Tuesday, August 27, 2013

No Cell Phone for 8 Days...5 things I learned

The day started out like any other...the alarm on my smart phone woke me up.  I took a shower and prepared for the day.  I checked my email accounts (plural), looked at Facebook, tried to clear a  board on Candy Crush (fail), and reviewed the calendars (plural) to make sure I hadn't missed too much since dozing off the prior evening.

This day was about to be dramatically different.  I was leaving my smart phone at home and would not have access to it for 8 days.  Yes.  8 full days.  No access to texts.  No access to emails.  No access to voice mail.  No access to Facebook.  No access to Candy Crush.

(pause while we wait for those that just fainted)

Many of you are just like me.  You've been connected since the dawn of the cell phone.  I have had a cell phone since 19** and have not left it behind ever.  Well, there was this one time (not at band camp) when I got a couple miles down the road in my car and realized it was not with me.  YIKES.  I turned that car around and went back to get it.  I have taken a mobile device with me everywhere since those days in the 90's and this was the FIRST time since I got my first mobile phone that I went somewhere without it.

Here are 5 things I learned:

1.  Turns out, it takes about 3 days (for me) to get over a Candy Crush addiction.  For the first 2 days, all I could think about during any down time was that I wanted to be clearing those little fruity squares and getting those cherries down to the bottom of the grid.  Upon return, I deleted all those games from my phone and have not indulged since.  (ie:  Candy Crush free since Aug 2, 2013).

2.  Books are still cool.  I left my kindle at home too (wanted to REALLY be off  the grid) so I brought a couple of puzzle books to keep me entertained on the plane and during down times.

3.  If I had to go on an old fashioned treasure hunt RIGHT NOW and follow a paper map, it would take me an embarrassing amount of time to figure it out.  I have traveled across the country using just an atlas and some state maps purchased at gas stations and now that Siri and Google have taken over telling me where to go, my map skills have waned.  Sigh.

4.  There are a lot of things to see when my head isn't bent down looking at my phone.  Not sure if you're all aware of this, but nature and people are fascinating!!  It was so nice to just be in the moment with my boyfriend and family and not distracted.  While the necessities of work deem that I pay attention to my phone at times, while off the clock I make a conscience effort to not be obsessed with the device.  Once I got past day 2 of reaching for my phone out of habit, it was so nice to be "unchained".  I was able to just relax and get the needed break that I've desperately needed.  There was much freedom that came with knowing that things would just have to wait for my return.

5.  The hardest part:  dealing with my own hurt ego.  I was able to go off the grid for 8 days and you know what?
    Nothing fell apart.
    The city remained standing.
    Things got done.
    Time went by.

Perhaps that's actually the blessing to be realized.  I work with amazing folks that kept my part of the business going and friends that were able to help with the dogs.  Everyone should take some time at least once per year to go "off the grid" and get some true rest and relaxation.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

5 Business Lessons From Dad

Dads have the ability to give us different life lessons than our Moms.  Dads state things differently, have a different view, and most of the time they don't worry about sugar coating the lessons.  Here are 5 business lessons from Dad: 

Lesson #1:  Keep your eye on the ball.  My dad was the one that taught me how to throw a ball.  It's because of his teaching that allowed me to play on various traveling softball teams and contributed greatly to my All Conference award in high school.  This lesson translates seamlessly over to business.  All too often we get side tracked and distracted.  When you take your eye off the ball, it rolls under your glove allowing a hitter to get on base.  In business, when we take our eye off the goals, opportunities will slide right out from our grasp and allow the competition to get ahead of us.  

Lesson #2:  If you're going to do a job, do it right.  I remember this lesson well.  When I was a Girl Scout, one of the badges had a requirement to build something.  Dad taught me how to build a shelf.  I was quickly bored with this project.  I wanted to ride my bike and go outside and play with my friends, not hang out in the garage and build a stupid shelf.  To that end, of course I started going too fast.  Dad slowed me down and taught me the importance of "measure twice, cut once".   As we go through our day in the business world, this same lesson still applies.  You can always tell when someone is just dialing it in.  Make sure that when you're assigned a task...do it right.  Yes, it matters.  

