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Your Pandemic Bucket List

Yesterday, I decided to treat myself, and try a Shamrock Shake from McDonald’s. They’ve been on their seasonal menu for as long as I can remember. And for as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to try one. So last night, I did. And it was as delicious as I dreamed it would be all these years. And I wondered why I had ever waited so long.

By now most of us have probably heard the term “bucket list”. It’s the idea that we each have a list of things we want to do or accomplish or contribute before we leave this earth. However, in the last year, the vast majority of us have been disrupted. And plans and goals we may have had were put on hold, and likely won’t be coming to fruition anytime soon. Which begs the question, what can I do to embrace things as they are, while still doing good, and finding joy in life? The answer for me was to begin working on my “pandemic bucket list”, things I could still do, that I’d been wanting to do but just hadn’t gotten around to doing, while spending more time at home. Here’s just a few of mine:

  • I got that McDonald’s Shamrock shake I’d always wanted to try
  • I started a podcast, and interviewed friends and mentors, and shared their stories with others. And because of it, I got to interview a dear mentor just weeks prior to his passing (miss you Bob).
  • I had always wanted to make a really good loaf of bread. So I bought a stand mixer and started baking.
  • I had professional photos taken, and made a new friend because of it.
  • I started a family recipe food blog, and felt more connected with my ancestors.
  • I made homemade Birthday cards for all my nieces and nephews, which allowed me think on each of them individually, and let them know I appreciate their unique traits.
  • I made some renovations and changes to my house, and I now feel much more relaxed and comfortable at home.

I know the past year has been difficult for many of us. And I certainly don’t want to minimize that. But I also know that as I’ve embraced the situation as it is, I’ve found joy in spite of the difficulties, and I believe you can, too. So—what’s on YOUR pandemic bucket list?

#traceability #fearless #resilient #changemanagement #businessanalysis #bucketlist #careers

Cast Your Net on the other Side

This sculpture sits on a shelf in my office. It’s a depiction of the resurrected Jesus, appearing to His Apostles at the Sea of Tiberius. In the story, the Apostles have been out fishing, and have returned home unsuccessful. Jesus, standing on the shore, tells them to go out again, only this time to cast their nets on the other side of the boat. They do as instructed, and this time they catch so many fish, there’s not enough room in the boat.

No alt text provided for this image

Sometimes life is like that. We pursue a particular path, and no matter how hard we try, we just can’t seem to find the success we seek. That promotion you’ve been waiting for doesn’t come through, or you’re downsized, or you get negative feedback on a review. It can be deeply discouraging. However, consider what might happen if we were to make a change, and either adjust our sails, or try a new technique. Of course, we might still fail. But it’s also possible that we might gain something even better in the long run. The potential benefits far outweigh the risks.

Is there a situation in your life or career, where you keep coming up empty? If so, consider what you can do to cast your net on the other side, and make an adjustment. You’ll be glad you did.

#traceability #careers #changemanagement #personaldisruption #businessanalysis #fearless #resilience

JUST START

It’s the week after Thanksgiving here in the U.S., and the Holiday season is officially underway. But I haven’t been feeling particularly in the Holiday spirit. Not that I’m feeling down. On the contrary, I’ve been feeling pretty normal (or whatever might be considered normal these days). But I was a bit tired, and not really ready to go to all the effort of all the Holiday trappings. Yet, try as I might to delay them, the Holidays are coming, and I might as well embrace them. So – yesterday morning, I turned on some Christmas movies, addressed my Christmas cards, and got the decorations out. And what do you know, suddenly I was in the Holiday spirit.

Now, you might be asking what this all has do with our careers. I would submit that at various points in our careers, we can get a bit stuck. Just like when we know the Holidays are coming, we like our routines, we like our sense of stability, maybe we’re even physically and emotionally and so we go along, hoping that things will just continue as they are. We don’t really want to put forth the effort to make a positive change, or we’re terrified that we might get it wrong. However, if we just make a start, soon, the change may not be quite so intimidating. Whether it’s a small task like updating our resume, or having a “where is my career going” conversation with a boss, or reaching out to a connection, if we just start, soon we’ll see that we’ve nothing to lose but a few minutes of our time, and everything to gain from the enthusiasm and confidence we now feel in ourselves.

So – what are you waiting for? Just start!


Are You Happy Where You Are?

