It is my strong point of view that one of the best ways to create professional progress is with a purposeful strategy of giving back.
Now, I’m sure you are all thinking about examples that disprove that statement, but lets be honest, if you were a counter example, someone who could ignore others and still get ahead, you wouldn’t be reading my leadership development blog.
You would be on your private jet or something.
I stumbled on this point of view accidentally. It’s not like I didn’t care about giving back before, I just didn’t see the relationship to professional progress.
I began my deliberate practice of giving back in 2010, when I needed something meaningful to focus on and I wanted to find a new way to think about progress. At the time I didn’t understand what I actually learning, I just knew I was heading in the right direction.
Since then I have observed some interesting things about giving back and mentoring others
- Focusing on others helps me find joy even when things are hard. In fact, giving to others is its own kind of bonus.
- Giving back not only impacts those who are directly involved, but also helps build broader and deeper networks, authentically.
- Giving back helps me avoid burnout because it gives me a more realistic definition of success.
- It can make you feel good about yourself, and when you feel better, you do better.
- It sends a signal to others that you are a high achiever and a star performer
- It makes you more confident to ask others for help you need.
- It can give you energy, which will give you more productivity.
Essentially a purposeful strategy of giving back is a way to make your own luck. And who doesn’t need more luck? Probably those guys on the private jet…
October 15 2013 will be the fifth annual Ada Lovelace Day, an international celebration of the achievements of women in science, technology, engineering and maths. Ada Lovelace Day is about sharing stories of women — whether engineers, scientists, technologists or mathematicians — who have inspired you to become who you are today. The aim is to create new role models for girls and women in these male-dominated fields by raising the profile of other women in STEM.
You can participate in Ada Lovelace Day by attending Ada Lovelace Day Live! in London; attending one of the more than 20 other worldwide events; or by writing about a woman in STEM whose work has inspired you, publishing the story on October 15, and adding it to the Ada Lovelace Day story collection.
My Contribution to #ALD13
I am taking it upon myself to compile a list of the women on twitter who inspire me in and around #STEM, and to ask for your help in expanding it, either by reminding me of who I missed*, or introducing me to people I need to know.
I want to be someone who helps bring more people to the front to stand out as role models. I realize that many of us downplay our ability and responsibility to be a role model for others and I want to suggest if not you than who?
#STEM Power Brokers
Women who are CXOs leading the charge.
- Tatyana Kanzaveli – @glfceo
- Nilofer Merchant – @nilofer
- Wendy Lea – @WendySLea
- Charlene Li – @charleneLi
- Naomi Bloom - @inFullBloomUS
- Promise Phelon – @PromisePhelon
- Heidi Spirgi – @hspirgi
- Shaherose Charania – @shaherose
- Heidi Melin – @HeidiMelin
- Stacy Chapman – @StacyChapman
- Pat Milligan – @pat_milligan1
- Lynn Lucas – @Lylucas
- Sylvie Leotin – @sleotin
- Whitney Johnson – @johnsonWhitney
- Patty Azzarello – @pattyAzzarello
#STEM Industry Movers
Women who make the industry work. Ladies in Innovation, Product Management, Marketing, Program Management, Press/ Analyst/ Partner Relations
- Erika Brookes – @ebrookes
- Kelly Stoetzel – @kstoetzel
- Gretchen Alarcon - @GretchenA
- Jill Rowley – @jill_rowley
- Tiffany Thompson – @sassyTinATL
- Emily He – @EmilyHe1
- Claudine Bianchi – @Mapmaven
- Row Henson – @RowHenson
- Holly Simmons – @holloid
- Amy Wilson – @Awils
