Traffic Patterns

Weekends are good. And they never seem to be long enough. But I found myself in an interesting chain of events on Sunday morning. I left the house to get some Starbucks. At that point, it really was a need and not just a want. I headed to my normal shop, but was bothered by the long line. It has a really bad parking lot and at that point you couldn’t even get into the lot. So I decided to go down the street to just find the next one. It is Starbucks after all. There was bound to be another one in a few miles. And as I expected, they did not let me down. This detour took me to an area that I don’t normally go (as it is on the OTHER side of the highway). Not that it is a bad area. It’s actually quite nice…it’s just not in my normal traffic pattern.

It was interesting though because I had not been in that area for probably close to a year or so. I noticed all the new development they were having (of which Starbucks was one of). They have a new Sprouts Farmers Market (www.sprouts.com) that I was excited about. Again, this is only a few miles from my house, and on a direct path. Whereas the other closest Sprouts location is nowhere near convenient to me and way out of my normal path. I also found myself near a particular grocery store that carried an item that I really like. It had been recently introduced to me by a friend at a Book Club meeting, but again, that grocery store is not in any of my normal traffic patterns (and it is a store branded item) so I had not had the opportunity to have them again. HALLELUJAH! I could not pass up that opportunity! And let me just say that that grocery store has grown up! I was impressed with the offerings and the layout.

By now, I have had enough caffeine in me to be the nice and loving mother that my family knows (HA!) so I decided to pick them up some breakfast. I drove back into my town to go to my normal breakfast stop and was disappointed to discover yet another long and crazy line there. (It must have been the time change because normally people just aren’t out and about during this time!!) Because there is a line forming behind me and this has yet another bad parking lot, I decide to pull forward so that I could just go in to the establishment. Well, unfortunately this location has diverted the drive through traffic to COMPLETELY block off the entrance from dine-in customers that want to enter the lot from that entrance. So, I go around the building (muttering under my breath – ok, maybe out loud) and consider my options. I argue with myself that this is what happens when you don’t have a plan and that is why I always have a plan. I reluctantly decide to go to another establishment and call the family to see what they want. I placed my order and got distracted and missed my opportunity to pay at the screen. So when the team member brought me my food, I felt horrible, and apologized because I knew she would have to go back inside to process my payment. I also needed a drink carrier and some condiments and I just felt awful knowing that she was going to be frustrated. To my surprise, she was not bothered at all. She was happy to take care of the payment inside and get the other things I needed. She was just so pleasant that I was stunned.

I say all this because it made me think. How many times do we allow our normal “traffic patterns” dictate the people and places that we run into? I had absolutely NO intention of being gone that long or going to all those places. But for once, I understood that beauty of not having a plan and taking a detour. It allowed me to discover some new places and new people. I wonder if that is how it is in the business world. Is that what stifles innovation? Is that what decreases the size of the talent pool? Is that why results do not improve? Maybe we need to consider changing our traffic patterns…

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Quote: Good News

Everyone has inside of her a piece of good news. The good news is that you don’t know how great you can be! How much you can love! What you can accomplish! And what your potential is! – Anne Frank.

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WFF 2012: Why Settle for the Balcony?

Our second of the three educational sessions to cascade information from the 2012 WFF Annual Leadership Conference was based on the session with Marilyn Sherman (@FrontRowGirl) – “Why Settle for the Balcony?: How to Get a Front-Row Seat in Life!”  Marilyn talked about the “balcony view” vs. the “front row view”. Sure, from the balcony you get to see the picture and see all that is going on. But in the front row – that is where the action happens. That is where you can engage with one another. She wants us to stop waiting for the opportunities to just happen. We should take a front row seat in our lives (both personal and professional) and not to wait for others to just give us their seat.

So…here we go.  What are your thoughts about “Why Settle for the Balcony”?  Marilyn talked about setting goals, taking risks, assisting others, being thankful for what you have, and taking action to get you to your front row seat. She talks about having strategic people in place to help you along the way and you doing that for others. Think about it. Who is your “usher”? Who are you “ushering”? What does the view from your front row seat look like?

If you have not done so already, be sure to check out Marilyn’s website http://www.marilynsherman.com/ and follow her on Twitter at @FrontRowGirl.

No more CHEAP seats!

(If you missed the blog about our first session, check it out here.)