I want you to ask yourself a question. It’s an important question, the question of all questions: Am I happy where I am? COVID-19 or no, am I happy, and am I having the impact I want to have? If the answer is yes, I congratulate you! But – if the answer is no, then we have some work to do. Believe me when I say that the happiness you seek IS attainable, but as I said, it requires effort. You need to understand that going in.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, I want you to do something:

Step 1 – Close your eyes. Take a deep breath, and visualize where it is you want to be. Maybe it’s a place, maybe it’s a state of mind, maybe it’s a career or a family, or a host of other things. Or even some combination of it all. Do you have that image in your head? What does it look like? It’s ok if it’s a little out of focus. But remember it. Etch it into your brain, and proceed to Step 2.

Step 2 – Ask yourself, what is it going to take you to get there? And is the path you’re currently on going to make it possible? If not, proceed to Step 3.

Step 3 – Make a plan for how you’re going to achieve your vision. Maybe it means putting yourself out there more, maybe it’s more education, maybe it’s finding a mentor, or a new path. Either way, write your plan down, and give yourself a deadline. Proceed to Step 4.

Step 4 – Before I tell you what this step is, you need to know that this is the hardest step of all. It means change, it means getting out of our comfort zone. It’s scary, but you MUST do it if you’re going to achieve your vision. And I promise you that it is the only way to happiness and joy. Are you ready? Drum roll please… Step 4 is to ACT! As one of my mentors is fond of saying, “action brings clarity”. Do what you need to do to set your plan in motion. And get started. Take the first step. And then the next. Each successive step will get just a bit easier. You’ll develop a cadence and a rhythm, and you’ll be on your way before you know it.

Now – a word of caution. Action does indeed bring clarity, but it doesn’t mean the path will always be a picnic. There will be trials, there will be distractions, and there will be those who aren’t as excited by your plan as you are. It’s possible that you’ll feel doubt as you navigate these bumps in the road. But keep going. Eventually you will achieve the happiness and the impact you seek. I know this because I’ve done it. And I know that you can do it too.

Ten years ago, I was in a long term stable job. And I had some of the perks that come with it – extra vacation, co-workers that were as close as family, the occasional business trip. But I wasn’t happy. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t seem to advance, and I really had no idea what I wanted. I just knew it wasn’t working. One day I put myself out there and got together with a new group of people. And through a serendipitous conversation, I connected with an organization that literally became the first step to changing my life – the International Institute of Business Analysis, or IIBA. As I got involved in the IIBA, I met new people, identified new dreams, and went all in on a career. It was hard. It required change, and a lot of tears were shed. Eventually I joined a new company, and then another and another. I got a Masters degree, I started a podcast, and this website. And now I’m feeling more alive inside than ever, and am inching ever closer to what I envisioned. Action brings happiness.

Now – go and do!


Sustainable Careers

I have an affinity for most things British. I love fish and chips, scones, Cadbury eggs, Jaguars (pronounced jag-you-are), The King’s Singers, Maggie Smith and Judy Dench. I prefer Masterpiece Theatre over anything else on American Network TV. I write my dates in the format of DD Month YYYY. I’ve read just about all of the works of Agatha Christie, and I adore a good “whodunnit”. You name it, I love my Brits. Lately I’ve been bingeing on a long-running British cop show, and it occurred to me that British actors are a marvelous lesson in career sustainability. Have you ever noticed how the same “character actors” appear on all the different shows? In effect, you might call them “Consultants”. From Midsomer Murders to Father Brown to Vera to New Tricks, and a host of others, the same faces pop up again and again. They’re not quite famous, and the parts are small, BUT they fill a need, and they’re working in their chosen profession for the long haul. How do they do it? They get proper training, they check in regularly with their agents, they build solid relationships with writers and directors. They do everything they can to put themselves out there.

Unlike these character actors, many of us sort of “fall into” our careers. An opportunity to use our gifts opens up to us so we take it. We don’t necessarily think it will become a career, we’re just happy to pay the bills while we’re waiting for the “right” role to come along. A few years later, after we’ve accrued some perks, we settle in. And suddenly a few years becomes many years and we have a “career” that we had never planned on. We start to think that the company will always be there to take care of us.

