" He Who is Afraid of Asking is Afraid of Learning... " ~ (Danish Proverb)

Lessons from a CEO…about being a CEO in business and in life.

I’m not a CEO, although I did write a book about how it feels to be be on a precarious trajectory to becoming one. And, aside from being the CEO of my own career path, I don’t think I will soon be signing up for any open positions…

But anyone who’s been up, down or on some middle rung of the corporate ladder (and life) can certainly relate to the wisdom and musings of the 26-yr. old CEO whose article 26 Lessons from a 26 Year Old CEO was simply too good not to re-post, and whose success in business and in life have surely just begun.

And…I’ll go ahead say it up front, #s 9, 18, and 24 are among my ultimate fan favorites. :)

26 Lessons from a 26 Year Old CEO
Reprinted from Forbes Woman
By: Shama Kabani - CEO of The Marketing Zen Group

On April 25th I turned 26, and a few weeks later my web marketing agency turned two. What started as a single person mini-business, has turned into a 27 person global web marketing firm in just two short years. I’ve been immensely grateful for the opportunities life has presented me with. And, as I look forward to the future, it would only be fair to look back as well. Here are 26 lessons I have learned as a young entrepreneur and CEO:

1. A written vision of what you want your company to look like in 3 years is important. The pen (or keyboard!) has power. It isn’t enough to envision your goals in your mind. You must have a blueprint on paper. Every decision you make, ask yourself: does this help me get closer to my vision?
2. Learn to listen to your clients. When we started, we were only offering social media consulting services. But, clients quickly demanded more. We eventually ended up serving as their web marketing department. The marketplace will tell you what it needs. You have to listen, and then deliver.
3. Half the job is keeping up. The pace of technology will only continue to quicken. It doesn’t matter what your industry is, you have to keep up in order to constantly leverage it for your business.
4. Always think in terms of value — not price. Always judge based on the value something or someone brings to the table. Price is arbitrary.
5. Only hire people who have fire. This is especially true if you are running a small to medium sized business. In a large corporation, there is room for many types of personalities and people. In a smaller business, passion is a must in every position. Hire people who are driven to do well and see your business succeed.
6. If you must fire, be graceful and professional about it. This is hands down the worst part of being a CEO. It is tough to let people go, but for the greater good of the business, sometimes it must be done. It doesn’t matter if you are firing or being fired, don’t burn bridges.
7. Learn to forgive. Things happen. People change. You can’t move forward in business — or in life — if you can’t forgive and move on.
8. Cash flow is crucial. This is especially true in a recessionary economy, and if you are growing quickly. Work with clients to get payments upfront.
9. Balance is overrated. Aim for joy. When work is fun, you don’t feel the need to take as many breaks. Balance in today’s world looks very different than it did just 20 years ago. Embrace it.
10. Don’t underestimate the power of PR. The power of the press may now be in more than just the hands of journalists (umm…social media, anyone?). Learn to be a friend to the press.
11.Treat your team well. People will follow a leader who treats them with respect. Learn to value your team’s input, and always reward them for a job well done.
12. Focus is the most underrated skill that you must master. 90 percent of the time, what is on your computer screen is not resulting in a positive ROI. Learn to focus on what truly matters in your business. Then, do it consistently.
13. Multitasking doesn’t mean greater productivity. Don’t put “good multitasker” on your resume. Numerous studies have shown that multitasking decreases brain power.
14. Age isn’t just a number. Age does matter. Managing a Gen Y employee is different than managing a baby boomer.
15. Appearances matter. I just interviewed an intern who showed up in an outfit more appropriate for an 8 a.m. class. I had to wonder how he would represent us in front of clients. Whether we like it or not, appearances matter. Dress appropriately.
16. Learn to view situations objectively. Just because you would or wouldn’t do something, doesn’t mean others are the same way.
17. Life is short, and very easy to take for granted. Sounds like something you’d read in a self-help book, but true nonetheless. Life is temporary, and the only thing that matters at the end of the day is how you treated those around you.
18. Pets make the workplace better. I propose that every office should have a mascot. Ours is a little Maltese-Poodle mix named Snoopy. No day is a sad day.
19. A support network is crucial. As much as you try, you can’t do it alone. Building a personal and professional support network is imperative.
20. Give luck its due. Luck has played a huge part in my life. I don’t deny it. I am just grateful for it.
21. Hard work is a given. Struggle doesn’t have to be. I’ve learned that there is always work that will need to be done. The task list is never complete. So, just enjoy it!
22. It IS lonely at the top. And, yes, the view & the food are both amazing.
23. Ignore the trolls. They like the power the anonymity of the internet gives them. Don’t pay them any attention.
24. Be picky when choosing your friends. My friend list (and I don’t mean Facebook) is short. Surround yourself with people who inspire you.
25. Karma exists in business and in life. The old adage says “what goes around, comes around.” The older I get, the more I see this being true. Think twice before you act.
26. Being a CEO means being a CVO. CVO stands for Chief Value Officer. Always ask yourself: How can I create value for our clients? Our prospects? Our internal team? The answers will guide you to building a better company.

Wishing You Success,
N
atalya

Powerful Women & Stereotypes

I would not call myself a ” powerful woman. ” I rarely try to yield it, despise those who sadly mistake authority for power and prefer to be respected far more than feared.

