Being Thankful: A Purposeful Direction of Thought

I began writing this post on Thanksgiving Day as I was feeling I needed to have the obligatory “I am thankful for…” post on the blog.  It was rough.  Although I am thankful for so many things, what I found myself doing was writing what I thought I should write versus the things that were on my mind.  The original intention of this blog was to write from my heart and my head, and not to write what I thought people wanted to hear or what I “should” write.  So, for that day and for the last week or so, I stopped writing.

Once I lived through this writing crisis, I became increasingly more skeptical.  All of the “Thank You” messages that I saw in my Facebook feed and of all of the articles I was reading on other blogs about thankfulness didn’t seem authentic.  I wondered if those were real thoughts from people or if they were just posting/writing about what they thought they should say much like I had been about to do.  So much of our world today is about broadcasting our social “status.”  Therefore, how much are people broadcasting thankfulness versus being truly thankful?

Tonight, I am a little less skeptical.  I have decided that this broadcasting of thankfulness is a good thing.  We all have a lot going on in our lives every day and night.  Our brains can get filled with worry, stress, to-do lists, work, family and so much more.  Being thankful requires a purposeful direction or redirection of these thoughts and energy toward celebrating the good in our lives.  By being purposeful, does that mean it is isn’t real?  I don’t think so.  The forced thought, and ultimately broadcasting of these thoughts, helps to move my mental energy toward what is good in my life and away from what may be dragging me down.

As a way to direct my thoughts toward thankfulness, I will start another category on this blog describing things in my life that I am thankful for.  Look for this, coming soon!

Commitments: Continue To Grow As A Leader

I have had one of the hardest weeks of work in my career this week.  It has caused me to look internally, and to evaluate myself in earnest as a leader.  I don’t know what it is about the work issue that made this self evaluation come in, but it made for a few nights of little sleep, a strong need to get my workouts in, and now a need to write a blog about it.  What I have been spending time evaluating is my strength as a leader.  I am good at some things, and not so good at others.

So, here are my top five leadership commitments for 2015:

  1. As a leader, give your time to developing the strengths in others.  As we grow in our career, we are often valued for the individual contributions that we make.  In the transition to a leader, the value you create has less to do with your personal contributions and more to do with your team and what they can deliver.  This shift from an individual contributor to a leader takes time to learn, and forces purposeful reallocation of your time.  Instead of your time being about you and your work, it is about your people.  If you are taking up the majority of your time, or the limelight, your team isn’t, so change it.  Allocate your time to the development of others and you will succeed.
  2. When helping a team member develop, keep the end goal in mind.  Sometimes when you are actively coaching an employee to help them improve, it is easy to get so granular in your coaching that it feels to them like you are unsatisfied with their every move.  Often, you see “your way” as the only way to do something, and your coaching is working to shape their behavior to “your way”.  As the leader, if you focus on the end goal for the individuals development, instead of the specific gaps you see in their daily work, you will bring your feedback in effectively as versus on every small thing that they may be doing differently than “your way”.  And, in the process, you may find new ways.
  3. Listen to truly understand.  Allow your point of view to be molded.  Just because you got to your position of leadership, doesn’t mean that you know everything.  To get the best out of your team, spend your time truly listening to the perspective of your people.  Their practical experiences and creative thinking may bring out a better solution than you ever could have determined on your own.
  4. Focus on alignment.  Being misaligned, particularly on some of the most fundamental things in your business, is a poison.  When I say alignment, I mean alignment upward within your organization, sideways, and downward to your direct reports.   Your job as a leader is to bring things into alignment to drive the most effective results.
  5. Recognize when you are in over your head.  Every leader, and every employee in an organization, gets in over their head at some point.  It is inevitable in a changing workplace and helps us to grow and stretch.  The key is to recognize it, accept it, and deal with it by building capability around you.  You show strength by giving in to this, and partnering with people around you to develop a solution.

My commitment for the week has less to do with this week, and more to do with the next year and beyond.  Based on what I learned in my hard week at work, it is even more important.  I commit to continue to grow as an individual and as a leader in the hopes that it helps those around me.

