Your 2013 Bucket List

As Thanksgiving has come and gone and Christmas songs begin to play on the radio, I begin to reflect on my accomplishments this year. Even though I am proud of what I have achieved and grateful for my experiences, there are a few things that I absolutely wish to scratch off my list of to do’s before the ball drops and we welcome 2014.

Bucket List

Traditionally the “bucket list” is a term used where individuals create a check list of wonderful things to experience before they kick the bucket on God’s green earth! I chose to use the same term but in a different way. Each year begins with refreshed minds and eager spirits excited to embark on a new goal, but what if you could have a jump start on those goals! Here are three easy ways to get you started!

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1. End Game vs. Low Hanging Fruit

There are two ways to go about getting started! First, you can go after what I call ” low hanging fruit”, which are small tasks that have been luring around for you to complete for sometime. These tasks were either placed on the back burner due to competing priorities or didn’t make the cut because you just didn’t have the time. The second approach is to get your Olivia Pope hat on ( only those who watch Scandal will get the reference) and ask yourself what is your end game. With this approach, you are going to really think about what you want to accomplish overall and then start mapping out what it will take for you to get there. Once you have compiled the list of tasks , you will begin circling the smaller items that you know you can accomplish in the amount of time we have for the remainder of this year.

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2.Time is of the Essence

You made your list, now get your butt into motion and start blazing the trail right into 2014. If you are starting off step one with the low hanging fruit approach these items have remained unchecked tasks on your list for far too long. Stop creating a barrier for yourself and spend a few moments imagining how relieved and accomplished you will feel once you have completed the list. With only 4 weeks til the ball drops, who has time to delay? Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today.

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3.Happy New Year

Anyone who knows me or who has heard me speak publicly knows, that I am someone who believes in celebrating small wins. Living in a world where instant gratification is king, we yearn to know that our efforts are not in vain. The best way to avoid the feeling of “I’m never going to accomplish my dreams” , is to take baby steps and celebrate each step of the way! As you move through your 2013 bucket list, keep in mind that on December 31st when the clock strikes 12 you will raise your glass and revel in the fact that you have just jump started your life into greatness in preparation for the year 2014…. Watch out… Awesome things are headed your way! Get Ready!

How to Empower the New Corporate Entrepreneur

In the world of movers and shakers you may find that you have individuals on your team that make things happen. They meet deadlines, come up with new ideas, take the lead on projects and initiatives, and always strive to go above and beyond. In business we identify these individuals as star performers and in human resources we call them high potentials ( aka hi-po’s).

These talented employees are also known as corporate entrepreneurs. Ryan May describes these individuals as employees who, generate ” new ideas and opportunities within large or established businesses, directly leading to the improvement of organizational profitability and an enhancement of competitive position or the strategic renewal of an existing business” (2013).

With managers being asked to consistently prove their value to the organization while thinking inside ,outside , and all around the box, what leader couldn’t use a corporate entrepreneur on their team. What I find when facilitating leadership workshops is that leaders have an idea of what and who they want in their departments but aren’t always sure how to keep from burning out their hi-po’s or retain them from exciting opportunities such as stepping out on their own. Most leaders hope that these individuals don’t get swooped up by the next company promising the same or more opportunities at a higher salary, and pray that employees are too scared to risk starting their own business’s. So wake up and stop holding on by a thread. Instead, be that empowering leader that I know you are and take the appropriate steps to build an environment for these individuals to flourish and grow. And who knows you may even attract more to join your flock.

1. Get to know what your team is passionate about and start building projects around it.

The daily grind of tasks and responsibilities may become boring to your innovative team. Take a moment to get to know what excites your corporate entrepreneurs and provide a platform ( or even better challenge them to identify opportunities) where their passions can be leveraged to catapult your team to accomplish extraordinary things. This may do more wonders than you can imagine. Don’t believe… schedule a 1:1 meeting with your employee and provide this opportunity and watch how excited they become with the opportunity.

2. Encourage employees to see boundless opportunities to accomplish remarkable things.

Being that corporate entrepreneurs are always thinking along these lines, there may be times when they feel stagnant. Encourage team players by reassuring them that you as a manager are aware of this and want them to find opportunities that stir their true passion while adding value to their work on your team.

3. Reward them for their innovation and willingness to take vision into an executed plan.

Being a dreamer is one thing but having the ability to take a concept and mold it into reality is another. For those who can do this, they should be rewarded. This will be the deposit in their emotional piggy bank that will keep them engaged and ready to do more. 

