining hours spent with personal obligations (equally necessary and important), we run out of time to prepare our negotiation. Because asking for what you want, even if you're assured of getting it, is a negotiation.

Sometimes, it's hard to put an "ask" in language that doesn't sound like "gimme!" or "just trust me" - neither of which often work once we pass the age of three.

Sometimes, I don't even know what I want; I just know what I don't want. So it becomes harder to figure out what to change beyond knowing that change needs to happen.

Really, I think what holds back most of the folks I know (including me) is making a priority of framing what I want and booking the time to plan and ask for it. It is easier to wish / complain / hope then put yet another item into a crowded week.

I don't know if that's a gender thing - I see men and women both not making time for their own needs and desires. I wonder if it is because we're taught not to ask?

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Best advice you'd give yourself?

I would like to know: if you could give advice to yourself from 10 years ago, what would you say?

Would you have listened? And does it still apply?

And to whom would you turn to for similar guidance today? And do you listen?

(Being mentored is hard work! Listening the hardest part of all...)