- Leighanne Levensaler - @LeighLevensaler
- Laura Schroeder – @WorkGal
- Meenakshi Tripathy – @TripathyM
- Kris Van der Ploeg – @Kvldp
- Christine Yokoi – @YCYokoi
- Kati Robison – @katirob_tucson
- Kathi Chenoweth – @kcheno
- Tara Roberts – @tara20k
- Christie Wilson – @LWChris
- Angela Wells – @AngWWells
- Amy Sollells – @amysorrells
- Nancy Lang – @nancy_l
- Alka Asthana – @AlkaAsthana
- Claudia Imhoff – @Claudia_Imhoff
- Natalia Rachelson – @nrachelson
- Katheryn Perry – @kperry519
- Susie Penner – @eyemsusie
- Letty Ledbetter – @lettyel
- Lauren McKay – @LaurenMizzou
- Vanessa Thompson – @VanessaThomps
- Yvette Cameron – @yvetteCameron
- Debra Lilley – @debralilley
- Beth Oetker Butler – @Boetker
- Dawn Hrdlica-Burke – @DawnHRRocks
- Adrienne Olds – @AdrienneElzbth
- June Farmer – @JuneFarmer
- Carol Sato – @CarolSato
- Danielle Cormier Smith – @DanielleCormier
- Lydia Smyers – @lydiasmyers
- Laurie Pattison – @lsptahoe
- Claire Moss - @aclairefication
- Marcie Van Houten – @MarcieVH
- Lisa Black – @gtmbagirl
- Lexy Martin – @lexymartin
- Lisa Rowan – @lisarowan
- Jenny Sussin – @Jsussin
- Kim Seals – @kseals
- Stacy Lynn Harris – @StaceyHarrisHR
- Rani Urbas – @raniurbas
- Marta Studinger – @mstudinger
- Christie Sultemeier – @ckanani
- Eliane Orler – @ElaineOrler
- Merline Saintil – @msaintil
- Erna Arnesen – @ErnaArnesen
- Christine Wan – @christine_wan
- Indira Vidyaprakash – @idivyapr
- Maria Colgan – @SQLMaria
#STEM Builders and Makers
Women in Engineering, Science, Technology who are builders, Doers, Leaders and Makers.
- Sri Subramanian - @whoissri
- Nandini Ramani – @eyeseewaters
- Vivian Wong - @zen_girl
- Krupali Tejura – @krupali
- Tracy Weitz – @TWeitzTweets
- Wendy Li – @wenhuali
I encourage you each to contribute to causes like Ada Lovelace Day recognizing not just the big names, but the breadth and depth of contributions that are happening today to bring forward the power of women to benefit our world.
*All Feedback welcome including additional categories I need to add and/or move
Given that this week included women’s equality day, I decided it was time to write a blog I’ve been thinking about for some time.
We must cease with the competitive male-bashing approach and make inclusion part of our overall solution. We need men and women working together to solve the very real gender equality issue.
This problem is not going to be resolved by just encouraging women to develop new skills and it certainly is not going to be resolved by women continuing to complain about those skills that men are missing (and rewarded for anyway).
We must do more and demand more.
Every one of us.
We all need to stand up and speak out and we need to do our part and hold each other accountable. I plan to be an active part of the solution to this problem.
Here are some great examples of what is happening to move this topic forward
- Gender ratio focus at tech conferences (even if it’s hard)
- Recognition list accountability (across every lens possible)
- Sharing ideas and data at conferences and online
- Powerful men commiting to be part of the solution
- Encouraging girls and women to be part of the Tech Industry
- New innovation bringing tech to young girls play
- Men holding each other accountible for critical issues like violence against women
- Candid talk about what it takes to fix bias and how we all need to recognize our privlege and speak up in support of all minorities
- Taking seriously the complexity of 21st century parenting and childcare
- Exposing and taking steps to address the lack of women serving on public boards
For myself, my plan is to support all women working to achieve their full potential, and celebrate men supporting them. As a mother of two smart and capable daughters, I have no choice. They are watching me and expecting me to make their opportunities greater than my own (as those who came before have done for me).
Our world needs more women in leadership.
Our future demands it.
