Monday, December 29, 2014

Living with depression

As the year winds down I find, like many, the urge to reflect. 2014 was not my worst year – it brought some terrific changes and people my way.

It also brought another bout with the disease of depression.

I don't mean the depressions that every North American experiences at some point – those terrible periods of time where the world is grey and nothing seems worth any effort. Those, while difficult to live through, lift after a few weeks when some sort of emotional/hormonal/situational balance is re-achieved.

The disease I combat – along with an estimated 1/10 adults – is one that has been in my family for at least three generations of which I know. My deepest desire in raising my son was to break the tradition, give him the tools to fight it and hopefully never set off whichever DNA strand now encodes it for our family.

Every now and then, with all the research and foresight at my disposal, I still lose a battle. I stop writing of any kind. I stop talking with friends and family. I cry secretly. I play solitaire obsessively. I assume I am invisible. I assume I am a burden to everyone, including myself.

Perhaps it is my depression that pushes me to mentor others to achieve their dreams. Or to be an "A" student. Or to find overcoming my fear of failure to be a great gift. Whatever the factors that have lead me to create this great life I know I have – with all the gratitude I feel to those who have helped me build it – I would not trade them if it meant not having this community in which I can often thrive. I just wish I'd found an easier route to achieve it J  I define surviving as looking forward vs. letting my past keep me from doing and feeling new things.

I won't get into the stigma this disease still carries – at work, with those who have never known true despair and questioned their ability to keep going through it, or the invisibility of the disease to both the outsider and person who feels invisible within their suffering… but please know that it is harder for me as a result of perceived stigmas to write about depression than it is to speak about being a survivor of abuse.

In the coming decades, I may or may not go another round with this horrible terror. I only wish as we reach 2015, that you might support those around you who suffer as I do and can't articulate what help might look like as they simply struggle to get out of bed at all.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Why fear failure?

It's normal to not want to fail. To actively fear failure is not the same thing.

No one likes to try and then not succeed but we all realize it is part of the learning curve. You can't hop on a bike and balance on the first try. You can't ice skate without practice. You can't run a large, complex project without falling off the rails a few times along the way. (same goes for parenting)

Yet there is a growing sense in our careers  (and sometimes personal lives) that we must avoid failure at all cost." Ick.  Mistakes will happen; try to not make the same one twice.

This avoidance turns into a fear of failure that is different from doing one's best to ensure few errors happen through good planning and open conversation.  Fearing failure means that instead of taking measured risks and knowing there is a tolerated margin of error, one defers decisions or refuses all risk resulting in a poorer, more limited outcome.

Fear is not always a bad thing. Making driving choices because mistakes could be fatal is a good idea. In other, less life/death instances, ask "what's the worst thing that could happen?"  Chances are you could deal with it, plan for it or… perhaps it is just too outrageous/irrational a fear to have a real chance of occurring.  If everyone got fired or unloved for every mistake, there's be lots more unemployed lonely folks out there…

Monday, November 24, 2014

Is a promotion an outcome or a goal?

Is achieving a promotion the outcome of doing great work, thinking through a good self brand and having a thoughtful career plan?... or it is the goal itself?

I think it's an outcome. You can have great skills and leadership abilities and still never get that promotion. However, you're not any less of a great leader where you are.

The goals should be to have the career focus, skills, and reputation you desire through excellent planning, mentoring, networking and sponsorship. The outcome of this thoughtful approach to your life should result in the jobs and levels you desire. However, the promotion is only one measurement of success.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

You take your skills wherever you go

I've got a new job and it's very exciting; it's been a while since I've been in a position where I didn't know what I was doing. I am finding it exhilarating!

Day four and what I've most noticed is... that while I may not understand the nuance and tasks associated with the business and the job, the skillset I have is exactly the right fit for the job. Too often we get caught in the details, worrying that the specifics are missing. It is really the big picture into which we need to fit; everything else falls into place with time and experience.

Actually, I did the very thing I coach others to never do. As the job was described to me, I said "Hey, I know some great folks to send you who will be terrific!"
"Why not you?" I was asked.
"Oh no... I could only do a third of the job competently," I replied.

Even the mentors forget their training occasionally.

