On Failure

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On Failure

“If you fail, have an interesting failure.  Something that informs or transforms.” - Chris Dede, Harvard

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On the Future

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On the Future

“In its essence, leadership is about learning how to shape the future.  Leadership exists when people are no longer victims of circumstances, but participate in creating their new circumstances.” - Peter Senge

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5 Ways to Build a Network in a New City

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5 Ways to Build a Network in a New City

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As many of you know, I recently moved to Atlanta, Georgia from Portland, Oregon, where I had spent the bulk of my professional career.  I am a strong believer that one should build a network before you need one and I did not want to waste time getting to know people in Atlanta.  Since moving to Atlanta three months ago, I went from knowing a handful of people to having over 100 LinkedIn contacts and dozens more informal connections.  Over time, these will provide mutual value as we refer business, recruit talent, and help each other be successful in Atlanta. 

If you find yourself new in a city, or wanting to build a stronger professional network, here are five ways to start that have proven useful for me in these early days in my new city:

1.      Start with Who You Know

When I finalized our move plans, I reached out to everyone I knew professionally in Atlanta. These few connections were few, but powerful.  That has already lead to a few meet ups and more introductions.  Some of these have already proved helpful in our home search and for help recruiting for some new hires in our Atlanta offices. 

2.      Ask for Introductions

Having spent a lifetime building up relationships in the Oregon business community, I knew I had a base to build from.  For instance, some of the local vendor community in Portland also have offices in Atlanta and I am now making those connections.  Agencies, management consultants, and even real estate firms with a national or international footprint are a great place to start. 

3.      Use Your Associations

I leveraged relationships I had with the Technology Association of Oregon (TAO) to get involved with the Technology Association of Georgia (TAG).  I reached out to the membership team of Avixa, where I serve on the Leadership Search Committee, to be introduced to local contacts in Atlanta (and we have begun planning a networking event for women in AV in the city).  I transferred my involvement with the CMO Club to the new city and have already had some insightful meetings and lots of great advice.

4.      Put Yourself Out There

Using the recommendations above, I have invested in some events and used those as a chance to get to know more people and learn more about the community and the various industries that call Atlanta home.  These have included events by the Atlanta Business Chronicle (which through the American Business Journals has outlets in 43 US cities), the American Marketing Association’s Atlanta chapter (another association with hundreds of chapters), and a group sponsored by Georgia State Robinson College of Business (find the business schools in your community for connections).  This has been a sacrifice of time which has resulted in some wonderful conversations, valuable insights, and new connections in the city. 

5.      Add Value

In Portland, I tried to give back to the community in big and small ways (and encouraged others to do so).  I found it personally and professionally fulfilling to be on the board of a non-profit, Marathon Scholars, and to get involved in local groups as a speaker, mentor, or advisor in the local business community.  Although I haven’t done this much in Atlanta yet, it is something I am looking forward to doing over time.  To get started, we are getting involved with the parents group at our children’s amazing school, I have taken some meetings with some early career marketing professionals, and we have gotten involved in service projects through church.  Giving back not only does good in the community, but helps people get to know you (which is more important than who you know as I have written before).  How each person chooses to give back is a highly personal decision, but no matter whether you volunteer for a rescue animal shelter or help build houses or serve on a non-profit board in a governance or fund raising capacity, volunteering is key to truly getting connected in a community.

In my case, my move to Atlanta corresponded to a new role at a new company.  The same may be true for you, as well.  It has, of course, been my top priority to master the new role and to meet colleagues and customers.  If you find yourself too busy to build your external network now, just remember that in the day to day work with your colleagues you are also building a mutually beneficial network of folks who know each other well and can advocate for each other in countless ways while you are building business value.

This article was originally published on LinkedIn Pulse.

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How do you protect what you value when the world is changing?

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How do you protect what you value when the world is changing?

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Process is like the armor of your business.  It needs to be strong enough to protect you from risk, but light enough that you can move quickly and fight the competition.  

We sign contracts to buy a home, but only after detailed inspections and an appraisal.  We do preventative maintenance on our cars.  Our governments have committees drafting legislation and Roberts Rule of Order to keep senate hearings in line.  Traditions and habits are the processes of our families and they build identity and security.  And our businesses have operating systems that provide structure to our decisions and cadence to our activities.  All of this is valuable and has a place.  But one has to constantly rethink the design of that armor and whether it fits the purpose.

The medieval armor used in jousting competition was fine, when the rules were understood, the time for the battle was set, and you could see the enemy approaching from a distance.  Many businesses enjoyed that kind of competitive stability in the past.  Today's business battles are fought and won against unknown and known competitors, working on unpredictable time frames, and coming out of no where.  This requires more nimbleness, speed, agility, flexibility, and empowerment. 

Process can still protect you and plays a key role in your competitive success.  Just not the same processes.

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On Arguments

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On Arguments

“Our marriage used to suffer from arguments that were too short.  Now we argue long enough to find out what the argument is about.” - Hugh Prather

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Good Talk, Coach: 3 ways to inspire greatness

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Good Talk, Coach: 3 ways to inspire greatness

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I overheard the half-time huddle at a soccer game this weekend.  The sweaty 11-year-olds were sitting on the grass when their coach gave them two simple pieces of advice:

  1. “Girls, we always play strong in the second half,” he started.  “Let’s go out and do that.”
  2. “Now that we switched sides at the half, our goal is in the shade.  So, let’s try to keep the ball in the shade.  We’ll score more and stay cool.”

