Thursday, December 08, 2016

2016 - Lessons learned

My year at a glance...

 I think I started 2016 in retirement mode.  I’d just turned 65 and it seemed time to hand over the reigns and with that mindset I started the year looking at transition, at moving on.   But that was not to be  and now as 2016 comes to a close, I’ve got my mojo back and am raring to go for another season. 

Life is fragile.  I learned this at the beginning of the year when our 32 year old nephew-in-law died of cancer.  Far too young and far too soon.  

We wrapped up the year with the sudden death of my colleague and friend Diane McGee.  Both deaths serve to remind me that life is short and to focus on what you want to do.

When it is important, people show up.   On the worst snowstorm of the season it was the launch date of the One Red Lipstick book.  We had 80 people registered and four speakers who were travelling a distance. Over 60 folks turned up, as well as all four speakers.

Be a role model.  The message behind One Red Lipstick is that we need to step up and be role models for the generations behind us.  We often don’t realize the wisdom we can share.  I’ve since signed up to be a mentor in a couple of programs.

People come into your life for a reason. Pay attention.   Learn what you need to learn, give what you can give. Enjoy the relationship and make the most of your time together.  

Never say never.   I had declared to myself that our conference (the 10th) would be my last one.  Well that lasted about a day after the event and then I got into gear to plan the conference for 2017.

You don’t know what you don’t know. Especially when you start a new business.  Launching Full Circle Publishing has been an exciting and humbling experience. It’s not easy to be back in the beginner’s seat.

Be careful what you wish for.  Full Circle Publishing was to be my “retirement” project – something I could do from anywhere and which I could manage in terms of size.  In three months we have published five books, with more in the wings.

Smiling can take you a long way.  On our trip to Nova Scotia we received such great customer service.  People took an interest in you, smiled and were happy to be helping you. 

Read the small print.  When you go over documents quickly you can miss important stuff, which can cost you money. And it did.

Laughter is good medicine.   By co-incidence we had our best man and bridesmaid staying with us in time for our 44th wedding anniversary. We spent an amazing weekend together.  I don’t think any of us have laughed so much in years.  By far the highlight of the year.

Be pragmatic.  When your plans fall through, while disappointing at the time, you need to come up with Plan B and move on. Wallowing in what could have been doesn’t get you too far.  Plus who knows, maybe Plan B is better.

Delegate. It’s not all about me.   I am excited about 2017 – we have some new programs in the works.  I’ve learned this year to delegate and I intend to do more of that in the year ahead.  It’s only taken me 14 years to realize I don’t have to, nor should I do everything!

That’s it.  A month by month take on my year. 

It’s been a busy one – and the one constant is relationships, because it’s the relationships we have with our family, friends, colleagues and customers that can make or break our businesses.

Thursday, December 01, 2016

When you lead well, people will follow

I recently attended the retirement party of a friend and former colleague, Mary Beth.  Over 150 people turned out to bid her farewell.   She had been running her department with a large team for over 17 years, mainly with the same management team, which speaks to her leadership skills.  

How did she do that?  Well from my observations, she consistently worked with integrity.  She cared about her staff, the parents and children who came under her domain.  She treated everyone with respect and valued other people’s opinions, even when they contradicted her own beliefs.  And maybe most important of all, she had a great sense of humour and loved to have fun.

So as a leader or manager, how can you achieve this?

Take an interest in your team
One of her managers told me that she spent the first one-on-one meetings with her answering questions about herself, her family and her goals.  She was surprised and had expected that they’d leap right into business and talk about the issues.  Get to know the people who are working with you.

Ask questions
This is one that I observed myself.  When one of the staff would have a challenge and come to her for help, instead of giving her an answer, she’d throw it back at the staff member and ask what she thought was the solution.  What would she advise?  

She didn’t make herself out to be the expert, the keeper of all solutions.  Instead she encouraged her employee to think for herself and at the same time, conveyed that she was respected and her opinion valued.

Be inclusive
It can be all too easy, especially in government, to take a silo approach to solving problems or getting a project off the ground.  By that I mean that often departments get somewhat territorial about what falls under their domain, and so they don’t reach out and involve others, they hold the reigns of power and control tight.

