Saturday, January 26, 2013

A touching moment

I recently had the pleasure of observing true customer service in action.  I was at the spa getting my hair done and an elderly lady, with a beautiful head of white hair, was in a cozy gown, waiting for a massage.  I’ll call her “Daisy”  because she reminded me of Jessica Tandy in Driving Miss Daisy.

Because she was a little early and waiting for her appointment, Diana at the front desk decided to spend the time chatting and getting to know her better.  Now she could have done this from her desk, but no, she chose to come over, and bent down so she was at eye-level with her, and proceeded to chat.

I couldn’t help but hear the conversation and it was touching.  They were talking about love and how you have to grab it, no matter what your age,  if you are fortunate enough to meet the right person. It turns out that Daisy had got married for the first time at 67 and she was congratulating Diana on her recent marriage at 54.

You could tell that the conversation meant a lot to both of them, and before Daisy left for her appointment, she stroked Diana’s face in a gentle and loving way.  After she had gone, I asked how old she was --- 92, and she’d only just moved into a senior’s residence.

That small, touching moment made my day and I am positive it did for both Daisy and Diana.  In the hustle and bustle of living our hectic lives, it was a lovely interlude; emphasizing the need to reach out, and just spend a few moments sharing our innermost thoughts – with friends or complete strangers.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

What's holding you back?

 At our breakfast meetings, one participant gets to share a challenge she is currently facing, and then we brainstorm solutions. So it was interesting this week that at both the Toronto and Oakville breakfasts the challenges raised were the same -  procrastination.

It was one that we could all identify with, as many of us have been guilty of putting off something that is important but we don’t want to do.

I remember years ago when I had a business coach I was always very diligent about getting my “homework” done, except for this one assignment.  Ironically it was around social media and after a few weeks of nothing being done, my coach challenged me on why this was.

Bottom line it wasn’t something that interested me at the time and being busy, I just relegated it to the bottom of my “to-do” list. I also didn’t really know how to begin and questioned the value of embarking on such a strategy.

Likewise, the women at our breakfasts were doing the same.  As we probed further, it became clear that like me, this wasn’t an aspect of their business that turned their crank, but they also knew it had to happen.

In my instance, we recognized that I didn’t have to be the one to implement a social media campaign, I could contract it out or draw on the expertise of others to make it happen. But sometimes when you are starting out, that is just not an option, the budget just isn’t there.  So what can you do?

The women in the group came up with lots of ideas, and here are just some of their suggestions:

1.              Book time in your calendar to get the work done.
2.              If you are feeling overwhelmed, break down the work involved into small, more manageable tasks
3.              Eat your frog – make it something you tackle first – so you start to make a dent in the work to be done.
4.              Ask yourself why you are avoiding the task, and if it has indeed, got to be done.
5.              If it is not in your skill set, maybe barter with someone else to get the work done.
6.              In the case of producing a monthly newsletter, collect information all month so that when it is time to pull it together, you have the different components already at hand.

In my case, we set up a committee to come up with recommendations on social media, and later I got a grant to hire someone to implement it.  Today, social media is something I have not only embraced but am an active player, which just goes to show that once you get over your fear of the unknown, and welcome the chance to learn new skills, you can change your mind.  You just have to be open to the opportunity.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

My moment under the bright lights

As I read about Arlene Dickinson’s first audition for Dragon’s Den in her book Persuasion, I am reminded that I too, had a similar opportunity for fame and fortune on television, but the outcome was quite different.

I’d been gaining a name as a parenting expert – my kids can chuckle at that one – and was asked if I would like to host a parenting TV show that was to be aired in the afternoon. I got invited for an interview which I naively thought would just be your standard question-answer type meeting.  Little did I know that this would be an actual audition.

For a start the “interview” was right across Toronto and a fair drive for me, which for those of you who know my fear of driving in the city, was a big deal.  So I didn’t exactly arrive all relaxed and raring to go, more frazzled and exhausted by the energy it took to just get there.

Immediately I was ushered into a studio where I was presented with a script that I was expected to learn and spew out when my turn came.  As I looked around, it was like Barbie goes for an audition.  I was surrounded by these young things, actresses, all ready to strut their stuff and for whom the line-learning was a breeze.  Even back then my short-term memory was a challenge.