Am I immediately useful to my new manager? Yes. Because I understand the critical thinking necessary for success in delivering what he wants. So I can ask good questions even if I don't have access or understanding of the specifics yet. Risk, controls, cost, people, behaviours, etc. are all still valid questions. In answering these questions, the entire teams drives to a deeper and stronger solution.

I might not be able to propose solutions at this point but I certainly can contribute thoughtful questions. That's a habit to keep, new in the job or not.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Are goals like New Year's resolutions?

We have great intentions but often a goal or resolution is only a concept with no plan. Sometimes it is a goal that is so large it is overwhelming or unrealistic.

I had a goal to run every day this summer. I had no plan. I had no thinking around how to mitigate the risk of bad weather, achy tummies or working long hours. I was absolutely determined to run every day and that's as far as I got because it seemed like a reasonable, attainable goal with a few missed days notwithstanding.

At the end of each week, I reasserted my desire to run every day.

Here's what I should have done:
·         Decided what my minimum standard of running would be vs. declaring EVERY day a running day
·         Looked at possible risks/impediments and figured out mitigations
·         Evaluated at the end of each week if I met/exceeded my minimum steps towards my ultimate goal of a daily run

It's the same for all goals. I may say I'm going to clean my whole house this weekend but we all know that's not possible. What needs to be cleaned this weekend? How will I know I've achieved the minimum? How will I plan to eventually sweep through the whole house? What stands in my way of getting the house clean?

And – perhaps most importantly – how will I celebrate the steps I took along the way towards the bigger goal?

I think we love New Year's resolutions because we have a party at which we're celebrating our resolve.
Maybe it's time to add the celebrations at the week or month mark of the steps towards those big goals & intentions. Maybe it would motivate us to stay on track? To plan and evaluate better in order to reward ourselves along the way?

I know I'm running four days a week and I'm seeing improvements. I have a long-term goal but I'm very pleased with my progress and the steps along the way. I wish I'd approached some other goals the same way…

Monday, October 27, 2014

Governance can be fun!

If you were asked to make up a new swear word, how would you approach the challenge?

Like many, you might start by asking questions:
Why make one up?
Who is the audience?
When do you need it by?
Is there any funding?

All good questions but not necessarily in support of building a good swear word - or the right swear word.

This is where governance can help. Asking about and understanding the principles of a good swear word can support better ideation and execution. Principles are guidelines (though some are hard/fast rules too) that ensure the basic design principles are understood and can be effectively executed and consistently measured.

Governance, effectively applied, can speed the process instead of stalling it. Governance is not all artifacts and forms (which are a record of your application of the principles). Governance can help you imagine the next great swear word!

Monday, October 20, 2014

Do you apply for jobs you want or for which you are overtly qualified?

It's not an issue unique to women but we are the main audience for the message.

I was recently offered a chance to apply for a job.  I listened to the description at the meeting, immediately pointed out that I did not have what I perceived to be the core skill set (vs. asking what they saw as the main skills for success) and offered to send them more qualified candidates from my network.

<grin> They offered me the job any way.

Do we put more diligence against allowing ourselves to go for assignments we want than we do in being self-aware in other areas of life? e.g. as a parent, a spouse, a driver… all influential and important efforts too

What holds us back is often personal and unique, though collectively women don't apply as often for stretch positions. Why are we turning down jobs we haven't even been offered yet?  If we have the support and sponsorship of our communities, we should allow ourselves the reach.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Mottos to live by

In email signatures, on posters, on post-it notes... mottos can make us laugh, think, groan or grow.

Having a philosophy and being able to articulate is part of being self-aware. But the small sayings and mottos that crop up in our profiles don't have to be a complete life-statement. Often, a line can provide an insight into how to approach a new(er) relationship by showing a shared belief, a thoughtful idea or simply a great sense of humour.

My latest one liner is: I'm here to comfort the disturbed and disturb comfortable.

Previous favourite lines - which can make great Twitter posts - have included:
- I'm the keeper of fingers in pies and poker of holes in dams
- Don't tell me where I'll land, show me how to fly this darn plane
- I'm proud to be upright and showered today

As ever, I'm indebted to Ray Bradbury for the line I've used my whole adult life: "Thrash them with licorice whips till they cry "mercy"!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

You must be tired....

You know when folks say to a busy person "Oh you look so tired! I don't know how you do it all!" or something to that effect?