Feminism is not the absence of men, it is the inclusion of women, we can and must use all of our available talents to lead by example.
What about you? What is your plan?
I wouldn’t mind so much, I generally like mythology, but this particular myth was invented to create a sense of inferiority and that I find annoying.
When you start from a mythological ideal as your goal, you create an endless cycle not meeting the mark, your energy has nowhere productive to be and you begin to complain about how you need to focus on work life balance.
Then the rest of us find you a bit annoying and prone to complaining too much. All this can create an endless cycle of guilt and suffering.
You don’t want or need”balance” in your life. You may, however, be working too much. So lets quit talking about “needing work life balance” and start being honest and talk about how we might have lost control of our priorities and our lives.
Working too much often comes from a manufactured sense of scarcity that we allow ourselves to confuse with truth.
I have two concrete ideas that might be helpful to fixing the reality of being out of control.
Big idea #1
It’s not the amount of work — it’s the type of work as compared to your expectations. It is the ability for you to have a say in what you do and in having the ability to tune the mix to feed your own soul. While this can feel out of your ability to resolve, I encourage you to focus your energy here.
Ask yourself a few key questions
- What do I wish I were doing that I am not? (be specific)
- What am I doing that I wish I were not? (again specific, if you just say working too much you are missing the point here).
Next, spend some more time on what is going well in your life. What are you doing well? What are you accomplishing? Start focusing energy on gratitude and sufficiency. Start realizing that you have a wealth of great things to be proud of in your life. You don’t have a balance problem, you have a full life. Reframe the whole topic with yourself as tuning your time expenditure to help your life be more rich and fulfilling.
Big Idea #2
Small things matter in a big way.
So often people make problems big and then try to make themselves feel better by telling everyone they are going to fix it.
What works better (while being far less glamorous) is breaking big problems into smaller problems and resolving them. Whether that is a huge pile of work that is sucking away all your energy or 50 lbs you are hoping to lose, the same strategy will work. Focus on the smallest component of the problem and fix that, this creates more self control which gives you more confidence which builds into big achievements.
Doing something small might not be charming or glamorous but it will make you feel powerful and in control.
So I leave you with this — you will not ever achieve balance. But you can achieve happiness and you can get back control if you want it.
In the end it’s all about habits.
I am often asked how I manage my email. A few years back, I responded to this query with an internal blog post that I’ve reworked to hopefully help a few of you with your 2013 goals.
It’s important to note that struggling with email is very common. I wouldn’t even suggest that you are not alone, instead I would say you are the new normal if you find email management overwhelming/fatiguing/stressful/painful/etc.
First, lets talk about why to bother
Sure, you can fall behind and wallow, but I wouldn’t recommend that. Fantastic email ability is a level cutter in some organizations. Being able to “keep up” is a critical job skill. Being known as someone who is in control of email, is often important to helping others feel confident in your abilities.
My recommendation is to lean in and think of this as a skill building opportunity, that will help your career.
Next, lets talk about how to seize control
Now that you are convinced that you want to master email and not let it defeat you — what are some tips?
Here are my tips, but I am hopeful that others will comment on this thread and give some of their own.
- I do not personally love the idea of rules and filters — I know people who find them helpful and if you are inclined, I encourage you to look into tools of automation to help you prioritize.
- For me what works is the zero inbox concept — that is to say, that if I have read and/or taken action on an email (or if I don’t need to) then I remove it from my inbox. This is critical to my strategy. I do this with the following approach:
- Have at least one folder for filing — probably best practice is only one, as it’s easier to search that way. If you want to keep it, put it in this folder but get it out of your inbox.
- Only touch an email once — if you can take action, delete, respond or file — immediately do so. The goal is to get it out of the inbox
- If there is an action item associated, try to use your calendar and tasks to schedule the follow up and/or action item due date. This way you can track progress and the deliverable without forgetting but still get the email out of your inbox.
