Mentors & Champions

Last night I got to do what I love to do and am good at for the first time at a job I have been doing for nearly a year. The good news is that it was successful, then again why wouldn’t it be? I have been teaching experientially for over two decades and a lot of time, effort and thought has gone into developing the skills and techniques that I use to facilitate people’s learning.

My big take home point is that I came to the job wanting to do this; it was always my stated goal. I want to work in development for a big company whose values I admire so I came in at the ground floor to learn a business that I knew nothing about. That way I was able to learn what truly goes on, while having time to think of ways that I can apply the skills I have to the benefit of the company and people that work there. Now in many ways this has not been easy. I have often felt underutilized and there has been frustration at the amount of time that the process has taken.

Last night I realized why it had taken so long and this is a lesson I will carry with me. Following my hour with a newly forming mentor group, examining what it is to be a mentor through games, activities, laughter and reflection my manager came up to me. After thanking me she said she could not promise anything but she was going to make sure that other managers in the region new of my skill set and what we had accomplished that evening. Without being asked she had stated she was going to promote my talents. Now this amused me because for the last week I had been pondering the idea of attracting a champion and here was one manifesting herself effortlessly.

For nearly a year I have hidden my talent and while I have asked repeatedly for opportunities to demonstrate it, I have not been approaching it in the right way. I had not  made sure that I had a mentor at work, I had not made sure that I had a champion for my worthy cause. Moving forward, I will make sure that people know what I can do for them. I will make sure that I demonstrate my skill set and I will find a person within the organization who has the rank to make things happen and who will benefit from what I have to offer. I will actively look for a champion and mentor?

How will you find your champion?

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Thinking Outside the Box

I used to work with a company called Sprayway. They make outdoor clothing and following a cheeky letter suggesting a mutually beneficial arrangement I proceeded to test product for them. The relationship developed when I went to see them to put a face to a name, it strengthened further when I convinced them to have their test weekends at the center where I was employed. Being known by all the managerial, marketing, sales and design team members was extremely advantageous and the “mutually beneficial arrangement” blossomed; you have to love being paid to go on the vacation you had already organized because it becomes a photoshoot, especially when the tent is exchanged for 4 star hotels and luxury meals are cooked for you.

My highpoint in the relationship came when I collaborated with the marketing team to think outside the box and brainstorm alternative ways of encouraging custom; center pages in national magazines are expensive. What we came up with was:

  • Most decisions are made while talking to a sales assistant at point of sales.

Assistants promote a product based on one of three factors:

  1. They have been asked to by management
  2. Commission
  3. A personal relationship with the product.

Based on this we decided to invest in creating relationships with sales assistants and making sure that they knew our products, brand and also our people. We started inviting 50 to 80 people at a time to the Conway Centre, we took them out to do outdoor activities wearing Sprayway products during the day and entertained and informed them in the evenings. At the end of the weekend we sent them home with a fleece and shell garment.

The bottom line is that sales went up and less was spent on the marketing budget.

How are you thinking outside the box? How are you taking a familiar situation and stamping it with your own flair?

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Brian & the Perfect Job Hunt

One of the things that I really enjoy about Coach Joan’s Career Cafe is meeting some great people and hearing their stories.  These are certainly interesting times when I meet so many smart, erudite people brought together in a room because they are looking for work. The wonderful thing about this group is that it is a safe and nurturing place to share the tale of my search process which I confess has ups and downs. By sharing I formulate a better plan and I know my peers want to hear fun stories with happy endings so I focus on making some each week. Another great thing is that others bring their success stories to the (breakfast) table and I want to share the most inspiring of these as a model for job hunting in the current climate.

Brian is in the process of demonstrating the most important skill of the modern job hunter; reinvention. Leaving Michigan to relocate was only one part of the equation, he has also left the automobile industry and is now working in wind energy. Brian is an engineer; close your eyes for a few seconds and imagine what these folk do on a daily basis. For me it is summed up when we take notes side by side. Brian, captures all the details. His writing is a testament to the benefits of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder; you can read it from 5 miles without glasses. At the cafe he knows (because it is written down) everyone’s name, what they do, what leads they are looking for and he graciously sets out to help them.

