Thursday, November 26, 2015

Do your values define your business?

When you say someone is professional, what do you mean?  We had quite the discussion about this at one of our meetings this week, when two profs from University of Guelph came to ask our opinion.

Knowing they were coming, I’d actually given the topic some thought and found it interesting, that it was far easier for me to come up with what is unprofessional – like being late for a meeting, neglecting to say thank you when you’ve received some help,    being indiscreet, or crossing boundaries from professional to personal.

When we delved into this further, there was much conversation about social media,  and Facebook in particular, being the downfall of some folks, who reveal and share way too much personal information, and thereby diminish their standing and regard by others.   Employers just have to check out their Facebook page, and jobs are lost or careers railroaded.

So what does professional behaviour look like?  We felt it was about respect, and not just how you treat people, but the environment and how you communicate with others.
It’s about follow up – delivering on your promises.  It’s having and holding true to a high standard in your career. It’s acknowledging the contributions of others.  And it’s also how you show up in the world – as a person and yes, in how you dress.

The consensus was that Casual Friday has done nothing to enhance the professionalism in the workplace.  In fact, someone remarked that we’ve lost our sense of occasion – when we’d dress up to go out for dinner or a birthday party.

This whole dialogue was a prelude to our next topic – one on values and how our values impact and need to reflect our brand.  Two fairly connected topics in a way, as both hold us to our intentions and as women, often our need to be authentic.

But values are not something we likely give much thought to as we embark on this world of entrepreneurship, and yet we can quickly discover that they impact what we do and won’t do within our business.  It therefore behooves us to think and reflect on what values we hold close and which would be deal-breakers.

I know for myself integrity, honesty, respect and ethical behaviour are all strong values for me and I’ve been in situations when that line has been crossed, and I’ve had to make tough decisions.  In one instance, I quit the project because I did not want to be part of what, in my view,  was unethical.   On another occasion I ended a business partnership as I didn’t like the way she treated my team.

But the other part of digging deep on your values, is that they may well be the deciding factor for a potential client on why they want to go with you, rather than someone else.  So your marketing, your brand and your website presence needs to convey what you hold near and dear.

How do you do that?  By using the words that describe your values in your marketing materials.  By being the leader and role modeling your values to others.  For example, if giving back is important to you, showcase what you do in the community to make a difference.  Have giving back be an integral part of your website. Foster it in your employees – give them time off to volunteer.  Involve them in your philanthropic activities.

We covered a lot of ground in two hours, and I know we all left with plenty to think about, and to do in terms working authentically, professionally and with integrity within our businesses.  

Self-awareness is important – it’s time well-spent.  I encourage you to delve in and reflect. Ask yourself about your values?  How do you convey them to the world, and are you true to them?  What does professional mean to you?

Let us know, it would be fun to keep this dialogue going.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Are you OK?

that was my subject line in my email to my friend.

Thing is, how often do we check in with one another, let alone with ourselves?  We’re all so busy going here and there; attending that event, dashing off to another, that we can forget to ask or not notice that a friend seems a bit distracted or down.   We’re on auto-pilot.

But somehow the stress and sense of overwhelm can seep through to our everyday lives, and we can find ourselves on a fast track to being burned out.  Been there, done that, still have the T shirt.  In fact, truth be, I likely should be wearing it right now.  It’s been a hectic fall.

Part of it I think is we take on too much, and then when we realize that we have, we don’t want to let anyone down, so we honour our commitments.  However, there can be an expensive price tag to be paid if we continue despite the warning signs.  Or perhaps we have some difficult decisions and choices to make, as we take our lives in a different direction.  Contrary to the media, I don’t think we can have it all.

I know when I am over-stretched.  I get a tad tetchy, a little impatient and start to take stuff too personally.  

With the holiday season fast approaching, the pressure is on.  Not only do we have to get our usual stuff done, but we have to fit in all the gift buying, wrapping and delivering.  I don’t know who does what in your household, but the buck stops here.  I do the “Santa” bit in our family.

