Published July 28, 2014 by

Girls, Women, Leaders

Roar!

In the last few years, I have been exposed to some cultural realities facing young women from various ethnic groups. I have been tutoring low income teenagers at a few locations throughout NYC. Although my sample size is not scientific, Hispanic women, on average, are the majority of the top students. They are poised, pleasant to speak with, and often have well thought out ideas about what they might do for a career.  Many of them excel academically while simultaneously learning to speak English during their four years in high school.

I was surprised to learn that depending on their nationality, many of these girls may not go to college. Many of their families believe strongly that women should stay close to home and prepare for nurturing and care taking of the family. I know this is just my limited observation but apparently this is not uncommon.

What might this tell us about the future progress of women in the workplace? I keep wondering how many other social norms like this exist among other ethnic groups. Could similar cultural norms among an increasingly diverse US and European population demand more creativity as we seek to equalize women and men in the workplace?  I believe that real change for woman (and men) can only be sustained if we start from the bottom and then “lean” over, up, in, and all around.

Son of a Postman

Diversity - Women

Published July 24, 2014 by

The Downers, Turn A Cheek, Forget It

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I have a mental list of people with whom I have had significant relationship challenges.  I am mindful of keeping this list very short even if it means constructively moving some people out of my life.  I try to learn from poor relationships to see what I could have done differently. I appreciate those who have passed through my life causing great challenges for me.  Some are positive and some are not.

Most of my toxic people taught me patience and how to turn a cheek, but some just caused pain. The pain typically comes from words meant to judge negatively.  Toxic people aren’t challenging for everyone, it’s just situational.  I am sure my toxins are all loved by someone, perhaps their mothers?   Nonetheless, I consciously rid myself of my toxins and foster new relationships with happy positive people.

Most of those who challenge us have inflated senses of their own importance usually fueled by their own insecurities. Most feel the need to insult and embarrass others primarily to make themselves feel better. Many avoid looking you in the eye when speaking to you.   The latter is a sure sign of trouble. Doesn’t it all sound just like the schoolyard when you were a kid? It isn’t that much different.

I believe you should respect everyone in your life and dig deep to respect people who may be different than you.  It is better and healthier to focus on the good things people achieve.  The positives of my life and career certainly have far outweighed any downers.

You know, it is summer in the Northern Hemisphere and time to cleanse and renew.  You should rid yourself of those toxins and encourage those you lead to do the same.

Son of a Postman

Best Practices Conflict

Published July 22, 2014 by

Vacation, Holiday, Give Them A Break

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In a previous post, I wrote about the importance of taking time off from your daily routines and truly resting your mind and body.  We all know these times as vacations or holidays.  I urged managers, coaches, and parents to remember the importance of these breaks.  Make sure that those you lead, or parent,  get real true breaks.   Leaders of all kinds can sometimes forget the long term benefits of people truly shutting off.  Everyone is too focused on the short term.

Today I am repeating that message and sharing a note I received from a reader.  It is a message not just for leaders but for everyone.

“I guess I am “one of those people” [who don’t shut down] but you have not heard from me because I have decided to be less electronic this vacation.  Twice per week for work e-mail and I answered only three of them….one was to my boss and the others to colleagues.  This is one thing that you never touched on…supporting your colleagues when they take time off so they can actually relax and know that their clients and work are being looked after.”

It feels good that some people hear my pleas and “help me help you” more broadly.

Son of a Postman

Best Practices Teamwork

Published July 17, 2014 by

Wrote A Book, Masked Identities, Slept Better!

UnknownWriting a book that is based on your life and career experiences can be tricky.  You want to tell a good story and you   want your characters to be real and rich with details.  I chose to mask the identity of those who didn’t sound so positive, ethical, fair minded, or just not that nice.  We all know people that we wished we hadn’t encountered in life and work. I was not insulated from these experiences in spite of the charmed life and career that I have had thus far.  It is healthy to be mindful that all experiences represent learning and growing experiences.  You move on.  You let go.

When I wrote my first book, I tried very hard to mask the identities of everyone except my family members.   There are a few individuals in my life, and discussed in my book, that were so challenging that they still make me cringe.   I continue to strive to accept each one as a valuable learning experience.  This isn’t always easy, but it is healthy to just let it all go!

A good friend recently sent me a quote related to this exact topic.  My friend wasn’t aware of my admiration for the work of this particular writer, Anne Lamott.   Perhaps Ms. Lamott would have given me contrary advice about my story telling?

“You own everything that happened to you.  Tell your stories.  If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should’ve behaved better.”

HA!  Touche!  Namaste!