Taking the Downside Out of Determination

Never give up

The other day when Katharine was working on a puzzle she leaned over to me and said, “Mom, this is a hard one.” She continued to stay determined to accomplish the puzzle as a good Stock/Snavely would. A few minutes later…”Mom, we never give up do we?”  Proud mommy moment.  She knew it was hard, but was willing to put the effort in to learn and accomplish what she set out to do.  Jon and I pride ourselves in building a life based on working hard and not giving up on our goals.  This moment of hearing her echo our behavior in her words helped me to appreciate how early we either learn or don’t learn this in our lives.

Then, I start to freak out.  Am I being too ambitious as a parent?  All I want to do is to teach our kids that they are in control of their lives.  I hope for their ability to be determined, positive and committed to what they want in their lives.  I hope that they can solve the problems that they encounter.  I also want them to know that trying is all we ask of them, not necessarily succeeding and delivering a perfect outcome.

As I reflect on what made me a “never give up” person, I do worry about the downside of being determined.  Much of my determination came from a desire to be perfect.  This desire to be perfect, whether it was because I wanted to please others or just for myself, often times turned my determination into stress.  Today, this drive for perfection has diminished a great deal – mostly due to the fact that I know it isn’t possible.  That said, the perfectionist behavior rears its ugly head frequently.  When it does, I generally try to turn the perfectionist behavior into the problem and work to channel my “never give up” skills into solving that problem.

So, although I am proud of what Katharine (and Matthew) are learning, I certainly hope their journey as determined kiddos and ultimately adults is also met with an acceptance and enjoyment of the moments in which they live.  For them to learn this, Jon and I have to show them it is possible.  Whether it be taking a random afternoon nap, having an evening dance party together, playing hooky from school every so often, or just reading a book on a snowy weekend morning, I am going to teach them through how I live how having the determination to meet your goals and living in the moment are not opposites of each other.

Commitments: Let the Game Come To You

Throughout my career, one of the most helpful pieces of feedback I have received is to “let it come to you.”  My first boss, Joe Haynes, gave me this advice.  I don’t know the origin of the phrase officially, but most often I have heard it used in sports…”let the game come to you.”  About a year ago, after an incident at my current job where I wish I would have applied this feedback, I decided to research a little bit more about this phrase.

One of the articles that I read was a review of Phil Jackson’s book Eleven Rings:  The Soul of Success.  In the review it explained Jackson’s characterization of Michael Jordan’s play.  He described Jordan’s ability to lay back when he wasn’t on his game, and to not force it.  Jordan had a deep confidence in his ability, and he never felt as if he had to prove his greatness.  This was contrasted to Kobe Bryant, who although a tremendous player, pushed hard even when he wasn’t on his game or when the defense had him.

“Jordan was also more naturally inclined to let the game come to him and not overplay his hand, whereas Kobe tends to force the action, especially when the game isn’t going his way. When his shot is off, Kobe will pound away relentlessly until his luck turns. Michael, on the other hand, would shift his attention to defense or passing or setting screens to help the team win the game.”  – Phil Jackson

In my career, I have always been the young one, feeling like the underdog.  I remember celebrating turning thirty professionally.  I felt like I no longer had to explain away my lack of years in life.  For some reason being the young one at the table made me feel like I had to go above and beyond to prove myself and build respect.  I would put the pressure on myself to be good all the time.  When things went wrong, I would overextend myself, giving more than was reasonable and trying too hard.  Let’s call it the Kobe Bryant model.  In hindsight, these moments were times that I should have just backed down…”letting the game come to me.”  This personal reaction, driven often times by a lack of confidence, often hurt more than it helped.

Today, looking back, I am grateful for these experiences as they have helped me to be a better professional, leader and coach to my team.  I have a renewed commitment to “let the game come to me” and to help develop this skill in my team.  Thanks Phil.

Commitments: No Fear. Put Yourself Out There.