It's meant to come across as a compliment. Often the recipient suddenly sags with fatigue they didn't realize they were carrying and feels the effects that adrenaline held at bay.

The last time someone made that comment to me (and I suddenly felt the blue circles under my eyes pop out like stones against the snow), the person standing next to me shook his head. "How quickly someone can make great effort look like wasted energy," he said. "Plus, a man wouldn't say that to another man."

He saw the comment as someone envious of my energy and looking to justify why they don't push themselves the same way. Seriously, the comment alluded, who would want to go the 100 extra miles when there is little recognition for the effort and the personal sacrifices (time, sleep, life outside of the project) are so large? No, thanks!

I am not sure which way the comment is often meant; I believe it's meant kindly. But it does show that our recognition of efforts by women can sometimes be marred by editorial comments – in this case a commentary on how we look.

The next time I notice someone in my network is tired, I hope I'll remember to simply offer to help instead pointing out that they look like they could use the help. If I don't have time to spare, I will remember to compliment the effort and not the temporary impact they may or may not feel.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Consensus is the lowest bar

Consensus and collaboration are two words often used interchangeably. However, they are two separate approaches to planning.

Often, folks who defer mainly to consensus are afraid to be a bit controversial or are not sure if they own the final decision. And it's much easier to feel the love if you can get everyone to agree.

But consensus can mean we don't take as many risks. It can set a lower bar.

Collaborate always. Everyone who has a stake in the outcome should feed into a decision. However, the party responsible should take the ultimate ownership of the final direction/decision.


Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Questions to ponder

In interviews, on panels and at cocktail receptions, weird and wonderful questions get posed. How would you answer some of these?

In your role, what techniques do you use to deal with change?

What advice can you give to others to break through the glass ceiling?

What do you find helps you to deal with work/life balance?

How important is a personal brand?  How do you develop yours?

Did you ever have to step down i.e. take a position of a lower level in order to step up?

What's the best interview question to ask as an interviewer and as an interviewee?

What's the biggest motivator for you today: money, recognition or challenge?

Is it important that leaders are subject matter experts in their fields? Why?

Monday, August 25, 2014

Mental holidays

Mental holidays are probably the most overlooked resource in the toolkit. Whether you take five minutes or 2 months (grin), it offers time to gain perspective, information, and rest. It's a great coaching and mentoring technique that should be discussed more often. 

Mentally stopping… to think about nothing, think about a problem, walk, sing, meditate… gives us the ability to see things from a fresh perspective. There is a lot of research that points to the need to let our unconscious mind sift through the great library we mentally store and let ideas surface. If you've ever forgotten a name or an idea and said "Just give me a second; it'll come to me!" then you know how this process can't always be forced through willpower and concerted effort.

Peter Bregman wrote a great post on HBR "The Best Way to Use the Last Five Minutes of Your Day" a few years ago. Though taking five minutes at any time can sometimes be more productive than continuing to run at the pace we seem to follow during the days.

A mental holiday can also mean deferring a decision or discussion to allow emotions to settle. It can mean allowing ours team to take on extra ownership without having us peer over their shoulders.

Most importantly, it should mean we return to the process /problem /idea with a relaxed and open state of mind… however you personally best achieve that.

It's been a long summer for many of us. My mental holiday was trusting my team to keep the plates spinning while I was dragged into other arenas. And I spent an hour each week simply sitting on my porch and letting my mind wander while I listened to the squirrels in the trees. I am not sure if I have more ideas or fresher thoughts but I am prepared to start trying with a bigger smile and some excellent research in my pocket.

Please share your ideas of a great mental holiday?

Wednesday, June 25, 2014


We love it or hate it but it's everywhere. Whether part of a formal process within a job or just advice offered by friends & family, we give it and hear it all the time. It's part of the mentoring process, part of building trust and a mirror in which we can grow and make choices.

The trick is how to distinguish between good feedback and unmerited commentary or criticism?

If I receive unsolicited feedback, and the giver doesn't ask if I'm open to hearing her comments, I will often disregard the advice or idea just because I'm human. I get defensive; it may not play to what I want to hear that moment; or I may not like the giver.

The way I balance feedback is by asking it for it. I create the opportunity and request thoughtful input.
Feedback is often most useful when we ask for it, listen to it, and action it. The action can be as small as thinking it through or as large as trying something new.