Lesson #3:  Sometimes all a bully needs is a good karate chop.  My sister was getting picked on by this guy on the bus.  He would put his arm across the seats blocking her way to get off the bus.  Dad said to just give him a good old fashioned karate chop on the arm and he would never block her way again.   This turned out to be true.  While it's not ok to just karate chop someone in the office, it's important that as a leader and manager that you handle the bullies.    Steps to take: 

      1.  Address the problem with the employee in a 1:1 meeting with examples of the behavior that should cease.  
      2.  Allow the employee to comment on these examples and give them a chance to come up with the action plan they will follow.  They may give you some insight as to why they are acting this way.  
      3.  Make sure you are prepared with the action plan the employee should follow going forward and present to them if they did not come up with the appropriate response on their own.  Keep in mind that there may be actions that YOU will have to do as well to help them (and the team).  
      4.  Follow up with this in writing and make sure you've let the employee know the consequences should that behavior continue.  
      5.  Like a karate chop, do this swiftly so their actions don't get out of control and involve HR when appropriate.   Inability to take action will hurt your team. 

If YOU are the bully:   Cut it out.  Seriously.  There is no need for managers to be bullies.  You already have the power...use it for good.  If you don't know how to do that, email me for some 1:1 coaching on how to be a better manager.  My rates are reasonable.

Lesson #4:  The less you talk the smarter you look:  My Dad is a man of few words.  He chooses his words carefully and therefore has earned a reputation of being an intelligent man.  Good news...he really IS a smart guy.   As leaders,  we should remember the old adage:  We have 2 ears and one mouth and they should be used in proper proportion.   At one point Dad and I were working at the same big company in different departments.  My employees got to know him and would often see him in the cafeteria and on breaks.   I always got HUGE compliments on how great he is.  Even to this day, my old team will still ask about him.  Leaders, let's be careful with our words...everyone is always watching and waiting to hear what we have to say and how we say it.  Then they watch to see if our actions match what we say.  

Lesson #5:  It's ok to let star players move on....handle disappointment with grace:  When I was 11 or 12, I played softball in a recreation league and my Dad was the head coach.  He believed that recreation leagues are there to give everyone a chance to play.  Well, I am super duper competitive and a good athlete.  This was not ok with me.  I felt like I needed to be on a team that was focused on winning.  I think it disappointed him that I didn't want to play for him, but he let me go play for my friend Natalie's Dad who's coaching was more in line with what I wanted.   He did this with grace...he understood it was the best thing for me at that time.  As leaders and managers, sometimes we have to let our star players move on...and let other stars emerge.  It's disappointing when our top performers want to leave...we try entice them to stay with more money or more perks.  There are times when this works out well.   Leaders, go with your instincts on this...you KNOW when it's time for the star to leave for another opportunity.  Make sure you're building a strong bench of players that can step in.  

As this Father's Day comes to a close, take a few moments to reflect upon the lessons we've learned from great men in our lives.   

Sunday, May 13, 2012

3 Lessons From Mom that Managers Can Learn From

If there was a "Mom Playbook", I imagine that it would hold many similarities to a "Manager Playbook".  Out of that playbook, I've chosen three different lessons that we learn from the mothers out there.

1.  You wear many hats.

Growing up my mom had many duties.  Until we got to "chore" age, she handled all these duties by herself.  Even after we learned, I bet she had to go behind us and re-do some of the "work" we had done.   Well, probably just what my sister did, I'm sure I did everything right.  :-)  Mom was the cook, the maid, the chauffeur, teacher, bank teller, tailor, detective (you know it's true), disciplinarian....I could go on and on.   She wore all those hats seemingly effortlessly and while she has hung up the cook hat (for the most part---ha ha), in her home she is still the maid, does the laundry, and I still call on her incredible skills as a tailor.

In management, we do the same thing.  Often we have to change hats depending on what we are doing.   Sometimes we find ourselves wearing a coaches hat and calling the play.  That's the fun part of management...being IN the action with the team.  The other hats may not be as fun but are necessary.   My excel guru hat is battered from all the forecasting over the years in that tool.  There are days when you wear the therapist hat and listen to what is going on in the lives of your team member.  The detective hat comes on when we have to figure out how a deal (or employee) has gone awry.  Even when we get to put on the party hat with the team at the company holiday party, it's still important to keep in check so that it's not embarrassing to show up the next day.  Oh, you know what I'm talking about.  ;-)

2.  You teach independence.

From an appropriate age, Mom taught us to help out with chores.  To this day, I still load the dishwasher the same way that mom taught me to.  She taught independence by giving us chores in increasing levels of difficulty.  When I was old enough,  Mom encouraged work.  I started with babysitting, then was a lifeguard at the local pool and started waiting tables at 16 so that I could earn money.  She took the time early to teach that we could do things on our own, sending us the message that we had abilities and could make it.