So, what is it?  After about two months of posting on this blog stress-free, I decided to go public on facebook and at work that I was doing the blog.  What was an outlet for me to write and just be me, became all of a sudden stressful.  What is it about putting yourself out there that brings pressure?

It stems from expectations.  Prior to going public, the only expectation that I had of myself was to enjoy what I was writing.  I started to write this blog as a place where I can be as real as I want to be…a place to bring together the parts of my life.  Prior to blogging, I found myself having so many things that I wanted to say and so many stories that I wanted to tell.  I never had a place for it in my life.  My relationshps, my job and my lack of vulernability just didn’t allow for it.  This blog became a place to channel this energy with no fear and no expectations.

Now, I have lifted the my expectations of myself.  In the process, I became afraid of exposure and failure.  I am hoping that writing about it tonight helps to alleviate this fear and to release my expectations.  Introduce uncomfortable.

image

As I worked on blog topics for this week (which I hope will all show the light of day), this one was the one that I thought I could do. My commitment for this week is to work hard to not fear putting myself out there.  Step 1:  This blog post.

‘Femvertising’: Authenticity Sells? Let’s Hope So.

I was interested to see at the AdWeek 2014 conference this week that they had a panel on ‘Femvertising’ moderated by Samantha Skey, the Chief Revenue Officer of SheKnows.  A few definitions if you haven’t hear about this.

Feminism – the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities.

Advertising – the act of producing an advertisement which is something that is shown or presented to the public to help sell a product or make an announcement.

Femvertising – defined by Samantha during that panel as pro-female messaging within advertising.

Although conceptually I get it, and support the rise of advertising that shows women and girls in authentic ways, I sit here feeling frustrated about this new term.  For some reason it gets me asking why we need a ‘slogan’ to simply communicate what seems like what should be common sense?  Shouldn’t pro-female messaging sell without needing a movement?  Shouldn’t this be what marketers bring out of the gates in our work?  Okay – insert idealistic groan.  This just isn’t how it works no matter how much my idealist wants it to be that way.

So, how does it actually work?  As marketers we are accountable for advertising within an organization.  Per above, this means we are responsible for producing advertisements that sell a product or service or help to make an announcement.  Generally, in organizations we are considered ‘spenders’ of money.  We work long and hard to come up with ideas that sell, and then to sell our ideas internally to our organizations so that they can get funded to be produced and distributed via a media buy which is again a part of funding we must secure on the inside of an organization.

As we do these marketing plans and work on aligning the leaders of our organization, especially in a world where digital marketing is a predominant force in the spend wars of advertising, we talk about measurement.  How are we going to measure if our advertising is working?  What are our expectations for return on investment from the money we invest both in the production of the idea and the media buy?  In order to answer this, we look to historical performance as a benchmark.  How has our audience responded to our advertising in the past, and how much has it helped to sell our products or services?  Often times this gets us back to applying what has worked in the past to sell stuff.  Generally, this is the retouched image removing some inches around a waistline, the aspirational (read that as unrealistically beautiful) model flipping her hair over her shoulder and other unattainable visualizations of what being a woman/girl (and a man for that matter) is supposed to be.

So, as marketers (and advertisers) we have generally been either creating the problem, or are simply doing our jobs which is to sell stuff.  The less progressive position is to assume the latter…to assume that the only way to sell things is to present these ‘aspirational’ images assuming that is what sells.  The more progressive position is to change things.  To not look back at history to direct the choices we make in our current advertising.  Instead, to take on ‘femvertising’ as presented in the panel despite the potential difficulty this brings in making your case in the internal sale for funding of your advertising.  This may require a shift away from a direct sales link of our advertising (like television advertising had a direct link!) and cause us to think differently about how positive reputation of our brands will drive sales over time.  The work from Always in the #LikeAGirl video gives us measurable hope (48 millions YouTube views and counting) that this idealistic view of success is achievable.  But, does it sell product?  Let’s hope so.

So instead of being frustrated that we need a new term like ‘femvertising’ to bring authenticity in advertising out, I am channeling that frustration into action within my marketing team.  Let’s hope other marketers out there are on board.