4. Change your culture within your department so people are able to take risks.

If you say you want people to come with ideas but yet you shoot down every idea presented  you will have a team that will  no longer present ideas. Same thing goes for those who need to be innovative and think outside of the box. If you create an environment where risks are seen as potential failure, no one will feel comfortable taking risks. Which will result in an un-innovative team. This environment suffocates corporate entrepreneurs and ultimately leaves them running for the hills

5. Share your story with others.

If you see valuable outcomes from your corporate entrepreneurs, share the story with stakeholders. This will help drive innovation throughout the organization but remember use the language that appeals to your audience. If you are speaking to executives, then talk about the amount of money these talented individuals are saving or generating.

Overall when you take the time to appreciate these valuable individuals,  you will recognize a team of employees who are excited about adding value to their work. Keep in mind, every employee is not a corporate entrepreneur only a small sub set of people on your team. Recognize those who are and create a platform for them to generate great work. Send me flowers later!

 

Women as Leaders: How to Begin

The writing was on the wall. At the age of 21 I graduated from Douglas College (the all girls college at Rutgers University). At the age of 25 I co-founded a female owned marketing company geared towards employing women interested in marketing, promotions, and entertainment. But yet I didn’t see it. I didn’t see the day that I would feel obligated to push women leaders to push themselves. I didn’t know that I would one day get the yearning to be a role model and blaze a trail to clear the path for younger leaders. It wasn’t until recently that I realized how inspired I have become to encourage women everywhere to challenge the rules of the game and dare to accomplish their dreams. Why is this so risky? Why does the thought of even trying to accomplish EVERYTHING your heart desires cause tiny beads of sweat to form on your forehead and anxiety to come over you? It’s simple , we correlate wanting it ALL to sacrificing some. I challenge you today to think differently and begin paying it forward by participating in the movement of supporting the development of risk takers and fearless women leaders. How do we do this? I have 5 steps that will allow us to make small strides that have the potential of making meaningful impacts on women leaders directly or indirectly in our networks. Before we begin, keep in mind that being a leader does not mean that you must obtain a particular title. Effective, strong leaders have the natural ability to inspire, influence, and motivate others. You can be a twenty something working in an entry level position and still have the characteristics of a leader. So let’s begin!

1. I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples. –Mother Teresa

Do not underestimate your impact on the world around you. Get the confidence to make many great and valuable ripples! If being and/or cultivating leaders is important to you, then show the world your true genuine self and embrace the empowerment of influential leadership.

2. Define your end game.

Too often we define success by the measurement of others. Define what you want out of life, make a plan, and accomplish it! By taking action in achieving your success, you are paving the way for someone else. When I go to panel discussions where female leaders talk about their journey and how they have obtained their success, there is always a moment during their presentation when I feel inspired. I hear fellow participants share how their story in some way has resonated with them and as a result inspired them as well. Never while they were on their journey did they think how they will inspire me specifically ( they don’t even know who I am) but yet they have. Blaze your own path with crystalized focus and inspire someone. You never know who is watching and being inspired by your journey. Leaders take a vision and turn it into action. So defining your endgame gives you the opportunity to build your blueprint so you can begin to journey towards success.

3. Celebrate Milestones.

As you define your end game and create a blueprint for yourself, create checkpoints along the way. Think of your end game as your overarching goal and the checkpoints as smaller goals that get you closer to where you want to be in life. In our society of instant gratification, setting small milestones allow you the opportunity to celebrate tasks you have achieved ,which raises your levels of anabolic energy , and motivates you to accomplish more!

4. Watch the Company You Keep

If you find that you truly believe the sky is the limit, or that life is filled with unlimited opportunities, you should keep a circle of friends or a close network of individuals nearby who share a similar philosophy. Keeping a network of individuals who can inspire and motivate you will be key as you progress in leadership. No truly effective leader is arrogant enough to believe they know everything about leadership. Influential leaders have a network of fellow leaders they are able to converse, collaborate, and learn from. If you do not have a network of leaders in your circle of colleagues, it’s easy to acquire one. Use meet up groups as a platform to meet like minded individuals who may have similar interests as yourself!