A manager's goal is to do the same thing.  We want our employees to be able to excel!  Here are some things that we have to make sure they know to be independent on the job:  

   a.  Make sure they understand the tools needed to do the job.
   b.  Get them a mentor (either inside or outside the company) so they continue to grow.
   c.  Give them a safe environment to ask questions so they will not take on a 'victim' mentality.
   d.  Ensure they understand the consequences to non performance.
   e.  Make sure they know the progression path, even if there is not one!!
   f.  Meet on a regular basis to discuss how they are doing on their goals (work and personal!).
   g.  Don't forget to tell them what they are doing RIGHT as well as ways to improve.

This a starting point to getting independence from the team!!

3.  Sometimes you have to be the bad guy.

No one likes to deliver bad news.  While growing up, I was certain that my mother was the original Dr. No (not in the good James Bond way).  It was not until much later that I learned that Mom had to be the bad guy sometimes so that I wouldn't get into even more trouble than I did on my own.

"No, you can't stay out until 2 am"
"No, you can't wear that mini mini mini skirt"
"No, you can't beat on your sister"

All good lessons that I adhere to even today.

Every manager has had to deliver bad news.   Whether it's a reduction in benefits, layoffs, a termination or even a less than stellar review,  there are times when managers must be the bad guy.  Here are a few tips on how to be the bad guy in the best way possible:

   a.  Keep the message brief and direct.
   b.  Be respectful and don't sugar-coat.
   c.  Take ownership of the message...no blaming.
   d.  Don't be a coward...deliver the message face-to-face, not via email.
   e.  When appropriate, allow for a question and answer session.
   f.  Keep your own emotions in check...role play ahead of time to get wording down.

As this Mother's Day comes to close, take a few moments to reflect and be thankful for your Mother or the mother figures that you've had and have in your life.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

First Day of Kindergarten and the Lessons for Managers

Last week my Goddaughter CarlyAnn started kindergarten.  I was so lucky to be able to be able to participate in the first day activities with the family!!

After seeing CarlyAnn get settled in class, we then went to the “Coffee and Kleenex” portion of the morning.   The school counselor had put together a fantastic packet of information for the parents. 

This is the first of a couple blogs that I’ll share with you.  It’s amazing to me that the same information that applies to children also applies to adults.  In keeping with that, it also amazes me how the information given to parents can also apply to management. 

This is taken from the National PTA.  You’ll see my notes on how this applies to managers after each number. 

Feel free to share this with your manager or start doing some of this if you currently manage a team.    :-)  Enjoy! 

Ten Ways to Participate in your Child’s Education
Ten Ways to Participate in your Employee’s Growth

1.    Build your child’s self esteem.  Listen to what they have to say and praise them for the things they do well.  
a.    Build your employee’s confidence in working with you.  Listen to what they have to say.  Reprimand in private and praise in public.   
2.    Encourage your children to talk about their feelings, accomplishments, and problems.
a.    Encourage your employee to have an active and direct conversation with you during 1:1 times or when appropriate.  Validate the feelings, cheer the accomplishments, and coach through the problems.
3.    Be a positive role model for your children. Teach them right from wrong at an early age.
a.    Be a positive role model for your employee.    Your example is being watched and will be followed.  Be honest, be direct, and be nice.
4.    Tell your children it’s all right to make mistakes, as long as they learn from them.
a.    Tell your employee it’s all right to make mistakes, as long as they learn from them.  Make sure you’ve shared what the repercussions would entail should errors continue.
5.    Allow your children to see you read daily newspapers, books, etc.  Read stories aloud and tell them about your culture and heritage.
a.    Keep up with what is going on in your industry and share with the team.  Teach the ones that don’t know the history of the industry how what they are doing fits in to the big picture.
6.    Show an interest in your children’s school activities by helping them with their homework and getting to know their teachers.
           a.    Show an interest in the daily work of your employees.  Understand what they go through on a daily basis.  Get to know the customers/peers/etc they interact with and offer to help when appropriate. 
7.    Take your children to museums, the local library, and other free educational and cultural events whenever possible.
a.    Allow employees to attend trade shows, seminars, and activities that will enhance the work experience.
8.    Ask that report cards and other school documents be made available in both English and Spanish.
a.    When your employees have to attend trainings or have new requirements that come out, make sure they are easy to comprehend and that you are readily available to help them understand the material.  Attempt to review the information ahead of time if available and alert the trainer or leader to any landmines that may exist (appropriately, of course). 
9.    Ask the school to provide a translator for meetings and whether English as a second language classes are available.
a.    Be a champion for your employees to grow professionally.  For example, if a public speaking course would enhance their professionalism, then make that happen.  Get to know what opportunities are out there for growth opportunities for your team.
10.                 Join the PTA or volunteer at your children’s school.
a.    Join local networking groups (and encourage your employees if appropriate) to keep up with the industry and others that manage teams.  Exchange information and seek out ideas that have worked for other managers. Volunteer and give back to the community. 