Without feedback, I would never have started wearing blue… never applied for a certain job… never re-considered a word choice…

Feedback won't change…but we can.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

small talk (ick)

I am not good at small talk. I prefer to listen than search my brain (which will have suddenly gone blank) for something innocuous to say. So called "safe" topics (like the weather) make me sound silly. I tend to dive into topics about which I have passion and say trite things about those which don't bother me at the moment… usually making no new friends with those for whom the trite is their current passion.

Small talk is meant to "break the ice" with strangers and allow for connections points to emerge. It serves a great purpose.

Given it's patio season /garden party time, small talk opportunities are ramping up. I'm reviewing my previous posts and figuring out some good opening lines that, hopefully, will kick start someone else into talking and I can settle in and listen.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

When you are busy, ask more questions

It seems like the faster we go, the less we question what we are doing or why. Yet, many agree it takes more effort to undo /correct than it does to take an extra moment the first time around.

Here's some simple advice, often forgotten, that my kid prompted me with the other day:
"Why is this important?" (vision, risks, urgency)
"Who can help?" (dependencies, support, impacts)

Ask yourself. Ask your manager when getting an assignment. Ask your co-worker who is racing about. Ask your kid stuck on homework. As your friends…

Maybe you'll save time taking time?

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Easier to give than receive

That's true of advice and career help. It's often easiest to offer an opinion than hear one; it's easier to help someone make a connection or re-evaluate a career choice than give similar direction to yourself.

Why might that be?

Partially because our own insecurities get in the way? Because, when we're at a cross-roads, there are often more questions than a sense of direction?

The next time I offer advice or guidance, I will try and remember it's hard to receive…even when it's requested. I will also remember that asking for help or advice can be a great strength if I genuinely want what's offered.

The question I'm asking you today is: how do you know when it's time to re-evaluate?

Tuesday, June 3, 2014


Yup, not a usual topic for mentoring or networking but certainly a key factor in how/why one builds community.

There are all kinds of definitions but this post is just about the one where you're surrounded by teams, friends or other communities and you still feel isolated. That kind of loneliness can last a day or a lifetime (or feel like a lifetime).

Loneliness can be self-imposed or be a matter of circumstance. It doesn't really matter the reason if one is feeling lonely.

Networks are not a buffer against being lonely. Friends are. Family is. Friends and families are networks and communities by definition but, when feeling lonely, sometimes strangers and acquaintances are easier to talk with - they won't necessarily push for action or challenge the facts of the story. These conversations are how work relationships can progress to friendship or just make things awkward. Measure the risks and make a decision that works best for you.

Basically, reaching out when feeling lonely is a great thing to do. If, like me, you have days where it's just easier to acknowledge being lonely and not reach out, that's fine too. We build communities in advance of a crisis, small or large, so there is help if we want it during.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Better communication tip

Here's the best communication counsel I know:

What is the one thing you need folks to know? (one sentence)

How do you want them to feel about it? Why should they pay attention? (tone & facts)

What do they need to do with the information? (the ask)

If there is nothing for folks to do with the information, do they need to hear it?

Think about your next email – can you summarize Know Feel Do in the title?
Help: your creative input for presentation for Boss required
We won! Lottery ticket needs to be cashed

If the audience only remembers one thing – what should that be? How should they feel about it? What should they do with the information?

Simple. Concise. Try it.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Thoughts on trust

You can build, bend, break and borrow trust. You can rebuild it. It comes in different breadths and depths. You cannot hold it, absolutely measure it or buy it.

We each have our own philosophy around trust (if we think about it at all). Trust often means different things in different situations.

And when the chips are down (under stress – work, relationships, health, point-in-time…), we sometimes reserve the right to doubt the trust we've put in people.

In business, my trust is cautiously given but constant. In personal relationships, my trust is absolute and unwavering. Sometimes it gets battered and bloody a little but it heals; I'm there for you.

My philosophy is that few folks are truly evil or mean-spirited and deserve a chance to prove themselves.

When trust is wavering, my knee-jerk reaction is to wait for the other party to assure/re-assure me, cry "mea culpa" or to be indignant that my support may be questioned. That's just pride; trust means vulnerability. Vulnerability means I have to put my pride aside and keep working through the crisis at hand instead of being wounded.