- If at all possible scan and delete — do not spend too much time on any one email – especially if it is not tied to a priority.
- If you are new, and things don’t make sense immediately — get a folder to file away stuff you don’t understand — don’t let it drag down your inbox, as most likely it’s not the most important thing anyway.
- If you are not sure – ask – do not be someone who doesn’t respond b/c you don’t know what is being asked of you — save everyone time and acknowledge the email asking for more info.
- Do not let the volume encourage procrastination — that just doubles down on the backlog — act or decide not to act. Don’t get stuck in-between — you are not only building a skill in reading/scanning email, you are building decisiveness, which is important and powerful.
- Whatever you do — if someone is talking to you — reply! Do not be someone who does not reply – it is bad for your brand for people to wonder if you are able to keep up with your email.
OK– that’s really all I have — the rest is just about doing.
How about you? What tips can you share with your friends on this topic? How do you survive email and still get work done?
I’ve often been asked by close friends and family if I have been on the TED stage. Since I’m always so enthusiastic about my TED experiences and a fully committed TEDster.
Whenever I’m asked this question, I give a version of the same answer, I explain how learning new things is important to my energy, and TED, with it’s commitment to sharing big ideas, fuels my soul. TED is a space where I feel I really belong. I gain so much from this belonging, I am reluctant to trade that experience for one of giving not receiving.
Yes, I’m a real [comfortable in my skin] geek.
and then I got the note from my friend Diane, asking if I could help her co-host TEDxSanJoseCA‘s first TEDxWomen event…
The planned co-host had to leave to care for her ailing mother and could not be at the event.
Next thing I knew, my dear husband went on a recon mission to the dry cleaners to get my red dress, and I said “yes”. I pushed aside the thoughts of fatigue and ill-preparedness and I decided to open up and embrace the opportunity.
The experience was exactly as you would imagine — amazing, inspiring, difficult, complex and wonderful. I was winging it in the most authentic way I knew how, allowing myself to get out of my own head and into the moment.
Ironically, this was not the first opportunity of this kind to come my way this year. I had been asked a few months back to do a keynote for the TechWomen visit to Oracle, a last minute request when the “real” keynote speaker they wanted [Safra Catz] had a conflict.
Again, it was not a convenient time, but I said “yes” and decided to believe that I would not fall flat on my face on stage, but have something to offer the audience that could inspire and help them on their life journey.
Now, since we all know these things come in threes, I look forward to working out what next opportunity will be. I know that I will again push myself to say “yes” and it will be hard and meaningful. It will be about something more important than my own fear or doubt– it will be about someone else who needs me to say “yes”.
It seems that I might have a new reputation as a reliable back up plan. I think I am ready to take that out for a spin and see where it takes me.
Look out 2013, this is going to be a big year!
These are not qualities anyone wants in their life. No one wants to hire, promote or interact with people who have these attributes.
When people come to me looking for coaching and they are angry about some specific outcome in their current career (terrible manager, skipped over for a promotion, under valued, over worked, pick your favorite one — they all apply) I have to tell them I can’t help.
I wont be able to help you achieve your best career outcome, when you are in such a state, as you are not your best self.
To bring about the best career outcomes you need to be your best self. To be your best self you need to project success and optimism. If you want to see a big change and things are at their worst, you must first get over it or you will not be able to invite good things in.
Therefore your first action item is to bring joy and energy back into your life. Take a vacation, get a massage, exercise, volunteer, call your family, give someone a hug, watch Megan Keeley’s video — do whatever it takes, but get your smile back.
I once worked for an organization that often asked us to “expand our capacity” which was a age-old development euphemism, inviting you to work the weekend.
Not at all surprising, that this was also the job where I learned just how poor my own personal productivity could become when I worked around the clock, and didn’t invest any time in planning my work or managing my energy. It’s also the time when I ended up in the ER and getting an MRI to try to figure out why half of my face was going numb (migraines).