Next in the series:  What to Expect from a Kindergartner and how this applies to management.  

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Royal Wedding...a nice reprieve

I know there is dissension among the masses on whether or not the 'obsession' of the Royal Wedding is worth our time and attention. 

I'm here on behalf of those that are watching this event from afar with much ado. 

Sometimes, we just need a distraction from our own lives and the crazy stuff happening in the world.  Here are my top 10 reasons why it's OK to get all into this wonderful event:


10.  A-Listers:   Those going and those NOT going.  How GREAT is is that some folks here in America that 'thought' they should be invited simply were not.  *snicker*

9.  Architecture:  What a great time to be reminded of some of the wonderful architecture that is in England. 

8.  Entertainment:  I am loving the magazines with all the fantastic pictures and the story of their romance!  Every day, some great stories come out..did you hear about the guy/gal who (fill in the blank here)?  It's nice to have something new to read. 

7.  British Accent:  How often does walking around practicing your British accent really apply to life?  In my life, only to be made fun of since I'm lousy at fake accents.   Just try it.  Walk up to random folks and ask (in your British accent), "Care to join me for a spot of tea ol' chap?" 

6.  Costume Changes:  Who doesn't love events with costume changes???  All the great concerts have them...and we've been bombarded with all sorts of comparisons between Kate and Diana along with all of Kate's styles through the years.  It's like watching a 'dress up doll' in the media.  Super fun! 

5.  History:  This is another moment in history we get to witness.  In addition to that, our country is just too young to have such a grand legacy.  Let's just appreciate all the pomp and circumstance.  

4.  Cheesy Paraphernalia Being Sold:  Some of the stuff that is being sold with the images of Kate and Will is just hilarious.  Plates, cups, coins...come and get 'em!!  They are even selling "Royal Wedding Condoms".  Seriously.  No, really.  I'm not kidding. 
Crown Jewels, Condoms of Distinction
Don't believe me?  Go to the Google.  Even I can't make this stuff up. 

3. Excuse to have a party:  Those in my circle know I'll throw a party just because the day ends in 'y', but I can't wait to create a cool memory with some friends at my BYOT party. That's right folks: Bring Your Own Tiara and have a jolly good time watching a wedding over tea and crumpets!

2.  Opportunity to wear a tiara:   My daily regime does not entail polishing my tiara and donning it for the day.  Friday, however, I shall bring out my best tiara and don it to celebrate the idea of true love and the fact that a commoner will be an actual princess.  Wow.

Finally, the #1 reason why it is OK to get carried away:

Friends, we have some bad things going on in our world today.  Countries are at war with each other, gas prices are taking huge chunks out of our accounts, unemployment rates are still a problem, our economy has not made it's way out of the toilet yet, there are children and families that may not have food today or tomorrow, and the list goes on. 

All of that will still be there on Saturday.  Let's just take one day to celebrate love; one day to celebrate hope; one day to don a tiara and leave our own worries at bay.  

Until next time...Cheerio Mates!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Metaphorical Tornadoes

Tornado:  noun /tôrˈnādō/ 

A mobile, destructive vortex of violently rotating winds having the appearance of a funnel-shaped cloud and advancing beneath a large storm system.
Does it really matter if it's predictable or not? 
Having just got my power back from the most recent North Carolina Tornadoes, I am tad behind in my internet reading.  Meteorologist Mike Smith has criticized some news media for claiming that tornadoes are unpredictable and that Saturday’s deadly twisters in North Carolina were a “surprise.”

He demonstrated the National Weather Service highlighted the high risk for a dangerous tornado outbreak more than twelve hours in advance. He also showed the NWS issued a rare “particularly dangerous situation” tornado watch more than a hour before the first storm touched down. The National Weather Service said the average warning lead time for the tornadoes was 20-30 minutes.

