Category Archives: it takes a village

If I only had a Brain?

download“I could while away the hours conferring with the flowers consulting with the rain, I could dance and be merry life would be a dingle darry…if I only had a brain.” C’mon y’all know the song. Dorothy Gale’s best friend from OZ who guides, protects and consistently places himself in harms way to keep her safe..and constantly claims he knows nothing because his maker did not invest him with a brain. What we come to discover, rather quickly, is our friend the Scarecrow has common sense oozing through every pore of his being. No, he does not have a formal education or as the Wizard himself bestows a diploma; however when the going got tough it was the Scarecrow who had the answers, the plans and the gumption to get Dorothy’s rag tag band of compatriots through the tough times.

Ok Betsy get to the point! Well here goes, I was talking recently with the CEO of a mid-sized company that I work with (yes he has a brain and no he is not a scarecrow). We somehow got into a long discussion about how to break out of the rut so many similar businesses seem to be stuck in (unable to address challenges or move at all). I asked what he’s been doing to encourage staff to innovate and push the limits of current business practices.  First he looked at me like I had a third eye then he informed me that he’d hired a business consultant to come and observe, research and provide feedback into what he could do differently to move his business ahead.

Now for the record, this is a very intelligent and successful business man who has worked hard to grow his enterprise into what it is. That being said I wanted to scream “Please Use Your Brain!”. He is overlooking his single most valuable asset to experience incredible innovation and growth… his current employee brain trust. They may not have a formal education or be Bill Gates, Nikola Tesla or Thomas Edison; however they know your business, sometimes better than you do. Why wouldn’t you engage them?

As leaders we are constantly looking for the next big idea, what can we do differently that will catapult us ahead of the competition? So we read books, articles and blog posts on the next big idea, industry trends and we chase unicorns across rainbows only to end up in OZ with no idea how to get back. Do you know where most great new ideas come from? They come from the last place most managers look, your current employees… your employee brain trust.  Remember Dorothy’s famous line, “there’s no place like home, there’s no place like home“. She didn’t need to go looking any further than her own back yard to find all the answers.

If you are looking for industry trends, talk to the people who live it every day. If you want customer feedback, talk to the people who talk to your customers. If you want to tap into institutional knowledge and find out what is possible, impossible, too hard, too easy or will have a real impact ask the people who live it every day. Inside of your current organization are your disruptors, game changers,  and generally brilliant people. Talk to them, pose the questions to them…you may just be surprised at what you find.

yes change is scary and hard and often expensive however, never as expensive as staying still while everyone else passes you by. Not as scary as watching your hard built dreams unraveling before your eyes cause you didn’t anticipate future trends and certainly not as hard as telling your entire workforce that your business is closing and they are losing their jobs.

Really, what do you have to lose by engaging those who already work for you and have a vested interest in your success? I’ll tell you…nothing, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

I’d love to hear from you. Come back and visit at “Connectthedotblog”.

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Your Greatest Weapon…Your Smile

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You never know the effect a smile can have on those around you.
I was reminded this week of a time, early on in my career, where I was asked to fill in for a colleague with our CEO. He had a terrible reputation within the administrative pool. In fact it was not unusual for a newer admin or a temp to leave his office crying. Unfortunately, it was a regular occurrence.
When I was asked to fill in for a whole week while someone was on vacation, I was terrified… but determined. No one could be that mean…right?
I showed up my first day and was quickly (very quickly) shown the ropes and left on my own. I sat in my chair and thought…what do I do now? I stood up, put on my best smile and went to his door. I knocked and was quickly reprimanded with a “What?” Entering the room still wearing my smile, I asked if there was anything he needed or if I could do anything for him. Slowly, he looked up from his computer. I think the unfamiliar voice threw him, (he may have actually forgotten his assistant was out for the week). Looking at me he thanked me and stated he would let me know if he needed anything. I wished him a good morning and went back to my desk. I made sure to repeat this every time he called me on the intercom (which was VERY often), and asked me into his office to take his dictated communication.
When it was time for me to leave for the day, I smiled and asked if there was anything he needed before I left, wished him a good evening, and let him know I’d see him in the morning.
Here’s where it gets good. The next morning I was in the office before him and as he walked by my desk he stopped to wish me a good morning, politely asking if I would get his coffee.  I fixed it, per his request, brought it in along with his paper and periodicals, pages marked with tabs where I thought there was something that related to the business or might be of interest to him.
I spent the week exceeding expectations with my work, but more importantly, with my behavior. Yes he was old school, I mean taking dictation…who does that?! However, he started including me in conversations, meetings and asking my opinion. He joked with me and taught me. Within one week, his demeanor had changed to the point that others noticed.
I spent the next several years working for this organization and I can say that each time there was a life event, he noted it. When my daughter was diagnosed with Cancer, he gave me his personal guarantee that my job was secure no matter what and that I should reach out to him if my family needed anything.
You can be assured that each time he needed someone to fill in, it was my line he called. If there was a project, new initiative or opportunity, I was included. He helped to shape my young career in ways others could not. This brilliant, stern, dry humored, generous man passed this week. I am sad that the world lost him, perhaps without really knowing or understanding him. I am so grateful for the time I was able to spend with him.
I remember those years working for and with him with a smile on my face. The same smile I greeted him with each day. Do I think that this will always happen when we put our best selves forward? No. Unfortunately the world is still full of people who have to make others feel less, for them to feel more. However, there are also those who have goodness inside of them and might just need someone help them bring it back out.

I’d love to hear from you. Come back and visit at  “Connectthedotblog”.