That said, I cannot deny that I’ve worked in high-level positions and been responsible for high-profile clients and high revenue projects and teams. Doing those things – successfully – requires a certain work ethic, authoritative approach, surrounding oneself with excellence and – simply put – a refusal to settle for mediocrity. Have those traits that won me a fan club for my capability and output – sure. Have they also won me many naysayers who secretly think of me as witch with a Capital B – most definitely! Have I compromised my compassion for others and overlooked my own respect of those with similar standards of integrity and quality – never.

I’m just glad that, according to a Forbes magazine recent article, I’m not alone. But rest assured, even if I were, I would be happy to stand on my own.

10 worst stereotypes about powerful women
Forbes Magazine, Thu., Nov. 3, 2011
By: Jenna Goudreau, Forbes Staff

Women continue climbing the rungs of power — building their ranks as heads of state, corporate leaders and media influencers — but their minority status means they still face harsh, limiting assessments based on their gender. “Women are being judged more, even by other women,” said Valerie Young, author of “The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women.” While male leaders are allowed to have complex personalities, powerful women are often summed up by hackneyed stereotypes that undermine them and their power. Forbes Woman tracked down many of the world’s most powerful women, from IMF chief Christine Lagarde to Jill Abramson of The New York Times, to ask: What is your least favorite stereotype about powerful women? Gender and career experts also weighed in on the dangerous notions about female success and how they seep into the collective subconscious. The following represent the 10 most hated and pervasive stereotypes.

No. 1: Ice Queen
Halley Bock, CEO of leadership and development training company Fierce, notes that the ruthless “ice queen” stereotype is rampant. Cultural depictions, like frigid magazine editor Miranda Priestly in “The Devil Wears Prada” (and her real-world counterpart Anna Wintour of Vogue) and back-stabbing boss Patty Hewes on “Damages,” paint successful women as unsympathetic power-mongers. It is, of course, a Catch-22. “A woman who shows emotion in the workplace is often cast as too fragile or unstable to lead,” Bock said. “A woman who shows no emotion and keeps it hyper-professional is icy and unfeminine. For many women, it can be a no-win situation.”

No. 2: Single and lonely
Harvard lecturer Olivia Fox Cabane notes that the strong perception that powerful women are intimidating to men and will need to sacrifice their personal lives may stop women from going after power. Even those women who aren’t interested in marrying, face harsh judgments. Men get to be “bachelors” while women are reduced to “spinsters” and “old-maids.” In fact, when Janet Napolitano was nominated Secretary of Homeland Security, critics said her being single would allow her to “spend more time on the job.”

No. 3: Tough
The first female Executive Editor of The New York Times, Jill Abramson is anything but stereotypical. She had a hard-charging career as an investigative reporter at The Wall Street Journal and edited her way to the top of the Times masthead. She’s also a true-blood New Yorker and is writing a book about puppies. Despite her complexities, she must contend with being called “tough” and “brusque,” making the “she’s-tough stereotype” her least favorite. Said Abramson: “As an investigative reporter, I had tough standards and a formidable way of framing and reporting stories, but I don’t think of myself as a tough person.”

No. 4: Weak
Costa Rica President Laura Chinchilla, the country’s first female leader, told me that successful women face typecasting largely because society is still adjusting to women’s recent decision-making power. Chinchilla believes the most pervasive stereotype is that women are “weak,” a perception that may stem from women’s greater desire to build a consensus. “We understand success not as the result of just one person but as the result of a team,” she said. “[It’s a] different way of dealing with power [that] is misunderstood as a kind of weakness.”

No. 5: Masculine

The notion that powerful women must be, lead and look like a man really aggravates Christine Lagarde, the managing director of the International Monetary Fund. In a video interview with Forbes she said — pumping her fist — she hates the idea that “you have to look like a businessman.” She admitted she sometimes feels the pressure to look the “right” way, but tries to resist not being “overly businesslike.”

No. 6: Conniving
When NBC’s Curry first started her career, she was told she couldn’t be a news reporter because women had “no news judgment.” Now, she’s at the top of her game and says the stereotype that most offends her is “the idea that a woman can only be successful because she somehow connived or engineered her rise — that she could not rise simply because she was too good to be denied.” She has experienced it herself, saying that she gets asked if she “forced” NBC to give her the anchor job or if there was a “backroom deal.” Curry told me, “I find it really annoying.”

No. 7: Emotional
Ellen Lubin-Sherman, executive coach and author of business guide “The Essentials of Fabulous,” believes one the most dangerous stereotypes female leaders will face is that they are prone to emotional outbursts. Despite Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s consistent cool-headed demeanor, when she teared up on the campaign trail, the media pounced. Similarly, former Yahoo Chief Carol Bartz is frequently cited for her “salty language,” which has been used as evidence that she is “emotional” and a “loose cannon.”

No. 8: Angry
“Anger is a sign of status in men, but when women show anger they are viewed as less competent,” said Young. First Lady Michelle Obama was condemned as an “angry black woman” when she was campaigning for her husband in the 2008 presidential election. The Harvard-trained lawyer conscientiously softened her image and speeches in order to be more “likable,” becoming better known for her fashion and her unending support of her husband than for her stance on political issues.