And yet, as the pandemic has shown us, the company will NOT always be there to take care of us. In the last six months, we’ve seen that the business models of many companies have proven to be unsustainable in times of crisis. That has left many of us unprepared and either unemployed or under-employed. It has also left many of us feeling deeply discouraged and afraid. It’s a pretty grim picture. BUT – there are things we can do right now, to make our careers more sustainable. Maybe we don’t want to claw our way into middle management, or become the next CIO or Corporate Superstar. But – like the character actors mentioned above, we can consider ourselves Consultants and take small steps every day to grow our careers and keep ourselves working. We put ourselves out there. We build relationships online, one person, one comment, and one post at a time. We look for inexpensive ways to get training, we join networking groups, and we seek out mentors. We let our bosses know what a great job we’re doing and what we want out of our careers. We may work for corporations, but we are the ones responsible for our careers, and thus, WE ARE ALL CONSULTANTS.

What small thing can you do to act like a consultant today?


Keep Moving Forward

I finally signed up for Disney+ last week. I know, I know, probably the last one in the country to do so. But I finally took the plunge, and I’m enjoying it immensely. As I was catching up on some of their lesser-known classics yesterday, I happened to push play on “Meet the Robinson’s”. I recall seeing it in the theater and enjoying it, and yesterday I remember why. It tells the story of a young boy, an orphan, who wants nothing more in life than to have a family and invent cool stuff. Unfortunately, most of the time he fails pretty miserably on both counts. No matter how hard he tries, he just can’t seem to find the success he’s looking for. He becomes discouraged, and is about to give up, when just in the nick of time, he finds encouragement from an unlikely source, and is reminded to “keep moving forward!”

Isn’t this like us a lot of the time? We work hard and no matter how much the effort, success, or our definition of it, slips through our fingers. I remember a time when I was deeply discouraged. I had left a secure low-paying job for a new one that paid a lot more, but I pretty shortly discovered that I was not a cultural or technical fit. No matter how hard I tried, and how many new ideas I would come up with, I would get negative feedback, and very little support. I tried looking for a new job, I enrolled in a Master’s program, and still my situation didn’t change. I was miserable and I was making those around me miserable. I wanted to just quit, get in my beloved Mitsubishi Montero, and just keep on driving. I’m sure you know the feeling.

However, being the responsible adult that I am, instead of driving off in my Monty, I kept after it. I kept studying, I kept believing, I kept trying to be kind. And eventually, things turned around for me. At my darkest moment, someone reached out on LinkedIn, and two weeks later, I had a new job, and a much brighter outlook on life.

As a friend and former colleague is fond of saying to me, whenever I have a small failure and think I’m not on the right path, “try again!” In other words, keep moving forward. Who knows, that could be the moment things work out. Maybe not in the way we hope, but likely even better than we had ever imagined.


Which Way Do You Face?

I was reading a story recently, about a people who, hundreds of years before, had migrated from their homeland and come to a new, and unknown “Promised Land”. Although the new land was not quite perfect, part of the people had made the most of it, and prospered, and the other part, still pining for home, were less successful. The second group eventually built a culture and a city, to remind them of their ancestral home, even naming their city after it. In a sense, all these years later, they were still longing for the good old days, and still less prosperous than they could have been.

It occurred to me that sometimes we can be just like this people, perpetually looking behind us, seeking safety and security, even though even greater prosperity may lie ahead. Like the biblical story of Lot’s wife, facing the past immobilizes us to the point that we are unable to move forward and enjoy the fruits of change.

I get it, change is hard. And as humans, we are naturally risk-averse. Years ago I left a secure, though underpaid position, for the insecurity and potential of a new role. Though in the long run I ended up not being a fit for the role or the company, part of that is on me. I found it difficult adjusting to a new corporate culture, and struggled to leave the old role behind. Eventually, I found a new role in a new organization, only this time, I was happy to leave the ill-fitting role behind, and it was much easier for me to look ahead and enjoy the new organization.

So, my question for you today, is which way are you facing in your life and in your career? This global pandemic has left us feeling pretty insecure. Even leaving the house is risky. And many of us have had to deal with economic and personal losses. But it is also a great time to be alive. The sky is bluer, the air is clearer, and there IS opportunity available, but we have to choose it. We have to look ahead and move forward, trusting that we have what it takes to be successful, despite what’s going on around us. It may be scary, but it could also be really good.

What will you do today to face forward and take the next step?