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WFF 2012: Release Your Brilliance

My company had a strong presence at the 2012 Women’s Foodservice Forum Annual Leadership Conference earlier this year. While it is always a great honor and learning opportunity for those that attend conferences like this, there is always the challenge as to how to bring the content back to those at the office that were not able to attend. This year my company took that challenge head on and organized a group of volunteers that attended the conference and had them decide what they felt the key takeaways were. They then broke out into groups to decide how they would present each topic. This resulted in a series of 3 cascades lead by 3 different groups that involved video conferencing as well as virtual attendees that were able to join the sessions world wide. What a great use of the money spent for those that attended, leadership and development opportunities for those that volunteered to cascade the information, and great use of technology to bring the women (and a few men) in our organization together to promote leadership in women!

The first of the three cascade sessions was focused on the content shared by Simon Bailey and how to “Release your Brilliance”.  I did not have an opportunity to see Simon in person at WFF but I have seen him at other events and let me just say he is AMAZING.  I was actually in a group with him at People Report Summer Camp where we wrote a song together (but THAT is another story!).    His laugh is contagious and he really engages with the audience. 

In keeping with the idea of having the “laser focus” that Simon T. Bailey spoke about to Aspire Higher, check him out on Twitter, his website, and his books and let me know what you think. What are you thoughts about “Release your Brilliance”?  How do you plan to embrace your inner Sparkle and release your Brilliance?  What is that Sparkle?  How will others see it?

If you have not done so already, be sure to check out Simon’s website www.simontbailey.com and follow him on Twitter at @SimonTBailey and/or @SimonSaysShift .

Special KUDOS to my male co-worker who joined us for the session. It’s great to see the support from males in the organization but think about how it will also help them coach and develop females on their teams. Way to be BRILLIANT!

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Job Seeker #8675309

I recently had a recruiter call me regarding an opportunity they thought I might be interested in.  After this call, I got to experience firsthand how important the candidate experience is…even at the very early stages before they know who the hiring company is.

The recruiter did call me on my cell and ask if it was a good time to talk.

                Thank you for that. It is not always convenient for the candidate to take a call from a recruiter due to where they are at, who they are around, or their schedule.

When he introduced himself, he spoke so fast that I couldn’t understand his name the first time.  When I started to ask him (politely) to repeat it…he didn’t even slow down and take a breathe so I could ask him to repeat it.

                Either he was really nervous or just repeating a script that he has said over and over again and wasn’t really interested in a conversation.

He gave no information as to how he came across my contact information – he just cut to the chase…the job.

                While my information is in no way private, it would be nice to know how he came to me if it was a referral, LinkedIn, Twitter, white pages, etc.

In our VERY brief exchange (specifically not called a conversation) he asked:

  • How long have I been at my  current company – 5 Years
  • Do I work full-time – yes
  • Am I actively searching for a job – no
  • Would I consider a 6-12 month temporary job – NO!

If it wasn’t bad enough that I didn’t feel like he was really listening to what I was saying or if he knew anything about me (other than my name and phone number), we then had the next exchange.

  • How would you feel about a position in “certain city”?

I said “Well, it’s a little far for my preferred commute. It would be about an hour or more in traffic.”

  • He then says “Well according to Google, it is only 18 miles from where you are now.  I don’t see how that would be that long of a commute”.

Ok. So let me get this right. This recruiter called me. He clearly did not know much about my current employment details. He did not consider the fact that a) I was not actively looking for a job and b) because of that, leaving my current job does not make any sense for a temporary position.  But then, he knew ENOUGH about me to argue the commute time of a geography that he is obviously not familiar with.

Then to top it off, later on I realize that he had sent me an email about 15 minutes before he called me. The email was a form letter with his name and the position in “red” font.  The email states that he found my “resume on a major job board” – but addressed the email as “Dear Sir/Mam”. (really, Mam not Ma’am)

While I am not in a recruiting function, I have some experience with this and have MANY friends in the field and I know that this experience is not one that would be considered “stellar”.  In no way was this recruiter attempting to build a relationship with me, determine if it was the right fit (for either the company or me), or even paying attention.  So I have 2 thoughts:

Recruiters – Please consider the job seeker as more than just an opportunity to increase your number of hires.  Any “good” hire is worth getting to know and understand a least a little bit about the candidate. You represent your clients and your level of professionalism reflects on them. If you professionalism is lacking I can’t imagine that your number of hires is high.