No. 9: A token
Women hold just 16 percent of corporate board seats. But instead of focusing on balancing things out, they are often devalued as being a “token” of diversity rather than having earned the post. Former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was often the only woman in the room, but her gender didn’t get her there. “While companies take their diversity goals seriously, they are not going to settle for less than the best person for the job,” said Lynne Sarikas, director of the MBA career center at Northeastern University. “Women are hired because of their education and experience and what they can do for the company.”

No. 10: A cheerleader
Billie Blair, president and CEO of Change Strategists, notes that prominent women who are considered feminine and warm may be dismissed as “cheerleaders” rather than the strong leaders that they are. When former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin was running for VP, Blair was amazed to hear a male client describe her as “a cheerleader, not a coach nor a quarterback.”

Wishing You Success Maintaining Your Standards In Spite of Stereotypes,
N
atalya

The Steve Jobs’ Effect

With the recent resignation of Apple CEO, Steve Jobs, it is difficult to read the headlines of any major news site without some reference to this unfortunate – though many say not unexpected – event.

So time for me to write a blog this week, and I thought -”what impact has Steve Jobs had on me, my productivity, the way I look at technology…?”

Well, let’s start with the fact that now I actually look at technology without trying to fight it with an invisible sword. After battling the smart phone war within for 5 years, I was woo’d over by the IPhone’s promise of a built-in, dynamic GPS that could get me anywhere I needed to go. Three years later, I am proud to say that, while I’ve yet to use its GPS functionality, I have become an avid IPhone aficionado with an APP for everything including but not limited to: my grocery list, hurricane tracking, the Today Show, my favorite blogs and radio stations, The Harvard Business Review, Kindle, Skype and – of course (being a wordie at heart) – Scrabble. And, though I have not crossed over fully yet, I do have friends and family who love their IPads and MacBooks and simply would not look back.

Reasons to be an IPhone groupie aside, as I read more and more of the articles about Steve Jobs, I realized that his success was born of and founded upon truths which should be fundamental to us all….

(Author’s Note: Listed in no particular order – these are by no means his only lessons, but rather the ones which impacted me most. ) *

Steve Job’s insights into life :

  • “If you knew you were going to die tomorrow, would you still want to do what you’re about to do today?” [N] Of any of his statements, this one held the most weight for me. Perhaps because I knew it came from someone who has/is facing death head-on or perhaps because such a simple question should have an equally simple answer. And if the answer is not simple, then perhaps it’s not the right answer…so keep asking yourself this question…I know I will.
  • Don’t pander — better.We didn’t build the Mac for anybody else. We built it for ourselves.” [N ] For some it is the hardest way, for others it is the ONLY way – whether you fail or succeed, live as YOU believe. For without beliefs on which to stand, your work ethic and moral compass will falter like a weakly rooted tree in hurricane force winds and eventually topple over. And, although it IS important to win friends and influence people (Thank you, Dale Carnegie), it’s equally (if not more important) to be true to your own standards and let those standards lead the way regardless of consequence. Often the consequence of leading by others’ opinions results in your certain demise.
  • Build a temple. “Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work.…” [N] Jobs’ statement holds its weight by framing work as a temple. If you are a person of great faith, or even one who understands history and faith, then you know that you would never think of entering a sacred temple without the greatest respect for what is housed within it. And so holds true for your own work – whether personal or professional, it is up to you to value what you do and its inherent worth; build a moat of respect and success around your own output and the integrity of your reputation.
  • Have taste. “The only problem with Microsoft is they just have no taste. They have absolutely no taste.” [N] Jobs defines “taste” as the opposite of “tackiness” and goes on to say that “…We might just be approaching the tackiest point in history known to man.” First impressions, lasting quality, and sincere effort just are not where they should be today and have not been for a very long time. So, Jobs’ took the high road to ensure that his products blew all others out the water in aesthetics, function and thoughtfulness. And for anyone who has ever sat at an Apple store’s “Genius Bar”, you have experienced that service and the kind of camaraderie among customers and employees alike which arises only when shared beliefs in a product and level of service are at the forefront.

Wishing You Success,
N
atalya

Image Courtesy of : victusspiritus.com

Quotes courtesy of – MSNBC, random interviews, Huff Post, Umair Haque

Agendas…Not Just for Meetings Anymore

Unlike the kind you get at a meeting, most people’s agendas are not as clearly presented. Also known as a “hidden agenda“, you need no longer be taken unawares when you realize that …


…many people will have goals they wish to accomplish at the expense of others…

Some may be well-intentioned; others not so much.

  • Consider the caring mentor who takes a young friend under his/her wing- guiding gently over a cup of coffee or introducing activities and people who will assist the young person’s growth and future. Not wishing to be overt nor overbearing, the young person is a beneficiary of the mentor’s [hidden] and well-positioned agenda. Realize, however, that the mentor – perhaps unknowingly – is invested in fulfilling an internal need of helping others even more so than seeing beneficiaries blossom; for in the act of mentoring, the internal goal of self-fulfillment is realized.
  • Then, consider the insecure, social climber who seeks out her unsuspecting future husband based on his pedigree, and proceeds to pursue her hidden agenda of wealth, happiness and social success via her new surname. Her bubble soon bursts when she realizes that a name cannot buy social acceptance nor the approval of those from whom she seeks it most; when her [hidden] agenda is foiled, she must find ways to rebel against the same unsuspecting spouse and whom she must now blame for her own disappointment. And, such is the behavior of most hidden agendas- they ultimately turn on their very own originators and result in a lose-lose situation.
  • Now, most familiar to me, are hidden agendas of the professional kind. Often times, in a professional environment, people believe that the only way to advance is at the expense of another. Make him look badly so I can shine. Or, similarly, let her be the voice of dissent and project negativity and dissidence while I instigate her so she can achieve my goal. Ultimately, however, you can be diligent and not the pawn for another’s dissatisfaction. Pay attention to what others do and say and how they require your direct or indirect participation in relation to an outcome or desired goal. Although I am not a proponent of the perpetual cynicism and doubt, unfortunately the reality is that you do need to develop awareness in order to avert malevolent intent and the furthering of others’ hidden agendas at work.