My buddy, on the other hand, was always quick to invite others to the table, recognizing that there was strength in involving others and bringing in fresh perspectives.  Early on she started a multi-disciplinary network that included many players from different sectors, and to this day, it works well, always putting the needs of children first.

Party time
Maybe it was because she worked with children, but there was always some party or gathering in the works, so that staff could come together and have fun.  It was a chance to play and let go some of the stresses of the work.

And clearly she’d taught them well as the animated video her management team produced to say goodbye and pay tribute to her, was clever and funny as they poked fun at themselves.  They were following her lead as she’d given them permission to play and laugh while on the job.

After an illustrious career spanning over 40 years, Mary Beth’s retirement is well earned.  She has led the way and now the mantle has been handed over. 

While her colleagues will miss her, I actually gain – because now she will have time for that breakfast we kept promising to have. 

Now we get to play.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Open for business. Open to learn.

Scared. Excited. Nervous. Worried.  Sound like you?

Yes there is a real thrill about stepping out on your own, being your own boss and in control of your life (or so you think).  

But it is quickly coupled with a nervousness about whether this bold step you have taken is going to work out; that it’s going to pay your bills and ultimately lead to business success.

The challenge is that often you feel alone with your fears and that no one else can possibly be feeling the same way.  And yet that assumption would be wrong.

It was one of the reasons I started Company of Women as I found it lonely working at home and desperately wanted to connect with like-minded women who were on the same entrepreneurial path as me.

I often compare starting a business with having a baby, in that despite any homework you may do, nothing really prepares you for reality.  Also the emotions that stir up within you range from pure joy and excitement, rapidly followed by self doubt and anxiety that you are perhaps not cut out for this new job – be it as a parent or a business owner.

I have been in the entrepreneurial trenches for sixteen years now but earlier this year started a brand new venture.  Quickly I was reminded of what it feels like when you don’t know what you don’t know.   When you are used to being competent and knowledgeable, it is humbling to be back in the novice seat again.

And maybe that is why I am reflecting on what it is like to be in start up mode and why I’d like to see us – us being Company of Women – offer something concrete to help you get your business off the ground.

In the past I have run groups for newbies and at the beginning I’d often find that there was a group sigh of relief when they discovered that they were not alone with their emotional roller coaster.   I always remember one woman confessing that often when she got up in the morning she didn’t have a clue as to what she should be doing to further her business.  Around the table everyone was nodding in agreement.

The other interesting commonality that I observed is that while at the start of the group, the women were starting a certain business, by the end of the six months, their focus had changed and evolved as their concept of their business became clearer.

All of this to say that starting January 2017, we are launching a Start Up Club with a special membership rate for those at the beginning of their entrepreneurial venture or those about to embark on this journey, as well as webinars and online resources to help you focus, build your business and most important, establish your own support network.

We have a wealth of expertise within Company of Women, and these women are generously sharing their knowledge with you. 

As I have said in the past, you don’t have to be alone when you own.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Running on empty. Again.

You would think at my age that I would know better.  But I never seem to learn until my body says STOP.

It has been an exciting, busy week fast on the heels of a successful writers’ retreat. I mention the retreat because that was the start of my fast lane dash.  When you work over the weekend, you lose that chance to catch your breath, to restore your energies so come Monday you are roaring to go.

Not me.  Now I don’t want to turn this blog into a whiny post, especially since I am a big girl, and I am doing this to myself.  

I get excited about stuff, say yes, without checking my calendar and before you know it,  for example, I have three meetings in three different cities all on one day.

And as a result:

  • ·     I have over 800 emails in my inbox waiting for an answer.
  • ·      It’s Friday and I still haven’t written my Thursday blog
  • ·      I am sneezing and coughing all over the place.

Why do we do this to ourselves?   I am constantly writing about self-care, taking time for yourself, slowing down, and so on.

I think it is time I paid attention and took my own advice.  I am switching off now and going to curl up with a good book.

See you Monday.