With regards to his job search he used the meticulous attention of an engineer and chose exactly what he wanted his end product to be. He broke it down into component groups and then worked on each carefully making sure that each part was ready before bringing it all together.

I confess to being glad to meeting him a number of months into the process; he is only human and like most of us, it took a while to define a vision of his end result. Once he had the concept drawing on the wall and a list of the features he wished to include there was no stopping him. He mapped out all the component parts he needed to put in place and consequently everything he did took him closer to his picture, every action was intentional.

So what were these component parts? It started with a lot of research, what skills did his target industry require? Trust me when I say Brian is extremely skilled, he packs more into his career in 5 years than many do in 20. He is also smart enough to know that looking at what a company wants is far more productive than selling what he has already.  Brian went back to school to make sure he catered to the needs of future employers, he also cataloged skills he already had that fit their criteria and promoted them.

More importantly he recognized that he was in a new town and he needed to meet people. This former wall flower practiced until he became the consummate networker. Brian connects with people and gives of himself, he comes from a place where he knows a relationship is made by finding what he can offer that will be of use to the person he is getting to know. He makes sure that he comes through and he follows up. The other thing I love about Brian is that he does not judge whether someone will be useful because he knows some of his leads have come from unexpected places. He looks for the best in people and gives of himself to everyone.

These tactics helped Brian to find his dream job with a salary to match. I know I am now closing my eyes and daring to dream about what I really want my job to be and I am putting these simple steps into play.

Thanks Brian, you have modeled a wonderful, humane approach to moving forward in difficult times and I want you to know I appreciate it a great deal.



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On Commuting and Being Open to Experience

Originally posted in November

At this time of year my journey to work usually involves a bike. It can be anything from the the whirl of spinning feet and a pulsing soundtrack oblivious to my surroundings, (or worse still people greeting me) to a festival of sensations  as I slowly pedal the two and a half  beautiful miles into the office. Already winter has taken its toll when ice and rubber did not agree and Wil slid clumsily down the blacktop, the cost including a pair of gloves, a down jacket, a helmet and a probable broken finger. It could have been much worse; watching the tarmac from half an inch as I glided over it,  skin buffered by my helmet was sobering and needless to say the studs are now on!

I like to wear headphones, they spike my attitude and allow me to push harder as I disassociate from the discomfort and focus on the task of going from a to b. By doing more and thinking less I become more efficient rather like a dog bounding full tilt, its hinging mid drift drawing air into its lungs. There is a major problem to this detachment though and that is a separation from my environment. I am no longer part of it, I do not feel it in the same way and therefore do not become involved with it. When on the machines at the gym this may or may not be a good thing, on my ride into work I am even less sure.

Today, I left the house in the crisp dark, it was warmer than it has been for a while with the temperatures hovering just below freezing (good news for snow). This though leads to very slick roads so I slowed down. Travelling by the light from a headlamp was like passing through a tunnel so I focused more on sound and smell. The noise of the treads of studded tires were distinctive and reassuring, the travel breeze on my face refreshing, when I came to the fork in the trail, I usually choose left or right around the lake, today I clambered through the beaver’s industry and after striding through the felled trees reached the lake. Now I have never riden a bike on a lake before, the expanse of open ground allowed a pre dawn light to reach the snow that covered the ice and while Cai & I had skated here on Sunday, I was still a little intimidated to push out onto the flat surface knowing I was seperated from freezing liquid by a mear few inches of frozen water. Like being out at night when it is possible to imagine that every shadow is a bear, being out on this lake raised the intensity of the experience. It was a truly sublime experience, the early morning quiet meant I could hear the shattering frost under my tires. The open flat surface allowed far more interaction with the movement of air and the crisp smell of cold, the low light spread a mirage of dancing shadows. I really felt attached to this place and this moment and with that connection came an uplifting. For a while anyway, the black of the onset of an Alaskan winter was blown away, the frustrations of work and home no longer held me captive and in that moment I was extremely content.


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