Son of a Postman

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Best Practices

Published July 15, 2014 by

Mentoring

Published June 26, 2014 by

You Can Too, Just Pause, Breathe

People ask me why I take the bus.  I tell them it is “because I can.”  I enjoy being with people in the big city.  I love listening to their conversations.  I love the luxury of time to take the bus.  Is there really any place that is so important that I need to rush?  People have this image that I am a taxi / limousine kind of guy.  Really?  They just don’t know me very well.  I am, and always will be, The Son of a Postman!

I have grown very fond of my mantra “because I can.”   People ask why I volunteer to help kids, or mentor people that are both junior and senior to me.  I just do it “because I can.”   There will be a day when I might not be able to help but for now I try.   I am “No Mother Teresa” but perhaps I could aspire to be among her many flocks.

“One theory says that if you treat people well, you’re more likely to encourage them to do what you want, making all the effort pay off. Do this, get that.

Another one, which I prefer, is that you might consider treating people with kindness merely because you can. Regardless of what they choose to do in response, this is what you choose to do. Because you can.”   Seth Godin

Namaste

Son of a Postman

Mentoring

Published June 3, 2014 by

Make It Happen, Make It Consistent, Make It Organic

I received this note today from someone to whom I give the occasional career (and life) advice and who I regularly connect to important business opportunities.  I suppose I am his mentor but perhaps that term is now too corporate for me.  I am his coach, friend, and connector!

He said, “By the way, I am trying to help two people get new jobs.  First, I got someone inside the company in front of the right people so that this individual might get a deserved promotion.  I am also trying to get an external person a job in my company.  I just made the connection last night and I have already set up an interview!  If I can give back just half as much as you, I can make a huge difference for others.”

I am very grateful that I was able to help and even happier that others are continuing the good work.

NOT Required Reading – My take on Mentoring

Mentoring can play a vital part in organizations large and small. It is important not only for an individual’s growth, but vital for the success of a business, a team or any other group. If all the little ships don’t rise together, the big ship won’t either. I have always been surprised to find people who have the attitude, “What can you do for me?” as opposed to, “What can I do to help all of us succeed?”

Mentoring is one of the most direct ways to provide nourishment to an employee, colleague or team member. We all need to figure out a way to make mentoring relationships evolve naturally and broadly. It is imperative that support for this starts at the top of an organization and it needs to be genuine. People tend to tell others about good mentoring experiences and that is the best way to get buy-in. This is a big part of the glue of the organization’s culture.

Corporate mentoring programs often mandate that every senior person sign up to participate.  I don’t really believe that these are widely successful but it is clearly better than nothing at all. People are so busy that the “mentoring” often can turn into just a periodic lunch date between the mentor and the mentee.

My best mentoring relationships have been those that have evolved naturally. There are several people who have been instrumental in my growth and success in this way. These were sometimes people I worked for, but not necessarily.  In all cases, they were people who took a genuine interest in my development because of a shared objective or a shared interest. It was what I call “organic” mentoring. This kind of relationship happens when the mentee also offers something needed by the  mentor.

Remember that I recently wrote about my mantra “help me help you.”   I suppose that mantra applies here as well.

Son of a Postman

Mentoring

Published May 29, 2014 by
Start At The Same Place, Reconcile Your Differences, Move Forward

Over the last several months, I have received many request from people asking for all sorts of advice.  The requests come from young people just starting out, mid-career people looking for a good next step, and senior people asking me about how I made my career transition after a long corporate career.  Some of the people I know and some I have never met.  Many are coming from people who read this blog, read my book, or found me on various social media outlets.  I am flattered that people think I can help.When people come to me for advice,  I like to start out using my mantra “help me help you.” A good leader, teacher, or coach who truly wants to help others should start out with a sense of what the individual believes they need to improve or what they need to do to change the course of their career.  Getting an individual’s self assessment gives the manager the raw material to get started.

Organizations typically refer to these efforts as “development.” Think of how many times you have heard about “child development” or “professional development.” Many organizations actually have a position called something like “Director of Learning and Development.” Yes, it might be good to have such a “department” responsible for guiding people along, but getting better at what you do
and making sure those around you do the same, should be everyone’s responsibility.


I am not trained in development. I became good at it simply by doing it. I tried lots of things that didn’t work so well and some that have worked very well for many
years. I have had the benefit of the occasional training class on this sort of thing but most of my advice to you comes straight from my own experiences. Remember, my
whole career evolved not from planning but simply from being willing to “do whatever it takes,” admitting what I didn’t know and then figuring it out.

Remember that all ships really do rise together.  Look around and see who you might help.  Don’t wait for some bureaucrat to tell you to go to a class or worse, that same bureaucrat one day tells you that you are not performing as expected.  Ask Ask Ask

Son of a Postman


Available now in paper on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.com and in Kindle format
 


 

Mentoring

Published May 28, 2014 by

Appropriate Questions, Wrists Flapping, Focus Only On The Positives

Picture me at a dinner seated at a table for 11.  The table consisted of 5 couples and me, the perpetual single.  Even at my advanced age I still get pangs of anxiety when I attend events primarily populated with couples.  I have previously written about the challenges that “the single” faces both socially and in the workplace.