  • Sometimes a person’s agendas are hidden even from themselves, because they are in denial about it.

Wishing You Success Identifying and Avoiding Hidden Agendas,
N
atalya

Quotations courtesy of The Fifth Dimension

The Highs and Lows of Expectations

“If you have no expectations, you can never be disappointed”…Others say: “Expect the best, and plan for the worst”….

While no one wants to live in an emotional desert in which positive expectations are treated as mere illusions, psychologists report that unrealistic or mismatched expectations are actually counterproductive and destructive.

So, how do you know when to lower your expectations to avoid the negative backlash without destroying the very sense of hope which propels us forward?

There are numerous publications which will provide you with the “4, 5 or 12 steps to managing expectations”- and while helpful, these don’t drill down to the core issue. Your expectations are about YOU : what you want to happen, how you want others to behave, etc. And therefore, the solution also lies with you. What are you willing to accept? What is “good enough” and when is “good enough” not good enough?!

Simply put, it’s important to check your expectations before you leave the door – share your own truth with yourself, so to speak. Stop and really hear and feel what you are expecting in your gut. This proactive exercise will help you calm down and process the possibilities of both potential positive and negative outcomes against the bar of your own truth.

And although this piece of “advice” may seem random, it has a lot to do with being productive, balanced and effective in both work and life. The more you’re aware of your expectations, where they fall in the spectrum of hopeful versus catastrophic – the better you will be able to manage them and effect positive experiences and outcomes no matter what.

Wishing You Success Managing Your Expectations,
N
atalya

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Presenting, Not Pleading, Your Case

An aficionado of words, and an avid reader, I am often most inspired by how others use words to encapsulate thoughts, feelings and experiences.

In one such case of wordplay, an inspirational speaker* recommended that [ when praying ] we present a case for what we desire [ with evidence from the Bible to support our achievement of these wishes ] to God instead of pleading for solutions. Such a simple swap of words, from pleading to presenting, resulted in a novel concept and new way to approach fulfillment.

Spirituality aside, my mind is always working on new methods to analyze and approach professional success. It did not take me long to take the case of pleading v. presenting and consider its efficacy in the office or on a project.

If you have the ability to identify a need or issue, you must also find the confidence to present a solution – only then can you acquire the resources needed to execute. Any manager will tell you – come to me not with a problem, but rather with suggestions for its solution, and then – I will help you make that solution happen. In other words, help me help you.

In the spiritual realm, that confidence comes from faith and is implied in sourcing the Biblical foundation for your hopes and wishes; in the workplace, that confidence comes from knowing your work, your capability and commitment to improving the process.

Wishing You Success,
N
atalya

Image Courtesy of dreamstime.com

* Joel Osteen

5 Things Workshifters Won’t Say, But Should

The post which follows is an approved re-print of my recent article on Workshifting.com, and is soon to be excerpted in a new book entitled Out of Office (by Gihan Perera, August 2011 ).*

For anyone not familiar with the term, “workshifting” refers to “anyone who works out of coffee shops, hotels, airports and whose home every bit as much as the office” (Definition courtesy of www.Workshifting.com, Powered by Citrix).

Given that I still struggle with these tenets daily – when the need to please and assist mask the [greater] need to produce and produce well – these statements are helpful reminders that quality, balance, and living your truth are crucial to productivity and success.

5 Things Workshifters Won’t Say, But Should
By Natalya Sabga on June 22, 2011 12:08 PM |

Making the proverbial shift into workshifting is tough – for employers and workshifters, alike. Though gaining greater credibility, the workshifting lifestyle is still nebulous at best and completely scary at worst to most organizations considering permitting an employee to workshift or hiring a workshifter outright.

This perceived dilemma can make some workshifters second guess their daily decisions, promises and commitments in order to say what we believe the hiring parties want to hear.

So, I have come up with the 5 things most workshifters won’t say, but should:

  1. “My greatest quality work is produced when I have the most flexibility in time, location and method.”
  2. “I would love to help you/your organization with this project/issue, but it’s not within my core competency and it would be better for you to ask someone else with that strength.”
  3. “I would need to assess the current status of your organization and measure the gap between where it is currently at versus what you want this project/assignment to achieve, before I commit or spec out my statement of work.”
  4. “As a rule, I need a full 24 (48) hours’ notice in order to attend a meeting on-site, except in the case of an emergency or project showstopper.”
  5. “I lobbied for a workshifting lifestyle so I could perform at my best and serve you at the highest level of my capability; therefore, being asked to commit to more than my realistic capacity or having to forgo my flexibility defeats both of our ultimate and intended goals for success.”