I can just hear you… she needs to chill.  I know but my point is that don’t think I am alone.  In fact, I know I am not.   As women we tend to take it all on and there comes a breaking point, when enough is enough, or we get sick.

So check in with your friends.  Check in with yourself.   How are you doing?  What can you do to slow down?  Is there something you can delegate, forget and leave out this year?  Does everything have to be perfect or can you let some things drop?

Perhaps your business has evolved and become something beyond what you thought.  Is this what you want, and if it isn’t, how can you change it so it fits with where you are at right now?

At the end of the day, it is all about choices.  And often we have more choices than we think.  We don’t have to feel boxed in.  We can choose to opt out rather than opt in.  

So for December, I am taking my chill pill.  I am slowing down the pace and maybe then I will enjoy it all more.  What about you?  Are you OK?

Thursday, November 12, 2015

When an ending is really just the beginning...

I’d started to write my blog this week when I realized I was falling into a trap that I’ve often warned my blogging students to avoid –

1.  Trying to do too much with one blog

2.  Not working out ahead of time what my 
     key messages are

3.  Not offering a tangible lesson to my readers

Bad. My bad, as they say these days.  I think much of it is that my mind is swirling. 

I have spent much of my time of late focusing on the One Red Lipstick book, and last week it was lovingly sent on its way to be published.

While that is super exciting, and there is a sense of accomplishment, part of me doesn’t quite know what to do next.  So many hours have been devoted to the book, so it is hard to pick up the pieces and continue with the rest of my work.

Plus sending the book to be published is just a milestone.  I know that.  It’s the first of many as we move along and start to work on getting the book out there.  As any writer/editor will tell you – producing the book is the easy part, selling the book is a whole other issue.

So what’s my message here?  Good question. 

1.              Remember to pat yourself on the back when you’ve completed a project that involved time in the making. 

2.              Pause, and before you leap into the next task, take stock on what you’ve done and what you’ve accomplished so far.

3.              Thank those who have helped you reach this stage, because rarely is it a solo effort, others have helped make it happen.  In our case, particularly the 24 women who have shared their inspiring stories.

Sometimes people act as a catalyst not fully knowing just what they are starting, and in this case, Spenser Chapple has spearheaded a whole new movement through which women get the opportunity to be real, authentic and vulnerable and are not judged for being so.  We all need role models and Spenser found them for us.

There.  Did I do it?  I hope so because there has been much to learn from this experience – both professionally and personally. 

I am not the same person who started out on this project eighteen months ago. Apart from anything else, I now wear red lipstick :)  

Seriously,  I’ve learned a lot about myself and what I love to do.   So I thank Spenser for this opportunity and for trusting me to deliver her baby – the One Red Lipstick book.  Watch for its delivery on International Women’s Day.  And stay tuned for the documentary which will be following in May.  

Thursday, November 05, 2015

You've got mail

I wish I had.  

But these days people communicate with me in so many different ways, which I find makes it harder to track communication and time consuming as you have to check not just your inbox, but LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. And then there’s those who text.

Personally I prefer to get an email in my inbox as that way I can have a paper trail whereas with Facebook, for example, the message space is SO small, it is hard often to see, read or send a message back.  Or maybe that’s just my aging eyesight.

As for Twitter – why would you want to message someone with just 140 characters?? While I believe we should be brief and to the point… this is over the top.  Although, having said that, I did that very thing this week, but only because that seemed to be the only known address I had for the individual in terms of reaching her.

LinkedIn at least allows you more space, but to be honest I don’t check my messages there on a regular basis, so if someone is trying to connect with me and needs an immediate response, they could be out of luck.

The other challenge is trying to remember which way others want to connect with you. Several on my team only use Facebook messenger so if I need to get hold of them, sending an email is a waste of time.

So just to be clear … if you want to get hold of me … email is the method of communication of choice.  And if it is super-urgent, you can always go the old-fashioned route – and phone meJ