Several of my dinner mates were long time friends while others were hopefully to become my new friends. A good time was being had by all and suddenly one of my new friends addresses a question to me.  “Are you gay?”  Pause. Breathe. Breathe Again.

Please note that I was not wearing a dress, makeup, or unmanly shoes.  I don’t recall my wrists flapping excessively and I didn’t wear an ascot nor do I own one.   Oh well.  Pause, Breathe, Deeper Breath, Respond.

My mates and I discussed this harmless question and we didn’t think it was mean spirited.  It was a reflection of the openness and kindness that I strive to display when meeting new people.  It usually helps newcomers feel comfortable in my company.

We pondered other scenarios.  If a woman sat at our table wearing a wig or having her head covered for a religious or medical reason would someone say “are you an orthodox jew?” or “do you have cancer?”   Are these questions the same as saying  to someone “when did you get that tattoo of a woman’s breast put on your face” or “do you have an eating disorder because you are painfully thin?”

I don’t know the answer to any of these questions but I do know that I did feel somewhat uncomfortable with the question.  I don’t fault the questioner but myself for momentarily thinking the motivation was macho or condescending.

When you are gay, you often get this question positioned as an attack to remind you that you are less than normal, or perhaps your contribution is somehow to be discounted.  It can take a lifetime to get it in perspective and learn to just let it go.  At this event, I know that my conversation was interesting and very amusing.  Perhaps the questioner just wanted me to yield the floor so he could speak?

I tell this story to amuse you but more importantly to remind you should always be mindful of the things you say in front of your students, teammates, children, and your employees.   When you are in a position of leadership, everyone is always listening.

Say what you like to strangers but try to be compassionate and kind.

Son of a Postman

Available now in paper on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.com and in Kindle format
 

Best Practices

Published May 27, 2014 by

The Rules?, Your Attitude, Your Long Happy Life

Friends of mine were recently married and I attended their wedding. Some other friends joked that I shouldn’t be going to weddings any more. “At your age you should be going to retirement parties.”  I am unaware of the guidelines related to age appropriate social events.  Perhaps I can purchase a manual?

When I tell people that I have “retired” they think that means I am sitting on a beach and no longer have any interests or stress. We all know that “retired” has a new meaning for most people whether it happens at age 50 or 80.  Most “retired” people are now busier and have more opportunities to learn, grow, and help others ever before.

I have stopped using the word “retired” when describing my life.  It seems to prompt people to say things that can feel insulting.  I now focus on a short summary of the work I do now rather than even mention things of the past.   It feels more comfortable to focus on today with an eye toward tomorrow.  Yesterday is over.

I find it fascinating when people tell me that they could never “retire” from their life long career because they fear that they wouldn’t know what to do with themselves.  These people should focus on all the amazing opportunities to mix things up, expand their brains, and even help those in need.

Who makes these rules? For all of my life I have lived by my own rules, my own schedule, and my own sense of age appropriate.  I continue to believe that we should all live in a “room without a roof.”  You should continue to believe that you can do whatever you desire. 

I am doing research for a book on “diversity” and one of my focuses is on working with and managing “older” people.  We all know the list of reasons why the workforce in aging.  Recently, I have been reading a book called “Aging As A Spiritual Practice” by Lewis Richmond.  If you want to know what you need to do to remain vital as you age, this is the book for you.

Richmond cites that you need to conquer “the Five Fears”.   They are Fear of Death, Illness, Losing One’s Mind, Livelihood, and Fear of Public Speaking.  This list may feel overwhelming but if you pause and think about each of these, most are not so difficult to overcome especially if you maintain a life rich with “work,” endless possibilities, and healthy relationships.

I find the more important and constructive advice from Richmond’s book to be about the “lifestyle” things your should be doing to keep yourself happy, healthy, and relevant.  Many of these are obvious like attention to diet, exercise, stress levels, recreation, and fostering healthy relationships both with others, yourself, and spiritually.

I especially like the advice to spend more “time in nature” and to serve others.  I continue to find spending time outdoors (and taking lots of long conscious deep breaths) to be extremely invigorating and reignites my sense of endless possibilities.  Serving others may have been something I have always done in some form,  but serving those less fortunate than myself has always given me a turbo charge.  I believe that I get more personal satisfaction and happiness than those I am hoping to help.

Its great when a young person asks me “how did you get so good at this” or “how can I be like you.”   I always tell them that there is no reason they can’t be even better………regardless of their age.

Son of a Postman

 

 

Experience/Seniors