That's really tough to do. Vulnerability and trust are cornerstones of relationships. It is hard to stand exposed and alone when the storms are raging. But trust is important, so we remain determined to build or hold trust.

There is no one right way to do it. Conversation. Openness. Fragility. If my gut – our second brain – is churning, I take the risk that I can rely on the folks who have offered. Sometimes it doesn't work out but if I don't take people at their word (and I can't yet read minds), it's all I've got and it's a decent start.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

What's stopping you?

Brand... we hear a lot about it from mentors and managers. We think we know what it means and then struggle to apply the concept to ourselves and careers.

Dream big (always) but start small.
 - What 3 adjectives would you like folks to use in describing you?
 - What have you done (or planned to do) this week that demonstrates those words?

Have your actions match your dreams. Be consistent. Make conscious choices. Take action.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Fill in this list

If I could take one thing in my week and...

Tinker with it for a minor adjustment, I'd pick ______________________ and do ______________ by _________ date.

Tailor it for a better fit, I'd pick ______________ and adjust _______________ by _____________ date.

Trash it as no longer useful, I'd pick ________________ and delete it by ____________ date.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Spring cleaning

Sweeping through my contact lists: pinging old friends; deleting folks I don't remember or connect with; adding in new ones from the cards scattered across my desk... It's spring cleaning for networking. If only we could hold a swap meet to exchange old contacts for new. Oh..wait..that IS part of networking!

May the sunshine inspire you to sort through your contact list too.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Why ask why?

Every three-year old knows, ask "why?" and get information. Ask "why?" again and get more. Keep asking why and watch the folks around you rush to give you answers before the word can fall from your lips.

Then, something happens. The older we get, the more it is frowned upon to ask why. It's considered annoying...or presumptuous...argumentative...disrespectful... Asking "why?" can make us feel silly...or slow in thinking...frustrated...uncertain...

Ever asked a teacher why it was important to memorize a trivial fact? Or a manager why one task was suddenly more important than another equally burning issue? Or a partner why they chose a plan of action?

Sometimes "why?" can still net us great value. Mostly we hesitate to ask or receive the question as a challenge instead of an honest inquiry.

We stop asking "why?" along the way. Which means we become equally accountable for the decisions and choices in which we participate without question.

"Why?" is about clarifying and discussion. "Why?" examines choices. "Why" can support listening and learning at any age/stage.

Why discuss "why"? To take the sting out of the word and open the conversation.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Catch22 - job / experience

I have a 23 year old son. My living room is often filled with the ambitious, the lost, the determined and the clueless ages 19 – 26. Some already have a Masters degree. Some are still trying out the minimum wage route. All of them feel burdened by the "need experience to get a job; need a job to get experience" conundrum.

There is a middle ground; it's your personal brand. Mentors help you develop it. Sponsors promote it. And only the brand holder can define it.

At a very basic level:
1.       What 3 words do you wish folks would use to describe you in a job?
2.       What have you done this week to demonstrate those attributes to others?
3.       What do you have planned to do?

If you're a coffee pourer and want folks to know you're "creative, intelligent & people-savvy" (for example), what can you do in your workplace (and outside of it) to showcase the best of yourself?
·         Volunteer opportunities
·         Work committees
·         Extra assignment /offer of help to someone
·         Conversation with your manager to ask for any of the above
·         Build your network to ask other people how they've managed the transition

Just a few ideas that show how you can demonstrate ability before getting paid experience. Demonstrating the very skills for which you hope to be hired can be very powerful in getting you the paid opportunities.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Running out of juice

It's every busy person's issue: running out of juice. That can mean: running of energy, time, interest, ability, food in the fridge, patience… the list goes on.

Even the best of systems with terrific support run out of something along the way. The trick is not to assume you can never run out but to know how to recover.

Communities and networks are the best bet to covering the times when resources run thin. Yet, building community takes time as well. So what's a busy person to do?

The usual way: tackle it a little piece at a time.
·         Play hostess wherever you are – even a coffee shop
·         Say thanks or share information with a short email
·         Block time quarterly or monthly to reach out to key individuals & sponsors
·         Refresh your introduction on the commute to work
·         Share a story with those you value

Make it a small daily/weekly set of 5 minute tasks with folks who bring value to your life. It won't make you less busy but it will add juice in unexpected ways.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Either Or

What's up with the black & white approaches lately? Everything is an "either or" situation. One is a 'supporter,' 'driver' OR 'enabler.' In or out? For or against? Vanilla or chocolate?


