Mom, what’s your job?

Imax Hubble 3D courtesy of Warner Brothers and NASA

My son age 4: “Mom what’s your job?” Me,”You mean my most important job or what I do when I go to work? Jack, “Your most important job.” Me, “Well my most important job is that you grow up to be a person that is healthy and kind and respectful of people, animals and the planet.” Jack, “Oh. So what do you do when you go to work? Me, “Hmm well I help companies understand how to talk to people.” Jack, ” Oh, but don’t you want to be an astronaut?”

My son and I share a passion for all things space related. I am old enough to remember the moon walk and my son is curious about science and space and it has reignited a passion I had as a child. It is a fun adventure. And it makes me happy.

If you or a child you know wants to learn more check out NASA’s site and NASA’s kid site.

Photo is from Warner Brothers and NASA’s Hubble 3D Movie. In part of my “day job” I had a chance to interview Astronaut Mike Massimino and you can read more about it here.

What are you doing to feed your passions?

“No one here wears shoes.” Shift perspective and create opportunity.

Photo Credit: JonjkYesterday a yoga instructor shared an old parable about the importance of shifting perspective.  Yoga is all about physical, mental and emotional shifts. You gain strength, flexibility and energy and you can actually change the way you react to challenge and adversity.  I liked this story and thought I’d share it with you.

Two people from a shoe manufacturer travel to an underdeveloped country with the mandate that they need to open up successful shoe factories.  After a few days, one employee writes back to the company and says, “Situation is dire here. No one here wears shoes.”   The other individual writes back to the company, “ Situation is full of opportunity.  No one here wears shoes.”

Isn’t it interesting when two people can have the same experience have a completely different takeaway? Remember this as you think about your current job or job search.  Whether you’re experiencing a business downturn or looking for employment, how can you shift your perspective so that you are more open to identifying the opportunity that may exist?  What helps you shift perspective?

Photo Credit Jonjk

Tackle the Unexpected

Photo credit: Maworley

Photo credit: Maworley

This was the headline of a billboard I saw on the highway on my way home from Boston last night. I didn’t catch the company logo but my impression was it must have been for an insurance company. They’re always reminding us how to hedge risk.

I thought about the phrase a lot on the drive home. Tackle.  My brothers and husband played football.  Tackle is generally a defensive approach so it is somewhat reactive.  In thinking about your life and handling both the known and the unknown you may have greater long-term success if you switch to a proactive mode.

This economy has thrown many of us in a bit of a reactive mode.  Whether we are gainfully employed but seeing a slow down in business, or recently unemployed and in search of new opportunities, we’re thinking  “how do I get out of this?”

I recently attended a Holy Cross alumni networking event and our host, Mike Jeans, president of New Directions, talked a lot about long-range planning, resilience, attitude, creativity and passion.

He shared a Top 1o list for handling your search in a recession.  Here are a few that really resonated with me:

You must know yourself, your drivers, values and dreams.  What really matters to you? Can these transfer you to another field, industry or life direction? In hard times, companies are looking for passionate people to carry them through. What are your passions?

Be persistent… people are busy. Make it easy for them to help you. If they don’t return your calls, change the medium (voice mail versus email vs. snail mail). Thank them for their insight and guidance.  It takes time to generate momentum.

In the end (and in the beginning), it’s your attitude that’s most important… you must stay positive and resilient. Enlist your family and close friends to recharge yourself to keep going. You will come through this and will be better for it.

What would you add to the list?

Unplug on weekends. You gain more than you miss.

Photo credit: Images By Ashley

Photo credit: Images By Ashley

I’ve spent the last several weekends offline and I’m amazed at how much more refreshed I feel on Monday mornings when I do this.   Several years ago, I stopped wearing a watch on the weekends.  It was my signal to myself that I didn’t have to answer to a schedule.  Taking a break from email gives you time to focus on activities you don’t have time for during the week.

Unplugging enables you to focus on the now and not the future or the past.

I want to use technology to enhance my life rather than feel I am a slave to it.  I don’t feel the need to be as accessible.  How about you?

Are you asking a more powerful question?