Some of these statements may appear harsh or “un-A-player-like” at first, but rest assured – they are often the mantras which need to be heard first and most. Your opportunity to workshift has been hard won and much deserved; so wouldn’t you prefer to set yourself up for success with expectations based on realistic and supportive parameters or speak only empty promises and have your work and workshifting lifestyle suffer?

Wishing You Success in any workstyle you adopt,
N
atalya

* Find Gihan Perera on Facebook!

Photo Credit: forangels.org

The “CEO” Gene

I remember penning my book and implying in its title that my journey took me “From Secretary to CEO“…facetious or otherwise, my career path and attitude had taken me on a distinct trajectory in the upward direction. And, I truly believe that – had I continued along the path – the succession planning Gods would have voted in my favor and landed me as close to a CEO position as I chose to be.

At the risk of sounding self-important and utterly overconfident – which I am NOT – I should explain that what I didn’t know then is that I possessed certain key characteristics which, today, are known as “The Five Traits That Get You Promoted to CEO”*:

*Author’s Note: Although aptly named, the article could just as well be called “The Five Traits Which Get You Through Life With Strength and Success…” :)


From his interviews with over 70 chief executives and leaders, New York Times columnist Adam Bryant identified the “X factors” for leading an organization—qualities that can determine who gets promoted to that corner office:

  • Passionate curiosity: Relentless questioning and being infectiously fascinated with everything around you, human nature in particular ~ [N says] It’s not enough to just “learn the lingo” of the industry or organization, you need to learn the players, the art of interacting with them to get things done and how to lose in order to win
  • Battle-hardened confidence: Overcoming—and even relishing—adversity. CEOs most often ask job candidates how they’ve dealt with failure in the past ~ [N says] Failure IS your friend if a) you’re the first to call out your mistake (or as soon as it is discovered), admit fault and ask how you can learn from or avoid the same mistake in the future. Adversity awaits you around every corner; sometimes it’s your fault and other times, it’s someone else’s. So, knowing how to address and mitigate damage as soon as adverse events occur are keys to undoing the ill effects while growing in confidence the next time something goes wrong.
  • Team smarts: More than just being a team player, understanding how teams work and getting the most out of the team (in sports terms, being a playmaker) ~ [N says] Independence is a fallacy- we are all interdependent, and nowhere is this truer than when the collective success of your team = your success. Learn your people- their strengths, weaknesses and buttons so you can guide them to their highest success (and ultimately your own…)
  • A simple mindset: Being concise, simple, and clear in your communications ~ [N says] I speak at length in my book about working for an IT company, where my advanced education was rendered moot by 19-year old hacking geniuses. Had it not been for my command of the written word and the ability to sound like I knew what I was talking about, I would have never made it past the reception desk. Communication skills, both verbal and written are the greatest muscles you can tone. If these skills do not come naturally, find yourself a Business Writing course and Dale Carnegie chapter…
  • Fearlessness: Comfort with the unknown and taking calculated, informed risks; also, seeing opportunities and being proactive about positive change ~ [N says] The operative words here are calculated and informed . Do your homework and once you have earned that battle-hard confidence, taking educated risks, but not risking overconfidence, will become second nature. And yes, with change does come opportunity – so keep your eyes wide open and don’t let the slim opening of opportunity close before you exert a little upfront effort to see what positive influence you can make with or without the promise of reward and recognition.

Whether you are an aspiring executive or the CEO of your own career path…do you possess these traits?

Wishing You Success,
N
atalya

Image Courtesy of You Know You Made IT When…

It’s My Job….And I’ll Cry If I Want To….

I just happened to be working from home one day and a newscast on MSNBC caught my ear….on crying in the workplace.

How should emotions be controlled in a professional environment?

Apparently, according to Ann Kreamer (author of It’s Always Personal: Emotion in the New Workplace ), workplace anxiety is both commonplace and problematic for many. While this factoid certainly did not surprise me, the results of Kreamer’s study on reactions to unveiled (i.e., exposed) emotions in the workplace were shocking:

Women view other women who cry at work as unstable.

Men view other women who cry at work as unprofessional.

Those are strong judgments!!!! I get the need to be professional, to a fault, particularly in today’s competitive environment which demands that we all raise our standards on a daily basis. And, I am the poster child for professionalism, often overlooking even the most basic social niceties and getting directly to the point or project at hand. Yet, for me, something is definitely missing.

We are Human BEINGs not Human DOINGs.

How many of us have not had “those moments” at work – where life, work stress and someone or something – took us over the edge? Perhaps our voice raised a few decibels, our throat got choked up, or we shed a few (or many) tears in public or private? I certainly had MANY of these moments managing projects that would not end and clients that would not cooperate. And, although over time, I have learned to manage my reactions more effectively – in those very human moments, sheer frustration and exhaustion were my truths.

So, raise your hand…I would venture to say that there are actually going to be many who can attest to that prize-winning status of never showing your weak side at work. But, I would go one step further and say that society is holding us to an unhealthy and unrealistic standard – not to mention false and inauthentic.

In [my] weakest moments, and those of my own staff over the years, I much prefer to have the issue and accompanying emotions acknowledged with compassion, and then guidance provided on how to address it…this does not mean pamper nor babysit, but it does mean understand.

I see compassion, understanding and guidance as closely tied to longevity, results and productivity. So, sue me, or…try a little kindness :)

Wishing You Success,
N
atalya

Image Courtesy of: blogs.forbes.com

Journey v. Destination

When haven’t we all asked ourselves this age-old question…Which is more important, the journey or the destination?