 

Go Brush You Teeth!

20170521_084340.jpgIt’s starts as a normal request, “please go brush your teeth.” Then a few minutes later, “Did you brush your teeth?” After a wee bit longer, “how many times do I have to ask, go brush your teeth.” Before too long it is more of a declaration of war than a simple request.

Finally they emerge from the bathroom and you take a deep satisfying breath. Then when you go to give them a kiss before they leave the house…the truth is revealed! WOW, they never brushed their teeth, they wet the brush, smeared toothpaste on it and everything…with the amount of time they spent making it look like they did the job, they could have actually done the job! What the heck!

This is not an uncommon occurrence with our children, we fight the important battles with them, and for each child it can be different; the rest we chalk up to acceptable losses. There is one arena however that this kind of behavior is way more detrimental…in the workplace.

Do you have an employee, co-worker or even supervisor who seems to be always busy but rarely seems to produce results? Are they constantly saying, “yes I’ll do that right away“, “I‘ll get right on that“, “as soon as I get back to the office I’ll take care of it“, “I’m sorry, I didn’t realize you wanted ME to do that“, and yet whenever you ask again, because it hasn’t been done, you get the same responses?

As an individual occurrence, this can happen. We are living and working in a world that moves so fast, things can and do fall off our radar. However if this is habitual it can be an indicator of root causes that need to be addressed.

Our children are…well children. They forget, they’d rather play, they don’t understand the consequences of their inaction. That is why we as parents much teach them and hold them accountable and give them boundaries to help them safely navigate their world. We don’t give up on getting them to brush their teeth, cause it’s just too hard. Trust me a 7 year old needing a root canal is much harder, and yes that did happen to my son. He was VERY good at finding ways to not brush his teeth, but he is much better now.

As a manager/supervisor/leader the lines aren’t always as clear. We have to show the way, teach the way, then get out of the way. After that, we have to take the time to inspect what we expect and hold them accountable. What does that mean exactly? That’s not always so black and white.

When I hold a meeting, it’s always a working meeting. If there is a meeting to schedule, a follow up email to be sent, a phone call to be made…I make it right then and there. When one of my team comes to me and asks me to make a call or send a note, I do with them in my office watching and listening. They see my actions, I show them how to do it, they see my results.  When I delegate a task to someone on my team, I set the expectation for when it should be done and that I will follow up. I don’t micromanage them asking every 2 hours if it’s been done. I follow up on the results; “I know you were reaching out to Joe yesterday, how did the call go and when is our follow  up meeting?

As each member of the team finds their rhythm, I follow up less, getting out of their way allowing them the autonomy to make great things happen. Some don’t find that rhythm, and my follow-up does become micromanagement, like harping on my children to get their teeth brushed. If you find that going to work is like dealing with your children at home, then you have some work to do. You either need to set the appropriate expectations, show them the way, so you can get out of the way or start sending people to timeout.

If you have some of these challenges, I’d love to hear from you. Come back and visit at  “Connectthedotblog”.

Adventures in Busyness

20170416_120330This past year has been a bit more interesting than I thought it would be. I accepted an new role and hit the ground running. I had the position, the title, I rebuilt my own team and they are amazing. I worked hard and achieved a measure of success unexpected by my superiors. Now entering year 2 I begin to wonder…is it really possible to have it all?

Yes, professionally it has been a fantastic year, we’re building great momentum and making a real impact in our community. I’ve been asked to mentor new peers joining the organization, and have begun making a name for myself. Although I’m not traveling across the country any more there is still a trade off. My expectations were that by not traveling and having a somewhat more ‘normal‘ role that I could manage my personal life better…HA! Yes I’m home more for dinner and weekends, however I believed it would be easier. With 4 children at home (5, 7, 10 & 13), my husband, three dogs and our newest addition, a turtle…life didn’t get easier, it more busy.

Like most working mom’s I still try to be all things to all people; my husband, children, friends, extended family, my staff and clients. Guess what…there aren’t enough hours in a day.

This is something often talked about among my friends, almost all of whom are working mothers. We talk about the need to take care of ourselves, giving ourselves a break, putting ourselves first, how we can’t take care of others if we don’t make “us” a priority. We talk, drink wine, talk some more, then go back to our lives the same as always.

Women understand the challenges and the need to take better care of ourselves, but how exactly, in today’s world do we do that? Myself, like many of my girlfriends are actually the breadwinner in the family. It’s not like we can work less, strive less or be less. So, how in that model do we make time for us?

This week I’ve been home for three days taking care of my youngest who is home sick. I am able to work from home in these instances, most women don’t have that luxury. Still, in between virtual meetings, conference calls and project plans, I’m putting in laundry, loading the dishwasher and caring for my little one.

I do it because I can, I do it cause it needs to be done. Then at 7:30 at night I’m exhausted, I make sure homework is done, kids are clean, teeth brushed, lullaby’s sung (my 7-year old son won’t go to sleep without me singing to him), and everyone is tucked in. Then I crash…only to get up at 5AM to start all over again.

This isn’t a diatribe about how I get things done, I promise. It’s a real question, which I hope to start a practical conversation around; how we, as working women, learn it’s OK if the house is a bit messy, set manageable expectations, treat ourselves kinder and live fuller lives. Lives full of life not busyness?

I did a quick google search this morning using “Challenges of working mothers” and I got back over 1.7 million articles…do you think this is something that concerns us? Let’s talk about what we can do for and with each other to make a tangible difference! Just A Little Heart Attack

I want to hear from you! Please comment and share, lets get a real conversation started! “Connectthedotblog”.

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