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December 2011

November 2011

Don't take a holiday during the holidays

Taking a break from networking during the holidays is so dumb. I understand that people get overwhelmed with events, gatherings, obligations and shopping! But the best time to look for a job, make connections, reconnect, and strengthen EXISTING relationships is during the holidays. Why? Because, you will see, be with, and be around lots of people. People who you care about and who care about you.

 

Isn't that awkward? To mix business and pleasure?

 

You gotta be kidding. Still think the world works in distinctly separate worlds of personal and professional? Wake up and smell the egg nog!

 

The collision between the personal and professional is where new opportunities and ideas are generated. Make the most out of it.

 

After WHAT you know it is WHO you know. And WHO you help.

 

Networking is the process of connecting and conversing. It is not just getting the stuff or the job. It is the wonderful process of discovering things through others. It is the rewarding process of helping others. It is not just the tunnel vision stalking for a specific goal. Yes, you have very specific goals or needs, and networking helps you pursue them, but it also leads to the unintended and unanticipated. Getting desired results by accident---that's serendipity!

 

Yes I know you are busy and this is a busy season.

 

If you want something done ask a busy person. The more things you do, the more things you can do.  Lucille Ball

  

Busy times are the best times for things to happen. But don't get so busy with the chores that you miss the chances --the chances to connect. Don't rush past the reasons you are so busy.

 

For example, holiday cards are a nice way to reconnect--assuming you write something in them! I find it almost laughable that people send a card with their pre-printed name and nothing else. No photo, not letter, nothing personal. Like an unsmiling face that says in a monotone voice, "Nice to meet you." In my opinion that informationless card tells me I am just part of the masses--another undifferentiated recipient of a bulk mailing. I think some catalogues can be warmer and fuzzier. :)

 

Chicago_-_sholiday cardI have oft quoted the BYU marketing study where nearly 600 people were sent Xmas cards at random from the Chicago telephone book--the next year more than 20% sent cards back to a person they never met! That's how personal holiday cards can be! That's how robotic we are!

 

So if we choose to build our network with cardboard using impersonal holiday cards, not getting out to visit people, avoiding personal conversations and contact, then your network will be flimsy and weak.

 

Some people think of their network as an attic full of memories and previously useful things. They rustle through the "boxes" of these forgotten contacts when they need something.  Your network is not just a Rolodex of names, a lengthy list of friends on FB or even a collection of business cards. It is an organism, a living thing that needs nurturing and care.

 

This holiday season, make a special point to connect, engage and listen. Reconnect with people you like and care about. Even if it has been a long time. Make a personal effort to communicate and lend a hand.

  • Write a personal note and suggest you get together
  • Deliver a gift or card in person
  • Go to that extra holiday event to reconnect with old friends and meet new people
  • Host an event or two and invite some close and or new friends over.
  • Enjoy the holidays with others

So instead of resting I am saying do a little more. Get a little uncomfortable and push yourself to have more holiday presence. --Not more stressed but more connected.

The holidays are an extraordinary time to advance your goals and the goals of others. Don't take time off and don't say you are too busy.

 

The holidays are not a time to isolate yourself, but rather an excuse to deepen our sense of community and connection.

 

Thanks for reading. John


Do yourself a favor, say YES!

As we approach another week of turkey and thankfulness, we pause to reflect on the time, challenges and blessings we all have had. It is a wonderful time to be with family and appreciate what we have.

 

How do we directly convey our appreciation to those who deserve it? People in our present, people from our past? People who help us routinely and people who set you on the right path? But is saying "thanks" enough? Well, it is a very important start.

 

If you are truly grateful, repay them with an offer of unconditional support. How can I help YOU? Make an unsolicited offer to do them a favor. I do believe that reciprocity is the most powerful form of exchange. Ask people how you can help them. I am not talking about a well maintained ledger of give and get. I am suggesting that you need to repay what you have received with an act of generosity. Make sense?Yes

 

Here's the lesson: People said "Yes" to you. They agreed to help you, guide you, and get you what you needed. Without their willingness to say YES, you would not be where you are.

 

For many years one of my many new year's resolutions was to " to say "NO" more often, to decline "opportunities" and favors, so I could focus on "priorities". It was one of my early career efforts to be more focused on time management. I naively thought I could and should control what happened to me. That the word "NO" would protect me from bad things that would undermine my grand plan and my mission. Once I learned that the only thing I controlled was my ignorance, I was free. So I abandoned it as a goal when I realized, what a negative thought it is. Saying YES is good. Being open and positive is so much more important to me than the alternative.