I have since come to an entirely different conclusion about time management. I now strongly believe that most time management problems are really symptoms not causes — especially when they are chronic.
Fact: For the vast majority of us, there will always be more work than time.
So in the end, it really isn’t about expanding the hours you work — it is about expanding the quality of the work you do within the hours you should be working. There are two important things you are getting wrong, if you find yourself struggling with time management.
- You are not spending your time on the most important things
- You are not managing your energy properly, to make sure you work on the right things at the right time [for you].
If you deeply understand that you will not get all the work done,you recognize that your most important job is to decide what you will not do. Being realistic and decisive about what you are not doing, is a key to success. Knowing why you are choosing to not work on something and not spending energy stressing about things you are not going to do.
The best way I have found to deciding what I will not do, is to clearly define what my “can’t fail” objectives are. Who are my most important stakeholders, and what are my key success measures for my business. If the work doesn’t fit into that framework it is secondary priority.
The most effective people I know, are those who acknowledge that they can’t do it all and it doesn’t matter. They instead produce results, because they work on the most important tasks for their business. They take the time to plan and organize their work for maximum productivity, and they are unapologetic about what things are not doing.
Don’t make time for everything, instead, do your best work.
First full attribution that I’m really just re-stating Patty’s advice to be more relevant so you should absolutely read that if you haven’t already.
Whatever it is you want. A job, a promotion, a new opportunity, more headcount, travel approval, budget increase, a spiffy new sports car that the spouse can’t seem to appreciate — you will increase your probability of getting it, if you can get out of your own way and quit trying to make it about you.
It needs to be about them.
The harsh reality is no one cares what you want.
The trick to getting what you want, is to do the heavy lifting to connect the dots, to make what they want and what you want the same thing.
If you start the process by explaining to them why they need to care about what you want, you have already stacked the deck against success. The more work you do up front to make it about them, the better chance of success.
What if you don’t know what they want?
I’d suggest that would be the most important gap to fill — as without that you are likely not going to reach the full potential of the relationship.
What if what they want is wrong?
Well I’d suggest you have a lot of work ahead of you, and you had best get started. No one said this was easy.
I think we are all familiar with the importance of deliberate practice to building expertise and becoming your best self.
I often coach people on the importance of discovering what things you should be practicing, especially as it impacts getting to a new career level. One of the most obvious tricks I recommend, is to watch those leaders who are where you want to be, and see what they do that you don’t.
This helps you target the list of what to practice to the outcome you are looking to achieve.
For myself, I have decided to work on velocity and context shifts. Now those who have worked with me, are probably surprised to hear velocity, since this is a strength. But there is a specific kind of velocity that I want to improve (remember we are talking about deliberate practice, not just generic practice). I want to get better at the preparation, delivery and recovery cycles with business and audience context shifts.
Context shifting — between lots of different kinds of business needs, is something I observe those above me doing fairly effortlessly. For me this is a hard. The ability to quickly prepare-act across different contexts is something that I want to improve. My theory is that the regroup/recovery process can be shortened, in a similar fashion to how you can train your body to recover from high impact cardio (or so I’m told, I haven’t done much in the way of cardio lately).
I have observed, that much of what I believe I need today for context switch recovery, is really not what I need but what I enjoy having. I like a lot of time to prepare on different topics (mentally), I like a lot of control on how many different things I need to prepare for in a single day, and how many different points of view I need to be able to comprehend and represent.
I don’t like to mix internal and external audiences without some mental regroup time. This is stuff that defines my comfort zone, and as such it also defines my limitation. My comfort zone is not where I need to be — it is where I am today. In recent months, I have been leveraging opportunities to say yes to things that support this deliberate practice. To push myself into more frequent (and relentless) context switching, and to move past my inherent resistance, to build up this new professional muscle.
What about you? What are you focusing your deliberate practice energy to accomplish? How is that aligned with your career goals?