Life is fluid and if a process requires a fixed point of view to work, then it's possibly not a very good process.

Take some approaches to innovation - research suggests we each select a role. I don't disagree but I believe the role changes with circumstances - the project, the passion, the people.

The next time someone asks me to select my favourite or to make an either /or choice, I will rebel. Roger Martin and Rotman have made inroads helping folks understand that often diametrically opposed ideas can often create the space where the best ideas are found. Diametrically opposed positions can generate new pathways too.

Drive, support AND enable. Just don't try to do it all at the same time.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Use the senses

It is amazing what sense memory kids have. A snowflake on the tongue lasts a lifetime.

It is equally amazing that we assume kids are the only ones to experience /re-experience sense memory. How many of us re-caught a snowflake in the first paragraph?

Sense memory can be a terrific way to engage folks during change or a negotiation. Getting them to ‘feel’ a vision can create an easier path to buy-in. Talking about a project roadmap and projecting the image of a hiking trail… or asking for a budget for a bakery and offering a taste of the product… negotiating a new car and bringing the lipstick in red to represent the paint job… it all triggers memory, emotion and participation (though you can’t always control if the memory is a good one).

Augusto Boal made the world sit up, bringing his audience’s senses into the performances that passed into Brazillian bills of law. Mixed Theatre Company follows his footsteps here in Canada. Executives and sales people do it every day with product samples, music, question & answer periods, town halls, working dinners and hand written thank you cards.

Engage your network with something to touch, to hear, to taste… use metaphors; send cards; break bread. Spread the message across the senses.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Innovation... thoughts

Innovation /innovative thinking is a way to bring creativity and meaning to a problem or approach. There does not have to be a need for change or a call to action for which innovating can be a retroactive approach. Rather innovation often comes before there is a need and thus those who think ahead may experience a greater share of push back from those who are content with the unbroken/broken status quo.

Innovation is not necessarily the same as invention. An invention can be a net new concept whereas innovation can be a better use of the same invention. Innovation is different from improvement because improvements as incremental changes to the existing structure whereas innovation asks 'what's the ideal'?

Innovation isn't scary. Inertia is.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Just say hello

In a world where everything is described with superlatives, it appears that only a grand gesture will get you attention.

Not true.

Just say hello. Say it in grocery store lines, at coffee shops, during breaks and in elevators. You don't need to be clever or funny, just sincere. Say hello; listen to the response if you ask a question; don't keep walking by if you ask them a question (even "how are you?").

Write one email a day to someone just to say hello.

That's networking at its finest. That's staying connected. No transaction; no request. Just let someone know you were thinking of them.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Another International Women’s Day

If you knew that was this week, hurrah! If you didn’t – well, then you’re not alone.
A proclaimed “day” doesn’t fix anything. It doesn’t guarantee a moment in the press. It provides an opportunity to create awareness, education and discussion.
Too often, we wait for others to organize that awareness. Too often we wait to only do it on the proclaimed day. While mint Girl Guide cookies are a time-limited option each year, the chance to further discussion comes with every coffee break.
It’s ok to miss a date in the calendar. It’s never ok to wait another year to further a cause (which ever part of it appeals to you).

Monday, February 24, 2014


There are a lot of awards out there. Almost every industry, corporation, community, school (etc.) has a way they rank and recognize their best.

What makes us proud of our achievements can vary and is often intensely personal.

 I’ve won a few in my time and I’m even honored of some of them. <grin>  For me, recognition by the very folks who have patiently sifted through my opinions and ideas and grown even better ones is the best award. That’s my son who exemplifies this. That’s my Women in Leadership community where I work. That’s the artists with whom I play (which is the real work).

A good career goal is not to win an award. A good career goal is to feel proud and motivated.

