Mold Me

August 2, 2011 at 7:31 am | Posted in Career Moves | Leave a comment
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This past week, I had the opportunity to attend a meeting with the leadership team members of my company, and the President of a major bank.  This was the first of many times I will be sitting in for my boss while she is out on maternity leave.

There was no way to really prep for this meeting, since they wouldn’t give us an agenda, but we tried to prepare.  The thought was that the meeting might be about branding, which is a conversation that couldn’t be had without me (or my boss, if she was available), so we prepared a bunch of documents around this.  All of this was a piece of cake for me, since I had developed these strategies and have been implementing them for the past year and a half.

The thing with funders is that there is always the desire to please them, even if whatever it is that they want is not in line with what the organization’s strategic goals are.  Simply put — the corporate world is different than the non-profit world in many ways.  And more than that, it’s hard to really get to know how an organization operates unless you work for it. So with this in mind, my strategy was to be a good listener, and if any bullets were thrown in my direction, I would let my senior colleagues take them on my behalf.

But that wasn’t necessary.  This man put our team through a very thoughtful exercise in being true to who we are, who we serve, and what we are all about, at the core.  The thing with non-profits, which is in line with trying to make funders happy, is that non-profits have a tendency to try to be everything to everyone.  This issue truly dilutes the message and brand of an organization.

So this lesson in branding wasn’t so much about the promotional aspects of branding, but more about getting the organization’s staff on the same page, speaking the same voice.

It is opportunities like this, when a President of a major company gives you 4 hours of undivided attention, that I think I’ll enjoy the most with the absence of my boss.  These opportunities to be among the thought leaders challenge me to think big picture, think differently, and develop new strategies.   Spending time with these folk will help to mold me into a leader.

Can’t Take the Heat? Get out of the Board Room

February 10, 2011 at 7:34 am | Posted in Career Moves | 8 Comments
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photo via drewjpowell.wordpress.com

As I may have mentioned in passing, I work for an organization focused on preparing high school students for college and career success. So every so often I actually get to see what we preach in action.  This week, I was invited to attend and judge presentations students were making in order to recruit other students to attend events.  As a communications pro, I’ve done many a presentation and of course have studied the art of presenting through sources including Andy Goodman’s Why Good Presentations Happen to Bad Causes. Public speaking is certainly an important skill for anyone to learn and the fact that these kids have real business people to provide feedback certainly gives them the edge.

So some of the presentations were pretty good, and some could use improvement.  But what really surprised me was the students’ capacity to take criticism.  There was one girl in particular who had something to say about everyone’s work.  She said it tastefully for the most part, but many people would still have taken it as a personal offense.  Not these kids. These kids were handled it with poise and grace.

In my career, I have had my work torn apart time and time again.  I used to have my emails edited before I contacted clients.  I’ve had articles come out completely unrecognizable on the other side of the editing process.  In college, when I got my work critiqued, it got to the point where I would give up on pieces where there seemed to be no end to the editing process.  I have learned in my career how to take criticism.  I know many who haven’t.

The problem with not being able to take criticism is that you will never get better.  You think that you know everything and that’s it.  You can’t learn from others and thus, you can’t really teach anyone anything.  You become a non-expert and can even become obsolete.

I have worked with all different types of people – inspiring people that you want to learn from, tough bosses, people who don’t really get what you do, slow learners, fast learners.  But it is the people who whine that get me the most.  I just don’t get it.  You never see whiners become CEOs, even if they whine their way into getting a promotion.  It just doesn’t happen.

Let me be clear in saying that there have been times in my professional career where I have gotten emotional over criticism.  It happened once recently and it was because I felt as though my toes were being stepped on and it was out of the blue so I wasn’t prepared.  But I don’t get upset when someone critiques my work (unless I know they have no idea what they are talking about).

The important thing to remember is that they are critiquing your work and not you.  Just because you completed an assignment that wasn’t up to par with the standards set forth doesn’t mean I don’t want to go to happy hour with you.  We’re adults. Let’s deal with this like adults.  If a bunch of high school kids can, can’t we?

Taking On The World’s Problems – Or, At Least Pitching In

August 26, 2010 at 7:33 am | Posted in Career Moves, Life and Living | 34 Comments
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Girl Scouts!

There are a few experiences from my childhood that I now recognize as opportunities to support the greater good.  The first was my experience as a Girl Scout (Brownie Troop 1678 represent!).  As a Girl Scout, we did lots of fun activities – we camped, we played games, we held bake sales and of course sold the famous Girl Scout cookies (I was a Samoas fan). I was so young I didn’t know that I was part of a larger movement to empower girls, to expose them to the great outdoors and to the larger world around them.

The second experience that sticks out in my mind was my father’s involvement with the Road Runners Club.  As a member, he ran in 10 marathons in New York City, and countless 5K runs, etc.  He usually raised money for cancer, having lost both parents to it.  His last run was for heart disease, an illness he conquered, but that’s a story for a different day.

I didn’t hear of the phrase “non-profit” until I was older.  I didn’t really know about the millions of people working to solve the world’s problems, until I became one of them.  I’m lucky enough to know this world now, but I know a lot of people still don’t really know it.

I wanted to do more than collect a paycheck from a cause that I worked for and believed in.  I wanted to start giving back.  There are so many problems in the world, but little by little, we can make a dent.  A few years ago, around the time when I got my dog, I found a cause I was truly passionate about.  With all that my dog gives to me, I was compelled to give back.  I have chosen to direct the majority of my support to the ASPCA, an organization that works to protect our pets. There are many organizations that do similar work, but I chose ASPCA because their message is simple, not too extreme, and as a national organization, they have a wide reach.  As I get older, I hope to be able to give more, and perhaps choose a few other worthy causes to regularly support.

What the non-profit world does best is to create a community of hope, from the youngest supporters to the oldest.  Who we donate to often relates directly to a pain we suffered or an inspiring experience.  What we support, what we work to change or improve or advance, defines us and gives us a greater world to live in tomorrow.

What do you do to make the world a better place?

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