I’m not sure anymore that there is a right answer to that question. So, if you haven’t found the answer yourself, don’t fret.

It is human nature to focus on the destination – i.e., the goal, the reward, the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. And, it’s important to have destinations that create the possibility for the journey.

Personally, I’d like to believe that the destination guides the journey; but in the end, does it even matter if you ever get there or not…?

Image Courtesy of Dopiaza

Image Courtesy of Dopiaza

So, let’s talk for a moment about what actually happens along the journey.

~ Success is a journey, not a destination. The doing is often more important than the outcome. ~ Arthur Ashe

In 2009, I had a destination in mind ~ a virtual one, that is. Create a website to showcase my project management skills: a virtual mirror for me to glimpse at my capabilities from the outside in, if you will. Within the website a blog would exist. The blog would be an outlet for my love affair with words and a harmonious marriage between what I do as a PM on a daily basis and what I write. Well, almost 20 months into writing the blog, I can count on one hand the number of posts which had anything to do with project management! Needless to say, I needed some help with scope management on my own project!

According to the A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide), there are 5 phases to a project:


Initiation – Planning – Executing – Controlling – Closing

I need not highlight the fact that I veered off course at Initiation. :) My blog became a stream-of-consciousness exercise as opposed to a stream of knowledge!

So what does that have to do with the case of Journey v. Destination, you ask?

The way I see it, “destinations” complicate the journey too much. They’re no more than placeholders, mile markers if you will, and how you get there is in no way comprised by whether or not you get there…. It’s not written anywhere that we must reach certain destinations in life, no more so than it’s etched in stone what each of my blog posts must be about. That is not to say you should not have goals, or resolutions, or set mile markers of achievements to which you may aspire – and if you need help setting those, check out fellow blogger extraordinaire, HR Bartender’s, post here – but, it may mean that destinations will be arrived at on their own merit, as long as you seek fulfillment and growth along the journey’s way.

Wishing You Success on Your JOURNEY,
N
atalya

Author’s Note: Ironically, my 20 month journey gone askew led me directly back to its initial destination…writing about Project Management. Just when I thought my scope had creeped too far and the risk of retrieval too high to mitigate, the compass turned 180 degrees back to writing blogs about PM. (Funny how that works, eh? ) I hope not to “projectize” my blog too far such that I lose readers along the way, but rather illustrate how you, too, can project manage your life. :)

Morning Routines and Evening Rituals

A reprint of my latest contribution to Workshifting…now if only to consistently practice what I preach.. :)

I said goodbye to traditional office life some 17 months ago, yet still struggle with defining my workday. Whether open-door, closed-door or cubicle-bound, office life offers a stability and consistency that come with scheduled work hours and responsibilities.

Upon entry into the Workshifting realm, the before, during and after work all become one. And, as is the case for many workshifters, your load will effectively increase if you become responsible for your own IT, marketing and the like.


How You Start and End Your Day Influences What Happens In-between

So, now, productivity not only becomes more challenging, it becomes more integral to successfully reaching any destination along the workshifting highway. Here are some ideas I am tinkering with, in order to move into the HOV lane of productivity.

Create a morning routine which invokes a positive flow of energy and ideas through the remainder of your day.In physical terms, this ritual could involve a swim, a walk with the sunrise or a cup of freshly-brewed coffee. Sometimes, just having your coffee in a different place and checking your personal email or reading a few edifying articles will prepare your mind for the work that is ahead!

Mentally, the activity should calm you while at the same time awaken your brain to remain open to a flow of ideas throughout the day. Life coach and author, Wendi Blum, suggests that you start your day with a gratitude list – i.e., on a positive note. Or, perhaps, set the intention for what you would like to/need to accomplish on that day. Different from mere calendaring or goal-setting, setting the intention implies a connection and commitmment to the task at hand and the possession of the talent/skills/discipline needed to achieve!

Remember that the key to the morning “routine” may be keeping it exactly the same each day, or switching it up sometimes depending on what type of flow of thoughts/creativity/ energy you seek!

Create an evening ritual which encapsulates the positive aspects of your day and sets you up for success tomorrow. As workshifters, it can feel as though our ‘work’day never ends! Therefore, it’s that much more imperative that we create a physical and/or mental separation to transition from work to relaxation. Whether it is an evening social activity or walk outside – find a way clear the clutter of the day.

Stop, ask your mind/heart/soul to receive the wisdom and knowledge you need to fuel the next day’s tasks. These requests of yourself act like the automatic “Windows updates” your computer performs at night, readying it with the latest tools it needs to work at optimum levels.

What are your morning routines and evening rituals that make you most productive?

Wishing You Success,
N
atalya

The Flexible Ruler Style of Work

Flexible ruler might seem like an oxymoron to some, and until the recent past it would have been. Today, flexible rulers really do exist.

And, more and more – flexible rules also exist in the workplace. Telecommuting and flexibility programs are terms used to describe arrangements whereby valued employees are permitted to work remotely, to come into the office for meetings only, to work during alternate hours, or a combination of all.

However, these types of programs are not entirely ubiquitous despite the extensive technological advances which easily support such arrangements. Why is that?