5. Be a Mentor

Somewhere on your path, you decided that you wanted to be like someone. You desired to take on the characteristics, style, and mannerisms of a person who inspired you to be a better version of who you are. For me, when I first thought of female leaders, I thought you had to be firm but fair. I was under the impression that if I remained cold, and harsh, then I would gain the respect of my male counterparts and move quickly up the ladder. What I realized is that noone thrived under the females who believed this was an effective management style. In one of my first corporate jobs after graduation, I remembered thinking of going to our bosses office as the equivalent of going to the principal’s office. We complained about the micro management of one’s style, and even at the young ripe age of 20 something, fresh out of college and early in our career, my team and I were able to see that the manner in which our female leader led was a defense mechanism to hide the fact that she too was afraid, unconfident, and unsure of how successful she could be in her position. Instead of empowering her teams to aspire to great things and be innovative, she made the team feel like worker bees with no promise for development or growth. So when in a later life, I worked for a different company, I was surprised when I saw this same leader working there but not surprised when I found out she was working at a far lower position. The breath of fresh air arrived when I met the woman who was to be my manager. She taught me the importance of building relationships within the company, the art of persuasion and influence, gave me projects that challenged me while providing support that allowed me to arrive at my own discovery of how to work out difficult solutions, and all the while provided opportunities for me to develop and grow. What I appreciated about the experience was that she had no clue that I thought of her as a mentor then nor ten years later. I know she underestimates her influence in my career but yet I always reference her leadership style in all of my leadership workshops. Paying it forward is an important process towards one’s success. If you truly want to be a powerful leader, take every opportunity to learn from others but you must reciprocate by sharing knowledge with others as well. Whether you participate in a formal mentoring program, or informally take someone under your wing, take the time to inspire a future leader , that alone will start you on your journey in becoming the powerful, influential leader you wish to become.

Don’t doubt yourself, start today!

Small Biz Needs Love Too!

Image I love the passion, desire, and motivation entrepreneurs exude and demonstrate. I admire their ability to live life every day devoted to what they really want to do, not what they HAVE to do. As one wonderful consultant explained to me, entrepreneurs have the freedom and ability to live in a space that is creative, forcing them to constantly think outside of the box. Even though this may be, I can’t stop wondering why do so many business owners struggle with their people. What do I mean by “people”? It’s really a simple definition: Your customers … your employees. My opinion, entrepreneurs are usually great at their craft and skill but aren’t so great at managing human capital.

Royalty-free Image: Portrait of a Sulking Businessman Wearing Spectacles and…Big businesses get it. They have Human Resource departments that are focused on hiring “high po’s” (High Potentials) and keeping them in the organization. They spend hours in meetings discussing the best way to do this. ” We should use social media to recruit high performing talent!”, “Hey what about career pathing, we have to make sure our folks know how they can climb the corporate ladder here!”, “Hey when was our last salary analysis done to make sure we are remaining competitive in our market so we don’t lose our people!”. Big companies also spend money on departments such as Learning and Organizational Development and these individuals spend just as much time in meetings trying to figure out how to make sure the organization’s employees are developing professionally, maintaining desired behaviors, and finding ways to effectively drive performance. “Hey with that career pathing model HR just rolled out, when are we going to identify the competencies and education needed on each level so that we can identify opportunities for training to help bridge skill gaps and help our people be successful in the company?” “Hey did anyone evaluate the results of our last training program to gauge whether knowledge was transferred from training to workplace?”. “Hey I did that and I was able to evaluate the impact on the business and how performance has improved. The C-Suite will be really happy… this all equals dollars and cents for them!” So as big businesses hash out these discussions, I find that small businesses don’t have these discussions at all.

Now let’s take a trip to our town’s local mom and pop hair salon/ coffee shop/ graphic design studio. You won’t find a human resources or learning and development department. I used to frequent one local business that had constant turnover, slow service, and only the owner was phenomenal at her job. No one trusted the other technicians to deliver services, and technicians changed all the time. As I began to encounter numerous local businesses, I realized how the lack of human capital management impacted me as a customer as well as their employees.

Now of course, I’m not delusional. I understand that small companies do not have the same workforce ratio, needs, or budgets as larger companies but there are things you can do. This is the age of Consultants R’ Us, take a few moments and peruse the internet. See if any HR consultants are willing to come in and give you tips around behavioral based interviewing or possibly help out with employee engagement. Strategic human resource consultants are able to correlate the importance of making sure you have the right people in the right positions to the financial impacts of your business. They even may be able to give you ideas of how to translate possible growth within your business so that your employees can look at their jobs as careers and opportunity to add value to your company. ( Imagine how awesome your day would become if you knew that what you were doing everyday brings you closer to being in a position you truly desire instead of waking up every morning to go to a job that is filled with 8 hours of tedious work.)

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So I end this by saying no fear my wonderful small business owners. There are answers but you have to start working on it now. Your employees impact your customers and your customers impact your business. Treat both of these parties like gold and your business will great returns. Choose to ignore and you will find yourself and your business in an undesirable rut! So carryon and leave a legacy of greatness! If you need help you can find it…. There are consultants lurking everywhere!