Photo credit: Alexander Drachmann

Photo credit: Alexander Drachmann

I like questions. I’m insanely curious about many things. I like questions that shift perspective. David Mullen, in his blog Communications Catalyst, writes about how the smartest thing one can do in a client meeting is ask a question with the intent to understand, not merely with the intent to respond. I like this very much. When you listen with intent to respond, it makes it about you. When you listen with intent to understand, it focuses the conversation on finding a smarter solution to the business need or challenge.

I would advocate even thinking about how you frame your questions. Are you asking a more powerful question? Are you asking questions that create a shift and open up new options and breakdown obstacles?

Here are a few of my favorite powerful questions:

What does success look like?

What can I do to make a greater contribution to the success of this project?

What will it looks like when it works?

What can I learn from this situation?

What is a better way of doing this?

What can we do differently next time?

What else do we need to be successful?

And Managers, ask more powerful questions of your employees. They don’t come to you for answers. They come to you for inspiration. Rather than saying “What I think you should do is…..” Try some of these:

So what did you try?

What did you learn from that?

What else is possible?

So pretend you can fix it, what would happen first?

What do you need to change in order to make that happen?

Do you have a favorite powerful question? I’d love to hear it!

Are you leading by example?

Photo credit: Denis Collette

Photo credit: Denis Collette

We’ve all worked with people with strong leadership qualities; sometimes they are peers and sometimes they are running the organization (or should be).

Great leaders still learn from others; they empower, inspire, coach and lead by example. They have a lot of integrity. They do the right thing, they believe in transparency and they believe in the people of their organization. They don’t participate in games of control, gossip or pettiness.

They are islands of calm in great storms. They acknowledge the contributions of others.

They are teachers and visionaries.

Here are a few of my favorite quotes about leadership:

“Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.”

John F. Kennedy

“Leadership is not magnetic personality—that can just as well be a glib tongue. It is not ‘making friends and influencing people’—that is flattery. Leadership is lifting a person’s vision to higher sights, the raising of a person’s performance to a higher standard, the building of a personality beyond its normal limitations.”

Peter F. Drucker

“Great necessities call forth great leaders.”

Abigail Adams

What else would you add to this list?

What are you doing for fun?

photo credit: jogiboarder

photo credit: jogiboarder

We’re going through a difficult time. All of us. It affects all of us a little differently but more and more I see the stress in friends’ faces and I hear an edge to their voices on the phone. All in all, some of us feel a little less resilient. I look to exercise to offset stress but friends and family members also remind me of the value of humor. It isn’t just a temporary respite from one’s worries; there are more studies now that look at the longer-term physiological and emotional effects of laughter. One University of Maryland Medical Center study suggests that the ability to laugh at stressful situations can help lessen the damaging physical effects of distressing emotions.

There’s no lack of information about the benefits of humor. I did two separate Web searches and found over a million related links popped up in less than 24 seconds:

Results 1 – 10 of about 1,720,000 for humor makes you healthier. (0.23 seconds)
Results 1 – 10 of about 18,200,000 for laughing is good for you. (0.18 seconds)

My sense is that while we all know that humor and laughter is good for us, it may seem a little harder to incorporate it regularly into our lives right now. A number of things may weigh on our minds: the recession, our bank accounts, job and employment stress, the war, family health issues, marital and relationship rancor – well the list seems to go on and on. That is, only if we let it.

I did an informal survey of some friends and colleagues. I asked, “What makes you laugh? ” And “What do you do to get more laughter in your life?”

Here’s what I heard:

  • Spend time with young children, they are natural comedians.
  • Invite your funniest friends over for dinner (The funny ones, not just the snarky ones. It is more fun if they laugh at themselves and not at the expense of others.)
  • Watch or rent a really funny movie or show. Favorites mentioned included Will Farrell, Tracey Ullman , Bill Cosby and George Carlin

“Some people see things that are and ask, Why? Some people dream of things that never were and ask, Why not? Some people have to go to work and don’t have time for all that.”
George Carlin

  • Find an up and coming funny person. One close friend I know is particularly fond of new show on Comedy Central with Demetri Martin
  • Watch this video on YouTube with the laughing baby (over 78 million views)
  • Find an improvisational comedy performance or class. Improv Asylum in Boston is popular and there are likely to be others near you.
  • Keep amusing pictures or objects in your home and work space.

What would you add to this list? What do you do for fun? How do you surround yourself with people that make you laugh?

Photo credit Jogiboarder