And yes, I am proud of this week’s announcement.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Once again it’s Valentine’s Day

Hug your mentor.
Send chocolates around your community.
Thank your partners & friends.
Relationships are emotional and February 14 is all about letting your heart overflow for the folks who hold you.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Resume thought - skills

When we talk about our skills in interviews, resumes and career plans, we often use topics and headers. We speak in shorthand and assume others know what we mean.
For example, “people management” is not a skill; it is a topic. Good people management is a collection of skills (and few of us are good at all of them): coaching; delegation… it’s a long list. A good rule of thumb is if the term contains the word “management” chances are it is a collection of skills.
If we are trying to position ourselves as capable, articulating the skills that show how we excel is a stronger way to showcase ability vs. talking in general buckets and having assumptions made.
One woman recently said, "I am good at assessing risk frameworks.” When we talked about what skills that really meant, she discovered that putting things in order and actively correcting process (vs. arm’s length evaluation of problems) were the two skills below the buzz words.  She didn’t want to observe and note, she wanted to fix.
Does your resume/ elevator speech / self-assessment get to the heart of your skills?

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

What’s in a name?

A lot it turns out. We attach meaning (emotion, symbolism, fact…) to mere words and often assume everyone else hears /feels what we do.

That’s not a criticism; it’s simply human nature. Even a simple colour (think RED) can conjure a smell, an image, an item or a shade unique to you. Given all the meanings – real or assumed – that words can hold, it’s a wonder we can communicate effectively with each other at all.

There are usually two ways to deal with ambiguity:
·         Nail down each meaning and be as precise as you can… which often leads to more terms requiring more definitions
·         Allow for variation and hope the majority meet in the middle

There are a few other options but they require patience and a tolerance for potentially looking foolish, such as:
·         Assuming your definition is incorrect or unfinished and trying on /asking for others in order to generate a whole new perspective
·         Attempting to identify the emotions shading the conversation vs. the factual meanings

Or simply allowing the ambiguity to create its own experience.

I used the word “sponsorship” in a blog post and had over a 1000 hits from Russia. I doubt my post was what they were searching for…but maybe some had a discovery they weren’t expecting. It was a bit of a discovery and research process for me (fascinating reading about Russia and immigration issues).

So this is an ambiguous post for those of us who enjoy debating RED now and then.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Guilt & advice

It’s not all about getting stuff done. Sometimes it is about simply thinking. Or reading. Or lazing.
Your career shouldn’t make you feel guilty. If a task feels like a chore, that’s ok. But if the entire effort does, then maybe it’s not the right direction for you. Or the right time. Or worth the time.
Advice is meant to help us with things we already want to do. Advice is never about chastising someone. That’s not helping; that’s opining.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Having a mentoring conversation?

Having a mentoring conversation?
Help chunk information and advice to each other:

1. Connect.  
Conversation is 2-way.
• Ask open-ended questions.
• Share stories – they are key to building a relationship.

2. Listen. This is the greatest gift we can offer each other.

3. Inform and explain.
Informing = things they might not know yet. It’s a supportive action, allowing your partner to make their own decision if the new information changes anything.
Explaining means helping understand - providing background and context. You can explain your opinion, your choice or your action. It’s not defensive – it’s the logic behind your decision.

4. Challenge assumptions. Help prepare everyone to answer questions and arguments outside of the circle.

5. Celebrate together. Recognize or acknowledge successes. Find what did work from ideas that didn’t come to fruition.

6. Be accountable. Commit to actions and follow up. This ensures the longevity of your relationship and allows you to put the ideas into action.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

What the heck is innovation?

Innovation seems to be the new “it” word. It’s not a new concept. Possibly innovation being in fashion is due to the practice business has of using a word as a solution instead of digging into root causes and desired outcomes.

Like creativity, innovation can be a daily habit or a scary proposition. It is not owned by any one industry, department or function. It is more than a word – it’s a mindset and approach.
An online business dictionary simplifies the term as: “The process of translating an idea or invention into a good or service that creates value.”

My issue with that definition is that innovation cannot be broken into a simple checklist and handed off for execution. The definition avoids the behavioural /thinking component that managers, wishing to get to end of job quickly, prefer to dodge.

Innovation differs from improvement in that innovation refers to the notion of doing something different rather than doing the same thing better.”  Doing something differently can be mindset and/or process. As change specialists know, you can’t just change the process and expect things to be magically better.

Innovation, however the discussion starts, can only serve to bring back more critical and wholistic thinking…something many have moaned has been sorely lacking in a subject matter expert culture focused on short-term and silo’d approaches.

Does it fit into your view of your work in 2014?