Implicit Bias and Minding the Gap

I had an experience a couple of months ago that seems to be pertinent to what’s going on in the world these days regarding racial justice. It was the height of the first wave of the pandemic. Most of the country had begun working from home, we were tired and scared and overwhelmed, and we were staying inside. I happened to leave the house one day, in my car, to do my weekly curbside grocery pickup, and I noticed what I assumed was a delivery person in an unmarked vehicle. I pulled up alongside him, to see if he needed any help finding anyone – I live in a townhome community, and it can often be difficult for folks unaccustomed to the layout in here. The gentleman was obviously nervous as I rolled down my window. I asked if I could help him find anyone, and he said he was fine. I drove off. A few moments later it occurred to me why he was nervous. You see, he was a black man, and I was a white woman, and he likely thought I was going to cause a problem for him, maybe even call the police. I felt bad, as it was certainly not my mention to make him nervous. But it’s a reality my family and friends of color live with on a daily, if not a moment to moment basis.

Lately, like many of us, I’ve been trying to gain more understanding, and reassessing my motives of why I do what I do, why I live where I live, and why I spend time with whom I do. We all have our unconscious biases, things we don’t realize we’re doing, just because that’s how we’ve always done them. It occurs to me that as a Business Analyst, I spend my time doing that with organizations for a living. But I’ve not necessarily turned that same analysis to my personal life and decision making. Do I do these things because I have implicit biases that just make me more comfortable, or because I have consciously and thoughtfully made those decisions. Like with the delivery person, was I really checking to see if he needed help? Or was I checking on him because of his color and because he stood out in our neighborhood? Our answers to these questions may be unpleasant, depending on our motives.

Which leads me to my second point, that of minding the gap. I’ve never been to the UK, but it’s apparently a well-known phrase there, which reminds people to pay attention when getting on the “Tube” (in America we call it a Subway), and not to trip in the gap between the door to the Tube and the station platform. Why would I bring this up, and what does it have to do with implicit bias? I’m glad you asked. It seems there is a theory about “empathy gaps”. Empathy gaps are where there may be a gap between what we’ve learned and been taught, and how we react when we’re in a heightened state. For example, say I’m on a diet. I’m doing well, eating as I should, and exercising regularly. In my rational state, I think I have everything under control, and I know that if someone offers me a large chocolate brownie, I’ll turn it down. Except I hadn’t planned on getting a promotion. And I’m so excited and so are my friends, and they take me to celebrate. I’m no longer in a rational state, so when they offer me the large chocolate brownie, I take it and immediately inhale it. In the moment, when it came right down to it, I had an empathy gap. Empathy gaps can also occur when we’re being influenced by a high stress event. So say I’m house hunting, which I can attest is slightly stressful, and I’m being shown a beautiful house that’s a great deal. But the neighbors are playing loud hip-hop music. I say I don’t like the house after all, and I keep looking. Is it really because I don’t like the house? Or is it because I assume that if I hear hip-hop music playing, it’s a sign of there are more diverse people in the neighborhood than I am comfortable being around? These examples are innocuous, but dig a little deeper and say I’m a police officer whose duty is to protect and serve, and in the heat of a traffic stop. Did I pull the person over because I saw a violation? Or because I saw the driver was of a different color? And if the driver appears nervous, is it because they’re frightened? Or because they’ve been up to no good? My implicit biases might be the reason I pulled them over, and my empathy gap may then cause me to overreact to their nervousness.

So – what can we do? How can we be sure we’re making sound decisions, whether in our personal lives or in our work projects? I’ve asked this question of a number of friends recently, and the responses have been unanimous: Ask the questions. Educate ourselves. Listen to understand. Mind the gap. See each other as children of God. And repeat.


Greatness

Much has been said and written lately, at least in the world of sports, regarding greatness. What it means to be truly great, and who is the “Greatest” (of all time). Many people have waxed rhapsodic as they’ve stated their reasons for why their opinions of which athletes past, current and future are the “Greatest”, are correct. Examples have been given, usually along the lines of statistics, but also of said athletes and their take no prisoners attitudes while leading their teams to glory on the basketball court or on the playing field. Those attitudes included former players recounting how the athletes in question would scream profanities at and bully and belittle their teammates in practices and in games, telling them to do their jobs, and how it was all intended to make the teams better (code for “I’m the Star here, make sure you make me look good”). One athlete in fact even went so far as to slap a competitor on the opposing team so hard that his contact flew out. By all accounts the incident so affected the opposing player that he never achieved his own greatness on the court and retired a few years after, never to play again. All because the supposed “Super Star” couldn’t stand to be “disrespected” in the heat of competition. Let me be absolutely clear: Getting in people’s faces, abusing, bullying, and going off in profanity-laden tirades DO NOT make a person great. In fact, it makes them small and insignificant. And such behavior has no place in ANY workplace.