Job Seekers – Please know that there are recruiters and companies that really are concerned about getting the right person in the right place at the right time.  There really is no need to engage with somebody that does any less than that. There is too much information available through technology now for recruiters to not know anything more than your name and phone number. If that is the case, your placement is only a dollar sign to them – nothing more.

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Another Social Networking Site???

I recently joined yet another social networking site.  Not that I needed to be part of yet another social community, but because I was a concerned parent.  When we began to allow our children to participate in online social communities I had two foundational rules: “I had to have an account on the site and I had to be in their “network”.  At first the rules were put in place because I had not figured out this new world of “social networks” and wanted to learn the what, who, and why’s.  Second, I wanted to have visibility to the online activity so I could help protect them, monitor their behavior, and have another avenue to connect with them.

Needless to say, I was a little disappointed when I discovered that one of my children was actively participating in a network called “myYearbook” without my knowledge.  I was not familiar with this community so I wanted to see what it was all about.  Here are my observations:

  • The site advertises itself on the About page, as a place to “Play games, flirt and free video chat with people near you. Meet new people and make friends with free webcam chat.”

REALLY? A place to flirt? With “yearbook” in the name, I would think that this is a site targeted to a younger crowd that would not NEED on online location to flirt.  This makes it sound more like a teen dating site.  Do we really need and want an online dating service for our teenagers?  I get that “yearbook” can apply to all levels of education up and through college – but I just am not comfortable with “flirting” as a mission with a name like this. 

You are also able to earn “Lunch Money” by participating in various aspects of the site.  Again – “lunch money”?  Who are we appealing to here?  This seems to be target younger members. Why?  Why would a teen who relates to “lunch money” want or need to interact with a 40 year old that is trying to earn their “lunch money”?

  • Since joining, I have received 40+ “friend requests.  Of those, 39 were male and 1 was female.

The first 2 requests I immediately received were from the 2 creators of the site (1 being female).  Ok. I get that. A la “Tom” from MySpace. Then right behind that I get an unsolicited request for a video chat from a male. Hello? Desperate? It also became VERY clear that either the community members do not read or don’t care to read the details of my bio.  

What part of that says to the males “please connect with me regardless of your age and I am really impressed with names like “Da Thrill”?”

  • On the positive side, the site allows you to login with your Facebook account – which makes you believe that only kids 13 years old or older are able to join.  It also does state in the terms and conditions “YOU MAY NOT ACCESS OR IN ANY WAY MAKE USE OF MYYEARBOOK UNLESS YOU ARE AT LEAST A FRESHMAN IN HIGH SCHOOL AND 13 YEARS OLD.”

We all know that there are plenty of kids on Facebook that are not 13 years or older. (Guilty!)  However, does a 13 year old really need an online site to flirt?  Not comfortable AT ALL with that!!!

So, why did I join and why did I choose to blog about this since I obviously do not feel that I “fit in” in myYearbook?

  • I joined to understand how the site worked .
  • I joined to monitor my child’s behavior and interactions.

Notice that both of these were reasons I joined MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, etc.

  • I blogged about it because I am not sure that other parents around me are aware of this site.  Parents really need to be involved and be aware of how the methods of how our kids communicate are continuously evolving.  We have a responsibility to ensure that they are protected and being respectful online.  It is too easy to hide behind a user name and an avatar.
  • I blogged about it – not in an effort to try to shut it down or censor it, but instead to point out that not EVERYBODY needs to join EVERY social network.  There are some that will be a natural fit for your expectations and there are others (many more….) that won’t.

If you are a parent and you haven’t asked your kids what social networks they are members of, you need to do so…now.  If you know they are on Facebook, but haven’t asked about others, you need to do so…now.  If you haven’t explored the world of social networks, you need to do so…NOW.  You can’t just ignore it and hope it will go away.  You can’t just ignore it and assume your child is behaving in a manner that you would approve of.  Even if you choose not to have an account (which is perfectly fine), you do need to understand how they work and understand the basic terminology so you can have open conversations with your child.

Needless to say, parenting continues to be THE toughest job of all.

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Stepping Up

I had the pleasure of hearing Dr. John Izzo speak at the People Report Best Practices Conference in Dallas this fall. You don’t always walk away from a meeting and remember specifics from a presenter – but he is one of them. His take on “100% responsibility and 0 excuses” is thought (and action) provoking.