There are two fundamental reasons:

  1. The office environment cannot support external employees - despite, or perhaps as a result of, technological advances, business move at the speed of light. One direct-to-voicemail missed call or a slow email server can spell inefficiency when the main office has already resolved and moved on from an issue in which the remote worker is still enmeshed. Adding to that less than perfect communication skills, and the operation will quickly become out of sync. A well-choreographed dance occurs among remote and main office-based workers, which relies on trust and the ability of one party to lead. Therefore, if you are the remote employee or a manager of one, basic rules of telecommuting should be examined prior entering into such an arrangement.
  2. Employees cannot be trusted to work [independently] – I have never been the clock-watching type of employee nor manager. Where there is work to be done, it will be done – at 4am, 11pm or anytime in between that I can spare in order to meet deadlines. Therefore, it would make sense that where the work gets done should not matter either, correct? Unfortunately, whether in a traditional office environment or a remote office, many managers simply cannot trust that work is being accomplished unless the employees are under their nose to oversee. In my mind, and simply put – then you may have hired the wrong employee. :) ( Of course, there are times when F2F brainstorming, meetings or physical proximity to other employees/office infrastructure is essential.) However, in a less black and white world, we would all be better served if we simply observed the rules of results-based management.

But how do you know they’re working if you can’t see them? That question, and the fact that it’s asked so often, points to a real problem with management today. Whether your employees are down the hall or thousands of miles away, if you’re not measuring by results, you really don’t know who’s working and who isn’t. ~ Kate Lister

No longer are flexible work hours an exception; in fact, many of the most successful companies (including those in the Fortune 500) have embraced flexible work arrangements as an essential business strategy because it prodcuces greater productivity and innovation within its employee base.

When you ignore the where, when, and how work is done, and focus on results, your employees are more productive,more creative, and more successful. ~ Kate Lister & Tom Harnish

Results-based management should not be perceived as a new, innovative, complex concept. In its simplicity lies its efficacy – focus on what needs to be done and hire the people who can get it done. When those two factors are present, wearing pajamas versus pin-stripes really should not matter.

Stay tuned for my next post on freeing your mind by shifting your workspace.

Wishing You Success,
N
atalya

IMAGE Courtesy of…….RapidOnline

Autonomy..or, in other words…Nobody Owns Me…

au*ton*o*my
[au-ton-uh-mee ]
-Noun
Independence or freedom, as of the will or one’s actions.

A strange phenomenon has been occurring in my family for my whole life – wherever there was work to be done, advice to be given and opportunity to be had, my father – an educated, independent, successfully self-made man – would be in its midst, energized by the possibilities which lay within each endeavor. Today, despite being “retired”, he is busier than ever…his dance card full helping internal constituents with neither the intent nor expectation of remuneration – even more of a unique phenomenon!

I never understood where the desire, far less for the energy, to enthusiastically keep working/exploring/helping came from…to me, work was work. If it was supposed to be fun, they would have called it fun. A means to make a living, pay bills, exert some effort and hopefully make good on the education I had been given. Quite frankly, at times work felt like drudgery and at other times a drain on my psyche.

The latter mindset and emotions led me, over one year ago, to reevaluate my position literally and figuratively. I simply could not make myself subscribe to the daily grind any longer and felt as though I was not only wasting my own time, but more importantly wasting everyone else’s because nothing I did came from my heart. (my brain was fried at this stage, too, but we won’t mention that.) Despite how risk-averse a being I am, I took the greatest risk: electing to walk away from it all with not even a solid Plan B, and re-evaluate…

Then a strange turn of events occurred – some may call it irony, others destiny.

… I was afforded the opportunity (and I do not use that word lightly) to resume parts of my former position, but only those parts which capitalized on my strengths and to which I could legitimately contribute, without being tied to the balance of responsibilities my former position held. I know what you are thinking, because I was, too! Surely, too good to be true. I was hesitant at best, and concerned that I was walking right back through the doors from whence I’d come and this time, the doors would slap me as they swung closed behind me on my way back in. But, grateful for the opportunity and wanting in part to give back to the employers who had been so good to me during my tenure, I made a vow to entertain the offer and contribute what I could… a win-win for us all, I told myself.

But if I am to be honest- I am the big winner. For I have learned the difference - the difference between: doing because you have to versus doing because you want to; doing what you are inherently good at and enjoy versus doing what is demanded with no choice other than to comply; doing when there is the opportunity to take a risk and learn something versus doing when there is the risk of losing yourself. And most importantly, the difference between doing what I can within my own limits, therefore producing a high quality result with mettle and energy left for the next endeavor – versus overextending myself for the sake of getting the job done and losing the desire to do anymore…then,everyone loses.

And although I know not what the future holds, be it another full-time position or a continuation of this semi-entrepreneurial exploratory phase, I will take the lessons and gifts that autonomy has brought me, fear not the possibility of defining both my strengths and boundaries, and ensure that the extent of my efforts remain my own choice, driven by my own motivation, and reflective of the fact that nobody owns me.

Wishing You Success in Finding Your Own Autonomy,
N
atalya

Killing Them with Kindness…Corporate Kindness

We have all heard the saying: “kill them with kindness”…and what about one of my newest favorites: “don’t mistake my kindness for weakness…”

Quite frankly, and in my humble opinion (which we all realize isn’t so humble if I am voicing it here :) ) – kindness is often overrated!!! True kindness, like that which comes from a nun, priest or Mother Teresa – is not overrated – nor the small acts of kindness which come unexpectedly to us from those we love and who love us. Not overrated at all.