“Good talk, coach,” I was thinking as I smirked at his no nonsense style and how we matched the length of his speech to the attention span of his pre-teen audience.

But later, I was thinking of the simplicity of his practical advice.  He did three things that good leaders should do in any environment, whether it be the soccer pitch or in the board room.  He gave them confidence (we always play strong in the back half), he gave them an easy-to-remember strategy to follow (stay in the shade), and he tied it to their own personal objectives (win and stay cool). 

If we could all do this in our own businesses and with our own teams, we would end up winning more often.

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3 Reasons for Optimism

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3 Reasons for Optimism

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Despite the adage that “if you aren’t outraged, you aren’t paying attention” that is true in so many areas of our world today and in the face of ever-increasingly devastation that are afflicting our communities, our national and international relationships, and our families, there are three rational reasons to be optimistic.

1. Character: optimism changes you

The natural world teaches us that living things need hardship to achieve their full potential. Flavorful and sweet grapes are produced only after vine pruning. Tomatoes and peppers need periods of drought to produce fruit. In my experience, we are the same. It is not the periods of prosperity and comfort that define us and shape us as individuals, but our character is refined in the fire of hardship. The idea that what “doesn’t kill us makes us stronger,” can be true if we commit to self-reflection. If you are paying the tuition, think about the education you are getting.

2. Community: optimism fosters helping

Fred Rogers, of Mr. Rogers’ fame, recounted his mother advising him to look for the “helpers” whenever he heard of tragedy or saw scenes on the news. First responders rushing in when others are rushing out. Neighbors helping neighbors. Human kindness on display without regard to the things that can artificially divide us like location, race, creed, or language. This is a reason for optimism. That all of us facing challenges and changes big and small, can assist each other. When we think about humankind, tragedy allows us to be both human and kind.

3. Creativity: optimism unleashes new ideas

A “the sky is falling”, or worst a “the world is out to get me” mentality, shuts down the creative problem solving process. Your creativity engine is closed for business if you blame others or get overwhelmed by circumstances. We are capable of amazing innovation and can create solutions that are simply unimaginable to those who weren’t open to possibility. Sitting amidst the rubble might be the next new building approach that would survive the next storm, unearthed with a fresh perspective and an open mind. 

Often in the throes of life’s challenges, it is extremely difficult to remember these benefits of optimism. This is one of the many ways that we can help each other. Not with vague platitudes, but by walking alongside each other in the storm and helping to develop character, community, and creativity.

Originally published on LinkedIn Pulse. The photo was taken at the Spruill Gallery in Dunwoody, GA.

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Five Questions

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It was fun to be interviewed for the Honeywell Home and Building Technologies internal blog (sorry, no external access).  I got asked about the company, my vision for the group, and about myself.  Got a chance to brag on my family and share about some things we are doing to get to know our new city: Atlanta, Georgia. 

 

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On Fear

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On Fear

“Stay afraid, but do it anyway.  What’s important is the action.  You don’t have to wait to be confident.  Just do it and eventually the confidence with follow.”  -Carrie Fisher

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Making Mistakes?

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Making Mistakes?

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I started a new job this past month, so I am back to being an amateur. No matter how many years of experience one might have, starting anything new is by definition…new. The view of the beginner is refreshing and can often lead to new insights. It’s a good perspective to cultivate and one that we must nurture in today’s dynamic and technology-fueled markets. But any time of learning can be error prone. And for any experienced person who finds themselves an amateur, fear of making mistakes can be a weight and a worry.

So, how do we free ourselves from a fear of making mistakes, so that risk taking, leadership, fresh insights, and a sense of urgency can flourish?

The fastest way is to change our frame. What if mistakes are not real? What if they represent not failure, but a lack of imagination. Thomas Edison, one of the most prolific inventors of all times, is credited with responding to a critic by saying “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” What if that is the attitude that we should foster? Instead of being paralyzed by the fear of failure, how do we make failure part of our forward progress? Why aren’t mistakes seen as a result unto themselves, not just eliminating alternatives on your journey to success, but rather a solution unto themselves?

There are some amazing new discoveries that were accidental or based on a mistakes. The microwave oven, super glue, saccharin artificial sweetner, Teflon, and even the Slinky were all accidental inventions. What began as a failed adhesive for one project became the perfect for another. What began as a spring that was dropped on the floor during a Naval experiment, became one of the most memorable and creative toys in history.  Rather than “making a mistake,” they actually “made a solution.”

Next time you “make a mistake” (after you apologize and do any necessary clean-up), ask yourself the following question: based on the outcome that I have observed, what problem WOULD this solve? How did you inadvertently “make a solution” on which you can take action or take away some learning?

In the recent art film, The Last Word, a cantankerous, but insightful character played by Shirley McClaine said “You don’t make mistakes. Mistakes make you. Mistakes make you smarter. They make your stronger, and they make you more self-reliant.” Perhaps when you make your next mistake, the thing you are developing the most is you.

Originally posted on LinkedIn PulseAll opinions my own.

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