I have to admit that when I was asked to consider taking this challenge, I was a little intimidated. I wanted to be sure that I could make a difference. I wanted to be sure that it was a worthy cause. I wanted to be sure that I could sustain the passion to see it through. But after watching this video, I felt all that anxiety go away. It reminded me that ANYONE can make a difference. The plan doesn’t have to be perfect. And all it takes is to start…just start.

So, take a moment to watch this video and see if you would like to join us in Stepping Up.

#StepUp30Day

If you are on Twitter, follow @DrJohnIzzo and join the #StepUp30Day tweetathon on Jan 4th. It’s a great opportunity to share your story, to support others, and get inspired.

I still haven’t decided how I will be Stepping Up exactly, but I am looking forward to engaging with others to be inspired and to make a difference!

Visit http://www.steppingupforchange.com for more information.

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Admin to Assistant – Efficiencies

As I continue to look back over the last 5 years, I consider how I have changed the way that I work.  In moving from Admin to Assistant you have to evaluate your body of work.  Is it mostly paper pushing with antiquated ideas and tools about how an office should run?  If so, how can you provide greater impact by introducing new tools and ideas?  Some of the principles that we operate from are found in the book, “Business Beyond the Box” by John O’Keeffe.  One of them talks about moving from “activity to action”.  Even though as an Administrative Assistant there are some pieces of our job that are truly administrative, there are opportunities to look at more efficient processes that continue to provide what is needed, but then also free up time to provide more value.  While we may not have a clear-cut path to contributing to the bottom line, we support those that do and we can create ways that allow them to take more action.

Think about available technology.  In our roles, we are often the keeper of data.  Many companies have multiple systems that house the same data.  As Admins, we are often responsible for maintaining the accuracy of that data.  One of the hardest (and most time-consuming) pieces of data I find is contact information.  In most companies there is a payroll system that keeps contact information.  You would hope that this is the most accurate and up to date data as most employees will be sure that payroll knows how to get their money to them, right?  With technology advances, most also have an intranet or internal directory that houses…yep, contact information.  We also have contact information that is housed within the email system, and don’t forget about the contact information that we all keep in our (multiple) mobile devices.  While most companies do not have systems that cleanly “talk” to each other, most have a functionality that allows data to be exported and imported.

Look at your role.  How many different places do you have to go to update a person’s address?  Is there a need for you to do that manually?  Or is there a system (or 2) that you can take advantage of an export feature?  What about the time that is spent to “pretty up” the data?  Is that massaging of the data really necessary or is it simply a way to look at the same data in a different way?  Consider how much time, energy, and effort could be directed somewhere else if you weren’t having to rearrange data into a different format.  Does it really matter what a contact list looks like?  Does your team really carry around a paper copy of that information?  Why?  Are they accessing the information electronically?  If so, can they access it from the original source or as an output from the source?  Are you enabling an antiquated process by continuing to do things as they have always been done? 

If you look at this as it relates to business, leadership, and innovation; are we encouraging behavior that will move the product, brand, company, and economy forward?  It may be a stretch, but if we continue to hold on to processes of the past, where does that position us for the future?  As you move from Admin to Assistant, you can evaluate current processes to see if there are more efficient ways that save time and resources that allow focus to be applied to other matters that contribute to the success of the business.  It may only be 1 thing in the beginning.  But as everyone gets used to the new process it may inspire the thought process to look at things differently and to find more applications to utilize existing technology with better results.

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5 Year Milestone

Well.  I did it!  I made it 5 years with my current company.  YAHOO!!  I got the pin and catalog to order the blender as proof!

I do believe this the longest time I have spent with one company.  I have mixed emotions about that fact.  It’s great that I have spent that much time with the same organization and I feel really good about it.  But, I also have that voice in my head that says in today’s business environment, 5 years is too long (especially with the same job title) and would say that it’s time for a change.

SPECIAL NOTE:  To all my coworkers, do not read this as Tracy is looking to leave (as that is not the case).  PLEASE!!!!  I like my paycheck:-)

It’s just that this milestone has made me think about these past 5 years.  Even though I have had the same job title over this span of time, the job has certainly changed.  I have had 3 different supervisors, spanned 2 different departments, and have moved offices.  I have worked with some really great teams and individuals.  I have made some real friends – not just coworkers.  I have seen some of those friends and coworkers leave.  I left my comfort zone and ventured outside the four walls and connected with amazing business and industry leaders through various events and organizations.  I have grown both personally and professionally.