 

It is a a universal truth that you attract to your life what you give time, attention and focus--positive and negative. Say YES to the positive!

 

The word YES has helped me experience the flow of life that comes my way. It opened my eyes, my heart and my mind to new ideas, people, careers, and opportunities. Most important, it helped me become stronger and better as a person!

 

In writing this, a friend shared this link with me. Sasha Dichter of Acumen Fund conducted an experiment of just saying YES for 30 days--the generosity experiment.

 

Warning: for you literalists, I am not talking about hedonism, your unhealthful habits or illegal activity. :) Talking about helping each other.

 

If you talk to my assistants over the years, certainly my wife, they will concur that my inclination to say YES and agree to things can seem random and overwhelming.

 

I sometimes get used and abused--that is a risk. Some say I am a sucker, others generous. I never regret it.

 

Saying YES, and agreeing to do people favors is the currency of karmic capitalists. You learn that the more you say YES the more you get. What goes around comes around and usually it is a quick trip! Not driven by material gains or things, but experiences, new people, perspective, self awareness, getting out of your comfort zone and most important feeling good about who you are! Doing good begets good.

  

Saying YES becomes a frame of mind. And we all know that to change the game we have to change the frame!

 

So easy to say NO! 

 

One of the first words our kids learn after "Dada", is "NO". Why? because we say it so often. 

 

The YES philosophy has many consequences. It takes some time and effort to fulfill and deliver on your favors you say YES to. But the upside and return to you is 10x the "cost". Say YES to:

  • Meeting with people to discuss ideas
  • References
  • Job searches
  • Informational interviews
  • Resume reviews

Try to avoid the delusion that saying NO is more disciplined and focused as I once did. Try saying YES often if not all of the time. And your heart, your mind, and your soul will gain energy, rhythm, understanding and satisfaction.  

 

Express your gratitude by doing others favors. Do yourself a favor, say YES!

 

Thanks for reading. John


Innocence of the Bystander

Witnesses to tragedies, crimes, and unethical behavior are never innocent. They are changed by what they see even if they avert their eyes, minds, and consciences. Seeing and hearing bad things alters you, especially if you don't do something to stop, mitigate or report the event or behavior. Each time we "allow" something to pass as acceptable when we are offended, makes us a little more tolerant of such things. Over time a little callous can start to build up on our heart and our moral compass and we let more things pass without intervention. Initially we ask ourselves, "Should I have done something?"  or "What else could I have done?" Later, we can rationalize, "Maybe its me." "I don't want to be the only one who complains." Innocent bystander


Psychologists have tried to explain this phenomena:

1. The diffusion of responsibility: a bystander assumes that someone else has or will take action.
2. Pluralistic Ignorance: an individual looks around the group and because no one is doing anything to help, they assume that no one else perceives there to be an issue

In other words, "someone ELSE will or should do something."

"If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other."  Mother Teresa

The Penn State allegations remind us all about our duties as a bystander. No one has been found guilty but heads are rolling. People allegedly saw horrific things and nothing was done. Children may have been seriously harmed. (the average pedophile molests 100-200 children, so the 8 victims may be the tip of the iceberg) An entire community will suffer and a university will be tarnished for years because of the inaction of a few. All in the name of football. Schoolroom teachers and medical personnel are obligated to report abuse if the suspect it. Military academies and other educational institutions uphold a code of ethics where if you witness cheating, you are a cheater--unless you come forward. We will not lie, steal, or cheat, nor tolerate among us anyone who does. And not coming forward can be grounds for dismissal. But coaches, executives, priests, and others can view themselves as above the law.

Selfishness and self preservation prevent us from taking chances, from making changes, and from ruffling feathers/rocking the boat. When we place ourselves above the welfare of others, that's when the conflict occurs. It is a survival instinct. However, when that instinct interferes with the rationalization of crimes, especially crimes that physically harm others--children--all innocence is lost!

What would it take for you to step in and get involved? What level of harm, potential harm, suspected harm will make you act?

Tattle tales, snitches, stool pigeons have always been vilified. Upholding the honor amongst thieves seems to be a powerful moral prophylactic. But this is not about just whistle blowing, this about how we act upon our human instinct to assist an other.

As Americans we think that we are the most generous people on earth. We are quick to judge other cultures, China most recently, who appear less sensitive or even do things we find violating our sense of decency. Regrettably, we Americans do not have a corner on the market of "Thy Neighbor's Keeper." While we invented Neighborhood Watch, the Welcome Wagon and even foundation philanthropy, Penn State is an example that we are not always responsive or respectful of the needs of others.