Most probably didn't even hear the warnings and those that did, most likely did not heed the warnings.

This made me wonder...hmmm...how many tornadoes (real or metaphorical ) happen in our lives where we were given fair warning but chose to simply ignore it? 

I believe that if I had $1.00 for ever time I've uttered a phrase like this: "son of a gun...I should have seen that coming",  I would be writing this blog from the coast in my fully paid beach house and not my 4x4 cubicle.  Oh, I mean, my couch since I'd certainly never use company time to rant.  Check the time....definitely AFTER business hours somewhere. 

Back to the question..."does it matter if it's predictable?"  I'd like to think that I've learned my lesson(s) and would take a different course of action if faced with a predictable tornado.  However, I think we all know that is not the case.  And, I know a few of you who have been in that very same boat with me. Let's travel down memory lane....

Welcome aboard!  I'll be your cruise director for this storm...ahem...trip.  I think we all know that most bad decisions have a lot of the same scenery.  Think of a time when you made a decision you wish you could reverse. 

Stop #1:  Right here on board the ship!  That nagging feeling you had in your gut.  The one where you knew it was too good to be true.  The one you ignored.  If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. 

Lesson from that stop:  Don't ignore that nagging feeling!!  It's there for a reason (most of the time).  You have enough life experience to know when something is not right.  

Stop #2:  Off to the right.  See all those people waving?  Those are your closest confidants that gave you some pretty good advice that you didn't take.  Isn't it ironic....don't ya think?

Lesson from that stop:  It's like good advice that you just didn't take.  Let it go, but c'mon, let's pause next time and not blow them off so quickly. 

Stop #3:  What's that ahead?  A big RED flag.  So big that it just caressed your cheek as we passed right by it.  Hold on, there's another RED flag.  And another....

Lesson from that stop:  Every time you see a red flag, say to yourself "Danger, Danger Will Robinson!!"  Really take the time to explore the possible outcomes.  Perhaps spend some time in meditation and prayer even when it may be uncomfortable.

 Whew...that's enough with traveling down memory lane.  Back to the Aloha deck for some dancing and drinks with cute little umbrellas in them.  Friends, we are all going to spend some time in the storms, regardless of whether or not we should have seen them coming. 

Stock up on some candles and canned goods.  Make sure your life preserver doesn't have any holes and hold on.  Just like the tornadoes...they blew in and blew right back out.  The tornadoes going on in your life will do the same.  You may have to go without power for a few days and need to replace a few shingles. 

Until then, I have extra candles if you need them.  

Monday, January 17, 2011

Inspiration from a King and a Katt

"Let no man pull you low enough to hate him."  Martin Luther King Jr.  once said this.  I stumbled across this nugget as I was preparing my opening thoughts for my Toastmasters meeting.

As I was ruminating about this...it brought back to mind something that inspired me back in December.  I had the opportunity to re-watch a Katt Williams comedy routine.  Within that routine, Katt talks about getting in touch with your "star player".

Take some time to really get in touch with your star player:  YOU.  We've got a lot coming up against us this year and if you're not in touch with what really matters, it will consume you. There are forces and people out there that will try to bring you down.   Think about it...how many times have you told someone good news about an issue in your life and they immediately said something disparaging?   Grrrr...

Unfortunately, haters are everywhere and they want you to be miserable.  Don't allow them to pull you down.  Smile, nod and make the mental note.  Then, put them out of your mind.  No need to hate them.  Just recognize that they are not in a good place and looking for company.  Let's do our part to pull THEM UP, but not to the detriment of the star player.  Some people just like to live in misery. 

All star players have a team around them.  Who is on YOUR team?  Who can you count on to help you defend against the haters?  We're not always going to get it right.  We WILL make mistakes. Take a few minutes and think about who those people are for you, those that stand up for you, even when you may not get it right. 

Who would you want to take into battle with you?  That's right folks.  BATTLE.  This is the year we stop letting the haters have their way with us.  This is the year we put them in their place for that crap.  Are you with me? 

Oh, I know who's with me. 

If you're going to ask people to go into battle with you, it's important you be ready to go into battle with them as well.   I have polished my armor, warmed up my battle muscles, and there's plenty of horsepower in the chariot.  Friends, I'm ready to do battle with you.  

Let's lift each other up this year and keep the haters back behind the walls.  After all, "in the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends."  (Martin Luther King Jr).