I believe the biggest change has been in how I work and the role that I play.  I feel like even though my job title is “Administrative Assistant”, I believe that I have moved from Admin to Assistant.  No longer is the role that I play one that runs, prints, and organizes reports, make travel arrangements, answer phones, and manage calendars.   While I still do some resemblance of those very important tasks, these are not the tasks that my supervisor, my team, and I find the most value, inspiration, and impact from.  I have found that some of greatest value and impact that I can provide is by being a true assistant, partner, connector, and voice.

I think this may be a real missing piece in business today.  When asked, most will say that it really is the Admin that runs the office, but I wonder if they have really harnessed that power.  In my next few blog posts I will be looking at this.  I encourage you to set aside the image that you may have in your head of what an Admin does.  Forget about the coffee fetching (arsenic loaded) Dolly Parton character in 9 to 5.  Forget about the “special favor” long legged, high heel wearing, perky assistant (why does Monica Lewinsky come to mind….).  While some of that sadly still exists today, open your mind to what a skilled, intelligent, business minded, thought leader assistant can bring to you, your team, your brand, your organization.

In the meantime, is that 1 lump or 2 you would like with your coffee?

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Porn Star and Elementary Kids

Feels like one of those “which one of these don’t belong” games. By now, most have heard about retired porn star, Sasha Grey, volunteering with an organization to read to school kids. When I started hearing the news bits about this, I couldn’t figure out how I felt about it. Initially I felt the moral obligation to be outraged and disgusted, but I knew I needed more information. Thankfully the media did not fail me! This was a news piece on all the major television networks, news websites, and fodder for talk shows. She actually visited The View and discussed the issue with those ladies.

First, let me say that Sasha represented herself well.  She didn’t make excuses for her past occupation, nor did she present this as an effort to have 1 good deed cancel out numerous “bad” deeds. She seemed very genuine about her desire to volunteer within the community and to make a positive impact. She dressed appropriately, read appropriate materials, and did not discuss any inappropriate subjects.  So for me, it boils down to two things: second chances and what’s appropriate.

Does Sasha need a second chance? Has she been convicted of breaking any laws? Is she doing court ordered community service? (Sounds more like LL). From what I have read about Sasha, it doesn’t appear so. She has done other non-porn projects like being in Entourage and writing a book. So, what’s all the fuss about?  Maybe it’s more about the possible shame and embarrassment that the PARENTS feel out of fear that they are all too familiar with Sasha. Besides, SOMEBODY had to know who she was to complain, right?

I do have to wonder what her publicist and manager were thinking. She has been retired for about two years. Maybe it is a little too soon to be pushing her down our throats as a respectable member of society. It may have made more sense for her to volunteer at a soup kitchen, homeless shelter, or for PETA in an “I’d rather be naked add”. (She could take the heat off of Super Mario Bros then…)

Is this an example of the thought that the Y Generation seems to believe they can always push “reset”.  Articles about Gen Y talk about the belief that in life they are able to press reset just as on a video game when things aren’t going well and you can just start over.  I think there is a difference between this and second chances. I believe that authentic second chances are out of the desire to right a wrong or change directions.  It’s not about just trying to attain a higher score.

This all makes me think about how accepting we are of second chances with ourselves, family, friends, coworkers, employees, and even candidates.  We are often very critical of second chances; but I think that is because we have trouble getting over the events of the first chance.  Even though it is very challenging to go through failures and setbacks, it is how we respond that defines who we are.  While “Failure is not an option” has a very strong (and good) sentiment behind it, I am not sure that we grow as individuals without failure.  Maybe it is all a matter of reframing it in our minds as a learning experience and a chance to improve (be if for ourselves or others). 

I whole heatedly agree in second chances and creating a new brand image…but doing so in an appropriate manner.  Look at Heidi Fleiss.  She is now working with Animal Planet and caring for rare birds. This is a little odd – but at least we know the birds would talk if Charlie Sheen came to inquire about a “transaction”.  So my suggestions for Sasha: 1) maybe go by your legal name given to you at birth and 2) find a volunteering organization that won’t put you in these awkward positions (you retired from that after all).

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