But there is a whole other society of kindness – let’s call it “Corporate kindness” which still has not come into its own. I have worked in the Corporate world, pseudo-Corporate world, and liaised with Corporate clients long enough to know that kindness is not well appreciated in these circles. Why? Perhaps because it may not have a place – as kind as you may be to a co-worker or colleague, let us not forget the reason everyone’s there: to earn a paycheck, meet deadlines, produce results, and stay away from trouble. Work = Work. Work ≠ Fun and Work ≠ Charity , otherwise we’d all call it ‘Fun’ or ‘Charity’, wouldn’t we?

Workplace kindness can and is often misplaced and misunderstood. Kindness, in fact, can become controversial in the Corporate environment. Some may mistake kindness for manipulation, others for competition, still others for weakness, and a vast majority for unprofessionalism.

Kindness is readily perceived as an attribute of a human being, not necessarily that of a solid worker, manager, director, VP or CEO. Kindness is a close sibling to compassion and character and associates nicely with respect and fair play – aren’t those key attributes of someone you would want to hire (?); yet it remains a step often left unwritten in employee handbooks.

But kindness can be just as easily cultivated as it is dismissed. It is a top down and bottom up trait. Those on the top who practice Corporate kindness can set the emotional tone, and those on the bottom can maintain it – thereby producing a reciprocity which could potentially filter throughout an organization and across departments and business units. I know , Crayola just invented a crayon the color of naïve, but I do believe it’s possible. In looking back on my own experiences, the superiors for whom I worked the hardest were inherently the kindest; and the employees to whom I was the kindest deserved it most for their character and work ethic.

Realize, however, that some in an organization may simply not possess the capacity to know, understand or be kind. They may continue to dismiss or look down upon the trait as weak or useless and proceed with their stoic/manipulative/scheming ways. But, wouldn’t it be great if they were the exception and not the rule?

Yes, work certainly is about getting things done, producing results and earning a living – but I would argue that kinder Corporate cultures cultivate more productive employees who, in turn, produce better results. If you take care of the emotions of those who take care of your business, your business may just take care of itself.

Try a little kindness….

Wishing You Success,
N
atalya


If You Enjoyed This, You May Also Like:

  1. Caring…With a Capital C
  2. Employees Learn What Managers Live
  3. Transparency vs. Authenticity: Which is More Powerful?

A…B…C is for COMMUNICATION

Reprinted with the Permission of Workshifting,

A…B…C is for COMMUNICATION
By Natalya Sabga
July 16, 2010

We all think we know how to communicate, right? As children, we learn how to talk; as adults our vocabularies increase as does our knowledge of both verbal and non-verbal queues. To borrow from an overused cliche: “It’s not only what you say, but how you say it…” Wellllll…maybe, yes, ok. But what about when you say it, how much of it you say and to whom it’s said?

In the world of project management, communication is KEY. It’s so key in fact, it’s one of the Project Management Institute’s nine knowledge areas. And, as any well-seasoned project manager knows – and as any new PM will soon find out – communication breakdowns can spell a project’s certain demise. My mantra has always been, “when in doubt, OVERcommunicate.” We all have too many emails in our inboxes anyway; leave it to the recipient to decide if they need the information or not.

If there is relevant and timely information which pertains to a project, disseminate it!!! I have never had a stakeholder nor project resource tell me to stop bombarding them with emails about a project, but I have certainly been involved in instances whereby a simple FYI would have gone a long way toward keeping stakeholder’s anxieties at bay and resources and schedules on track.

In particular, if a project has met with any type of constraint ( be it a resource, budget or scheduling constraint) or dependencies are preventing a milestone from being met – communicating potential roadblocks will help a PM avoid having to ask forgiveness at best or admit project failure at worst. Although you do not want to instill unnecessary concerns or “cry wolf” if you will, when there is the definite potential for adjustments or parallel pathing, your stakeholders need to know.

Effectively, the art of project management involves delicately balancing a defined scope with identified deliverables, the resources involved in managing these deliverables, in order to ultimately reach milestones within an acceptable timeframe and budget. If any of these items stand to be affected, the three ‘Cs’ are your best friends: Communicate, Communicate, Communicate. Remember – one of the distinct advantages of being a project manager is the implicit trust you earn from those relying on you to steer a project to success; embedded in that trust is a willingness for your voice to be heard – so don’t be afraid to use it. It’s your “responsibility” !!!

At the same time, use the tools which have been created just for your project management pleasure :) – tools such as MS Project and Visio are invaluable visuals which can communicate the progress of your project and any changes therein. I vividly recall managing a dual datacenter build for a methodical Japanese client (who also happened to be the parent company!), and when faced with project roadblocks for which I could neither excuse nor prevent, my constant Visio timeline updates won me all the brownie points that I needed to overcome an inevitable shift in delivery date. If you’re not a techie, which I certainly am not, there are numerous tutorials and resources available to learn how to use these tools.

We all take comfort when uncertainties are minimized, and there is no better way to ensure that those who need to know are in the know than by communicating. And whether you are a professional project manager or managing a life project such as a new home purchase or renovation or enrolling in a new school, the same rules apply. A…B…C is for COMMUNICATION. You would not settle for mis-information so don’t settle for a lack thereof either.