Anyway, getting more nervous by the minute, it was soon my turn, and that was when the fun began.  I can’t remember the actual case scenario that we were to talk about in the taping but the script was lame, to say the least, and not at all what a mom would do or say. 

So being the “expert” I was supposed to be, I felt compelled to tell them that.  In the end they let me be taped with my own script of how I thought it should be.

Did I get the “role”?  No. 

Did I get asked to rewrite the script? No. 

By this point, I was past caring, after all I had the drive home to worry about.  I had already decided that I was not destined for a life under the bright lights, and with menopause just around the corner, maybe that was just as well. I would have been too hot to handle.

Friday, January 04, 2013

Stretching ourselves

I am starting off 2013 with a couple of bold steps outside of my comfort zone and am encouraging you to do the same. As Frederick Wilcox said “Progress always involves risks.  You can't steal second base and keep your foot on first.”

First over the holidays I signed up for an online writing course.   I know… I have been blogging for years but we can all learn and deepen our skills and that was what I was keen to do. Plus I’ve never taken a formal writing course.

Now I am still on module one and writing furiously every day to submit my assignments, but it is not so much the writing that is a stretch, but the willingness to sit back and let others critique what I’ve written - now that is the brave part for me.  I am feeling quite naked as I bare my soul and write about personal stuff. 

It’s funny though as the others submit their work, I find myself more wrapped up in their problems and trying to solve them, rather than actually reviewing their writing style.   I’ve also come to recognize that I have a ways to go in revealing all, as some of the emotions expressed by the others are so raw and the situations so serious.  It makes me pretty grateful for all that I have.

My second foray into the brave unknown is that I have joined a mastermind group. Now I have been in one before and can thoroughly recommend the process as one that makes you become more accountable and helps you move forward.  And I’ve also recommended that people check their egos at the door and maybe that is more where I am struggling.

Thing is, I basically know what I need to do, I just don’t have a forte or interest in doing it, so I am bound to get my knuckles wrapped.  It’s like I am setting myself up for the lecture, but then, maybe I need to hear it.

I know we will be talking about our challenges and I have difficulty “doing vulnerable” but I also know that in order to grow, professionally and personally, I have to be prepared to listen to some hard truths.

So what can you do to go beyond your comfort zone?  Perhaps join our mastermind or newbie groups, take a course, learn a new skill or volunteer. When you stretch yourself, it’s like flexing a new muscle when you work out, gradually it feels quite normal and the pain is gone, and you are ready to try something more difficult.   Maybe.

All I know is that my brain is on overdrive as I try to grapple with all this new learning but it feels good. Try it and see for yourself.

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Moving forward in 2013

 The start of a new year is an opportunity to wipe the slate clean and start afresh, but as I reflect on 2012, I can see that I need to re-evaluate my attitude, expectations and measures of success.

Last year I started the year in a funk, not feeling well, and fed up with myself, with being sick and frankly with running my business.  Being in martyr mode, I felt people did not appreciate my efforts and I was burning out. Fast.

Fortunately I gave myself a shake, and got my mojo back. Now, it is a different picture.  I am well, feeling positive and the outlook is too.  Your attitude truly does determine your altitude.

But too often I have let other people’s attitudes and behaviour negatively impact and disappoint me. Sometimes people act and react in a way that seems dismissive, rejecting, or unethical but I am learning that while I may take it personally, so often it is nothing to do with me at all. As one wise person said  “Just because you feel it, doesn’t mean it’s true.” 

What was true for me was the demise of my magazine, Company, which I’d been struggling to make financially viable. With the changes in the economy, the number of advertisers were dwindling.  Yet, I carried on in blind faith, hoping that a financial miracle would turn it around.  Eventually sanity prevailed and I pulled the plug, and while it felt like failure at the time, I have come to appreciate that publishing a professional magazine for four years is a success.

So often we undervalue or don’t celebrate our successes, so in September when Company of Women turned ten, we held a birthday party, showing a video that captured the highlights of the past nine years. It made me realize how far we have come and that we need to celebrate each success, no matter how small.

Part of it is to avoid the numbers game.  As someone who puts on events, it can be all too easy to get caught up in measuring success by the number of people who attend, yet if what you are offering makes a difference for just one person, it is worthwhile.

And so as I move forward in 2013 I want to redefine what success means to me. It is more that we have a positive impact, helping women realize their potential and we make a difference.