An ancient story is told of a Master and his followers, who were arguing amongst themselves as to which of them was greatest. Finally, they called upon the Master to cast the deciding vote. Patiently, and with perhaps a bit of exasperation, the Master explains that they have it all wrong. TRUE greatness is NOT found in who has a higher status than the other. TRUE greatness is found in servant leadership.

We all want to do well, and we all want to be recognized for our contributions in the workplace and in life. But often we can get so caught up in looking good, that we often make it difficult for our teammates to look good as well. It becomes more about saving face and saving our own position, at the expense of doing what’s right. In fact, we end up playing for the smallest of reasons, that of saving our own little piece of the mountain, instead of realizing that when we graciously share, there ends up being even more of the mountain to go around for everyone.

Servant leadership is just that. Doing what we can for the other person. That could mean mentoring someone who is struggling. Or actively listening and remaining engaged during a meeting. Or maybe saying thank you and meaning it. It could even mean apologizing when we’re wrong. Taken together, these behaviors may not be the ones that get you promoted or give you longevity in your organization. But, they could make you a better team player, and a happier person all around. They could even end up influencing for good and saving the career of the other person.

What are small and simple things you can do to achieve true greatness today?


Small and Simple Things

Those who know me well know that I have a favorite soda beverage. I drink it every day. I had made sure to stock up before we were all sheltering in place, but after weeks of working from home, and now not even going to the grocery store, I was running low and beginning to feel desperate. I’m sure you’ve all been there in one way or another recently. So when I ordered groceries last week for pickup this week, I was thrilled to know I’d have a few more bottles to keep me going. That is, until…I received notice that the store was completely out of said beverage. Yikes! This threw me into a panic.

Hurriedly, I went online and checked Amazon, who did have some, but it wouldn’t arrive until next weekend – over 10 days from now. I did order some, but I knew my dwindling supply would not last that long, so I also ordered from Walmart. However, I could only order two at a time. So, feeling panicked and desperate, I ordered 2 of every type of packaging offered, just in case they were out of any of them. That worked out to 2 2-liter bottles, 2 six-packs of bottles, 2 twelve-packs of cans, and 2 twenty-four packs of cans. Do the math, and let’s just say that should be plenty, even for me. Again, my hope was that I’d at least get some of them, enough to get me through until my Amazon delivery was scheduled to arrive.

Segue to this morning, when just as I was getting ready to leave for my pickup time, I received a notification that the shipment was delayed by at least two hours. Things were not looking good for me. I was already in a bit of a funk this morning, and this didn’t really improve my mood. But in effort to turn my mood around, I checked in on several friends, which made me feel better. A small thing, but helpful. I attended a virtual company get-together and joked with everyone about my beverage woes. Another small, but helpful thing. And around 90 minutes later, I got word the shipment had arrived, and to come down and get my groceries. The message warned me there were many things missing, but to come pick up anyway.

I hurried and drove down there, pulled in and popped the trunk of my car (because that’s the way it is these days), and a gentleman checked my information. Several minutes later, he returns, stunned. Through the window he tells me I had received literally everything I had ordered (uncommon these days, as I can attest). I was stunned as well, not to mention thrilled. For me, it was a minor miracle. I felt like in that moment, I had been blessed by the powers above as a result of my efforts to change my attitude. I thanked the gentleman, told him he and his colleagues were doing a really good work, and suddenly he stopped, visibly touched. He then turned around and thanked ME, for saying something kind to HIM.

This is all a long-winded way of saying that we never can underestimate the powerful impact of small things in our lives. Whether it’s checking in on friends, attending a virtual coffee talk, or remembering to say thank you to the folks putting their lives on the line for us in these challenging times, small and simple things can and will bring great things to pass.

I’m interested to know. What is something small and simple you’ve done recently and how have you seen abundance result from it?