I love these Liberty Mutual ads. The idea that we should help strangers. That helping others is contagious and sets off a chain reaction of good deeds. One thing is certain, when you see good being done it creates a model of behavior. Everyone wants to help others. Seeing is believing. That is the power of role modeling and mentoring.

After the children who may have been injured, the assasination of the moral example and leadership of Penn State coaches and executives may be the second biggest victim on the Happy Valley campus. When leaders and mentors fall from grace, who or what fills that void? Communities of all sizes and shapes thrive when they have mentors and role models. In Malcolm Gladwell's Tipping Point, he discusses the studies that have shown that a community stabilizes when it has 5% of its population as role models. Just 5%. The point is, you don't need nor will you ever have everyone as role models. But without them the community de-stabilizes and deteriorates. What happens when some of our top role models fall from grace? Will this void increase or decrease people's desire to help one another and get involved to right wrongs?  

Everyday we are bystanders to the good, the bad, and the ugly. Our innocence will be determined by what we do and how we role model the treatment of others by standing up for what is right and just.

Thanks for reading. John


What color is your network?

Years ago, I was on a career panel with Dick Bolles who wrote arguably the greatest and most important career manual ever, What Color is Your Parachute? This bible of career advice will soon turn 40! And while the title started out as an off the cuff remark to his students, the words "color" and "parachute" took on deeper meanings to his millions of readers.Parachute2

 When I met Mr. Bolles he was in his mid 60's. He talked about career change in ways that have shaped my thinking and my career. He said:

Everything you do should be:

Temporary--Nothing is permanent.

An Adventure--Engages your curiosity and sense of challenge

A Seminar--Learning new things, continuous education with goals

Fulfilling--Helps define your quest for meaning and purpose

I translated this into "A temporary adventure, which continually educates you about your quest for meaning." Love it and live by it!

The whole unintended "parachute" metaphor spawned all kinds of discussions, ideas and important questions:

  • When will you be jumping?
  • Where will you be landing?
  • Are you prepared?
  • Who packed your parachute?

As some of you know, I have "parachuted" a few times in my career. Landings are not always soft. You fall from great heights with at least the perception of danger. I like the idea of landing in new territories and discovering them.The only thing I don't like about the word parachuting is the notion that you are bailing out. I think parachuting may be an escape but it has to be done with intention. 

As an aside, finally completed my bucket list of parasailing, paragliding, gliding, parachuting, and skydiving. Parachuting takes on new meaning!

The best way to be ready to parachute or transition is to have a great network. So I ask, What color is your network?

What does your network look like? Does it look inspirational? Does it meet your  needs? Will it adapt to your changing needs and future interests? Here's what my network literally looks like in Linked in mapsLinked in Map 

 

 

 

 

Linkedin chooses the colors, but the colors denote your networking worlds, past lives, current interests, and even new pursuits. It provides a visual snapshot of who you are connected to and how. Each dot is a person that you can see and click on. Very cool.

 

Visualizing your network helps you evaluate it. Your mind's eye and your ability to only remember 9 people at a time really limits your understanding of your network. Is is it good, good enough, or inadequate? And why?

 

Your network has to be diverse. Not just ethnically, but in terms of point of view, sectors, disciplines, and geography. Without evaluation, your network is what it is. What you think it is and what it actually is are two entirely different things.

 

Think of your network like a team of advisers or a kitchen cabinet. You don't want group think or a bunch of yes people. You want smart, honest, creative perspectives, skill sets and ideas. Seek difference in your network. So you have to do a gap analysis? And you can't wait for an emergency job search to do it! Parachuting requires great preparation.

 

So just accumulating contacts or FB friends is fine, but what are you building? Some networks are like a collection of pennies. All of them are the same and just added to the top of the same jar. We know that makes no sense. I am totally for randomness but you also have to step back to see how your network matches up with your ambitions.

 

Hard to traverse the tightrope without a net---work. :)

 

This does not require you to make a new set of friends or start stalking people :) Enhance your inner circle with people you already know but need to strengthen your connection with, based on your goals, curiosities, and ambitions. People that you respect and know have a valuable point of view--get more of it. 

 

Your network should not help you land but propel you and push you. It should be more of a rocket pack than a parachute. Jetpack

 

You know that you have a parachute on right now. The question is when not if. That decision to jump is so much easier if you have the network to support, research, prepare you for the leap. By the way, these are your parachute packers. They make your risk taking smarter and more aligned with what you really want.

 

So what color is your network?

 

Thanks for reading. John